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More than 50 migrants died in 2021 while crossing Panama jungle

WASHINGTON D.C.: Tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan are high amid a diplomatic spat that is approaching crisis point, according to regional observers. Although the two countries normally enjoy cordial relations, they are drifting apart owing to divergent strategic interests and political visions. Azerbaijani authorities, long frustrated by Iran’s support for its neighbour and rival, Armenia,…

More than 50 migrants died in 2021 while crossing Panama jungle

WASHINGTON D.C.: Tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan are high amid a diplomatic spat that is approaching crisis point, according to regional observers.

Although the two countries normally enjoy cordial relations, they are drifting apart owing to divergent strategic interests and political visions.

Azerbaijani authorities, long frustrated by Iran’s support for its neighbour and rival, Armenia, have launched a crackdown on Iranian cross-border smuggling that was a lifeline for the Armenian separatist holdout in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

In 2020, following a Russian-brokered ceasefire, Armenian forces agreed to hand over much of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, which marked a significant victory for Baku after a 44-day war.

In Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian separatists protected by Russian peacekeepers still control the city of Khankendi, also known as Stepankeret, and a handful of surrounding villages.

The entirety of Iran’s shared border with what had once been Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh is now under the control of Azerbaijani authorities.

However, Iranian trucks reportedly continued to enter Nagorno-Karabakh without paying the requisite customs fees to the Azerbaijani government.

The Iranian army’s ground forces began holding manoeuvres near the country’s border with Azerbaijan recently, despite criticism from its northwestern neighbor. (AFP/Iranian Army Office/File Photo) 

“This is not the first time that Iran’s trucks have illegally traveled to the Karabakh region,” Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said this week.

“This is something that happened repeatedly during the occupation period. Around 60 Iranian trucks entered Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region without permission between Aug. 11 and Sept. 11 this year after Azerbaijan called on Iran to put an end to the practice.

“Then we started to control the road passing through Azerbaijani land, and the trucks sent by Iran to Karabakh came to an end.”

Tensions have been stoked further by joint military drills held by the Azerbaijani army with Turkey and Pakistan 500 kilometers from the country’s border with Iran.

Aliyev also inaugurated a new military base in the city of Jabrayil in Nagorno-Karabakh, right on the border with Iran, making sure to be filmed standing beside a line of Israeli-made Harop combat drones that Azerbaijan used to devastating effect during the 2020 war.

Iran claimed Azerbaijan was allowing Israel to establish a base on Iran’s border.

“Iran will not tolerate the presence of the Zionist regime near our borders,” said Saeed Khatibzadeh, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman.

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on November 1, 2017 shows him (R) meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Tehran. (AFP/File Photo)

Iran then conducted a multi-day military exercise along its border with Azerbaijan.

According to Iran’s Tasnim news agency, the Azerbaijani government ordered the closure of a mosque in Baku linked to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“The mosque and representative office of Seyyed Ali Akbar Ojaghnejad, representative of supreme leader (Ayatollah) Ali Khamenei in Baku, were sealed and closed today by order of the authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” Tasnim said.

Azerbaijan claimed the move was necessary because of “a surge in COVID-19 cases in several locations in Baku,” saying that the mosque’s operation had been “suspended temporarily.”

Iran’s embassy in Baku said there had been no advanced warning of the move.

Speaking to Arab News, Farid Shafiyev, chairman of the Baku-based Center of Analysis of International Relations, said: “Only Iran will suffer from these statements. Tehran, first of all, should see the Caucasus as a region of potential cooperation.

“Iran’s statements about ‘third-country’ or ‘foreign’ forces stationed in Azerbaijan are mainly aimed at Israel and Turkey, but they must understand that we are not hiding.

“Azerbaijan has military-political cooperation with Israel and with Turkey, as well as strong economic ties. It is designed, first of all, to ensure the security of Azerbaijan and not against Iran.”

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev tours the Military Trophy Park in Baku that showcases military equipment seized from Armenian troops during last year’s war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. (AFP/File Photo)

Shafiyev believes there are two key reasons why Iran fears Azerbaijan’s growing regional clout. The first is the Zangezur Corridor — an overland corridor Baku plans to establish across southern Armenia to link up with the Nakhchivan enclave bordering Turkey.

According to Shafiyev, Iran fears the plan, which was agreed under the terms of the ceasefire deal, will leave it cut off from the wider region.

The second factor at play is Azerbaijan’s longstanding relationship with Israel, which has angered Iran at a time when its nuclear program has been set back by a string of suspected Israeli covert operations.

Shafiyev says Azerbaijan is unlikely to back down in the face of Iranian saber-rattling.

“This is our sovereign right,” he said. “Our cooperation with Israel is more about security. Israeli weapons have shown their effectiveness during the Patriotic (Nagorno-Karabakh) War.

“As a former diplomat, I would like the issues to be resolved diplomatically and Iran should (instead) consider this region as a potential region of cooperation.”

Ahmad Obali, a US-based Azerbaijan analyst and founder of Gunaz TV, also believes the outcome of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war is driving Iranian policy in the region.

An Iranian army helicopter during a military exercise in northwest of the country, close to the Iranian-Azerbaijani border. (AFP/Iranian Army Office/File Photo)

“Iran does not want to accept the fact that Azerbaijan won the Karabakh war and liberated the border between Iran and Azerbaijan from Armenian occupation,” he said.

“Iran lost significant revenue when Azerbaijan regained Karabakh from the Armenians. The border area in that region was used extensively for narcotics smuggling and exports. Now Azerbaijan is in control.

“Iran is also opposed to Azerbaijan’s ambitions to build the Zangezur Corridor, which would further cost Iran revenue that it would have otherwise collected.”

He added: “Iran was caught red handed. The Iranian truck drivers were arrested by Azerbaijani authorities after delivering goods. That has now been stopped, which has further angered Iran.

“The fact that the Turkey-Azerbaijan relationship has grown bothers Iran. Iran is more aggressive now and they’re frustrated that Azerbaijan is becoming stronger.”

Obali says Baku’s victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh war has lifted the morale of the 10 million ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran who are opposed to Tehran’s policies towards their ethnic kin.

Iranian army tanks lined up during a military exercise in northwest of the country, close to the Iranian-Azerbaijani border. (AFP/Iranian Army Office/File Photo)

“Iran has been emboldened by the thinning US presence in the region, including its withdrawal from Afghanistan and the softer approach of the current US administration regarding Iran and the potential reinstatement of the JCPOA,” said Efgan Nifti, CEO of the Caspian Policy Center, referring to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“Iran feels it can challenge Western partners with minimal pushback from the US and European powers. Baku’s regaining of control of its sovereign territory has interrupted Iran’s illicit trafficking and trade.

“In addition to this, the opening of the Zangezur Corridor and regional east-west communication links will cause Iran to lose control over trade and transit.”

Nifti added: “Iran is also frustrated by economic difficulties and growing popular discontent, which make it feel insecure about its ethnically diverse population. This tension with Baku helps the regime divert popular attention away from real domestic issues.”

Undoubtedly, Azerbaijan’s recent territorial and strategic gains, coupled with its ability to win both Israeli and Turkish support, could act as a deterrent against future Iranian encroachment.

“Azerbaijan is strengthening relations with Turkey and Israel,” said Nifti. “Iran sees the latter as an existential threat.”

—————–

Twitter: @OS26

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In Islamabad, a cafe serves up qahwah, the ‘language of love’ for Arabs

As the UN turns 76, students draw inspiration from its Sustainable Development Goals NEW YORK CITY: When the Bobcat Fire, one of the largest outbreaks in Los Angeles county’s history, erupted in September 2020, scorching hundreds of thousands of acres, 12-year-old Audrey Ma was within 500 feet of the area where a mandatory evacuation order…

In Islamabad, a cafe serves up qahwah, the ‘language of love’ for Arabs

As the UN turns 76, students draw inspiration from its Sustainable Development Goals

NEW YORK CITY: When the Bobcat Fire, one of the largest outbreaks in Los Angeles county’s history, erupted in September 2020, scorching hundreds of thousands of acres, 12-year-old Audrey Ma was within 500 feet of the area where a mandatory evacuation order was issued.

Ma’s parents asked her to pack her belongings as flames approached the neighborhood, and for a moment the child contemplated the possibility of losing everything she had and abandoning the only life she had known so far.

The Bobcat, one of about 30 major wildfires burning in the US state of California, led to the deaths of 26 people and the destruction of an untold number of properties.

Although her house was spared from the flames, Ma’s fear of the infernal images of forests and structures burning to the ground prompted her to look into the causes of the California fires.

How do they start? How do they spread? Why are there so many fires in Southern California?

FASTFACT

United Nations Day is an annual commemorative day, reflecting the official creation of the United Nations on Oct. 24, 1945

“I learned that, although climate change is not the (direct) cause of the fires, (drier climates due to rising temperatures) make fires easier to start and spread. So, I started to learn about sustainability,” Ma told Arab News.

A UN scientific study this year has shown that human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways.

The report warned of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and a key temperature limit being broken in just over a decade. Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, called it “a red code for humanity.”

But the world continues to fall short of its promises to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, transition into clean energy and rebuild sustainably.

However, the new generation, like Ma, is directly feeling the urgency and realizing the direct impact climate change is having on their daily lives.

Thousands of people from around the globe have shared their vision for #TheWorldWeWant in a single photo.Ahead of Sunday’s #UNDay, get inspired with this visual manifesto & join the global pledge for a better future: https://t.co/gLktRmARhM pic.twitter.com/aSYk2amhUk
— United Nations (@UN) October 22, 2021

Renee Larios is the student community engagement coordinator at Pasadena’s private Polytechnic School where Ma is a student. Larios works with students to “help them navigate the things they want to do in the world to make the world better.”

Larios happened upon the UN Sustainable Development Goals four years ago. Her mind was blown, she told Arab News.

In 2015, the UN General Assembly set forth the SDGs — 17 global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” The SDGs are intended to be achieved by the year 2030.

“We decided to bring the SDGs back to our school to create a framework for our community engagement programs, to help students see the drops in the bucket that their volunteering does to further the 17 goals,” Larios said. “We’re also trying to get teachers to connect their curriculum, when possible, to one or more of the goals.”

“The students must, for every community engagement or service work that they do, explain what the relationship is between what they did and how that furthers the intention of one of the SDGs.”

After learning how food thrown into landfills rots and creates methane gas responsible for trapping the heat in our planet and making it warmer, Ma began implementing a sorting program at her school to separate the food waste from the trash, and then composting the waste in bins around the school.

“Now our sorting program can absorb 25 percent of our food waste,” Ma said. “However, the other 75 percent goes to an off-site composter, and we’re still burning fossil fuel by transporting it from place to place, which is not sustainable.

“So, our short-term goal is to be able to compost 100 percent of our food waste on-site at Poly (Polytechnic School), which leads to our long-term goal, which is (to) take this program and make it a science and then export it to other schools and use it as a blueprint for other schools to do the same thing, so we can reach meaningful reduction of greenhouse gas.”

“A Blueprint for a Better Future” is the theme established by the United Nations Association to celebrate UN Day on Oct. 24, marking the 76th anniversary of the foundational UN Charter.

The values that have powered the charter — peace, development, human rights and opportunity for all — “have no expiry date,” in the words of Guterres.

“Seventy-six years ago, the United Nations was created as a vehicle of hope for a world emerging from the shadow of catastrophic conflict,” he added in his message marking UN Day.

“COVID-19, conflicts, hunger, poverty and the climate emergency remind us that our world is far from perfect, but they also make clear that solidarity is the only way forward.

“We need to come together to tackle great challenges and advance the Sustainable Development Goals. 

“Today, the women and men of the UN carry this hope forward around the globe.”

As the head of global Initiatives Program at the Polytechnic School, Ann Diederich mentors the leaders of the UNA-Polytechnic School Chapter, where a rich programming is in place geared toward creating youth leadership.

“Our theme is ‘Empathy into Action,’” Diederich said. “How do we get our kids to come up with solutions to really complex global challenges, look at the SGDs and come up with concrete action steps to design change?

“The SDGs are very helpful for giving kids a framework and a blueprint, so they can do it and do it in a healthy way.”

Diederich, who has been teaching for 25 years, said she is concerned about this generation, commonly known as Gen Z.

“They seem to be on edge, overloaded with all the issues that they’re confronted with,” she said. “They really want to do something. They really care about each other. They have been isolated throughout the pandemic, and (now) they are very eager to work for change.

“I have never seen a generation like this. They’re quick, they do not waste time, they see that change needs to be made fast, and they don’t really trust the older generation, the millennials, to do that. They also sometimes outdo themselves.”

Ma quotes British explorer Robert Swan Obe, the first man to walk to both the North and South Poles: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

Ma said: “I know at the end of the day, everything that we do is a choice. And sometimes I am worried that people are making the easy choice.

“I know that we’re able to either choose to battle climate change or to do everything the way we always did and someone is gonna come along and figure out a way to save us.

“I chose to fight for my future and climate change and I hope that one day everybody will make that decision as well.”

Since its inception, the UN’s overarching aim was simple: Children should have a better and happier life than their parents.

The UN has spent more than seven decades attempting to save and improve lives, lives that today continue to hang in the balance as wars erupt in different parts of the world, driving millions into displacement, poverty and extreme food insecurity.

The pandemic has also widened the gap between rich and poor. The world’s inequalities have never been so clearly displayed for everyone to see, from vaccine inequality to the discrepancy in quality education.

SDG 4 is about quality education for all.

Ma said: “I know I myself am very privileged to be able to have this education but there is a lot of people out there who are not able to.

“I look up to people like Malala Yousafzai, who is fighting for quality education, especially for girls in Pakistan.

“I’ve watched a doc about her. I read her book. And I also listened to her UN speech. I am really inspired by her movement for gender equality and education for girls in Pakistan. I think that’s really important.”

Ma has a message for girls in Syria, Yemen and all the war-ravaged countries where people like her merely survive:

“My message to girls around the world: We all have different strengths and backgrounds and diverse stories. Even if you can’t get access to education, you can try to learn as much as you can, educate yourself about the world around you and if you can, maybe with your friends, your family. Fight for what you think is right in the world.”

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Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting

STOCKHOLM: Award-winning Swedish rapper Einar, who has topped the country’s charts, was shot and killed in Stockholm, police and media said Friday as police hunted for suspects. The 19-year-old Einar, who raps in Swedish, was the most streamed artist on Spotify in Sweden in 2019. He was shot several times outside an apartment building shortly before…

Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting

STOCKHOLM: Award-winning Swedish rapper Einar, who has topped the country’s charts, was shot and killed in Stockholm, police and media said Friday as police hunted for suspects.

The 19-year-old Einar, who raps in Swedish, was the most streamed artist on Spotify in Sweden in 2019.

He was shot several times outside an apartment building shortly before 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Thursday.

Ambulance personnel administered first aid but he died at the scene, Stockholm police spokeswoman Towe Hagg told AFP.

Police have opened a murder investigation.

“We are actively working to figure out why it happened and who can be behind it,” Hagg said.

In line with usual practice, the police have not yet confirmed the identity of the victim. But Sweden’s mainstream media identified him as Einar, whose full name is Nils Kurt Erik Einar Gronberg.

Many of Einar’s songs reference a life of crime, including drugs and weapons. He had public feuds with rival artist Yasin, who in July was jailed for 10 months for his role in a planned kidnapping of Einar in 2020.

The plan was ultimately aborted, but Einar was abducted several weeks later without Yasin’s involvement.

Einar was beaten, robbed, photographed in humiliating conditions and blackmailed, according to prosecutors.

The kidnapping was part of a broader case involving 30 suspects in a criminal network accused of a variety of crimes.

Among the suspects was another rapper, Haval Khalil, who was sentenced in July to two-and-a-half years in prison for complicity in the kidnapping and who has also had public spats with Einar.

The verdict was appealed and the case is currently being heard by the Svea Court of Appeal, which is expected to go on until December.

Einar had been called to attend the trial as a plaintiff, but was not planning to do so, his lawyer Rodney Humphreys told AFP.

“The same way he didn’t attend the trial in the district court,” Humphreys said.

The Aftonbladet newspaper reported Friday that Einar was living with a “price on his head” after a series of threats against him which had escalated recently.

Einar himself was one of several suspects arrested for a stabbing at a restaurant in central Stockholm earlier this month.

The son of Swedish actress Lena Nilsson, Einar grew up in southern Stockholm and often referred to the criminal scene in the area in his work.

He started his career posting songs to social media, and broke through in 2019 releasing “Katten i trakten” (The cat in the area), which hit No. 1 on Sweden’s singles chart.

He won several music awards, including Swedish Grammis.

Fans and friends expressed their grief on Einar’s social media.

“Einar was a real brother to me and I will miss him so much. We just released our first record last week and it feels so strange since I spoke to him just a day ago,” producer Trobi wrote on Instagram.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that “it is a young life that has been lost, and I understand that he meant a lot to many young people”.

“It’s tragic that another life has been lost,” he told news agency TT.

Another lesser-known Swedish rapper, 23-year-old Rozh Shamal, was also killed in a 2019 gangland shooting.

Sweden has in recent years struggled to rein in rising shootings and bombings — usually settlings of scores by gangs and organised crime involved in drug trafficking.

As of October 15, 273 shootings had been recorded with 40 people dead so far in 2021, according to police statistics.

During 2020, 47 people were killed in 366 shootings in the country of 10.3 million people.

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Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis

STOCKHOLM: Award-winning Swedish rapper Einar, who has topped the country’s charts, was shot and killed in Stockholm, police and media said Friday as police hunted for suspects. The 19-year-old Einar, who raps in Swedish, was the most streamed artist on Spotify in Sweden in 2019. He was shot several times outside an apartment building shortly before…

Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis

STOCKHOLM: Award-winning Swedish rapper Einar, who has topped the country’s charts, was shot and killed in Stockholm, police and media said Friday as police hunted for suspects.

The 19-year-old Einar, who raps in Swedish, was the most streamed artist on Spotify in Sweden in 2019.

He was shot several times outside an apartment building shortly before 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Thursday.

Ambulance personnel administered first aid but he died at the scene, Stockholm police spokeswoman Towe Hagg told AFP.

Police have opened a murder investigation.

“We are actively working to figure out why it happened and who can be behind it,” Hagg said.

In line with usual practice, the police have not yet confirmed the identity of the victim. But Sweden’s mainstream media identified him as Einar, whose full name is Nils Kurt Erik Einar Gronberg.

Many of Einar’s songs reference a life of crime, including drugs and weapons. He had public feuds with rival artist Yasin, who in July was jailed for 10 months for his role in a planned kidnapping of Einar in 2020.

The plan was ultimately aborted, but Einar was abducted several weeks later without Yasin’s involvement.

Einar was beaten, robbed, photographed in humiliating conditions and blackmailed, according to prosecutors.

The kidnapping was part of a broader case involving 30 suspects in a criminal network accused of a variety of crimes.

Among the suspects was another rapper, Haval Khalil, who was sentenced in July to two-and-a-half years in prison for complicity in the kidnapping and who has also had public spats with Einar.

The verdict was appealed and the case is currently being heard by the Svea Court of Appeal, which is expected to go on until December.

Einar had been called to attend the trial as a plaintiff, but was not planning to do so, his lawyer Rodney Humphreys told AFP.

“The same way he didn’t attend the trial in the district court,” Humphreys said.

The Aftonbladet newspaper reported Friday that Einar was living with a “price on his head” after a series of threats against him which had escalated recently.

Einar himself was one of several suspects arrested for a stabbing at a restaurant in central Stockholm earlier this month.

The son of Swedish actress Lena Nilsson, Einar grew up in southern Stockholm and often referred to the criminal scene in the area in his work.

He started his career posting songs to social media, and broke through in 2019 releasing “Katten i trakten” (The cat in the area), which hit No. 1 on Sweden’s singles chart.

He won several music awards, including Swedish Grammis.

Fans and friends expressed their grief on Einar’s social media.

“Einar was a real brother to me and I will miss him so much. We just released our first record last week and it feels so strange since I spoke to him just a day ago,” producer Trobi wrote on Instagram.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that “it is a young life that has been lost, and I understand that he meant a lot to many young people”.

“It’s tragic that another life has been lost,” he told news agency TT.

Another lesser-known Swedish rapper, 23-year-old Rozh Shamal, was also killed in a 2019 gangland shooting.

Sweden has in recent years struggled to rein in rising shootings and bombings — usually settlings of scores by gangs and organised crime involved in drug trafficking.

As of October 15, 273 shootings had been recorded with 40 people dead so far in 2021, according to police statistics.

During 2020, 47 people were killed in 366 shootings in the country of 10.3 million people.

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