Food stampedes in Turkey fuel fears over rising poverty levels

Food stampedes in Turkey fuel fears over rising poverty levels
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A protester scuffles with riot police during a demonstration in Istanbul organized by healthcare workers for better working conditions. (File/Reuters)
Food stampedes in Turkey fuel fears over rising poverty levels
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A video footage circulated on social media shows dozens of people rushing to the scene of a vehicle loaded with free potatoes. (Social media)
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Updated 20 April 2021

Food stampedes in Turkey fuel fears over rising poverty levels

Food stampedes in Turkey fuel fears over rising poverty levels
  • Virus pandemic, unemployment, soaring living costs contributing to country’s economic problems: Analysts, opposition leaders

ANKARA: Images showing desperate Turkish citizens scrambling to grab free handouts of potatoes have stoked an ongoing debate over chronic poverty in the country.

The government recently began distributing potatoes and onions to needy people in some of Turkey’s poorest provinces.

But despite strict measures on large gatherings, brought in to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), recent footage has shown crowds of people stampeding for the vegetables, some even picking up loose potatoes from the ground.

And members of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) claim the situation has only served to further highlight growing concerns over mass poverty, social injustice, and soaring food prices.

Under allocations, those requiring food aid were to receive 10 kg of onions and 20 kg of potatoes purchased by the government from farms.

“The image of crowds piled up for free potatoes and onions, as their only source of diet, has been the clearest picture of the Turkish economy right now,” Serkan Ozcan, an economist and founding member of the breakaway Future Party, told Arab News.

Turkey recently saw 250,000 people added to its jobless total, taking the figure for February to 4.23 million, an unemployment rate of 14.1 percent. In the same month, official statistics showed the annual inflation rate running at 15.61 percent.

“Since 2016, Turkey’s national income per capita decreased by one-quarter, and it is the worst record among its peers in emerging markets. When people are so desperate for potatoes and onions, it means that the government is not able to govern the country,” Ozcan said.

The image of crowds piled up for free potatoes and onions, as their only source of diet, has been the clearest picture of the Turkish economy right now.

Serkan Ozcan, Economist

“Farmers are obliged to sell their excess products at cost, and people need to pile up in the streets because they cannot find jobs to feed their families.”

Food has become extremely expensive in Turkey, with annual consumer prices jumping to 15 percent, second only to Argentina among emerging market peers.

Separately, Turkish opposition parties have been pushing the government to account for money they claim has gone missing from Central Bank reserves.

In a tweet, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the CHP, said: “We are asking about the money of the poor, those in need, and orphans.”

Worries about paying bills and putting food on tables have become major priorities for Turks under the economic deterioration in the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent survey in Turkey by international market research firm Ipsos revealed that 40 percent of Turks were concerned about poverty and social inequality, while 47 percent had fears about unemployment.

“People are suffering not only because of the pandemic but also due to income loss and rising living costs,” said Seren Selvin Korkmaz, executive director of the Istanbul Political Research Institute.

“In addition to increasing food prices the costs of basic services such as rent, electricity, and water have contributed to poverty. As a result, the economic downturn is evident in the crowds gathered around the potato trucks.”

Despite the possibility of several short-term financial support measures, Korkmaz said that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had no expertise in health or economic crisis management.

“I think the current presidential system without independent institutions based on good governance and expertise cannot provide viable solutions for the economic problems of the country.

“Hence, the economic situation might hit the current government in the next election if the opposition can provide viable economic policy vision to the voters,” she added.

More than 100 musicians in Turkey have committed suicide since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic after having lost their jobs and received no state support.

The government’s wage support program for employees of companies that have been hit by the pandemic also ended this month, leaving millions of people deprived of the scheme.

Korkmaz said: “Inequalities in the country are exacerbated by the AKP’s agricultural policy, education, and healthcare policies, as well as acute poverty during the pandemic. As a result, it can take years to recover from the effects in society.”


Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases

Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases
Updated 17 min 19 sec ago

Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases

Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases
  • Iraqi FM said the money was paid to Italian aerospace and defense company Leonardo and the Fincantieri shipyard
  • The two countries are underway “to resolve the situation for the best”

ROME: Iraq has asked Italy to return the €90 million ($108.53 million) Saddam Hussein’s regime paid to Italian companies to purchase military equipment that was never delivered because of the 1991 embargo on the sale of arms to Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio in Rome on Wednesday and explained the money was paid to Italian aerospace and defense company Leonardo and the Fincantieri shipyard.

“There are 60 million euros frozen in Italian banks, plus interest, and 30 million more in current accounts of the embassy and other employees. It is our right to recover that amount, and we have no intention of giving up on this,” Hussein told press after the meeting.

He added that the release of those sums will “facilitate, improve and increase the relaunch of bilateral relations” between Iraq and Italy.

“Foreign Minister Di Maio has promised to engage in the issue,” he explained, but said it is yet to be decided whether Italy will deliver the purchased equipment or unlock the frozen accounts.

Sources in the Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed to Arab News that negotiations between the two countries are underway “to resolve the situation for the best.”

During his meeting with Di Maio at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hussein also thanked Italy for its help as a member of the international coalition against Daesh.

“I take this opportunity to thank the Italian people, government and institutions for this,” he said.

Italy has provided weapons and training to Kurdish anti-Daesh militias in Erbil for over 10 years. A particularly intense training job has been carried out in Kurdistan by the Carabinieri, the Italian Military Police.

“Thanks to the fundamental Italian contribution to our security forces, Iraq continues to fight those Daesh cells which are still active in the country,” Hussein told Italian daily newspaper la Repubblica.


Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations

Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations
Updated 14 min 24 sec ago

Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations

Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations

DUBAI: The Jordanian Royal Court has appointed Jaafar Hassan as the director of King Abdullah II’s office, state news agency Petra reported on Thursday.
The royal decree also said the court accepted the resignations of political advisor Haifa Khreisha, King’s advisor Qassem Nasser and economic advisor Zaina Touqan.


Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount

Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount
Updated 06 May 2021

Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount

Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount
  • Police confirmed 11 arrests in the latest unrest to rock the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near Jerusalem’s walled Old City

JERUSALEM: Twenty-two Palestinians were wounded in overnight clashes with Israeli police in annexed east Jerusalem, the Red Crescent said Thursday, as tensions flare over a controversial land rights case.
Police confirmed 11 arrests in the latest unrest to rock the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near Jerusalem’s walled Old City, where land disputes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers have fueled hostility for years.
Palestinian protests, which began late Wednesday, continued into the early hours.
The legal case centers on the homes of four Palestinian families on land claimed by Jews.
Earlier this year, a Jerusalem district court ruled the homes legally belonged to the Jewish families, citing purchases decades ago.
The Jewish plaintiffs claimed their families lost the land during the war that accompanied Israel’s creation in 1948, a conflict that also saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced from their homes.
The Palestinian families implicated in the case have provided evidence that their homes were acquired from Jordanian authorities who controlled east Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967.
Amman has intervened in the case, providing documents to support the Palestinian claims.
Israel seized east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it, in a move not recognized by most of the international community.
The district court ruling infuriated Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah who viewed it as a further step in what they see as a Jewish settler effort to drive Arabs out of east Jerusalem.
Weeks of clashes that have seen police use skunk water cannons and deploy anti-riot police on horseback have resulted in several arrests.
Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the sides to seek a compromise.
Sami Irshid, a lawyer for the Palestinians, said the Nahalat Shimon settler movement proposed that one member of each concerned Palestinian family be recognized as a “protected tenant.”
That would temporarily delay eviction until the protected tenant died, at which point the home would return to Nahalat Shimon, Irshid said.
“We reject this completely,” Mona Al-Kurd, one of the Palestinian residents said.
“The settlers want us to recognize their property rights, it is impossible.”
Yehonatan Yosef, an activist with Nahalat Shimon, accused the Palestinian families of rejecting “any compromise.”
“It’s their problem,” he said, noting that if the Supreme Court ruled in the settlers’ favor, the Jewish families would do what they wished with each plot.
The Supreme Court has indicated that if the sides cannot reach a compromise, it will rule on whether the Palestinians can appeal the district court decision.
An appeal process could take years.
Mohammed Deif, the reclusive leader of the military wing of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, issued a rare public warning on Tuesday, saying Israel would pay a “high price” over the Sheikh Jarrah dispute.
The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their future capital, while Israel regards the entire city as its “undivided capital.”
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki sent a letter to the International Criminal Court urging it to “to take a clear and public stand against crimes perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.”


Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster

Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster
Updated 06 May 2021

Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster

Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster

DUBAI: Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdelmalik Saeed has directed $7.9 million be approved urgently for the damage caused by the flood disaster in the Tarim District in Hadramout, state news agency SABA reported.

The prime minister visited the district on Wednesday to inspect the damage caused by the flooding and listened to a number of affected citizens who spoke about the material damages it caused.

Local residents called on the government and local authority to do their part towards those affected and take actions to prevent the recurrence of the disaster.

The prime minister indicated funds will be allocated to those affected by the floods, and repair the damaged services and infrastructure.

The Prime Minister emphasized that the recurrence of the floods, especially in Tarim, require sustainable solutions.

 


Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan

Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan
Updated 06 May 2021

Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan

Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan
  • Regime forces and operatives from Hezbollah were at the post
  • Three soldiers were injured in the attack

DUBAI: An Israeli helicopter targeted military posts near the occupied Golan heights late on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Regime forces and operatives from Hezbollah were at the post, which is near the town of Jubata Al-Khashab, north of Quneitra, the report added.
Three soldiers were injured in the attack, but the report hasn’t specified whether they were aligned with the regime or Hezbollah.
Israel fired missiles toward northwest Syria early Wednesday, killing one person and wounding six, Syrian state media reported.
It was the first Israeli attack on Syria since a missile fired by Damascus struck deep inside Israel two weeks ago.
The missiles targeted the northwestern towns of Haffeh and Masyaf and struck a civilian plastic warehouse among other locations, state TV said. Syrian air defense units responded to the missile attacks, the report said, without giving further details.
Israel has launched hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked military targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line, and it has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group.
The missile attack at dawn Wednesday occurred nearly two weeks after Israel’s military said a Syrian missile that reached deep into Israeli territory and set off air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor was the result of a misfire and not a deliberate attack.
The missile landed in southern Israel on April 22, prompting Israel to respond with airstrikes on the missile launcher and other targets in Syria.