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Afghan sports coach says she will flee after dog shot dead

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Sahba Barakzai, and her dog Aseman out for a walkImage copyright
Sahba Barakzai

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Sahba Barakzai loved her dog, a seven-month-old Siberian husky named Aseman

Sahba Barakzai, her family and seven-month-old husky Aseman, tried to get out into the mountains near their home in western Afghanistan every Friday.

But last Friday, the hike turned to tragedy after an unidentified group of men approached the family and shot Sahba’s beloved puppy dead.

The attackers told her a woman could not own a dog.

But Sabha fears this may have been something more – that it may have been to do with her teaching girls sport.

“We still don’t know about their goal but we think it is because of her career,” her sister Setayesh told the BBC. “She was the first woman who has her own club and these things are taboo.”

Sahba was used to threats – she had been teaching karate to children in Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city, for 10 years.

She had also set up a cycling club for teenage and young girls – a very public sport in a country where, less than two decades ago, women were banned from going to school, working or even leaving the house without a male chaperone.

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Sahba Barakzai

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Sahba named her dog Aseman, which means sky, because of her blue eyes

It is, Setayesh says, still taboo for girls to ride bikes in Herat and some of the community initially reacted aggressively, but her sister was determined to persist.

“The main inspiration was the situation of women in Herat because she herself is an active person in community,” Setayesh explained.

“[Our parents] were completely worried because her life is in danger – and we saw by our own eyes last week.”

Warning: This article contains a graphic image

Indeed, last week’s tragedy has left them all shaken. Sahba had set out with her father and two sisters, including Setayesh, along with Aseman.

The Siberian husky, whose name means “sky”, a nod to her blue eyes, had only joined the family a few months earlier, but was clearly much loved. Pictures show her playing in the snow, cuddling up to children at the club and walking with Sahba in the hills – just like they were on Friday.

“We were just walking, picnicking and everything as usual,” Sahba told the BBC. “We go there almost every week but that time was different.”

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Sahba Barakzai

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Sahba has dedicated the last decade to teaching children in Herat

About two hours into the hike, a man looking like a shepherd approached the group and shot at Aseman.

“I shouted and ran towards Aseman and requested the man not to fire,” Sahba told Afghan news agency Khaama. “The gunman did not care, and shot four bullets in Aseman’s chest.”

The shots were fatal: sobbing, Sahba took Aseman in her arms and began to run towards the car.

But then the gunman, who had been joined by several other men, fired another shot, and demanded she put the dog down and leave her body with them. As a woman, he told Sahba, she had no right to keep a dog.

The family had no choice but to leave Aseman with the men, and flee. They don’t know who the men were, or why they were targeted. Reporting it to the police, Sahba said, would be pointless.

“I knew nothing will happen,” she told Khaama. “Dozens of human beings are killed every day in the country and no one feels responsibility.”

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Sahba Barakzai

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The family took these pictures of Aseman after she was shot dead

The attack has left the entire family shocked, Setayesh said.

“We were really scared. I have never been to such kind of situation before – that was a terrifying memory for all of us.”

But it has left an especially deep wound in Sahba, who decided to shut down her sports clubs – a huge loss for her community – and look into moving across the border, into neighbouring Iran, where she hopes she will be safer.

“Aseman was just like Sabha’s daughter,” Setayesh explained.

Sahba, meanwhile, is trying to pick herself up as she grieves the loss.

“The day that I brought Aseman, I googled that how many years a dog can live and realised every dog can live about 14 years and even more,” she said. “I got upset when I knew Aseman can live just for 14 years with me.

“I have never thought that my sweetie Aseman would live just for seven months and then be killed.”

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Police news – Sept. 24 | News, Sports, Jobs

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Firearm stolen

FLEMINGTON — The theft of a firearm is under investigation by state police at Lamar.

The theft took place sometime between Sept. 5 and Sept. 19 on West Fourth Street in Flemington Borough, Clinton County.

Police said a SCCY CPX-2 9mm firearm with a stainless slide and teal polymer frame went missing from the glove box of a 2016 Chevrolet Cruze. Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact police at 570-726-6000.

The firearm is valued at $279.

Harassment

BEECH CREEK — A 23-year-old Beech Creek man was charged with harassment after allegedly shoving a 23-year-old Beech Creek woman multiple times during an altercation, state police at Rockview said.

The incident occurred along North Eagle Valley Road, Liberty Township, Centre County on Sept. 7, police said.

Drug possession

BELLEFONTE — A case is pending a preliminary hearing involving drug possession along Interstate 80 near mile marker 1523 in Boggs Township, Centre County, state police at Rockview said.

Sanford Hill, 31, of Toledo, Ohio, was stopped for speeding on Sept. 18 when a probable cause search yielded a small amount of marijuana in his 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, police said.

Harassment

BEECH CREEK — A case of harassment was investigated by state police at Lamar on Sept. 21.

According to police, Amber Williams, 26, of Beech Creek and Jessica Wetzel, 30, also of Beech Creek became involved in a physical altercation at 9 Bittner Lane in Beech Creek Township, Clinton County. Williams and Wetzel shoved each other inside the residence. Both Wetzel and Williams received non-traffic citations for harassment, which were filed through magisterial district justice 25-3-02.

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Fate of high school extra-curriculars in Moose Jaw — including sports — could be decided this week

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Series of meetings between various stakeholders to culminate Friday as various options to be reviewed

The immediate future of high school sports and extracurricular activities in general in Moose Jaw could well come down to decisions made this coming Friday.

With the Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association releasing a new set of Return-to-Play guidelines earlier this week, questions quickly turned to where local sports are currently at — and the answer showed just how much effort is going into making the correct decision in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Derrick Huschi is the commissioner for high school football in the city. He’s also the Prairie South School Divison Superintendent of School Operations for North K-12 schools and 9-12 schools and as such has had a front-row seat with regards to preparations currently being put in place.

Prairie South has worked closely with the Holy Trinity Catholic School Division in their planning, with a series of meetings between a wide range of stakeholders set to culminate Friday when the associated parties aim to put together a plan going forward.

“It is what it is, and there are some inconsistencies that we’re working on,” Huschi explained. “We don’t totally understand some of the stuff and we’re not like community programs, we have to make sure we align with the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan and Return to School plan 100 per cent. That adds a little bit more of a dynamic to it all.”

The key to the whole process is finding a solution that works and is as safe as possible for everyone involved. What that looks like remains to be seen, but there’s always the haunting spectre of COVID hanging over the proceedings, and what might happen in light of certain decisions.

“What effect could it have in a school if something does happen?” Huschi queried. “If it’s a student in a community and we’re talking about one student, that’s one thing. But if it happens to be a whole bunch of kids in one building, that changes the whole dynamic again. So we’re working on it, but just don’t have the definitive answer.”

Here’s where things stand at this point.

The Saskatchewan School-Based Administrators and the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation are of the position that schools should not be entertaining extra-curriculars at this point, while the Saskatchewan Health Authority has yet to pass down clear guidelines for extra-curriculars in schools.

That ‘do we, don’t we’ goes down to individual staff members locally. Some are all for getting back on the field and in the gym, some remain concerned that doing so is taking an unnecessary risk, going back to the ‘what if’ scenario of an extra-curricular-connected outbreak.

“So we’re trying to juggle all those things to find what’s best, plus we have all our other re-open plans,” Huschi said. 

“We sent out a survey to all of our staff last week, asking ‘what are your priorities’ and we got some feedback. Holy Trinity is doing the same thing. Then they met with their board, we’re meeting with our board, then the local teachers associations are meeting, and we’re bringing all that information together on Friday and we’re going to sit down and see what our stakeholders are telling us for the next steps.”

Some things might be clarified before that meeting if the Saskatchewan Health Authority releases a rumoured update to the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan, but that remains up in the air.

It’s all part of steady progress to this point, with the two school divisions taking an incremental approach to the ever-evolving situation.

“So we don’t want to get too far ahead, we want to make sure we’re working in the right direction,” Huschi said.

If the green light is given, from a sports point of view plans are in place and facilities are booked for a relatively quick start to the football, soccer, cross-country and volleyball seasons. The only question is to what form the leagues would take — mini-leagues intra-school, or by grade, how many aside in each sport and so on.

“So there’s a lot of different things in play right now, and we’ll have to see what decisions are made,” said Huschi.



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Five highlights from the speech from the throne | NanaimoNewsNOW

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A federal testing assistance response team will be created to quickly meet surging testing needs, including providing tests in remote and isolated communities.

Thanking Canadians for doing their part by wearing masks, the government also promised to continue providing personal protective equipment by building domestic production capacity and securing supply chains internationally.

Extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

As more lockdowns are anticipated to prevent small clusters of COVID-19 from turning to major outbreaks, the Liberal government promised to provide additional financial support for businesses that will have to temporarily shut down as a result of a local public health decision.

The broader Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will be extended through the next summer to help business overcome the burden the pandemic. 

The government also again promised a transitional Canada Recovery Benefit for those who won’t qualify for benefits under the new expanded employment-insurance system that is to replace Canada Emergency Response Benefit by the end of this month. 

Creating a new Canadian Disability Benefit

Highlighting that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Canadians with disabilities, the government said it will bring forward a disability inclusion plan that will include a new Canadian Disability Benefit, an employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities and a better process to determine eligibility for government disability programs and benefits.

The Liberals promised to work with the provinces and territories to set new national standards for long-term care so that seniors get the best support possible, and to take additional action to help people stay in their homes longer.

Major support for clean-technology companies

Aiming to make Canada a world leader in clean technology, the Liberals promise a new fund to attract investments in making zero-emissions products. The government will also cut the corporate tax rate in half for these companies.

The government promises a clean-power fund. This fund will be included with projects like the Atlantic Loop that will transmit surplus clean power to regions transitioning away from coal.

Manufacturing, natural-resource, and energy sectors are promised financial support from Ottawa as they work toward a future in which Canada has net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions.

Tackling systemic racism

The Liberals say a fight against racism will be informed by the experiences of racialized communities and Indigenous Peoples.

Addressing hate speech online, providing more economic support for specific communities and increasing diversity in public procurement are all on the Liberals’ agenda.

As Black Canadians and Indigenous people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, the government promised to take steps to ensure that criminal justice is used to keep people safe, and not to be discriminatory or counterproductive.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept, 23, 2020.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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