Iraq scouts make comeback in ex-extremist bastion Mosul

Iraqi scout leaders parade with national flags during training at the "Al-Hadbaa" scout camp in the northern city of Mosul on February 25, 2018, with the participation of scout teams from various parts of Iraq. (AFP)
Updated 03 April 2018
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Iraq scouts make comeback in ex-extremist bastion Mosul

  • The scouts of Mosul and Iraq are back
  • Iraq was one of the first Arab countries to join the World Organization of the Scout Movement in 1914
MOSUL: Scouts are making a symbolic comeback in Mosul after a three-year absence from the city that used to serve as Daesh’s capital in Iraq.
With white shirts and neckerchiefs, more than 200 male and female scout leaders from across Iraq recently converged on the city that was devastated by three years of extremists rule and nine months of heavy urban warfare.
It was “a message to Iraq and the world: The scouts of Mosul and Iraq are back,” Mohammed Ibrahim, head of scout activities in Mosul, told AFP.
The rally took place at Mosul’s scout camp set in the heart of a wooded area popular with locals for family outings on Fridays, the weekly day of rest in Iraq.
Iraq was one of the first Arab countries to join the World Organization of the Scout Movement in 1914 when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire.
But in 1999, the world scout body evicted the Iraqi chapter because it was allegedly being used by former dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime for military training.
But the Iraqi scouts kept operating.
In 2017, they were readmitted into the international scouting world and have since grown to 25,000 members across the country.
Loudspeakers blasted nationalist songs at full volume as children from local schools paraded in traditional Iraqi dress at the Mosul rally.
For Qassima Mohsen, a 42-year-old scout leader in the southern province of Zi Qar, the 800-kilometer (500-mile) trip to Mosul had both symbolic and personal value.
In the early 2000s, she used to come regularly to Mosul’s scout camp for gatherings.
More than 15 years later — after the US-led invasion, the fall of Saddam, years of sectarian violence, the jihadist occupation of nearly a third of the country and its subsequent recapture by Iraqi forces — she is back.
With the ouster of the extremists from Mosul last July, she has returned to the northern city to help build an activities center for young scouts in the area.
The rally also provided a space for leaders and organizers from across the country to network and discuss future projects.
“We will organize camps in Mosul to lend a hand with its reconstruction,” said Ali Latif, a 34-year-old scout leader from Kirkuk, a multi-ethnic northern province.


France urged to suspend boat delivery to Libya over migrant concerns

Updated 25 April 2019
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France urged to suspend boat delivery to Libya over migrant concerns

  • The demand was laid out in a legal challenge that was filed at the administrative court in Paris on Thursday morning

PARIS: Eight international NGOs including Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) demanded on Thursday that France suspend the delivery of boats to Libya’s coast guard on concerns they would be used to intercept migrants.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly had in February agreed to donate six boats to the Libyan navy, under which the coast guard operates, in a move she said was aimed at helping them “in the fight against illegal immigration.”

But the offer angered rights groups who said they would be used to block migrant boats seeking to reach Europe, forcing those on board to return to war-torn Libya.

The demand was laid out in a legal challenge that was filed at the administrative court in Paris on Thursday morning.

In it, the groups demand “the suspension of the decision” until the court decides whether or not the donation is legal. The court has 48 hours to make a decision.

The NGOs believe forcing people to return to Libya would expose them to “serious human rights violations.” Massimo Moratti, regional director for research at Amnesty International, said the pledge to deliver boats to the Libyan coast guard was “an unlawful and reckless decision.”

He said it was all the more dangerous at a time when fighting has intensified after Eastern commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the capital Tripoli earlier this month.

“Doing it now, as the armed conflict in Libya escalates, is even more callous and irresponsible,” Moratti said in a statement, warning the donation would make France “complicit” in trapping people inside the country.

The NGOs accused the coast guard of having a bad track record in respecting those in distress at sea, saying it should not be given the logistical means to step up such abuses.

The statement accused the coast guard of abuses including pushing those in distress back into the water, threatening them with weapons and firing toward them.

The six vessels, which are to be delivered in the coming weeks, are 12-meter, semi-rigid boats made by French specialist Sillinger.

Besides Amnesty and MSF, the legal petition was joined by France’s Human Rights League, immigrant support group GISTI, Lawyers Without Borders, migrant aid groups La Cimade and Migreurop and Italian research and aid group ASGI.