Comments by David G. Littman, NGO Representative to the United Nations (Geneva), Association for World Education (AWE) and World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ):
2nd Session: Ad Hoc Committee on ‘Elaboration of Complementary Standards’ — Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam and future Islamic Rights Charter & the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN International Covenants
After my recent articles on: ‘Stealth Jihad for over a decade at the UN‘ (Oct. 7); “Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah its most sublime belief” (Oct. 16); ‘UN Human Rights Council and Gaza Report… weighed in the balances…‘ (Oct. 17), I thought there would be nothing more to write
about on this until Human Rights Day (10 December) or the CHR’s mid-March 2010 session.
But, lo and behold, an “Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards” of the Council held a 2nd session from 19-30 October. The title: “Complementary Standards” immediately rang OIC bells-in-my-belfry, reminding me of the misleading words used by Pakistan’s ambassador, speaking for the OIC on Human Rights Day 2007 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva: “The CDHRI is not an alternative, competing worldview on human rights. It complements the Universal Declaration as it addresses the religious and cultural specificity of the Muslim countries.” I decided to find out more at the Palais where I arrived late in the afternoon of 22 October. I had been informed that NGOs were ‘observers’ rather than ‘participants’ and that only State delegates could speak, but to my surprise I saw two NGO colleagues in the crowded room and one, an Alaskan with his NGO sign requesting the floor.
I had brought two of our NGO written statements with me, having obtained authorisation from our NGO liaison officer to place them on the table as relevant UN published documents:
The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam and the Universality of Human Rights: A/HRC//7/NGO/96 (March 2008); and Defamation of Judaism and Jews by ISESCO (OIC): 60th UDHR Anniversary at the UN: A/HRC/10/NGO/29 (March 2009).
I then quickly prepared an oral statement on the subject of the universality of human rights – by reading out within the three minute time limit (see below), the relevant passages from our detailed written statement. Coming after some stealth statements from OIC delegates and diplomatic declarations by Western delegates, it raised some eyebrows on both sides. As there was no objections to our written statements being put on the back table, after the session ended I circulated a dozen copies to some Western delegates. However, the next morning an email from the “Anti-Discrimination Unit of the Office of the High Commissioner” stated that, from now on: “the Chair did not permit the circulation of your documents because they are UN documents open to the public that Member States are able to attain at their disposal.” As this was a precedent, I wrote to the chairman of the committee, Ambassador Idriss JazaÃ¯ry, by email, fax and by post, asking for the following clarification:
(…) We know from our long experience as an NGO representative that few delegates rush to the distribution counter to ask for more reading material. Thus, it is logical and authorized by the Secretariat to attach UN written statements to an oral statement, especially those prepared for the same, or earlier meetings that are relevant to the current discussion. This has been our practice and that of many other NGO representatives. Given the short time now allowed for oral statements at the Council (2 minutes), the written statement provides additional information, relevant quotes and bibliographic references, allowing a deeper understanding of the issue – the same would apply to the Ad Hoc Committee. I hope to participate again on Tuesday, 27th October and would then like to attach our 2 already mentioned written statements to my oral statement delivered on 22 October (enclosed). If this will not be authorised, we would like to know why it was so decided – and based on which UN ‘rules’ – not to permit our approved UN written statements, relevant to the debate and attached to my brief oral AWE statement, to be placed on the only available table inside Room XXI.
On asking the Algerian chairman about this ‘precedent’ on Tuesday, he stated that he had not read my letter and had not given any instructions to that effect; however, the next day I was told that he had confirmed the decision made by one of his staff. This is another example of clumsiness or censorship, and it must be contested in the usual manner, so that it doesn’t become a precedent for the chairman.
However I should state that the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee was extremely fair, giving me the floor 5 times to make impromptu statements on different subjects. From my notes, I have reconstructed these texts that I sent to the Secretariat, as requested, so that that they can be summarized for the UN public record. Below is the list of subjects and texts as delivered (more or less) on 22 and 27 October:
1) Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam and Universality of Human Rights (22 Oct. @5:15pm)
2) Judeophobia /Antisemitism: Huge number of hate publications in Damascus (27 Oct. @12:30am)
3) Incitement to Genocide and Judeophobia and Jihadist Hate Crimes (27 Oct. @3:15pm)
4) Subject: Hate Speech / Press / TV / Teaching in School Textbooks in OIC countries (27 Oct. @4:30pm)
5) Subject: Transatlantic Slavery /Arab Slave Trade / Slavery Today (27 Oct. @5:15pm)
6) Subject: Freedom to Change Religion or Belief without any Restrictions (27 Oct. @5:50pm)
All the oral statements were delivered by David G. Littman – one on 22 October and five on 27 October.
The 1st statement was made for AWE; all the others were joint statement for AWE and WUPJ.
The usual courtesy remarks at the beginning and end of the statement have been deleted here, and also the official details for each statement. Words in bracket were not pronounced within the two minutes.
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Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam and Universality of Human Rights
We wish to draw attention to a joint UN written statement by our NGO, the Association for World Education, with the International Humanist and Ethical Union and another NGO: It is entitled: The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam and the Universality of Human Rights: A/HRC/7/NGO/96 (March 2008). It addresses in detail the subject being discussed here under item 4.
In it, we quoted the statement by the Ambassador of Pakistan [Masood Khan], addressing the Human Rights Council on behalf of the OIC countries for Human Rights Day on 10 December 2007, when he spoke glowingly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He then went on to claim that: The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam “is not an alternative, competing worldview on human rights. It complements the Universal Declaration as it addresses religious and cultural specificity of the Muslim countries”.
The Cairo Declaration cannot be considered complementary to the UDHR. It makes no reference to the UDHR, while Articles 24 and 25 of the Cairo Declaration explicitly state that: “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah”; and also that: “The Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration.” Many of the clauses in the Cairo Declaration limit the ‘rights’ contained therein by reference to the Shari’ah, in particular its Articles 2, 7, 12, 16, 19, 22 and 23.
In this regard, we note the statement to the Human Rights Council by Ambassador Gunter Nooke of the Federal Republic of Germany, also speaking on 10 December 2007, in which he regretted: “the tendency within some parts of the international community to roll back the principle of universality in order to make the enjoyment of fundamental rights dependent on factors such as tradition, culture, religion or the level of development”.
The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam relates to a specific religious community and is not universal; it limits the rights enshrined in the secular International Bill of Human Rights. In this sense, it is incongruous with the Universal Declaration as it addresses Islamic human rights in the context of religious beliefs, rather than the universality and indivisibility of all human rights.
Thus, it is NOT complementary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We urge all States to remain vigilant and to actively resist any attempt to give equal status to the Cairo Declaration, and to oppose any resolution that seeks to limit the universality of human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants.
Also, in relation to the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights last December at the Palais des Nations, we found 2 racist books publically on display on that special occasion and our joint NGO written statement covers this matter in detail. It is entitled: Defamation of Judaism and Jews by ISESCO (OIC): 60th UDHR Anniversary at the UN: A/HRC/10/NGO/29 (March 2009).
There has been no reaction as yet from any UN body on such a grave defamation of a religion and a people. Our two NGO written statements are available here.
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Judeophobia / Antisemitisme: Huge number of hate publications in Damascus
During a recent visit to Damascus a European diplomat who prefers to remain anonymous was profoundly shocked on finding huge numbers of antisemitic publications in the bookstores of the Syrian capital – in the respectable centres like the Maktabat al-Qital (Librairie du Combat) and Dar Albyrouty, and the bookshop district at Halbouni as well as on the streets of Damascus. The most numerous quantities are:
– Arab editions of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler;
– “The Unleavened Bread of Zion” by GÃ©nÃ©ral Mustafa Tlass, Defence Minister of Syria for more than 30 years (1972-2004);
– “The Protocoles of the Elders of Zion”. This volume (French and English editions – was also offered in dollars near tourist hotels. [The cover has an English map of the Middle East, showing a red and black serpent which surrounds the entire Arab world, in the centre of which is ‘Occupied Palestine’ – without the word ‘Israel’.]
Aside from these Judeophobia /Antisemitic ‘classics’, bookstore windows overflow with many scandalous pamphlets, containing pernicious opinions on Jewish history, the falsity of the Bible, Jewish sects that use medieval sources, and international Zionist conspiracies [- in league with Francmasonry, the Donmehs, the Bahais, the predictions of Nostradamus, and of Gog and Magog in regard to the destruction of Israel in 1913.]
In addition, there is a recent book by Shams al-Din al-Ajlani in Arabic on, “The Jews of Damascus” [Librairie El-Ulbi, Damas, 2009, pp. 430), in which one reads how the Jews of Damascus savagely strangled Father Thomas and his valet in 1840, in order to use his blood in the preparation of their unleavened bread [Matza] for the Feast of Passover.
[Also in the book one sees, for the first time in many years, photos of the old Jewish community (an ancient community of more than 40’000 in 1945, now under 100 elderly people) and institutions such as the building of the Alliance IsraÃ©lite Universelle, which became the School of Palestine in 1967. Despite chapters on Jewish financial power and prostitutes, al-Ajlani tries to give an impression that it is a serious study – until one reaches the descriptions on the Blood-Libel with ‘historic’ illustrations.]
This calumny, denounced in 1841 by the Ottoman Sultan in a firman, is still perpetuated today by an Italian inscription and a detailed Arabic ‘explanation’ in a church near the old Jewish quarter of Bab Touma. In this newly-published book (the diplomat bought a copy on 17 October), one finds, on page 181, a reproduction from the Nazi “Der StÃ¼rmer” by Julius Streicher, titled ‘Ritualmord’, with an illustration showing Jews killing children. [And two others show the alleged ritual murder of Simon of Trente in 1475 (pp. 175 and 179), which I have here (the speaker then held up the illustrations to the book). After Vatican II in 1965, Pope Paul VI denounced the medieval trial of the Jews as a fraud, and ended the cult and worship of Simon of Trent.]
In a similar ‘Judeophobia’ context in 1991 – at the 47th session of the Commission of Human Rights – Syrian delegate Ms. Nabila Chaalan relaunched the 1840 Damascus Blood Libel Accusation (during the first Gulf War), citing a book by Syrian Minister of Defence General Mustafa Tlass, called “FatÃ®r SahyÃ¼n” – “The Unleavened Bread of Zion”.
[Holding the book, with its colour illustration showing Jews with prayer caps cutting Father Thomas’s throat, she declared to all present in the plenum, including the then head of the Human Rights Center, Jan Martenson and the Chairman of the Commission, both on the podium: “We should like to launch an appeal to all members of this Commission to read this very important work that demonstrates unequivocally the historical reality of Zionist racism (…) And those who read the book can understand the reasons underlying the death of Father Tuma and those unmasked realities in Zionism.” (E/CN.4/1991/SR.18).*]
[It is appropriate that this Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards – an organ of the Human Rights Council – is currently discussing: ‘Discrimination based on religion or beliefs, as well as incitation to racial, ethnic, national and religious hate’.]
Why does Syria, and other countries, allow the circulation and sale of tens of thousands of such books annually – and the screening of TV programmes on these same themes? Why is ‘Judeophobia’ propagated without any criticism in their countries, whereas ‘Islamophobia’ is considered anathema – and the same question should be asked to UN Special Rapporteurs?
[On 4 February 2006, the embassies of Denmark and Norway in Damascus were attacked and burned by a mob, without much police hindrance, and this occurred more than four months after the Danish cartoons ‘affair’, as a result of deliberate incitement by Muslim clerics.]
We appeal to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Presidents of the Human Rights Council and its Ad Hoc Committee, and those Special Rapporteurs concerned as well as the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), to address this hate phenomenon. The last study by French sociologist Pierre-AndrÃ© Taguieff, director of research at the CNRS in Paris, is called: PrÃªcheurs de Haine : TraversÃ©e de la judÃ©ophobie planÃ©taire (pp. 962). We have been denouncing this plague since 1986 here. Surely, it is time to act now? **
* See David Littman, Human Rights and Human Wrong’, NÂ° 10 – Supplementary Document Section: 1991 Revival at United Nations / 1840 ‘Damascus affair’ Blood-Libel Accusation (WUPJ: GenÃ¨ve, 10 June 1991, pp. 58); Human Rights & Human Wrongs, NÂ° 11 – 2nd Supplementary Document Section: 1991 Revival at UN / Correspondence & Consequences (Avenir: GenÃ¨ve, 20 January 1992, p. 32).
* * AWE / WUPJ: Defamation of Judaism & Jews by ISESCO (OIC): 60th UDHR Anniversary ate UN (A/HRC/10/NGO/29 – 4/3/2008)
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Incitement to Genocide, Judeophobia and Jihadist Hate Crimes
I am speaking jointly for both the AWE and the WUPJ, with over two million members worldwide.
We wish to endorse what was stated by the representative of the USA in regard to the lack of a political will to act in application of the 1948 Genocide Convention [Convention on the Prevention and the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide], under its article 3, recommending an early warning system as well as national mechanisms to be created for that purpose. As we have stated over the years at the Commission and the Council, article 3 (c) states that: “Direct and public incitement to commit genocide” is punishable under item 4, and article 8 allows any State Party to call upon the competent organs of the UN to act in the prevention & suppression of all acts referred to in article 3. This should have been done for Rwanda in 1994 after the broadcasts from ‘Mille Collines’ had begun.
We also noted the remarks by the delegate of Algeria, who referred to the statement by Pakistan’s delegate (for the OIC countries) on the subject of racial and religious defamation, recommending an “international framework” to control such acts. The Nigerian delegate referred to this also, speaking about the ‘gaps’ in the international system. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to overlook what is blatant religious defamation and we wish to give one example today.
Blood-Libel accusation against Jews in Hellenistic times were resuscitated in Norwich in 1144 and elsewhere in Europe, especially with Simon of Trent in 1475 and the Damascus Blood-Libel of 1840 that led to genocidal crimes against Jews over the centuries. The ‘Damascus Affair’ Blood-Libel was even resuscitated here in 1991 at the Commission on Human Rights when Syria’s delegate urged delegates to read a book by Syrian Defence Minister General Tlass, “The Unleavened Bread of Zion.”
[See UN summary record: 8 February 1991: E/CN:4/1991/SR.18 and “Letter dated 19 Feb. 1991 by Syrian Permanent Representative to the UN Office at Geneva, addressed to the Centre for Human Rights” E/CN.4/1991/80). This was after we quoted Tlass’s words in his book on “The Unleavened Bread of Zion”: “The Jew can … kill you and take your blood in order to make his Zionist bread… I hope that I have done my duty in presenting the practices of the enemy of our historic nation. Allah aid this project.” (French translation is from the Arabic original in, Le Matin, Paris, 19 August 1986)]
This book and others like it- such as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” – are sold in the tens of thousands in the Arab-Muslim world, propagating a general hatred against Jews, Judaism and Israel – and are an incitation to genocidal tendencies and Jihadist hate crimes. It is time to recognise this general Judeophobia / Antisemitism incitement to hate that has already led to genocide and to act now in this and other cases which are often ignored at UN bodies.
* The delegate of Syria took the floor in order to criticize the speaker for the attacks upon his country in the morning and again now. He denied everything, stating that as the speaker did not know Arabic, he could not say what was in the book he mentioned that morning. He then praised the book as being very fair. As he spoke, I waived the cover of the book on “The Jews of Syria”, as well as the page from the Nazi paper, “Der StÃ¼rmer”,
as I was sitting just at his right.. I later handed a copy to the and chairman, Algerian Ambassador Idriss JazaÃ¯ry – to prove that what I had said about the 2009 book by al-Ajlani was correct and that the Syrian delegate lied.
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Hate Speech / Press / TV / Teaching in School Textbooks
I take note of what the Chairman said earlier – that ‘hate speech’ is not appreciated at this meeting.
Sir, let me say – on behalf of our two NGOs representing up to 2Â½ million people – that hate speech, hate teaching and a ‘culture of hate’ is what must be shamed and denounced publicly wherever and whenever possible, here at the UN – and especially at this Ad Hoc Committee which is expected to address such matters. Those school books, press articles, and racial cybercrime, and on private and State TV in many countries are well-known to many delegates here, who deplore such a culture of hate. I need not name those States and organizations, as they it is a commonplace knowledge.
We listened attentively to the statement by the delegate of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the OIC – especially when he referred to a current “impunity for hate crimes”. Indeed, this is exactly the point we wish to make. We agree totally with the Canadian and USA delegates, and others, regarding the importance of each State having a regular review of the curriculums in their national school textbooks. It is, of course, an excellent idea to provide an official ‘human rights education’ in schools, but it is should be based on UNESCO and the International Bill of Human Rights – and on nothing else!
We have stressed the importance of analysis as CMIP1 is doing in Middle East school textbooks. [CMIP is now called Impact-SE; see for Saudi Arabia,2 Syria,3 Palestinian Authority and Hamas,4 Egypt5, Iran6, Tunisia7, Israel.8]
One should also consult the indispensable translations [from Arabic] in the media and TV programmes by MEMRI [Middle East Media Research Institute] and PMW [Palestine Media Watch] which provide irrefutable evidence how this culture of hate is being perpetrated & propagated non-stop in the Middle East. Let us have less talk and more action by UNESCO, the Council, and its Ad Hoc Committee.
1. The Centre for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (now called IMPACT-SE – Institute for Maintaining Peace & Cultural Tolerance in School Education) examines primary, preparatory & secondary state schools in the Middle East in accordance with UNESCO criteria.
2. ‘The West, Christians and Jews in Saudi Arabian Schoolbooks’ (2003); ‘A Research Update’ (July 2008)
‘The Culture of Hate in Saudi Arabian Textbooks and Growing Arab Reactions’: E/CN.4/Sub.2/2005/NGO/3 (Joint written statement: AWE, AWC, IHEU).
3. ‘Jews, Zionism & Israel in Syrian School Textbooks’ (2001);
4. ‘Palestinian Authority Teachers Guides (2000); Jews, Israel & Peace in the Palestinian School Textbooks’ (2000-2001 & 2001-2002); ‘Jews, Israel and Peace in the PA Textbooks & High School Final Examination’ (2002); ‘Jews, Israel and Peace in the Palestinian Authority Textbooks, the New Textbooks for Grades 3& 8’ (2003); ‘Palestinian Schoolbooks: An Updated Conclusion’ (2009)
5. ‘Jews, Christians, War and Peace in Egyptian School Textbooks’ (2004); ‘The Culture of ‘Jihad Martyrdom’ in Egyptian School Textbooks’: E/CN.4/Sub2/2005/NGO/2 (Joint written NGO statement: AWE, AWC, IHEU)
6. ‘The Attitude to the ‘Other’ and to Peace in Iranian School Textbooks and Teachers’ Guides (2006).
7. ‘The Attitude to the ‘Other’ & to Peace in Tunisian School Textbooks: Preliminary Report’ (October 2006).
8. ‘Arabs & Palestinians in Israeli Textbooks (2000); Arabs, Palestinians, Islam & Peace in Israeli Textbooks’ (2002)
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Transatlantic Slavery / Arab Slave Trade / Slavery Today
We would like to react strongly to what we have just heard from a distinguished African delegate, praising highly the Durban Declaration as a unique text, and stating that Western countries should be reminded constantly of the trans-Atlantic slavery trade and should pay a heavy compensation for what they had done over centuries.
Yes, we should not hesitate to recognise and condemn the horrors that accompanied transatlantic slavery, the Inquisition, imperialism, colonialism and much more too, but it is strange that there is never an attempt to acknowledge what happened elsewhere.
The African Union does not address the infamous Arab Slave Trade, which – as we stated at the Durban II Conference six months ago – was committed against Africans by their Arab conquerors for over a millennium, and this continues today in some countries, especially Sudan. And there was also mass slavery for centuries elsewhere – in the Middle East, and the Balkans by the Ottomans with the Janissaries, and the Barbary Corsairs.*
The African Union, the Arab League, the OIC and the NAM [Non-Aligned Movement] prefer to ignore these horrors in Africa today in Congo, Sudan, and elsewhere. They stick together and remain ‘united’. We wish to state here again, as we have done over the years, that it is necessary to call a spade a spade and a slave a slave! For many years it was a taboo subject to refer to the slavery of Christians and animists in South Sudan – one was expected, by Sudan, to refer to ‘abducted persons’ – and slavery continues now in Darfur with the worst form of atrocities, and elsewhere. Why should this subject remain taboo? **
* Documented extensively in Arab, Syriac, Greek, Armenian, Turkish and Indian texts.
** The delegate of Sudan requested a ‘right of reply’ and condemned the speaker for provoking “an insidious discussion.” The president then asked all speakers not to focus on their vision and to accept the mandate of this body and adopt “a convenient approach” – as the Ad Hoc Committee had a specific exercise and “this is not a general debate.” He said that he did not wish to interrupt speakers. The chaairman did not interrupt any speaker and the 5 NGOs present spoke whenever they wished.
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Freedom to Change one’s Religion or Belief without any Restrictions
We wish to enlarge upon what was stated just before by the delegate of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU), who referred to the 1995 Barcelona Agreement and the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation – an intercultural Alliance of Civilizations “on both sides of the Mediterranean”1 – as she described it. She also stressed our cherished “religious, philosophical and humanist values”, the importance of freedom of expression and religion, gender equality, women’s rights, and unrestricted freedom of all to change a religion or a faith – and that there should be
“no complementary standards” in regard to universal human rights.
Saudi Arabia’s representative stated soon after that “we are here to learn intercultural dialogue.” He was at pains to assure us that …we must live together, enjoying peace, that Islam is a tolerant religion which rejects hate, and that Muslims respect the other religions and wish to dialogue with them.
On hearing these glowing and well-meaning declarations, we wish to ask whether it would be possible for this Ad Hoc Committee to ‘test’ the optimism hanging in the air by asking each and every representative of the UN Member States here present – those which have adhered to and ratified the UN Bill of Human Rights and the other International Covenants – whether it would be possible for any citizen in their country to decide to change his or her religion and adopt another faith or belief or non-belief? Especially, does their local legislation permit or punish such an individual’s action, which is guaranteed under international law and widely proclaimed here; or is it forbidden for persons of any specific religion or faith to do so? This is a crucial question that needs a clear reply here, otherwise we would be turning back the clock on human rights significantly.
1. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, formerly known as the “Barcelona Process” (November 1995), was re-launched as the “Union for the Mediterranean” (Paris Summit, July 2008). The “Partnership” now includes all 27 member states of the European Union, along with 16 partners across the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East. The partnership was organized into three main dimensions, which remain today as the broad working areas of the Union for the Mediterranean:
– Political and Security Dialogue, aimed at creating a common area of peace and stability, underpinned by sustainable development, rule of law, democracy and human rights.
– Economic and Financial Partnership, including the gradual establishment of a free-trade area aimed at promoting shared economic opportunity through sustainable and balanced socio-economic development.
– Social, Cultural & Human Partnership, aimed at promoting understanding and intercultural dialogue between cultures, religions & people, & facilitating exchanges between civil society & ordinary citizens, particularly women and young people.
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