News in Brief 03 May 2016 (PM)

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Syrian refugee Hanan Dacka takes part in the 2016 Olympic Games torch relay in Brasilia, Brazil, on May 3rd, 2016.

Syrian refugee girl carries Olympic torch in Brazil

A young girl who fled conflict in Syria was among those chosen to carry the Olympic torch in her new homeland, Brazil, host of this year's games.

Twelve-year-old Hanan Dacka ran through the streets of the capital, Brasilia, on Tuesday, the first day of the torch relay in the South American country.

The 2016 Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro and the organizing committee selected Hanan following discussions with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

UNHCR said the decision "is about solidarity with refugees everywhere."

The Syrian crisis began in March 2011 and Hanan and her family fled the Syrian city of Idlib when war broke out.

They initially sought refuge in Jordan and spent more than two years at the Za'atari refugee camp.

The family arrived in Brazil in February 2015 under a special humanitarian visa programme for people affected by the Syrian conflict, which has generated nearly five million refugees.

UNHCR reports that South America's largest country has issued around 8,000 of these special visas.

Fears over China's new NGO law

China is being urged to repeal a law that regulates the activities of foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country.

The appeal was made by a group of UN human rights experts who fear that the law could be used to intimidate and suppress dissenting opinions.

Under the law, foreign NGOs must be registered with public security bodies which can summon representatives for questioning, or conduct on-site inspections and seize documents, among other powers.

The NGOs also would not have the right to appeal any of these decisions.

The experts said the law also prohibits foreign NGOs from conducting "political activities" without specifying what this entails, which could result in arbitrary and broad interpretations of the law.

China's parliament, known as the National People's Congress, adopted the law in late April.

It will enter into force in January 2017.

Car blast kills pilgrims in Iraq

A deadly car bombing in Iraq that targeted religious pilgrims has been condemned by the senior UN official in the country.

At least 18 people died in the blast which took place on Monday in the Saydiyah neighbourhood in the capital, Baghdad.

The pilgrims were heading to commemorate the anniversary of the death of a revered Imam buried there.

The terrorist group ISIL, also known as Daesh, has reportedly claimed responsibility.

Ján Kubiš, head of the UN mission in Iraq (UNAMI), released a statement on Tuesday strongly condemning the attack.

He urged all Iraqis to call for an end to such "atrocities."

Afghan boy in homemade "Messi" football shirt flees to Pakistan

An Afghan boy who made news earlier this year after wearing an Argentine national football shirt fashioned from a plastic bag has been forced to flee his country, according to media reports.

A photo of five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi in the shirt bearing the name of his hero, Lionel Messi, went viral in February.

Murtaza later received two real shirts signed by the Argentine player who is also a Goodwill Ambassador with the UN children's fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF on Tuesday said it was aware that Murtaza and his family have fled to Pakistan, following unspecified threats and fears that the boy might be kidnapped.

The agency said it is closely monitoring the situation.

Australian actor Cate Blanchett named UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

Academy Award-winning actor Cate Blanchett is the latest Hollywood heavyweight to support UN efforts aimed at improving the lives of displaced people worldwide.

The Australian star was this week named a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Ms Blanchett had worked closely with UNHCR for over a year to raise awareness about people who have been displaced from their homelands.

Last year, she met with Syrian refugees in Lebanon to hear about the experiences of stateless people as part of an agency campaign.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 4'14"

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