Death of Iraq’s last princess closes tumultuous chapter in Middle East history

Death of Iraq’s last princess closes tumultuous chapter in Middle East history
Princess Badiya bint Ali died peacefully aged 100 in London on Saturday. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated 11 May 2020

Death of Iraq’s last princess closes tumultuous chapter in Middle East history

Death of Iraq’s last princess closes tumultuous chapter in Middle East history
  • Princess Badiya bint Ali, who died aged 100 in London on Saturday, was the aunt of King Faisal II
  • She took refuge in Saudi embassy in Baghdad after royal family was eliminated in 1958 coup

LONDON: When Princess Badiya bint Ali spoke in her later years about the coup that killed much of her family and brought an end to Iraq’s monarchy, she would still be moved to tears.

She watched, terrified, from the balcony of a building in another part of Baghdad as smoke rose from the Rihab Palace on July 14, 1958.

Princess Badiya, who died peacefully aged 100 in London on Saturday, was the last surviving princess of Iraq.

Her death marks an end to a tumultuous chapter in Middle East history that took her from a childhood in Makkah to the grand palaces of the region’s capitals and into exile in the UK.

Born in Damascus in 1920 into the Hashemite dynasty, Princess Badiya was the daughter of King Ali bin Al-Hussein, who briefly ruled the Hejaz kingdom in western Arabia and held the title of Grand Sharif of Makkah.




Princess Badiya's nephew, King Faisal II, takes the oath in Iraq's parliament in 1953 watched over by the princess's brother Crown Prince Abdullah. (AFP/File)

Her grandfather, Hussein bin Ali, had led the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire and established the Hejaz kingdom in 1916.

In 1925 Princess Badiya and her family left Makkah for Iraq after the kingdom was overthrown by Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia.

In Jordan, Princess Badiya’s uncle had already established a kingdom with the support of the British, and as the Ottoman Empire crumbled, another uncle, Faisal I, became the king of Iraq in 1921.

For the young princess, arriving in Baghdad was a time of great excitement, and she was immediately smitten.

“Baghdad was lovely compared to Amman because Amman was small and lit with candles,” she recalled in an interview with Al-Sharqiya TV in 2012.

“There was electricity in Baghdad and a bridge and a high corniche. Baghdad was beautiful and I loved it.”

Faisal ruled for 12 years until his death from a heart attack, aged 48. His son, Ghazi, took the throne in 1933.

He was married to Princess Badiya’s sister, Princess Aliya.

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READ MORE: 

60 years on, Iraqis reflect on the coup that killed King Faisal II

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When Ghazi died six years later in a car crash in Baghdad, the next in line was his son Faisal II, who was just 3 years old.

Again, Princess Badiya found herself up close to the reins of power as her brother, Crown Prince Abdallah, served as the regent until the young king was old enough to rule.

After his education in Britain at Harrow, Faisal II took the throne aged 18 in 1953.

Regarded as highly intelligent and in charge of a country with a wealth of resources, he was expected to take the country forward.

Iraq was starting to flourish. Oil revenues were flowing and the country was undergoing rapid industrialization.

But there was also a huge social divide and the country’s poor were persuaded that Iraq was too closely aligned with Britain and the needs of the West.

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IRAQ: KEY MOMENTS

1917 Britain seizes Baghdad during World War I.

1921  Faisal I, son of Grand Sharif of Makkah Hussein bin Ali, appointed king.

1932  Iraq becomes independent with end of Mandate. Britain retains military bases.

1941 Britain re-occupies Iraq after pro-Axis coup amid World War II.

1958 Monarchy overthrown in coup led by Abdul Karim Qassim. Iraq leaves pro-British Baghdad Pact.

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The tide of Arab nationalism started to turn and hostility towards Iraq’s close relationship with Britain was exacerbated by the Suez crisis in 1956.

If Princess Badiya had been at the Rihab Palace when Brig. Abdul Karim Qassim arrived with troops on July 14, 1958, she would surely have been killed.

The disaffected officer ordered his tanks to open fire shortly after King Faisal II and other members of the Royal family and their staff had exited through the rear entrance.

Among those lined up and shot dead with the king were Princess Badiya’s brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, her sister Princess Abadiya and sister-in-law Princess Hiyam.

Princess Badiya heard the coup unfold from where she was staying in the Iraqi capital with her husband, Sharif Al-Hussein bin Ali, and their three children.

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IRAQ: KEY MOMENTS

1963 Prime Minister Qassim ousted in coup led by pan-Arab Baath Party.

1963 Baathist government overthrown.

1968 Baathist led-coup puts Ahmad Hasan Al-Bakr in power.

1972 Regime nationalizes Iraq Petroleum Company.

1979 Saddam Hussein takes over from President Al-Bakr.

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“I heard an explosion at around 6-6.30 a.m. and I jumped out of bed,” she said in the interview. “I asked Hussein ‘what was that?’ … I had a look at the Rihab Palace and saw smoke coming out of it.”

She spoke to King Faisal II shortly before his death and he offered to send guards to protect her but she declined.

Then a royal staff member came running, covered in blood, to where she was staying. “They killed them, they killed the king and his family,” he cried.

Princess Badiya recalled: “I started crying and screaming, and when the kids’ English nanny asked me what was wrong, I said ‘They’ve killed my family.’”

Along with her husband and children, she made it to Saudi Arabia’s embassy, where they sheltered for a month.

Saudi Arabia’s King Saud insisted the family must escape the country alive.

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IRAQ: KEY MOMENTS

1980 Iran-Iraq war begins and drags on for eight years.

1990 Iraq invades and annexes Kuwait, prompting first Gulf War.

1991 US-led military campaign forces Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait.

1998 US and Britain launch campaign to destroy Iraq’s nuclear and chemical weapons program.

2003 US-led invasion topples Saddam Hussein’s regime, marking start of years of violent insurgency and power struggle. Saddam captured in Tikrit in December.

2006 Saddam executed for crimes against humanity.

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“King Saud told the ambassador to take care of us,” she said.

In the interview, Princess Badiya was clearly upset and shaken at the memory of an episode that came to define her life.

Through the shelter of the Saudi embassy, she fled to Egypt and on to Switzerland before settling in the UK, where she lived until her death.

For many Iraqis, the coup and the bloody circumstances of the royal family’s demise marked a turning point in the country’s history that led to a dark era of coups, dictators and conflicts that are still playing out today.

One of Princess Badiya’s sons, Sharif Ali bin Al-Hussein, worked in opposition to Saddam Hussein, and after the US-led invasion in 2003, he lobbied for a return of a constitutional monarchy with himself as king.

On Sunday, tributes were paid to Princess Badiya from both the country where her family once ruled, and another where they still do.

Iraq’s President Barham Salih sent a message of condolence to her son.

“Our hearts hurt deeply from having to hear the tragic news about the passing of Princess Badiya bint Ali,” it read.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who is now shouldered with the burden of trying to solve Iraq’s many woes, also paid tribute.

“With the passing of Princess Badiya bint Ali, a bright and important chapter of Iraq’s modern history ends,” he said on Twitter.

“She was part of a political and societal era that represented Iraq in the best of ways. May she rest in peace and my sincere condolences to her family and loved ones.”

From Jordan, the remaining Hashemite kingdom, King Abdullah II said the royal court mourned Princess Badiya’s passing.


Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program

Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program
Updated 7 min 31 sec ago

Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program

Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program
  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can also now be administered to all individuals 16 years and above
  • Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can now be injected to anyone aged 18 and above

DUBAI: Dubai has expanded the coverage of its COVID-19 vaccination program, with residents aged 40 and above holding valid resident visas now allowed to register and receive jabs at any of the emirate’s inoculation facilities.

Dubai’s health authority likewise said that elderly individuals aged 60 and above with a valid resident visa issued in any emirate can register for the vaccine, provided they can prove they are residing in Dubai, according to state news agency WAM.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can also now be administered to all individuals 16 years and above, instead of 18 years, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can now be injected to anyone aged 18 and above, instead of those between 18-65 years.

Gulf nationals with a valid Emirates ID can also now get vaccinated at Dubai health facilities, the report added.

The UAE, which leads the world on COVID-19 vaccinations, has embarked on a widescale campaign to inoculation to achieve mass immunity and will help reduce the number of cases and control the spread of coronavirus.

About 66,539 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered overnight, bring the total doses at 6,094,956 with a rate of vaccine distribution of 61.62 doses per 100 people.

Health officials meanwhile confirmed 2,721 new infections overnight, bringing the total number of recorded cases in the UAE to 396,771.


Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French prosecutors

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French  prosecutors
In this file photo taken on May 22, 2017, smoke rises from buildings following a reported air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa. (AFP)
Updated 03 March 2021

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French prosecutors

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French  prosecutors
  • People in Khartoum watch a movie at the Sudanese European Film Festival at an outdoor cinema for visitors adhering to COVID-19 restrictions. (AFP)

PARIS: Lawyers representing survivors of a chemical weapons attack in 2013 in Syria have filed a criminal complaint against Syrian officials whom they blame for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in a rebel-held area.
France is home to thousands of Syrian refugees, and its investigating judges have a mandate to determine whether crimes against humanity were committed anywhere in the world.
The case, which about a dozen people have joined, follows a similar one opened in Germany last year. It offers a rare legal avenue for action against the government of President Bashar Assad.
Attempts by Western powers to set up an international tribunal for Syria have been blocked by Russia and China at the UN Security Council.
“This is important so that the victims have the possibility to see those responsible being brought to justice and held accountable,” Mazen Darwish, who heads the Paris-based Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), said.
The SCM filed the complaint along with two other NGOs: the Open Society Foundation’s Justice Initiative and Syrian Archive.

BACKGROUND

France is home to thousands of Syrian refugees, and its investigating judges have a mandate to determine whether crimes against humanity were committed anywhere in the world.

France’s intelligence services concluded in 2013 that a sarin gas attack on the Eastern Ghouta region just south east of Damascus that killed 1,400 people had been carried out by Syrian government forces.
The complaint is based on what the lawyers say is the most comprehensive body of evidence on the use of substances such as sarin gas in Syria.
“We have compiled extensive evidence establishing exactly who is responsible for these attacks on Douma and Eastern Ghouta, whose horrific effects continue to impact survivors,” said Hadi Al-Khatib, founder and director of Syrian Archive.
A UN-commissioned investigation to identify those behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria concluded in 2016 that Syrian government forces had used chlorine and sarin gas.
Darwish said he expected another case to be opened in Sweden in the coming months.


Sahara tension: Moroccan row deepens with Germany

Sahara tension: Moroccan row deepens with Germany
Soldiers of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SARD) parade during celebrations marking the 45th anniversary of the creation of the SARD Saturday, Feb.27 2021 near Tindouf, southern Algeria. (AP)
Updated 03 March 2021

Sahara tension: Moroccan row deepens with Germany

Sahara tension: Moroccan row deepens with Germany
  • A senior Moroccan government official confirmed on Tuesday that the letter was authentic, but said it was not meant to be made public

RABAT: Morocco’s Foreign Ministry has suspended ties with the German Embassy because of “deep misunderstandings,” notably related to the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco is angered by German criticism of former US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in return for moves by Rabat to normalize its relations with Israel.
A letter leaked online from Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita to the rest of the government orders officials to suspend “all contact, interaction and cooperation” with the German Embassy and embassy-related activities.
A senior Moroccan government official confirmed on Tuesday that the letter was authentic, but said it was not meant to be made public.
The official also noted the appearance of a flag of the pro-independence Polisario Front outside the state assembly in the northern German city of Bremen. Germany’s Foreign Ministry said it was aware of media reports about the letter.
The Algeria-backed Polisario Front fought for independence for Western Sahara after Morocco annexed the former Spanish colony in 1975. UN peacekeepers now monitor a 30-year-old cease-fire between Moroccan forces and Polisario supporters.
The UN has expressed concern that Trump’s decision could thwart negotiation efforts in the long-running Western Sahara conflict.


Iraq starts vaccinations with jabs gifted from China

Iraq starts vaccinations with jabs gifted from China
Iraqis get vaccinated against Covid-19 with Chinese Sinopharm vaccine at a private nursing home in Baghdad on March 2, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 03 March 2021

Iraq starts vaccinations with jabs gifted from China

Iraq starts vaccinations with jabs gifted from China
  • The public health infrastructure in Iraq, a country of 40 million, has been severely worn down by decades of war, under-investment and corruption

BAGHDAD: Iraq began coronavirus vaccinations on Tuesday, inoculating medical staff hours after a military plane brought in 50,000 Sinopharm jabs donated by China.
The campaign was launched as Iraq battles a second wave of COVID-19 infections, with more than 4,600 new cases a day, and ahead of a three-day visit by Pope Francis from Friday.
“The vaccines arrived overnight and we immediately distributed them to health centers and began the vaccinations,” Health Minister Hassan Al-Tamimi said at Baghdad’s Medical City hospital compound.
“We will be carrying out more vaccinations tomorrow in the provinces and remote areas.”
Aside from health workers, security forces and the elderly will be first to receive the free-of-charge vaccine, his ministry said on a citizens’ registration platform which, however, was not functional.
The public health infrastructure in Iraq, a country of 40 million, has been severely worn down by decades of war, under-investment and corruption.
The Health Ministry has said it agreed with the Chinese ambassador in Baghdad to purchase another 2 million Sinopharm doses, but provided no details on the cost or the timing. Iraqi authorities said in January they had approved three vaccines for use, but there have been repeated delays and contradictory statements from health authorities.
The ministry said it was expecting to receive a total of 16 million jabs through the global Covax scheme, through which wealthy nations are meant to allocate vaccines for poorer countries.

SPEEDREAD

The ministry said it was expecting to receive a total of 16 million jabs through the global Covax scheme, through which wealthy nations are meant to allocate vaccines for poorer countries.

That figure appeared to be based on Covax’s pledge that, subject to funding, it could help poorer countries vaccinate 20 percent of their populations — or 8 million people in Iraq.
The ministry has also said it would receive 3 million AstraZeneca jabs, but the World Health Organization has only approved the distribution of 2 million of those doses to Iraq through Covax.
The ministry also says it has secured funding from the World Bank for 1.5 million jabs from Pfizer/BioNTech, but the deal requires a parliamentary vote which has yet to be held.
Sinopharm affiliate the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products says its vaccine has an efficacy rate of 72.51 percent, behind rival jabs by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which have 95 percent and 94.5 percent rates respectively.


Hezbollah gunmen fight off bid to arrest Rafik Hariri’s killer

Hezbollah gunmen fight off bid to arrest Rafik Hariri’s killer
Updated 34 min 52 sec ago

Hezbollah gunmen fight off bid to arrest Rafik Hariri’s killer

Hezbollah gunmen fight off bid to arrest Rafik Hariri’s killer

BEIRUT: Gunfire broke out in south Beirut on Tuesday night when Hezbollah fought off an apparent attempt by Lebanese security forces to arrest the man convicted of assassinating former prime minister Rafik a.

Information circulating on social media said officers tried to raid a house thought to be the hideout of Salim Ayyash, 57, who is wanted by the Lebanese state at the request of the International Tribunal for Lebanon. Hezbollah fighters opened fire, surrounded the security patrol, and detained its members and their vehicles.

Amateur video footage on social media shows shots being fired and a Hezbollah fighter shouting: “Attack them and disarm them.”

An activist close to Hezbollah told Arab News: “The security patrol wanted to arrest wanted suspects accused of a crime, it is not true that there was a clash with Hezbollah."

Rafik Hariri died in a suicide bombing of his car in Beirut in February 2005. The Special Tribunal tried Ayyash in his absence, and sentenced him to life imprisonment in August 2020 for conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. Hezbollah has said it will never hand him over.

Desert Storm: 30 years on
The end of the Gulf War on Feb. 28, 1991 saw the eviction of Iraq from Kuwait but paved the way for decades of conflict
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