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Mogadishu Book Fair Resumes after COVID-19 Lockdown Postponement

Somalia’s annual Mogadishu International Book Fair has resumed following the suspension of the event last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Restrictions were applied to the invitation-only event this year in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The sixth edition of the Mogadishu book fair was a big distraction for residents of the capital, Mogadishu, away from the political tension linked to disagreements over the ongoing parliamentary elections in the country.

This year’s book fair was limited to a few people, especially authors, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But according to the founder of the fair, Mohamed Diini, organizers are already working to accommodate more people next year.

“In essence, we really are doing about 10% of what we did and, ultimately, we just wanted to do something, even if it is little so that next year, we can go back to our previous state, Insha Allah,” Diini  said.

Selected students from Mogadishu schools were invited this year to the children’s corner, where they enjoyed reading, storytelling and cultural tales.

Hanan Abdi Tahlil from Mogadishu International School is one of them.

She said she is very happy and excited to take part in the Mogadishu book fair this year, adding that they enjoyed storytelling from Cigaal Shidaad and Wiil Waal fictional tales among others. She also said she was looking forward to attending next year.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, who is busy resolving an electoral-related stalemate, congratulated the organizers of the book fair.

In a tweet, the prime minister stressed the need to encourage the pen and the book to replace arms and tribalism.

Заява Білорусі про порушення повітряного простору з боку України не відповідає дійсності – Держприкордонслужба

«Державна прикордонна служба України неодноразово наголошувала на тому, що в рамках посилення кордону та проведення прикордонної операції «Полісся» для моніторингу кордону активно використовуватиметься як авіація, так і безпілотні літальні комплекси. Авіація використовувалася і сьогодні»

Traditional Wrestling Continues as a Friday Fixture in Kabul

Through clouds of billowing dust, two men circle each other warily before one plunges forward, grabbing his rival’s clothing and, after a brief struggle, deftly tackling him to the ground.

The crowd, arrayed in a circle around them, some sitting on the ground, others standing or clambering onto the backs of rickshaws for a better view in a park in the Afghan capital, erupts in cheers. Victor and vanquished smile good-naturedly, embracing briefly before some of the spectators press banknotes into the winner’s hand. 

The scene is one played out each week after Friday prayers in the sprawling Chaman-e-Huzori park in downtown Kabul, where men — mainly from Afghanistan’s northern provinces — gather to watch and to compete in pahlawani, a traditional form of wrestling. 

Although the Taliban, who took over Afghanistan in mid-August, had previously banned sports when they ruled the country in the 1990s, pahlawani had been exempt even then. Now, just over three months into their new rule of the country, a handful of Taliban police attended the Friday matches as security guards.

The matches are simple affairs. There is no arena other than the broad circle formed by the spectators. The competitors, barefoot in the dust, all use the same tunics, one blue and one white, passed from one athlete to the next for each match. Each competitor represents his province, with the name and province announced to the spectators by the referee.

Each match has four rounds, and the winner is the first who can flip his opponent onto his back. A referee officiates, while judges among the crowd deliver their verdicts in cases when there is no obvious winner. Many end in ties.

“We provide this facility so our people can have some enjoyment,” said Juma Khan, a 58-year-old judge and deputy director of last Friday’s event. A security guard at a market during the day, the former wrestling athlete has been judging competitions for the past 12 years, he said. Just like his father, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather before him. “It’s our culture.”

Most athletes and spectators spend two to three months in the Afghan capital working — as manual laborers or in hotels, restaurants and markets — before heading back home to their families for a few weeks. 

Pahlawani provides a few hours of much anticipated entertainment. The men gather in the dust-blown field that is Chaman-e-Huzori park at around 2 p.m. every Friday and stay until sunset, with around 10 to 20 young men coming forward from the crowd to compete.

Then, as the sun sets behind Tapai Maranjan hill in the background, the competitors are finished. In the blink of an eye, as billowing dust swirls around speeding rickshaws, their horns blaring, the crowd melts away for another week.

Absence of Dissident Artist’s Works Spurs Fears of Hong Kong Art Censorship

Art censorship in Hong Kong is “very much real,” an expert said after the city’s much-anticipated art gallery opened recently without showcasing some expected artworks by a Chinese dissident.

The former British colony’s largest art museum, M+, opened Nov. 12 to great fanfare, but also heated debate because of its failure to exhibit two of famous exiled artist Ai Wei Wei’s artworks in a donated collection of celebrated Swiss art collector Uli Sigg.

Among the collection of contemporary Chinese art from the 1970s to the 2000s, Ai’s Study of Perspective: Tiananmen, a photo that features Ai’s middle finger in front of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and Map of China, a sculpture made of salvaged wood from a Qing Dynasty temple, have been under review by authorities since March this year, essentially barring them from display.

That came two weeks after M+ director Suhanya Raffel guaranteed that the gallery would show Ai’s art and pieces about the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, according to The South China Morning Post.

In the same month, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam said the authorities would be on “full alert” to ensure museum exhibitions would not undermine national security, after pro-Beijing lawmakers said the artworks at M+ caused “great concerns” to the public for “spreading hatred” against China, public broadcaster RTHK reported.

In a September editorial in local media outlet Stand News, Ai called the government’s decision to shelve his two pieces “incredible.”

“The Study of Perspective series I started at Tiananmen Square 26 years ago once again became the testing ground for an important change in history, and a convincing note for China’s political censorship of its culture and art,” Ai wrote. Other images in the series featured the middle finger in front of the White House, the Swiss parliament and the Mona Lisa.

Sigg donated over 1,400 artworks and sold 47 pieces to M+ gallery in 2012, before the city experienced political turmoil from the 2014 Occupy Central movement, the 2019 anti-government protests and implementation of the controversial national security law last year.


Sigg originally wanted to make mainland China home to his collection, but no art galleries there could ensure that his artworks, including Ai Wei Wei’s, would be displayed without restriction, according to SOAS University of London art history professor Shane McCausland.

“Hong Kong’s legal framework at the time promised that these artworks could be shown…[but] policy on display will have changed dramatically after the national security law came in,” McCausland told VOA.

The head of the West Kowloon Cultural District, Henry Tang, said ahead of the M+ gallery opening that the board would “uphold and encourage freedom of artistic expression and creativity,” but added that the opening of M+ “does not mean artistic expression is above the law.” He also denied that the two artworks put under review meant they were illegal.

However, such an ostensibly normal bureaucratic act from the government is China’s usual form of censorship, McCausland said.

“It’s often unclear even to the initiated, where the boundary lies, as it moves all the time. The laws are framed in vague language: they often appear to be applied arbitrarily and randomly. …The application depends on the [Chinese] leadership from the top, where there is a degree of sensitivity to criticism and intolerance of critiques,” he said.


The city’s freedom of artistic expression has been declining since the national security law took effect last year, according to a local independent performance and dance artist who asked that she only be identified by her initial, “V.”

“This [the ban] did not come as a surprise – some artists’ works that might be considered sensitive are not allowed to display recently after the national security law was out, not to mention M+ is a government venue,” V told VOA.

Self-censorship has become a norm in Hong Kong’s art circles, V added.

“The atmosphere has been rather tense. Some movie screenings had to be canceled. Now we still want to voice out our views, but we start thinking about if we should express in a very edgy way, or if politics is the only way for us to express,” she said.

A new film censorship law came into effect in November that aims to “prevent and suppress acts or activities that may endanger national security.”

The supposedly autonomous region is now on track to mirror mainland China’s propaganda and censorship, McCausland said.

“Essentially Hong Kong is poised to become very similar to the framework within the rest of China, with artists being vigilant and constantly watching the moving sense of what’s OK and becoming attuned to when the likelihood is high of the system kicking in with legal ramifications, such as house detention or other judicial options that are open to the authorities, which they are happy to use to ensure the public discourse of harmony,” he said.

Growing art censorship is expected to intensify the talent drain in Hong Kong, which has witnessed an exodus to Western countries, including Britain and Canada, since the start of the 2019 anti-government protests, the art expert said.

“We know there was an astounding majority in favor of democracy – the views of the people were very clear but now you are hearing and seeing the space for expression has been closed down, and often in a heavy-handed way,” McCausland said.

The University of Hong Kong, one of Hong Kong’s most prestigious educational institutions, has ordered the removal of a sculpture commemorating the student victims of the Tiananmen crackdown since October. The university cited “the latest risk assessment and legal advice” as the reason for the request to take away the iconic statue that has been in place for the last 24 years.

“Being an ‘artivist’ [activist artist] is not easy anymore – I started thinking about the role I should play in this era. … I can’t say for sure I will go, but some of my artist friends left because funding has become more challenging,” V said. 






Влада Криму збирається виставити землі «іноземців» на примусові торги

Підконтрольна Кремлю влада півострова вважає «іноземцями» всіх, хто не живе на території Росії та анексованих нею Криму і Севастополя, зокрема жителів материкової України

Посол України закликав майбутнього канцлера Німеччини «зробити наджорстке попередження» Путіну

На переконання посла, «така дуже наглядна погроза з боку нової німецької влади змусить Путіна отямитися і вчасно запобігти новій масштабній війні у самому центрі Європи»

В ОП пояснили, чому Зеленський призначив суддів, попри застереження громадських організацій

Фундації DEJURE напередодні заявила, що серед призначених 1 грудня Зеленським 28 суддів «абсолютна більшість не пройшли кваліфікаційне оцінювання»

Alec Baldwin Denies Responsibility for Fatal Shooting on Movie Set

Alec Baldwin Thursday denied responsibility for the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of his Western movie “Rust,” saying he would have killed himself if he believed the shooting was his fault.

In an emotional television interview, the actor said he did not pull the trigger on the gun he was holding during a rehearsal, and that he did not think he would be criminally charged in the case.

“I feel someone is responsible for what happened, but I know it isn’t me. I might have killed myself if I thought I was responsible, and I don’t say that lightly,” Baldwin told ABC television’s George Stephanopoulos in his first public comments about the Oct. 21 shooting on the set near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was wounded when the gun fired off a live bullet.

The incident, including how live ammunition made its way to the set, is still being investigated by authorities in New Mexico. No criminal charges have been filed.

Baldwin had been told the gun was “safe” by crew members in charge of checking weapons. 

“I’ve been told by people in the know… that it is highly unlikely I would be charged with anything criminally,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said he “would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them.”

In his first public description of what happened, he said the Colt revolver went off when he was cocking the gun and rehearsing camera angles with Hutchins.

“In this scene, I am going to cock the gun. I said, ‘Do you want to see that?’ And she said yes. So I take the gun and I start to cock the gun. I’m not going to pull the trigger. I

said, ‘Did you see that?’ She said, ‘Well just cheat it down and tilt it down a little bit like that’. And I cocked the gun and go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? And I let go of the hammer of the gun and the gun goes off.”

Baldwin said he first thought Hutchins had fainted and it wasn’t until hours later that he was told she had died. He said he “couldn’t imagine” ever making a movie that involved guns again.

The actor, best known for TV comedy series “30 Rock,” has been widely criticized for not checking the gun thoroughly himself. But he insisted in the interview that was not the actor’s job.

“When that person who was charged with that job, handed me the weapon, I trusted them… In the 40 years I’ve been in this business all the way up until that day, I’ve never had a problem,” he said.

Two crew members have filed civil lawsuits accusing Baldwin, the producers and others of negligence and lax safety protocols on the set. But Baldwin said he “did not observe any safety or security issues at all in the time I was there.”