Philippines investigates suicide of a maid at embassy shelter in Lebanon

Thousands of foreign workers in Lebanon have been left stranded and without work by the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)
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Updated 24 May 2020

Philippines investigates suicide of a maid at embassy shelter in Lebanon

  • Human rights groups had already raised the alarm about conditions for the women staying in the shelter
  • Lebanon is home to up to 250,000 foreign workers, some of whom are there illegally

AMMAN: The Philippine government is investigating the suicide of a maid who died on Sunday after an incident at a shelter run by its embassy in Beirut for Filipino workers waiting to return home after losing their jobs in the coronavirus pandemic.
Her death comes just days after human rights groups raised concerns about the treatment of 26 female domestic workers staying at the shelter under the care of the Philippine embassy.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Filipino domestic worker had been staying at the facility since Friday where she was sharing a room with two other people.
Coronavirus restrictions coupled with an economic meltdown in Lebanon has prompted people to ditch domestic help or not pay them, with workers seeking refuge at their countries’ embassies while they wait for borders to open so they can return home.
“The Embassy was able to speak to the Filipino’s eldest sister in the Philippines as well as her cousin in Lebanon to convey its condolences,” the DFA said in a statement.
“The Embassy has ensured the safety of the rest of the female wards in the shelter and will provide them counseling as needed.”
Neither the Philippine embassy in Lebanon nor the DFA were immediately available for further comment.
A spokesman from Lebanon’s internal security forces said they could not comment while an investigation was ongoing.
Human rights groups last week raised concerns that about 26 Filipino domestic workers, some of whom were working without legal documentation, were being held in over-crowded conditions, although embassy staff repeatedly denied mistreatment.
Bassam Al Kantar of the National Human Rights Commission of Lebanon said these women “have not seen the light of day for more than 40 days.”
The Philippine embassy said in an earlier statement that the allegations “do not depict an accurate description of the conditions” and posted a social media video on May 18 of a shelter resident saying there was lots of food and medical care.
Thousands of foreign workers in Lebanon, some without legal documentation, are out of work and left stranded by border closures, with many unable to access state services and others subjected to abuse in confinement, according to Amnesty.
Lebanon is home to up to 250,000 foreign workers, some working illegally, who are employed under the country’s kafala sponsorship system which binds them to one employer.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have blamed the kafala system and the inability to change jobs, which exists in many parts of the Middle East, for the abuse of migrant workers.

Court testimony claims Turkish general killed after discovering Qatar extremist funding

Updated 04 August 2020

Court testimony claims Turkish general killed after discovering Qatar extremist funding

  • Explosive courtroom transcript says Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi was killed because he knew too much about Turkish general's murky dealings in Syria
  • Turkish officials accused of embezzling money sent from Qatar to arm Syrian militants

LONDON: A Turkish general killed during a failed coup was executed after he found out Qatar was funneling money to extremist groups in Syria through Turkey, according to explosive courtroom claims.

Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi was shot dead in July 2016 during an attempt by some military officers to overthrow the government of Recip Tayyip Erdogan. The alleged plotters were accused of being followers of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

According to a courtroom transcript obtained by the anti-Erdogan Nordic Monitor website, Terzi’s killing was ordered by Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakalli, the then head of Turkey’s Special Forces Command.

The website claims the testimony came from Col. Firat Alakus, who worked in the intelligence section of the Special Forces Command, during a hearing at the 17th High Criminal Court in Ankara in March, 2019.

Alakus said Terzi had discovered that Aksakalli was working secretly with the Turkish intelligence agency (MIT) in running illegal operations in Syria for personal gain.

“[Terzi] knew how much of the funding delivered [to Turkey] by Qatar for the purpose of purchasing weapons and ammunition for the opposition was actually used for that and how much of it was actually used by public officials, how much was embezzled,” Alakus said. 

He added that Terzi’s knowledge of Aksakalli’s murky dealings was the real reason Aksakalli ordered his execution.

Terzi was killed after Aksakalli ordered him back to Ankara from a border province as the failed coup attempt unfolded, Alakus said.

Other accounts say Terzi was one of the main coup plotters and was killed leading an attempt to capture the special forces headquarters in the capital.

Along with the Qatari claim, Alakus said Terzi also knew the details of Turkey’s involvement in oil smuggling from Syria and how government officials aided extremist militant commanders.

He also objected to Turkish intelligence supplying weapons and training to extremist Syrian factions who were passed off as moderate opposition fighters.

“[Terzi’s murder] had to do with a trap devised by Zekai Aksakalli, who did not want such facts to come out into the open,” Alakus said.

Alakus was jailed for life in June 2019 after being convicted for taking part in the coup.