Saudi Foreign Minister reasserts the Kingdom's eagerness to unify Arab stance, revamping Arab League

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Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit (L) speaks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir during a League meeting at its headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on September 11, 2018. (AFP)
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Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit looks on during the opening of Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo, Egypt September 11, 2018. (Reuters)
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Pierre Krahenbuhl (C), Commissioner General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), attends a meeting of the Arab League Foreign Ministers at the League’s headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on September 11, 2018, during a special session on the sidelines discussing the financial crisis of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)’s caused by the US scrapping its contributions. (AFP)
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This picture taken on September 11, 2018 shows a general view of the Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo. (AFP)
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This picture taken on September 11, 2018 shows a general view of a meeting of the Arab League Foreign Ministers at its headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo, during a special session on the sidelines discussing the financial crisis of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)’s caused by the US scrapping its contributions.(AFP)
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A special session on the crisis facing UNRWA. (SPA)
Updated 12 September 2018

Saudi Foreign Minister reasserts the Kingdom's eagerness to unify Arab stance, revamping Arab League

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir emphasized in Cairo on Tuesday, during the opening of the 150th ordinary session of the Arab League (AL) Council, that the Kingdom remains keen to unify the Arab stance, promote the performance of the AL and revamp a Pan-Arab joint action system.
The Palestinian cause is the top priority and interest for Saudi Arabia, which endeavors to secure the Palestinian people their legitimate rights based on the Arab Peace Initiative: International legitimacy resolutions calling for establishing its independent state, with East Al-Quds as its capital, he pointed out, reiterating absolute rejection of anything that may compromise the historical or legal status of Al-Quds.
On Yemen, Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom is keeping to its commitment toward Yemeni unity, sovereignty, stability, security and territorial integrity, through backing the legitimate government and reiterating readiness to cooperate with the UN envoy to Yemen.
Iran-affiliated Houthis militias have never and will never positively respond to the international community’s calls to engage in the political process, he said, pointing out their absence at the latest meeting, held in Geneva.
He stressed that coalition countries will continue to cooperate with the UN and other relief agencies, to ensure humanitarian access to the civilians in Yemen and alleviate their suffering.
Al-Jubeir added that the total humanitarian support provided by the Kingdom to Yemen during the past four years amounted to more than $13 billion.
On the Syrian crisis, the foreign minister said that the Kingdom seeks to stabilize Syrian unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and has united the position of the Syrian opposition so it may sit at the negotiating table to reach a political solution that guarantees security and unity, through the prevention of foreign intervention or any attempts to partition the country.
Al-Jubeir said that the Kingdom supports the unity and independence of Libya and the efforts of the UN envoy to reach a political solution that will guarantee the country’s security and stability and eliminate terrorism in the country.
He pointed to the suffering caused in the world by terrorism, which the Kingdom has exerted all efforts to combat, and did not hesitate to provide all kinds of support, in cooperation with the international community, to eliminate it.
He stressed that the conduct of Iran, through its blatant interference in our affairs and its support for terrorist militias, is among the ugliest manifestations of terrorism, which requires us to unite and cooperate to confront and deter.
At the end of his speech, the foreign minister called on his counterpart, the Sudanese Foreign Minister Dr. Dirdiri Mohammed Ahmed, to take over the chairmanship of the current session.
Earlier, under the chairmanship of Al-Jubeir, Arab foreign ministers held, at the request of Jordan, a special session on the crisis facing UNRWA.
The extraordinary session included discussion of the systematic campaign against the UNRWA to reduce or cancel its role, as well as ways to support it, financially, in the light of the recent decision by the US to stop making financial contributions to the organization’s annual budget.
Arab foreign ministers stressed the need for UNRWA to continue to play its role in meeting the humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees, warning against compromising the agency’s mandate or reducing its services, which would contribute to aggravation of the situation in the Middle East.
The ministers emphasized that the agency’s continued commitment to more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in the areas of operations, as mandated by the UN, is an international political, legal and moral responsibility.
The ministers agreed to continue discussing the issue in the light of the outcome of the international meeting called for by Jordan, in coordination with Egypt and Palestine, and in cooperation with Sweden, Germany, Japan and the EU to take the necessary steps to build on the outcome of the Extraordinary Ministerial Conference on the Support of UNRWA, held in Rome on March 15, 2018, and political moves to ensure the financial support for the agency to perform its tasks.
Ministers expressed thanks to countries that have provided financial support to the agency, which so far this year has raised about $200 million.


Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

Updated 13 July 2020

Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

  • Activists say the case shows that misogyny cuts across the country’s stark class lines
  • In Egypt, sexual assault complaints have typically involved street harassment

CAIRO: Their accounts are similar. The girls and women describe meeting the young man — a former student at Egypt’s most elite university — in person and online, followed by deceit, then escalating sexual harassment, assault, blackmail or rape.
Some were minors when the alleged crimes took place. In all, more than 100 accusers have emerged online in the past two weeks.
It’s resulted in a new #MeToo firestorm on social media, and the arrest of the suspect last week from his home in a gated community outside Cairo.
Activists say the case shows that misogyny cuts across the country’s stark class lines; many in Egypt have previously portrayed harassment as a problem of poor urban youth.
Women’s rights champions hope the authorities’ swift response signals change in how Egyptian society handles accusations of sexual assault.
“What’s before this case is totally different from what’s after,” said Nihad Abuel-Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights and a lawyer representing some of the alleged victims.
Sexual assault and harassment are deep-seated problems in Egypt, where victims must also fight the undercurrent of a conservative culture that typically ties female chastity to a family’s reputation. In courts, the burden of proof lies heavily on the victim of such crimes.
In a statement, the public prosecutor’s officer said the accused man acknowledged he blackmailed at least six girls, saying he would send sensitive photos of them to their families if they cut ties. Several attempts by The Associated Press to contact him or his lawyer were unsuccessful.
Amr Adib, Egypt’s most prominent TV host, said in a recent episode that he’d spoken with the young man’s father, who occupies a high-ranking position at a telecommunication company. He said his son dismissed the allegations.
At least 10 women have officially reported their claims, according to Abuel-Komsan, of the women’s rights center. Activists also set up the Instagram account @assaultpolice to collect allegations, said Sabah Khodir, a US-based writer who helps run the account. She said there are more than 100 accounts.
“We are demanding to be listened to … We are just using what we have, lending our voices to hopefully create some kind of change,” she said.
A court has ordered the accused to remain in custody pending an investigation into an array of accusations that include attempted rape, blackmail and indecent assault, according to a five-page statement by the public prosecutor. In the same statement, the prosecutor urged more alleged victims to come forward.
Last week, the government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi moved to amend the country’s criminal law to increase protections for the identities of sexual assault victims, which activists have welcomed. The amendment still needs parliamentary approval and El-Sisi’s signature to be made law.
The allegations against the student cover a period of at least three years.
Many of the anonymous accounts appear to be from fellow students at the American International School, one of the country’s most expensive private high schools, and the American University in Cairo, which school officials said the accused left in 2018. It would appear that he then enrolled at the European Union Business School in Spain, in an online program last year.
In February, he spent three weeks at its Barcelona campus, but the school expelled him after an accusation of online harassment that was subsequently proved false, said Claire Basterfield, a spokesperson for the EUBS. The school has filed a 54-page criminal complaint with the Spanish police, seeking further investigation into his actions.
The head of the American University in Cairo, Francis Ricciardone, said the university has a zero-tolerance policy concerning sexual harassment, but that he would not comment on an ongoing case.
According to accusations posted on social media in the past two weeks, the former student would mine the pool of mutual friends on Facebook, online groups or school clubs. He would start with flattery, then pressure the women and girls to share intimate photos that he later used to blackmail them to have sex with him. If they did not, he would threaten to send the pictures to their family.
In some cases, he “attracted their sympathy by claiming he was going through a crisis,” then lured them to his home in an upscale compound where he sexually assaulted them, the prosecutor’s statement alleged.
In Egypt, sexual assault complaints have typically involved street harassment. During and after the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, women were frequently harassed, groped — and in some cases, beaten and sexually assaulted — during mass protests.
This time, there are signs of wider ripples throughout the society. The current series of complaints has prompted Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution, to speak out on sexual harassment and assault, even challenging the widely held belief that a woman is at fault if her clothing is less than modest. It’s a departure from the norm for the conservative Muslim majority country where most women wear headscarves.
There are also other corners where accusations of sexual harassment are emerging, such as in civil society groups and businesses.
Two rights groups said they fired one employee and suspended another, and opened investigations after allegations of sexual misconduct against them were made public. Authorities also detained a prominent publisher over the weekend after a poet filed a complaint with the Cairo police, accusing him of sexually harassing her, the state-run Al-Ahram reported. The publisher denied the allegations in a Facebook posting. He was released late Sunday on 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($313) in bail, pending an investigation.
The recent cases — reaching into the Egyptian elite — have “refuted all previous arguments and justifications for harassment, from poverty to illiteracy and things like that,” Abuel-Komsan said.