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Tajikistan’s war on beards

By: Mirzonabi Holikzod, Amriddin Olimov, Pete Baumgartner Source: RFE/RL DUSHANBE — Authorities in Tajikistan are being accused of stepping up a yearslong campaign against full beards by denying international passports to men who turn up bearded for their photos. President Emomali Rahmon has publicly discouraged beards, which are regarded by many officials in this impoverished Central Asian state as a foreign intrusion on local culture or a telltale sign of religious or other extremism. During one recent week, more than a dozen Tajik men told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service that passport officials had demanded that they return without beards if they want those essential international...

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Taliban pulls out of US peace talks in Qatar

By: RFE/RL Source: RFE/RL KABUL — Afghan Taliban representatives say they have called off two days of peace talks with U.S. officials in Qatar, just hours after they had announced the talks would take place without any delegates from Afghanistan’s government. A Taliban representative in Afghanistan had told Reuters early on January 8 that the talks would begin in Qatar’s capital, Doha, on January 9. That Taliban figure also had said the group was refusing to allow what he called “puppet” Afghan officials to take part in the Doha meetings. But a Taliban representative in Doha told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan later on January 8 that the militant...

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The West Bank: Israel detains settlers over killing of Palestinian woman

By: MEE Source: MEE Israel has arrested five Jewish seminary students in the occupied West Bank in connection with a rock attack on a Palestinian car that killed a woman, the Israeli domestic intelligence service said on Sunday. The detainees “are suspected of grave terrorist offences including murder”, the Shin Bet service said in a statement after a court order limiting media coverage of the 30 December arrests was lifted, Reuters reported. Aisha al-Rabi, 47, suffered a fatal head wound from a rock thrown at her car near the Palestinian city of Nablus on 12 October. The West Bank sees regular attacks by settlers, some of whom identify with radical Jewish groups, on...

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