Unprecedented challenges undermining Arab identity, says Jordan FM

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir holds talks in Amman with his counterparts from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. (SPA)
Updated 28 March 2017
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Unprecedented challenges undermining Arab identity, says Jordan FM

AMMAN: Arab foreign ministers on Monday embarked on discussions preceding the Arab Summit, due to start Wednesday.
They stressed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root cause of all regional conflicts, which are affecting global security and stability.
“We are witnessing unprecedented tough times, with the Arab region challenged by severe crises undermining Arab identity, Arab consensus and joint coordination,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday at the opening session.
“These challenges have been an obstacle to all development efforts, and deprived Arab citizens of an opportunity to have decent living standards,” he added.
“The lack of joint Arab coordination opened the door wide open for extremists to fill the gap and take the initiative to disseminate their evil ideology among Arab citizens and convert the Arab arena into a war zone.”
Safadi said this also allowed others to step in and interfere in Arab affairs, “decide on our behalf and take decisions that serve their own agendas.”
He added that despite differences, Arab states have much common ground on which they can base themselves in tackling the many issues facing the region, including the Palestinian cause, which remains the core issue in the Middle East.
He said Arabs agree on the need to address the Syrian crisis, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions.
Safadi added that only a political process can address the Syrian crisis and end the bloodshed wrought by six years of war.
A political solution should be based on UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2254 and the outcomes of Geneva negotiations, he said.
Safadi added that the Arab Summit will reaffirm its support for the legitimate Yemeni government, and agree on the need to solve the Yemeni conflict on the basis of UNSC resolutions, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative and the outcome of Yemeni national dialogue.
At the same time, “terrorism must be extracted from its roots. This plague has spread despair, misery and frustration among Arab citizens,” he said, stressing the importance of combating terrorism via revisiting the education system.
He cited UN reports that more than 12 million Arab children do not have access to proper education.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul Gheit, addressing the meeting, said: “The state of uncertainty among Arabs, driven by the crises plaguing our region, is a challenge that needs to be taken seriously. Millions have become displaced and refugees, scattered across the globe. Many have found safe haven in some Arab countries, such as Jordan and Lebanon, while many others are still waiting, unsure about their future.”
He added: “While we express our most sincere appreciation to the refugees’ host states, we need to stand in solidarity with those countries and share the heavy burden they have been sustaining, considering the huge pressure placed on the infrastructure of these countries resulting from hosting refugees.
“We should not keep dealing with crises hitting our region on an individual basis. We need to act collectively to address these problems instead of letting others run our affairs for us.”
Abul Gheit said the Arab League is suffering from a severe financial crisis, and urged Arab support to enable the organization to assume its duties and play a more effective role.
Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir held a meeting on the follow-up of the crisis with Iran and ways to address Tehran's interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries.
Al-Jubeir discussed with Stefan de Mistura, UN special envoy for Syria, the latest developments in the conflict.


Ex-child soldier presents damning testimony of Houthi recruitment in Yemen

Updated 22 June 2018
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Ex-child soldier presents damning testimony of Houthi recruitment in Yemen

  • Children who try to flee are recaptured and forced to continue fighting
  • The study shows 80 percent of child soldiers in Yemen begin fighting to earn much-needed money

JEDDAH: Children recruited as fighters by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen are beaten into submission and face psychological abuse, as well as the risk of death, injury and disability, a former child soldier said on Friday.
Those who try to flee are recaptured and forced to continue fighting, he told the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV).
The child’s testimony is part of a documentary about the recruitment of children in Yemen, which was broadcast during the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Legal expert Lisa Al-Badawi highlighted efforts to rehabilitate former child soldiers and children affected by the war in Yemen.
She said children make up a third of fighters in the Houthi militias, according to a field study by the Wethaq Foundation for Civil Orientation.
The study showed that 80 percent of child soldiers in Yemen begin fighting to earn much-needed money amid deteriorating economic conditions, while just 10 percent join Houthi ranks for “ideological reasons.”
Al-Badawi revealed numerous human rights violations faced by the recruits, including the risk of death and injury, deprivation of education, and exposure to sexual and psychological abuse.
She also discussed the methods used to treat and rehabilitate these children, emphasizing the importance of promoting awareness among parents.
She presented statistics on the areas covered by the rehabilitation process, which is carried out with support from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief).
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, said he is not surprised by the Houthis’ large-scale recruitment of children.
“By devious design, they push children onto the frontlines so that when the children become victims, the Houthis can cry foul and blame the legitimate Yemeni government for killing children,” he told Arab News.
“These are terrorist militias, and like all terrorists, they have no qualms about playing with the lives of children.”
It is easy for the militias to brainwash children, Al-Shehri said. “Grown people are difficult to convince, but children become easy prey,” he added.
“In most cases, the Houthis don’t even tell children that they’re going to the frontlines. They lure them by saying they’ll be helping their men.”
Now that the Houthis have been cornered in Hodeidah, they will use children and the civilian population as human shields, Al-Shehri said, asking: “What can we expect from such terrorists?”
Meanwhile, the Houthis have indicated they would be willing to hand over management of Hodeidah port to the UN, according to sources quoted by Reuters. The port is a principal entry point for relief supplies for Yemen.
This week, UN envoy Martin Griffiths has been in the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital Sanaa and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to try to negotiate a solution.
The source, quoted by Reuters, said the Houthis indicated that they would accept overall UN management and inspections of the port.
A Western diplomat said the UN would oversee income from the port and make sure it gets to Yemen’s central bank. The understanding is that Yemeni state employees will work alongside the UN.
Griffiths on Thursday said he was “encouraged by the constructive engagement” of the Houthis, and will be holding meetings with Yemen’s internationally backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Speaking earlier at the UN, Saudi Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi reiterated the Saudi-led coalition’s demand that the Houthis quit the city of Hodeidah entirely.
“What we are offering is for the Houthis to hand over their weapons to the government of Yemen and to leave, to leave peacefully, and to provide information about the locations of mines and improvised explosive devices,” he said.