Crisis-hit Lebanon to reopen classrooms starting next month

Crisis-hit Lebanon to reopen classrooms starting next month
The moon rises over Beirut as it remains in darkness during a power outage in Lebanon, which has been mired in multiple crises including a devastating economic crisis. (AP)
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Updated 23 August 2021

Crisis-hit Lebanon to reopen classrooms starting next month

Crisis-hit Lebanon to reopen classrooms starting next month
  • Rights groups have decried an "education catastrophe", with over 1 million children out of school
  • Classrooms will gradually reopen starting September 27, said outgoing education minister on Monday

BEIRUT: Students in Lebanon will return to the classroom starting next month, the education minister said Monday, amid fears an accelerating economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic would prevent schools from reopening.
Rights groups have decried an “education catastrophe,” with more than a million children in Lebanon out of school since the country’s Covid-19 outbreak began in February last year.
Other students are at risk of never returning, the groups have warned, due to a financial downturn that has seen poverty rates soar to reach 78 percent of the population.
Classrooms will gradually reopen starting September 27, outgoing education minister Tarek Majzoub told a press conference on Monday.
The decision covers both private and public schools as well as technical learning centers. All are to reopen by October 4 at the latest, he added.
Lebanon had moved to distanced learning in March last year due to the pandemic, with intermittent returns to the classroom for some students.
But power cuts, Internet outages and the economic crisis have made online instruction a luxury, as families struggle to afford food, yet alone laptops and mobile phone devices.
Schools have threatened to shut because of extortionate operating costs amid rampant inflation.
In an attempt to ease their burden, Majzoub said public schools would open to in-person attendance four days a week, with students taking classes online for the fifth day.
Private schools are free to determine their own operating schedule, he added.
The ministry “is coordinating with relevant authorities and donor countries to settle outstanding financial and economic issues,” Majzoub said, decrying “a series of crises” plaguing the education sector.
Lebanon’s economic crisis, branded by the World Bank as likely one of the planet’s worst in modern times, has seen the local currency lose 90 percent of its value on the black market.
The crisis has led to shortages of almost everything, from fuel to electricity and even bread, with power cuts lasting up to 22 hours a day and fuel for private generators increasingly scarce.
Majzoub said that with international assistance, the ministry has provided donations of textbooks and stationery for public school students, as well as solar panels for 122 learning facilities.


US should prioritize Somali civilian protection: HRW

US should prioritize Somali civilian protection: HRW
Updated 8 sec ago

US should prioritize Somali civilian protection: HRW

US should prioritize Somali civilian protection: HRW
  • ‘Officials should be very clear on how forces will avoid harming Somali civilians during military operations’
  • Biden signed order reversing Trump administration decision to withdraw nearly all 700 troops

LONDON: US military forces redeploying to Somalia must make civilian protection “a priority,” Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

US President Joe Biden on Monday signed an order reversing a Trump administration decision to remove nearly all 700 American troops from the East African state and redeploy them as part of a joint operation with the Somali government to tackle Al-Shabab, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda.

“US officials should be very clear on how forces will avoid harming Somali civilians during military operations,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at HRW.

“They will need to work closely with the Somali and African Union authorities to avoid repeating past laws of war violations and promptly and appropriately respond to civilian loss.”

HRW said past American operations in Somalia had not only resulted in loss of life and Somali property, but that the US had neither recognized these losses nor provided redress.

US military activities have been conducted in Somalia since at least 2007, but 2017 witnessed a marked increase in airstrikes before the Trump administration ordered the troop withdrawals in late 2020.

Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud welcomed the news that some 500 US troops would be returning, with HRW saying Al-Shabab has continued to conduct indiscriminate and targeted attacks on civilians and forcibly recruited children.

Nonetheless, Bader said the return of US military personnel must include a course correction that ensures it takes all allegations of civilian harm seriously and credibly investigates them.

“A culture of impunity for civilian loss breeds resentment and mistrust among the population and undermines efforts to build a more rights-respecting state,” she added.

“The US government recognizes the need to credibly investigate and compensate for civilian harm, but the military has yet to make this a reality.”


Iran arrests prominent activists on ‘baseless accusations’: HRW

Iran arrests prominent activists on ‘baseless accusations’: HRW
Updated 18 min 55 sec ago

Iran arrests prominent activists on ‘baseless accusations’: HRW

Iran arrests prominent activists on ‘baseless accusations’: HRW
  • This is ‘another desperate attempt to silence support for growing popular social movements’
  • Country rocked by ongoing labor strikes, protests over rising pric

LONDON: Iran has arrested several prominent activists on what Human Rights Watch described on Friday as “baseless accusations” amid ongoing labor strikes and protests over rising prices.

Citing news outlets close to Iran’s intelligence apparatus, HRW said the arrested are accused of “contact with suspicious foreign actors,” although no evidence was provided to back the claim bar the assertion by authorities that they had arrested two Europeans earlier this month.

“The arrests of prominent members of civil society in Iran on baseless accusations of malicious foreign interference is another desperate attempt to silence support for growing popular social movements in the country,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at HRW.

“Instead of looking to civil society for help in understanding and responding to social problems, Iran’s government treats them as an inherent threat.”

Since May 6, people have gathered in at least 19 cities and towns to protest the news that Iran will experience price-rises for essential goods in the coming months, with MPs saying at least two people have been killed in the protests so far.

In the last week of April, dozens of teachers’ union activists were arrested after calling for nationwide protests to demand reforms of the pay scale system.

HRW said over the past four years there has been a spike in widespread protests in Iran, organized by major unions, over economic inequalities stemming from declining living standards.

It added that security forces have responded to protests with excessive, lethal force, and have arrested thousands, using prosecution and imprisonment based on illegitimate charges as the main tool to silence prominent dissidents and human rights defenders.

Since these latest protests kicked off at the start of May, authorities have heavily disrupted internet access in multiple provinces.

“Iranian authorities have long sought to criminalize solidarity among members of civil society groups inside and outside the country,” said Sepehri Far.

“The intention is to prevent accountability and scrutiny of state actions that civil society provides.”


Yemen’s defense minister discusses bilateral cooperation with US, UK military attachés 

Yemen’s defense minister discusses bilateral cooperation with US, UK military attachés 
Updated 20 May 2022

Yemen’s defense minister discusses bilateral cooperation with US, UK military attachés 

Yemen’s defense minister discusses bilateral cooperation with US, UK military attachés 
  • Al-Maqashi highly praised the US administration's efforts to establish peace in Yemen and its support for the government

DUBAI: Yemen’s minister of Defense, Mohammed al-Maqdashi, met with Colonel Mark Rittman, American Military and Security Attaché in the country’s US embassy on Thursday. 

The two discussed ways they can fight terrorism, in addition to military and security cooperation between the two nations. 

Al-Maqashi highly praised the US administration's efforts to establish peace in Yemen and its support for the government. 

Separately, Al-Maqashi met with the British Military Attaché in the UN embassy in Yemen to discuss bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the field of defense.


Russian, Emirati officials look to enhance ‘strong ties’

Russian, Emirati officials look to enhance ‘strong ties’
Updated 20 May 2022

Russian, Emirati officials look to enhance ‘strong ties’

Russian, Emirati officials look to enhance ‘strong ties’
  • The two sides discussed ways “to better serve the interests of their people”

DUBAI: UAE and Russian officials met on Thursday to discuss ways to enhance “strong ties” between the two countries, state news agency WAM reported. 

Chairman of Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Abdullah Mohamed Al-Mazrouei, held meetings with Chairman of the Russian-Emirati inter-parliamentary Group, Аrsen Bashirovich Kanokov, in Abu Dhabi. 

During the meeting, which was also attended by Mohamed Helal Al Mheiri, Director-General of Abu Dhabi Chamber, the two sides discussed ways “to better serve the interests of their people,” according to WAM.

Al-Mazrouei highlighted that both the UAE and Russia possess the necessary capabilities to strengthen relations in areas such as trade, artificial intelligence and innovation. 

Kanokov expressed Russia’s keenness to enhance relations with the UAE in addition to strengthening ties between the business community in Abu Dhabi and Russia. He added that the goal is to build on what has been accomplished between the two sides over the years.

Kanokov also extended his condolences on the passing of the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, and congratulated Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for being elected as UAE President.


Houthi pirates accused of attempting to hijack racing yacht in Red Sea

Houthi pirates accused of attempting to hijack racing yacht in Red Sea
Updated 20 May 2022

Houthi pirates accused of attempting to hijack racing yacht in Red Sea

Houthi pirates accused of attempting to hijack racing yacht in Red Sea
  • The attackers, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, were repelled by the yacht's security force
  • Lakota, owned by French yachtsman arget is one of sailing world’s most famous boats

AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen were accused on Thursday of trying to hijack one of the world’s most famous racing yachts in the Red Sea off the coast of Hodeidah.
Attackers in three fast-moving skiffs and armed with rocket-propelled grenades tried to board the Lakota, a 19-meter sailing trimaran owned by the French yachtsman Philippe Poupon.
The trimaran’s crew repelled the attacks and continued sailing up the Red Sea toward the Suez Canal. The yacht carries a racing crew of five but it is not known if Poupon himself, who has recently been on an Antarctic expedition with his family, was on board.
Yemeni fishermen in nearby waters saw crew on the vessel exchange fire with the attackers. “Several attempts were made to board her,” the maritime intelligence company Dryad Global said. “Reports indicate she managed to get away.”
Satellite-tracking data on Thursday showed the Lakota just west of the Hanish Islands in the Red Sea between Yemen and Eritrea on the Horn of Africa coast.
The racing trimaran, previously called the Pierre 1er, is one of the most famous vessels in the sailing world. Built in 1990, it was once owned by the American tycoon and adventurer Steve Fossett.
Poupon bought the yacht this year for an estimated €250,000 euros ($263,000).
It was on its way from the Philippines to France, from where the yachtsman plans to sail it in the solo Route du Rhum transatlantic race in November, and had docked in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa last Sunday.
Yemeni government officials said they had no doubt that the Houthi militia had carried out the attempted hijack.
“Our information says three armed Houthi boats sailed from Al-Saleef in Hodeidah on Tuesday and were stationed in the sea. They attacked the boat,” one official told Arab News.
The attack on the Lakota came days after the Houthis hijacked another vessel in the Red Sea delivering food to government troops in the city of Medi, in northern Hajjah province.
The vessel, which had three fishermen and two soldiers on board, was sailing from government-controlled Khokha, south of Hodeidah, to the 5th Military Region in Medi on Sunday when it was attacked by armed Houthi boats.
“The crew sent an alert that the Houthis were surrounding them and would arrest them, two hours after leaving Khokha,” a local officer told Arab News.
In January, the Houthis hijacked the UAE-flagged vessel Rwabee with a crew of 11 off the country’s west coast, triggering local and international condemnation.
The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said the ship was carrying medical equipment from a temporary Saudi hospital on the Yemeni island of Socotra.