Thousands of pro-military protesters rally against Sudan government

Thousands of pro-military protesters rally against Sudan government
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Sudanese protesters take part in a rally demanding the dissolution of the transitional government, outside the presidential palace in Khartoum on October 16, 2021. (AFP)
Thousands of pro-military protesters rally against Sudan government
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Sudanese protesters take part in a rally demanding the dissolution of the transitional government, outside the presidential palace in Khartoum on October 16, 2021. (AFP)
Thousands of pro-military protesters rally against Sudan government
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Sudanese protesters take part in a rally demanding the dissolution of the transitional government, outside the presidential palace in Khartoum on October 16, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 16 October 2021

Thousands of pro-military protesters rally against Sudan government

Thousands of pro-military protesters rally against Sudan government
  • Saturday’s demonstrations were organized by a splinter faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC)
  • FFC is a civilian alliance which spearheaded the anti-Bashir protests and became a key plank of the transition

KHARTOUM: Thousands of pro-military Sudanese protesters took to the streets Saturday demanding the dissolution of the transitional government, saying it had “failed” them politically and economically.
The protests came as Sudanese politics reels from divisions among the factions steering the rocky transition from two decades of iron-fisted rule by Omar Al-Bashir, who was ousted by the army in April 2019 in the face of mass protests.
Saturday’s demonstrations were organized by a splinter faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), a civilian alliance which spearheaded the anti-Bashir protests and became a key plank of the transition.
“We need a military government, the current government has failed to bring us justice and equality,” said Abboud Ahmed, a 50-year-old protester near the presidential palace in central Khartoum.
The official SUNA news agency reported that protesters had traveled in by truck from Khartoum’s outskirts and from neighboring states.
Critics alleged that the protests involved sympathizers of the Bashir regime, which was dominated by Islamists and the military.
Banners called for the “dissolution of the government.” Protesters chanted “one army, one people” and “the army will bring us bread.”
“We are marching in a peaceful protest and we want a military government,” said housewife Enaam Mohamed.
On Friday, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok warned that the transition is facing its “worst and most dangerous” crisis.
The mainstream faction of the FFC said: “The current crisis is not related to dissolution of the government of not.
“It is engineered by some parties to overthrow the revolutionary forces... paving the way for the return of remnants of the previous regime.”
Support for the transitional government has waned in recent months in the face of a tough package of IMF-backed economic reforms, including the slashing of fuel subsidies and a managed float of the Sudanese pound.
Protests have rocked eastern Sudan where demonstrators have blocked trade through the key hub of Port Sudan since September.
On September 21, the government said it thwarted a coup attempt which it blamed on both military officers and civilians linked to Bashir’s regime.


Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans

Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans
Updated 10 sec ago

Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans

Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans
  • Music therapy gained official recognition after World War II in successfully dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • According to UNICEF figures, 1 million children live in Gaza which has witnessed four wars with Israel since 2008

GAZA CITY: Specialists in the besieged Gaza Strip are mixing psychiatry and music in therapy sessions designed to improve positivity among the Palestinian enclave’s war-weary population.

And 12-year-old Reem, whose family home was bombed in May during the latest clashes in the ongoing Israeli Palestinian conflict, has been one of those to benefit.

The youngster was left traumatized after an explosion at her house in Gaza’s Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood, an experience that has since regularly reduced her to tears and caused her to feel isolated and depressed.

But after getting involved in a music therapy scheme run by the Sununu Association for Culture and Arts and funded by the German GIZ organization, her stresses and fears have been significantly eased.

Reem listens to music without words during her weekly psychological support sessions organized as part of the Enjoy Your Life with Music initiative.

Program coordinator, Rania Al-Shurihi, said Reem’s mental health had improved dramatically as a result of her treatment, adding that the association also held group sessions for Gazans suffering from the psychological effects of years of war and economic hardship.

Music therapy gained official recognition after World War II in successfully dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and it is now used to treat a range of conditions including chronic pain, anxiety, depression, heart irregularities, and blood pressure issues.

Al-Shurihi pointed out that sometimes exposing people to sad music helped them shed negative energy through crying but added that happy and relaxing music incorporating the sound of rain and waves could have similar positive outcomes.

She noted that psychological pressure often generated the need to listen to music or readings from the Holy Qur’an for relaxation.

Mental health specialists also use therapeutic methods such as writing, cooking, sailing, and breathing exercises to relieve tensions.

“Despite society’s inherited and negative view of mental health center visitors, the success of the music therapy experience has greatly contributed to changing these concepts,” Al-Shurihi said.

Experts believe that many children living in Gaza suffer from psychological damage related to the conflict including depression, anxiety, behavioral disorders, urinary incontinence, and nervous mood swings.

According to UNICEF figures, 1 million children live in Gaza which has witnessed four wars with Israel since 2008. The aid organization said the deadly conflict in May had a devastating impact on many youngsters after schools, health facilities, homes, and offices were damaged or flattened in missile attacks.

Al-Shurihi said it was important that music therapy continued to be offered in Gaza not just to tackle the effects of war but also the daily pressures of life faced by Palestinians.

“We all need psychological intervention to varying degrees. And through music, we seek to help the neediest people to overcome difficult circumstances and not drown in a sea of psychological crises,” she added.


Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes

Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes
Updated 27 min 32 sec ago

Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes

Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes
  • Banks and money changers deny taking commissions on old bills

BEIRUT: Lebanese money changers refusing to accept older $100 banknotes, known as “white notes,” is causing confusion, particularly after some people were charged an extra $5 fee for exchanging $100 white bills.

Dozens of customers flocked to banks to learn more about the news, especially since some of the white $100 notes were issued by banks.

A customer told Arab News: “Every Lebanese is keeping a stack of $100 bills in their home for when they need them the most since the banks confiscated our deposits, and no one dares to deposit a single dollar in the bank nowadays.”

He added: “I went to my bank to inquire about this new rule adopted by money changers. My daughter told me that one refused to exchange the $100 that she gave him, claiming it was an old edition and he had the right to take $5 as commission if she wanted to exchange it. Who gave them the right to do this? I, my wife and my children all work and we save whatever we make in dollars. Does this mean that our savings have become worthless?”

He said: “The bank manager told me that the problem is with money changers, not banks, since they do not have instructions to stop dealing with the old $100 bills; on the contrary, banks are using both the old and new editions. He suggested that I occasionally bring him $200 to $400, in exchange for which he would give me $50 bills until the issue with money changers is resolved.”

Over the past few days, the topic of “old, white” $100 and the “new, blue” $100 banknotes has dominated conversation.

Money transfer companies were also said to have refused to deal with the older notes. Some money changers have taken advantage of the ambiguity to impose a $10 fee for exchanging white $100 bills.

The confusion was said to said to have been stirred by one of the largest money shipping companies, shut down after it was subject to a judicial investigation into smuggling funds abroad after Oct. 17, 2019 — when the financial crisis hit Lebanon, and in light of which Banque du Liban froze transfers inside and outside Lebanon.

Mahmoud Murad, former head of the Syndicate of Money Changers, told Arab News: “This fad has been circulating in the Lebanese financial market for about a week now. We do not know its source, nor who invented it. The problem is that people believe anything in Lebanon.”

He added: “People who come to my business to buy dollar bills only accept the blue-colored edition now. We, as money changers, are buying and selling both the old and new editions; nothing has changed.”

Murad said: “If the $100 notes are worn-out or torn, we buy them from people but never sell them again. Instead, we give them to shipping companies to return them to the US and replace them with brand-new ones.

“But everyone in Lebanon is now a money changer. The Lebanese, the Syrian, the Sri Lankan, the Bengali, the supermarket cashier, the butcher, all engage in exchanging money. Money changers should not be blamed for this.”

Murad said that the Syndicate of Money Changers met on Wednesday and stressed that all money changers follow legal and moral rules when dealing with customers.

However, Banque du Liban revealed in a statement on Wednesday that “some banks and money changers have charged fees for exchanging $100 banknotes, claiming that they are outdated.”

It added: “The specifications of valid $100 notes are determined by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, an agency affiliated with the US Treasury,” noting: “BDL alone determines the specifications of valid Lebanese currency.”

The US Embassy in Lebanon also stated on Wednesday that “it is US government policy that all designs of Federal Reserve notes remain legal tender, or legally valid for payments, regardless of when they were issued. This policy includes all denominations of Federal Reserve notes, from 1914 to present.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Banks in Lebanon announced that “after the great controversy surrounding some money changers taking commissions on old $100 bills, ABL would like to clarify that Lebanese banks deal with banknotes without any amendment to existing procedures. No additional fee is charged for accepting white $100 banknotes.”

OMT Exchange also stated that it “has not stopped accepting white $100 bills, if they are in good condition, and no additional fee is charged at any of our centers. OMT does not accept any banknotes that are torn, burnt, yellowed, or even partially damaged.”


Kuwait detects first case of omicron variant

Kuwait detects first case of omicron variant
Updated 43 min 22 sec ago

Kuwait detects first case of omicron variant

Kuwait detects first case of omicron variant
  • The variant was detected in a European traveler who arrived from an African country

KUWAIT: Kuwait has detected its first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, state news agency KUNA reported on Wednesday.
The variant was detected in a European traveler who arrived to Kuwait from an African country where the variant had been detected, KUNA reported, citing a health ministry spokesman.
Speaking to KUNA, Dr. Abdullah Al-Sanad said the traveler had received both dosages of the COVID-19 vaccine previously and now he is under institutional quarantine, according to the health protocol.
He added that the ministry has taken necessary precautions since several nations announced discovering the new variant.
Currently, the pandemic situation in Kuwait is stable, according to Al-Sanad, however, citizens and residents have been advised to take the booster shot to help the ministry curb the spread.
Studies have shown that current vaccines are effective against omicron, he stressed.
On Wednesday, health authorities recorded 18 recoveries, one death and 33 new coronavirus infections, bringing the cases to a total of 413,588 in Kuwait.


Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel

Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel
Updated 53 min 49 sec ago

Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel

Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel
  • The two countries and the UAE signed a declaration of intent on Nov. 22 to explore the feasibility of a the joint project

AMMAN: MPs in Jordan walked out of a parliamentary session on Wednesday in protest against the presence of the minister who signed a controversial “energy-for-water” agreement with Israel and the UAE.

Amid angry scenes, veteran MP Saleh Al-Armouti threatened to walk out if the minister remained. Without mentioning the minister by name, Al-Armouti said: “Someone who signed a deal with the Zionist enemy, either he leaves the hall or I leave. I don’t allow his presence (in the chamber).”

When speaker Abdulkarim Al-Dughmi accused Al-Armouti of violating parliamentary rules, the latter walked out of the session and was joined by a majority of MPs, which meant that there was no longer a quorum in the House. A majority of the remaining lawmakers voted in favor of a proposal to hold a special session to discuss the energy agreement.

The declaration of intent to explore the feasibility of a joint energy-for-water project was signed at Expo 2020 Dubai on Nov. 22 by Jordan’s Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammad Al-Najjar, the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment Mariam Al-Mheiri, and Israel’s Energy Minister Karine Elharrar.

At the time, the Jordanian government said the declaration was “neither a technical nor legal agreement” and only means that the three nations will begin to carry out feasibility studies early next year for the megaproject. It added that resource-poor Jordan would receive 200 million cubic meters of water a year under the proposed project.

In the past two weeks, hundreds of Jordanians have marched in Amman in protest against the agreement, demanding the resignation of the government over the “shameful deals” with Israel.

Water and Irrigation Ministry spokesperson Omar Salameh previously pointed out that Jordan obtains 35 million cubic meters of water annually from Israel under the 1994 Wadi Araba Peace Treaty between the two countries, and another 10 million cubic meters as a result of a deal in 2010. In October, Jordan signed an agreement with Israel to purchase an additional 50 million cubic meters of water.

A few days before water-far-energy agreement was signed, US news website Axios reported that a massive solar-energy farm will be built in the Jordanian desert as part of a project to generate clean energy that would be sold to Israel in return for desalinated water. Axios said the solar facility would be built by Masdar, the renewable-energy company owned by the Emirati government.

The plans reportedly call for the solar farm to be operational by 2026 and supply 2 percent of Israel’s energy requirements by 2030, with Israel paying $180 million a year that would be divided between the Jordanian government and the Emirati company.


Yemen calls for punishing Iran for military supplies to Houthis

Yemen calls for punishing Iran for military supplies to Houthis
Updated 08 December 2021

Yemen calls for punishing Iran for military supplies to Houthis

Yemen calls for punishing Iran for military supplies to Houthis
  • The Arab coalition and the Yemeni government have long accused Iran of sending military and financial assistance to the Houthis

AL-MUKALLA: The Yemeni Army battling the Houthis across the country has demanded that the UN Security Council and the UN special envoy to Yemen name and shame the Iranian regime for continuing to send military supplies to the Houthis, responsible for killing thousands of Yemenis and undermining peace and stability. 

Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesperson, told Arab News on Wednesday that the Houthis are using advanced weapons from Iran to kill Yemenis and attack targets in neighboring Saudi Arabia and renewed the call to impose sanctions on Iran for fueling violence in Yemen. 

“Yemen is in need of humanitarian assistance, not weapons,” Majili said, commenting on the latest and largest-ever seizure of Iranian weapons bound for the Houthis in Yemen. 

On Tuesday, the US Justice Department announced intercepting two large caches of Iranian weapons, including 171 surface-to-air missiles and eight anti-tank missiles, heading to the Houthis in Yemen on two vessels in the Arabian Sea. 

The Arab coalition and the Yemeni government have long accused Iran of sending military and financial assistance to the Houthis, fueling their deadly military operations in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. 

Meanwhile, the US pledged support to the Yemeni government and the new administration of the Aden-based Central Bank of Yemen in delivering economic policies to rescue the devaluating rial and address aggravating economic problems. 

During a meeting with the new governor of the central bank Ahmed bin Ahmed Ghaleb on Wednesday, Cathy Westley, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Yemen, said Washington would help him and his economic team to put into place vital reforms to rescue the economy. 

“CDA Westley pledged US support for comprehensive economic reforms to benefit the Yemeni people in her meeting with CBY Gov. Ahmed Ghaleb. They also discussed the need for continued strong international cooperation and financial assistance to help shore up Yemen’s economy,” the US Embassy in Yemen said in a brief statement. 

US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking repeated the same pledges of support to the Yemeni government during a virtual meeting with Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed on Tuesday. 

“The US strongly supports the prime minister office’s efforts to reform the Yemeni economy,” Lenderking’s office said. 

Similarly, the EU welcomed the restructuring of the central bank board and demanded the new leaders work on fixing the severe economic meltdown in the country and fighting corruption. 

“The EU welcomes the appointment of a new governor, deputy governor and the board of the central bank of Yemen, as part of urgently needed economic and monetary reforms. It is essential to stabilize the currency, establish and implement a budget and fight corruption throughout #Yemen,” the EU Mission in Yemen said on Twitter.

The international support to the Yemeni government comes as the Yemeni rial on Wednesday stabilized at 1255 against the dollar for the first time in two weeks, recovering from a historic record of 1700 against the dollar. 

On the ground, dozens of Houthis were killed in fierce fighting on Tuesday and Wednesday morning in contested areas south of Marib, a local military official told Arab News. 

Waves of Houthi fighters attacked government troops on Tuesday night in the Juba district in a desperate attempt to break through defenses and seize control of new areas that would put them closer to the city of Marib.

The consecutive attacks triggered heavy fighting with government troops who managed to push back the Houthis after killing dozens, and the fighting subsided early on Wednesday. 

“The Houthis have carried out human wave attacks in a bid to make a breakthrough. They suffered heavy losses. The attacks sparked intense airstrikes from Arab coalition warplanes,” the official said. 

On Tuesday, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg expressed alarm over the escalating military operations across Yemen and called upon warring factions in the country to end hostilities and comply with UN efforts to reach a peace agreement. 

“Military options won’t result in sustainable solutions. The parties have a responsibility to prioritize the needs of civilians & cooperate with #UN efforts to revive a political process aimed at reaching a just, negotiated settlement to comprehensively end the conflict in #Yemen,” Grundberg said in a statement on Twitter.