Nine Fiji opposition MPs arrested over criticism of land bill

Detentions, including two former PMs, prompt fears government is using police as a ‘political weapon’

Nine prominent opposition politicians – including two former prime ministers – have been arrested in Fiji for voicing concerns about a contentious land bill, leading to fears the Fijian government is using the police as a “political weapon” to intimidate and crack down on dissent.

Six members of parliament and three other high-profile politicians were taken into custody by the criminal investigations department on Sunday and Monday in relation to comments they had made regarding proposed amendments to a land bill, which is expected to be debated in parliament this week.

Continue reading...
Yeh Freedom Life review – a passionate slice of queer Delhi life

Beauty technician Sachi and cigarette seller Parveen yearn for ‘freedom lives’ where they can proudly flaunt their relationships with other women in this free-form film

An unnerving cacophony opens Priya Sen’s Yeh Freedom Life: it plunges straight into a health convention about women’s reproductive responsibilities. Lessons on childcare – demonstrated on creepy dolls – along with speeches on wifely and motherly duties are delivered in front of the camera. These reminders of compulsory heterosexuality recur throughout: in Ambedkar Nagar, a working-class area in South Delhi, they are plastered all over movie posters and permeate every household via long-running soap operas.

And yet queer love makes its voice known. Sachi and Parveen, the film’s subjects, yearn for the “freedom lives” where they can proudly flaunt their relationships with other women. Sachi, a beauty technician at an eyebrow-threading salon, adores her long-term girlfriend Sai and supports the latter’s plan to transition. Parveen, who works at a busy cigarette kiosk, has had her fair share of heartbreaks from lovers who have left her to marry. Eluding discussions of labels, Yeh Freedom Life looks at queer relationships in their most elemental ingredients: passion, jealousy and intimacy.

Continue reading...
Foreign journalists harassed by Chinese citizens over floods coverage

Reporters confronted in street and accused of ‘smearing China’ amid increasing sensitivity to any negative portrayals of China

Foreign journalists reporting on the aftermath of China’s flooding disaster have faced hostile confrontations in the street and been subjected to “vicious campaigns”, amid increasing nationalistic sensitivity to any negative portrayals of China.

Reporters from the Los Angeles Times and German outlet Deutsche Welle were confronted by an angry crowd in Zhengzhou on Saturday, who filmed and questioned them, and accused them of “rumour mongering” and slandering China. Other journalists have also been targeted, with a specific focus on the BBC.

Continue reading...
Afghanistan civilian casualty figures at record high, UN says

Report reveals ‘acute rise’ in deaths and injuries since 1 May as Taliban exploit departure of foreign troops

Record numbers of civilians have been killed and injured in Afghanistan in intense fighting since 1 May, when international forces began their final drawdown and the Taliban launched a major offensive.

The heavy toll so far comes largely from battles in rural areas, according to the UN. If the conflict were to spill into more densely populated towns and cities, the consequences could be catastrophic, it says in its report, The Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.

Continue reading...
‘Once-in-a-lifetime chance’: the rural children winning rare places at an elite school in India

Stiff competition and cultural barriers are overcome by students gaining access to an education out of reach for most at an academy in Uttar Pradesh

Manu Chauhan used to dread running out of notebooks and pens. Though school in the village of Akrabad in Uttar Pradesh was free, stationery was not. He would have to go to his dad to ask for money, knowing his father earned 3,000 rupees (£30) a month selling insurance.

In September, Chauhan, now 18, will fly to the US to take up his place at Stanford University to study international relations, after graduating from an Indian academy that is educating future leaders in a state that has produced eight of India’s 14 prime ministers.

Continue reading...
As US troops leave Afghanistan, what will future policy look like?

Joe Biden has said he will cut air support to Afghan forces and target terrorist groups from regional bases

As the US nears completion of its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Pentagon is supposed to switch to “over-the-horizon” counter-terrorist operations in the country. But it is far from clear yet what those will look like in practice.

The Biden administration has made it clear that after the end of August it will not provide air support for Afghan forces intended to bolster the Kabul government, though it is possible that will be reappraised if provincial capitals fall to the Taliban. However, Gen Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command, said on Sunday that the US would continue airstrikes in support of Afghan forces “in the coming weeks, if the Taliban continue their attacks”.

Continue reading...
US accused of ‘demonising’ China as high-level talks begin in Tianjin

Vice foreign minister Xie Feng described relations between the superpowers as a ‘stalemate’ in discussions with US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman

China has blamed the US for what it called a “stalemate” in bilateral relations and accused Washington of “demonising” Beijing as high-level face-to-face talks began in the Chinese city of Tianjin.

Vice foreign minister Xie Feng urged the US “to change its highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy,” the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Continue reading...
New Zealand agrees to repatriate suspected Isis member who grew up in Australia

Jacinda Ardern said it was the ‘right step’ to allow return of woman and her children from Turkey

New Zealand has agreed that a suspected member of Islamic State who grew up in Australia can be repatriated from Turkey along with her two young children, a decision prime minister Jacinda Ardern said was “not taken lightly”.

The woman was a dual Australian-New Zealand citizen until Australia revoked her citizenship and refused to reverse the decision, prompting a furious response earlier this year from Ardern, who accused Australia of shirking its responsibilities.

Continue reading...