UNHCR stops cash aid to 20,000 Syrian families in Lebanon

Syrian refugee children play on a street in the Palestinian Shatila refugee camp, on the southern outskirts of the Lebanese capital Beirut, on September 1, 2017. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Thursday said it has halted cash assistance to 20,000 Syrian families in Lebanon due to a shortage of international aid. (AFP / ANWAR AMRO)
Updated 15 September 2017

UNHCR stops cash aid to 20,000 Syrian families in Lebanon

BEIRUT: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it has halted cash assistance to 20,000 Syrian families in Lebanon due to a shortage of international aid.
Some 20,000 “more needy” Syrian families will receive cash assistance instead, UNHCR spokeswoman Lisa Abu Khaled told Arab News. “We’re making tough decisions, but we have to deal with limited resources,” she said.
The spokesman for Syrian refugees in Arsal, Lebanon, said about 10,000 of them received text messages from the UNHCR saying they will be removed from its cash assistance program from November.
“This will be a disaster for these families, who are already living under the poverty threshold and have no other resources apart from what they get from the UNHCR,” he told Arab News.
Lebanon’s state minister for refugee affairs, Mouin Merehbi, warned on Thursday that the shortage of international aid will worsen the circumstances of Syrian refugees in his country.
The rise in tensions between them and Lebanese host communities is due to “many factors, including pressure on public services and employment competition,” he told the new head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Lebanon, Chris Jarvis.
Meanwhile, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report published on Thursday said: “Millions of dollars in aid money pledged to get Syrian refugee children in school last year did not reach them, arrived late, or could not be traced due to poor reporting practices.”
The report noted the lack of transparency in financing the education of Syrian refugees. It said HRW “followed the money trail from the largest donors to education in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan, the three countries with the largest number of Syrian refugees, but found large discrepancies between the funds that the various parties said were given and the reported amounts that reached their intended targets in 2016. The lack of timely, transparent funding contributed to the fact that more than 530,000 Syrian schoolchildren in those three countries were still out of school at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.”
The report added: “Donors and host countries have promised that Syrian children will not become a lost generation, but this is exactly what is happening. More transparency in funding would help reveal the needs that aren’t being met so they could be addressed and get children into school.”


Iranian chess referee seeking asylum reveals second reason she can’t go home

Updated 27 September 2020

Iranian chess referee seeking asylum reveals second reason she can’t go home

  • Women are required to wear the hijab in public in Iran, and those who refuse can face prison
  • Bayat was declared a public enemy by Iranian hard-liners after photos of her emerged from a match with her headscarf around her neck

LONDON: The Iranian chess referee forced to seek asylum in the UK after letting her hijab slip during a match in Shanghai this year has revealed another reason she may never be able to return to her country — her secret Jewish heritage.
Shohreh Bayat told The Daily Telegraph that she had to conceal her family background in her native Iran.
“If they knew I had Jewish background, I would never be general secretary of the Iranian chess federation,” Bayat told the British newspaper.
The leading referee said she had heard anti-Jewish remarks made by chess officials in Iran.
Bayat was declared a public enemy by Iranian hard-liners and received death threats after photos of her emerged from the Women’s World Chess Championship in January with her red headscarf around her neck rather than covering her head.
“All my life was about showing a fake image of myself to society because they wanted me to be an image of a religious Muslim woman, which I wasn’t,” Bayat said, speaking about the Iranian regime.
The 33-year-old said she is not a fan of the hijab, but felt she had to comply — even if that meant covering only a tiny amount of hair.
Women are required to wear the hijab in public in Iran, and those who refuse can face prison.
After being photographed at the world championship match with her hijab around her neck, Bayat said she was warned by family and friends not to return home.
“My mobile was full of messages saying: ‘Please, don’t come back, they will arrest you’,” she told the newspaper.
“I woke up the following day and saw that the (Iranian) federation removed my picture — it was like I didn’t exist,” she said.
Despite death threats, Bayat continued refereeing the second leg of the tournament in Vladivostok, ignoring calls from Iranian officials for a public apology.
At the end of January, she changed her return ticket and traveled to the UK —  the only Western country where she held a valid visa — and applied for asylum. She is waiting for her application to be processed.

Bayat's paternal grandmother was Jewish and moved to Iran from Azeraijan’s capital Baku during the Second World War. 
Last week, Bayat celebrated the Jewish New Year for the first time in her life.
“It was amazing. It was a thing I never had a chance to do,” she said.