Egyptian swimmer dives into major UN role

Mohamed Al-Husseini. (Photo courtesy: BMW Egypt on Facebook)
Updated 12 June 2019

Egyptian swimmer dives into major UN role

  • Al-Husseini is the first Egyptian and Arab, as well as the first person with Down syndrome, to be appointed as the organization’s spokesperson

CAIRO: Egyptian swimmer Mohamed Al-Husseini has been named spokesperson of the UN High Commission on Disability in Egypt and abroad.

Al-Husseini is the first Egyptian and Arab, as well as the first person with Down syndrome, to be appointed as the organization’s spokesperson.

The swimmer will attend global conferences where he will share his life story, struggles and goals, according to Reda Abdel Aziz, the commission’s director.

Al-Husseini was picked due to his swimming achievements, Abdel Aziz said.

In 2017, the 18-year-old became the first swimmer with Down syndrome to cross the English Channel after training for more than 10 hours a day in preparation for the marathon swim.

“For every 1,000 children with Down syndrome, maybe only one or two are recognized for their achievements,” Mona Bassel, of the American University in Cairo, told Arab News.

“Some schools offer programs for children with Down syndrome, but there is a lot of ignorance among society in general. Realistically, we have a long way to go in terms of stigma and dealing with people with the disability,” she said.

The UN selection of Al-Husseini comes at a time when Egypt is empowering people with disabilities, and the swimmer’s story is an inspiration to many.

In March, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi established the National Council of People with Disabilities, an independent body that encourages participation in decision-making processes.

Up to 10 percent of Egypt’s population is made up of people with special needs, El-Sisi said in a speech celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities.


Israeli defence chief says he's preparing for consequences of West Bank annexations

Updated 01 June 2020

Israeli defence chief says he's preparing for consequences of West Bank annexations

  • Gantz said he ordered the military to step up preparations for Israel's pending annexation of parts of the West Bank
  • Netanyahu has pledged to begin cabinet discussions on July 1 on the plan

JERUSALEM: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday he ordered the military to step up preparations for Israel's pending annexation of parts of the West Bank, a plan that could stoke Palestinian violence.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to begin cabinet discussions on July 1 on extending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, occupied territory that Palestinians seek for a state.
Gantz's directive appeared to indicate that the centrist politician had either signed on to the move, or at least believed it would be inevitable, given right-wing support in the Netanyahu-led coalition cabinet.
In public remarks to legislators of his centrist Blue and White party, Gantz noted a recent uptick in anti-Israeli violence in the West Bank and the Palestinians' declaration last month that they were ending security cooperation with Israel over the annexation issue.
He said he had subsequently ordered the chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Aviv Kochavi, to "examine all the ramifications and the required preparations" stemming from moving ahead with the peace plan US President Donald Trump announced in January, a blueprint that could ease annexation.
In a separate written statement, Gantz said "preparations by the Israel Defence Forces should be stepped up ahead of pending diplomatic moves regarding the Palestinians".
The Palestinians have rejected Trump's proposal, under which the vast majority of West Bank settlements built by Israel on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war would be incorporated into "contiguous Israeli territory".
The Palestinians and most countries consider such settlements illegal. Israel disputes this.
The Trump plan also envisages a Palestinian state under near-complete Israeli security control, creating what Palestinians leaders say would be an unviable country.
Sami Abu Zuhri, an official with militant group Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip, another part of Palestinians' hoped-for future state, told Reuters: "The call of the occupation army to get ready for annexation of the West Bank is a call for war, and the occupation will regret this crime, and soon realise they are committing a grave mistake."