Lebanon too broke to pay soldiers enough, army warns ahead of donor meet

Lebanon too broke to pay soldiers enough, army warns ahead of donor meet
Lebanese army soldiers during a military parade. Lebanon is unable to pay its soldiers enough, the army warned on Wednesday ahead of a UN-backed conference during which donors seek to shore up one of the bankrupt country’s key institutions. (AFP)
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Updated 16 June 2021

Lebanon too broke to pay soldiers enough, army warns ahead of donor meet

Lebanon too broke to pay soldiers enough, army warns ahead of donor meet
  • "We are in need of food parcels, healthcare assistance and support with soldiers' pay," a military source told AFP
  • Lebanon's economic crisis has eaten away at soldiers' pay and slashed the military's budget for maintenance and equipment

BEIRUT: Lebanon is unable to pay its soldiers enough, the army warned Wednesday ahead of a UN-backed conference during which donors will seek to shore up one of the bankrupt country’s key institutions.
Unlike previous conferences designed to provide training, weapons or equipment for Lebanon’s armed forces, the virtual meeting hosted by France on Thursday aims to offer the kind of humanitarian assistance usually reserved for countries grappling with conflict or natural disaster.
“We are in need of food parcels, health care assistance and support with soldiers’ pay,” a military source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The devaluation of the Lebanese pound is affecting soldiers and they are in need of support. Their salaries are not enough anymore.”
Lebanon’s economic crisis, which the World Bank has labelled as one of the world’s worst since the 1850s, has eaten away at soldiers’ pay and slashed the military’s budget for maintenance and equipment, further threatening the country’s stability.
Already mid last year, the army said it had scrapped meat from the meals offered to on-duty soldiers, due to rising food prices.
“We are doing the impossible to ease the suffering and the economic woes of our soldiers,” army chief Joseph Aoun said in a speech on Tuesday.
“We are forced to turn to allied states to secure aid, and I am ready to go to the end of the world to procure assistance so that the army can stay on its feet.”
Around 20 countries, including the United States, EU member states, Gulf countries, Russia and China have been invited to take part in the conference alongside UN representatives.
It follows a visit by Aoun last month to Paris, where he warned that the army could face even darker days without emergency support.
“The Lebanese army is going through a major crisis, which could get worse due to the deteriorating economic and social situation in Lebanon, which may worsen when subsidies are lifted,” he said.
He was referring to a government plan to scrap subsidies on essential goods such as fuel, food and flour to shore up dwindling foreign currency reserves.
A source close to French Defense Minister Florence Parly said Wednesday that the crisis was alarming as the Lebanese military is the “key institution” maintaining security in the country.
The army has highlighted “very specific needs” for milk, flour, medicine, fuel and spare parts for maintenance, the source said, in requests amounting to “several tens of thousands of euros.”
The aid was needed “as soon as possible,” the source said, stressing “the urgency of the situation.”
Whether or not the aid would be in cash or in kind was to be discussed on Thursday.
France is expected to announce deliveries of medical equipment to combat the coronavirus and spare parts for armored vehicles and helicopters.
The United States pledged to make a contribution during a meeting Tuesday in Brussels between Parly and her American counterpart Lloyd Austin.
The Lebanese army has been relying heavily on food donations from allied states since last summer’s monster port explosion in Beirut that killed more than 200 people and damaged swathes of the capital.
France, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey are among the army’s main food donors.
Iraq and Spain have offered medical assistance.
The United States remains the biggest financial backer of the Lebanese military.
It has bumped up funding for the army by $15 million for this year to $120 million.
Aram Nerguizian of the Carnegie Middle East Center said the “Paris conference is meant to prompt partner nations to think creatively about how to help the LAF (army) through 2021.”
In a report published on Wednesday, he said the assistance would “allow the command of the armed forces to focus on its missions — border security, counterterrorism, internal stability — as opposed to fighting a singular battle to maintain the LAF’s stability, with no real Lebanese government assistance.”


Ayat Dahi: Saudi jeweler from the heart of the Al-Balad alleys

Ayat Dahi: Saudi jeweler from the heart of the Al-Balad alleys
Updated 15 min 44 sec ago

Ayat Dahi: Saudi jeweler from the heart of the Al-Balad alleys

Ayat Dahi: Saudi jeweler from the heart of the Al-Balad alleys
  • Ayat Dahi opened her jewelry studio in 2020 and though the pandemic was a worldwide crisis, she remained optimistic and focused on her art
  • Ayat Studio offers weekly jewelry making and pottery workshops for beginners and advanced levels for both genders

JEDDAH: The art of jewelry design is complex and requires a keen eye for details, achieved with time and effort. What better than to bring the beauty of such art from the heart of Jeddah’s old town.

Making jewelry might seem a bit intimidating as it requires dealing with solid materials, sharp tools, and a lot of patience. But despite any difficulties, Ayat Dahi, a young Saudi Arabian artist and jeweler from Jeddah, decided to unleash her artistic skills and open her own jewelry studio. At the same time, she also wanted to educate and inspire art among the youth of her society.

Dahi received her master’s degree in jewelry making from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia in 2017. She told Arab News that her interest in the craft was already there, but working toward a degree helped her grow.

“I started making jewelry 10 years ago but I was only a beginner back then,” she said. “The real spark for making jewelry was ignited once I was back from the US.”

Dealing with craft tools, such as a torch, sandpaper, hammers, and saws require a bit of strength and confidence.

“Although the tools I am dealing with are considered dangerous and sharp, you have to be very careful and precise when dealing with them,” Dahi said. “However, the fine result will always leave me surprised and in awe.”

She participated at the annual Atlanta jewelry show in 2017.

“The exhibit gathered jewelry makers from everywhere in one place,” said Dahi, who was inspired by her love for coffee. “The pieces on display were derived from the coffee culture. I would use a coffee bean in a ring instead of a precious stone and I also had dual rings that can be worn by couples or friends.”

A woman with many talents, Dahi also works as a barista at one of Jeddah’s well-known cafes and was among the very first females to do so in the Kingdom.

She said that she always tries to incorporate new items and designs into her jewelry pieces to make them more contemporary and artsy. “Generally, I like to produce jewelry that can be worn as a jewelry item and sometimes I opt to produce art pieces with the same tools and techniques used for jewelry,” Dahi said. “However it does not matter if the piece is wearable or not. It is the process and the piece itself that ends up being beautifully made and designed.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Ayat Dahi received her master’s degree in jewelry making from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia in 2017. She told Arab News that her interest in the craft was already there, but working toward a degree helped her grow.

A woman with many talents, Dahi also works as a barista at one of Jeddah’s well-known cafes and was among the very first females to do so in the Kingdom. She said that she always tries to incorporate new items and designs into her jewelry pieces to make them more contemporary and artsy. 

Inspired by her surroundings, the jewelry designer is working on a souvenir project of a wearable jewelry collection motivated by Al-Balad’s many historic sites and architectural designs.

She further went on to explain how there are endless techniques in jewelry making. It starts with pitching an idea, researching and sketching the design, then cutting, polishing, and soldering.

“I believe having an artistic imagination for the design is one of the most valuable assets of the craft,” Dahi said. “Once I finish designing and crafting any piece, I really feel accomplished knowing that I am the one behind it.”

In 2019, Dahi earned her traditional arts diploma at Jameel House of Tradition Arts, located in the old Jeddah downtown, known as Al-Balad. It is also where her studio is located, near the Nassif House Museum, built by Omar Nassif in 1881.

“I choose to have a studio in Al-Balad because it is one of the dearest historic areas to my heart, and I believe it is a very inspiring place for so many people, too,” she said.

“I want visitors to experience the true meaning of an art workshop, and thus I chose the Al-Balad area, where they will have to walk between the old streets and alleyways to reach the studio.”

Saudi artist and jeweler Ayat Dahi at work. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Ayat Studio offers weekly jewelry making and pottery workshops for beginners and advanced levels for both genders. The studio also supports other artists by providing them with a space to offer workshops. Dahi also aims to exchange experiences and learn new things through these workshops.

In 2020, she decided to open her jewelry studio and though the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was a worldwide crisis, Dahi remained optimistic and focused on her art.

“During the pandemic, I was keeping myself busy working on various things in my home studio and sharing what I accomplished through social media,” she said. “That caught people’s attention and then many were longing for a visit. After that, I decided to open a studio in the downtown area.”

Inspired by her surroundings, the jewelry designer is working on a souvenir project of a wearable jewelry collection motivated by Al-Balad’s many historic sites and architectural designs.


OIC slams attempted Houthi attack on southern Saudi city

OIC slams attempted Houthi attack on southern Saudi city
Updated 06 August 2021

OIC slams attempted Houthi attack on southern Saudi city

OIC slams attempted Houthi attack on southern Saudi city

JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Thursday condemned the Iran-backed Houthi militia’s targeting of civilians in the Saudi city of Khamis Mushayt.

The Arab coalition said on Wednesday that a drone targeted the southern city in the Kingdom.

OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen praised the Saudi-backed coalition and its support for Yemen’s internationally recognized government to deal with terrorism in line with international humanitarian law.

He reiterated the OIC’s solidarity and support for Saudi Arabia in all measures it takes to preserve its security, stability and the safety of its citizens and residents. 

The UAE and Bahrain also condemned and denounced the Houthi attempts to attack civilians and infrastructure.

The UAE urged the international community to take an “immediate and decisive stance” to “stop the recurrent acts,” which target vital and civilian installations and the security and stability of the Kingdom.

Bahrain also called on the international community to condemn terrorism that threatens the region.


What We Are Eating Today: Wildflour

What We Are Eating Today: Wildflour
Updated 06 August 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Wildflour

What We Are Eating Today: Wildflour

Jeddah-based bakery Wildflour offers local homemade desserts and specialized gifts for people who crave the sweet taste of brownies and cookies.

The business chooses simplicity and classic flavors to create memorable dessert foods and baked goods.

Its most popular products include chewy brownie bites with a crumble top and freshly baked bundt cakes in several flavors, including banana and chocolate, and lemon and blueberry.

The bakery uses classic white boxes and decorative wildflower varieties to package its desserts. It also offers gift options, cards and flowers. Wildflour offers catering services for large events and also hosts product giveaways.

One unique product offered by the bakery is the brownie bit mini jar, which dispenses miniature sweet snacks for people following strict diets. It is also good choice for a chocolate treat on the go.

For more information, find the bakery on the food delivery app Lugmety or directly on Instagram @wildflour.bakery.


‘Delta plus’ variant seen in South Korea ‘is not new’: Saudi expert

‘Delta plus’ variant seen in South Korea ‘is not new’: Saudi expert
Updated 06 August 2021

‘Delta plus’ variant seen in South Korea ‘is not new’: Saudi expert

‘Delta plus’ variant seen in South Korea ‘is not new’: Saudi expert
  • 102 quarantine violators arrested in Makkah region; 986 new cases reported

JEDDAH: The COVID-19 delta plus variant, detected in two South Korean cases on Tuesday, is “not new and has been detected in India for months,” a Saudi infectious disease expert has said.

“Delta plus was previously detected in the EU since March and in India for months,” said Ahmed Al-Hakawi, who is also a hospital epidemiologist in Riyadh.

South Korea reported its first two cases of the variant earlier this week, with overall COVID-19 cases in the country rising sharply.

Al-Hakawi said that the new form of COVID-19 “differs slightly from the delta variant through the presence of the K417N mutation that was previously detected in the beta mutant.”

He added that the delta plus designation has yet to be approved by medical authorities, and that there is no evidence to suggest that is is more virulent than the original delta variant.

Meanwhile, a total of 102 people in the Makkah region have been arrested for failing to adhere to quarantine regulations after testing positive for COVID-19.

The media spokesman for local police said that preliminary legal procedures were taken against the individuals and their cases were referred to the relevant authorities.

INNUMBERS

530,981 - Total coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia

512,373 - Total number of recoveries

8,297 - Total number of deaths from COVID-19

Those breaking the Kingdom’s COVID-19 regulations could face fines of up to SR200,000 ($53,000), a maximum of two years in prison, or both. The penalty is doubled for repeated violations.

Non-Saudis found to have breached quarantine rules run the risk of being deported and permanently banned from the country.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday reported 13 more COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the Kingdom’s death toll over the course of the pandemic to 8,297.

There were 986 new cases, meaning that 530,981 people have now contracted the disease. A total of 10,311 cases remained active, of which 1,424 were in critical condition.

Of the newly recorded cases, 189 were in the Makkah region, 177 in the Riyadh region, 162 in the Eastern Province and 55 in Madinah region.

In addition, the Saudi Ministry of Health said that 1,055 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 512,373.

The region with the highest number of recoveries was Riyadh with 262. It was followed by the Eastern Province with 194 and Makkah with 151.

Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 25,549,087 PCR tests, with 105,537 carried out in the past 24 hours.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among them, Taakad (make sure) centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for either service can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.

Meanwhile, 28,829,305 people in the Kingdom have now received a COVID-19 vaccine, including 1,501,805 elderly people. About 56.35 percent of the population have received the first dose, while 26.4 percent have completed both doses. At this rate, 70 percent of the population is expected to have completed both doses by Sept. 29 this year.


Islamic principles should form basis of tackling global post-pandemic human rights crises: OIC commission

Islamic principles should form basis of tackling global  post-pandemic human rights crises: OIC commission
Updated 06 August 2021

Islamic principles should form basis of tackling global post-pandemic human rights crises: OIC commission

Islamic principles should form basis of tackling global  post-pandemic human rights crises: OIC commission

JEDDAH: Universal Islamic principles should be used as the basis for tackling world human rights issues in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, a leading inter-governmental Muslim organization has recommended.

During a meeting to coincide with the 10th anniversary of world Islamic Human Rights and Human Dignity Day, members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) called upon member states to adopt the approach in joint efforts to address post-pandemic global challenges.

Commission delegates pointed out that millions of people in countries around the world continued to face indignities including foreign occupation and oppression, hunger, preventable diseases, limited socioeconomic opportunities, and lack of access to basic needs, all of which seriously undermined their fundamental human rights.

The IPHRC gathering noted that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had only compounded the existing global human rights situation such as by doubling the number of people facing food crises, and children losing access to basic education and health services.

HIGHLIGHT

IPHRC members recommended that all states should cooperate with their political, religious, and community leaders to promote a better understanding of universal human rights values, collectively deal with the underlying causes of racism and religious intolerance, including islamophobia, and ensure the maintenance of international peace and security.

Members highlighted a growing incidence of cases of hate speech, xenophobia, and racial and religious discrimination, issues they said were driving a wedge through multicultural societies and threatening global peace and security.

While stressing that the conceptual foundation of human rights in Islam placed a strong emphasis on the inherent dignity of human beings and their equality before the law, in harmony with universal human rights principles, the commission urged member countries to work alongside regional and international stakeholders to devise practical human rights-based, people-centered policies to help improve lives.

It also made an appeal for the international community to reinforce respect for diversity, multiculturalism, democracy, and the rule of law, which were at the core of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

IPHRC members recommended that all states should cooperate with their political, religious, and community leaders to promote a better understanding of universal human rights values, collectively deal with the underlying causes of racism and religious intolerance, including islamophobia, and ensure the maintenance of international peace and security.

Welcoming the continued and growing importance placed on human rights issues within the OIC, the commission hailed the adoption of a revised version of the organization’s Cairo Declaration on Human Rights, which it said had helped to bridge the perceptional and legal gaps between the compatibility of universal human rights and Islamic laws.

An ongoing revision of the OIC Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam was also applauded as a route to further strengthening the organization’s normative and institutional human rights architecture.