UAE mourns loss of five diplomats in Afghan violence as toll hits 57

The violence highlights the precarious security situation in Afghanistan. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2017
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UAE mourns loss of five diplomats in Afghan violence as toll hits 57

JEDDAH/KANDAHAR: The killing of five diplomats from the UAE in a bombing in southern Afghanistan marks the deadliest attack ever for the young nation’s diplomatic corps, though it’s too soon to tell who was behind it or if the Gulf envoys were even the targets.
The UAE said it would fly the nation’s flag at half-staff for three days in honor of the dead from the attack Tuesday in Kandahar.
Afghan security officials began investigating Tuesday’s attacks in Kabul and Kandahar as the death toll climbed to 57.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the brutal attacks, which hit a number of Afghan cities in contradiction with the Islamic values.
During a telephone call to the UAE leadership, the monarch paid condolences and expressed solidarity with the Afghan leaders, people and families of the victims, wishing the injured a quick recovery. 
Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the UAE prime minister and vice president, offered condolences for the families of the dead and condemned the attack. “There is no human, moral or religious justification for the bombing and killing of people trying to help” others, he wrote on Twitter.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke by telephone with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, expressing condolences and stressing the need to redouble efforts to counter terrorism, a statement said. Ghani’s national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, traveled to Kandahar on Wednesday to launch an investigation.
The UN, meanwhile, condemned the “unprincipled, unlawful and deplorable attacks,” which it said would make peace more difficult to achieve.
“Those responsible for these attacks must be held accountable,” said Pernille Kardel, the UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan.
The Taliban denied planting the bomb, even as the insurgents claimed other blasts Tuesday. No other group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Kandahar, a province in Afghanistan’s Taliban heartland.
The bomb targeted a guesthouse of Kandahar Gov. Homayun Azizi, who was wounded in the assault along with UAE Ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah Al-Kaabi.
The attack killed 11 people and wounded 18, said Gen. Abdul Razeq, Kandahar’s police chief, who was praying nearby at the time of the blast.
Razeq said investigators believe someone hid the bomb inside a sofa at the guesthouse. He said an ongoing construction project there may have allowed militants to plant the bomb.
“Right now we cannot say anything about who is behind this attack,” he said, while adding that several suspects had been arrested.
On Wednesday, broken glass from the powerful blast still littered the blood-stained ground outside of the guesthouse, with thick black soot still visible on the building. Some furniture sat outside, apparently moved as part of the construction.
Afghan authorities said the dead included two lawmakers, a deputy governor from Kandahar and an Afghan diplomat stationed at its embassy in Washington.
The attack inside the heavily guarded compound represents a major breach of security, even in Afghanistan, a country long torn by war.
— With inputs from Reuters, AP


Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

An Asian domestic worker walks her employer's dog in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, on April 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 34 min 24 sec ago
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Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

  • Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come

BEIRUT: Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Lebanon to end what it described as an “inherently abusive” migration sponsorship system governing the lives of tens of thousands of foreigners working in private homes.
Domestic workers in Lebanon are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers’ sponsorship under the so-called “kafala” system.
But activists say this leaves the maids, nannies and carers at the mercy of their employers and unable to leave without their permission, including in numerous documented cases of abuse.
“Amnesty International is calling on the Lebanese authorities to end the kafala system and extend labor protections to migrant domestic workers,” the London-based rights group said.
“The Lebanese parliament should amend the labor law to include domestic workers under its protection,” including to allow them to join unions, the group said.
Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers from countries in Africa and Asia, the vast majority of them women.
In a report released Wednesday titled “Their house is my prison,” Amnesty surveyed 32 domestic workers employed mostly in and around Beirut, revealing “alarming patterns of abuse.”
Among them, 10 women said they were not allowed to leave their employer’s house, with some saying they were locked in.
Twenty-seven said their employers had confiscated their passports.
Many worked overtime, 14 were not allowed a single day off each week, and several had their monthly salaries revoked or decreased, despite it being a breach of their contracts.
The labor ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language they cannot read.
The government in late 2018 said it had translated the contracts into several other languages.
Amnesty registered eight cases of forced labor and four of human trafficking, the report said.
Six reported severe physical abuse, while almost all had been subjected to humiliating treatment and several were deprived of food.
“Sometimes I would get so hungry... I used to mix water with sugar when I was hungry and drink it,” one worker said.
With the abuse taking a toll on their mental health, six said they had contemplated or attempted suicide.
Only four of those interviewed had private rooms, while the rest were relegated to living rooms, storage rooms, kitchens or balconies.
“There is a man in the house who can enter the living room any time he wants,” said one worker who was forced to sleep in the living room.
Activists accuse the Lebanese authorities of being lax in bringing abusive employers to account.
Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come.
In 2008, Human Rights Watch found that migrant domestic workers in Lebanon were dying at a rate of more than one per week from suicide or in failed escapes.
Many other countries in the Arab world also follow the “kafala” system for household workers.