UN political chief in Libya to push elections

UN undersecretary-general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman (C), UN special representative and head of the UN support mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Ghassan Salame (L) and undersecretary of the foreign ministry Lutfi Al-Maghrabi (R) attend a press conference in the Libyan capital Tripoli on January 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2018
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UN political chief in Libya to push elections

BENGHAZI: The United Nations’ political chief held talks on Thursday with the head of Libya’s parliament about elections to be held under a UN plan to stabilize the strife-ridden country.
Jeffrey Feltman, who is on a tour of Libya and Tunisia, traveled to the eastern town of Al-Qobba where the parliament is based for the meeting with speaker Aguila Saleh.
“The meeting, attended by the UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame, focused on the elections scheduled for this year,” said parliament spokesman Abdallah Bleheq.
The elections “should meet the expectations of the people and appease the various political actors,” he told AFP.
A 2015 UN-brokered deal that saw the establishment of a Government of National Accord was meant to calm years of chaos that followed the ouster of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
But Libya has remained mired in violent turmoil as the country is riven by divisions between the GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east.
On Wednesday in the capital, Feltman met Fayez Al-Sarraj, head of the internationally recognized GNA.
It is struggling to assert its authority across the country, especially because of the presence of a parallel administration in the east.
In September, the UN presented the plan to hold legislative and presidential elections by the end of 2018 as the GNA’s mandate neared the end of its two-year lifespan with no solution to the crisis in sight.
Analysts have expressed skepticism that elections will help end the bitter divisions, and say they could in fact increase tensions between Libya’s rival camps.
Feltman acknowledged on Wednesday that “credible elections will require an understanding in terms of political agreements” as well as new legislation and the necessary security conditions.
But he insisted the UN wants “to do our part in promoting the political, the security, the technical and the legislative condition to see that the Libyan people’s desire for these elections can be realized this year.”
In December, Haftar said he would support elections but also implied he would seize power if the polls did not occur.
Haftar — who never recognized the GNA’s authority — has insisted the unity government has lost all legitimacy after the expiry of the 2015 agreement at the end of last year.


Iraq: Yazidis to accept children of Daesh rape into community

Updated 2 min 26 sec ago
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Iraq: Yazidis to accept children of Daesh rape into community

IRBIL, Iraq: The children of Yazidi women raped by Daesh men will be welcomed into the minority faith, a community leader said Thursday, allowing women taken as slaves by the militant group to return to Iraq from Syria.
Eido Baba Sheikh, son of the Yazidi spiritual leader Baba Sheikh, said the children of the formerly enslaved women will be treated as members of the faith, resolving one of the most difficult questions facing the community since the Daesh group’s 2014 campaign to try to exterminate the minority. Thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual slavery when the extremists attacked Yazidi communities in northwestern Iraq.
But the community shunned the women returning from captivity with children, a reflection of the deeply held Yazidi traditions to view outsiders with suspicion as a response to centuries of persecution.
US-backed Kurdish forces defeated the last fragments of the Daesh group’s self-styled “caliphate” in Syria in March, raising the possibility that thousands of missing Yazidi women and children might be found and reunited with their families.
Still, some 3,000 Yazidis are still missing. Many of the children enslaved by militants in 2014 were separated from their parents and given to Daesh families for rearing. Boys were pressed into the militants’ cub scouts, given military training, and indoctrinated in extremist ideology.
Officials at the Beit Yazidi foundation in Kurdish-administered northeast Syria said Yazidi women with children who could have returned to Iraq were choosing to stay in Syria, instead, in order not to be separated from their children.
Other women gave their young ones up for adoption to find acceptance among their community.
The Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council issued a decree welcoming the survivors of slavery, and their children, into the Yazidi community, on Wednesday.
Murad Ismael, a founder of the global Yazidi charity Yazda, said it will nevertheless take time for the community in Iraq to accept the mothers and their children, because of the stigma of rape.
“It will take a couple of years for the community to digest this fully,” he said.
He said many women and children will have to seek resettlement in other countries, some to escape the stigma of their situation, and to find psychosocial services to heal after the trauma of slavery.
The community sent two representatives to search for Yazidi women and children in the camps in northeast Syria, where tens of thousands of civilians who survived the Daesh caliphate are waiting to be returned to their places of origin, said Eido Baba Sheikh.
He said it is believed that there could be Yazidi children among foreign or Daesh families in the camps, a result of the sale of Yazidis under the caliphate. Complicating the search will be that many of the children may have never learned to identify as Yazidis, or to speak Kurmanji, the language of the community. Women and older children may have started to identify with their captors, as well, confounding search efforts.
And though the community will recognize the children of Yazidi survivors as Yazidis, they will still face legal difficulties in Iraq, said Eido Baba Sheikh. Under the country’s family laws, a child is registered under the nationality and religion of their father, and it is unclear whether Iraq will allow Yazidi survivors to register their children as Iraqi Yazidis when there are questions about the children’s patrimony.
Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish regional government, asked for continued US support to allow Iraqis displaced by the war with IS to return to their homes, according to a State Department statement on a call between Barzani and Vice President Mike Pence.
Iraq’s Kurdish region hosts more than 1 million displaced people, including many of the 200,000 Yazidis forced to flee their homes when the Daesh militants attacked their communities in 2014.