Eight murders in a month in Syria camp: Kurds

Eight murders in a month in Syria camp: Kurds
A member of Kurdish securiy forces stands guard as Syrian Kurdish authorities set out to hand over Russian orphans born to parents linked to Daesh to a Russian delegation for repatriation in Qamishli. (AFP)
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Updated 07 July 2021

Eight murders in a month in Syria camp: Kurds

Eight murders in a month in Syria camp: Kurds
  • Kurdish forces have struggled to maintain security inside the sprawling tent city of Al-Hol
  • UN has warned of radicalisation inside the camp housing Syrians, Iraqis and foreign women and children linked to Daesh in a separate annex

BEIRUT: A camp in northeast Syria housing Daesh group relatives saw at least eight murders last month, Kurdish forces said Tuesday, the latest of dozens of such killings since January.
Kurdish forces have struggled to maintain security inside the sprawling tent city of Al-Hol, which is home to some 62,000 people, mostly women and children.
The United Nations has warned of radicalization inside the camp, which houses Syrians, Iraqis and some 10,000 foreign women and children linked to Daesh in a separate annex.
In June, Daesh cells inside Al-Hol “carried out more killings of residents distancing themselves from the extremist ideas of the group,” the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said.
It said eight people of Syrian and Iraqi nationality were shot dead, among them a 16-year-old Iraqi refugee and two Syrian sisters aged 17 and 23. A Russian woman was wounded.
The SDF also added that 42 women and men and 43 children, of different nationalities, were caught trying to smuggle themselves out of the camp in June.
In early April, the SDF said they had captured 125 suspected Daesh members in a security sweep in Al-Hol, which is in Hasakah province.
At the time, the group said 47 killings had taken place in the three months since the start of the year.
Syria’s Kurds hold custody of thousands of suspected Daesh fighters in jails, and their relatives in camps, after expelling the extremists in 2019 from the last patch of territory they controlled.
The Kurdish authorities have repeatedly urged the international community to repatriate their nationals, but most countries have so far taken back only some of the children.
Beyond the camps, the International Committee of the Red Cross last week sounded the alarm over the Kurdish authorities holding “hundreds of children” in adult prisons.
The Kurds responded by urging international help to set up more rehabilitation centers for minors linked to the extremists.
Daesh overran large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, before several military offensives led to their territorial defeat in eastern Syria in March 2019.
However, extremist sleeper cells continue to launch regular attacks in both countries.


International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia
Updated 22 min 16 sec ago

International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The UAE, Bahrain, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Thursday joined a chorus of international condemnation of a failed ballistic missile attack by the Iran-backed Houthis on civilians in Saudi Arabia.

OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen praised the efficiency of Saudi-led coalition air defenses in intercepting and destroying the missile before it reached Jazan in the southwest of the Kingdom.

He renewed his call for the international community to take decisive action to stop the ongoing threats from ballistic missile and bomb-laden drone attacks by Houthis operating from Yemen.

Al-Othaimeen pointed out that the OIC considered the militia group’s actions to be war crimes and a challenge to international humanitarian law.

Coalition forces supporting Yemen’s legitimate government on Wednesday thwarted another wave of Houthi drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia that came two days after an attempted boat-bomb strike was foiled in Hodeidah.

The UAE and Bahrain condemned the latest attacks and gave their full backing to measures taken by Saudi Arabia to protect its security, stability, and the safety of its citizens.

In a statement, the coalition said Saudi air defenses on Wednesday intercepted and destroyed three explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward the southern city of Khamis Mushayt. One drone had been launched in the morning, and the other two later in the day.


Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations

Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations
Updated 38 min 43 sec ago

Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations

Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations

BAHRAIN/SHARJAH: Bahraini radio and television stations have joined Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day celebrations with various programs commemorating the day.

Radio and television hosts gathered several personalities from both nations, discussing the relations between the two brotherly countries, their shared history, achievements, and more.

Also joining in on the celebrations is the UAE’s Sharjah Radio, which has allocated various programs about the Kingdom, including historical, religious, cultural aspects that distinguish Saudi Arabia.

Sharjah Radio Director Abeer Al-Shawi congratulated the Kingdom’s leadership on the occasion of Saudi National Day, adding that the radio station has dedicated many of the day’s broadcasts to cover various topics about the country.


Saudi project clears 1,351 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 1,351 Houthi mines in Yemen
Updated 41 min 53 sec ago

Saudi project clears 1,351 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 1,351 Houthi mines in Yemen
  • A total of 275,305 mines have been cleared since the start of the project

RIYADH: The Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance dismantled 1,351 mines in Yemen during the third week of September.

The figure comprised 13 antipersonnel mines, 432 anti-tank mines, 905 unexploded ordnances, and one explosive device.

The project is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia on the directive of King Salman to help ease the suffering of people in Yemen.

Saudi and international experts are removing mines planted by the Houthi militia in Marib, Aden, Al-Jawf, Shabwa, Taiz, Hodeidah, Lahij, Sanaa, Al-Bayda, Al-Dhale, and Saada.

A total of 275,305 mines have been cleared since the start of the project. More than 1.2 million mines have been planted by the Houthis, claiming the lives of hundreds of civilians.


Growing demands for compulsory pre-marital addiction testing in Saudi Arabia

Growing demands for compulsory pre-marital addiction testing in Saudi Arabia
Updated 48 min 53 sec ago

Growing demands for compulsory pre-marital addiction testing in Saudi Arabia

Growing demands for compulsory pre-marital addiction testing in Saudi Arabia
  • It is necessary in building healthy society and will significantly impact divorce, domestic violence rates, says expert

JEDDAH: Pre-marital addiction tests have become a public demand in Saudi Arabia after two homicides committed by men against their young wives in August.
The Saudi Public Prosecution announced the arrest of the perpetrators, adding that the necessary legal actions were taken against them.
But these incidents have sparked discussions across different social media platforms in the Kingdom, with many people calling for compulsory pre-marital addiction tests and psychological evaluations of the mental health of both potential spouses.
Saudi authorities already require pre-marital screening for couples to detect common genetic blood disorders and infectious diseases.
However, calls to expand pre-marital testing to include psychological evaluations are nothing new, with many people arguing that their inclusion would be a successful way to tackle addiction and protect the family unit.
The most recent action to expand the pre-marital testing program was taken within the Kingdom’s Shoura Council in 2019, where some members proposed the inclusion of addiction tests, as well as tests for disorders and mental illnesses.
The proposal was denied because it did not receive enough supporting votes. The objection was supported by some specialists, who said that such tests have low accuracy and are prohibitively expensive.
Nonetheless, drug tests are already required in the case of non-Saudi men marrying Saudi women. Some specialists are now calling to include that requirement in overall pre-marital tests for both Saudis and non-Saudis, and both men and women.
Suzan Abdulsalam Khalil, a psychologist working with the protection unit against domestic violence in Jeddah, strongly supports pre-marital drug testing to detect addiction.
According to Khalil, this change will lead to the early detection of abusers and addicts. “It will protect young women from unknowingly getting married to an addict or mentally ill man, which would be a traumatizing experience for them and harms both parties, but most importantly the woman. Moreover, the situation worsens when there are children involved,” she told Arab News.
From her experience at the protection unit, Khalil has witnessed the devastating impact of a drug-addicted parent on children within the family.
“The behavior of drug users varies greatly before and after they take their dose, and unfortunately, this unstable situation badly affects the children and the family as a whole,” she said. “The psychological evaluation of children of an addict parent is always bad. We also find physical violence marks sometimes, traces of injuries, and bruises on their bodies, and sometimes we refer them to psychiatric hospitals.”
Khalil believes that expanding pre-marital testing is a necessary step in building a healthy society. It will significantly impact divorce and domestic violence rates and will also force addicts to receive treatment and professional help, she said.
She added that women’s reactions to being married to an addict can differ. Some choose divorce, while others try to be patient. But this can result in living an unstable life that includes physical or emotional abuse, which will eventually have an extremely negative impact on children, she said.

HIGHLIGHT

• Saudi authorities already require pre-marital screening for couples to detect common genetic blood disorders and infectious diseases.

• The program aims to give medical consultations on the potential transmitting of disorders to future children, and looks to provide couples with options that help them plan for a healthy family.

• However, calls to expand pre-marital testing to include psychological evaluations are nothing new, with many people arguing that their inclusion would be a successful way to tackle addiction and protect the family unit.

Various factors contribute to this complicated situation; however, the social stigma and shame attached to addiction and mental illness leads to negative social norms.
As a result, people with substance use disorder, and sometimes their families, tend to hide the reality behind their situation when it comes to marriage.
Furthermore, lack of awareness about the seriousness of mental health issues contributes to the continuation of unhealthy marriages and damaging social behaviors when dealing with mentally ill members of society.
Therefore, experts say that an action plan to spread awareness and change the culture is urgently needed.
Khalil said that parents, before agreeing to marry their daughter to a proposing man, usually try to investigate the man’s background, manners and moral standards within his work environment and friendship circles.
“But on the other hand, no one ever considers asking about the man’s mental health status or whether he has been diagnosed with a mental illness at any hospital,” she said.
The discussion surrounding an expansion of pre-marital screening highlights a more significant issue for marriage counselor and family therapist Abdulhakim Al-Yousef.
He believes that the real issue underlying the public debate is not whether or not to enforce addiction testing of couples before marriage, but the problematic idea of the possibility of entering a marital relationship with someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
“It is rather more related to the many details that addicts to alcohol or drugs should be aware of, including those close to them,” Al-Yousef told Arab News. “It is important to understand that arriving at the phase of addiction is entering a state of mental illness that requires medical treatment and professional help, therefore entering a marital relationship at this phase is a very serious problem.”
He noted that addiction treatment requires patient admission to a rehab facility to receive appropriate treatment programs for their situation and recovery. It consists of several stages that need commitment, willingness, patience and family support.
He said: “Addiction treatment is a very sensitive matter that cannot happen without medical intervention, supervision and therapy. Marriage is never a solution to such a problem. When one of the spouses is an addict, the other partner cannot take responsibility for his or her treatment.”
Furthermore, the family therapist emphasized that quitting any form of substance abuse after completing the treatment program is not the end of the story, because recovering from an addiction is a lifelong journey. “Once a recovering addict returns to drug use at any later stage in his life, even with a small amount, he will return to point zero,” he warned.
In addition to medical treatment, patients also need cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy sessions to establish a healthier relationship with themselves, their families and the world around them.

As a result, living with a recovering partner is not easy by itself. Therefore, starting a relationship with someone still actively consuming drugs or alcohol is a disastrous mistake, Al-Yousef warned. He places a strong emphasis on transparency between couples before marriage; they must be honest about details related to their backgrounds, personalities, health history and any other aspect that could impact their relationship in the future.
“Getting into a relationship without revealing these details will lead to other multifaceted problems,” he said, noting adding mental illnesses must not be treated as “hidden, dark secrets” between couples. “Surely, every person has the right to have a family and to enjoy a healthy relationship, but that is not possible for addicts unless they break free from addiction under specialist supervision and support,” he said.
For Al-Yousef, addiction detection tests might not directly impact divorce rates and domestic violence rates since several factors contribute to these phenomena.
Nonetheless, if applied, he counts on these tests to raise public awareness about drug and alcohol abuse, and to create momentum in the national mental health sector in the long run.


UN looking for ways to reduce global digital divide

Maria-Francesca Spatolisano officer-in-charge, office of the UN Secretary-General’s envoy on technology. (Supplied)
Maria-Francesca Spatolisano officer-in-charge, office of the UN Secretary-General’s envoy on technology. (Supplied)
Updated 23 September 2021

UN looking for ways to reduce global digital divide

Maria-Francesca Spatolisano officer-in-charge, office of the UN Secretary-General’s envoy on technology. (Supplied)
  • Inability for all to work and study online will result in further marginalization of the most vulnerable sections of the population
  • Digital Cooperation Organization is working towards achieving ‘digital prosperity for all’ and was welcomed by the UN on Thursday

NEW YORK: “Inclusivity” is a buzzword this year at the UN General Assembly as it convenes on the third day of its 76th session. Unless “including” women, children, and the most vulnerable in all aspects of sustainable development, the world’s multi-faceted crises will continue to rage.

Inclusivity is of paramount importance also when it comes to the digital divide in the world between rich nations and developing ones.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, underscoring the growing importance of the digital economy to humanity’s future, has stressed the need for everyone to be able to work and study online. Lack of such ability will result in further marginalization of the most vulnerable sections of the population: women, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

Guterres’s roadmap calls for every adult to have internet access by 2030.

“Shaping an Inclusive Digital Age,” was the subject of discussion at a high-level event convened by the Digital Cooperation Organization, a recently-established global organization working towards achieving “digital prosperity for all.” DCO works with governments, the private sector, international and non-governmental organizations, and civil society in pushing for an inclusive digital transformation and growth of the digital industries.

The seven-member body includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, and Pakistan. It accounts for a population of 480 million, 80 percent of which are under the age of 35. It said it is open to any new member that shares the same goals of “empowering youth, women, and entrepreneurs and leapfrogging the digital transformation.”  

Thursday’s event highlighted DCO’s efforts in bringing together all the various stakeholders to “spur digital economic growth across member states, advance DCO members’ digital transformation, and address challenges related to a growing digital divide within and between countries.”

Representing the UN technology envoy office, assistant secretary-general Maria-Francesca Spatolisano encouraged multi-stakeholder cooperation between wealthy and developing countries. She said DCO’s goals can help push forward the UN’s roadmap and are in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2015, the UN General Assembly set forth 17 SDGs designed to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The SDGs were intended to be achieved by the year 2030.

“I welcome the Digital Cooperation Organization’s efforts to create an inclusive digital future for all, and efforts by member states Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to prioritize the digital economy in their countries’ agendas,” Spatolisano said.

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha, a DCO chairperson, underscored the growing polarization resulting from digital exclusion, such as seen in the access to venture capital. Stressing that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the digital economy can be a catalyst for growth, he pointed to the 34 percent rate of female digital participation.  

Helping shape the international debate around digital transformation, ministers for communication and technology from DCO’s membership, as well as Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdullah Al-Mouallimi, shared expert insight on ways to address the key challenge of the digital economy.    

“The borderless nature of the internet means that global collaboration is not an abstract idea, but rather a practical reality,” DCO Secretary-General Deemah Al-Yahya said.

“While the digital economy is seeing exponential growth clustered within specific geographies and industries, we need to ensure that the digital divide does not widen as the digital economy progresses.” 

She said the DCO has brought together countries representing 480 million people, 270 million of which are under the age of 25, and $2 trillion in combined GDP, in order to focus efforts on digital economic inclusion and bridge the digital divide.

“Our inclusive approach extends to creating impactful partnerships with the private sector to grow the digital economy,” Al-Yahya said. “Our member states comprise 6,300 digital and innovative start-ups and 46 million small and medium enterprises, meaning that public-private partnerships are essential to creating digital prosperity for all of our members.

“The DCO’s vision is aligned with the UN secretary-general’s roadmap for digital cooperation in advancing digital prosperity for all. If we are to ensure that digital technology offers a net benefit to society, we must take a proactive and inclusive approach. We must drive the global digital agenda. We call on every nation who shares these aspirations to join the DCO.”