SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The rumble of engines in the sky immediately set the Aleppo neighborhood below on edge. Men peeked from shops anxiously at the Syrian warplane circling slowly overhead. Housewives emerged on balconies to gauge whether they were about to be hit. But the kids hanging out on the street were unfazed. One kept dribbling his basketball.
Finally, the jet struck. Engines revving louder, it dove and unleashed a burst of heavy machine-gunfire into a nearby part of the city. It soared back up under a hail of rebel anti-aircraft fire, then swooped back down for a second strafing run.
The women on the balconies broke into tears, fearing for the children in the street. But the boys just pointed at the jet, shouting "God is great" in challenge. "God send you to hell, Bashar," one boy yelled as the jet flew away.
With death lurking around every corner, the survival instincts of Aleppo's population are being stretched to the limit every day as the battle between Syria's rebels and the regime ofPresident Bashar Assad for the country's largest city stretches through its fourth destructive month. Residents in the rebel-held neighborhoods suffering the war's brunt tell tales of lives filled with fear over the war in their streets, along with an ingenuity and resilience in trying to keep their shattered families going.
And while residents of the rebel-held areas express their hatred of Assad's regime and their dream of seeing him go, they also voice their worries over the rebels and the destruction that their offensive has brought to their city. Graffiti on the shutter of a closed store declares the population's sense of resignation: "God, you are all we've got."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —Saudi Arabia is to limit the power of its notorious religious police, raising hopes that draconian social controls will be eased in the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom.
After years of complaints of humiliation and abuse, particularly from women, the all-male agents of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice could be emasculated by the reforms.
Sheikh Abdullatiff Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh, the head of the force, said that its authority to arrest and question suspects would be transferrred to regular police officers, while it also would be unable to carry out raids on homes without prior and higher approval.
"The new system will set a mechanism for the field work of the committee's men which hands over some of their specialisations to other state bodies, such as arrests and interrogations," al-Hayat quoted him as saying.
Okaz, another daily paper, reported that the force's agents will be prohibited from scouring shopping centres for women failing to follow rigid dress codes.
Sheikh, a relative moderate appointed by King Abdullah in January, earlier strongly criticised one of his men who ordered a woman to leave a mall because she was wearing nail polish. The woman defied the order and filmed her argument with the policeman, later posting it on YouTube.
Soon after taking over, Sheikh barred volunteers from serving in the commission, which was instantly reduced to its full-time complement of 3,500.
The Ha'ia, as it is called in Arabic, has also enforced bans on mingling by men and women who are unrelated to each other, and on public entertainment. It has ensured all businesses close for prayers five times a day and chased errant males into mosques at the muezzin's call.
Known for having full beards - sometimes henna-dyed - and for wearing their headscarves loose, prior to milder reforms in 2007 its agents were armed with wooden canes to aid the enforcement of Sharia law.
Female activists in particular will welcome the changes, though it appeared unlikely to further significantly their primary goal of ending the prohibition on women driving.
The announcement was perhaps the most important of several reforms introduced under King Abdullah, which have gathered pace since the Arab Spring swept aside other unelected leaders in the region.
Saudi Arabia entered female athletes for the first time at Olympics games this summer, though the decision brought a backlash from conservative-minded members of the public and clerics.
Women have been allowed to vote in future municipal elections, the only public polls held in the kingdom, while in 2009 the first co-educational further education institute opened despite strong clerical opposition.
The king issued a decree limiting work at lingerie shops to Saudi women, in a bid to reduce female unemployment estimated to be at 30 percent.
The authorities also granted permission for the first film to be shot entirely on location in the country. Wadjda, which played at the Venice film festival, followed the everyday life of a ten-year-old girl and her attempts to circumvent restrictions and break social barriers, both at school and at home.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: The Telegraph
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Saudi Arabia has taken precautions to prevent disease spreading among Muslim pilgrims next month after a Qatari man was infected with a virus related to the deadly SARS, a health ministry official said on Wednesday.
The World Health Organization put out a global alert on Sunday saying a new, previously unknown, virus had infected a 49-year-old Qatari man who had recently travelled to Saudi Arabia, where another man with an almost identical virus had already died.
Britain’s Health Protection Agency and respiratory disease experts said there was no immediate cause for concern, although authorities were watching for any signs of the virus spreading.
Muslims from some 160 countries flock to Mecca and Medina during the annual Haj pilgrimage, which begins in late October. Some arrive by plane, others by boat or by car.
“The Health Ministry has taken preventative measures to deal with the influx of over 2 million Haj pilgrims,” Ziad Memish, the deputy minister for public health, told Reuters.
“The measures include monitoring the entrances through land, sea and air to evaluate the people entering and obtain samples if any symptoms are apparent,” he added.
In 2009 Saudi Arabia set up thermal cameras at its airports and increased the number of its medics as part of its measures to limit the spread of the H1N1 flu. It will not resort to using thermal cameras this year, Memish said.
“There is also continuous monitoring in the holy places in Mecca and Medina and Jeddah, with teams on the ground and hospitals to deal with them.”
Meanwhile, five people have been isolated in a hospital in Denmark with symptoms of a new viral respiratory illness from the same family as the deadly SARS virus, the hospital said on Wednesday.
“We have sent samples from the five for testing and hope to get the results this afternoon,” chief physician Svend Stenvang Petersen of Odense University Hospital told AFP.
“The five have a fever, coughing and influenza-like symptoms,” he added.
Petersen said those admitted were a family of four where the father had been to Saudi Arabia, and an unrelated person who had been to Qatar. Two of those with symptoms were under the age of five.
“We have put them in isolation because we don’t know how the virus spreads. So just as with bird and swine flu we have admitted them and isolated them so that we prevent the spread to others,” Petersen said.
“We do not have any medicine that works against this virus.”
The five contacted their doctors following a Danish health authority advisory on Monday recommending that those who had travelled to Qatar and Saudi Arabia seek medical help if they experienced a fever, coughing, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
The WHO confirmed in a global alert on Monday that the new virus was in the coronavirus family which causes the common cold but can also include more severe illnesses including SARS.
SARS swept out of China in 2003, killing more than 800 people worldwide.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Arabiya