40,000 displaced Yemenis stranded without aid in Aden: UN

A Yemeni child looks out of a window as food aid is distributed by a local charity at a camp for the displaced, in the northern province of Hajjah on Dec. 23, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 31 January 2018
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40,000 displaced Yemenis stranded without aid in Aden: UN

ADEN: The UN expressed concern on Wednesday for more than 40,000 displaced Yemenis who had sought refuge in second city Aden, only to find themselves caught in deadly fighting between troops and separatist militia.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said it had been unable to distribute aid since the southern separatists overran most of the city at the weekend opening up a new front in Yemen’s devastating three-year civil war.
“UNHCR emergency aid distributions and humanitarian assessments planned this week for vulnerable, displaced Yemenis have now been postponed and UNHCR humanitarian cargo remains at Aden port unable to be released,” the agency said on Twitter.
“We are also particularly concerned for those newly displaced in Aden who have fled other areas in Yemen. More than 40,000 people fled to Aden and nearby governorates since December and we anticipate more displacement as people continue to flee from hostilities in the west coast.”
The separatists, who had been in an uneasy alliance with the beleaguered government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, launched their assault in Aden on Sunday and swiftly overran his troops, laying siege to the presidential palace.
Aden has been the headquarters of Hadi’s ministers since 2015, when Shiite rebels overran the capital Sanaa and much of the north.
International charity Save the Children said on Tuesday that it too had been forced to suspend its work in Aden out of fear for the safety of its staff.
Even before the latest fighting, Yemen already faced the world’s most serious humanitarian crisis, with some 8.4 million of its 22.2 million population at risk of famine, according to the UN.


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 18 February 2019
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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.