Tunisia offers free helpline as lockdown sees abuse spike

This picture taken on April 1, 2020 shows a view of police vehicles standing on guard at the Avenue Habib Bourguiba Clock in the centre of the Tunisian capital Tunis amidst a lockdown due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)
Updated 03 April 2020

Tunisia offers free helpline as lockdown sees abuse spike

TUNIS: Tunisia is setting up a free mental health helpline to support families following a spike in domestic abuse linked to the lockdown to curb the coronavirus, a government minister said Friday.
Asma Shiri Laabidi, the minister in charge of women’s affairs, told AFP there had been a five-fold rise in the number of domestic abuse cases reported in recent days compared with the same period last year.
More than 40 cases involving abused women were recorded between March 23 and 29, compared to just seven during the same week in 2019, the minister said.
Most were aged between 30-40 and living in remote areas of the country, she said, adding that the abuse involved verbal or physical aggression and that two women had to be hospitalized.
“Confinement has significant consequences for families. Tensions have risen and the risk of women being attacked is much higher,” Laabidi said.
From Monday, the toll-free number 1809 will go into service in the North African country and will be run by 11 volunteer psychologists, she said.
Families, including children, can reach out for help from 8:00 am until midnight and the experts will try to provide advice on how to manage stress during the lockdown.
Tunisia has been under night-time curfew since March 17 and authorities imposed stricter lockdown orders from March 22.
Originally scheduled to end on April 4, the lockdown has been extended for a further 15 days as the country tries to stem the spread of the virus, which has claimed at least 14 lives.
Another toll-free number set up by authorities in 2016 to deal with domestic violence registered more than 9,000 calls from Tunisian women reporting abuse last year, according to Dejla Ktari, who heads the department in charge of such issues.
The regular hours of that support line have also been extended to an around-the-clock service during the lockdown, the minister said.

GCC urges UN to extend Iran arms embargo 

The GCC — flag pictured — i comprised of six Arab Gulf nations: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar. (File/AP)
Updated 5 min 6 sec ago

GCC urges UN to extend Iran arms embargo 

  • Letter from head of GCC says an extension is imperative to “ensure and preserve peace” in the Middle East.

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has asked the UN to extend an international arms embargo on Iran.

A letter sent by the GCC’s secretary general, Nayef Al-Hajraf, to the Security Council cites Tehran’s support for terrorism and its hostile actions against neighbouring countries as reasons to back an extension.

The embargo prevents the movement of conventional weaponry in and out of Iran, and is set to expire on Oct. 18 as part of the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The agreement with international powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), provided sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for the regime curtailing its nuclear program.

In the letter, Al-Hajraf, points out that, in violation of the deal, Iran has “continued to proliferate conventional weapons and armed terrorist and sectarian organizations and movements throughout the region.”

It also said Tehran “has not desisted from armed interventions in neighboring countries, directly and through organizations and movements armed and trained by Iran.”

The embargo’s restrictions, the letter states, are “imperative to ensure and preserve peace and stability in this region.”

The US has also been pushing heavily for an extension to the arms embargo, warning that lifting it could have dire consequences.

In June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cautioned that, if the embargo is terminated, “Iran will be able to purchase advanced weapons systems” and would “become an arms dealer of choice for terrorists and rogue regimes all throughout the world.”

Pompeo added: “This is unacceptable.”

Russia and China, two of the permanent five members of the UN’s Security Council with veto power, want the arms embargo to lift as scheduled on Oct. 18.

Should that happen, the US has warned that it could introduce “snap back” sanctions built into the original 2015 deal, unilaterally restoring all UN sanctions on Tehran.