Fact-finding team presents results of 7 incidents in Yemeni conflict

Mansour Al-Mansour said that JIAT stands at a same distance from all parties to the Yemeni conflict. (SPA)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Fact-finding team presents results of 7 incidents in Yemeni conflict

  • JIAT joins organizations rejecting violations that happen during the military operations: Al-Mansour
  • JIAT is independent and impartial: Al-Mansour

RIYADH: The spokesman of the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) in Yemen, legal consultant Mansour Bin Ahmed Al-Mansour, stressed that the team abides by transparency in announcing the results of engagement in Yemen.
This came in a news conference Al-Mansour held on Tuesday at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh for assessing several incidents. JIAT found that the Coalition Forces were not responsible for the incidents reported.
Al-Mansour reviewed several cases. They included the civilian fishing boat incident along the Yemeni coast in the Red Sea. which according to the Red Cross took place on Feb. 22, 2017. The Red Cross said the Coalition carried out attacks on civilians’ fishing boats along the Yemeni coast in the Red Sea, where two helicopters intercepted two fishing boats two nautical miles from Yakhtul coast. One of the helicopters targeted one of the boats, causing one death and two injuries.
However, JIAT investigations revealed that the Coalition Forces did not conduct any mission there on that date. Therefore, the Coalition Forces did not target the two fishing boats on the Yemeni coast.
The JIAT also investigated an incident in which the Coalition Air Forces on July 7, 2015 targeted Alwaht Mosque in Lahj Governorate, causing the deaths of 10 people and injured 15 others, according to the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In this instance the JIAT found that the closest target was 7km south of the Alwaht Mosque, which is north of Alwaht city.
The Coalition Air Forces carried out an air mission on a legitimate military target connected with the Houthi-armed militia, 300m away from the claimed location. After reviewing the satellite images of the coordinate given by the HCHR, it shows a destroyed building before April 15, 2015 — almost two months before the claimed date.
On investigating, JIAT found out that the Coalition Forces did not target Alwaht Mosque and that the procedures of the Coalition were carried out in accordance with the international humanitarian law and its customary rules.
Human Rights Watch also stated that the Coalition Forces at 10:50 p.m. on May 5, 2015 dropped three bombs on the Cultural Center and a vicinity house in Sa’dah, killing 28 people and injuring three others. Twenty-seven of these people were from one family. JIAT verified the incident, examined all related documents, and found that the Cultural Center was used for Maseerh FM to broadcast military news of the Houthi-armed militia in addition to broadcasting radio interviews with the Houthi leaders.
Based on that, the Cultural Center lost the legal protection of civilians because of the use of military actions and it was considered a legitimate military target.
Regarding the report issued by the Human Rights Watch in relation to the houses in Yarim, Ibb Directorate, which stated that an airstrike at 2 a.m. on July 19, 2015 caused the death of at least 16 civilians and injured 16 others in Yarim town, 120km from South Sana’a.
JIAT verified the incident, examined all related documents and assessed all gathered evidence. JIAT found that the Coalition Forces did not conduct any air missions on the day of the claim in Yarim town.
Human Rights Watch also stated that the Coalition Air Forces at 4:15 p.m. on May 12, 2015 targeted SHajjea Market with no fewer than five bombs, causing the death of 60 civilians and injuring at least 155 others.
JIAT found that there were no air missions throughout the governorate of Alhudeidah on the day claimed May 12, 2015, nor on the previous or following days. In light of that, JIAT found that the Coalition Air Forces did not target SHajjea Market in Zabid town.
Al-Mansour also announced the findings of investigations into what was broadcast in the media and the statement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, that the Coalition Forces carried out an airstrike on a wedding in Bani Qais Directorate, Hajjah governorate on April 22, 2018. Initial investigations indicated that the two airstrikes killed at least 19 civilians, and 50 others were injured, most of them children. Also the airstrikes destroyed a wedding tent in a civilian house while the victims were celebrating a wedding.
Intelligence reports from Yemen indicated the presence of foreign ballistic missile experts, one a known Houthi leader, in a specific location in Hajjah governorate, which confirmed the previous information of the Coalition Forces about the arrival of foreign ballistic missile experts in Yemen through Alhudaydah port. Furthermore, seven ballistic missiles fired on Saudi Arabia were executed from Hajjah governorate.
JIAT reviewed the video recordings of the executed mission and could not verify the presence of a wedding tent in the targeted area. Also there were no indications of any ceremony gatherings in the targeted location.
JIAT also found that some of the rules of engagement were not followed to minimize collateral damages to the claimed tent as a result of targeting the building. JIAT recommends legal procedures should be taken against those responsible, and provides assistance for the damage and losses resulting from this mission.
A report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stated that there were two airstrikes on Sa’ada at 11:50 a.m. on April 9, 2018. One hit a welding workshop on Bin Salman road and the other hit the Higher Institute of Medical Science in Al Salam Hospital complex, causing the death of three civilians and injuring 19 others, some of them children. 
In light of that, JIAT found that the ICRC report was not correct about the two airstrikes on the welding workshop and the Higher Institute of Medical Science, and that the procedures of the Coalition Forces in targeting the legitimate military target were carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law and its customary rules. JIAT also recommended that voluntary assistance be provided for the loss of the welding workshop.
Al-Mansour pointed out that the JIAT reports on realistic, clear and documented evidence, not on what is published in the social media, and that the Group formed a single system for the protection of human rights and the reduction of violations associated with military operations.


Now read this: How Saudi Arabia is aiming to end illiteracy by 2024

Updated 21 November 2018
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Now read this: How Saudi Arabia is aiming to end illiteracy by 2024

  • The Ministry of Education has introduced programs to boost the Kingdom’s literacy rate to 100 percent
  • International group says it’s a role model to others trying to do the same worldwide literacy by 2030

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s goal to eradicate illiteracy has been applauded by international experts and educational bodies, who say the Kingdom is a role model for countries in the Arab world, where more than a quarter of women, men and children are unable to read or write.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia pledged to raise its literacy rate from 94.4 percent to 100 percent by 2024, and experts say the Kingdom can now play a major part in helping to eradicate illiteracy in the wider region.
According to the Project Literacy alliance, a coalition of charities and businesses, illiteracy is a major barrier to worldwide economic development, costing at least
$1 trillion (SR3.75 trillion) per year. It says that today about 750 million adults worldwide are unable to read or write.
“If the Kingdom is able to make the investment to eradicate illiteracy in their country, it will be a great example to other countries in the Arab world, and worth sharing best practices and the model they used for their success,” Alesha Anderson, senior program officer for ProLiteracy, another advocacy group, told Arab News.
Anderson hailed the Kingdom’s efforts to boost literacy rates, especially the country’s projects to tackle adult illiteracy. According to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education (MOE), the current literacy rate was achieved by boosting enrolment in thousands of schools, vocational colleges and universities, with the aim of achieving 100 percent literacy by 2024.
Among its many initiatives, the MOE has rolled out adult education centers across the Kingdom, introduced lifelong learning initiatives, neighborhood learning programs, educational and literacy campaigns in remote areas of the country and implemented financially based reward programs to work toward an illiteracy-free society.
The government has also granted $51 billion to the education sector in 2018 as part of Vision 2030, its ambitious program to reduce economic dependency on oil sales. Since launching the Adult Education and Literacy System in 1972, and the General Secretariat for Adult Education and Literacy in 1977, the country has seen illiteracy rates fall from 60 percent in 1972 to 5.6 percent in 2018.
“Having a 100 percent literacy rate is ambitious, but when a government makes a commitment to address adult literacy issues in their country, we are excited as adults can often be left out of the national education agenda and funding for adult education is often non-existent or very low,” said Anderson. “Yet research suggests that investing in youth and adults (particularly mothers) can directly impact and improve rates for children’s literacy as well.
“Limited funding and visibility are given to the issue of adult literacy on a global scale, and the proposed campaign the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning has the potential to impact 27 countries in the Arab world by promoting and sharing the results of their program.”
Anderson said Saudi Arabia and the neighboring UAE, which also has several initiatives underway to improve literacy rates, could use their political and geographic influence to lead the way in the adult literacy discourse across the region.
“They can do this both in terms of providing funding to lower-income countries, and by starting a conversation and advocating for the importance of literacy, especially for women and girls.”
Anderson said Middle Eastern countries that have strong economies and are advanced in their development tended to have higher literacy rates. However, there was still a significant need for literacy, especially in the adult population, for many countries in the region.
“The disparity in literacy rates is especially evident in looking at the variance between literacy rates for men and women. In places like Afghanistan, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen and Sudan, women’s illiteracy rates, in particular, tend to be high. For example, the literacy rate, for adult females (ages 15 and above) in Egypt was reported at 68.06 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank. In Afghanistan, more than three times as many men as women are literate. Some 47 percent of Afghan men and a mere 15 percent of women can read and write, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).”
According to Project Literacy, two-thirds of the worldwide illiterate population are women. Furthermore, 123 million 15- to 24-year-olds in the world today cannot read or write.
“Female literacy is absolutely important and should be a priority in the Arab region. Access to education for women is still extremely limited, especially in countries that restrict women’s role in society,” Anderson said.
“Research shows that educating a mother results in her children and community also being educated because she will pass it on. Despite cultural restrictions for women, there are ways to include women in the education process. For example, we have a partner program in Afghanistan that has educated women by only registering men in a class if they agree to bring their wife or sister. In this way, women are allowed to learn alongside men and not excluded from the literacy class.”
Traditionally, Anderson said, barriers to success in national or large-scale literacy campaigns include lack of teacher training, curriculum and support for learners after achieving a certain level of literacy.
Despite the social benefits, tackling illiteracy has huge economic advantages. Each year, illiteracy costs a developed nation 2 percent of its GDP, an emerging economy 1.2 percent of its GDP and a developing country 0.5 percent of its GDP, she said.
The UN defines illiteracy as “the inability to read and write a simple message in any language.” While Saudi Arabia and the UAE are setting benchmarks to tackle illiteracy, other countries across the Middle East paint a more dire picture, with Afghanistan topping the highest illiteracy rates (72 percent of the population over the age of 15), followed by Pakistan (50 percent), Mauritania (49 percent), Morocco (48 percent) and Yemen (46 percent), according to the Global Campaign for Education.
Andrew Kay, CEO and founder of the World Literacy Foundation, said almost 20 percent of the global population was illiterate, while in the Arab region, 27.1 percent of people were unable to read or write.
“This means that even these basic educational standards are unmet,” said Kay. “Despite significant progress since the 1980s, the black cloud of illiteracy is still weighing heavily on some Arab countries that are going through a critical phase and facing tremendous political, social and economic challenges.
“Saudi Arabia’s literacy rates are much better than other countries in the region, although there are still disadvantaged people that struggle to read. Increased funding and a holistic government approach is a step in the right direction, but we need to ensure the specialist literacy support goes to the people where there is the greatest need.
“Often minorities, migrants and disadvantaged people have low-level literacy skills. Therefore, providing gender equality and fairness to all people in our literacy support and intervention is fundamental.”
Kay said oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia could help its Arab neighbors through “leading by example,” and providing literacy grants, books, tutoring and support.
Mansoor Ahmed, director of health care, education, development solutions and PPP for the MENA region at the advisory firm Colliers International, also said the Kingdom was implementing “several commendable initiatives to achieve its aspiration to eradicate illiteracy by 2024.”
“Among several education reforms, the roll-out of adult education and literacy centers is expected to positively impact on the literacy levels in the country. There has been a significant increase in literacy rates over the past decade due to focused policy measures.”
Ahmed said the region was becoming more aware of the importance of literacy and education for all.
“For example, Egypt has also come up with ambitious targets in tackling illiteracy by improving educational infrastructure. We expect this trend to continue in the long term as the governments implement their economic transformation programs. The UAE, also, has recently launched a free e-learning platform which provides education videos to over 50 million Arab students.
“We believe initiatives such as these, if implemented sustainably, will help the region achieve higher levels of literacy,” he said.
Hegazi Idris Ibrahim, a program specialist in basic education and literacy at the regional office for education in Arab states at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts in diversifying its educational programs, paying financial incentives to adult learners who join literacy programs and adopting a “lifelong learning initiative” to achieve an illiteracy-free society.
“Literacy is more important than ever given the increasing dependence on fast-growing technology, and the rapid changes in the labor market and inter-country mobilities,” said Ibrahim. “For the region, it is also important for peace and stability.
“UNESCO’s target is to provide the right to high-quality education to all, including adult learners, and to make lifelong learning a reality and reduce the illiteracy rate by 2030.”