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Barack Obama in Cuba at start of historic visit

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(Last Updated On: March 21, 2016)

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President Barack Obama touched down in Cuba on Sunday, definitively ending a half-century of estrangement in a dramatic personal demonstration of his core foreign policy principle of engaging America’s enemies.

Mr Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit since the 1959 revolution, which heralded decades of hostility.

He will meet President Raul Castro, but not retired revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, and the pair will discuss trade and political reform.

Two hours after landing, Mr Obama greeted staff from the U.S. embassy with the words “It is wonderful to be here”.

Speaking at the reopened U.S. embassy in Havana, he called the visit “historic”. He also spent time in the old city.

“Back in 1928, President [Calvin] Coolidge came on a battleship. It took him three days to get here, it only took me three hours. For the first time ever, Air Force One has landed in Cuba and this is our very first stop.”

He added the trip was a chance for him to lay out a “vision for a future that is brighter than our past”.

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Taliban kidnap over two dozen civilians in Wardak

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(Last Updated On: November 25, 2020)

Taliban insurgents have abducted at least 28 civilians in Maidan Wardak province, police claimed.

The provincial police said in a statement that the militants abducted 28 people who were traveling from Hisa-i-AwalBihsud to the capital Kabul.

The Taliban forced cars to stop in Siyah Petab and Pul-e-Mehrab areas in the Jalrez district of the province on Wednesday morning and kidnapped the civilians, police stated.

The provincial police did not provide further details about the hostages.

The Taliban has not yet commented in this regard, but the area where the incident happened is allegedly under the group’s control.

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Police arrest 20 Torkham customs officials on corruption charges

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(Last Updated On: November 25, 2020)

Nangarhar provincial officials said security forces have arrested 20 customs officers in Torkham on charges of corruption.

Attaullah Khoqyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar governor, confirmed the arrests and said money had been seized during the arrests.

According to Khoqyani many of the suspects have been working in the Torkham customs department for the past 20 years.

Traders in the province have welcomed the arrests but said there were still more corrupt officials who have not been arrested.

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UN calls for increased efforts to stamp out violence against women

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(Last Updated On: November 25, 2020)

The United Nations has called on all Afghans to increase efforts to prevent violence against women and that the violence has negative consequences not only for survivors, but also for their families, communities, and society.

Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW), the UN called on Afghans “to increase efforts to prevent and redress violence against women and girls, particularly in the context of the outbreak of COVID-19.”

This comes on the heels of the Afghan Women’s Affairs Ministry’s announcement that violence against women has increased in the country in the past year.

Speaking at the launch of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, officials said 2,582 cases of violence against women have been recorded in the past six months.

According to the ministry, the cases of violence against women included forced marriage, rape, and murder.

The 16-day campaign, launched on Wednesday will through to December 10 – International Human Rights Day.

The EU meanwhile stated in a tweet: “We, the EU and its member states stand against Gender-Based Violence.”

They called for every girl and woman to live free from violence, oppression and discrimination. “Join our voices to put an end to violence against girls and women,” the EU said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations stated that this year’s EVAW theme – “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” – is focused on accelerating concrete policy responses to gender-based violence in the context of COVID-19 and promoting zero tolerance of gender-based violence across all spheres of society.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated key risk factors for violence against women and girls, such as food shortages, unemployment, economic insecurity, and school closures,” a statement read.

“Worldwide, there has been an alarming increase in multiple forms of violence against women and girls, and information indicates that Afghanistan is no exception.”

The statement pointed out that the consequences of violence against women and girls – including physical, sexual, and psychological impacts – could prevent them from fully participating in society.

“Violence against women and girls has negative consequences not only for survivors, but also for their families, communities, and society. It is an impediment to the eradication of poverty, sustainable development, and efforts towards peace,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA.

“In Afghanistan, violence against women and girls jeopardizes their enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms at one of the most critical times in the modern history of the country”, stated Lyons.

“For millions around the world, the home became a safe space to protect us from a deadly virus. But for too many women and girls, the home became the place where they found themselves trapped with their abusers”, said Aleta Miller, UN Women Representative in Afghanistan.

“Our daily engagement with Afghan women across the country from the beginning of the pandemic flagged an alarming rise in the levels of violence against women and girls. Our data on the gender-differentiated impact of COVID-19 also matched this.”

“As it is an unprecedented time for Afghanistan, our solidarity with Afghan women and commitment to promoting and protecting their human rights must be equally unprecedented,” the UN noted.

The UN said that it is working with the Government, civil society, non-governmental organizations, and development partners in Afghanistan to respond to all forms of violence against women and girls through direct support to service providers, social norms programs to prevent violence, and campaigns and advocacy.

“During the 16 Days Campaign, the Afghan government, supported by the UN, is intensifying its advocacy and awareness-raising activities to address violence against women and girls,” the organization stated.

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