UN says 12 murdered in Syria camp in two weeks

UN says 12 murdered in Syria camp in two weeks
1 / 2
Tents partially covered with snow are seen at Internally displaced Syrian camp in Northern Aleppo countryside, Syria January 20, 2021. Picture taken January 20, 2021. (Reuters)
UN says 12 murdered in Syria camp in two weeks
2 / 2
Internally displaced Syrian woman walks with a child, near tents at a camp in Northern Aleppo countryside, Syria January 20, 2021. Picture taken January 20, 2021. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 22 January 2021

UN says 12 murdered in Syria camp in two weeks

UN says 12 murdered in Syria camp in two weeks

BEIRUT: Twelve murders have taken place at a displaced camp in northeast Syria in just over two weeks, the UN said Thursday, sounding the alarm over an “increasingly untenable” security situation.
Held by Kurdish forces, Al-Hol camp — Syria’s biggest — holds almost 62,000 people, of whom more than 80 percent are women and children, including Syrians, Iraqis and thousands from as far afield as Europe and Asia.
The foreigners are families of jihadists from the Daesh group, which seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The Iraqi and Syrian residents of the camp largely fled subsequent fighting between IS and Kurdish forces.
“Between 1 and 16 January, the UN received reports of the murders of 12 Syrian and Iraqi camp residents,” said the UN statement, adding that an Iraqi woman was among those killed.
“The disturbing events indicate an increasingly untenable security environment at Al-Hol,” it added.
The camp had already witnessed several security incidents in recent months, sometimes involving IS supporters.
These have included escape attempts and attacks against guards or staff employed by NGOs, sometimes with knives, other times with firearms.
The UN statement published on Thursday said that Imran Riza, its Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, and Muhannad Hadi, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, expressed their “serious concern over the deteriorating security conditions” at the camp.
The two UN officials also stressed the “urgent need for durable solutions to be found for every person living in the camp.”
Since the fall of IS’ self-proclaimed caliphate in March 2019 after a US-backed Kurdish offensive in eastern Syria, Kurdish authorities have repeatedly demanded that countries repatriate women and children.
But most countries, especially European nations, are reluctant to take back their citizens. Some, including France, have brought home a limited number of French jihadists and children.
“The recent rise in violence... jeopardizes the ability for the UN and humanitarian partners to continue to safely deliver critical humanitarian assistance,” the UN statement added.
Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011 after the violent repression of protests, quickly spiralling into a multi fronted conflict that pulled in numerous actors, including jihadist groups and foreign powers.


UN: Arbitrary detentions in Syria conflict may be war crimes

UN: Arbitrary detentions in Syria conflict may be war crimes
Updated 16 min 22 sec ago

UN: Arbitrary detentions in Syria conflict may be war crimes

UN: Arbitrary detentions in Syria conflict may be war crimes

GENEVA: Thousands of Syrian civilians were subject to multiple forms of war crimes, including torture and sexual violence, while others' fate remains unknown to date amid "arbitrary detentions" during the country’s 10-year conflict, said a UN commission report released Monday.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has regularly reported on suspected human rights violations and abuses since the civil war erupted.
According to the report, the Syrian government arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals and committed “war crimes and crimes against humanity in the context of detention.” Other parties in the conflict also committed crimes by unlawfully and arbitrarily depriving individuals of their liberty, it said.
Rival groups have been blamed for atrocities since Syria’s conflict broke out in March 2011 with anti-government protests that morphed into a civil war. They run jails where wide violations are reported against detainees.
The conflict has killed nearly half a million people, displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million, including 5 million who are refugees abroad. Large parts of Syria are destroyed and tens of thousands still live in tent settlements.
The more than 30-page report is based on 2,658 interviews with victims and witnesses conducted from 2011 to the end of 2020, in addition to photographs, videos, satellite imagery, official documents and reports from multiple sources.
It is also based on investigations into more than 100 specific detention facilities, history documents and continued detention-related violations and abuses by nearly every major party that has controlled territory in Syria since 2011.
“The wealth of evidence collected over a decade is staggering, yet the parties to the conflict, with very few exceptions, have failed to investigate their own forces,” said Commissioner Karen Koning AbuZayd.
“The focus appears to be on concealing, rather than investigating crimes committed in the detention facilities,” she added.
The report notes “massive scale of detention” and abuses perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and also lists detentions by insurgent groups, including Turkey-backed opposition fighters, other rebel groups and the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. It also examines the record of the Al-Qaeda-linked Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and the Daesh group — both designated terrorist organizations by the UN.
The fate of tens of thousands of civilians who were forcibly disappeared by Syrian government forces, many nearly a decade ago, remains unknown, the report said. Many are presumed to have died or been executed, while some are believed to be held in inhuman conditions of detention.
“Hundreds of thousands of family members have a right to the truth about their loved ones’ fate,” said the commission’s chairman, Paulo Pinheiro.
The commission also urged the government in Damascus to take urgent steps to reveal the fate of those missing. The report appeals on all parties to halt and prevent violations, immediately release specific groups of individuals, allow independent monitoring of detention facilities and provide support to victims.
The report is to be discussed by the UN-backed Human Rights Council, which set up the commission, on March 11, as part of its current four-week session.
___
Mroue reported from Beirut.


Archbishop who taught Pope to tweet says Iraq visit offers ‘consolation, hope’

Archbishop who taught Pope to tweet says Iraq visit offers ‘consolation, hope’
Updated 36 min 44 sec ago

Archbishop who taught Pope to tweet says Iraq visit offers ‘consolation, hope’

Archbishop who taught Pope to tweet says Iraq visit offers ‘consolation, hope’
  • He ‘intends to reach the hearts of all Iraqis,’ ex-head of Vatican’s social media tells Arab News

ROME: The visit of Pope Francis to Iraq this week will send a message of “consolation and hope” to those who have suffered so much in the country, according to the archbishop who revolutionized the Vatican’s communications.

Claudio Maria Celli, who was president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from 2007 to 2016, worked closely with Pope Francis after helping convert Catholic leaders to social media to deliver their message to followers around the world.

As a result, the Pope’s historic Iraq visit will be relayed through the various social media accounts, including @Pontifex, the account of Pope Francis.

“With this trip, the pope intends to reach the hearts of all Iraqis. He doesn’t want to talk just to the Christians who live in that country and who’ve suffered so much from war and persecution by Daesh,” said Celli. “He wants to bring his closeness … to the people, no matter what their faith.”

The 80-year-old Celli spoke of “hope of reconstruction for a people who have the right to rebuild peace thanks to the collaboration and respect between the religious and national identities that are present in Iraq. The pope believes very much in dialogue between religions.”

Pope Francis “will certainly bring a message of solidarity to the Christians who live in that country. He wants to be close to them as a brother and as a father, so that they feel that the universal Church shares the hardship lived by a community that has suffered too much and for too long from violence and fundamentalism,” said Celli.

“He wants to help rebuild trust in a tomorrow that must be different from the past, a better tomorrow made of peace, prosperity, love and common good for all in a country that deserves to be able to look forward.” All this is part of a “great dimension of interreligious dialogue,” said Celli.

In 2012, Celli helped Pope Benedict join Twitter as he transformed the Vatican's communications to keep up with the social media era. He also established a YouTube channel for the Pope.

He once stated that Catholic media “should not become instruments of a religious or cultural fundamentalism.”

 


Diversity and Netflix dominate Golden Globes

Diversity and Netflix dominate Golden Globes
Updated 01 March 2021

Diversity and Netflix dominate Golden Globes

Diversity and Netflix dominate Golden Globes
  • ‘Nomadland’ wins best drama movie at mainly virtual Hollywood ceremony

LOS ANGELES: Drama “Nomadland” and satire “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” won movie honors at the Golden Globes on Sunday in a mostly virtual bicoastal ceremony that was marked by impassioned calls for more diversity and the dominance of Netflix.

“Nomadland,” a moving drama about van dwellers in recession-hit America from Searchlight Pictures, also took the best director prize for Chinese-born Chloe Zhao. It made Zhao only the second woman to win at the Globes in that category, and the first woman director of Asian descent to win.

“For everyone who has gone through this difficult and beautiful journey at some point in their lives, this is for you,” said Zhao.

“We don’t say goodbye, we say see you down the road,” she said, quoting a line from the movie.

The two wins for “Nomadland” increased the profile of the film ahead of nominations in March for the Oscars.

Sacha Baron Cohen, the creator of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” from Amazon Studios was named best comedy movie actor, while singer Andra Day was a surprise winner for her lead role in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”

“Donald Trump is contesting the result!” Baron Cohen joked about the win for the “Borat” sequel, which was a satire on the America of the former US president.

Netflix’s period drama “Mank,” about “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, had gone into Sunday’s show with a leading six nods but ended the night empty-handed.

Nevertheless, the streaming service was the biggest winner on Sunday, with four wins in the movie field and six for television, including best TV drama series “The Crown” and limited series chess saga “The Queen’s Gambit.”

The usual chummy gathering of A-listers at a gala dinner in Beverly Hills, California, was replaced by webcams in the homes of celebrities that were either dressed up or, like “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis, in casual garb.

Hosted by Tina Fey in New York and Amy Poehler in Beverly Hills, the small physical audiences were made up of masked frontline workers.

Peter Morgan, creator of “The Crown” said he missed being together. “I’m just sorry I am sitting here in my tragic little office and not surrounded by the people who make this show such a pleasure,” Morgan said, appearing by video.

However, Jodie Foster, a best supporting actress winner for the Guantanamo prison legal drama “The Mauritanian,” told reporters backstage that she felt it was one of the best Golden Globe shows ever. “It didn’t feel like it was filled with so much artifice,” said Foster.

Emotional high points included a posthumous best actor award for Chadwick Boseman, who died at age 43 last August from an undisclosed battle with cancer. “He would say something beautiful,” said his widow Simone Ledward Boseman, as she fought back tears. “I don’t have his words.”

British actors Daniel Kaluuya and John Boyega were among other Black winners chosen by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which has been lambasted in recent days for having no Black people among its 87 members.

“Soul,” the first Pixar movie to have a Black character in the lead, was named best animated movie and won best score.

The HFPA was the target of jokes and comments throughout the night. “We all know awards shows are stupid,” said Fey. “Even in stupid things, inclusivity is important and there are no Black members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).”

Members of the HFPA appeared briefly on Sunday’s show and pledged to do better.

Jane Fonda, 83, used her lifetime achievement acceptance speech to make the case for elevating all voices in Hollywood, saying that stories “really can change people.”


How Erdogan turned a failed Turkish military mission to his political advantage

How Erdogan turned a failed Turkish military mission to his political advantage
Updated 01 March 2021

How Erdogan turned a failed Turkish military mission to his political advantage

How Erdogan turned a failed Turkish military mission to his political advantage
  • Deaths of 13 hostages held by the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Gara region came to light after Turkish airstrikes
  • President has used the incident to whip up nationalistic fervor and dial up pressure on opposition parties

ERBIL, IRAQI KURDISTAN: In the immediate aftermath of a failed cross-border, hostage rescue attempt earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened further military action against Kurdish fighters abroad and ratcheted up the rhetoric against his secularist opponents at home.

Erdogan’s latest foray against the PKK, an armed group fighting for greater political and cultural rights for Kurds in Turkey, has quickly expanded into a fresh crackdown on the pro-Kurdish HDP political party as well as a war of words with Washington over its ado-hoc alliance with a Syrian Kurdish PKK affiliate in the fight against Daesh.

It all began on February 13, when Turkey launched a raid against the PKK in the Gara region of Iraqi Kurdistan. After clashes, 13 Turkish citizens, most of them police officers and soldiers in PKK captivity since 2015 and 2016, were found dead.

Ankara said the PKK executed the hostages, but the group said Turkish airstrikes on the cave complex during the operation caused their deaths. (AFP)

Ankara said the PKK executed the hostages, but the group said Turkish airstrikes on the cave complex during the operation caused their deaths. Even as many Turks cast doubt on the government’s version of the events, security agencies arrested more than 700 people, including members of the HDP accused by Erdogan of being “official terrorist accomplices.”

Using the same political logic, Erdogan also accused the US of supporting terrorism. “What kind of NATO alliance is this? … They (the Americans) still act with terrorists,” he said on February 22, referring to US alliance with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) group in the campaign against Daesh in northeast Syria. The leading political entity in northeast Syria is the Kurdish PYD, which was founded as the Syrian branch of the PKK.

Many analysts view the combination of the crackdown at home and the outburst against the US as a cynical attempt by Erdogan to divert attention away from the bloody outcome of the hostage-rescue operation.

The developments also come as the Turkish people continue to struggle financially, student frustrations spill over into violence, and the country's management of the coronavirus crisis is rated a lowly 74th out of 98 by the Lowy Institute's COVID Performance Index.

PKK affiliates many of them backed by Iran, are present in Sinjar and will almost certainly oppose a Turkish military operation there. (AFP)

“Erdogan and the Turkish government do not view the hostage-rescue operation as a failure,” Emily Hawthorne, Stratfor Senior Middle East and North Africa analyst at RANE, told Arab News. “The whipping up of patriotic fervour and the crackdown on the HDP are a familiar tactic employed by Erdogan to drum up support of his nationalist base for anti-PKK operations.”

She said the mileage Erdogan could get out of the crisis was not unlimited. “If the PKK did in fact kill the hostages, it will help build support at home in Turkey for more anti-PKK operations abroad and might strengthen Ankara case for more leeway in its Iraqi operations," Hawthorne said. “But it won’t help much with negative Iraqi public opinion vis-a-vis the operations.”

Clashes between Turkey and the PKK in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast markedly decreased in 2020, compared with the years when the Turkish-PKK conflict (which began in 1984) flared following the collapse of a ceasefire in July 2015. Fighting now takes place mostly in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Of late, Erdogan has been threatening new cross-border offensives against the PKK in Iraq, including against its Yazidi affiliates in the Sinjar area. In January, Turkish officials met with the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leadership and discussed, among other things, removing the PKK from that region.

However, in addition to PKK affiliates, Iraqi Shiite militia groups, many of them backed by Iran, are present in Sinjar and will almost certainly oppose a Turkish military operation there.

Under the circumstances, Hawthorne doubts that Erdogan can effectively invoke the deaths of those Turkish hostages to win some support from the Biden administration for another bloody offensive against the PKK.

“The Turkish government has tried and failed for years to appeal to the US government regarding its concerns about the PKK,” she said. “It is unlikely that the US will become softer towards Turkey because of one particularly difficult and deadly operation in a decades-long struggle.”

More generally, the Turkish government has given repeated warnings of operations against the PKK. But if fresh incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan, or even a new foray into Sinjar, happen, Hawthorne anticipates that the “further south the operations are, the more complicated the issue will be with the Iraqi government.”

Her views are echoed by Kurdish analyst Gunes Murat Tezcur, the Jalal Talabani Chair and Professor at the University of Central Florida, who believes the failed Gara operation is unlikely to “have any influence over the Biden administration’s current policy towards Turkey, which is characterized by a divergence of interests at multiple levels.”

These include US opposition to Turkey’s procurement of Russian S-400 air defense missiles and Turkey’s opposition to American cooperation with the SDF in Syria. Furthermore, Tezcur said it is an indisputable fact that the Gara raid was a failure since it led to the deaths of all the hostages.

“The contrast with a successful rescue operation, such as the one conducted by Israel at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976, is instructive in this regard,” he told Arab News, adding that one of the Gara raid’s negative outcomes is that Erdogan will not be able to “score any political points domestically.”

Erdogan has been threatening new cross-border offensives against the PKK in Iraq, including against its Yazidi affiliates in the Sinjar area. (AFP)

Even so, the opposition cannot hold the President Erdogan accountable for the loss of Turkish lives in view of “the prevailing power asymmetry” in Turkey, arising from his government’s domination over the media and the weakened state of parliament.

Analysts also say Erdogan’s relentless hounding of the HDP is part of a strategy, in play since 2015, of demonizing and criminalizing its leadership by equating it with the outlawed PKK and denying it autonomy as a political party.

“That strategy, which has had its ebbs and downs, has been very consistent for the last several years,” Tezcur said. “It keeps the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party), the junior partner of the ruling coalition, content, and aims to drive a wedge between the HDP and other Turkish opposition parties.”

He also noted that the HDP has become more dispensable for the government since the Turkish military and security forces have established stronger military leverage over the PKK in recent years, at least partially through technological developments such as the use of sophisticated and lethal armed drones.

“The government feels that it no longer needs the messenger/mediating role of the HDP given its relentless military operations that significantly limit the PKK’s room for maneuver,” Tezcur said.

While he foresees more Turkish incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan aimed at PKK bases throughout this year, he doubts that the Turkish military will open a new front by launching an unprecedented ground assault on Sinjar.

The Turkish government has given repeated warnings of operations against the PKK. (AFP)

At least three factors have led Tezcur to this conclusion. First and foremost is the presence of Iraqi military and Shiite militia groups in the Yazidi homeland.

Then there is the “considerable international concern and sympathy” for the beleaguered Yazidis, who were subjected to a vicious campaign of genocide by Daesh in 2014.

Finally, the distance from the border would make logistical support for a ground operation considerably more difficult for the Turkish army.

Among those who view the arrests of HDP members as Erdogan’s way of shifting blame for the Gara raid failure is Mohammed Salih, a Kurdish affairs analyst and doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication.

The actions of Erdogan “reveal the impunity, at both the domestic and international levels, with which he can behave in an authoritarian way,” Salih told Arab News.

“The Turkish leader will certainly continue military incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan because foreign operations are now a sure way for him to deflect attention from the many problems at home.”

As for the Biden administration, Salih said it “has already made clear, with its silence over the mass arrests, and the violations of Kurdish rights in Turkey in general, that the human and democratic rights of the Kurdish people in Turkey are practically of no value.”

Twitter: @pauliddon
 

 

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
Enter
keywords

DIFC Courts sees 41% rise in cases during 2020

DIFC Courts sees 41% rise in cases during 2020
Updated 01 March 2021

DIFC Courts sees 41% rise in cases during 2020

DIFC Courts sees 41% rise in cases during 2020
  • The DIFC Courts’ Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) saw cases increase 47 percent to 466 cases in 2020

DUBAI: The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) Courts saw a 41 percent rise in the number of cases it handled last year, with its technology and construction sector recording a 233 percent surge in disputes, it was announced on Monday.

Established in 2004 and based on the English-language common law system, the courts’ jurisdiction was expanded in 2011 to include all businesses from all GCC countries and beyond.

The number of cases at the main Court of First Instance rose last year by 41 percent, while the total value of claims increased 72 percent to AED9.95 billion ($2.71 billion), with the average claim across cases amounting to AED86.3 million. The cases covered a wide range of sectors, including banking and finance, construction, and real estate.

The courts also reported a 50 percent increase in the number of opt-in cases last year, meaning claims where the contracts do not specify the DIFC Courts as the location for disputes but both parties have elected to use it in order to find a resolution.

Zaki Azmi, chief justice of the DIFC Courts, said: “Undoubtedly, 2020 was a year that tested the resilience of every government service, private-sector business, and individual. It was a year that forced everyone to re-shift focus; to reprioritize, and, to adapt to rapid changes.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances that have emerged, all core services of the DIFC Courts have been fully maintained, whilst remaining true to our core values and dedication of public service.”

The DIFC Courts’ Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) saw cases increase 47 percent to 466 cases in 2020. The majority (51 percent) of cases were related to breach of contract, followed by employment (25 percent), property and tenancy (16 percent), and banking and finance (8 percent). The total value of claims related to SCT cases amounted to AED55 million.

Earlier this year, the DIFC Courts launched a new court which will rule on commercial space-related disputes, it was revealed on Monday.

The Courts of Space initiative, in partnership with the Dubai Future Foundation, will see an international working group of public and private-sector experts tasked with exploring space-related legal issues linked to such disputes, and brainstorming possible outcomes.