ISTANBUL: Turkey has lifted a ban on female students wearing headscarves in schools providing religious education, in a move drawing criticism from secularists who see it as fresh evidence of the government pushing an Islamic agenda. Education has been one of the main battlegrounds between religious conservatives, who form the bedrock of support for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party, and secular opponents who accuse him of imposing Islamic values by stealth. Those secularist fears were fuelled this year when Erdogan said his goal was to raise a “religious youth” and the AK Party, in power for the past decade, pushed through a reform of the education system which boosted the role of religious schools.
Nobel laureates call for Israel military boycott
London: A group of Nobel peace prize-winners, prominent artists and activists have issued a call for an international military boycott of Israel following its assault on the Gaza Strip this month. The letter also denounces the US, EU and several developing countries for what it describes as their “complicity” through weapons sales and other military support in the attack that killed 160 Palestinians, many of them civilians, including 35 children.
Israel detains nine Gaza fishermen
JERUSALEM: Israel’s navy detained a group of Gaza fishermen yesterday, saying they had gone beyond a recently expanded fishing zone off the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian enclave. Fishermen on two boats were detained and taken to Israel’s Mediterranean port of Ashdod for questioning, an Israeli military spokeswoman said. The Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza said nine men had been seized and at least one vessel sunk.
Saudi King appears
on TV after surgery
JEDDAH: The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia has appeared on state television yesterday for the first time since his 11-hour back operation on November 17, helping assuage fears over his health. In footage broadcast on state television, the monarch, who is in his late 80s, looked in good health as he sat in a chair receiving members of the royal family and officials in Riyadh. The surgery was conducted at the National Guard’s hospital in the capital Riyadh. Because power in the world’s top oil-exporting country is concentrated in the hands of the king and top princes, their health is closely watched. Agencies