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‘Arms are for hugs’: US students march to end gun violence

Washington, DC – Hundreds of students have staged a school walkout and marched from the White House to Capitol Hill to demand stricter gun control laws. On Thursday, politicians who strongly support gun-control reforms joined the students who descended to the capital from over a dozen high schools in the Washington, DC, Maryland and northern Virginia-area.…

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‘Arms are for hugs’: US students march to end gun violence

Washington, DC – Hundreds of students have staged a school walkout and marched from the White House to Capitol Hill to demand stricter gun control laws.

On Thursday, politicians who strongly support gun-control reforms joined the students who descended to the capital from over a dozen high schools in the Washington, DC, Maryland and northern Virginia-area.

“Show me what democracy looks like,” 16-year-old Sofia Hidalgo from Albert Einstein High School in Maryland chanted as she marched past Trump International Hotel on her way to Capitol Hill while others booed at the hotel.

“This is what democracy looks like,” protesters shouted.

Hidalgo, who plans to go to Florida when she finishes her schooling, has been actively involved in protests against gun violence after the 2018 Parkland shooting in Florida left 17 people dead.

While mass shootings have plagued the US for years, the Parkland shooting marked a pivotal moment as students-turned-activists led a nationwide movement to end gun violence.

“We are privileged, we are here in the capital where the politicians we are trying to convince are as well. They are right next door,” she said holding up a banner that read: “Arms are for hugs”.

Since the Parkland shooting, her school – as many others across the United States – have taken extra precautions to keep unauthorised people off their grounds, including installing extra hallway doors and key access for school-building entry.

Schools have also held regular active shooter drills and lockdowns in which students are taught to hide in their classrooms and keep quiet. 

“A school is a place we should learn and not hide under our desks,” said 17-year-old Cammy.

“We’ve had enough, we are students and we shouldn’t feel scared in schools. If [politicians] will not make the change, then we will.”

Sage Spalter, an 18-year-old student at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Maryland, said she walked out of class in the morning to come to the Capitol to show her support.

She said she wanted to see the Senate pass the S.42 Background Check Expansion Act, which would help ensure background checks in all states for those who attempt to buy a gun.

Students observe 17 minutes of silence outside the White House in honour of the 17 lives lost in the Parkland shooting last year [Ola Salem/Al Jazeera]

Second school walkout

Thursday’s march was the second school walkout following the Parkland school shooting.

Last year, the global March For Our Lives, held on March 24, saw millions of people protest across 800 cities.

Under the banner #NeverAgain, protesters called for a ban on assault weapons, a halt to the sale of high-capacity magazines, tightening of the background-check process, the limiting of firing power on the streets, the disarming of domestic abusers and an end to gun trafficking. The same demands were made on Thursday.

Some progress has been made over the past year.

After pressure from activists, a number of companies, including First National Bank and Enterprise, ended their partnerships with the National Rifle Association (NRA).

On the political front, US President Donald Trump’s administration moved to ban bump stocks, a device that allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire at the rate of a machine gun.

More than a dozen states are also set to review their gun-safety laws this year. While Hidalgo is happy her state has passed red-flag laws and banned bump stocks, she wants to see gun control laws rolled out at the federal level “to feel as safe in Florida as I would here”. 

Activists at the forefront of the gun-ownership battle echoed the protesters’ calls.

Since Parkland, a website that has been documenting child victims of gun violence in the US, recorded 1,200 children killed by a gun over the past year – more than 80 of whom were under the age of three.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded 39,773 gun deaths in 2017 across the country, an increase of more than 1,000 from the year before.

More than 300 mass shootings – defined by the FBI as an incident in which four or more people are killed – were recorded in 2018, including in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Thousand Oaks, California; and Annapolis, Maryland, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

‘Keep fighting’

“We see you,” Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch, who represents an area of Florida, including Parkland, told protesters from a podium outside of Capitol Hill on Thursday.

“You should be in school, but you cannot be in school, you have to be here,” he added. “It’s not too much to expect to be safe in school every day.”

He applauded the students for staging the walkout, adding their continued organisation helped ensure a democratic majority in the House of Representatives. 

“Keep fighting, keep speaking, I am so proud, unbelievably proud to be your partner in this fight,” he added.

We told this generation that the future is in their hands – and they listened.I am so proud of @MoCo4Change and Maryland students for leading the march against gun violence – for coming to our front door to say #EnoughIsEnough https://t.co/0d0HJxyoyW
— Senator Ben Cardin (@SenatorCardin) March 14, 2019

After the Democrats took the House in November, they passed gun control bills last month – a first in many years. The two bills would toughen background checks for gun purchases.

Both bills, however, are expected to face opposition in the Republican-majority Senate and the White House. Some Republicans in the Senate are closely allied to the NRA and gun-rights voters.

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Children killed in attack on Cameroonian school

Assailants storm private school in city of Kumba, Southwest Region, killing at least four students.Attackers have opened fire on a private school in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing at least four children, according to officials. The unknown assailants stormed the Mother Francisca School in the city of Kumba on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of…

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Children killed in attack on Cameroonian school

Assailants storm private school in city of Kumba, Southwest Region, killing at least four students.Attackers have opened fire on a private school in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing at least four children, according to officials.
The unknown assailants stormed the Mother Francisca School in the city of Kumba on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
“They attacked around noon. They found the children in a class and they opened fire on them,” Kumba sub-prefect Ali Anougou told the Reuters news agency.
At least nine other students were wounded and sent to the hospital. There were fears the death toll could rise.
The Associated Press news agency quoted Anougou as blaming separatists who have been fighting the military in parts of western Cameroon for the attack.

Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions – the Northwest and Southwest Regions – are home to a large minority of English speakers in a country where French speakers are the overwhelming majority – a situation that is the legacy of the decolonisation of western Africa by France and Britain more than 60 years ago.
In late 2016, long-standing complaints of political and economic discrimination against English speakers by the central government spilled over when lawyers, students and teachers began calling for reforms.
The government’s lethal response to the protests provoked rebels to declare in 2017 independence for a region they call “Ambazonia”, triggering a stronger crackdown by the authorities.
Both sides have since been accused of committing atrocities in a conflict that has killed some 3,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya’s government.
Last year, officials blamed separatists for kidnapping dozens of schoolchildren, charges the separatists denied.

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Vietnamese envoy hails KRCS’ global humanitarian efforts

KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation…

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Vietnamese envoy hails KRCS’ global humanitarian efforts

KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation for the society’s aid to the Vietnamese Embassy during the coronavirus crisis.

The ambassador added that they discussed providing his country with aid to face the impact of the recent floods and landslides, considered to be the worst in decades. Sayer said he was pleased with the ambassador’s visit and affirmed that KRCS will continue exerting humanitarian efforts to aid those affected by natural disasters and crises everywhere. – KUNA

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Pain, frustration: Expats lose jobs to new rules and COVID

File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the…

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Pain, frustration: Expats lose jobs to new rules and COVID

File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel

After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the government sector who were being laid off.

As part of its Kuwaitization policy, Kuwait is replacing expats with locals in the government sector. The government has also stopped issuing work permits to expats over 60 years of age without a university degree. These new rules have had a huge impact on the lives of thousands of expats in the country, leaving many with no choice but to pack their bags and leave.

Gulf countries are facing an exodus of foreign workers as the coronavirus pandemic pushes out foreign workers. In the midst of the COVID-19 and financial crunch, the National Assembly approved a draft law to slash expat numbers over the next five years.

As the budget deficit widens and economic conditions worsen, Kuwait is grappling with an economic downturn as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world. The combined shock of collapsing oil prices, the pandemic and joblessness is reshaping labor policies in the region, thus bringing anti-foreigner sentiments to the fore again.

While Kuwait’s expats struggle to secure their jobs, the government is calling for an increase in workforce nationalization in government entities. “Why will foreigners take the jobs meant for us (Kuwaitis)? They can work anywhere – but not in the ministries,” argued Abdullah, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti.

Buttressing Abdullah’s viewpoint, Fatma, an unemployed Kuwaiti woman, complained of the difficulty in competing with foreign workers for jobs in the private sector. “Foreign workers can work longer for less, unlike us Kuwaitis. So most companies prefer to hire non-Kuwaitis. This leaves us with only one sector (the public sector). I think this is why the government introduced Kuwaitization, so as to give unemployed Kuwaitis an opportunity,” she explained.

For Lyon, justice and fairness should override anti-expat sentiments. “It is understandable that ministries would give preference to locals for jobs during these tough times, but it would be fair to consider the efforts of the old staff who have put in their best to build this country,” Lyon, 61, and some of his co-workers who were laid off recently lamented, as they worry about their future.

Expats make up the majority of the population of Kuwait. Residency is tied to employment and Kuwait does not easily offer citizenship routes to non-nationals. “We have been here (in Kuwait) legally for over 20 years. It will be difficult to go back and start afresh in our home countries. More so, Kuwait’s residency is linked to the work permit – when you lose your job, you automatically lose your residency. I worry about my children who are still in school. The three-month notice will not be enough to relocate them,” Mustapha, an Egyptian expat who recently lost his job, said in dismay.

Abdurazak Hamad, an African expat, is in a dilemma. “I feel miserable leaving my family behind. I don’t want to go alone, but I can’t make my wife quit her KD 450 job since she is now the sole breadwinner. Starting afresh in my home country at this age (62) will be very difficult. I wish I can get a permit (residency) to stay here with my family,” said Hamad, who was recently sacked.

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