Lebanon and Jordan urge Kazakhstan to protect oil-field workers after mass brawl injures dozens

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Video footage showed the Arab workers being kicked and punched by large numbers of local colleagues in Kazakhstan. (Social media photo)
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The Jordanian ambassador to Kazakhstan poses with injured workers after he traveled to the oil field. (Jordanian Foreign Ministry)
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(A screengrab from one of the many videos of the violence circulated on social media. (Twitter)
Updated 01 July 2019
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Lebanon and Jordan urge Kazakhstan to protect oil-field workers after mass brawl injures dozens

  • Videos of the attacks on Arab engineers and workers were widely circulated on social media in Arab countries
  • Jordan’s ambassador travels to the oil field to meet the injured workers

JERUSALEM/MOSCOW: A brawl between Kazakh workers and their Arab colleagues in one of Kazakhstan's largest oil fields injured 30 people and sparked an outcry in Jordan and Lebanon.

Videos of the attacks on Arab engineers and workers were widely circulated on social media in Arab countries. The scenes showed them being kicked and punched by large numbers of local colleagues. Some of those attacked were covered in blood and their faces suffering serious bruises.

The attacks happened after Eli Daoud, an engineer from Lebanon, posted a short video on social media featuring a Kazakh woman.  He put his hand over the woman’s mouth while he was speaking on his walkie-talkie, which some locals felt was insulting to their country.

Later Daoud said: “I apologize to my friends and the people of Kazakhstan, a country I have been working in for two years. The video was not meant to be insulting to my colleagues.”

The engineers work for CCC, the Middle East’s largest construction company, which employs more than 100 Jordanian, Palestinian and Lebanese staff in Kazakhstan. The attack  on Saturday appears to have been a reprisal targeting all CCC’s Arab staff.

Interfax-Kazakhstan reported Sunday that the oilfield is managed by Tengizchevroil, TCO, a joint venture that includes Chevron and ExxonMobil.

Nurlan Nogayev, the governor of Atyrau region, said during a meeting with company management that the brawl resulted from disparities in working conditions between foreign contractors and local Kazakh employees.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri ordered Secretary General of the High Relief Committee, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Kheir to follow the case.

Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab also called his counterpart in Kazakhstan to discuss protecting the Lebanese workers.

Kheir told the local MTV television that the situation now is under control. He added that a total of 17 Arabs, including one Lebanese and six Palestinians using Lebanese travel documents, were among the injured.

Lebanon's ambassador to Kazakhstan Jescar Khoury told local media that all Lebanese citizens who worked at the oil field are now under police protection in a hotel in a nearby city.

In Jordan, Crown Prince Hussein asked the country's prime minister and minister for foreign affairs to follow the case of Jordanian citizens.

The Kingdom’s ambassador traveled to the oil field to meet the injured workers.

A foreign ministry spokesman said Saturday they requested that the Kazakh authorities provide “all necessary measures to provide immediate security protection for the Jordanian citizens.” Jordan’s ambassador to Kazakhstan, Yousef Abdel Ghani, met the engineers on Sunday.

Jordanian MP Khalil Attiyeh called on Prime Minister Omar Razzaz to lodge an official complaint with the Kazakh government. “This is an unacceptable attack and I call on the government to send an official delegation to follow up on the case of Jordanians in general, and those injured in particular, and ensure their safe return to the homeland,” he said.

(With AP)


Tunisia toils to find final resting place for drowned migrants

Updated 22 July 2019
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Tunisia toils to find final resting place for drowned migrants

  • A string of deadly shipwrecks since May have left the North African country overwhelmed with bodies

GABES: A putrid odour lingers outside a morgue in Tunisia’s coastal city of Gabes as dozens of bodies of would-be migrants to Europe pulled out of the sea await burial.
A string of deadly shipwrecks since May have left the North African country overwhelmed with bodies and struggling to find them a final resting place.
More than 80 drowned migrants have been retrieved from Tunisian waters — most of them victims of a deadly July 1 shipwreck that left only three survivors.
Fished out of the sea between the port city of Zarzis and the tourist island of Djerba in the south, their bodies were brought to Gabes hospital — the only facility in the region capable of taking DNA samples.
Under pressure from civil society groups, Tunisian authorities have stepped up efforts to systematically collect the DNA of each unidentified drowned migrant, hospital director Hechmi Lakhrech told AFP.
The samples could well be the only hope of informing the victims’ families of their fate, he added.
In the basement morgue, staff use surgical masks or simple scarves to fend off the stench of bodies stacked one top of the other on the floor.
Since July 6, the numbers have “overwhelmed” the morgue’s 30-body capacity, said Lakhrech.
With just two forensic doctors and two assistants, not to mention a lack of equipment, the facility is struggling to keep them properly stored, he added.
After forensic tests, the bodies are kept at the morgue until a burial site is found, which in Tunisia is complicated, according to Gabes governor Mongi Thameur.
Many municipalities have refused to allow the drowned migrants to be buried in their cemeteries.
“Some fear the bodies carry cholera, and others refuse to bury people in Muslim cemeteries if their religion is unknown,” he told AFP.
It comes down to “a problem of mentality and also of humanity in some cases,” he said, adding that many people needed to be “sensitised.”
At the Bouchama cemetery, the only one in Gabes to have so far accepted migrant bodies, 16 graves dug off to the side lie empty.
“My parents are resting here, I don’t want non-Muslims to be buried by their side,” said one local resident.
In front of the hospital, the stifling midday heat beats down as 14 white bags are carefully loaded onto the back of a garbage truck.
Once loaded, it will make the two-hour journey to Zarzis, where an improvised cemetery flooded with the bodies of migrants for several years is now full, and a new one has just been opened.
Each grave is marked with a simple plaque bearing the victim’s DNA file number and burial date.
“On July 12, we collected 45 bodies in one day!” said Zarzis deputy mayor Faouzi Khenissi, calling it a “phenomenal problem.”
The city has taken in the bodies “because we have this culture, we can’t just leave the remains unburied,” he said.
Zarzis is a hotspot for illegal departures to Europe and Khenissi says some of the city’s own youth have also been victims of the wrecks.
Municipal workers and officials take shifts volunteering after work to conduct the burials.
After three hours of prep under the blazing sun, 14 bodies are buried alongside the 47 others already laid to rest at the new site, just outside a shelter for rescued migrants.
Mongi Slim of the country’s Red Crescent called for “international mobilization” to address the issue which “does not concern Tunisia alone.”
“The country is already struggling to take care of rescued migrants, but even more so for those who’ve died.”