Yemeni campaigners gather at the UN European HQ to highlight Houthi atrocities

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Updated 22 September 2019

Yemeni campaigners gather at the UN European HQ to highlight Houthi atrocities

  • Campaigners target UN European headquarters in protest against Houthis

GENEVA: Yemeni demonstrators were gathered outside the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva on Saturday to highlight the torture and killings of civilians, which they say have been carried out by the Houthi militia.

The protestors say there has also been a large number of people injured due to the indiscriminate use of weapons, while people’s houses, historic sites and educational institutions have been destroyed, and many families have been displaced.

They also say members of the press and have been oppressed, preventing them from enjoying a freedom of expression.

The protest by members of the International Yemeni Diaspora Federation and allied human rights organizations marked the anniversary of the Houthis’ coup.

On this day Houthi militia protested against the government’s decision to lift subsidies on oil derivatives.

The situation later escalated and erupted into clashes between the Houthis and the forces of Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as the militias of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform and Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar.

More than 250 Yemenis, Arabs, Europeans, human rights activists and journalists demanded the condemnation of the crimes committed by the Houthis and the silence of the UN, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council.

The protesters also condemned the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths for his silence and for resorting to pampering as a means to deal with the Houthis who continue to kill, destroy and intimidate benefiting from the UN’s soft positions.

They also denounced the complacency of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lisa Grande and her constant defense of the Houthis, calling on the International Community to help save Yemen from the militias.

Protesters handed out leaflets and called for the classification of the Houthi militia as a terrorist group as their ideology is similar to that of Daesh, Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.

The Federation’s President, Dr. Hayaf Khalid Rabih demanded the issue be dealt with as a humanitarian one and not political.

He also asked the international community to act and exert pressure on the Houthis to hand over their weapons, disband the group of eminent experts and challenge the validity of their report.

Yemenis delivered speeches in Arabic, French and English expressing their frustration due to indifference and silence of the international community in the face of their people’s suffering.

They called on the Security Council and the Human Rights Council to adopt decisions condemning and criminalizing the Houthis and asked for all “peace-loving nations and people to stand up to the Iran-Backed militia.”

Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

Updated 32 min 53 sec ago

Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

  • Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley
  • Demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”

BEIRUT: Hundreds of people took to the streets across Lebanon on Thursday to protest dire economic conditions after a government decision to tax calls made on messaging applications sparked widespread outrage.
Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, in its southern suburbs, in the southern city of Sidon, in the northern city of Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Across the country, demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”
Protesters in the capital blocked the road to the airport with burning tires, while others massed near the interior ministry in central Beirut, NNA said.
“We elected them and we will remove them from power,” one protester told a local TV station.
Public anger has simmered since parliament passed an austerity budget in July, with the aim of trimming the country’s ballooning deficit.
The situation worsened last month after banks and money exchange houses rationed dollar sales, sparking fears of a currency devaluation.
The government is assessing a series of further belt-tightening measures it hopes will rescue the country’s ailing economy and secure $11 billion in aid pledged by international donors last year.
And it is expected to announce a series of additional tax hikes in the coming months as part of next year’s budget.
On Wednesday, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products.
Earlier on Thursday, Information Minister Jamal Jarrah announced a 20 cent daily fee for messaging app users who made calls on platforms such as WhatsApp and Viber — a move meant to boost the cash-strapped state’s revenues.
The decision approved by cabinet on Wednesday will go into effect on January 1, 2020, he told reporters after a cabinet session, adding that the move will bring $200 million annually into the government’s coffers.
Lebanese digital rights group SMEX said the country’s main mobile operators are already planning to introduce new technology that will allow them to detect whether users are trying to make Internet calls using their networks.
“Lebanon already has some of the highest mobile prices in the region,” SMEX said on Twitter.
The latest policy “will force users to pay for Internet services twice,” it added.
TechGeek365, another digital rights group, said it contacted WhatsApp and Facebook regarding the matter.
“A spokesperson mentioned that if the decision is taken, it would be a direct violation of their ToS (terms of service),” it said.
“Profiting from any specific functionality within WhatsApp is illegal,” it added on Twitter.
But SMEX said that the 20 cent fee would be “a condition of data plans” offered by mobile operators.
“Also, Facebook previously complied with a social media tax in Uganda, which is effectively the same thing,” it said on Twitter.
Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of repeated political deadlocks in recent years, compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon’s public debt stands at around $86 billion — higher than 150 percent of GDP — according to the finance ministry.
Eighty percent of that figure is owed to Lebanon’s central bank and local banks.