Children have been largely overlooked during the COVID-19 pandemic; thankfully the majority of them get mild or even no symptoms if they catch the virus. Much of the discussion around the role of children in the pandemic has been about how they may spread the virus.
However, over time there has been a growing body of evidence that suggests that a proportion of children may develop long COVID, whether or not they had any symptoms when they actually contracted the virus.
Long COVID in adults is defined as signs and symptoms that develop during or following an infection consistent with COVID-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.
So far there is no medical definition of long COVID in children but support groups and researchers say there may be up to 100 symptoms, including fatigue, “brain fog”, muscle aches, pain, gastrointestinal problems, nausea, dizziness, seizures, hallucinations and testicular pain. The cause of these symptoms is poorly understood, although findings suggest an ongoing immune reaction, after the virus has cleared, plays a part.
A study in Italy looked at 129 children aged between six and 16 years, diagnosed with COVID‐19 between March and November 2020. Some 96 of them had symptoms of COVID-19 during the acute infection phase, while 33 had no symptoms at all but tested positive. The study found that 42.6 percent of the children still had symptoms more than 60 days post-infection. Symptoms like fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headache, insomnia, respiratory problems and palpitations were particularly frequent.
A similar case study was carried out in Sweden, focusing on a smaller group of five children aged from nine to 15. All five children had fatigue, dyspnoea (laboured breathing), heart palpitations or chest pain, and four had headaches, difficulties concentrating, muscle weakness, dizziness and sore throats six to eight months after the initial infection.
A recent report from the UK’s Office for National Statistics estimates that 12.9 per cent of UK children aged two to 11, and 14.5 per cent of children aged 12 to 16, still have symptoms five weeks after their initial infection with COVID-19. Almost 500,000 UK children have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020.
More research is needed but as the debate around vaccinating children against COVID-19 rages, it is important to acknowledge as part of that discussion the growing body of evidence that children appear to develop symptoms beyond the initial infection and these symptoms can be debilitating.
The lack of knowledge in this area is also a source of frustration for families who are presenting children to hospitals and GP surgeries with vague and varied symptoms and being turned away without adequate treatment and support. Campaigners are urging policymakers to invest in research in this area so that these children can be managed appropriately and return to normal life.
Until now, the focus has been on COVID-19 in adults. Perhaps now is the time to think about the long-term effects it can have on children. We urgently need research into both the effects the lockdown has had on children and also the long-term effects of the coronavirus on children. Both are vital to their future health.
Progress Report: COVID-19 vaccines for children
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has shown 100 percent efficacy against COVID-19 in 12-to-15-year-olds in the preliminary results of a phase 3 trial.
The phase 3 trial included 2,260 children in the US. A total of 18 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group whose members were given an alternative vaccine, while none were reported in the vaccinated group. The vaccine also elicited robust antibody responses and was well tolerated, with side effects consistent with those observed in participants aged 16 to 25.
After the success in its phase 2 trial, Pfizer applied for emergency authorisation for the vaccine in the US as well as other parts of the world, including Canada and Europe. According to the American medicines regulatory body, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is a mechanism to facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures, including vaccines, during public health emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Under an EUA, the regulator may allow the use of unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved medical products in an emergency to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions when certain statutory criteria have been met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.
On May 10, the FDA authorised the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 15. Dr Janet Woodook, the agency’s acting commissioner, called the authorisation “a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic”. She added: “Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations”.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from March 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021, approximately 1.5 million COVID-19 cases in individuals aged 11 to 17 have been reported in the US.
“Having a vaccine authorised for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “With science guiding our evaluation and decision-making process, the FDA can assure the public and medical community that the available data meet our rigorous standards to support the emergency use of this vaccine in the adolescent population 12 years of age and older.”
Prior to the US giving the vaccine the green light, Canada also approved its use in children over the age of 12. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser to Health Canada, the government’s medical agency, told reporters on May 6 that the vaccine was “safe and effective” and would allow a return to “a more normal life” amid the pandemic. She added that the most common side effects for children are mild and temporary, like “a sore arm, chills or fever”.
Europe and the UK are yet to give their approval of the Pfizer vaccine in those aged 12 to 15, but most experts agree part of the solution to this global pandemic has to be vaccinating children.
[Muaz Kory/Al Jazeera]
Personal account: Online abuse for talking about vaccines
The last few months have been a huge test for me, as a doctor, on many levels. Working on the front line during a pandemic has been a challenge; seeing my patients get sick from COVID-19 in the numbers that they did was hard. Seeing some of them die from the virus was even more difficult and then following that up with conversations with their bereft loved ones only added to the heartbreak. I know many of my colleagues on the front line feel exhausted due to the toll the last year has taken on their mental health.
But then the COVID-19 vaccines were given the green light and a hugely successful vaccine programme was rolled out here in the UK, as well as in other countries. To encourage people to take up the vaccine, I was asked by the government to be part of vaccine advertising campaigns and, because I have mixed Pakistani and Indian heritage, much of my messaging was aimed at people from a South Asian background. I was also part of the campaign to encourage social distancing measures and testing, all of which I agreed to do because I had seen first-hand what the virus does to people.
In hindsight, I think I was naïve, because the thing I was not prepared for was the level of abuse I have sadly received online.
For encouraging the vaccine, I have been accused of being a “paid media shill” – something I had to look up because I had never heard that expression before. Essentially, it seemed that some people thought I was part of a larger organisation that operated in the shadows and had plans to inject the human race with a substance that would allow mind control!
I batted that one off as crazy. But then things became more personal, with people messaging me to tell me I would have “blood on my hands” when people died from the vaccine. Direct threats to my wellbeing were also made, and sinister letters started arriving at my surgery. I reported it to the social media sites, which did nothing. I also reported some of the direct threats to the police, who were more helpful.
However, it was not until I started reporting on research into the use of COVID-19 vaccines in children that the real abuse began.
I will be honest; I understand that the use of vaccines in children stirs up a lot of emotions for people. The majority of children get mild or no symptoms from COVID-19, so are we giving children the vaccine to protect others? Is that completely ethical?
On the flip side, a small number of children have died as a result of a coronavirus infection across the world, and, as I have reported earlier in this column, it would appear the risk of long COVID in children is real. Furthermore, to reach the level of herd immunity required in a population to reduce virus spread, vaccinating children makes sense.
I have been very careful about giving my personal opinion on this matter and have been guided by the evidence which suggests the vaccines are safe and effective in young people. When I went on UK television to simply report the findings of the Pfizer vaccine in children I was bombarded with abusive messages, which ranged from calling me a “child murderer” to some people calling me a “paedophile”. And this was simply for reporting on the study, not giving my opinion. Once again, I received messages that threatened my safety which had to be reported to the police.
I am only human; there is only so much abuse I can take before it takes a toll on my mental health. Some may say this is the price you pay for being on social media, and in some ways, they may be right – speaking to my NHS colleagues, I understand many have received abuse when sharing their stories about front-line work during the pandemic or for promoting vaccine uptake.
The easy answer is for the social media channels to police this kind of abuse more robustly, but they do not. So, it is for us to think long and hard before sending messages to people on social media, especially if they are negative ones. You may type it, send it and then forget about it, but believe me, the effect of it stays with the recipient for a long time.
[Muaz Kory/Al Jazeera]
And now, some good news: Woman gives birth to baby while in a coma from COVID-19
Marriam Ahmad was 29 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to hospital in Wales, UK, with symptoms of COVID-19. She had asthma and her condition deteriorated rapidly. Her breathing became more laboured. The doctors planned to perform an emergency caesarean section on Marriam while she was still conscious but, as her health became worse, she was told she would need to be put on a ventilator and into an induced coma and that she may not survive at all.
Marriam only had time to call her parents before being put on a ventilator. Marriam’s baby was born on January 18 at 8:27pm BST (19:27 GMT) while Marriam was unconscious. The baby was taken straight to neonatal intensive care. Thankfully, Marriam woke up the next day but was not able to remember a thing. She was not able to see her baby girl as they were both too unwell to be moved, but she did get to see pictures of her. Luckily, the baby, named Khadija, did not have any of the complications that can occur in pre-term babies and, after eight weeks in hospital, both mum and baby returned home.
“I am just so grateful – that she’s still alive, that I am still alive,” Marriam said of her experience.
Reader’s question: How can I prevent my child from catching COVID-19?
It is important to remember that the vast majority of children have few, if any, symptoms when they catch COVID-19. And, with mounting evidence that vaccines in adults reduce transmission rates across the board, the chances of your child getting sick from COVID-19 is small.
Saying that, it is important to stick to your local guidelines: handwashing and social distancing are still key, but experts are now focusing on another aspect of prevention: ventilation. We have learned over time that the most likely way the virus is spread is via airborne particles. These are small particles containing the virus that can linger in the air. So, if there is good airflow or ventilation then these are likely to be moved on before anyone can breathe them in. Static airflow means they stay in the air for hours, increasing the risk of spread.
So it is always worth ventilating indoor spaces and finding ways to improve your ventilation if you want to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to either adults or children.
Protesters have marched across the world in support of Palestinians amid the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence since the 2014 Gaza war.
At least 140 Palestinians, including 39 children, have been killed after Israel launched air attacks on Gaza earlier this week.
On Saturday, Israel targeted a refugee camp in Gaza where at least 10 Palestinians were killed.
Protests took place in major cities around the world, including Doha, London, Paris and Madrid.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in cities across Iraq to stand in solidarity with Palestinians.
The demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and banners across five provinces in rallies called for by influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Protesters gathered in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and the southern provinces of Babylon, Dhi Qar, Diwanieh and Basra in a show of support.
Iraqi demonstrators wave Palestinian flags during a protest to express solidarity with the Palestinian people amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Baghdad [Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters]
In Doha, thousands waved flags and displayed messages in solidarity with the Palestinians.
“I am taking a stand against the genocide perpetrated by Israel in our country. We will do whatever it takes to free our country… Since we can’t be there in person, we are here at this protest today… I am very angry, very heartbroken by what is happening,” Reem Alghoul, a Palestinian living in Doha, told Al Jazeera.
In Doha, thousands gathered at Imam Muhammad Abdel-Wahhab Mosque waving flags and displaying solidarity with the people in Palestine [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
Hundreds converged in the Barbes neighbourhood in the north of Paris amid a significant security presence of some 4,200 officers.
Paris police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the rally held despite a ban by authorities, who feared a flare-up of anti-Semitic violence during the worst violence between Israel and Hamas in years.
A handful of garbage bins were set on fire and rocks and other projectiles were hurled towards police, but no arrests were reported.
People hold up Palestinian flags during a protest in support of Palestinians following a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence [Benoit Tessier/Reuters]
In Madrid, some 2,500 people, many of them young people wrapped in Palestinian flags, marched to the Puerta del Sol plaza in the city centre.
“This is not a war, it’s genocide,” they chanted.
“They are massacring us,” said Amira Sheikh-Ali, a 37-year-old of Palestinian origin.
A man holds a flag during a protest in support of Palestinians amid the ongoing violence, at Puerta del Sol square, in Madrid [Juan Medina/Reuters]
Hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinians have protested along the Lebanon-Israel border, with some climbing a border wall and triggering Israeli fire that wounded one person.
Some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and rocks over the wall during a protest on Saturday in the Lebanese border village of Odayseh, where hundreds marched waving Palestinian and Lebanese flags, as well as the yellow banners of the Hezbollah group.
Lebanese and Palestinians from around Lebanon have been heading to the border to protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Protests at the Lebanon-Israel border [Kareem Chehayeb/Al Jazeera]
In Indian-administered Kashmir, police cracked down on pro-Palestine protesters and detained at least 20 of them.
A number of people carrying Palestinian flags took to the streets in the main city of Srinagar after Friday prayers.
The protesters raised pro-Palestine and anti-Israel slogans.
The police said it “wouldn’t allow cynical encashments of public anger to trigger violence, lawlessness and disorder on Kashmir streets”.
“How can we be silent when they [Israel] are killing children in Gaza. Every human on earth should stand up for them. This is about showing humanity and solidarity, but we are not even able to do that due to fear,” a 25-year-old resident of Srinagar told Al Jazeera.
My friend, the brilliant Kashmir artist Mudasir Gul has been charged under PSA (Public Safety Act) by Indian govt for drawing art work in support of Palestine.#freemudasirgul#freedomofspeech#indiahttps://t.co/mkx9YhkUy7 pic.twitter.com/jlqiSN2R2D
— Mir Suhail (@mirsuhail) May 15, 2021
In London, several thousand protesters carrying placards reading “Stop bombing Gaza” and chanting “Free Palestine” converged on Marble Arch to march towards the Israeli embassy.
Packed crowds stretched along Kensington High Street where the embassy is located.
Organisers claimed as many as 100,000 people had gathered for the demonstration through London; the police said it was unable to confirm any figure.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold Palestinian flags, as they attend a protest following in London [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]
Thousands marched in Berlin and other German cities following a call by the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.
Three marches were authorised in Berlin’s Neuköln district, home to large numbers of people with Turkish and Arabic roots.
The protesters shouted “Boycott Israel” and threw stones and bottles at the police, leading to several arrests. Other protests were held in Frankfurt, Leipzig and Hamburg.
People take part in a protest in support of Palestinians, in Berlin on Friday [Axel Schmidt/Reuters]With additional reporting by Rifat Fareed in Srinagar, Showkat Shafi in Doha and Kareem Chehayeb in Odayseh
UN human rights chief: Crisis in Gaza, Israel "has deteriorated at an alarming rate"
BERLIN: The United Nations’ human rights chief is urging all in what has developed into a battle between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers to lower tensions, and faulted actions by both sides. Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement issued in Geneva on Saturday that “rather than seeking to calm tensions, inflammatory rhetoric from leaders on all sides appears to be seeking to excite tensions rather than to calm them.” Bachelet’s statement was issued on Saturday, shortly before an Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets. In the statement, Bachelet “warned that the firing of large numbers of indiscriminate rockets by Palestinian armed groups into Israel, including densely populated areas, in clear violation of international humanitarian law, amounts to war crimes.” There also are concerns that some attacks by the Israeli military in Gaza “have targeted civilian objects that, under international humanitarian law, do not meet the requirements to be considered as military objectives.” It added that “the failure to adhere to the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of military operations amounts to a serious violation of international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes.” FacebookTwitterLinkedinEMail
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A group of United Nations members has demanded that China grant “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access” to Xinjiang for the group’s human rights chief to inspect alleged abuses of Uygurs and other Muslim minorities there.In a virtual hearing called by Britain, Germany and the United States and backed by 15 other mostly Western UN member states, China was accused by a procession of ambassadors, rights groups and academics of “systematic” persecution of minorities in the far western region.China was also accused of using its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council – as well as its growing economic heft – of blocking efforts to investigate events in Xinjiang.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.”We appeal to China to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we ask China to tear down the detention camps. If you have nothing to hide, why do you not finally grant unimpeded access to the commissioner for human rights?” Christoph Heusgen, the German ambassador to the UN, asked.Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s UN ambassador, asked: “If you have nothing to hide, why do you not finally grant unimpeded access to the high commissioner for human rights?” Photo: Europa Newswire/Gado/Getty Images alt=Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s UN ambassador, asked: “If you have nothing to hide, why do you not finally grant unimpeded access to the high commissioner for human rights?” Photo: Europa Newswire/Gado/Getty ImagesThe UN’s special rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, said the UN had itself been “timid” in its failure to criticise the situation in Xinjiang more insistently.”Given the scale of what we have been hearing, or the allegations that have been made, I must admit it seems very timid and I would acknowledge that seems very timid from the side of the UN not to be more vocal and assertive in trying to obtain collaboration from the government of China,” he said.Story continues”Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and there’s a heck of a lot of smoke right now affecting hundreds of thousands of people, most of them minorities, most of them Muslims and most of them Uygurs,” Varennes added.The Turkish delegation described the situation facing Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang as “extremely worrying”, saying that Ankara had raised the issue with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on his visit to the country in March, adding that it supported “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region” for the UN human rights chief.In a strongly worded, unconventional interjection, Guo Jiakun, a member of China’s UN delegation, decried the “lies of the century” and reiterated Beijing’s consistent position that no human rights abuses are taking place in Xinjiang.As he spoke, someone held a mobile phone up to the camera and played a video of a former US army officer claiming that the West seeks to use unrest in Xinjiang to destabilise the central Chinese government.The clip, which has gone viral on the Chinese internet, shows Lawrence Wilkerson – who was chief of staff to Colin Powell when he was US secretary of state – addressing a 2018 Washington conference by the conservative Ron Paul Institute, saying that the Central Intelligence Agency would mount an operation in China using Uygurs in Xinjiang.”So the truth is, it is not about human rights in Xinjiang, it’s about using Xinjiang as a political tool for containing China,” Guo said, adding that allegations of genocide and forced labour are “lies of the century, which never happened, and it will never happen in China”.”We welcome everyone to visit Xinjiang, but we oppose any kind of investigation based on lies, and with the presumption of guilt,” he added.The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has been in talks about a visit to Xinjiang, but no human rights commissioner has visited the country since September 2005. A planned visit to the region by EU ambassadors in March stalled over their request for access to Ilham Tohti, the jailed Uygur academic.Reuters reported last week that China’s UN delegation had urged members not to attend the hearing, saying: “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”But China was greatly outnumbered at the hearing, after diplomats from nations including Australia, Denmark, France and Slovakia all made statements condemning Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang and calling for an independent inspection of the situation.US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield joined the call for China to grant the UN’s human rights chief “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access” to Xinjiang. Photo: AP alt=US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield joined the call for China to grant the UN’s human rights chief “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access” to Xinjiang. Photo: APLinda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, argued that there were “credible reports that many Uygur people and other ethnic and religious minorities who only wish to practice basic freedom of religion, belief, expression and movement are being forced to work until they drop, manufacturing clothes and goods at the behest of the state”.Xinjiang has become a major bone of geopolitical contention between China and the West.In March, Britain, Canada, the European Union and the US coordinated sanctions on Chinese officials and an entity for their roles in the alleged abuses; Beijing immediately followed with reprisals on a host of European elected officials, academics and ambassadors.The tit-for-tat sanctioning has raised questions concerning the completion of a broad EU-China investment deal, reached at the end of 2020 but yet to be ratified by the European Parliament.Last year, the US government, then led by Donald Trump, became the first to classify the collective programme of actions in Xinjiang as “genocide”. Joe Biden’s administration has maintained this stance.Parliaments in Britain, Canada and the Netherlands have also defined Xinjiang abuses as genocide, but their respective governments have not endorsed the stances.Human rights groups and academics speaking at Wednesday’s hearing said that without access to Xinjiang, it was difficult to ascertain the conditions of genocide, but urged governments not to play down the gravity of lesser “crimes against humanity”.”What’s going on in Xinjiang is clearly an example of crimes against humanity, which is very severe. There’s this tendency to feel that if you do not call it genocide is not really bad, that is wrong. You know, crimes against humanity is awful,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.Roth said the UN should explore “alternative avenues to justice” that could bypass China’s use of its Security Council veto.This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2021 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Last month, the French Senate voted in favour of banning girls under 18 from wearing the hijab in public spaces.
It was the latest in a series of legislative moves officially intended to crack down on religious “extremism” in France, which according to critics unfairly target the country’s minority Muslim population.
Somali-Norwegian model Rawdah Mohamed responded with a viral Instagram post criticising the proposed ban with the phrase “Hands off my hijab” written on her hand, saying in the photo caption: “The only antidote of hate crime is activism.”
The ban is unlikely to pass, but the development once again reignited the French debate over the Muslim headscarf.
Soon after, the hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab, as well as the French translation of it #PasToucheAMonHijab, trended on social media, and was shared far and wide by the likes of Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad and US congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Mohamed said she wants to fight “deeply rooted stereotypes” against Muslim women, who she hopes to “unify” in an effort to fight Islamophobia.
Rawdah Mohamed modelling in Paris, France in 2019 [File: Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images]Al Jazeera: What was your aim with the Hands Off My Hijab post?
Rawdah Mohamed: It was frustrating because I was watching all of this unravel. Not just this [hijab ban] incident, but many other incidents before.
Muslim women are always left out of the discussion, no one was really asking us what we thought. You’re constantly being silenced, and you’re constantly having people speak for you. I just came to a point where I felt: Okay, I have to take this in my own hands and do what I can.
Muslim women tend to be either victimised or made out to be almost like criminals. I wanted to show there are actual women whose lives are being affected by this.
I also did it to unify Muslim women, because it does get lonely when you’re constantly attacked. If you look at the media and what politicians say, and you’re a very young woman trying to find your identity, it will seem as if the whole world is against you. I want young girls to know it is difficult out there, but if we unite we can stand up against this.
France’s 5.7 million-strong minority Muslim population is the largest in Europe [File: Thibault Camus/AP Photo]Al Jazeera: Has the situation worsened for Muslim women in recent years?
Mohamed: I think politicians have discovered a new sort of “escape code”. They know they can get the votes they need by shifting the attention of people against Muslim women. And if it works for one politician, then the others, they follow suit.
The world has become much more hateful towards us in recent years. I think there is a highly dangerous, xenophobic, anti-Muslim feeling that is going around in Europe now.
I also believe it’s because more and more young Muslim women want to have jobs and to partake in society … Others like me are trying to take up the space that we feel like we deserve.
If you grew up in Europe, you always hear that you’re free, and you can become whoever you want. So when you come to a certain age, and you feel like, oh, everyone else gets to have the freedom, but not you, it’s gaslighting.
Al Jazeera: Do you face discrimination in the fashion world?
Mohamed: When I’m going to work at fashion shows, I have to carry an ID when I’m going in. Because they don’t believe that I genuinely have access as a Muslim woman. Sometimes they won’t even let me inside even with an ID. So I have to call my contact, who’s inside the show, and they have to come out to let me in. That has happened to me many times. And one time, I even missed the show because they took so long [to let me in].
The hijab is a headscarf worn by many Muslim women and has been the subject of a decades-long feud in France [File: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP]Al Jazeera: What are the positive experiences you have as a model?
Mohamed: In the fashion world everyone appreciates my style, the way I put the garments on, and I’m not just seen as a hijab wearer – everyone just sees me for who I am. And it’s very freeing in that sense.
And then you’ll come out of that little bubble that you have created with your colleagues and the wonderful people who understand you. And then you come out to society where it’s completely different, when people see you as someone who’s oppressed, someone they have to free, completely disregarding the human you are.
Al Jazeera: Do you have hope for the new generation of young Muslim women?
Mohamed: There’s so much resilience and firepower in the young generation, and I’m really glad because everyone is so angry at this [French Senate vote] and they’re doing something about it, creating all this awareness and people are having these difficult conversations where before they might not even have had them.
Being 20 years old and having a discussion with your 50-year-old boss is very difficult, but that is starting to happen. It does give me a lot of hope, seeing the younger generation … fighting to have equality for all.
Editor’s note: Parts of this interview were edited for clarity and brevity.
Rawdah Mohamed is among a growing number of models who wear the hijab, and are being hired by large fashion brands [File: Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images]
MSF’s Medical Coordinator Dr Natalie Thurtle shares her experiences of treating injured Palestinians in Jerusalem.On May 10, after the Israeli police attacked and injured hundreds of Palestinians, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders, MSF) started offering clinical support to the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) in Jerusalem. My MSF colleagues and I worked alongside the PRCS at the organisation’s trauma stabilisation point in Wadi al-Joz to assess and stabilise the wounded.
One of the first patients I saw that day was 12-year-old Aliya*. She cried as we edged her jeans off as gently as possible to examine her. She had a dark bruise as large as a grown man’s fist on her upper thigh. However, it was not a fist that caused her injury – it was a rubber bullet. Aliya was shot as she walked near her home with her mother. I asked her weight in order to calculate the correct dose of pain relief to give her. She told me that she weighs just 28kgs – and yet she was shot. She could not walk, so we worried that she may have a fracture on her femur. We transferred her to hospital for an x-ray.
Meanwhile, my MSF colleague Andy was suturing a 14-year-old boy named Walid. Walid was shot in the face with a rubber bullet. The wound was less than a centimetre away from his left eye. It was blind luck that allowed him to keep his eye. Another boy treated by our PRCS colleagues earlier in the evening had lost one of his eyes due to a similar injury. As I watched Andy and Rajah, one of our PRCS colleagues, expertly repair Walid’s young face, I couldn’t help but think of that other boy who was not as lucky as him. I wondered whether the people who turned their guns on these children ever considered what impact losing an eye would have on a 14-year-old.
As the sun set, it was time for iftar, the breaking of the day’s fast. We shared a meal with our colleagues and enjoyed a moment of calm.
But the calm did not last long. Soon, there was a big influx of ambulances. Fifteen patients arrived in 10 minutes. The team quickly assessed them, treated those in need of immediate assistance and identified those who need to be transferred to hospital. We saw someone with a shrapnel injury to the neck, and another with a possible collapsed lung from being beaten with a rifle. There was also an older man with a head injury whose decreasing level of consciousness made us suspect a brain bleed.
As I worked, I smelt “skunk water” – unmistakable, rancid. “Skunk” is a chemical agent that smells like a mix of excrement and rotting flesh. The Israeli police routinely fire it from water cannon.
Maha, a young woman, was being rushed into a treatment cubicle. She had been shot in the buttock with a rubber bullet. She told us how she fell after being shot, injured her elbow and finally got sprayed with skunk water as she laid on the ground. The chemical was on her face, on her hijab, her clothing. The smell was so intense that it caused her to vomit. She was not only injured, but all her dignity was taken from her.
My eyes started to fill with tears, partly from the smell and party from witnessing what has been done to her. I wiped my eyes and treated her.
Then there was a lull. We heard that ambulances were being restricted from entering parts of the Old City and wondered whether there were patients that needed our help but could not reach us. Thankfully, whatever the issue was, it was resolved quickly. Another group of patients soon entered the clinic, and we rushed to assess and treat them.
We continued our work until another MSF team arrived to take the next shift. Our colleagues from PRCS, however, just kept going. They told us that they would stay the night if they had to.
I cannot understate the incredible work of the paramedics we worked alongside on Monday. For days they have been managing the casualties from this particular escalation, and they have been successfully managing the complex pre-hospital needs of this vulnerable population for many, many years. There are not words to describe the impact of their work and the resilience and light they bring.
The narrative that those impacted by this violence are somehow deserving of it is wrong. The people I saw and treated on Monday were children and women and men just like me and my family. These are humans who just happen to be Palestinian.
*All names of patients have been changed
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
The Biden administration’s failure to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has led to a increase in severe sentences for political prisoners in the kingdom, the Guardian can reveal.The UK-based human rights organisation Grant Liberty found that twice as many harsh sentences had been meted out to Saudi prisoners of conscience in April than in the first three months of this year combined. It followed the Biden administration’s decision on 26 February to publish an intelligence report that showed the crown prince, “approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi”.A vigil outside the Saudi embassy in Washington for the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi. More dissidents were jailed after the US failed to act, said Grant Liberty. Photograph: Sarah Silbiger/ReutersIn the weeks since the US decision, Grant Liberty said it had seen a renewed crackdown on political prisoners and claimed there was a direct link to the American failure to impose sanctions on the crown prince or his close circle of advisers. It said the decision had given the Saudi authorities carte blanche to mete out severe punishments to critics.“News from the Saudi legal system can be notoriously slow, but at least eight individuals suffered stiff sentences in April alone – twice as many as the first three months of the year combined,” it said. There were no prisoners of conscience sentenced in either April 2019 or April last year.In late February, the Biden administration announced the “Khashoggi ban”, by denying visas to 76 Saudis “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing”. But critics said these measures, which stopped short of imposing sanctions on the crown prince or those close to him, had done little to discourage the Saudi authorities from targeting critics.Lucy Rae, of Grant Liberty, said: “The international community must demonstrate that the only way the kingdom can improve its standing is through genuine reform. That means we need the tough action [presidential] candidate Biden talked about, not the weakness President Biden has so far shown.”Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, an aid worker who was one of the eight men sentenced in April, received a 20-year jail term and an additional 20-year travel ban for running a parody social media account. Abdulaziz Alaoudh al-Odah, who was arrested last September for his social media activity, was sentenced to five years in prison.His nephew Abdullah Alaoudh, son of the imprisoned cleric Salman al-Odah, as well as a pro-democracy activist at the Washington thinktank Democracy for the Arab World Now, said that the administration’s choice to publish the report aided accountability but little else. “It absolutely helped transparency, and helped us to know where responsibility lay, but accountability was completely lacking, and that’s what was at stake from the very beginning,” he said.“The Biden administration knew this,” Alaoudh added. “But they manoeuvred, they wanted something light like the ‘Khashoggi ban’, and they made the symbolic gesture of talking not to the crown prince but instead to the king. What the prince took from all this is that everything [that Biden said] during the [presidential] campaign was just campaign talk, and therefore they won’t act on it.”There are 22 prisoners of conscience who were sentenced for comments related to the kingdom’s former blockade of Qatar. Saudi Arabia’s relations with the tiny Gulf state have been warming. Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, flew to Jeddah on Monday evening to meet the crown prince, shortly after the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud, visited Qatar.A spokesperson for the US Department of State said: “The United States’ commitment to democratic values and human rights is a priority, especially with our partners. We continue to elevate respect for human rights in our bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia. As we have repeatedly made clear, peaceful activism to promote human rights is not a crime.”The Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington did not respond when contacted for comment.Alaoudh said that while the crown prince may be willing to shift on matters of foreign policy, he viewed control over free speech as a direct threat.“You can normalise with everyone – Qatar, Turkey, Iran – but not your own people because that means sharing decision-making, which for them is so dangerous,” he said. “Agreeing to some kind of political participation or power-sharing is an end to the absolute monarchy, which is all they know.”
Human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany are accusing China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanding unimpeded access for U.N. experts