Egypt’s Jewish community backs country’s UNESCO candidate

Moushira Khattab
Updated 09 October 2017
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Egypt’s Jewish community backs country’s UNESCO candidate

CAIRO: The head of Egypt’s minuscule Jewish community has voiced support for Moushira Khattab, the country’s UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) candidate who has been criticized by Egyptian human rights activists.
But Khattab insists in her UNESCO candidacy statement that she will uphold freedoms enshrined in the agency’s values.
Intense diplomatic wrangling has marked the race among seven candidates to become the next UNESCO director general.
Khattab has shown an impressive and “genuine commitment to our cause to protect Egypt’s Jewish heritage,” said the statement from Magda Haroun, the Jewish community’s leader.
Egypt’s Jewish community is made up of six Jews, including Magda.
A US-educated longtime diplomat, Khattab is believed to be among the front-runners for the UNESCO top post. Voting is to begin on Monday in Paris.
Khattab is running to replace Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, UNESCO’s current director.
She is the second Egyptian candidate to seek UNESCO’s top post since 2009, when former Culture Minister Farouk Hosni ran.
In Egypt, Khattab has been criticized for not speaking up against some of the government’s policies.
But Haroun said Khattab is a “courageous woman who has the talent of successfully taking on challenging causes,” citing a 1990s campaigning for women’s rights when Kattab served as a top aide to the country’s first lady at the time, Suzanne Mubarak.
Khattab has also served as chairwoman of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood.
Other leading candidates include Qian Tang of China and Qatar’s former Culture Minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari.
Bokova’s tenure was marred by funding troubles and tension over its inclusion of Palestine as a member.
Arab countries have long wanted to lead the organization, though divisions over Palestinian membership have complicated their push.
Voting by UNESCO’s 58-member executive board is expected to continue through the week until a candidate wins a majority.
The choice then goes to the full UNESCO general assembly next month for final approval.
A top priority for the next director will be shoring up finances at UNESCO, best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions around the world.
The agency also works to improve education for girls in desperately poor countries and in scientific fields, promote better understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust, and defend media freedom, among other activities.
The US — once UNESCO’s biggest financial contributor — and Israel suspended UNESCO funding when its members voted to make Palestine a member state in 2011.
Many saw the vote as evidence of ingrained anti-Israel bias within the UN, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.
No. 2 UNESCO funder Japan then withheld its dues last year, saying it wanted to make sure UNESCO properly fosters trust among member nations — a decision widely viewed as a response to UNESCO’s listing of Chinese Rape of Nanking documents as a memory of the world. Japan disputes China’s historical views on the 1937 massacre, and a win for China in the director race could further jeopardize Japan’s financial contribution.
In interviews with The Associated Press, candidates insisted they would set aside national interests and lead UNESCO with neutrality.
But votes for the agency’s top job are routinely overshadowed by national and regional divisions.
Chinese candidate Qian said that “China does not want to replace the role of the United States.”
“I went to the State Department and I had a long discussion with officials there. I said ‘I really don’t think you Americans should give up your global responsibility especially in UNESCO,” he said.
“We need America.”


Daesh militants kill 7 US-backed fighters in Syria: commanders

Updated 26 March 2019
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Daesh militants kill 7 US-backed fighters in Syria: commanders

  • Manbij is a former Daesh stronghold that is now ruled by a military council affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces
  • Daesh has vowed to carry out revenge attacks against the SDF

BEIRUT: Daesh militants killed seven US-backed fighters in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, its military council said on Tuesday, days after the group’s “caliphate” was declared defeated.

Daesh has claimed the Manbij attack. Manbij is a former Daesh stronghold that is now ruled by a military council affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed Kurdish-led alliance which declared victory over Daesh in its last redoubt in eastern Syria on Saturday.
At around midnight (2200 GMT) on Monday, gunmen opened fire at fighters manning a checkpoint at the entrance to the city, killing seven, the council said.

“The caliphate’s soldiers attacked a checkpoint ... west of Manbij city last night,” said a statement published on the group’s social media channels.
Council spokesman Sherfan Darwish earlier said it could be a revenge attack by Daesh sleeper cells.
“After the victory over IS, we have entered the phase of sleeper cells,” Darwish said.
“These sleeper cells are being activated and carrying out attacks but we will foil their operations.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said the attack was probably the work of Daesh, which would make it “the first attack of its kind” since the SDF declared the defeat of the caliphate last week.
Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman said it was also the bloodiest attack in Manbij since January 16, when 19 people, including four US service personnel, were killed in a suicide bombing claimed by Daesh.
Daesh has vowed to carry out revenge attacks against the SDF for the six-month offensive which culminated in the militants’ defeat in the village of Baghouz, close to the Iraqi border, on Saturday.
The Observatory said hundreds of SDF members had been killed in attacks believed to have been carried out by Daesh sleeper cells since August.
Manbij is also a major point of contention between the Kurds, who lead the SDF, and neighboring Turkey, which is deeply opposed to their autonomous administration in northeastern and parts of northern Syria.
The city is one of the few areas west of the Euphrates that remains under Kurdish influence after Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies overran the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in March last year.
In December, Ankara threatened to launch a new offensive to dislodge the People’s Protection Units (YPG) — the Kurdish force that forms the backbone of the SDF — from the entire length of the border.
The YPG is considered a terrorist group by Ankara because of its links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the outlawed rebel group that has fought a deadly insurgency for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984.