Kabul evacuees touch down in UAE on way to new life in UK

Kabul evacuees touch down in UAE on way to new life in UK
People disembark off a military transport aircraft carrying evacuees from Afghanistan and arriving at Al-Maktoum International Airport in the United Arab Emirates on August 19, 2021. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 August 2021

Kabul evacuees touch down in UAE on way to new life in UK

Kabul evacuees touch down in UAE on way to new life in UK
  • Some 306 UK nationals and around 2,000 Afghans left for Britain under the government resettlement program
  • The UAE has become a hub for evacuations from Afghanistan

DUBAI: Dozens of evacuees from Afghanistan waited nervously to board a Britain-bound Royal Air Force plane during a stopover in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday after fleeing the Taliban takeover.

At Dubai’s Al-Maktoum airport, a steady stream of aircraft ferrying passengers from Kabul and onwards to Britain shuttled back and forth as London stepped up its evacuation efforts.

Dozens of exhausted passengers waited at one of the airport’s departure gates during a stopover ahead of the second leg of what they hoped would be their journey to safety.

“They were eager to leave the plane and get some rest,” said one airport employee.

Three children wearing traditional Afghan dress ran in circles around a woman dressed in black, and a masked man holding a toddler flashed a victory sign.

One boy holding two red and black backpacks jiggled his leg nervously during the wait for the plane that would carry him to Britain to arrive.

British embassy staff and airport employees wearing bright yellow vests stood at the gate giving instructions to the waiting group.

Before boarding the evacuees were handed packed lunch boxes containing sandwiches and juice boxes, with members of a medical team on standby near the departure gate if needed.

Another group of passengers from Afghanistan en route to Britain disembarked an RAF transport plane emblazoned with a small Union flag and walked toward an airport bus.

Back in Kabul, thousands of Afghans crowded between Taliban checkpoints and a ring of steel around the city’s main airport, desperate to board any flight out following the return of the Taliban.

Distressing images have emerged of people desperately trying to get on any departing flight, even resorting to clinging to the fuselage of a US military aircraft as it rolled down the runway for take-off.

“We haven’t sent out a single empty plane,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News, adding that unfilled seats had been allocated to NATO allies.

Wallace has said 2,000 Britons and Afghan employees will be called by Britain to leave Afghanistan in the days ahead.

But the government has faced questions over where the evacuees will be taken when they land in Britain.

London has said that evacuations will continue for as long as the United States continues to undertake its own evacuation operations at Kabul airport.

Some 306 UK nationals and around 2,000 Afghans have left for Britain under the government resettlement program, Wallace said.

“The UK government’s ambition is for the new Afghanistan citizens’ resettlement scheme to resettle 5,000 Afghan nationals who are at risk due to the current crisis, in its first year,” the British government said in a statement Wednesday.

The UAE has become a hub for evacuations from Afghanistan, with French authorities using the capital Abu Dhabi as a stepping stone to transfer its nationals back to France.


Qatar FM and UN Syria envoy stress humanitarian access must flow to all Syrians

Qatar FM and UN Syria envoy stress humanitarian access must flow to all Syrians
Updated 15 sec ago

Qatar FM and UN Syria envoy stress humanitarian access must flow to all Syrians

Qatar FM and UN Syria envoy stress humanitarian access must flow to all Syrians

RIYADH: Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman on Monday met with UN envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen, during his visit to Doha, state news agency QNA reported.
During the meeting, they discussed latest developments in the Syrian crisis, and stressing the importance of continuing to facilitate humanitarian access to all Syrians. 
The two sides also stressed the importance of reaching a political solution that ends the war and the suffering of the Syrian people in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.


Senior European politicians call for UN probe into 1988 Iran massacres

Senior European politicians call for UN probe into 1988 Iran massacres
Updated 15 min 16 sec ago

Senior European politicians call for UN probe into 1988 Iran massacres

Senior European politicians call for UN probe into 1988 Iran massacres
  • Ex-Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt likens killings of 30,000 political prisoners to ‘genocide’
  • Ex-UK Parliament speaker: Iran’s president ‘must be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. He’s a disgrace’

LONDON: Senior politicians from across the EU and UK on Monday urged the UN to open an investigation into the 1988 massacres of political prisoners by the Iranian regime.

Speaking at an event hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran and attended by Arab News, former heads of state and senior parliamentary figures threw their support behind its campaign for accountability over the massacres.

Guy Verhofstadt, Belgium’s prime minister from 1999 to 2008, described the massacres — in which Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi played a key role as a prosecutor in Tehran — as “genocide.”

Verhofstadt, now a member of the European Parliament, said: “The impunity crisis in Iran reached a peak in June when Raisi was appointed as the regime’s president. He’s one of the main perpetrators of the 1988 mass murder of more than 30,000 political prisoners.

“Instead of being tried for crimes against humanity, he’s occupying the post of presidency. This shows that impunity is rampant in Iran.”

The 1988 killings heavily targeted the Mujahedin el-Khalq, an opposition group that played a key role in the 1979 revolution but was later violently turned upon by Iran’s then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini as he sought to consolidate power. 

The MEK is the largest constituent organization of the NCRI, an umbrella movement for Iranian opposition groups.

Many current members of the NCRI lost family and friends in the massacres, which Amnesty International has described as “crimes against humanity.”

Verhofstadt said: “The architects and perpetrators of genocides must always be brought to justice. Crimes against humanity can never go unpunished. We are shocked by the genocide that took place in Iran in 1988. The men and women died only because they strived for a free and democratic Iran.”

Also in attendance at Monday’s event was John Bercow, who served as the speaker in the British Parliament for a decade until 2019.

Best known for his commands of “order” aimed at unruly MPs, he took on a somber tone to tell attendees that “the 1988 massacre must be investigated.” Raisi “must be prosecuted for crimes against humanity,” said Bercow. “He’s a disgrace.”

Bercow also voiced his backing more broadly for the NCRI’s mission, calling himself an “ally” and “friend” of the group, and reiterating his support for their slogan: “Down with the oppressor, be it the shah or the supreme leader.” He added: “I back your call for a secular and democratic republic.”

Other speakers at Monday’s event included former Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

Both echoed Bercow’s and Verhofstadt’s calls for an investigation into the 1988 massacres — which they said continues to be covered up to this day — and backed the NCRI under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, the group’s president-elect.

Rajavi, who has been president of the NCRI since 1993, said the organization seeks to install a government that is “the democratic alternative to the clerical regime.”

The NCRI, she added, “seeks a republic based on the separation of religion and state, gender equality, and the autonomy of the oppressed ethnic groups.”


US and Kuwait call for dialogue to de-escalate Russia-Ukraine crisis

US and Kuwait call for dialogue to de-escalate Russia-Ukraine crisis
Updated 17 January 2022

US and Kuwait call for dialogue to de-escalate Russia-Ukraine crisis

US and Kuwait call for dialogue to de-escalate Russia-Ukraine crisis
  • Antony Blinken made a phone call to his Kuwait counterpart
  • They also discussed relations and ways to develop their strategic partnership

LONDON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call with his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, the State Department said on Monday.
During the call, they discussed “Russia’s threats against Ukraine and the importance of dialogue to de-escalate the situation,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
The West has accused Russia of deploying tanks, artillery and about 100,000 soldiers on Ukraine’s war-torn eastern border in recent weeks, in what NATO says is preparation for an invasion.
Meanwhile, Blinken also said he looks forward to hosting the Kuwaiti minister soon in Washington for the fifth US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue.
The fourth round was held in November 2020, where both government reaffirmed their shared commitment to promote regional stability and security. 
Kuwait’s foreign ministry said the two sides also discussed bilateral relations, the strategic partnership between the two countries and ways to enhance them in all fields, as well as the latest regional and international developments.
(With AFP)


Sudanese forces open fire on anti-coup protests, killing 3

Sudanese forces open fire on anti-coup protests, killing 3
Updated 17 January 2022

Sudanese forces open fire on anti-coup protests, killing 3

Sudanese forces open fire on anti-coup protests, killing 3
  • Monday’s deaths bring to at least 67 the number of people killed in near-daily demonstrations in the capital of Khartoum and other cities and towns in Sudan
  • Activist Nazim Sirag said three protesters were killed when security forces opened fire to break up a march in Khartoum — several others were wounded by gunshots

CAIRO: Sudanese security forces opened fire on protesters Monday, killing at least three people and wounding several as thousands took to the streets in Khartoum and elsewhere in the country to denounce an October military coup, activists said.
The military takeover has scuttled hopes of a peaceful transition to democracy in Sudan, more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir in April 2019.
The turmoil has been amplified after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok stepped down earlier this month. Hamdok resigned after his efforts to bridge the gap between the generals and the country’s pro-democracy movement failed.
Monday’s deaths bring to at least 67 the number of people killed in near-daily demonstrations in the capital of Khartoum and other cities and towns in Sudan.
Footage circulating online shows protesters, mostly young people, marching in the streets of Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman. There were also protests in Port Sudan, Wad Madani Obaid and the western Darfur region.
Activist Nazim Sirag said three protesters were killed when security forces opened fire to break up a march in Khartoum. He said several others were wounded by gunshots.
The Sudan Doctors Committee, which is part of the pro-democracy movement, also reported the deaths and said dozens of others were wounded Monday in Khartoum.
The fatalities will likely further complicate UN efforts to find a way out of the ongoing crisis. The United Nations and Western governments have widely condemned the crackdown on protesters.
The demonstrations are called by the Sudanese Professionals Association and the Resistance Committees, which were the backbone of the uprising against Al-Bashir. The two groups reject negotiations with the military, insisting it hand over power to a fully civilian government to lead the transition.
The generals, meanwhile, reject the protesters’ demands, saying that power will be handed over only to an elected government.


Sudan to establish anti-terrorism force — Sovereign Council

Sudan to establish anti-terrorism force — Sovereign Council
Updated 17 January 2022

Sudan to establish anti-terrorism force — Sovereign Council

Sudan to establish anti-terrorism force — Sovereign Council
  • Huge crowds have regularly taken to the streets demanding a return to civilian rule since a military coup on Oct. 25

Sudan’s Sovereign Council is to establish an anti-terrorism force to counter “potential threats,” it said in a statement on Monday.
Huge crowds have regularly taken to the streets demanding a return to civilian rule since a military coup on Oct. 25 ended a power-sharing arrangement that began after autocrat Omar Al-Bashir was toppled by a popular uprising in 2019.