Kuwait to host Iraq reconstruction summit

Destroyed buildings from clashes are seen in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq July 10, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 January 2018
0

Kuwait to host Iraq reconstruction summit

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait will host an international conference in February on the reconstruction of war-torn Iraq, in cooperation with the World Bank and private companies, it said Monday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah said that despite “past wounds” — a reference to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait — his country had a “moral, humanitarian and Arab” duty to support its neighbor.
“The stability of Iraq is the stability of Kuwait and the region,” he said.
Iraqi forces have regained swathes of territory from the Daesh group since the jihadists seized a third of Iraq and large parts of Syria in 2014.
In December, Baghdad declared victory over the group following three years of war.
The Kuwait conference, from February 12-14, will devote its second day to the role of the private sector and civil society organizations in reconstruction, Jarallah said.
Mehdi Al-Alaq, the secretary general of Iraq’s Council of Ministers, said Baghdad and the World Bank had estimated reconstruction would cost at least $100 billion (84 billion euros).
“ISIS displaced 5 million people,” he said, speaking alongside Jarallah in Kuwait City.
“We succeeded in returning half to their areas, but we need international support to return the rest of the displaced.”
The International Organization for Migration said last week that by the end of 2017, more than 3.2 million Iraqis had returned home, but 2.6 million remained displaced.
Nearly one third are reported to have returned to houses that have been significantly or completely damaged, it said.
Alaq said heavy damage had also affected oil, electricity, transport, communications and manufacturing infrastructure as well as basic services such as water and sanitation.
Some Iraqis have complained of delays by central authorities in launching reconstruction efforts.
Baghdad has argued that the world “owes” it a program similar to the United States’ multi-billion dollar post-war Marshall Plan for Europe.


Iran 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 15 min 29 sec ago
0

Iran 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.