19 killed in Egypt train mishap

Updated 16 January 2013
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19 killed in Egypt train mishap

CAIRO: Egyptian police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the main railway station in second city Alexandria yesterday, hours after 19 people were killed when a train carrying conscripts derailed.
A police official said hundreds of protesters clashed with passengers in the station when they tried to block trains from leaving, and police fired tear gas to disperse them.
The train accident southwest of Cairo is likely to increase pressure on President Muhammad Mursi and his government ahead of Parliamentary elections in March or April, as opponents criticized his government over rail safety.
The accident, and another in November that killed 50 school children, "affirmed the urgent need for President Mursi and his governmet to reorder their priorities," said the opposition National Salvation Front in a statement.
The train was taking young recruits from south Egypt to a military camp in Cairo when two carriages went off the rails shortly after midnight in the Giza neighbourhood of Badrasheen, officials said.
Prime Minister Hesham Qandeel was met with howls of outrage when he arrived at the scene, with residents shouting: "You have blood on your hands, Mr Hesham." His security detail quickly whisked him away, an AFP photographer said.
Mursi flew in by helicopter to visit the wounded in a Cairo military hospital, the same facility where his ousted predecessor Hosni Mubarak is being treated, state media reported.
The accident is the latest in a string of transport disasters plaguing Egypt, and comes just two weeks after a new transport minister was appointed.
According to media reports, it is the fifth deadly train accident since Mursi was sworn in as Egypt's first post-revolution president in June.
In November, nearly 50 school children were killed when a train smashed into their bus in central Egypt after a railway signal operator fell asleep, prompting protests and resignations.
FROM: AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE


Female candidates shake up Iraq election

Updated 20 min 53 sec ago
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Female candidates shake up Iraq election

  • ‘I will vote for one of the beautiful candidates and I do not mind if she has robbed me,’ soldier tells Arab News
  • Provocative posters and billboards of female Iraqi parliamentary candidates have sparked a heated debate about the role of women in the country’s male-dominated political system

BAGHDAD: Iraqis will go to the polls on May 12 to elect 329 MPs — the fourth parliamentary vote since the 2003 US-led invasion toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. 

With security better in much of the country than it has been for several years, the election has led to a surge of interest in a new generation of female candidates.

A total of 2,592 women are standing for office across the country and in Baghdad many of them have shunned the nation’s conservative traditions to run socially liberal and occasionally glamorous campaigns unlike anything Iraq has seen before.

Some posters depicting female candidates in make-up and without Islamic headscarves, have provoked a mixed response from an electorate more accustomed to voting for unsmiling religious clerics.

While some voters said the images were a welcome change to the dry, male-dominated campaigns of old, others accused the women of lacking “political depth” and relying on their looks to woo the public. The candidates themselves have defended their unorthodox approach as just another way to generate interest in the election.

In an interview with Iraqi news agency, Al-Manar Press, Mannal Al-Mu’atassim, said she hoped her fashionable image would motivate more young people to support her in the polls. She told Arab News that while she was “not betting” on her looks to win her more votes, she regarded her appearance as more important than her ability to debate conventional political issues.

“I believe that Iraqi voters are heading toward choosing new faces, so there is no need for an electoral program or slogans,” she said. 

Under the terms of the Iraqi constitution, 25 percent of the seats in the national Parliament are reserved for women. 

This is the first time, however, that the participation of female candidates has generated such widespread public interest among an electorate used to taking a cynical view of more established politicians linked to corruption and sectarian violence.

Ziena Al-Shimari, another female candidate in Baghdad, told Arab News she had been granted permission to run by the head of her tribe and was now determined to stand up for the rights of a new generation of Iraqis.

“I am calling on us to unify the Arab tribes because they support the young while the state does not,” she said.Since campaigning began on April 14, the images of the women have given rise to a range of reactions, from anger and mockery to adulation and pride.

“I will vote for one of the beautiful candidates and I do not mind if she has robbed me” Murtadha Zayer, a soldier, told Arab News. “If a beautiful thief robs me in front of my eyes it is better than having an ugly thief who continues to trick me all the time.”

Some of the pictures showing the female candidates have been torn by infuriated voters, while others have been defaced to give the women beards and mustaches.

Salah Ahmed, a political activist, criticized many of the women for lacking “cultural or political depth” and targeting “ignorant voters”.

“If we asked them to participate in electoral debates to identify their visions, plans and ways of thinking, we would find they had nothing to offer. So to compensate for this shortage they are focusing on their make-up and changes to their appearance,” he said.

Bushra Zuwini, a former minister of women’s affairs, told Arab News political factions are using female candidates who lack knowledge of important issues to trick the electorate.

“The big blocs now have experience in how to defraud voters, so they brought in new faces that do not understand politics and do not have any programs or visions,” she said. “This phenomenon will reflect negatively on women.