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Australia returns illegally removed tribal hunting axe to Philippines Government

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A steel and wood axe from the early- to mid-1900s that was seized under Australian legislation has been returned to the Philippines Government

The Australian Federal Police’s INTERPOL National Central Bureau (INTERPOL Canberra) returned the item after working with national and international law enforcement agencies to detect sources of illicit trafficking of cultural material.

It has made ongoing international enquiries into a US-based online vendor selling cultural heritage objects found to be illegally removed.

INTERPOL Canberra joined the Office for the Arts (OFTA), Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the Australian Border Force (ABF) to return the axe to the Philippines in a restitution ceremony in Canberra.

It follows two other restitution ceremonies in Australia in the past year in which illegally trafficked cultural items were returned to the governments of Mexico and Peru

The axe is associated with the Igorot communities in Northern Luzon, Philippines. This style of axe is still used for woodcarving and hunting by the Igorot communities. Axes like this were also used for headhunting, a custom that the Igorots maintained until the early 1900s.

According to a police statement, the ABF intercepted the item at the border in June 2020 after an Australian customer purchased it from the US-based vendor of interest.

The ABF referred the matter to the OFTA for advice for possible contravention of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.

The Federal Police say that OFTA consulted with Australian experts who assessed the axe to be authentic. The Government of the Philippines requested restitution of the object in January 2021, asserting that the object was protected under its cultural property laws.

The OFTA seized the axe on 17 May 2021, and it was forfeited to the Commonwealth on 28 June 2021.

The axe was returned to the Ambassador of the Philippines to Australia, Her Excellency, Ms Hellen Barber de la Vega, at a formal restitution ceremony last week.

The Office for the Arts returned the axe at the ceremony and was joined by representatives from INTERPOL Canberra, ABF and DFAT.

The US-based vendor who sold the axe was first detected during Operation Athena II, a global customs-police operation spanning 103 countries, which included INTERPOL Canberra, focussed on disrupting the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage.

Globally, more than 19,000 archaeological artefacts and other artworks have been recovered during Operation Athena II and more than 100 people have been arrested.

Enquiries into the US-based vendor who sold the axe continue with US law enforcement partners

AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner International Command Melinda Phelan said law enforcement agencies around the world were increasingly receiving reports about cultural items and art being illegally trafficked.

“INTERPOL Canberra has been working closely with our partners in Australia and around the world to retrieve and return property illegally removed from their country of origin before they reach private collections and disappear from view,”

Assistant Commissioner Phelan said.

ABF Group Manager for Customs, Vanessa Holben, said that officers are attuned to attempts to illegally import cultural items into Australia.

“Thanks to the efforts of ABF officers at the border, this item was detected and referred to the Office for the Arts. We will continue to work closely with stakeholders to combat this type of cultural theft,”

Group Manager Holben said.

The axe was the sixth item sold by the US-based vendor to an Australian customer that has been intercepted and returned to a foreign government in the past 12 months.

Anthony Lucas is reporter, presenter and social media producer with ticker News. Anthony holds a Bachelor of Professional Communication, with a major in Journalism from RMIT University as well as a Diploma of Arts and Entertainment journalism from Collarts. He’s previously worked for 9 News, ONE FM Radio and Southern Cross Austerio’s Hit Radio Network. 

World

Russia will formally annex Ukraine regions Friday

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Russia will formally annex four more areas of Ukraine on Friday, after self-styled referendums in those regions yielded overwhelming support for the move.

The Russian-backed officials who organized the votes said that nearly all of those who cast ballots supported the annexation. The referendums were held in Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, and in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to make a major speech at the Kremlin following the signing ceremony. Ukraine and the West have condemned the referendums as a sham, but Russia has long claimed that the people of those regions want to be part of the Russian Federation.

The annexations are likely to further escalate the tensions between Russia and the West, which have been at loggerheads over Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Friday’s move is sure to be met with condemnation from the international community.

Russia has long claimed that the people of those regions want to be part of the Russian Federation. The annexations are likely to further escalate the tensions between Russia and the West, which have been at loggerheads over Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Friday’s move is sure to be met with condemnation from the international community.

 

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping makes his return to the public eye

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made his public appearance since returning to China

The President recently left his country for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

He quashed rumours of a coup, which sent shockwaves through social media ahead of an important Communist Party meeting.

On Tuesday, he visited an exhibition showing of China’s achievements during his time in power.

Of course, this comes as tensions continue to simmer in the Taiwan Straits.

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IRAN PROTESTS | Are countries using religion as an excuse to violate basic human rights?

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Iran protests are engulfing the country as thousands take to the streets in a revolution against oppression

IRAN PROTESTS – The story of Iran is one of a country that has been through a lot in recent history.

An uprising of both men and women has engulfed Iran, following the death of Mahsa Amini. Women are cutting their hair and burning their hijabs, demanding some form of change to the strict rules that impact their ultimate freedom.

From the Iranian Revolution in 1979 to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the nation’s residents have witnessed their fair share of turmoil.

Many insist that religion, like Islam, is being used as a reason to violate basic human rights in Iran.

“It’s a totalitarian regime… Islam is being used to deny freedom of speech, freedom of education, freedom of movement.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

There is a feeling of discontent among the Iranian people. The economy is struggling, and many young Iranians feel they have no future.

They are fed up with the corruption of the government and the lack of opportunity.

Mahsa Amini’s brutal death

On top of this is the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman.

Amini was arrested by the so-called morality police for “improperly” wearing her mandatory hijab.

Reports suggest she was beaten so severely that she went into a coma.

Mahsa Amini protests in Iran

Three days later, she died, and many suspect it was a direct result of this police brutality.

Amini’s death has fuelled further anger and extreme protest, with widespread condemnation from Iranians, denouncing her death and the regime that caused it.

“There were 10-11 blows to her head… She was beaten while still in the van…When her body was delivered to the family they saw bruises to her neck and head.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

The incident has brought attention to the plight of many Iranians who feel they are living under an oppressive regime.

While it is difficult to predict what will happen next in Iran, many hope the death of Amani will not be in vain.

Many pray the protests will lead to real action and a country where women are treated as equals. They want a country where there is opportunity for all.

Women in Iran and around the world are now lifting the veil on Iran’s corruption and human rights violations.

In 2022, many are angry that men are controlling what women do with their bodies and what they wear.

However, the Founder and Director of Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute Mariam Memarsadeghi explained its women who are enforcing the strict rules too.

“It’s actually women also who are policing other women to wear hijab… It’s a very Handmaids Tale situation.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Will this drive change?

In Iran, many young Iranians are showing the world they don’t want this system any more, that they want democracy.

They’re cutting their hair and burning their hijabs, they’re putting their own safety on the line to take a stand against the regime that has silenced them for so long.

This generation is very different, but it doesn’t guarantee that this uprising will fuel any real change.

However, Memarsadeghi said “there is no way back from here.”

“It’s very dangerous, there is a tremendous amount of respect for the men and women on the streets because each and every single one of them risks being beaten, killed, tortured, maybe even executed.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

How can organisations and world leaders help?

Iran is in the midst of a political upheaval and the world is watching.

Scenes of protest and violence are being shared far and wide on social media. The world has a front-row seat to the unfolding crisis.

However, the Iranian Government has responded by imposing a sweeping internet ban, cutting off the protesters from the outside world.

This only adds to the urgency of the situation, as Iran’s people are now risking their lives to speak out against their oppression.

World leaders and democracy advocacy groups are already discussing ways to help the people of Iran and hold their violations to account.

“The solidarity and attention from celebrities, athletes and world leaders has been extremely helpful… The future of freedom is what these men and women in Iran are doing.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

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