Wife of British-born ‘aid worker’ demands Syria rebels release him

Men fix up a banner on the side of a building calling for the release of Tauqir Sharif at the premises of his charity organization in the town of Atme in Syria. (AFP)
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Updated 04 July 2020

Wife of British-born ‘aid worker’ demands Syria rebels release him

  • Tauqir Sharif, 33, was detained on June 22 by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS)
  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sharif was detained over his alleged ties with rival rebels

ATME: The wife of a self-described aid worker stripped of his British nationality has called for his release after he was detained by rebels in Syria’s last major rebel bastion.
Tauqir Sharif, 33, was detained on June 22 by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a dominant group in Syria’s northwestern region of Idlib, his supporters say.
“We haven’t been given anything from HTS to even say what the allegations are” against him, his wife Racquell Hayden Best told AFP in the town of Atme, adding that she had been scrambling for information on his detention.
“We have heard ourselves that he is innocent. If he is an innocent man, why are you holding him in prison?” she asked.
Sharif, whose father is originally from Pakistan, hails from Chingford on the eastern outskirts of London and first arrived in Syria in 2012, according to the Live Updates From Syria organization he founded with his wife.
Britain stripped him of his British nationality in 2017, accusing him of links to an Al-Qaeda-aligned group it did not specify, the British press has said, but Sharif has denied the allegation.
HTS has not commented on Sharif’s detention, which comes at a time of heightened tensions between the group and other fighters in the Idlib region.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said Sharif was detained over his alleged ties with rival rebels.
A fragile cease-fire has since March stemmed a Russia-backed regime offensive against Idlib.
The region is home to some three million people, a large proportion of whom have been displaced from their homes by Syria’s nine-year-old war and are dependent on humanitarian aid.


First split opens up in new Lebanon government

Updated 39 min 46 sec ago

First split opens up in new Lebanon government

  • Foreign minister quits over lack of reform, warns of ‘failed state’

BEIRUT: The first major split opened up in Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s barely six-month-old government on Monday when his foreign minister resigned.
Nassif Hitti said there was “an absence of a real will to achieve the comprehensive and structural reform demanded by the national and international community,” and Lebanon was “sliding toward becoming a failed state.”
Hitti was swiftly replaced by Charbel Wehbe, diplomatic adviser to President Michel Aoun and a career diplomat. Wehbe, 67, is a former secretary general of the ministry, and is close to Aoun and his influential son-in-law Gebran Bassil, a former foreign minister 
Lebanon is enduring an economic crash, with the value of its currency plunging. The government has appealed to the International Monetary Fund for billions of dollars in aid, but there has been little progress on the reforms demanded in return for a bailout.
Diab’s administration has also been attacked by its opponents for weak decision-making and depending on dominant forces in the cabinet, most notably Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement. As he resigned, Hitti launched a veiled attack on them.
“I participated in this government on the basis that I have one employer called Lebanon, and I found many employers and conflicting interests in my country, who did not agree about the interest of the Lebanese people and its rescue,” he said.
Hitti was said to be upset by the government’s poor performance, and because it had not carried out any of the pledges it made to the Lebanese people or the international community to root out corruption.
He was also uncomfortable at the growing diplomatic role given to security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim in communicating with some countries at the expense of the foreign ministry. He viewed this encroachment as depleting his “professional and diplomatic credit,” he said.
Government opponents praised Hitti’s courage. “The political forces holding on to the actual power will make Lebanon a failed state,” said Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces Party. “Hitti’s testimony came after a performance that lasted more than six months, and Lebanon’s situation will not settle as long as Hezbollah, the FPM and their allies have authority in Lebanon.”
Marwan Hamade, a member of the Lebanese parliament, said Hitti had “risen up” against the government to join the people and the revolution again. Another MP, Henri Helo, said: “We hope that more follow suit, which paves the way for a new government that meets the Lebanese people’s ambitions.”