UNESCO Hebron resolution positive world signal to Palestinians: Experts

A woman stands outside the old market of the divided West Bank city of Hebron. (AFP)
Updated 09 July 2017
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UNESCO Hebron resolution positive world signal to Palestinians: Experts

AMMAN: A UN agency’s designatation of Hebron’s Old City in the occupied West Bank as a World Heritage site has been welcomed by Palestinians.
Although UNESCO’s final resolution emphasized the importance of the site to Jews, Christians and Muslims, it was totally rejected by Israel.
Israel, a supposedly secular state, opposed the resolution, passed 12-3 with six abstentions, using only religious-laden terminologies. From prime minister to president, to defense minister, the attack focused on a claim that the resolution was “anti-semitic.”
The site where Abraham, who is the father of the three monotheistic religions, and his family are buried is in the heart of the Palestinian territories that are illegally occupied by Israel. The UNESCO heritage committee resolved that the old city of Hebron/Al-Khalil was a world heritage site in danger.
PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the UNESCO resolution, telling Arab News she was happy with the “important decision that is part of the incremental effort aimed at curbing Israeli attempts of theft and destruction of our sites, and the collective character of Palestine.” Ashrawi said Israel had been trying to “impose a monolithic reality on historical Palestine.”
Rula Ma’ayah, Palestinian minister of tourism, told Arab News in a phone interview that the UNESCO resolution was passed despite extreme pressure on member states.
“The fact that it was passed overwhelmingly, despite being held in secret, shows how deep the international will is on this issue.” Ma’ayah said the decision would improve Palestinians’ morale. “We feel that we are not alone now and that there is an international body that is also concerned about the preservation of this historical site.”
Hebron Gov. Kamel Hamed told Arab News the resolution showed that Hebron is important to the whole world. “With its cultural and human heritage, this decision shows that Hebron is important to the entire world and not just Palestinians,” Hamed said.
Khaled Qawasmi, an elected member of the Hebron City Council, said he hoped that the Hebron Municipality and the committee to rebuild Hebron would “take good care of this heritage and act in a unified way to ensure its preservation for future generations.”
Nayef Hashlamoun, president of Al-Watan Center, described the decision as “a signal” of world support to the Palestinian people. “This is a just and human resolution which stresses the Arab identity of Hebron with its heritage, culture, building and history.”
Hashlamoun, who also presides over the UNESCO Club in Hebron, said, “Putting Hebron on the world heritage endangered list supports peace and opposes violence and terror.”


Iran govt faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

Since protests began in December, Iranians have had their internet access disrupted and have lost access to the messaging app Telegram. (Reuters)
Updated 18 February 2019
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Iran govt faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

  • The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government

GENEVA, LONDON: In early January, labor activist Esmail Bakhshi posted a letter on Instagram saying he had been tortured in jail, attracting support from tens of thousands of Iranians online.
Bakhshi, who said he was still in pain, also challenged the intelligence minister to a public debate about the religious justification for torture. Late last month, Bakhshi was rearrested.
Sepideh Qoliyan, a journalist covering labor issues in the Ahvaz region, was also rearrested on the same day after saying on social media that she had been abused in jail.
Bakhshi’s allegations of torture and the social media furor that followed led Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to call for an investigation, and the intelligence minister subsequently met with a parliamentary committee to discuss the case, a rare example of top officials being prompted to act by a public backlash online.
“Each sentence and description of torture from the mouths of #Sepideh_Qoliyan and #Esmail_Bakhshi should be remembered and not forgotten because they are now alone with the torturers and under pressure and defenseless. Let us not forget,” a user named Atish posted on Twitter in Farsi on Feb. 11.
“When thousands of people share it on social media, the pressure for accountability goes up,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director at the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran. “Sham investigations won’t put it to rest. Social media is definitely becoming a major, major public square in Iran.”
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said last month, without naming Bakhshi, that allegations of torture online constitute a crime.
His comments follow growing pressure from officials to close Instagram, which has about 24 million users in Iran. Iran last year shut down the Telegram messaging app, which had about 40 million users in the country, citing security concerns.
“Today you see in cyberspace that with the posting of a film or lie or rumor the situation in the country can fall apart,” Dolatabadi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. “You saw in recent days that they spread a rumor and announced the rape of an individual or claimed suicide and recently you even saw claims of torture and all the powers in the country get drawn in. Today cyberspace has been transformed into a very broad platform for committing crimes.”
The arrests of Bakhshi and Qoliyan are part of a crackdown in Ahvaz, center of Iran’s Arab population. Hundreds of activists there pushing for workers’ and minority rights, two of the most contentious issues in Iran, have been detained in recent weeks.
The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government.