Iraq hopes Kuwait conference will contribute towards its reconstruction

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah speaks during the Kuwait International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq on Feb 11, 2018 in Kuwait city. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Iraq hopes Kuwait conference will contribute towards its reconstruction

BAGHDAD: Iraq needs $22.9 billion in the short term and $65.4 billion in the medium term for reconstruction and recovery, the Iraqi minister of planning said on Monday.
The Iraqi government — backed by a US-led international coalition and Shiite-dominated paramilitaries — led a major military campaign to liberate vast swathes of the country which were seized by Daesh militants in June 2014.
That campaign officially ended in December when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi declared that the three-year war on Daesh was over, and that all Iraqi territory had been liberated.
However, the government now faces several challenges, including the reconstruction of the affected areas; ensuring the return of more than two million displaced people to their homes; establishing stability; and reconciling communities in former conflict areas.
The Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, hosted in coordination with the Iraqi government, began on Monday. Representatives from 70 countries and over 2,300 businesses are participating.
Iraq’s Minister of Planning Salman Al-Jumaili headed the opening session of the conference, which was devoted to reviewing the scale of the damage inflicted on various sectors of life in Iraq in the seven provinces affected by the insurgency — Nineveh, Anbar, Salhudeen, Baghdad, Babylon, Diyala and Kirkuk. Nineveh was the most-damaged province, Al-Jumaili said.
“The total damage to the seven provinces because of terrorist acts ... amounted to about 46 billion dollars,” Al-Jumaili said in a statement issued by his media office on Monday. “Add to that the total damages in the security sector, which amounted to 14 billion dollars and the value of losses on bank assets, which amounted to about 10 billion dollars.”
Housing was the worst-hit sector, suffering damage amounting to $16 billion — around 35 percent of the total damage. The energy, oil and gas sector suffered damage amounting to around $11 billion; the industrial and trade sector $5 billion; agriculture, more than $2 billion; education $2.4 billion; and the health sector $2.3 billion.
Iraq estimates the total damage caused by terrorism and the war on Daesh to amount to $88.2 billion. Baghdad hopes the conference will help attract international investment in Iraq and cover some of the cost of reconstruction.
 


Iran govt 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 govt 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.