Joy Bangla Concert 2023: Young music lovers counting hours

From 1971’s unforgettable “We fight to save a flower, we take up arms to save a smile” to today’s hope-inducing “A hundred hopes…. dreams on the path of freedom” — music has always united young hearts yearning for freedom.

 

As March 7 (the day marking Bangabandhu’s historic speech for emancipation) arrives and the nation looks back at the tumultuous atmosphere of 1971, music loving youths are counting hours to be part of the country’s biggest concert blending wartime melodies with modern rock songs. Bearing the wartime freedom-inspiring slogan “Joy Bangla” in its title, the concert would soon get youngsters singing along with their favorite bands lining up for some electrifying hours.

 

This year, the Joy Bangla Concert – aiming to instill the spirit of the Liberation War in young minds – will fire up young hearts on the Army Stadium ground with songs performed by Artcell, Avoid Rafa, Lalon, Chirkutt, Cryptic Fate, Karnival, Meghdol, Nemesis and Arekta Rock Band. The Centre for Research & Information (CRI) and its youth secretariat Young Bangla have been organizing the concert since 2015. The last edition in 2020 mesmerized youths as Bangabandhu appeared in a holographic visual before them.

 

“We were not part of the millions waiting under the scorching sun for the iconic leader on March 7, 1971, to deliver a speech that would transform a nation’s future forever and bring about a change on the global political landscape. We couldn’t be in person applauding and cheering in unison as the call to fight for freedom was made. We regret not being born in that period when the nation resisted one of the worst genocides forced upon it. But we can surely dream of being a part of the concert where a holographic version of Bangabandhu’s speech makes us imagine the time. Wartime songs that were once transmitted through a secret radio station called Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, give us goosebumps like they did in 1971. That is why I am so excited about the Joy Bangla Concert,” said Sadia, a student of Dhaka University.

 

In a country, marked with the confluence of the trend of globalization and being tuned to its unique, glorious past, the Joy Bangla Concert merges both by blending wartime melodies with popular, contemporary rock songs. However, the event faced a gap for two years due to the pandemic raging through the world.

 

“As a youth always hearing stories of the Liberation War, recounted by my grandfather who was part of the armed struggle against the genocide unleashed by the Pakistan army, I love to see tributes to the historic March 7 speech of the Father of the Nation in such a creative way. Did Bangabandhu himself know that someday his words would be honoured by the entire planet? Our independence came with the blood shed by three million martyrs. We can’t pay off that debt, but we can remember and pay tributes like we are doing through this concert,” said engineer Shahedul Islam.

 

Auritro Ariyan, a O-level graduate, said, “I take particular interest in how Bangalees adopted the western rock genre and fused it so well with our culture. The cross-cultural endeavor is taking our music to a new height, and we are well-aligned with that process. In the previous years, my parents did not allow me to attend the concert for being too young. But this time, I won’t miss it!”

 

In recent years, the country has witnessed a bout of initiatives by CRI to bring history closer to youths, including Joy Bangla Concert, Mujib Graphic Novel (a graphic novel sketching the life of young Mujib), and Hasina: A Daughter’s Tale (a movie on the struggles of Bangabandhu’s daughters following his assassination).

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Govt ‘looted’ country’s election system: Nazrul

BNP senior leader Nazrul Islam Khan on Tuesday alleged that the Awami League government has ‘looted’ the electoral system of the country.

 

“We have got the right to elect our government through the great Liberation War. May Allah give us back that right and achievement as those have been looted by the current government,” he said.

 

Nazrul made the remarks while speaking at a milad mahfil arranged by BNP at its Nayapaltan central office on the occasion of the holy Shab-e-Barat, the night of fortune that is being observed tonight (Tuesday night) across the country.

 

He bemoaned that the country’s resources are being looted almost openly and a huge amount of money is being siphoned off abroad from Bangladesh.

 

“We’ll pray tonight to Allah to free us from misrule, bad governance, repressions, and suppressions,” he said.

 

Nazrul, a BNP standing committee member, urged the country’s people to pray for their party’s leaders and activists who have been subjected to enforced disappearance, killing, and repressive acts.

 

He said the country’s people are going through serious ordeals due to misrule, corruption, and repression of the government.

 

The BNP leader expressed hope that the country’s people will get rid of the shackles of current despotic rule under the leadership of their party.

 

Nazrul claimed that the party’s chairperson Khaleda Zia has been “unjustly imprisoned” by the government and prayed to Allah for her unconditional release so that she can again serve the country and its people.

 

BNP vice chairman Dr AZM Zahid Hossain, chairperson’s adviser Amanullah Aman, joint secretary general Khairul Kabir Khokon, and assistant office secretaries Taiful Islam Tipu and Abdussattar Patwari, among others, joined the mild mahfil.

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh

 

Qatar’s top diplomat is sworn in as new prime minister

Qatar’s top diplomat was sworn in as the country’s prime minister on Tuesday, replacing another member of the ruling family who had held the post since 2020, state news reported.

 

The Qatar News Agency says Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani was sworn in as the new head of government, without providing further details.

 

Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, appoints the holders of top offices, usually from members of the ruling family. As in other Gulf Arab countries, politics is largely confined to the ruling family and developments are rarely aired in public.

 

Sheikh Mohammed has served as foreign minister since 2016 and was the public face of Qatar as it navigated a 3 1/2-year economic boycott by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt that only came to an end in January 2021.

 

He replaces Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, who had served as prime minister and interior minister — responsible for domestic security — since 2020. He was replaced as interior minister on Tuesday by Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

 

Gas-rich Qatar, one of the wealthiest countries on earth, supported Islamist groups across the region during and after the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, bringing it into conflict with its Gulf Arab neighbors, who view such groups as a threat to hereditary rule.

 

Relations have improved over the last two years. The rulers of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt visited Qatar as it hosted soccer’s World Cup last year.

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Historic 7 March observed in Tokyo

The Embassy of Bangladesh in Tokyo observed the historic 7th March 7 on Tuesday commemorating the landmark speech of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

 

Today’s programme began by placing a wreath at the portrait of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Embassy early in the morning.

 

All Embassy officials and a good number of expatriate Bangladeshis attended the event. Ambassador Shahabuddin Ahmed hoisted the national flag along with rendition of the national anthem.

 

This was followed by observance of one minute silence in remembrance of the Father of the Nation, his family members and the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the country’s independence.

 

Later, a special prayer (munajat) was held for the salvation of the souls of the Father of the Nation, his family members, and martyrs of the Liberation War of Bangladesh as well as for the peace, progress and prosperity of the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

 

The messages issued by the President and the Prime Minister on the occasion of “Historic 07 March” were read out by Embassy officials.

 

In his remarks, Ambassador Ahmed paid homage to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and explained the significance of the March 7 speech.

 

He said March 7 is a glorious and important day in the history of Bangladesh, when Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared his vision of independence. His clarion call conveyed a clear message to his people that it was time to prepare for the ultimate struggle to freedom and attain independence.

 

Following his call, after the brutal crackdown of the Pakistani military forces on the unarmed Bengalis on the black night of March 25, the whole country joined the Liberation War and after nine-month of war the country became victorious, he narrated.

 

Ambassador Ahmed termed the March 7 speech as the expression of a deep commitment of Bangabandhu for the nation and extreme love for mass people.

 

He also said that this speech gained international recognition when UNESCO enlisted the historic speech as ‘World’s Documentary Heritage’ in the “Memory of the World Register” in 2017 as part of a list of the world’s important documentary heritage maintained by UNESCO.

 

A discussion on the significance of the day was held following the address of the ambassador.

 

In this phase, a significant number of Bangladesh community members took part in a live discussion paying their deep tribute to the Father of the Nation and the role and significance of the historic speech of March 7 in the independence of Bangladesh.

 

The speakers said the March 7 speech of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave inspiration to the Bengali people in their quest for freedom and emancipation.

 

They expressed their strong commitment to work together to realise the dream of Bangabandhu to build a ‘Sonar Bangla’ through implementing the vision 2041 of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by contributing from their respective positions.

 

Finally, a documentary was screened on the historic March 7 speech.

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh

AFC U-20 Women’s Asia Cup Qualifiers to begin tomorrow

The three-nation Group H matches of the AFC U-20 Women’s Asia Cup Qualifiers will begin tomorrow (March 8) at the Bir Shrestha Shaheed Shipahi Mohammad Mustafa Kamal Stadium here.

 

Hosts Bangladesh have been placed in strong Group H of the Asian meet along with the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkmenistan.

 

In the group matches, Iran will play Turkmenistan in the opening match at 5 pm tomorrow (Bangladesh time),

 

Host Bangladesh will start their campaign by taking on Turkmenistan on Friday (March 10) also at 5 pm while Bangladesh will encounter stronger Iran on Sunday (March 12) at the same time and same venue in the last group match.

 

Bangladesh Television will telecast the matches live while Bangladesh Betar will broadcast the running commentary of the matches

 

The final round of the tournament will be held next year in Uzbekistan.

 

The coaches and captains of all three participating teams, in a press conference at BFF House today, expressed their optimism to play an entertaining football to clinch the group title

 

Earlier last Thursday, Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) announced a 35-member national team for the meet, which comprises 23 booters and 12 officials.

 

Booters of Bangladesh team:

 

Goal Keppers: Rupna Chakma (vice-captain), Sathi Biswas, Swarna Rani Mondal

 

Defenders; Surma Jannat, Afeida Khandakar, Nasrin Akter, Kohati Kisku, Ety Khatun and Unnoti Khatun

 

Midfielders: Swapna Rani. Sohagi Kisku, Mahfuza Khatun, Nouson Jahan, Miss Rupa, Rehena Khatun, Shamsunnahar (captain). Halima Akter and Trishna Rani

 

Forwards: Shaheda Akter Ripa, Aklima Khatun, Anika Tanjum, Airin Khatun and Souravi Akhand Prity.

 

Team Leader -Zakir Hossain Chowdhury, Team Manager Amirul Islam Babu, BFF Technical Director -Paul Thomas Smalley, Head Coach – Golam Rabbani Choton.

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Historic March 7 being observed across the country

March 7, a landmark day in the history of the nation’s long struggle for freedom, is being observed today across the country in a befitting manner.

 

In 2017, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognised the historic March 7 speech of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as a world documentary heritage.

 

On this day in 1971, Bangabandhu, the undisputed leader of Bangalees, delivered the epoch-making speech before a mammoth rally at the then Racecourse Maidan (now Suhrawardy Udyan) in Dhaka city.

 

In his 19-minute extempore speech before a million freedom-loving people, Bangabandhu made a clarion call for a non-cooperation movement — asking the nation to prepare for liberating the country from the oppressive Pakistan regime.

 

“The struggle this time is for freedom, the struggle this time is for independence, Joy Bangla,” Bangabandhu declared from the massive rally.

 

During his speech, compared with US President Abraham Lincoln’s historic Gettysburg speech, Bangabandhu said: “Since we have learnt to give blood, we’ll give more blood. Insha Allah, the people of this country will be liberated…turn every house into a fortress. Face (the enemy) with whatever you have.”

 

His speech worked like a magic spell, inspiring the entire nation to join the struggle for independence from the autocratic and repressive rule of the then Pakistani junta.

 

The Cabinet on October 7, 2020 declared March 7 as a ‘Historic Day’ instead of ‘National Historic Day’ — to observe the day nationally and internationally, commemorating the immortal speech of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

 

Awami League and different socio-political and cultural organisations have chalked out elaborate programmes on the occasion.

 

Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Television as well as private television channels and radio stations are airing special programmes while national dailies published special supplements marking the day.

 

National and Awami League party flags have been hoisted marking the day at Bangabandhu Bhaban and party office in the morning.

 

A discussion with the party Presidium Member Engineer Mosharraf Hossain is scheduled to be held at 3pm at the auditorium of Krishibid Institution Bangladesh in the capital.

 

Meanwhile, President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate messages, recalling with gratitude the courageous and farsighted leadership of Bangabandhu in materialising the nation’s journey to freedom through his March 7 Speech.

 

The President said: “Bangabandhu’s speech on 7th March is one of the most perpetual speeches in the world. How an address can awaken the whole nation, inspire them to participate in the war of liberation for independence, the historic 7th March Speech by Bangabandhu is its unique example.”

 

The Prime Minister said, “The world recognition of the historic 7th March speech of the Father of the Nation is an honour and a monument of glory for the Bengali nation. I believe the ‘Joy Bangla’ slogan and Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s 7th March speech will inspire us to accelerate the progress of development.”

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh

7 Exclusive Halwa Ideas, Recipes for holy Shab-e-Barat

The holy Shab-e-Barat or Barat Night is a religious event for Muslims. Shab-e-Barat is observed as the ‘Night of Forgiveness’ or the ‘Day of Atonement’. This event is celebrated in South Asian, Central Asian, South East Asian, and Middle Eastern Muslim countries. Muslims observe the night of Shab-e-Barat on the 15th night of the month of Sha’ban in worship and pray for salvation. On this holy event, the practice of distributing halwa among neighbours, relatives, and poor people has become a part of the tradition. Let’s take a look at 7 delicious halwa recipes for Shab-e-Barat to try at home.

 

7 Healthy Halwa Recipes for the Holy Shab-e-Barat

 

Carrot Halwa Recipe

 

Ingredients:

 

1 kg carrots (grated), 2 and a half cups of boiled milk, sugar (as required), ½ tsp cardamom powder, 3 tbsp butter, a few almonds, a few pistachios, a few cashews

 

Method:

 

First, take a pan and butter, and then cook the grated carrots on low heat so that the rawness of the carrots goes away. Continue cooking until the smell changes. Then add the milk and cook as long as the mixture becomes thick. Now add the sugar and when it becomes thick, keep stirring. Add the cardamom powder and finally add the nuts. Transfer the halwa to a dish to set it. When it is cool, serve.

 

Chana Dal Halwa Recipe

 

Ingredients

 

1 Cup chana dal, 1 cup water, 3 tbsp ghee, 1 tsp saffron, 1 cup sugar, 2 tsp cardamom powder, 1/2 tsp clove powder, 10 pieces almonds, 10 pieces cashew nuts

 

Method:

 

First, wash the chana dal and then soak it in water for two hours. Then cook the soaked chana dal and the water in a pressure cooker for about 10 minutes. Now, heal ghee in a pan and add the chana dal. Cook and stir frequently to make a thick liquid. Add saffron and stir well so that it mixes well. Then add sugar, cardamom powder, clove powder, almond, and cashew nut and remove from the stove when it becomes sticky and smells a good aroma. Garnish with Chopped almonds and serve.

 

Green Pea Halwa Recipe

 

Ingredients :

 

1 cup chickpeas, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup ghee, 2 cardamom pods

 

For garnish:

 

1 teaspoon ghee, 5-6 pistachios ( chopped), 10-12 raisins

 

Method:

 

First, wash the green peas and blend them to have a good puree. Then heat ghee in a pan and then add the peas puree and keep stirring. Cook on low heat for 7-8 minutes. Then add sugar and cardamom powder and continue cooking and stirring until all the extra moisture is absorbed and the halwa becomes non-sticky. Remove the heat. Meanwhile, fry the dry fruits with ghee till fragrant and put them over the halwa for garnishing and then serve.

 

Halwa ideas Recipes ShabeBarat

 

Halwa Recipes for Shab-e-Barat

 

Cabbage Hawya Recipe

 

Ingredients:

 

1/2 cup cabbage, 1/4 cup ghee, 2 cups whole milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp cardamom powder, chopped nuts (as required)

 

Method:

 

First, chop the cabbage. Take a pan and heat the ghee. Add the chopped cabbage and cook on medium heat to remove the raw smell of the cabbage. When the raw smell goes, add the milk and cook on high heat. You need to stir constantly.

 

As soon as the milk turns thick and becomes half, add sugar, ghee and cook on medium heat as long as the mixture turns thick. Finally, add the cardamom powder and cook for 1-2 minutes. When your halwa is ready, put off the heat and garnish with chopped nuts and serve.

 

Watermelon Halwa Recipe

 

Ingredients:

 

watermelon Rind – 3 large wedges, ghee – 2-3 tbsp, semolina – 1t tbsp, besan – 1 tbsp, sugar – ½ cup, cardamom powder – ½tsp, nutmeg Powder – a pinch, milk – 1 cup, almonds & pista – ½ cup

 

Method:

 

First, peel off the watermelon and cut it into small pieces. Then blend and make a paste. Then heat ghee in a pan and add suji, besan and cook for 1-2 minutes on low heat. Then add melon paste and coon for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture becomes thick.

 

Add sugar and cook for another 10 minutes. Add cardamom powder, nutmeg powder, and milk, and cook for another 5 minutes. Then transfer to a dish and garnish with almonds.

 

Pumpkin Halwa Recipe

 

Ingredients:

 

3 cups yellow pumpkin (grated),3 tablespoon ghee, ½ cup sugar,m½ cup, 1 tablespoon coconut (finely shredded), ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom, 10 cashews, ½ ounce raisins

 

Method:

 

First, heat ghee in a pan and then add halved cashews and raisins. Fry them for about 2 minutes to make the raisins plump and the cashews golden color. Remove them from the pan and keep them at rest. Then add more ghee and the grated pumpkin and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add the sugar and cook for about two to three minutes.

 

Now add the milk and the coconut. Continue cooking as long as the milk has evaporated and the pumpkin gets a creamy texture. When the ghee will release on the side and the halwa is totally thickened, remove it from the heat. Finally, add cardamom powder and the roasted cashews and raisins, and enjoy.

 

Pineapple Halwa Recipe

 

Ingredients:

 

Pineapple – 1 Cup (grated), nuts – (almonds 5 nos; pista 5 nos; cashew 5 nos, raisins – 10 g, milk – 200 ml, sugar – 2 tbsp, ghee/butter – 1tbsp, saffron-1 pinch

 

Method:

 

First, mix the saffron with a tablespoon of milk and keep it in rest. Now take a pan and heat ghee. Next, add pineapple and sugar and cook it on low flame for about 2-3 minutes. Then add the milk and continue stirring as long as the mixture becomes thickens. Finally, add the saffron milk and garnish with nuts and raisins and enjoy.

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh

National mobile browser ‘Torjoni’ launched

The government on Tuesday launched national mobile browser “Torjoni”.+

 

State Minister for Information and Communication Technology Zunaid Ahmed Palak inaugurated the browser at the BCC Auditorium in Agargaon.

 

The browser has been launched at the initiative of the ICT Division on the occasion of the historic March 7 to help common people of the country to use internet in Bangla.

 

“On March 7, Bangabandhu gave hint to the 7.5 crore people with his index finger . At the behest of that index finger, the country’s banks, insurance, office, courts and everything ran. He raised his index finger and united the nation for the freedom struggle and gave the direction of the Liberation War,” said Palak.

 

“Today we are launching the “National Mobile Browser Torjoni” in the name of that index finger,” he said.

 

“We are now entering smart Bangladesh from Digital Bangladesh. To get the benefits of this smart Bangladesh, we should not rely solely on foreign-based services. We have to be self-reliant. We want to create such a ‘Smart Bangladesh’ ecosystem, which will be self-reliant. We have brought the ‘Torjoni’ for that self-reliant smart Bangladesh,” the junior minister said.

 

“We want to build a self-reliant smart Bangladesh where we will have our own operating system, users will use the internet in their own browser.”

 

The Torjoni browser has been launched by the Establishment of Secured E-mail for Government and Digital Literacy Centre of Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC).

 

Google Chrome is a fast and secure browser, which is widely used all over the world. On the other hand, Torjoni has been created to remove the linguistic complexity of Bengali language users.

 

The browser does not just have Bangla; There is also an English language option for users.

 

This safe and fast Bangladeshi browser will be available on Apple and Google Play Store.

 

Executive Director of Bangladesh Computer Council Ranjit Kumar presided over the function while ICT Division Secretary Md Nojibur Rahman, among others, spoke on the occasion, among others.

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh

 

Historic 7th March celebrated in New Delhi

The “Historic 7th March” was celebrated on Tuesday at the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi in memory of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s inspirational speech delivered on 7 March 1971 at the then Race Course Maidan in Dhaka.

 

Md. Mustafizur Rahman, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India, started the programme by hoisting the national flag at the High Commission premises and placing wreaths on the portrait of the Father of the Nation.

 

A discussion programme was organized at the Bangabandhu Hall of the High Commission.

 

The messages issued by the President and the Prime Minister on the occasion of the day were read out by the Mission officials.

 

A documentary on Bangabandhu’s speech was also screened. Among others, Shaban Mahmood, Minister (Press) of the Mission made remarks highlighting the significance and importance of the day.

 

In his remarks, High Commissioner Rahman termed Bangabandhu’s speech as the ‘Best Bengali Poem’ and a ‘Charter of Liberation’.

 

He said that this is a unique example of how a speech awakens the entire nation and encourages them to liberate the country.

 

Shedding light on the recognition of the speech as a world heritage by UNESCO, the High Commissioner added that the international recognitionof the 7th March speech is eventually the acknowledgement of the non-communal spirit and democratic values thatBangabandhu had nurtured throughout his life.

 

He further said that as long as there is a struggle for freedom from subjugation and protest against oppression in the history of human civilization, Bangabandhu’s speech will continue to be an eternal source of inspiration for all the oppressed people of the world.

 

Lastly, a special prayer was offered for the salvation of the souls of the Father of the Nation, his family members and all the martyrs who played a historical role in all stages of movements for freedom and Liberation War of Bangladesh as well as well as for the peace, progress and prosperity of the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.Officials and employees from the Bangladesh High Commission and expatriate Bangladeshis were present at the event.

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh

 

Covid-19: Bangladesh logs 8 more cases

Bangladesh reported eight more Covid-19 cases in the 24 hours till Tuesday morning.

 

With the new cases, the country’s total caseload rose to 2,037,879, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

 

However, the official death toll from the disease remained unchanged at 29,445 as no new fatalities were reported.

 

The daily case test positivity rate rose to 0.44 percent from Monday’s 0.33 percent as 1,813 samples were tested.

 

The recovery rate increased to 98.41 percent. However, the death rate remained unchanged at 1.44 percent.

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh

 

UNHCR, partners seek $876m for Rohingyas facing uncertainty, Bangladeshi hosts

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partners are calling on the international community to redouble efforts for sustained financial support and solutions for Rohingya refugees and the Bangladeshi host communities them as the dire situation enters its sixth year.

 

Under the leadership of the Bangladeshi authorities, the 2023 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis calls for $876 million to reach 1.47 million people.

 

The Joint Response Plan brings together 116 partners, nearly half of them national organizations from Bangladesh.

 

The Plan, which was launched today, aims to help some 978,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and on the island of Bhasan Char, and 495,000 Bangladeshis in neighbouring communities, with food, shelter, health care, access to drinkable water, protection services, education, as well as livelihood opportunities and skills development.

 

Every day, the nearly one million Rohingya women, children and men that fled from violence and persecution in Myanmar for Bangladesh wake up in a chilling fog of uncertainty about their futures, said Johannes van der Klaauw, UNHCR Representative in Dhaka, Bangladesh at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Tuesday.

 

They are desperate to return to their homes in Myanmar, which are currently out of reach, and instead live in extremely overcrowded, and sometimes dangerous conditions in refugee camps, relying almost entirely on humanitarian assistance for their survival, the UNHCR envoy said.

 

“While the situation has become protracted, the needs of refugees remain urgent. Women and children, who make up more than 75 per cent of the targeted refugee population, face higher risks of abuse, exploitation, and gender-based violence,” said Johannes van der Klaauw.

 

More than half of the refugees in the camps are under 18, their futures on hold.

 

Since the onset of this humanitarian crisis in 2017, the Government of Bangladesh and local communities, with aid agencies, have been quick to respond to arriving refugees in what remains the world’s largest refugee camp.

 

However, as global displacement continues to rise, so does the risk that the needs of Rohingya refugees and surrounding host communities will be forgotten, Johannes added

 

With decreased funding, refugees stand to face even more challenges in their daily lives in terms of proper nutrition, shelter materials, sanitation facilities and livelihood opportunities.

 

The lack of funds has already forced the World Food Programme to cut its lifesaving food assistance to all Rohingya living in the camps; despite concerted humanitarian efforts, 45 per cent of Rohingya families are not eating a sufficiently healthy diet and malnutrition is widespread. These ration cuts are likely to result in higher malnutrition rates, deteriorating health, school dropouts, increased incidents of child marriage, child labour and gender-based violence.

 

“It is therefore vital to ensure continued funding and support to be able to deliver life-saving and life-sustaining assistance to the camp population while also investing in education, skills training and livelihood opportunities, allowing refugees to partially fulfil their basic needs with their own means,” he said.

 

The relocation of some 30,000 Rohingya to the island of Bhasan Char needs to be complemented by significant investment in communal livelihood initiatives as a prerequisite for the viability and sustainability of the project.

 

The combination of prolonged displacement and deteriorating camp conditions has prompted an increasing number of refugees to resort to dangerous boat journeys to seek a better future. Last year alone, more than 3,500 Rohingya attempted high-risk boat journeys across the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. Sadly, 10 per cent lost their lives or went missing.

 

The solutions to the Rohingya crisis ultimately lie within Myanmar. Many Rohingya refugees continue to express their desire to return home when conditions allow, yet currently there is no prospect for a safe, dignified and sustainable return in the immediate future.

 

“Hence, steadfast support from the international community remains crucial to support efforts by Myanmar to develop conditions conducive for return and to uphold the Rohingya right to return, while also supporting delivery of life-saving assistance and effective protection to refugees in the camps until they can return, with their rights ensured.”

 

Given its geography, annual cycles of heavy monsoon rains and cyclones pose substantial risks to refugees in camps and host communities. Among the objectives of the Joint Response Plan, in coordination with the Government of Bangladesh, will be to strengthen disaster risk management and combat the effects of climate change through reforestation and promoting the use of renewable and cleaner energy sources.

 

The provision of cooking gas, which has significantly eased pressure on the environment, requires significant funding.

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh

US sees China propaganda efforts becoming more like Russia’s

China has long been seen by the U.S. as a prolific source of anti-American propaganda but less aggressive in its influence operations than Russia, which has used cyberattacks and covert operations to disrupt U.S. elections and denigrate rivals.

 

But many in Washington now think China is increasingly adopting tactics associated with Russia — and there’s growing concern the U.S. isn’t doing enough to respond.

 

U.S. officials and outside experts cite recent examples of China-linked actors generating false news reports with artificial intelligence and posting large volumes of denigrating social media posts. While many of the discovered efforts are amateurish, experts think they signal an apparent willingness from Beijing to try more influence campaigns as part of a broader embrace of covert operations, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

 

“To us, the attempt is what stands out,” one U.S. intelligence official said.

 

An increasingly pessimistic mood in Washington about Beijing’s expansive political and economic goals and the possibility of war over Taiwan is driving calls for the U.S. to make a stronger effort to counter Chinese influence abroad.

 

Lawmakers and officials are particularly concerned about countries that comprise the “Global South” in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where both the U.S. and China have huge economic and political interests. Many of those countries have populations that support both sides — what an official called “swing states” in the narrative battle.

 

“This should be a whole of government effort,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, who is the top Democrat on a newly formed House committee focusing on the Chinese Communist Party.

 

“The CCP is going around the world bad-mouthing the U.S., bad-mouthing our institutions, bad-mouthing our form of government,” Krishnamoorthi said in an interview. “We have to counter this because ultimately it’s not in the best interests of the United States.”

 

China’s embassy in Washington said in a statement that Beijing “opposes the fabrication and dissemination of false information” and blamed the U.S. in turn for making social media “into its tool to manipulate international public opinion and its weapon to stigmatize and demonize other countries.”

 

“On this issue, it is for the U.S. side to reflect on itself and stop shouting ‘catch a thief,’” said embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu.

 

Chinese state media and affiliated channels, as well as social media influencers with vast followings, routinely spread ideas that the U.S. labels exaggerated, false or misleading. In recent weeks, China’s foreign ministry has called attention to the train derailment that released toxic chemicals in Ohio as well as allegations the U.S. may have sabotaged pipelines used to transport Russian gas.

 

The Biden administration has strongly rejected the allegations about the Nord Stream pipelines and defended its response in Ohio.

 

China has long been seen as less willing than Russia to take provocative steps that could be exposed and more concerned about being publicly blamed. U.S. intelligence judged that Russia tried to support Donald Trump in the last two presidential elections, while China in 2020 considered but did not try to influence the election.

 

But some U.S. officials believe China is now undertaking or considering operations it would not have in the past, according to the two people familiar with the matter. That’s partly due to fears in Beijing that they are losing a battle of narratives in many countries, one of the people said.

 

Officials noted public examples identified in recent weeks by groups that track disinformation and influence.

 

The research firm Graphika recently identified AI-generated videos that it linked to a pro-Chinese influence operation. One video attacked the U.S. approach to stopping gun violence; another “stressed the importance of China-U.S. cooperation for the recovery of the global economy,” according to Graphika. And threat analysts at Google said they disrupted more than 50,000 instances of posts and other activity last year linked to a pro-China influence operation known as “Dragonbridge.”

 

The AI-generated videos are clearly fictitious, and Graphika said none of them had more than 300 views. Most Dragonbridge posts, Google said, also reached a tiny audience.

 

The U.S. intelligence official said Chinese tradecraft on social media was “uneven” and less sophisticated than what’s normally associated with the Kremlin. But that tradecraft — both in terms of social media operations and efforts to hide any linkage to Beijing — can be expected to improve over time and with practice, the official said.

 

And there are longstanding concerns in Washington about TikTok, the viral video-sharing app whose U.S. operations are currently undergoing a national security review. There’s no public evidence that Beijing has used its sweeping powers over businesses in China to direct content on the app or launch government-sanctioned influence operations, but there’s a belief that China could do so quickly enough not to be caught or stopped.

 

China is increasingly viewed unfavorably in the U.S., much of Europe, Australia, South Korea and Japan, according to Pew Research Center data published last year.

 

But in other countries in Asia as well as in much of Africa and Latin America, there are more positive attitudes about the Chinese government, often driven by Beijing’s economic investments and offers of infrastructure and security assistance.

 

Last year’s Africa Youth Survey, which was composed of 4,500 interviews of 18- to 24-year-olds in 15 countries, found that 76% of respondents believed China had a positive influence in their country. Of the U.S., 72% said they believed American influence was positive.

 

In the event of a war over U.S.-backed Taiwan, experts believe shaping global attitudes and narratives will be key in ensuring military and diplomatic support for either side.

 

Rep. Mike Gallagher, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the new congressional committee on China, said in a statement after recently visiting Taiwan that Chinese influence operations are part of a broader strategy of “cognitive warfare.” He added that the committee would “work to expose the truth about the (Chinese Communist Party’s) pattern of aggression against America and our friends.”

 

The State Department’s Global Engagement Center is charged with countering Chinese messaging outside of both the U.S. and China. Speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the department, a State Department official responded to concerns that the U.S. doesn’t directly counter many lines of attack from Beijing.

 

“There was a decision made that we were not going to get in the business of playing whack-a-mole with specific lines of Chinese messaging,” the official said. “Frankly, there’s just too much of it. It would be like trying to put your finger in the dam to stop the leak.”

 

The State Department instead tries to fund programs exposing facts and ideas that China wants to suppress. The Global Engagement Center has funded third-party research of China’s crackdown in Xinjiang province against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups. Beijing has long tried to frame its operations in Xinjiang as countering terrorism and radicalism in the face of international criticism about its network of detention camps and its restrictions on movement and religious expression in the province.

 

State has also funded training for investigative journalists in countries that have received Chinese investment and a project that tracked Chinese dam construction along the Mekong River, which is a key source of water for Southeast Asian countries downstream from China.

 

The U.S. also uses direct investment as a tool for countering Chinese influence, though critics have questioned whether some funded programs are effective.

 

In one instance, the U.S. Agency for International Development last year proposed using funding from an annual fund for countering Chinese influence to support bakeries in Tunisia. According to two other people familiar with the matter, officials wanted to buy software for bakery owners to help them determine which of their products were most marketable. The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal agency deliberations.

 

In a statement, USAID said the Tunisia program was intended to “create sustainable demand-driven jobs” and promote Western software over Chinese programs that “might be easily accessible” but “less efficient.”

 

“We know that our grants-based assistance can go even further when put together with public and private investments, which far outstrip the resources that the PRC has brought to the table to date,” the statement said.

 

Source: United News of Bangladesh