Manila lauds swift rescue of Filipinos kidnapped in Iraq

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir. File photo courtesy: DFA
Updated 09 July 2018
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Manila lauds swift rescue of Filipinos kidnapped in Iraq

  • The Embassy estimated that there are 4,000 Filipinos working in Iraq, with around 3,000 based in the Kurdistan region
  • The DFA continues to work to secure the release of three Filipino technicians abducted in Libya during the weekend

MANILA: The Philippines confirmed on Monday that the two Filipino women abducted in Iraq last week have been rescued and some of their captors arrested.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano expressed gratitude to authorities in Iraq for the swift and successful rescue of the two Filipinos who were reportedly seized by armed men last Friday.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Iraqi authorities informed the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad on Sunday that the two were under police custody after they were rescued in Diyala Province, north of the capital, on Saturday.
“We thank God for the successful rescue of our two kababayan (countrymen),” Cayetano said after he was informed of the development.
“Their safe recovery would not have been possible without the swift response of our Iraqi friends and for that we are very grateful.”
Citing a report from Chargé d’Affaires Julius Torres, the DFA said the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad was informed by authorities in Diyala province that the two were rescued from members of a criminal group who forcibly took them.
Torres said Iraqi authorities told the embassy that several members of the group had been arrested during the police rescue operation and that charges were being prepared against them.
Torres said the embassy has requested Iraqi authorities access to the two rescued women and the two other Filipinos who were earlier reported to have been taken into custody after escaping from the same armed men.
Earlier reports indicate that the four Filipinos came from Irbil in the northern Kurdistan region and were on their way to Baghdad when their vehicle broke down along the highway in Uzem District between Kirkuk and Diyala where they encountered armed men in a yellow car.
The women were then forcibly taken by the armed men after their driver abandoned their vehicle. However, two of the four women were reportedly able to escape.
Torres said the Embassy would request custody of the four women as soon as the police investigation is concluded so that they can immediately be repatriated.
A DFA official said they could not release the names of the four women without consent of their next of kin.
The Embassy estimated that there are 4,000 Filipinos working in Iraq, with around 3,000 based in the Kurdistan region.
Reports note that there has been a surge in violence and abduction incidents by remnants of Daesh since Iraq declared victory over the terror group last year.
Meanwhile, the DFA continues to work to secure the release of three Filipino technicians abducted in Libya during the weekend. The Philippine Embassy in Tripoli said the three Filipinos were among four foreign nationals taken by armed men from a waterworks project site Friday.
Chargé d’Affaires Mardomel Melicor said armed men entered the construction site located 500 kilometers from Tripoli early morning Friday and took five foreigners and four Libyans from their quarters.
Melicor said the armed men later released one of the foreign workers and all the Libyans.
Earlier reports indicate that apart from the three Filipinos, a South Korean national was also abducted by the armed men during the raid at the water plant south of the capital of Tripoli.
Reports further state that kidnapping has become a lucrative trade in Libya amid the breakdown of authority.
The DFA has likewise declined to release the names of the three Filipinos abducted in Libya without the approval of their families.


Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

Updated 30 min 6 sec ago
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Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

  • Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas
  • The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative nation of 160 million people

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Dozens of protesters gathered in Bangladesh’s capital on Friday to demand justice for an 18-year-old woman who died after being set on fire for refusing to drop sexual harassment charges against her Islamic school’s principal.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas. When she refused, she said her hands were tied and she was doused in kerosene and set alight.
Rafi told the story to her brother in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and he recorded her testimony on his mobile phone. She died four days later in a Dhaka hospital with burns covering 80% of her body.
The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people where sexual harassment and violence are often unreported, victims are intimidated and the legal process is often lengthy. Many avoid reporting to police because of social stigma.
“We want justice. Our girls must grow up safely and with dignity,” Alisha Pradhan, a model and actress, told The Associated Press during Friday’s demonstration. “We protest any forms of violence against women, and authorities must ensure justice.”
Tens of thousands of people attended Rafi’s funeral prayers in Feni, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised Rafi’s family when they met in Dhaka that those responsible would be punished.
At least 17 people, including students, have been arrested in connection with the case, said Banaj Kumar Majumder, the head of the Police Bureau of Investigation.
In late March, Rafi filed a complaint with police that the principal of her madrasa, or Islamic school, had called her into his office and touched her inappropriately and repeatedly. Her family agreed to help her to file the police complaint, which prompted police to arrest the principal, infuriating him and his supporters. Influential local politicians backed the principal, and ruling party members were also among the arrested.
Police said the arrested suspects told them during interrogations that the attack on Rafi was planned and ordered by the school’s principal from prison when his men went to see him. It was timed for daytime so that it would look like a suicide attempt, Majumder said.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Rafi’s family said that they had received death threats before the attack telling them to drop the case.
While Rafi’s case is now being treated with urgency, that wasn’t the case until her death.
A video taken on March 27 while Rafi reported the assault shows the local police chief registering her complaint but telling her that the incident was “not a big deal.” The chief was later removed from the police station for negligence in dealing with the case.
For Bangladeshi women, it is often not easy to file sensitive complaints with police. Victims often fear further harassment and bullying. Police also often show an unwillingness to investigate such cases and are often accused of being influenced by local politics or bribes.
But the call for dealing with violence against women, especially related to sexual harassment and assault, is also getting louder.
“The horrifying murder of a brave woman who sought justice shows how badly the Bangladesh government has failed victims of sexual assault,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s death highlights the need for the Bangladesh government to take survivors of sexual assault seriously and ensure that they can safely seek a legal remedy and be protected from retaliation.”