Syria’s Rami Makhlouf relinquishes assets to charity

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Updated 29 May 2020

Syria’s Rami Makhlouf relinquishes assets to charity

  • Makhlouf said he was “very relieved and euphoric”
  • The Syrian government said his company owes $77 million

DUBAI: Rami Makhlouf, one of the richest men in Syria, is relinquishing his assets to his charity Ramak Humanitarian, newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported.
His shares in several banks and insurance companies will not be transferable or sellable, Makhlouf said.
In another video message on Facebook, the businessman said he was “very relieved and euphoric” to transfer the ownership.
It was “very difficult, but giving it to a humanitarian charity is an indescribable joy,” he added.
The move allows Makhlouf to avoid government seizure of his assets, sources in Damascus told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The Syrian government earlier ordered the seizure his assets, his wife’s and children’s on May 19, according to a government document reviewed by Reuters.
The document said the “precautionary seizure” aimed to guarantee payment of sums owned to the Syrian telecom regulatory authority.
According to the Syrian government, Mahklouf’s telecommunications company, Syriatel, owes nearly $77 million.
He has released a number of video messages on his Facebook page regarding the dispute, appealing to his cousin, Syrian President Bashar Assad, for help in one of them.


US ‘disappointed’ by Turkey mosque move on Hagia Sophia

People, some wearing face masks, pray outside the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul on July 10, 2020 as they gather to celebrate after a top Turkish court revoked the sixth-century Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, clearing the way for it to be turned back into a mosque. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2020

US ‘disappointed’ by Turkey mosque move on Hagia Sophia

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has chipped away at the Muslim-majority country’s secularism, announced Muslim prayers on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site

WASHINGTON: The US said it was “disappointed” by Turkey’s decision to turn the Byzantine-era monument Hagia Sophia back into a mosque and urged equal access for all visitors.
“We are disappointed by the decision by the government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
“We understand the Turkish government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all,” she said on Friday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has chipped away at the Muslim-majority country’s secularism, announced Muslim prayers on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
A magnet for tourists worldwide, the Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Erdogan’s announcement came after the cancellation of a decision under modern Turkey’s secularizing founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to preserve the church-turned-mosque as a museum.

We understand the Turkish government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all.

Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokeswoman

Erdogan went ahead despite an open appeal to the NATO ally by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian who frequently speaks about religious freedom.
In a statement last week, Pompeo called the museum status an “exemplar” of Turkey’s “commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history” of the country and said a change risked “diminishing the legacy of this remarkable building.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also said on Friday he deeply regretted Turkey’s decision.
Biden called on Erdogan to reverse it “and instead keep this treasured place in its current status as a museum, ensuring equal access for all.”