By Atiya Chowdhury and Julie Ngalle
How are the British government responding to stranded British civilians in India?
Thousands of British civilians were left stranded in India after the country went into lockdown on 24th of March following the outbreak of the coronavirus. After India cancelled flights leaving the country, these civilians have had no choice but to isolate and maintain protocol thousands of miles away from their homes.
Many British civilians in India have been trying to register for repatriation flights with little success. As a result, medicine has been running low amongst those who are still there and many are afraid to leave their residences as violence against foreigners increases.
British authorities have stated they are working to retrieve the stranded civilians. However, many of those stranded have taken to social media and reached out to news sources to express their frustration as they have not been given a place on the repatriation flights despite paying and registering.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated that they have been working diligently to bring back the civilians and have claimed that 10,000 have already been brought home. However, it is estimated that around 20,000 British civilians are still in India. The FCO has stated that the system is under immense stress as only 300 people can leave on each flight, with tickets costing hundreds of pounds.
In the last couple of weeks, several countries including New Zealand, China and France have announced their plans to progressively ease their lockdown measures. Following these announcements, many in the UK wonder, when will our turn come? The government has not yet announced a clear plan or potential date from which lockdown measures could start becoming less strict, although topics such as the re-opening of schools or the possibility of returning to work depending on the sectors are very much in talks. It should be noted numbers show a 16% decrease of people in hospital as of the 29th of April. Boris Johnson also announced the UK had officially passed its peak of infections and death, which comes as a relief to many.
However, a decrease in the UK population’s vigilance has also been recorded and government officials, as well as health and science experts, have urged people to keep practising social distancing and isolation where possible, despite how increasingly challenging these practices are becoming. This relaxation most likely explains why the government have been so vague when it comes to potential deconfinement measures.
How will the alleged reports of an assassination plot against the mayor of Prague affect the country’s relationship with Russia?
After the emergence of a Czech article suggesting an alleged assassination plot against the mayor of Prague, the mayor has now been taken into police protection.
The Czech newspaper Respekt reported that a Russian agent carrying the poison ricin had arrived in the country a few weeks ago in order to assassinate the mayor of Prague. Ricin is a natural poison found in the seeds of castor oil plants and just a few grains or a tablespoon of purified ricin powder can kill an adult-sized human. The article detailed that the Russian agent was then taken into a diplomatic vehicle which led him to the Russian embassy. The Russian embassy has responded to these allegations claiming that they have no basis and are false as the original article had unverified sources.
Zdenek Hrib, the mayor of Prague, refused to give details as to why he was under protection only revealing that he felt that he was being followed after seeing the same man close to his home multiple times. While Mr Hrib has not confirmed that he believes this incident is related to Russia or the article, he has said that should he be murdered that would mean “the Russian embassies have crossed a red line.”
Tensions between Prague and Moscow have recently been fuelled after the mayor of Prague renamed the square outside the Russian embassy to that of the Russian opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov. In addition, just this month the capital removed the statue of Russian World War Two military hero Marshal Ivan Konev. This had been a very controversial act as the statue was regarded very highly amongst Russians.
Ondrej Kollar, the author of the original article, is also under police protection. Mr Kollar believes that there is a Russian currently in the country appointed with the task of eliminating him. Mr Kolar had not said whether he thinks this is related to an incident in 2019 when he was forced to leave Prague after showing his support for the removal of the statue. Online debates about the removal of the statue led to multiple threats being sent to him.
What was the motive behind the homophobic hack in Morocco?
In the last two weeks, close to a hundred men have had their photos, messages and online profiles from gay dating websites leaked publicly. The leak originated when Moroccan transgender influencer Sofia Taloni, who had herself been a victim of online trolling due to her identity, incited people to create fake dating profiles on apps famously used by the LGBTQ+ community in an attempt to find and expose their relatives. The goal supposedly was to reveal Moroccan society’s hypocrisy, which presents itself as a “straight society” when indeed, many men hide their true identity due to oppressive laws against the LGTBQ+ community.
As many denounce the human rights and privacy violation, the most dramatic outcome of this situation lies in the fact many of the victims have since then been kicked out of their homes, dishonoured and many fear for their future or in some cases their lives. Another shocking factor is the fact that this violation has not been recognised as a crime by the government or judicial system in Morocco, making it impossible for the men targeted to seek justice.
Homosexuality is still to this day something many North African societies consider and sometimes even legally recognise as a crime, making it harder for members of the LGBTQ+ community in these countries to live their lives freely.
Saudi Arabia has banned flogging as a crime punishment
This is a practice that Saudi Arabians feared for years. For a number of crimes, such as being drunk or insulting their government or religion, people would be flogged in public squares. Human rights activists had condemned this practice for years.
Finally, on the 25th of April, Saudi Arabia Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that this practice would be abolished from the penal code and replaced by fines or jail time for low-level offenders. The Saudi Arabian Prince is becoming recognised for his will to open up his country’s economy and society, and has passed a number of progressive laws since he was put in power.
Many saluted this decision but highlighted it is one of the many things that need to be amended in the penal code. The death penalty, for example, is still a punishment for drug dealers or murderers, and human rights violations are a common occurrence. It is nevertheless recognised as a step in the right direction that could, hopefully, lead to the relaxation of Saudi Arabia’s most oppressive laws.