Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
Rights defenders fear Iraq's presidency may give the green light to a spree of executions of convicted militants to show strength in response to deadly suicide bombings in Baghdad. (File/AFP)
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Updated 25 January 2021

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
  • More than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out
  • The orders came after twin suicide attacks claimed by Daesh killed 32 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Rights defenders fear Iraq may give the green light to a spree of executions of convicted militants in a show of strength, days after a deadly suicide attack in Baghdad.
On Sunday, an official from Iraq’s presidency told AFP more than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out.
“We are continuing to sign off on more,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The orders were disclosed to AFP after twin suicide attacks claimed by the Daesh group on Thursday killed at least 32 people in a crowded open-air Baghdad market.
The blasts were a jolting reminder of the persistent threat posed by the jihadists, despite the government declaring victory over them in late 2017.
The official, along with judicial sources contacted by AFP, could not provide additional details on when the executions may take place or if they included foreigners convicted of belonging to IS.
A 2005 law carries the death penalty for anyone convicted of “terrorism,” which can include membership of an extremist group even if they are not convicted of any specific acts.
Rights groups have warned that executions were being used for political reasons.
“Leaders resort to announcements of mass executions simply to signal to the public that they’re taking... (these issues) seriously,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The death penalty is used as a political tool more than anything else,” she told AFP on Sunday.
In mid-2018, outgoing Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced 13 executions under the Counter-Terror Law, and for the first time authorities published pictures of the hangings.
That came after Daesh killed eight civilians.

Since the official declaration of victory over Daesh, Iraq’s courts have sentenced hundreds to death for crimes perpetrated during the jihadists’ 2014 seizure of around a third of the country and their brutal three-year hold over cities including Mosul.
But only a small proportion of the sentences have been carried out, as they must be approved by the president.
Barham Saleh, who has held the post since 2018, is known to be personally against capital punishment, and has resisted signing execution orders in the past.
Some Iraqis took to social media to demand tougher action from Saleh after Thursday’s attack, accusing him of “not carrying out the sentences” and risking a prison break.
Despite Saleh’s moderating influence, Iraq in 2019 carried out the fourth highest number of executions among nations worldwide, after China and Iran, according to Amnesty International.
Iraq carried out 100 executions that year — one out of every seven worldwide.
Judicial sources told AFP at least 30 executions took place in 2020.
They include 21 men convicted of “terrorism” and executed at the notorious Nasiriyah prison in November.
The move sparked condemnations from the United Nations, which described the news as “deeply troubling” and called on Iraq to halt any further planned executions.

Rights groups accuse Iraq’s justice system of corruption, carrying out rushed trials on circumstantial evidence and failing to allow the accused a proper defense.
They also condemn cramped conditions in detention centers, saying those arrested for petty crimes are often held with hardened jihadists, facilitating radicalization.
Iraq’s government has declined to provide figures on detention centers or prisoners, including how many are facing terrorism-related charges, although some studies estimate 20,000 are being held for purported Daesh links.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said late last year that given such gaps in Iraq’s legal system, implementing capital punishment “may amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life by the State.”
Ali Bayati, a leading member of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, told AFP the country had “limited options.”
“Capital punishment is part of the Iraqi legal system — and we do not have real rehabilitation centers,” he said.
“We lack clear guarantees and real transparency in the interrogation and ruling sessions, and in allowing human rights organizations to play their role.”


Yemeni government says restores ties with Qatar

Yemeni government says restores ties with Qatar
Updated 51 min 56 sec ago

Yemeni government says restores ties with Qatar

Yemeni government says restores ties with Qatar
  • Both sides agreed to unify diplomatic positions on Yemen

LONDON: Yemen’s internationally recognized government on Sunday restored diplomatic ties with Qatar, the foreign ministry announced.
Both sides agreed to resume bilateral relations and coordinate positions regarding political regional and international developments.
They also said they would unify diplomatic positions on Yemen, and work to achieve peace and stability in the region.
The announcement came following talks in Doha, between Yemen’s foreign minister, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, and his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman.
Bin Mubarak delivered a message from Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim, thanking Doha for its humanitarian and development support for Yemen.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt ended a three-year rift with Qatar following a Gulf summit in the historic Saudi city of AlUla in January.
During the meeting, Sheikh Mohammed underlined the need for a political solution to end the six-year war in Yemen.
He renewed Qatar’s support for unity, security and territorial integrity of Yemen, including supporting the efforts of UN envoy Martin Griffiths to bring peace and stability.
Kuwait last month hosted bilateral talks with Qatar and Egypt, and with Qatar and the UAE, aimed at resolving individual issues.

(With Reuters)


The Egyptian woman behind the Happy Africa initiative

The Egyptian woman behind the Happy Africa initiative
Updated 08 March 2021

The Egyptian woman behind the Happy Africa initiative

The Egyptian woman behind the Happy Africa initiative
  • El-Amin chose Kenya to launch the initiative because she had already formed a community of volunteers there to serve the society

CAIRO: Sarah El-Amin, the Egyptian woman behind the Happy Africa Organization, previously worked in philanthropy through a charitable institution, and as an investigative journalist. 

El-Amin was doing well as a journalist, but after the sudden death of her mother she decided to travel to Kenya to study. It was during this time that the idea of the organization came to her.

She started working to convey the true image of Egypt across the African continent through her community work with tribes in remote areas, which took eight hours to reach from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

“My focus in my work abroad was serving the neediest areas in Africa, and I carried out many successful projects in Kenya,” El-Amin told Arab News.

“I was cited as an example of an Egyptian girl who overcame obstacles. During my trip abroad, I succeeded and was able to establish the organization with the support of a number of Egyptians abroad,” she said.

During her stay abroad and following the implementation of many projects, a number of Egyptian expatriates shared their experiences with El-Amin and together they came up with a plan.

“I could not do anything on my own without the collective effort of all the members of the Egyptian community in Kenya supporting me,” she said.

El-Amin chose Kenya to launch the initiative because she had already formed a community of volunteers there to serve the society.

She volunteered to work in a center for treating AIDS patients in Kenya, with the help of Italian experts and volunteers. 

She said that she named the foundation Happy Africa Organization because it aimed to ensure the happiness of African people with the support of Egyptians, financially and through other initiatives in different sectors.

El-Amin recently returned to Egypt, where the country’s Emigration and Expatriates Affair Minister Nabila Makram, and Maya Mursi, chairman of the National Council for Women, presented her with the Al Ta’ Marbouta Shield for her services to humanity.

The Ministry of Immigration has launched an official initiative, “The Power of Egyptian Women Abroad,” with El-Amin as its ambassador.

“The initiative aims to involve Egyptian women abroad in supporting the project to develop Egyptian villages to improve the lives of Egyptians,” El-Amin said.


Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere

Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere
Zainab Al-Eqabi was picked to star in The Body Shop's Self-Love Uprising campaign. (Instagram)
Updated 36 min 4 sec ago

Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere

Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere
  • There are so many people with disabilities who feel shy or embarrassed, or they just choose not to integrate into society
  • Zainab Al-Eqabi, 30, is a beacon of body positivity and source of motivation

DUBAI: When Iraqi sports enthusiast Zainab Al-Eqabi was seven years old, a bomb went off near her Baghdad home. Al-Eqabi, now 30, lost one of her legs as a result of the explosion.

“It hasn’t been an easy journey,” the pharmacist-turned-athlete told Arab News. It was the support of family and friends, as well as her own inner strength, that got her through. And despite the odds stacked against her, Al-Eqabi has taken her athleticism to a new level and has gone on to compete in several sports competitions in the UAE.

However, the 30-year-old admits that she has not always been an athlete — it was not until a doctor recommended that she should start swimming to ease her back pain, which was induced by her prosthetic leg, that she took up sports.

Al-Eqabi says that it “was a turning point” in her life.

“Swimming was not as difficult and scary as I thought at all, and it kind of opened up the doors to other sports,” she said. She competed in two triathlons as a cyclist in the UAE, and in 2020 joined the Dubai Fitness Challenge, during which she hauled a 2,000kg Jeep.

On top of an intense training schedule, a full-time job as a pharmacist and giving motivational speeches, Al-Eqabi makes a point of posting inspiring photographs of herself on Instagram — where she has accrued 1.5 million followers — with the aim of breaking stereotypes, combatting prejudices and contributing to a more confident society.

FASTFACTS

• Zainab Al-Eqabi lost her leg in a bomb blast in Baghdad when she was seven.

• She started swimming on her doctor’s advice to ease her back pain, which was induced by her prosthetic leg.

• On top of an intense training schedule, she works full-time as a pharmacist and gives motivational speeches.

• She competed in two triathlons as a cyclist in the UAE.

• In 2020, she joined the Dubai Fitness Challenge, during which she hauled a 2,000kg Jeep.

• Al-Eqabi has taken her athleticism to a new level and participated in several sports competitions in the UAE.

“In the Middle East, there’s this stigma on people with special needs or any kind of disability,” she said. “When I used to tell people that I have a prosthetic leg, they wouldn’t understand. They didn’t understand that I have an amputation. So, I decided to create a Facebook page called ‘Disabled and Proud’ and just started to note down stories from my daily life,” she said.

She recalled one instance when a woman confided in her that her disabled son had become more social and confident since he started following Al-Eqabi on social media.

“There are so many people with disabilities who feel shy or embarrassed, or they just choose not to integrate into society. They limit their activity and involvement, just because of what they’re going through,” she said. “I hated that. So that’s what made me start posting on social media.”

Naturally, Al-Eqabi was the perfect fit when The Body Shop was searching for regional faces to represent its new Global Self Love Movement campaign, which promotes self-esteem and body positivity.

“I can really relate to this campaign. Self-love is a treasure that we all need to keep developing so that we can have the best relationship with our own self. I’m honestly so proud to be a part of this campaign,” she said.

When it comes to her own beauty routine, she follows a diligent skin care regimen because she believes that taking care of our bodies is important. Most days, she goes bare-faced, simply applying moisturizer and sunscreen and using a face mask once a week. On the days that she is not swimming, she will swipe a few coats of mascara on her lashes.

Ultimately though, Al-Eqabi’s secret to feeling her best is getting plenty of sleep and exercise. “Working out just makes you really feel good,” she said.

Al-Eqabi has had to put many of her plans on hold due to the pandemic. However, she continues to be a beacon of body positivity.

“I want to tell the person with a disability, don’t let it stop you, because at the end of the day you need to live your life. It doesn’t make sense to be excluded and to go through that by yourself. This is your life. You deserve to live it and enjoy it.”

 


Jordanian women have come a long way, but much work remains to be done

Jordanian women have come a long way, but much work remains to be done
Activists stage a sit-in near the government's headquarters in Amman to protest against the alleged killing of a Jordanian woman by her father for reasons related to 'family honor' on July 21, 2020. (Supplied)
Updated 33 min 31 sec ago

Jordanian women have come a long way, but much work remains to be done

Jordanian women have come a long way, but much work remains to be done
  • According to official estimates, Jordan’s unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2020 stood at 23.9 percent, up 4.8 percent compared with the same period of 2019

AMMAN: Despite improvements in the status of women in Jordan, more still needs to be done to address gender-based violence and increase women’s engagement in both society and the labor market, according to rights activists.

In remarks to Arab News on the occasion of International Women’s Day, women’s rights activists argued that Jordan has achieved “considerable” progress over the past 20 years in combating discrimination against women by revisiting laws and taking on the “social taboos” that keep Jordanian women out of the workforce.

They explained that these changes were the result of changes in society, underlining the need for more efforts at the institutional level toward improving gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Rana Husseini, a renowned women’s rights activist, said: “With regard to the achievements of the women’s rights movement, I would say that one of the most important accomplishments was the appointment of women in decision-making positions such as ministers, criminal prosecutors, ambassadors and judges. Now, you see women almost everywhere. This is a sign that society is more open now toward accepting and wanting women to be in positions of leadership.”

Despite changes to social structures and improvements in women’s rights in Jordan, the award-winning journalist said there are still problems related to women’s labor force participation and their employment status, citing the high unemployment rates among females.

According to official estimates, Jordan’s unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2020 stood at 23.9 percent, up 4.8 percent compared with the same period of 2019. The rate of unemployed males who hold a bachelor’s degree and higher reached 25.2 percent, while the percentage of unemployed females who hold at least the same degree increased to 77 percent.

“Despite efforts, economic participation among women is still weak,” Husseini said, adding that there were still many jobs occupied exclusively by men.

“There is still discrimination in the workplace. Job owners prefer to hire men to get around issues related to maternity leave and childcare.”

Honor crimes

On average, 10 to 15 women are killed annually in Jordan in the name of honor, Husseini said.

Husseini, who authored the hard-hitting book, “Murder in the Name of Honor,” explained that the figure has seen a “significant drop.”

“The number of the so-called ‘honor crimes’ reported in Jordan during the 1980s and 1990s was between 20 to 25, sometimes reaching 30 every year. Now, after all the work that has been done by activists, awareness campaigns, the government and all those involved in the fight, the number has dropped to 10 to 15 cases."  

She explained that Jordan has amended laws related to violence against women, toughening penalties and thus reducing honor crimes.

I would say that one of the most important accomplishments was the appointment of women in decision-making positions.

Rana Husseini, Activist

“There have also been changes to some important clauses pertaining to violence against women, such as articles 98 and 308 of the penal code. Article 308 used to allow a person who sexually assaults a woman to escape punishment if he married the victim. Now, this is no longer the case. The other change is that perpetrators of so-called ‘honor crimes’ are not receiving lenient sentences as they used to in the past. Now, the criminal courts and justice system are really treating violence against women and children very seriously, and they are bringing cases to court with strong evidence to implicate the defendants.”

Husseini explained that Jordanian laws no longer allow a lenient sentence for perpetrators of honor crimes.

“But we still have a problem with the waiving of rights that families can exercise while at court to reduce the sentence.

“Violence against women is not a phenomenon specific to Jordan or the Middle East region but one that is found all over the world. The difference in our region is that women are killed by their families and relatives,” Husseini added.  

COVID-19 pandemic

Jordanian women’s rights leaders said that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has exacerbated women’s troubles, worsening women’s economic participation and increasing gender-based violence.  

According to the Sisterhood is Global Initiative (SIGI), an independent organization seeking women’s advancement and empowerment through a range of education and advocacy programs, many women have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and have been subject to domestic violence.  

“The outbreak has proved the centrality of women in the society. The burdens of Jordanian women, especially those on the front lines, have increased during the pandemic, with many of them losing their jobs and suffering various forms of violence from their husbands, fathers and brothers. They have remained silent, in part to protect their families and children but also out of their deep belief that the current circumstances are exceptional and full of economic and social challenges,” SIGI said in a recent report.

Husseini said that lockdowns and curfews have been hindering NGOs and protection teams from performing regular check-up visits to vulnerable families and centers for victims of domestic violence and “family honor.”  

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, UN Women said that emerging data and reports from those on the front lines have shown that all forms of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, have intensified.

A recent study by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia concluded that the pandemic is expected to result in the loss of 1.7 million jobs in the Middle East region, including approximately 700,000 jobs held by women.


Father of drowned Syrian refugee boy Alan Kurdi meets pope in Iraq

Father of drowned Syrian refugee boy Alan Kurdi meets pope in Iraq
Updated 38 min 28 sec ago

Father of drowned Syrian refugee boy Alan Kurdi meets pope in Iraq

Father of drowned Syrian refugee boy Alan Kurdi meets pope in Iraq
  • Following a Mass on Sunday in the Iraqi city of Erbil, Francis met with Abdullah Kurdi and spent a long time with him
  • Through an interpreter, the pope listened to Kurdi’s story and expressed sympathy for the loss of his family

IRBIL: Pope Francis has met with the father of Alan Kurdi, a 3-year old Syrian boy who drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea and whose image drew global attention to the plight of refugees fleeing to Europe.
Following a Mass on Sunday in the Iraqi city of Erbil, Francis met with Abdullah Kurdi and spent a long time with him, the Vatican said.


Through an interpreter, the pope listened to Kurdi’s story and expressed sympathy for the loss of his family. Abdullah thanked the pope for his words.
The Kurdi family, who fail from Kobane in Syria, took the route of many Syrian and other migrants in 2015 by sea in a small boat from Turkey heading for Greece. When their boat capsized, Alan Kurdi, one of his brothers and his mother perished. The image of Alan's body, washed up on Turkish shores, came to symbolize the perilous journey to Europe and drew international condemnation. The father now runs a charity in Erbil.