10 years on, Libyan revolutionaries live with wounds, unfulfilled dreams

10 years on, Libyan revolutionaries live with wounds, unfulfilled dreams
A hawker at Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli on Tuesday sells Libyan flags. (AFP)
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Updated 17 February 2021

10 years on, Libyan revolutionaries live with wounds, unfulfilled dreams

10 years on, Libyan revolutionaries live with wounds, unfulfilled dreams
  • The UN has backed a new effort to unite Libya’s warring sides through an interim government

MISRATA: As revolution swept their region in 2011, three young Libyans joined mass protests against Muammar Qaddafi’s four-decade rule. They now live divided by Libya’s frontlines, their futures irrevocably shaped by the uprising.

The first demonstrations against Qaddafi’s rule began in the eastern city of Benghazi on Feb. 17, 2011. A decade on, Libya is still split between rival factions, and shell and shrapnel holes scar its cities.

The UN has backed a new effort to unite Libya’s warring sides through an interim government and national elections at the end of the year. But many Libyans remain skeptical.

Usama Ali Al-Aguri, a graduate from Benghazi, was unemployed in 2011 and at the time decried what he called the “injustice that we suffered and heard of from our fathers and grandfathers.”

As the fighting spread through the summer of 2011, he joined the assault on Tripoli. When he and a comrade went to reconnoiter an attack, Qaddafi’s forces spotted them.

“There was massive shooting at us. I got a bullet in my leg,” he said. His comrade was killed. He ended up in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down.

He condemns many of those who emerged as leaders in 2011. “The revolution has been stolen from the honorable people now in their graves,” he said.

As the country fell further apart, he joined many others from the east in backing Khalifa Haftar, head of the eastern military forces whose push to capture Tripoli failed last year.

Al-Aguri said his injury changed his life. Now 34, he lives for his two children, he said, and for work he goes each morning to the cattle market to buy and sell livestock.

Hisham Al-Windi came from a family that did well under Qaddafi — his father was a diplomat. But after taking part in protests, he learned he was wanted by police and fled to Tunis.

Traveling to the south of Tunisia, he crossed through a border post held by the rebels and joined their battle in the western mountains. “I was several months in the fight,” he said.

Al-Windi was among the first fighters to storm Qaddafi’s Tripoli compound. Wandering through the rooms where the leader had lived, he found an item known to all Libyans — his brocaded military hat.

Interviewed that day on television wearing the hat, Al-Windi voiced his hopes for the future, briefly gaining international recognition as a face of Libya’s uprising.

“I wanted to say first that Libyans were not as bad as people thought. And I was also saying ‘Qaddafi is finished and we need to rebuild’,” he said.

He now works in Tunis and is hopeful for change.

“People say to me: ‘You took part in this disaster. How do you like it now?’ Well of course I don’t. But it doesn’t mean you have to choose between Qaddafi and chaos. Revolution is a process. We must build a new Libya that we deserve,” he said.

In Misrata, Malek Salem Al-Mejae, then aged 20, began to fight in 2011 when his city came under attack by Qaddafi’s forces.

That July, he, too, was wounded, losing a leg.

“I was in the back of the truck. A missile fell behind us,” he said. “Some of my friends were killed. I received treatment in Tunisia, then returned to Libya.”

He had hoped to see far greater progress in Libya than he has in the last decade, and blames Libya’s post-revolutionary leaders for the country’s failure to unite.

“Unfortunately the situation is as you see it after 10 years of wars. The politicians, who were entrusted with the task, were not up to the standard.”


Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations
Updated 4 min 11 sec ago

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations

Iranians in Turkey fear for safety after wave of deportations
  • Five dissidents arrested last month, with one facing death penalty in Iran
  • Thirty-three deported last year from country formerly seen as safe haven

LONDON: Many Iranian dissidents no longer view Turkey as a safe haven after an increasing number of arrests and deportations in recent months.

Turkey is home to around 67,000 Iranians, with 39,000 claiming refugee status. Millions pass between the two countries each year on account of the visa-free border.

But following a crackdown by Ankara on Turkish dissidents in the last few years, and with trade and security links between the two countries increasing, Iranians too are being targeted.

Last month, Kurdish political activist Afshin Sohrabzadeh was detained and charged with being a “threat to national security” after visiting a police station to obtain travel papers.

He has since been moved to a repatriation center, and his lawyer Mahmut Kacan says his status as a refugee has been ignored.

“I have represented many refugees and asylum seekers from Iran, and their treatment is often terrible,” Kacan said.

Tehran and Ankara “have agreements to exchange people who are a political or security threat, especially anyone who is accused of links to Kurdish groups,” he added. 

“There is supposed to be rule of law in Turkey but the truth is, increasingly, Iranians can be deported without warning or following due process.”

Sohrabzadeh faces the death penalty if deported. He previously spent seven years in solitary confinement in Iran, where he says he was tortured, before escaping to Turkey in 2016, where he was joined by his family.

His wife Fereshteh Kangavari told The Guardian that men, believed to be Iranian agents, had constantly harassed the family in Turkey, and that they had been forced to move home multiple times.

“We lived a quiet life in Turkey, we had no desire to draw attention to ourselves, and we were careful to follow the rules of our host country,” she said.

“All we want is a normal life in a safe place. I am desperately afraid for my husband and the future for us and our son,” she added.

“I don’t feel safe here. It’s a constant feeling of insecurity. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I might get arrested. The way I feel about Turkey has changed.”

Four other Iranian asylum seekers were arrested on the same day as Sohrabzadeh in the Turkish city of Denizli.

Lily Faraji, Zeinab Sahafi, Ismail Fattahi and Mohammad Pourakbari were allegedly involved in a protest against Turkey’s withdrawal from an international treaty on violence against women.

“No third country has been determined in the deportation decision, and the judicial proceedings continue,” said the quartet’s lawyer Buse Bergamali.

“Regardless of the country, deportation would be unlawful. It is also unlawful that my clients stay in the removal center during this whole process.”

It is thought that 33 Iranians were deported from Turkey last year, with two subsequently sentenced to death for their roles in protests against the government in 2019.

At least four Iranians, meanwhile, have been kidnapped or killed by Iranian agents in Turkey since 2017.

In 2018, Turkey took over the registration of refugees and asylum seekers in its territory from the UN, after which deportation statistics were removed from government websites.

A senior Turkish official told The Guardian that his country “does not intend to deport any of the aforementioned individuals to Iran. It is possible, however, for them to be sent to a third country.” The official declined to mention the name of any third country involved.


‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves
Updated 26 sec ago

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves

‘Gentle steps forward’ in repair of Mosul war graves
  • When Daesh rule ended in 2017, it was estimated that 90 percent of the Commonwealth forces’ cemetery in Mosul was damaged
  • There are Commonwealth graves in the site from 1914 up to the end of World War II, with Mosul witnessing many seismic military events in the 20th century

LONDON: “Gentle steps forward” have been taken in recovering sites destroyed during Daesh’s occupation of Mosul, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has said.

Iraq’s second-largest city endured three years of Daesh control, with much of it laid to waste. Many buildings and key infrastructure were destroyed, including a significant war-graves site.

When Daesh rule ended in 2017, it was estimated that 90 percent of the cemetery was damaged.

The CWGC manages the site, where members of the armed forces of Commonwealth nations have been laid to rest.

The commission reported that the remains of those buried were not disturbed, but the iconic Cross of Sacrifice and the surrounding memorials were destroyed, with a pocket of external walls surviving.

British diplomats and other key stakeholders have been working with the CWGC to restore the site.

Preparatory moves before the commencing of recovery work has included representatives from the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) sweeping the grounds to remove any ordnance left behind by the site’s previous combatant occupants.

Teams will now survey the site and review how the cemetery can be secured for the full recovery work.

“The CWGC has noted that local conditions are now stabilizing in Mosul, and it has a window of opportunity to re-establish the site,” a CWGC spokesperson told Sky News.

“In addition, it has the excellent support of the UK Consul, UNMAS, and the opportunity to engage a local workforce to assist with the gradual clearance and rehabilitation,” the spokesperson added.

“The commission has rebuilt cemeteries before after serious damage caused by conflict — it is within the CWGC’s capability to do so.”

Iraq saw more than 54,000 Commonwealth war casualties. The commission has not sent a working party to the country since 2006 due to safety concerns. With the violence in Iraq increasing, CWGC cemeteries have been neglected.

When Daesh started its occupation of Mosul, the site was already in a precarious state. With the city now liberated, hope has returned that its graves can receive the restoration they desperately need.

There are Commonwealth graves in the site from 1914 up to the end of World War II, with Mosul witnessing many seismic military events in the 20th century.


Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt
Updated 20 April 2021

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt

Russia to announce resumption of charter flights to Egypt
  • Flights from Russia to the Egyptian Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada would resume in March

MOSCOW: Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it would soon announce the resumption of charter flights to Egypt, the Interfax news agency reported.
The head of Egypt’s civil aviation authority told Reuters in February that direct flights from Russia to the Egyptian Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada would resume in March after being suspended for more than five years.


Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region

Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region
Updated 20 April 2021

Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region

Israel, UK discuss ‘Iranian threat’ in Mideast region

DUBAI: Israel’s Foreign Minister discussed on Tuesday the threat Iran poses on the region with UK Minister Michael Gove.

Gabi Ashkenazi discussed other regional issues, bilateral ties and “the need for a travel corridor,” with the British Cabinet Office minister.

Gove is visiting Israel to study a COVID “green pass” smartphone app that could soon be the model for vaccine passports in the UK.

 

The British minister, who is in charge of a study into how coronavirus certification might work in the UK, has been a supporter of the Israeli scheme for weeks.

The visit involves meetings with Israel’s health minister, Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Egypt to purchase 20 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine

Egypt to purchase 20 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine
Updated 20 April 2021

Egypt to purchase 20 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine

Egypt to purchase 20 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine

CAIRO: Egypt has agreed to purchase 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China's Sinopharm and expects to receive a batch of 500,000 shots this month, its health ministry said on Tuesday.
The agreement boosts vaccination efforts in Egypt, which has a population of 100 million and has so far received a total of just over 1.5 million doses of Sinopharm and of the AstraZeneca shot.
Earlier this month, Egypt announced it was preparing to produce up to 80 million doses of the vaccine produced by China's Sinovac.