Tensions rise within Yemen’s alliance of insurgents

A Yemeni man sticks posters bearing the portrait of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh on his car ahead of celebrations for the 35th year anniversary of the establishment of the former president's party, General People's Congress, in the capital Sanaa on August 19, 2017. (AFP / Mohammed Huwais)
Updated 21 August 2017
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Tensions rise within Yemen’s alliance of insurgents

SANAA, Yemen: A long-simmering power struggle between Yemen’s Shiite insurgents and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has burst into the open, threatening to undermine their alliance against the internationally-recognized government and its Saudi-led Coalition backers.
Armed men suspected of links to the rebels on Sunday tore up poster portraits of Saleh and his son and one-time heir Ahmed in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital.
The vandalism took place in a part of the city where Saleh’s Popular Conference party is due to hold celebrations on Thursday marking the 35th anniversary of its founding. Adding to the tension, an unusually high number of armed men could be seen in Sanaa on Sunday, fueling fears that the two sides may clash on the streets of the capital.
Saleh has complained that the rebels, known as Houthis, have sidelined him and his loyalists, leaving them out of military and political decisions, as well as UN-sponsored negotiations to end Yemen’s civil war.
Rebel leader Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi made thinly-veiled charges against Saleh and his loyalists late Saturday, saying his rebels have been “stabbed in the back while fighting the enemy in good faith.”
Without mentioning Saleh or forces loyal to him by name, he suggested that they were not fighting pro-government forces in earnest.
“Look who is on the front lines? Visit the graves (of fallen fighters) to see who is buried there and where they come from?” he said.
In a recorded address scheduled to be broadcast later on Sunday, Saleh dismissed the charges and complained of what he called the domination of decision-making by the Houthis’ Revolutionary Committees instead of the National Salvation government the two sides have jointly set up.
The rift between the Houthis and Saleh adds another layer to the vexing complexities of Yemen’s ruinous civil war.
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014, when the Houthis and their allies swept down from the country’s north and captured Sanaa. The Saudi-led coalition has waged a blistering air campaign since March 2015, seeking to dislodge the Houthis and restore the internationally recognized government, which has been confined to the southern port city of Aden for the past two years.
The war has killed over 10,000 civilians, displaced 3 million people, and pushed the country to the brink of famine. An outbreak of cholera has killed 2,000 people and infected an estimated 500,000, according to the UN’s World Health Organization.


Migrants in Lebanon seek to break stereotypes with new radio show

Updated 18 July 2018
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Migrants in Lebanon seek to break stereotypes with new radio show

  • Migrant domestic workers can be treated like they are invisible, and this radio show can change the way they are perceived by illustrating and highlighting the multi-faceted dimensions of their identities and lives
  • Projects like the Lebanese radio program could be used across the region to change attitudes toward migrants

BEIRUT: Since arriving in Lebanon, Sudanese migrant worker Abdallah Afandi has been turned away from beach resorts, mistaken for a cleaner and prevented from renting an apartment — all because of the color of his skin.
Now he is hoping to challenge the “racism and prejudice” he says he has encountered by taking part in Lebanon’s first radio show to be hosted and produced by migrants from countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Philippines.
The aim is to give Lebanese people a greater understanding about where migrants come from to create the tolerance and respect that local migrant rights groups say is lacking.
“Many Lebanese see Sudanese only as cleaners and workers — we want them to see us in a different way,” Afandi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The 27-year-old came to Lebanon seven years ago when he no longer felt safe in his home of Darfur in western Sudan, where conflict had raged since 2003.
He now earns a living preparing food in a restaurant and doing maintenance work in a Beirut residential building.
Afandi’s episode is one of a series airing on Voice of Lebanon, a popular independent radio station, featuring migrants talking about their own food and culture as well as the issues they face in Lebanon.
In it, he and two other Sudanese migrants discuss their country’s pyramids and interview Sudan’s ambassador to Lebanon on migrant rights.
“I want to use my voice so that people in Lebanon understand where I come from, my culture, music, food — so they will look beyond what I do for a living, and the color of my skin,” he said.
KAFALA
Migrant workers in Lebanon and much of the Middle East work under the kafala sponsorship system, which binds them to one employer.
Rights groups have blamed the system for abuse of migrant workers and say it leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by denying them the ability to travel or change jobs.
Race is also a factor — last month two Kenyan women migrant workers suffered an attack that Lebanon’s justice minister condemned as “shocking” and “abhorrently racist” after footage of them being beaten was circulated on social media.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said projects like the Lebanese radio program could be used across the region to change attitudes toward migrants.
“This radio show is a brilliant example to be replicated across the region, and to bring attention to stories ‘by migrants’,” said spokeswoman Farah Sater Ferraton.

’NOT FOREIGN’
The show — whose name “Msh gharib” means “not foreign” in Arabic — has been in the works since 2017 and was created by the Anti-Racism Movement, a local non-government organization, with the help of migrants from the community center it runs.
“The title of the show really communicates its purpose — migrants are not ‘the other’. Their voices and stories shouldn’t be ‘foreign’ to Lebanese,” said Laure Makarem, spokeswoman for the center.
“Migrant domestic workers can be treated like they are invisible, and this radio show can change the way they are perceived by illustrating and highlighting the multi-faceted dimensions of their identities and lives.”
The 15 episodes will air in the next few months and are mainly in Arabic, with small sections in the hosts’ native language — particularly when talking about their rights in Lebanon.
Tarikwa Bekele, a 33-year-old domestic worker, is working on one episode with fellow Ethiopians, who make up the biggest migrant group in Lebanon at more than 100,000 people.
They are planning to talk about Ethiopian traditions, famous athletes and a famous model in the hope of showing Lebanese that Ethiopians are not “just working in houses and cleaning bathrooms,” said Bekele.
“There are so many Ethiopians working in Lebanon,” said Bekele. “Once they can see that we are like them — like any other country — I think they will treat us better. Treat us with respect.”

Funding for this story was supported by a fellowship run by the International Labour Organization and the Ethical Journalism Network.