French-Syrian contestant of ‘Voice France’ causes outrage with ‘terror tweets’

Mennel
Updated 07 February 2018
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French-Syrian contestant of ‘Voice France’ causes outrage with ‘terror tweets’

JEDDAH: It was her voice that first landed French-Syrian singer Mennel in the news.
The first contestant ever to wear a headscarf on the French version of popular TV talent show “The Voice” impressed the audience and judges alike with her English-, French- and Arabic-language rendition of talent-show staple, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in the show’s blind auditions, which screened last week.
However, her popularity has led to less-than-welcome scrutiny of her past social media activity. On Sunday, people began to draw attention to posts Mennel wrote in the aftermath of the terror attack in Nice on July 14, 2016, when 86 people were killed and hundreds injured as a truck deliberately plowed into the crowd during Bastille Day celebrations.
“It’s good it has become a routine, one attack a week! And to always remain faithful the ‘terrorist’ took his identity papers with him. It’s true that, when you’re planning a dirty move, you definitely don’t forget to take your papers,” she wrote the following day.
On Aug. 1, 2016, after the police announced they had identified the Tunisian Mohammed Lahouaiej as the driver of the truck, she added, “Our government are the real terrorists.”
Mennel’s newfound fame has now been accompanied by newfound exposure for her past tweets. And, predictably, outrage has followed, with many calling on the show’s producers to disqualify the 22-year-old singer, who was born in France to a Syrian-Turkish father and a Moroccan-Algerian mother.
Others, though, have questioned whether a white, non-Muslim contestant would have been subjected to the same level of scrutiny involved in trawling through two years of social media posts.
Mennel attempted to answer her critics, saying that her post-Nice posts have been taken out of context and do not reflect her true thoughts and feelings about her homeland.
“I was born in Besançon; I love France, I love my country. I obviously condemn terrorism firmly. That’s the reason for my anger. How could I even imagine defending the indefensible?” she said, adding “I advocate a message of love, peace, and tolerance, the proof is in my choice to sing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. This song perfectly illustrates the message I hope to transmit as an artist.”
Late Tuesday night, Mennel posted on Facebook that some of her relatives were in Nice on the night of the attack, close to where the truck drove into the crowd, and that she “was shocked, upset, and did not understand why this attack could not be prevented by the authorities,” adding that she apologized for the “shock” her messages may have caused and stressing that “two years later” she can see the “lack of reflection” in them.
Whether her explanations will convince the show’s producers remains to be seen.


South Sudan surgeon wins UN prize for treating war-hit refugees

Updated 25 September 2018
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South Sudan surgeon wins UN prize for treating war-hit refugees

  • South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has been ravaged by civil war since 2013 after clashes erupted between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar
  • At least 50,000 people have been killed and one in three South Sudanese have been uprooted from their homes

NAIROBI: A South Sudanese surgeon, who has spent two decades helping the sick and injured in the war-torn east African nation, was on Tuesday announced the winner of a UN prize for treating tens of thousands of people forced to flee violence and persecution.
Evan Atar Adaha — a 52-year-old doctor who runs the only hospital in northeastern Maban county — was given the 2018 Nansen Refugee Award for his “humanity and selflessness” where he often risked his safety to serve others, the UN said.
“I feel very humbled. I hope this award can help draw attention to the plight of refugees especially here in Africa where they are often forgotten about,” Adaha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
“You may hear and read about them, but it’s only when you are face-to-face with people who have left everything and are sick with malaria, or are malnourished, or have a bullet wound that you realize how desperate the need for help is.” Nansen Refugee Awardees are recognized by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) for dedicating their time to help people forced from their homes. Former awardees include Eleanor Roosevelt and Luciano Pavarotti.
South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has been ravaged by civil war since 2013 after clashes erupted between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.
The government recently signed a peace agreement with rebels, but the five-year-long war has had a devastating impact.
At least 50,000 people have been killed and one in three South Sudanese have been uprooted from their homes. The country also hosts around 300,000 refugees fleeing violence in neighboring Sudan, according to the UN.
Adaha, known locally as Dr. Atar, has been running Maban hospital — which was once an abandoned health clinic — in the northeastern town of Bunj since 2011.
When he first arrived, he said there was no operating theater and he had to stack tables to create a work area.
Over the years, he has transformed the hospital and created a maternity ward and nutrition center, as well as training young people as nurses and midwives.
The 120-bed hospital now serves around 200,000 people living in Maban county — 70 percent of whom are refugees from Sudan — and conducts about 60 operations weekly but under very difficult circumstances.
Adaha said the only x-ray machine is broken, the operating theater has only one light, and electricity is provided by generators that often break down.
Although the hospital receives support from UNHCR, Adaha said a lack of funds remains his biggest challenge to treating everyone who needs help. “In the hospital, we will treat anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a rebel, government soldier, refugee or a local person. We have pregnant women, malnourished children and even people who are wounded by bullets,” Adaha said.
“The one rule we have is that no weapons are allowed in the hospital. If you bring a weapon, then we will not treat you. Sometimes it is difficult, but most people now agree.”
The Nansen Refugee Award ceremony takes place on Oct. 1 in Geneva, and the winner will receive $150,000 to fund a project complementing their work.