UN chief to Sudan army: Reverse coup, take heed of protests

UN chief to Sudan army: Reverse coup, take heed of protests
Antonio Guterres says the generals should “take heed” after Saturday’s anti-coup protests. (AFP)
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Updated 31 October 2021

UN chief to Sudan army: Reverse coup, take heed of protests

UN chief to Sudan army: Reverse coup, take heed of protests
  • At least three people were shot dead when security forces opened fire on protesters in Omdurman
  • With Saturday’s deaths, the overall number of people killed since Monday’s coup rose to 12

CAIRO: The UN secretary general urged Sudan’s generals on Sunday to reverse their takeover of the country, a day after tens of thousands of people took to the streets in the largest pro-democracy protest since last week’s coup.
Antonio Guterres said the generals should “take heed” of Saturday’s protests. “Time to go back to the legitimate constitutional arrangements,” he said in a tweet.
He was referring to a power-sharing deal that established joint military-civilian rule following the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.
Guterres expressed concern about violence against protesters on Saturday, calling for perpetrators to be held accountable.
At least three people were shot dead when security forces opened fire on protesters in Omdurman, a city adjacent to the capital of Khartoum. A doctors’ union also said more than 110 people were injured by live rounds, tear gas and beatings in Omdurman and elsewhere in the country.
With Saturday’s deaths, the overall number of people killed since Monday’s coup rose to 12, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee and activists. More than 280 others were injured over the past week.
The coup came after weeks of growing tensions between the military and civilians, and the generals had repeatedly called for dissolving the transitional government.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Buhran, who led the coup, has claimed that the takeover was necessary to prevent a civil war, citing what he said were growing divisions among political groups. However, the takeover came less than a month before he was to have handed some power to a civilian.
He also claimed that the transition to democracy would continue, saying he would install a new technocrat government soon, with the aim of holding elections in July 2023.
But the pro-democracy movement in Sudan fears the military has no intention of easing its grip, and will appoint politicians it can control.
Meanwhile, the UN mission for Sudan is working to facilitate dialogue between the military and civilian leaders.
A Sudanese military official said that a UN-supported national committee began separate meetings last week with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Burhan to find common ground.


Algeria says arrested activist died of ‘natural causes’

Updated 12 sec ago

Algeria says arrested activist died of ‘natural causes’

Algeria says arrested activist died of ‘natural causes’
ALGIERS: Algeria on Tuesday blamed “natural causes” for the death of a pro-democracy activist in detention last month, which sparked a wave of anger and prompted a lawsuit for manslaughter.
Hakim Debbazi, 55, was arrested in February after publishing Facebook posts in support of Hirak, a pro-democracy movement. He died on April 24, according to the Algerian rights group LADDH.
Earlier this month, his family said they were suing the state for manslaughter and “failing to help a person in danger,” and were seeking a billion euros in compensation.
On Tuesday, Justice Minister Abderrachid Tabi told parliament that Debbazi had been transferred to hospital on April 17 “after falling ill” at the Kolea prison near the capital Algiers.
“He died at the hospital three days later,” Tabi said, local media reported. “The autopsy found that he had died of natural causes.”
Amnesty International has called on authorities to allow an independent investigation into his death.
His death comes after activists Mohamed Tamalt and Kamel Eddine Fekhar both died in detention in 2016 and 2019 respectively.
The CNLD prisoners’ support group says more than 260 people are behind bars in Algeria in relation to the Hirak protest movement or rights campaigning.

Iran detains protesting bus drivers: reports

Iran detains protesting bus drivers: reports
Updated 17 May 2022

Iran detains protesting bus drivers: reports

Iran detains protesting bus drivers: reports
  • "A number of drivers were detained yesterday during a gathering in front of the central office of the Tehran Bus Company," Mohsen Bagheri, a company official
  • The workers do not want anything beyond the law; their demand is a legal increase in wages

TEHRAN: Iran arrested a number of bus drivers who have staged protests in Tehran for the second consecutive day over their living conditions, media in the country reported on Tuesday.
“A number of drivers were detained yesterday during a gathering in front of the central office of the Tehran Bus Company,” Mohsen Bagheri, a company official, was quoted as saying by ILNA news agency.
“A number of drivers were also arrested during today’s protest,” he added.
Bagheri did not say why the drivers were arrested, only expressing hope that they would be released soon.
“The workers do not want anything beyond the law; their demand is a legal increase in wages,” Bagheri said.
Striking bus drivers chanted slogans describing Tehran’s mayor as “incompetent” and called on him to resign at a protest on Monday, the reformist Shargh newspaper said on Twitter.
Buses were seen operating in different areas of the capital on Tuesday, AFP journalists said, but it was unclear if the strike was continuing.
The mayor of Tehran, Alireza Zakani, met with a group of drivers on Monday and said a committee was looking into the possibility of salary increases, according to state news agency IRNA.
Last week, Iran’s government announced a series of measures to tackle mounting economic challenges, such as changing a subsidy system and raising the price of staples including cooking oil and dairy products.
Hundreds have taken to the streets in a number of Iranian cities in the past week to protest against the moves, including in Tehran province, IRNA reported.
MP Ahmed Avai said on Saturday that one person had been killed during demonstrations in the southwestern city of Dezful, according to ILNA.
Iran’s economy has been hit hard by sanctions imposed by the United States since 2018 as well as rising prices sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year.
The Islamic republic has witnessed several waves of protests over living conditions in recent years, most notably in 2019 after a fuel price hike.
In recent months, teachers have held successive demonstrations demanding the speeding up of reforms that would see their salaries better reflect their experience and performance.


How digitalization is boosting Arab female labor force participation

How digitalization is boosting Arab female labor force participation
Updated 17 May 2022

How digitalization is boosting Arab female labor force participation

How digitalization is boosting Arab female labor force participation
  • Pandemic restrictions accelerated the move towards remote and hybrid forms of working
  • Women trying to balancing their careers and homelife benefited most from the transition

DUBAI: At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies were forced to take a more flexible approach to work, allowing their staff to carry out tasks remotely, splitting their time between home and the office and to define their own working hours.

The phenomenon has not only accelerated an existing trend toward the digitalization of work processes, but it has also made workplaces far more flexible and, as a byproduct, much more inclusive for women.

This has taken place at a time when many more women in the Arab world are entering the workforce thanks to new legislation designed to protect them from discrimination and harassment, and also due to burgeoning growth in new sectors of the economy.

Regional experts have welcomed this new environment of hybrid working and greater inclusivity. “We see quite a few companies adopting the flexible working model,” Marketa Simkova, partner of People and Change at KPMG, told Arab News.

“It could be more flexible working hours and also the off-site/on-site model. Women require the flexibility to juggle their private life, their family and work environment.”

Simkova, who is taking part in a panel discussion, “A new beginning: Work 2.0,” at the Arab Women Forum in Dubai on May 17, said several of her female clients appreciate such flexibility and view it as one of the deciding factors when they look for new opportunities.

“They prefer companies that could offer that,” she said.

Marketa Simkova, partner of People and Change at KPMG, says regional firms are still divided on the issue women’s equity. (Supplied)

In fact, advancing the role of women in society and the economy is considered a key driver of change in the Middle East.

According to the management consulting company McKinsey, increased female participation in professional and technical jobs could turbo-charge economic growth in a region that will be significantly impacted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

McKinsey researchers estimate that the share of women in professional and technical jobs is set to more than double by 2030 as a result of the move toward digitalization, online platforms and entrepreneurship.

“Capturing this opportunity would put women in the Middle East at parity with global peers,” the firm said. “Women in the Middle East can go further and aim to achieve parity with the region’s men in professional and technical jobs.”

However, according to Simkova, regional firms are still divided on the issue, with many demanding their employees come back to the office after the lifting of pandemic restrictions as they feel productivity would otherwise drop.

Others simply do not have the flexibility because of the nature of their work.

“Most offer a hybrid model, which is a mix of working from home two or three days a week and the office,” Simkova said. “Very few select companies are completely flexible.”

Today, technology allows for this flexibility, with the expansion of tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom offering virtual meetings and the secure transfer of large files, while allowing home-based workers a better work-life balance.

“I see on the ground that this is an advantage,” Simkova said. “The benefits are that the flexibility suits more women than men, and the fact that they get this flexibility thanks to digitalization can then combine their family life and career, hence this whole situation is promoting diversity.”

According to McKinsey, digital inclusion is critical to boosting female participation in professional and technical jobs in the region, offering more advanced job opportunities with greater flexibility.

For Samia El-Kadiri, adviser and head of research in governance and compliance at Hawkamah, who is also taking part in the Arab Women Forum panel, diversity is a fundamental element to innovation and creativity.

“It is generally understood that companies with a diverse workforce are more likely to have a better understanding of their consumers,” she told Arab News. “So this (pandemic) crisis should be an encouragement for a new future that is more flexible, more diverse and more well-being oriented.”

Boards of directors are nowadays under the microscope as never before, measured on their racial, cultural and gender diversity criteria under the umbrella of environmental, social and corporate governance.

Samia El-Kadiri, adviser and head of research in governance and compliance at Hawkamah, says diversity is a fundamental element to innovation and creativity. (Zubiya Shaikh/AN)

As a result, practices are changing, and El-Kadiri foresees that they will remain in place well into the future.

“Company leaders are also realizing that as well. So leaders can now focus on blending a culture that can provide for employees to work from anywhere they want. Some companies are already practicing those policies.”

As a result, digitalization has helped women during the pandemic to balance their work life with their responsibilities as mothers and caregivers.

“Especially in our region, women are under the pressure of stereotypes to give more time to home responsibilities or to their husbands,” El-Kadiri said.

“Today, they can do both. They can be successful and (fulfill) their responsibilities, not only in our region, but also globally.”

Despite many of the clear benefits, Simkova has a word of caution for companies and employees embracing remote and hybrid work.

“This digitalization trend will continue,” Simkova said. “But it remains to be seen how it will impact things such as employee engagement, productivity and employee learning in the long term.”

Indeed, there can be downsides to working from home. For instance, those employees who come into the office regularly tend to have greater visibility with management.

“We need to be a bit careful because we are starting to notice that it’s a disadvantage for a new starter,” Simkova said. “People don’t typically come to the office, so it’s more difficult for them to be integrated and make connections.”

Equally, newer employees working remotely tend to miss out on the chance to learn from others through observation and networking. “People are also social creatures,” Simkova said.

“If they don’t have the opportunity to meet frequently, create relationships and spend time together then, in the long term, it might impact their bond with the company, its culture and their engagement.”


Iran state TV says 2 French nationals arrested over protests

Iran state TV says 2 French nationals arrested over protests
Updated 17 May 2022

Iran state TV says 2 French nationals arrested over protests

Iran state TV says 2 French nationals arrested over protests
  • The report identified the two as Cecile Kohler, 37, and Chuck Paris, 69, and said they were not on a tourist visit to Iran
  • France condemned the “groundless arrest” of the two and called for their immediate release

TEHRAN: Iran’s state TV on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of two French citizens, saying they met with protesting teachers and took part in an anti-government rally.
The report identified the two as Cecile Kohler, 37, and Chuck Paris, 69, and said they were not on a tourist visit to Iran. France had earlier identified the two as a teachers’ union official and her partner on vacation in Iran.
The Intelligence Ministry in Tehran last week only said that it had detained two Europeans.
The TV broadcast footage of the arrival of the two, saying they landed from Turkey at Tehran airport on April 28. It also broadcast footage of their meetings with Iranian teachers and other activists, as well as their presence at a protest gathering, and also aired a video purported to show the two being arrested while on their way to the Tehran airport to leave the country on May 7.
The report said the two French citizens were “organizing a protest” with the purpose of creating “unrest” in Iran.
Last Thursday, France condemned the “groundless arrest” of the two and called for their immediate release. France’s Foreign Ministry said its ambassador in Tehran has already attempted to obtain consular access to the couple and that the charge d’affaires at Iran’s Embassy in Paris has been summoned for explanations.
Another French citizen, Benjamin Briere, was sentenced in January by Iran to over eight years in prison for espionage, for photographing “prohibited areas” with a drone in 2020 during what he said was a tourist visit in the north of the country.
Briere’s lawyer had claimed his client was being used as a “bargaining chip” in diplomatic negotiations at the time between Iran and Western countries over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
Also in January, Iranian justice ordered the re-imprisonment of Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, arrested in 2019, who had for a time been allowed to serve a five-year prison sentence under house arrest. She had been accused of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic’s political system” and “collusion to undermine national security.”
There have been teachers’ strikes over the past weeks in cities across Iran. Teachers have walked out of their classes to press for better pay and working conditions.


Libya’s parliament-appointed prime minister quits Tripoli after clashes

Libya’s parliament-appointed prime minister quits Tripoli after clashes
Updated 17 May 2022

Libya’s parliament-appointed prime minister quits Tripoli after clashes

Libya’s parliament-appointed prime minister quits Tripoli after clashes
  • Clashes break out between rival armed groups shortly after Fathi Bashagha enters the western city

TRIPOLI: Libya’s parliament-appointed prime minister Fathi Bashagha left the capital Tripoli on Tuesday, his office said, hours after his attempt to enter the city led to clashes between rival factions.
Bashagha’s government earlier said it had arrived in the capital, where the unity government has refused to cede power, prompting fighting between their militia backers.
Its press service announced “the arrival of the prime minister of the Libyan government, Mr. Fathi Bashagha, accompanied by several ministers, in the capital Tripoli to begin his work there.”
Clashes broke out between rival armed groups shortly after he entered the western city, an AFP journalist reported.
In February, the parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk designated former interior minister Bashagha as prime minister.
But he has failed to oust the Tripoli-based unity administration led by premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah, who has said repeatedly he will only cede power to an elected government.
Dbeibah’s government was formed in 2020 as part of United Nations-led efforts to draw a line under a decade of conflict since a NATO-backed revolt toppled dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Dbeibah was to lead the country until elections last December, but they were indefinitely postponed and his political opponents argue that his mandate has now finished.
The rise of Bashagha’s government gives the North African country two rival administrations, as was the case between 2014 and a 2020 cease-fire.