Advance UN truce monitors arrive in Yemen’s Hodeidah

Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert in Aden. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 December 2018

Advance UN truce monitors arrive in Yemen’s Hodeidah

  • Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert is heading a joint committee including members of the government and the Houthi rebels
  • He stopped in Sanaa before he arrived in Hodeidah

UNITED NATIONS: A UN advance team arrived in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah on Sunday to start monitoring a cease-fire and withdrawal of forces agreed by the Iranian-aligned Houthi group and Saudi-backed government forces, the United Nations said.

The warring parties in Yemen’s nearly four-year war reached the deal at UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden earlier this month. The truce began on Tuesday but skirmishes continued on the outskirts of the city.

The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously approved the deployment — for an initial 30 days — of an advance monitoring team led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert. He is chair of a Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) that includes representatives from both sides of the conflict.

“General Cammaert is encouraged by the general enthusiasm of both sides to get to work, immediately. One of the priorities in the coming days will be the organization of the first joint RCC meeting, which is projected for 26 December,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

Cammaert’s team, which the United Nations has said will not be uniformed or armed, will oversee the truce and troop withdrawal from Hodeidah city and three ports.

The United Nations will also provide support for the management of and inspections at the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa; and strengthen its presence in the war-torn region.

Hodeidah, the main port used to feed Yemen’s 30 million people, has been the focus of fighting this year, raising fears abroad that a full-scale assault could cut off supplies to nearly 16 million people suffering from severe hunger.

The deal reached in Sweden is meant to pave the way for a wider cease-fire in the impoverished country and a second round of talks in January on a framework for political negotiations.

A Sunni Muslim Arab alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates entered the war in 2015 against the Houthis to restore the internationally recognized government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was ousted from the capital Sanaa.

The Houthis control most urban centers, including Sanaa, while Hadi’s government is based in the southern port of Aden.


Orange is the new grey for Bangladesh beards

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on January 24, 2019 shows men with henna-dyed beards in Dhaka on December 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 32 min 12 sec ago

Orange is the new grey for Bangladesh beards

  • It is now virtually impossible to walk down a street in a Bangladesh city without seeing a colored beard

DHAKA, BANGLADESH: From shades of startling red to hues of vivid tangerine, brightly colored beards have become a fashion statement on the streets of Bangladesh capital Dhaka.
Facial hair of sunset tones is now the go-to look for older men wanting to take off the years, with an array of henna options available to the style-conscious.
“I have been using it on my hair for the last two months. I like it,” says Mahbubul Bashar, in his 50s, whose smile reflected his joy at his new look.
Abul Mia, a 60-year-old porter at a local vegetable market, agrees that the vibrant coloring can be transformative.
“I love it. My family says I look a lot younger and handsome,” he adds.
While henna has been used widely in the country for decades, it has reached new heights of popularity. It is now virtually impossible to walk down a street in a Bangladesh city without seeing a colored beard.
Orange hair — whether it’s beards, moustaches or on heads — is everywhere, thanks to the popularity of the colored dye produced by the flowering henna plant.
“Putting henna on has become a fashion choice in recent years for elder men,” confirms Didarul Dipu, head fashion journalist at Canvas magazine.
“The powder is easily found in neighborhood stores and easy to put on,” he adds.
But the quest for youth is not the only reason why more and more Dhaka barbers are adding beard and hair coloring to their services.
Top imams also increasingly use henna powder color in what experts say is a move to prove their Muslim credentials as some religious texts say the prophet Mohammed dyed his hair.
In Bangladesh most of the population of 168 million is Muslim.
“I heard from clerics that the prophet Mohammed used henna on his beard. I am just following,” says Dhaka resident Abu Taher.

Henna has long been a tradition at South Asian weddings. Brides and grooms use henna paste to trace intricate patterns on their hands for wedding parties.
It has also long been used in Muslim communities in Asia and the Middle East for beards.
Previously, aficionados created the dye by crushing henna leaves to form a paste. It was messy and time-consuming but modern henna powder is far more user-friendly.
Taher, who goes by one name, believes the dye has given his beard added vigour.
“Look at this growth. Isn’t it strong?” he exclaims pointing to his chin.
“The powder turns the grey hair red but does not change the remaining black hair,” he explains.
Some believe henna powder has health benefits and, as it is natural rather than created using man-made chemicals like some dyes, does not cause any medical issues.
The new trend has also boosted barbers’ fortunes — more men feel compelled to dye their hair and to do it more often at the salons.
“In the past we hardly would get any customers for this,” recalls Shuvo Das, who works at the Mahin Hairdressers in Dhaka’s Shaheenbagh neighborhood.
“But now there are clients who come every week to get their beard dyed,” he says.
“It takes about 40 minutes to make the beard reddish and shiny. It is also cheap. A pack cost only 15 taka (four US cents),” Das explains as he massages the dye mixture — imported from India — into a customer’s beard.
According to Dhaka University sociology professor Monirul Islam Khan, the growing number of henna beards “is a sign of increasing Muslim fervor in Bangladeshi society.”
But, he adds, even those who are not strict followers do it.
He explains: “They want to look younger. Even the women are getting fond of it as it makes their hair glitter.”