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Sher Khan Bandar Border Crossing Closed By Tajikistan: ACCI

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(Last Updated On: December 21, 2017)

The Sher Khan Bandar border crossing has been closed to Afghan traders and passengers since five days ago, the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) said.

ACCI has declared that Tajikistan has blocked the border crossing due to the killing of several Tajik soldiers in a clash with the smugglers in the area.

However, the main and real reason for its closure is unclear so far.

“The reason is still unknown. As we informed, a number of Tajik soldiers were killed in the border crossing a few days ago,” said Gholam Rabani, the provincial council member of Kunduz province.

According to ACCI, Afghan traders lose thousands of dollars each day regarding this issue.

“They have stopped exports, but imports are still underway,” said Nematullah Teymori, spokesman of Kunduz governor.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Finance rejected the closure of Sher Khan Bandar border crossing.

“Sher Khan Bandar border crossing is open to all vehicles. It only closed for passengers since last Monday,” said Ahmad Reshad Popal, general director of customs.

The Sher Khan Bandar border began to grow in the last decade, particularly after the 2007 completion of the Tajikistan–Afghanistan bridge at Panji Poyon.

This boosted trade between Afghanistan and Central Asia with as many as 400 shipping trucks coming to Sherkhan Bandar every day.

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Instagram bans ‘conversion therapy’ content as opposition grows

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(Last Updated On: July 11, 2020)

Instagram said on Friday it would block content that promotes so-called conversion therapy, which aims to alter a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, as pressure to ban the practice grows.

The social media giant announced earlier this year it would no longer allow adverts for conversion therapy services, which can range from counseling and ‘praying away the gay’ to electric shocks and sexual violence.

“We don’t allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Tara Hopkins, Instagram’s public policy director for Europe, Middle East, and Africa said in an emailed statement.

“(We) are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services.”

A spokesman for Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, said it would take time to update all policies and content flagged by users may not be removed immediately.

The United Nations independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity called last month for a global ban on conversion therapy, describing it as “cruel, inhumane and degrading”.

A growing number of countries – including the United States, Canada, Chile, and Mexico – are reviewing their laws. Brazil, Ecuador, and Malta have nationwide bans on conversion therapy, while Germany outlawed the treatment for minors in May.

Instagram’s move is “a step in the right direction, but we’d have to wait and see exactly what kind of actions they take,” Harry Hitchens, co-founder of the campaign group Ban Conversion Therapy, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ban Conversion Therapy sent an open letter yesterday to Britain’s Equalities Minister Liz Truss, urging her “to introduce a truly effective ban on conversion therapy for all lesbian, gay, bi, trans and gender diverse people in the UK”.

Among those who signed the letter were musicians Elton John and Dua Lipa and writer and actor Stephen Fry.

Truss pledged in May to ban conversion therapy for sexual orientation.

In a global survey of 1,641 survivors of conversion therapy published by the United Nations in May, 46% identified the perpetrators as being medical and mental health providers, while 19% were religious authorities and traditional healers.

Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian LGBT+ activist who underwent conversion therapy aged 16, welcomed the ban but said it had been “a long time coming”.

“What is missing for me in all of this conversation is the face of it, the horror of it. And I don’t care how terrible it is, people need to see it and see real human beings sharing their story in public,” he said.

 

Source: Reuters

 

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World Bank provides $200 million for Afghanistan to protect people, support businesses amid COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: July 10, 2020)

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors on Thursday approved a $200 million grant to help Afghanistan mitigate COVID-19 impacts and provide relief to vulnerable people and businesses.

In a statement released on Thursday, the World Bank said that the Afghanistan COVID-19 Response Development Policy Grant comprises $100 million from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, and $100 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), managed by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors.

The Afghanistan COVID-19 Response Development Policy Grant will support the government of Afghanistan to strengthen policies that promote faster recovery and keep basic infrastructure such as water, electricity, and telecommunications afloat and running, the statement said.

“The program will provide vital fiscal resources to manage the impacts of the pandemic in the context of rapidly slowing economic growth and declining government revenues,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan.

“Policy actions supported by the program will both help mitigate the impacts of the current crisis on the poor and vulnerable and also lay critical foundations for longer-term recovery. The World Bank will continue to stand with the people of Afghanistan through this crisis,” Kerali added.

The World Bank said that the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant adverse health, social, and economic impacts in Afghanistan, shrinking the economy and driving down public revenue.

“The grant will support changes in regulations to increase access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises, protect healthcare workers, and raise awareness on gender-based violence in schools,” it stated.

The organization added that it will also support plans to encourage students to return to school when educational institutions are to reopen after the COVID-19 crisis.

It comes as the number of COVID-19 cases has risen to 33,908 with 957 and 20,847 recoveries in Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan customs revenue lost to ’embezzlement’

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2020)

Although taxpayers pay customs duties at the Afghan customs, not all of the revenue being collected in the Afghan government’s account, local officials said.

The ports of Torkham in Nangarhar, Islam Qala in Herat, Hairatan in Balkh, Aqina in Faryab, Spin Boldak in Kandahar, Shirkhan Bandar in Kunduz, Angur Ada in Paktika and several other ports in the north and south of the country have witnessed widespread corruption.

In these ports, although custom fees are paid by taxpayers, little money is raised in government reserves, most of the ports are said to be in the hands of gunmen and the powerful.

Local officials in the provinces where the ports are located say that corruption in customs has recently peaked.

On the other hand, the Integrity Watch of Afghanistan criticizes the lack of administrative reforms, adding that unreasonable appointments have increased corruption in the country’s customs and that the government has not yet taken any steps to reform the process. According to the head of the institution, the current situation has led to organized corruption in customs.

The Ministry of Finance also promises to bring transparency to the country’s customs.

Finance Ministry spokesman Shamrooz Khan Masjidi said customs revenues are being closely monitored to prevent corruption.

Earlier, the governor of Herat said that Islam Qala’s revenue was being looted by mafia gangs and the warlords. According to economists, this is the case in most of the country’s customs.

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