Two women porters die in Morocco border stampede

Moroccans women carry goods after crossing the border from Spain's North African enclave of Melilla into Moroccan settlement of Beni Ansar in Beni Ansar, Morocco on July 18, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 28 August 2017

Two women porters die in Morocco border stampede

RABAT: Two women porters died in a stampede on Monday at a border post between Morocco and Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta, a rights group and the MAP news agency said.
The women, aged 34 and 45, were trampled at the Tarajal 2 border post and rushed to a hospital where they died of their injuries, said Mohammed Benaissa of the Northern Observatory of Human Rights.
Four other women porters were injured in the crush and taken to hospital in the nearby town of Fnid’q, Benaissa said.
Morocco’s MAP confirmed the death toll and said that one of the injured was in a critical condition.
Moroccan authorities said they had opened an investigation to “determine the circumstances of the incident.”
Thousands of people, mainly women, work as porters transporting goods across the border, sometimes making return trips and carrying up to 70 kg on their backs.
Human rights groups have repeatedly denounced their working conditions, describing the women’s situation as “degrading and humiliating.”
Karima Omar El-Ayachi of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) said the porters are “treated like livestock.”
Monday’s deaths brought to four the number of women porters who have died in similar conditions since the frontier post was opened earlier this year, Benaissa said.
Authorities reopened the crossing in late February and tightened controls on the size and weight of goods that porters can carry each day.
They also set a quota of 4,000 porters permitted to make the run between the two countries.
Unemployment is high in Morocco, where according to the World Bank almost 5.3 million people “live under the threat of falling back into poverty due to their socio-economic conditions.”


Iran conservationists get prison time amid unrest: Activists

Updated 5 min 11 sec ago

Iran conservationists get prison time amid unrest: Activists

DUBAI: Six conservationists working to save the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah have been sentenced to prison on internationally criticized espionage charges in Iran, activists said Thursday, even as protests and unrest continue in parts of the country amid a government-imposed Internet shutdown.
The case against members of the nonprofit Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation show how spying charges and convictions can be levied against dual nationals and those with Western ties in Iran in closed-door trials before its Revolutionary Court.
News of the cases comes after demonstrations against government-set gasoline prices rising turned violent in Iran, killing at least 106 people, according to Amnesty International.
Iran disputes that figure without offering its own and has turned off the Internet across the country, making it difficult to reach those where protests go on. A UN office earlier said it feared the unrest may have killed “a significant number of people.”
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said Thursday that the convicted conservationists face six to 10 years in prison for “contacts with the US enemy state.” Two others have yet to hear verdicts, it said.
The conservationists found themselves arrested over their use of camera traps to track the cheetahs, a common tool of wildlife experts.
One of the conservationists, Iranian-Canadian citizen Kavous Seyed Emami, died in disputed circumstances in prison in February 2018 awaiting trial. His widow then was blocked from flying out of Iran, but later made it out.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court typically handles espionage cases and others involving smuggling, blasphemy and attempts to overthrow the country’s Islamic government. Westerners and Iranian dual nationals often find themselves tried and convicted in closed-door trials in these courts, only later to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations.
“The only crimes that have been committed in relation to the conservationists are their unlawful arrest, their cruel and inhuman treatment in prolonged solitary confinement, the denial of their due process rights, and their sham convictions and sentencing, without evidence or regard for the requirements of law,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the center’s executive director.
Iranian state media and judiciary officials did not immediately comment on the verdicts, which is common in Revolutionary Court cases. The semiofficial Fars news agency, close to the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, carried a short story acknowledging the verdicts.