South Africans Bid Farewell to Tutu on Eve of His Funeral 

South Africans took their last opportunity to pay their respects to Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Friday, the eve of the revered anti-apartheid fighter’s funeral.

Since Thursday, nearly 3,000 mourners have filed through Cape Town’s St. George’s Cathedral before the simple pine casket containing Tutu’s remains. 

Members of Tutu’s family hugged and consoled each other as the coffin returned for the second and final day to lie in state while a band, which included a preschooler trumpeter, played in his honor. 

The archbishop’s successor, Thabo Makgoba, waved a chalice of burning incense over the coffin before pallbearers, Anglican vicars, took the coffin from a silver Mercedes SUV hearse. 

They slowly walked up the stairs into the cathedral where Tutu had preached for a decade. 

The body will spend the night in the cathedral until the funeral, which will be presided over by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Tutu died peacefully Sunday at age 90. 

The funeral 

Tutu had carefully set down details for his funeral, insisting that his coffin be “the cheapest” available, and that it be adorned by a simple bunch of carnations. 

Mourners are being asked to donate money to his charitable foundations instead of sending flowers, and even the disposal of his remains is being conducted in an eco-friendly way. 

The dean of the cathedral, Michael Weeder, told AFP that Tutu had asked for “aquamation,” a process that supporters say releases one-tenth of climate-altering carbon dioxide gases compared with traditional cremation. 

In aquamation, bodies are dissolved in a heated solution of water and alkali in a stainless steel vessel, leaving behind the bones, which are then turned to ash by cremation. 

The ashes are to be interred at the cathedral. 

The burial “might be Sunday,” Weeder said in a text message, adding the “family will decide whether it will be private or open to others.” 

‘Moral compass’ 

Libane Serenji, an artist from Johannesburg, came to pay respects. He painted portraits of Tutu on a canvas and attached them to a tree outside the cathedral.

He said it was fitting “to come all the way and paint … because he played also a significant role in my life like everyone from Africa.”

Another mourner, Antonia Appels, had come from the capital, Pretoria, to stand in line. 

Tutu was a “moral compass” who had helped haul country out of the darkness of the apartheid era, she said. 

South Africa is marking a week of mourning for Tutu, with the country’s multicolored flag flying at half-staff nationwide and ceremonies taking place every day. 

The cathedral’s bells have been pealing in his memory for 10 minutes at midday. 

Tutu was for years the emblem of the struggle to end white-minority rule as Nelson Mandela and other leaders languished behind bars. 

After apartheid was dismantled and South Africa ushered in its first free elections in 1994, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which exposed the horrors of the past in terrible detail. 

He would later speak out fearlessly against the ruling African National Congress (ANC) for corruption, incompetence and failures to tackle the country’s AIDS epidemic. 

Weakened by advanced age and prostate cancer, Tutu had retired from public life in recent years. 

He is survived by his wife, Leah; four children; and several grand and great-grandchildren.

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UK Honors COVID Scientists and Medics, Bond Actor Daniel Craig 

Britain recognized the scientists and medical chiefs at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 in Queen Elizabeth’s annual New Year’s honors list, while James Bond actor Daniel Craig was given the same award as his famous onscreen character. 

Craig, who bowed out from playing the fictional British spy after five outings following the release of “No Time to Die” this year, was made a Companion in The Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film. 

Bond was also a CMG, so the honor means Craig has now matched all his titles, having been made an honorary Commander in the Royal Navy in September. 

There were also major honors for the high-profile officials and others involved in tackling the coronavirus pandemic. 

The chief medical officers for England, Scotland and Wales – Chris Whitty, Gregor Smith and Frank Atherton – were given knighthoods. There were also honors for the deputy medical officers for England, with Jonathan Van-Tam knighted and Jenny Harries made a dame. 

The government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, who had previously been knighted, was made a Knight Commander of The Order of The Bath. 

There were also awards for those involved in producing vaccines including Pfizer Chief Development Officer Rod MacKenzie, Sean Marett, the chief business and commercial officer at BioNTech, and Melanie Ivarsson, the chief development officer at Moderna. 

Cyclist Jason Kenny, who achieved his seventh gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games, more than any other Briton has won, was also knighted. His wife, Laura, who is the nation’s most successful female Olympic athlete and became the first to win gold at three successive Games, received a damehood. 

Among the 78 Olympian and Paralympians to be included in the list were gold medal winners swimmer Adam Peaty and diver Tom Daley, who received OBEs. 

Emma Raducanu, who stunned the tennis world by becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title with victory in the U.S. Open, was another sporting figure to be honored with an MBE. 

Songwriter Bernie Taupin, best known for his collaborations with Elton John including his 1997 reworking of “Candle in the Wind” that John sang at the funeral of Princess Diana, was awarded a CBE. 

There were also damehoods for veteran actresses Joanna Lumley and Vanessa Redgrave for their services to drama, entertainment and charity. 

The New Year’s honors have been awarded since Queen Victoria’s reign in the 19th century and aim to recognize not just well-known figures but people who have contributed to national life through often unsung work over many years. 

“These recipients have inspired and entertained us and given so much to their communities in the UK or in many cases around the world,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

 

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Sudanese Block Streets After Day of Protest Violence 

Sudanese pro-democracy demonstrators blocked streets on Friday in Khartoum, protesting the violence a day earlier that left five people dead and sparked condemnation from the U.S. and others. 

Protesters barricaded roads in the east Khartoum district of Burri as well as in nearby Khartoum North using rocks, tree branches and tires, an AFP journalist said. 

Sudan has been gripped by turmoil since military leader General Abdel-Fattah Burhan launched a coup on October 25 and detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. 

Hamdok was reinstated on November 21, but mass protests have continued as demonstrators distrust Burhan’s promises of seeking to guide the country toward full democracy. 

As the authorities on Thursday cut off communications across the country, security forces clamped down on demonstrations, firing live rounds and tear gas as tens of thousands gathered in Khartoum, Khartoum North and nearby Omdurman. 

Five protesters killed 

Four protesters were fatally shot in the head or chest in Omdurman, according to the pro-democracy Sudan Doctors Committee, while a fifth succumbed to his wounds Friday after he was shot in central Khartoum. 

Protesters charge that the deal to reinstate Hamdok simply aims to give the cloak of legitimacy to the generals, whom they accuse of trying to continue the regime built by former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in 2019 following mass protests. 

A civilian member recently appointed to the ruling Sovereign Council, Abdel Baqi Abdel Qader, announced Friday his intent to resign. 

He said he had sent a message to Burhan’s office requesting a meeting “to present to him my resignation … over the violence against demonstrators.” 

Journalists released 

Two journalists from Saudi Arabia’s Asharq television channel, Maha al-Talb and Sally Othman, were released after they and their crews were held for several hours, the channel said Friday. 

Police had also stormed the bureau of the Al-Arabiya television network funded by Saudi Arabia, which is seen as a traditional ally of Sudan’s military leaders. 

The violence and attacks on the media drew widespread condemnation. 

“Deeply troubled by reports that Sudanese security forces used lethal force against protesters, blacked out the internet, and attempted to shutdown media outlets,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted after Thursday’s events. 

The Doctors Committee has accused security forces of blocking ambulances and of forcibly removing at least one seriously injured protester from an ambulance. 

Videos have circulated on social media showing men in uniform beating protesters with sticks. 

The Sudanese Communist Party called for “urgent international solidarity to demand an end to the bloody repression in Sudan and the immediate release of all political detainees.” 

Protesters have renewed demands that the military “return to their barracks” as promised in 2019 when Bashir was toppled and the country came under the control of the Sovereign Council, a body composed of civilian and military figures, headed by Burhan. 

Demonstrations ‘waste of time’ 

A police spokesman had said four people died in Thursday’s unrest and 297 people were injured, “including 49 police officers.” 

He also said three police vans were set on fire and accused protest leaders of having sought to “turn a peaceful march into violence and confrontations with the security forces.” 

An adviser to Burhan told the state news agency on Friday that “the demonstrations are a waste of time and energy” and would not lead to a political solution. 

The violent crackdown since the October coup has claimed 53 lives and left hundreds wounded.

 

 

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Biden, Ukraine President to Speak Sunday Amid Tensions with Russia 

President Joe Biden plans to speak Sunday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a White house official said Friday, a day after Biden spoke with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on how to reduce tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border. 

Biden will reaffirm support for Ukraine, discuss Russia’s military build-up on its borders and review preparations for diplomatic efforts to calm the situation in the region, the official said Friday. 

The U.S. and Russian leaders exchanged warnings over Ukraine in Thursday’s call, but their countries voiced some optimism afterwards about planned security talks in January to address Russian military actions that drew the threat of sanctions from Washington and its allies. 

The leaders’ exchange set the stage for lower-level engagement between the countries that includes the U.S.-Russia security meeting on January 9-10, followed by a Russia-NATO session on January 12, and a broader conference including Moscow, Washington and other European countries on January 13. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought to lay the groundwork for the talks Friday in calls with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and others, the State Department said. 

In conversations with the foreign ministers of Canada and Italy, Blinken discussed a united response to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine and their consensus to impose “severe costs” on Moscow for any such actions. 

 

 

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Former Afghan Female Soldier: ‘I Am So Afraid’ Under Taliban

Afghan women who served in the country’s military are speaking out about how their life has changed under the Taliban.

“I feel like I am in prison,” said Jamila, 28, a former Afghan military officer in the western city of Herat. “I have to be at home. I can’t work or go out. I am so afraid.” 

More than 6,300 women served in the former Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Now they face not only threats to their life as former members of the military but also the Taliban’s imposed restrictions on their gender. 

“We have no hope that things would change. I do not think that Afghan military women have any future under the Taliban,” said Jamila, who did not want her real name to be revealed for fear of reprisals.

The Taliban, who seized power after the Afghan government collapsed on August 15, have imposed repressive rules on women, including banning women from work, secondary education, and long-distance travel. 

Human Rights Watch and the United Nations accused the Taliban in November of the summary killing of more than 100 former Afghan security officials despite the group’s promise of general amnesty. 

Jamila served for 10 years in the 207th Zafar (Victory) Corps of the Afghan National Army, headquartered in Herat province. She says she now hears news every day of someone else who was killed or disappeared. 

“I fear that they (the Taliban) might find me and kill me,” she said. 

Despite assurances from senior Taliban leaders that the group plans no retribution killings, Jamila said their word cannot be trusted. 

The more than 6,300 women who served as security forces were a small fraction of the country’s 300,000-strong force, but their careers represented a significant cultural shift for the conservative country. 

Washington’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, reported in July that 4,253 women served in the police, 1,913 in the army and 146 in the air force.

Living in fear 

Now, some of them are on the run. 

“We have been moving from one place to another to avoid being identified,” Jamila said. 

Serving in the Afghan military was always a significant risk for the women, whose families sometimes opposed their work. 

“Despite the enormous obstacles,” said a SIGAR report in February 2021, Afghan women continued to join ANDSF “often at a great personal risk.”

Jamila, a mother of two, said that her family had opposed her joining the army. And, she said, they blame her for the hardships they now face. 

“They are telling me that you joined the army and that is why our lives are in danger.” 

Before the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, many women, government employees and social activists were killed in targeted attacks.

Of the seven Afghan women who were posthumously given the U.S. State Department’s 2021 International Women of Courage Award, three were working with Afghan security agencies.

A U.S. State Department press release issued in March 2021 stated that honorary awards were given “to seven leaders and activists from Afghanistan who were assassinated for their dedication to improving the lives of Afghans.”

Jamila said that after the Taliban takeover, some of her colleagues had escaped to Pakistan and Iran, but most of them remain in Afghanistan, living in fear. 

“The majority could not flee because they do not have money (or) passport, or (are) having other problems,” Jamila added. 

‘We fought them’ 

“I had no choice but to escape to Pakistan,” said a former Afghan army officer, 25, who did not want her identity to be disclosed for safety reasons.

The former officer, who was also posted in the Zafar Corps in Herat, said that she had to escape just after the fall of the city into the Taliban’s hands. “I went together with a family of my relatives and crossed to Pakistan.”

She said that most of the women who had served in the military in her province were in danger since “we fought them. They wanted to kill us, and we wanted to kill them.” 

She does not see any future for her fellow female veterans in Afghanistan, she said. “Forget about the idea that they will let us go to work. They do not even let girls go to school. They do not accept women to be part of the society.” 

The Taliban’s position on women’s rights had not changed from what she had heard about the group’s repressive rules in the 1990s, she added. 

Under the Taliban, in the late ’90s, women were denied education and employment. The militant group also forced women to cover themselves from head to toe and prevented women from leaving their houses without a male companion.

After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghan women made some achievements. About 3.5 million girls were going to schools. About 30 percent of the civil servants and around 28 percent of parliamentarians were women. 

Afghan women’s rights activists worldwide have been protesting the Taliban takeover, which has curbed the rights and freedoms that Afghan women achieved over the past 20 years.

On Tuesday, dozens of women took to the streets of Kabul, demanding work, food and education.

Call for help 

“No one cares about us right now,” said the former army officer, adding that “NATO was supporting us. We were encouraged to join the army, but now we are forgotten.” 

She called on the international community to help relocate those women whose lives are at risk under the Taliban.

Hosna Jalil, Afghanistan’s former deputy minister for women affairs who also served as deputy interior minister from December 2018 to January 2021, said that Afghan women who were working in the security sector are at great risk. 

“Women (in the security sector), because their number was low and they can be identified easily, I think they are more vulnerable,” she said. 

Initiatives are underway to relocate some of the former Afghan military women to a safer place, Jalil said, “but the process, to tell you honestly, is very scattered and slow.” 

“And this is the reason that we lose them one by one,” Jalil said, referring to the targeted killings of former Afghan military personnel. 

 

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Afghan Refugees in Turkey Make a Living as Shepherds

Some Afghan refugees living in Turkey are turning to the ancient practice of shepherding as a way to make a living. VOA’s Eyyup Demir has this report narrated by Sirwan Kajjo.

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