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Switzerland approves ban on Niqabs and Burqas in public

(Asian News Hub) – Swiss voters approved a proposition Sunday banning facial coverings in public. Niqabs and burqas, worn by almost no one even among the country’s Muslim population, will be banned outside of religious institutions. The new law doesn’t apply to facial coverings for health reasons.


Switzerland will join several European countries that have implemented a ban on facial coverings, including France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria.


The new legislation was brought to the ballot through a people’s initiative launched by the nation’s right-wing Egerkingen Committee, the same group that led the charge to ban minarets over a decade ago, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation reported. In 2017, the group presented over 100,000 signatures to the government and demanded the issue be brought to a national vote.


The Swiss government opposed the nationwide initiative as excessive and argued such bans should be decided by individual regions, two of which already have a “burqa ban” in place.


The ban barely passed a majority vote, with 51.2% of the Swiss voting in support of the proposal. Only six of the country’s cantons, similar to states, voted against the proposition, according to the SBC.


One of the largest backers of the initiative was the nationalist Swiss People’s Party, which applauded the outcome of the vote and called the new measure “A strong symbol in the fight against radical political Islam.”


“The burqa creates a barrier between the person wearing it and the environment and thus prevents integration into society,” Swiss People’s Party President Marco Chiesa said in a statement.


Some feminist groups and progressive Muslims reportedly were supporters of the initiative, arguing that full face coverings are oppressive to women.


Other groups felt the new restriction was Islamophobic and that women should not be told what to wear.


The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland said the results were “Islamophobically motivated.”


“Today’s decision is tearing open old wounds, expanding the principle of legal inequality and sending a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority,” the group wrote.


Researchers found that at most a few dozen Muslim women wear full face coverings in Switzerland. About 5% of Switzerland’s population of 8.6 million is Muslim, the BBC reported.


Swiss authorities now have two years to draft the legislation, according to The Associated Press.

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COVID-19: Strict week-long Lockdown in Bangladesh from April 14

(Asian News Hub) – A strict 7-day lockdown is going to be enforced in Bangladesh, from April 14, allowing only emergency services to remain in operation, it was announced on Friday.

All government and private offices, and factories will remain closed during the week-long lockdown to curb the Covid-19 spread, Public Administration Farhad Hossain said.

A gazette notification in this regard will be issued soon, he added.

IANS

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Myanmar: 114 civilians killed in deadliest day since Coup

(Asian News Hub) – At least 114 civilians were killed across Myanmar on Saturday as the military junta continued to crackdown on peaceful protests, CNN reported citing Myanmar Now.

The killings in 44 towns and cities across the country would represent the bloodiest day of protests since a military coup last month.

Among those killed is a 13-year-old who was shot in her house after the junta’s armed forces opened fire in residential areas of Meikhtila.

State television had said on Friday that protesters risked being shot ‘in the head and back.’

Despite this, demonstrators against the February 1 coup came out on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other towns.

On February 1, Myanmar’s military overthrew the civilian government and declared a year-long state of emergency while detaining civilian leaders including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The coup triggered mass protests which were met by the junta’s deadly violence.

The United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres and the UN office in Myanmar spoke out against the violence.

‘The continuing military crackdown, which today resulted in the highest daily death toll since demonstrations against the coup began last month, is unacceptable and demands a firm, unified and resolute international response. It is critical to find an urgent solution to this crisis,’ said a statement issued by Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general.

‘The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the killing of dozens of civilians,’ Haq said.

The UN office in Myanmar said it ‘is horrified by the needless loss of life today with reports of dozens of people shot dead by the military across the country, in the bloodiest day since the coup.’

‘The violence is completely unacceptable and must stop immediately. Those responsible must be held to account,’ the UN office added.

‘As the Special Envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener has said, ensuring peace and defending the people should be the responsibility of any military, but the Tatmadaw has turned against its own people,’ it added.

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Horrifying day of bloodshed in Myanmar

(Asian News Hub) – Security forces killed more than 90 people, including some children, across Myanmar on Saturday in one of the bloodiest days of protests since a military coup last month, news reports and witnesses said.

The lethal crackdown, which took place on Armed Forces Day, drew strong renewed criticism from Western countries. British Ambassador Dan Chugg said the security forces had “disgraced themselves” and the U.S. envoy called the violence horrifying.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader, said during a parade to mark Armed Forces Day that the military would protect the people and strive for democracy.

State television had said on Friday that protesters risked being shot “in the head and back”. Despite this, demonstrators came out on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other towns, as they have done almost daily since the Feb. 1 coup that ousted elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Myanmar Now news portal said 91 people were killed across the country by security forces.

At least 29 people, including a 13-year-old girl, were killed in Mandalay, and at least 24 people were killed in Yangon, Myanmar Now said. A boy as young as five was earlier reported among the dead in Mandalay but there were conflicting reports later that he may have survived.

Another 13-year-old was among the dead in the central Sagaing region.
“Today is a day of shame for the armed forces,” Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for CRPH, an anti-junta group set up by deposed lawmakers, told an online forum.

Meanwhile, one of Myanmar’s two dozen ethnic armed groups, the Karen National Union, said it had overrun an army post near the Thai border, killing 10 people – including a lieutenant colonel – and losing one of its own fighters.

A military spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment on the killings by security forces or the insurgent attack on its post.

“They are killing us like birds or chickens, even in our homes,” said Thu Ya Zaw in the central town of Myingyan, where at least two protesters were killed. “We will keep protesting regardless… We must fight until the junta falls.”

The deaths on Saturday would take the number of civilians reported killed since the coup to well over 400.

REUTERS

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