UN may push back Libya election conference

In this file photo, Smoke rises from the site of the headquarters of Libya's foreign ministry after suicide attackers hit in Tripoli, Libya December 25, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 31 January 2019

UN may push back Libya election conference

  • The national meeting is central to a UN and Western roadmap for a vote in Libya as a way out of its eight-year war since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi
  • Libya splintered following the NATO-backed revolt against Gaddafi and has since 2014 been divided between competing political and armed groups based in Tripoli and the east

TUNIS/BENGHAZI: The United Nations is likely to delay a conference intended to prepare Libya for elections this year until there is more support from rival leaders, sources familiar with the plans said.
The national meeting is central to a UN and Western roadmap for a vote in Libya as a way out of its eight-year war since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
But big players and their allied armed groups wield considerable power under the status quo, and there is mistrust between rival governments and parliaments.
Libya splintered following the NATO-backed revolt against Gaddafi and has since 2014 been divided between competing political and armed groups based in Tripoli and the east.
More delay in the UN-sponsored conference, where Libyans from all walks of society are supposed to decide details of their elections such as the presidential or parliamentary system, would also probably push back an actual vote.
Under a French plan, Libya was meant to hold elections last Dec. 10, but that was shelved due to divisions among rival leaders and a spike in violence in the capital Tripoli.
In a new push, UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame wanted a conference in "the first weeks of 2019" with potential polls by June. But momentum for that has been lost due to resistance from major parties backing the parallel governments in Tripoli and the east who benefit from access to oil revenues and jobs for armed groups in the absence of police.
Sources familiar with the UN plans told Reuters the conference could still happen by the end of February, but a delay until at least March looked more likely.
"Salame won't announce a venue and date ahead until he thinks there is enough support from all sides," one source said.
The UN mission in Libya said it was seeking a successful meeting but no date was set yet. "We plan for the conference to happen as soon as possible," it said in a statement to Reuters.
Diplomats say the conference is a "last joker" in the pack for Salame who has toiled since September 2017 for elections.
Western nations hope ordinary Libyans will pressure armed groups into a peaceful solution
But in eastern Libya, some worry the forum may give a platform to extremists and other opponents defeated by the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar.
Some 20 lawmakers in the eastern-based parliament last week proposed to ban the Muslim Brotherhood. That would make it difficult to talk to Khaled Mishri, head of a rival parliament in Tripoli who is close to the Brotherhood.
"I personally think the conference is a good idea but it will be hard to achieve results," said eastern lawmaker Hamd Bazaq.
Diplomats fear a recent spat between Salame and the LNA might further complicate preparing the conference.

The MENA fashion designers dressing up social causes

Updated 24 August 2019

The MENA fashion designers dressing up social causes

  • How designers in the MENA region are making a different kind of fashion statement

CAIRO: Fashion is about far more than just trendy outfits. The growing demand for ethical clothing is one example of how designers are seeking to leave a legacy beyond the runway.

The ethical fashion movement is spreading to the Middle East and North Africa. Recent initiatives include Talahum by UAE-based designer Aiisha Ramadan, who created coats that transform into sleeping bags for disadvantaged and refugee communities living without proper shelter.

In 2016, Cairo hosted ICanSurvive, an event to commemorate World Cancer Day. As part of the project, 32 cancer survivors were paired with fashion designers to help them create the outfit of
a lifetime.

“I consider this to be one of my biggest achievements,” said Egyptian couturier Ahmed Nabil, 28, one of the volunteers at ICanSurvive. “I still can’t let go of the moment I saw her crying from happiness when she got to wear her outfit at the event.”

Though a transformational experience for Nabil, this was not his first attempt at thought-provoking designs. He was only 23 when he launched his company, Nob Designs, in 2014 to begin a journey of exploration by designing clothes for unconventional causes and experimental concepts.

The company sells a diverse set of fashion pieces with designs that aim to inspire conversation. Nabil’s creations are much like art pieces at a gallery, but instead of being displayed on canvas, they are exhibited on t-shirts, tops, dresses and abayas.

His latest collection combines street fashion inspired by underground culture with Arabic calligraphy. The Halal Project endeavors to blur the lines between conservative and edgy to demonstrate that fashion designs can be accessible to anyone.

“It’s all about the idea of accepting one another regardless of differences,” Nabil said. “My main aim for this project is a call for all people to peacefully coexist.”

Nabil added that the shift towards tolerance is not something that just the general public needs to work on. Fashion designers themselves are sometimes biased in their perceptions.

Many millennial designers, particularly in Egypt, remain wary of exploring modest fashion, despite the trend’s rising popularity. Sometimes it is because they want to avoid defining themselves as conservative instead of being considered modern and trendy.

Fellow Egyptian designer Sara Elemary, who has been running her Sara Elemary Designs label for nearly a decade, agrees.

“Modesty is a big thing in Egypt. I can’t understand why they are neglecting it,” she said. “A woman doesn’t have to be in a headscarf to wear modest clothing. There are so many famous designers for whom modesty plays a big role in
their work.”

Meanwhile, events such as Dubai Modest Fashion Week have been promoting the concept and encouraging budding designers in the region to consider this trending domain.

“I believe that there’s a problem with modest fashion, but over the past two years, that issue has started to diminish as designers have incorporated more modest designs in their collections,” Nabil said.

The next step for him is getting into the couture domain with his long-awaited project, Nob Couture. The look of the new collection is still a mystery, but he seems determined to continue sending messages and starting discussions through his designs, which he said are inspired by his life experiences.

As for designers in the region, the time is ripe for them to start supporting the causes they believe in through their work. Whatever topic or fashion style they decide to pursue, they need to be fearless in triggering conversation in the Arab world with their creations.