ME countries continue taking steps to fight COVID-19

Residents of the Lebanese capital Beirut stroll along the seaside corniche, despite the lingering threat of the novel coronavirus, on Sunday. (AFP)
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Updated 01 June 2020

ME countries continue taking steps to fight COVID-19

  • Abu Dhabi announces one-week ban on traffic to be implemented from June 2

DUBAI: Countries in the Middle East are taking different measures based on the ground situation to effectively fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Many countries in the Gulf are easing restrictions amid strict precaution
Abu Dhabi, the largest member of the UAE federation, announced a one-week ban on traffic to and between its main cities, to be implemented from June 2, the local government media office said on Sunday.
The restrictions include a ban on entering and exiting the emirate of Abu Dhabi as a whole, it said on Twitter.
The city of Abu Dhabi is also the capital of the seven-member federation.
The other cities of the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi mentioned by the announcement are Al-Ain and Al-Dhafra. Movement within these cities is allowed as long as a night curfew, already in force, is observed.

Accommodations
Employers in Bahrain have provided new accommodation for workers to ease overcrowding in labor camps as the country struggles to contain the spread of the virus, the state news agency has reported.
The move comes as the country urged employers to ensure workers’ safety, especially in high-density accommodation.
Labor and Social Development Minister Jameel bin Mohammed Ali Humaidan said it was important for employers to adhere to preventive measures and commit to social distancing standards at worksites and labor camps.
He said around 8,011 workers have so far been given new accommodation.
A special committee was formed to monitor the cooperation of companies, Humaidan said, adding violators will be punished.
The minister said the private sector should implement working from home as much as possible, as long as it would not affect productivity levels.
Humaidan also said the ministry had ordered 1,055 worksites for regular sanitation, and had urged companies to ensure their workers are aware of ways to prevent the spread infectious and communicable diseases.

FASTFACTS

• Employers in Bahrain have provided new accommodation for workers to ease overcrowding in labor camps.

• Authorities have reinstated a full lockdown in the village of Majdal Anjar in Bekaa, East Lebanon.

The ministry will distribute more than 400,000 booklets to 350,000 foreign workers in various languages as part of a national awareness campaign against the spread of COVID-19.

Academic year
Kuwaiti Education Minister Saud Al-Harbi said cutting the school year short will jeopardize thousands of students, and will not be an “easy decision,” state news agency KUNA reported.
Al-Harbi said the decision depends on the country’s health situation amid the pandemic.
He added the ministry prioritizes the safety of students and staff, and also the possible impact of ending the academic year after only one semester.
Students who failed to attend first semester exams would be at a disadvantage if the ministry decides to end the school year, Al-Harbi said, adding there are students relying on the second semester to improve their scores.
A final recommendation will be announced on July 15, the minister said.
Meanwhile, Al-Harbi said the ministry will instruct schools to start online classes for grade 12 students before June 15.

Lockdown
Local authorities have reinstated a full lockdown in the village of Majdal Anjar in Bekaa, East Lebanon, after it recorded another wave of coronavirus infections, national newspaper the Daily Star reported.
A five-day lockdown in the town will be enforced, according to the municipality — all stores and institutions will be shut down during this period.
The decision comes as the local government detected infection clusters in the village — including 13 cases among Syrian refugees last week. The town went under lockdown last Friday when 32 people were found to have the virus.
The country has been carrying out targeted testing campaigns, especially in areas conducive to the spread of COVID-19.

 


Turkish president denies country has a ‘Kurdish issue’

Updated 26 November 2020

Turkish president denies country has a ‘Kurdish issue’

  • Erdogan defended the removal of 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors from their posts
  • Erdogan's lack of sensitivity to the Kurdish issue could inflame tensions with Kurds in Syria and Iraq: analyst

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied the country has a “Kurdish issue,” even as he doubled down on his anti-Kurdish stance and accused a politician of being a “terrorist who has blood on his hands.”

Erdogan was addressing members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Nov. 25 when he made the remarks.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) launched an insurgency against the state in 1984, and is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and US. Erdogan accuses the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of links to the PKK, which it denies.

Erdogan told AKP members that Selahattin Demirtas, the HDP’s former co-chair who challenged him in the 2015 presidential elections, was a “terrorist who has blood on his hands.”

Demirtas has been behind bars since Nov. 4, 2016, despite court orders calling for his release and faces hundreds of years in prison over charges related to the outlawed PKK.

The president defended the removal of 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors from their posts in the country's Kurdish-majority southeast region since local elections in March 2019.

He also said the AKP would design and implement democratization reforms with its nationalistic coalition partner, which is known for its anti-Kurdish credentials.  

His words are likely to disrupt the peace efforts that Turkey has been making with its Kurdish community for years, although they have been baby steps. They could also hint at a tougher policy shift against Kurds in Syria and Iraq.

According to Oxford University Middle East analyst Samuel Ramani, Erdogan’s comments should be read as a reaction to Tuesday’s resignation of top presidential aide Bulent Arinc, who urged for Demirtas to be released and insisted that the Kurds were repressed within Turkey.

“This gained widespread coverage in the Kurdish media, including in Iraqi Kurdistan's outlet Rudaw which has international viewership,” he told Arab News. “Erdogan wanted to stop speculation on this issue.”

Ramani said that Erdogan's lack of sensitivity to the Kurdish issue could inflame tensions with Kurds in Syria and Iraq.

“It is also an oblique warning to US President-elect Joe Biden not to try to interfere in Turkish politics by raising the treatment of Kurds within Turkey.”

But Erdogan’s comments would matter little in the long run, he added.

“Much more will depend on whether Turkey mounts another Operation Peace Spring-style offensive in northern Syria, which is a growing possibility. If that occurs during the Trump to Biden transition period, the incoming Biden administration could be more critical of Turkey and convert its rhetoric on solidarity with the Kurds into action.”

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a key partner for the US in its fight against Daesh. During a campaign speech in Oct. 2019, Biden criticized the US decision to withdraw from Syria as a “complete failure” that would leave Syrian Kurds open to aggression from Turkey.

“It’s more insidious than the betrayal of our brave Kurdish partners, it’s more dangerous than taking the boot off the neck of ISIS,” Biden said at the time.

UK-based analyst Bill Park said that Erdogan was increasingly influenced by his coalition partners, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

“He might also believe that both the PKK and the HDP have been so weakened that he doesn't have to take them into consideration,” he told Arab News. “The Western world will not respond dramatically to this announcement but they are tired of Erdogan. There is little hope that Turkey's relations with the US or the EU can be much improved. The Syrian Kurdish PYD militia are seeking an accommodation with Damascus, while the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the largest party in Iraqi Kurdistan, is indifferent to the fate of Turkey's Kurds and has problems of its own.”

The HDP, meanwhile, is skeptical about Erdogan’s reform pledges and sees them as “politicking.”

“This reform narrative is not sincere,” said HDP lawmaker Meral Danis Bestas, according to a Reuters news agency report. “This is a party which has been in power for 18 years and which has until now totally trampled on the law. It has one aim: To win back the support which has been lost.”

Turkey’s next election is scheduled for 2023, unless there is a snap election in a year.