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Tajik President Officially Launches Construction of Rogun Dam that will be World’s Tallest

the Rogun Dam, a massive project that, if completed, would be the world's tallest and should give the Central Asian nation a stable energy supply

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Rogun Dam
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon at the site of the Rogun Dam, Oct. 29, 2016. VOA

October 30, 2016: Tajikistan has officially started the construction of the Rogun Dam, a massive project that, if completed, would be the world’s tallest and should give the Central Asian nation a stable energy supply.

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Italian construction conglomerate Salini Impregilo won a $3.9 billion contract to build the structure, whose opening ceremony on October 29 was attended by President Emomali Rahmon.

At this inaugural event, explosions were used to block the main riverbed of the Vakhsh River, marking the first substantial step toward building the dam.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon meets with leaders and experts of the Rogun hydroelectric power plant and residents of the city, Oct. 29, 2016. 29.10.2016. VOA
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon meets with leaders and experts of the Rogun hydroelectric power plant and residents of the city, Oct. 29, 2016. 29.10.2016. VOA

The Rogun plant is slated to start generating power by late 2018.

The ceremony came a day after a malfunction at Tajikistan’s biggest hydro-power plant caused a nearly three-hour blackout across the country.

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Tajikistan, one of the poorest former Soviet republics, is heavily dependent on hydroelectric power and regularly experiences electricity outages.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon meets with leaders and experts of the Rogun hydroelectric power plant and residents of the city, Oct. 29, 2016. 29.10.2016. VOA
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon meets with leaders and experts of the Rogun hydroelectric power plant and residents of the city, Oct. 29, 2016. 29.10.2016. VOA

Authorities say the Rogun Dam will be able to provide electricity for the whole country. They say the dam could also provide parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan with cheap electricity.

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Uzbekistan has voiced concern that the dam in Southern Tajikistan will reduce water flows to its cotton fields. (VOA)

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New law in Tajikistan bans hijab, asks women to stick to traditional clothes

Unlike Islamic countries, women in Tajikistan do not wear a hijab that is supposed to be wrapped under the chin, but a scarf that is tied behind the head

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Tajikistan passes law for women to stick to traditional clothes
Tajikistan bans Islamic veil. Pixabay
  • Legislators in Tajikistan passed a new law requiring people to wear country’s traditional clothes
  • Reportedly, the decision is intended to stop women from wearing Islamic clothes
  • Women wearing hijab are already forbidden from entering the government offices, under the existing laws

New Delhi, September 5, 2017: A new law that requires people to “stick to traditional and national clothes” has been passed by the Tajikistan legislators, adding Tajikistan in the long list of countries that ban or limit Islamic dress.

Although the legislation hasn’t specifically mentioned “hijab”, but the authorities’ previous statements about hijab representing an “alien culture” makes their goal to discourage women from wearing Islamic hijab quite apparent.

Despite it being a Muslim majority country, Tajikistan’s minister of culture, Shamsiddin Orumbekzoda, talking to Radio Free Europe, called Islamic dress “really dangerous”.

“Everyone looks at them with concern, like they could be hiding something under their hijab,” he said.

Unlike Islamic countries, women in Tajikistan do not wear a hijab that is supposed to be wrapped under the chin, but a scarf that is tied behind the head.

Women wearing hijab are forbidden from entering government offices in Tajikistan
A woman wearing hijab working in Saudi Arabia. VOA

Under existing laws, women wearing hijabs are already forbidden from entering the country’s government offices. In August, around 8,000 women wearing hijabs were approached by the government officials, in the capital of Dushanbe, who were then asked to wear their scarves in the Tajik style.

According to the Daily Mail report, police last year, in the Central Asian state, convinced 1,700 women to remove their headscarves, arrested 89 hijab-wearing prostitutes and closed down 162 shops and stalls selling hijabs.

Also ReadNothing New! Muslim Women who don’t fully respect Islamic head scarf are Prostitutes, says an Iranian Cleric

The Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, while delivering his Mother’s Day speech in March, criticized women for wearing “foreign” black clothing. He had also criticized hijab in 2015, when he stated that blindly copying a foreign culture is not a sign of having high moral or ethical standards for women, as mentioned by the Al Jazeera.

While many citizens support the law considering the security and preservation of culture, many are polarized over its implications regarding personal liberties.

“I have to decide for myself what to wear. No one has the right to tell me ‘you have to wear this,’” Oinikhol Bobonazarova, a human right activist told RFE.

The new legislation carries no penalties as of now, but some have claimed that punishment or fines may be introduced later.

Tajikistan calls itself a secular state with a Constitution that provides for freedom of religion, however, the religious practice among the citizens of the Muslim majority country, seems to be tightly controlled by the state.

France, Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany are some of the many countries that have banned full face Islamic veils.

-prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)

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Satellite sends First Quantum Signal to Earth

This is a big step towards achieving a secure and developed way to encrypt communications because ever-improving computer algorithms can not crack them

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Micius
Micius satellite. wikimedia
  • An orbiting satellite has sent the first entangled pair of photons to Earth
  • It is a big step towards achieving a secure and developed way to encrypt communications
  • They can not be cracked by ever-improving computer algorithms

June 18, 2017: It was reported by scientists today that an orbiting satellite has sent the first entangled pair of photons to Earth. It is a big step towards sending quantum keys from satellites — an approach that has been heralded as a secure and developed way to encrypt communications because ever-improving computer algorithms can not crack them.

A laser on China’s Micius satellite, which was launched last year and is dedicated to researches related to quantum satellite communications, spit out pairs of entangled photons from its position, 500 km above Earth. Then two telescopes on Earth – about 1200 km apart — had 5 minutes each day to look for them as the satellite passed over both telescopes. It was found that paired photons survived the journey through Earth’s atmosphere. They detected 1 entangled pair per second out of the 6 million sent in that time.

So how exactly does all this work?

A quantum key needs to be generated first by two people who are looking to communicate. Then, one person receives one of the entangled photons in the pair, the other person receives the other. When the received photons have measured the photons, they obtain bits of information strung together to create a key that they both have. That key can be used to encrypt and decrypt a message. The users can also share a portion of the key publicly to check if it has been compromised. In case if someone tries to intercept the communication at any point, they would then notice a difference between their strings.

Also read: NASA’s Curiosity rover finds a Wide Variety of Minerals in Martian Rocks

There is a certain set of problems as well. Caltech’s John Preskill believes even though it is an important proof of concept, the feat doesn’t address one of the biggest problems with quantum communications. Currently, these messages can’t be sent long distances. Photons, using an optical fiber to carry a quantum signal, can only make it about 100 km before the dissipation of the light.

Quantum systems are similar to optical telecommunications here on earth and need repeaters that are able to amplify the message so it can be passed long distances. But amplifying a quantum message in the same way optical ones are done would effectively result in the destruction of the information. That is why satellite-based communication are being eyed by researchers. The reported 500 km from space is an improvement over optical. Quantum signals were measured in another study published today from a satellite 38,000 km away to a single point. But in deploying a global network which would likely be able to combine optical fiber and satellites, the repeater problem still stands.

Preskill has predicted that it is more likely we will first come up with another form of encryption for communication. “There will be other ways of doing classical public key cryptosystems that we won’t know how to break with quantum computers,” he added.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang