By Evie Knapman – Sub-Editor
The Covid-19 epidemic is an incredibly scary time, with the NHS facing unprecedented challenges. With Italy, France and Spain in lockdown and the UK facing increasing changes to our daily lives, it’s important as a community to face this pandemic. I’m sure that many of you, like me, are finding that even looking at news pages can be frightening. In the classic British act of ‘boosting morale’, here are a few pieces of good news I’d like to share with you.
- Afghan Mukhtarli has been freed from Azerbaijan
Mukhtarli was sentenced in 2017 to 6-years in prison on politically motivated charges. On March 17th, he was unexpectedly released and reunited with his wife and daughter. He’s worked as a reporter for independent media outlets ‘Meydan TV’ and the ‘Institute for War’ and ‘Peace Reporting’. Over 50 political prisoners have been recently released by president Ilham Aliyev, arguably due to ongoing negotiations with the European Union. In a country with a poor history of politically-motivated imprisonment, this gives reason to hope that Azerbaijan will improve its human rights record under the current president.
- Beauty Corner in Kenya supports female heroin users
Naima Said, a recovered heroin addict, runs a beauty parlour called Beauty Corner in Mombasa to support other women in reducing their dependency on the drug. It’s located in the Reachout Centre Trust, which provides services including HIV testing, counselling, methadone treatment and cervical cancer screening. Since 2010, the use of hard drugs such as heroin has grown in Kenya, and users are particularly vulnerable to HIV. Beauty Corner offers women a chance to feel special about themselves and open up.
- Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been temporarily released from prison
I’ve followed the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe since she was jailed in 2016 after being convicted on charges of espionage, and have despaired at her detention. She has faced mental and physical health difficulties during her sentence, gone on hunger strike and been separated from her young daughter Gabriella. She will have to wear an ankle tag and remain within 300m of her parents’ home in Tehran, but this is still a significant move from the Iranian authorities towards giving Zaghari-Ratcliffe the freedom she deserves.
- Oliver the hiking ferret climbs 11 of Colorado’s highest peaks
Ferrets are known for many things, but hiking mountains isn’t one of them. When owner Lauren Smith bought Oliver the ferret, she was quickly overwhelmed by his energy and exuberance, so decided to bring him on her trips outdoors. He has since climbed 11 peaks in America, has an Instagram following of almost 6000, visited 9 national parks, gone paddle boarding and visited Colorado’s Black Canyon.
- Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds donate $1 million to food bank
For those of you who aren’t avid fans of Gossip Girl (aka the finest series on Netflix), Blake Lively is an American actress who played the character of Serena Van Der Woodsen. Many people face economic uncertainty in the face of Covid-19, from lack of sick pay to job insecurity. Lively, along with her husband and fellow actor Ryan Reynolds, have donated $1 million to Food Banks Canada and Feeding America to help vulnerable people.