Tunisian town revolts over trash crisis

Tunisian town revolts over trash crisis
Tunisians gather before blocking a road in the city of Agareb following the death of a protester during demonstrations over the reopening of a rubbish dump. (AFP)
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Updated 14 November 2021

Tunisian town revolts over trash crisis

Tunisian town revolts over trash crisis
  • Rubbish dumped at the site includes dangerous industrial and medical refuse causing a string of diseases

AGAREB: As tear gas and protest cries filled the air in the Tunisian city of Agareb, Mabrouka Ben Ibrahim vowed to demonstrate for her daughter, whose death she blames on a nearby rubbish dump.

Yousra, 21, died in 2019 after being bitten by a mosquito that came from the toxic trash site, Ben Ibrahim said.

“I lost my daughter and I don’t want other families to lose their children because of the filth in this landfill,” the 59-year-old said.

Residents say rubbish dumped at the site, including dangerous industrial and medical refuse, has caused a string of diseases from cancer to vision problems and infertility.

Authorities decided to close the site in September after declaring it full but reversed course on Monday, prompting angry street demonstrations that degenerated into clashes with security forces.

In the early hours of Tuesday, a protester died of what relatives said was tear gas inhalation, although authorities have blamed his death on an unrelated health condition.

The protests come amid a garbage crisis across Sfax province that has seen refuse piling up on pavements after the closure of the Agareb site, the province’s main dump.

Residents say the site, around three km from the town center and stretching over 35 hectares, has become a public health disaster since it opened in 2008.

“Two years after it was opened, we started seeing an increase in allergies, respiratory diseases and miscarriages as a direct result of burning of trash and the release of toxic gases” from the site, said Bassem Ben Ammar, a doctor who has worked in the town for two decades.

“The number of cancer cases has shot up.”

Even as the smell of tear gas dissipates, the stench of refuse still hangs over the town of 40,000.

“During the summer and throughout the year, the mosquitos and the disgusting smell never leave us. We can’t even open our windows,” demonstrator Adel Ben Faraj said.

The dump, situated in the middle of a nature reserve, receives more than 620 tons of waste every day, according to Ines Labiadh of the FTDES rights group.

Ben Ammar said the site was a destination for “waste of all kinds, including medical waste, amputated body parts and even fetuses.”

The Environment Ministry said medical waste was treated before going into the dump.

The site, one of 13 official landfills in the North African country, serves around 1 million people and receives waste from numerous factories in the city of Sfax, Tunisia’s main industrial hub.

As in the rest of Tunisia, only a small fraction of the region’s waste is recycled, with the rest either buried or incinerated.

Residents say the site was only meant to be active for five years, but its use was extended and it continued operating despite a judge ordering its immediate closure in 2019.

It was deemed full and finally shut down in late September, but authorities reopened it this week, triggering renewed outrage among residents.

Activists have warned that similar protests could easily flare over other landfill sites in Tunisia.

Labiadh told AFP that less than 10 percent of the country’s waste was recycled.

“This is damaging public health and the environment” around landfill sites, she said, calling on the state to set up a functioning recycling system.

Many of the landfill sites are found in marginalized areas.

“Today there are demonstrations in Agareb, but tomorrow they could happen around dumps in the capital. No dump in Tunisia is immune,” she said.

“Some areas have clean air, while others are marginalized and deprived of basic rights.”

In Agareb, some residents have been using art to campaign for a solution.

Maamoun Ajmi, a 29-year-old architect, is part of the “Maneche Msabb” (I’m not a rubbish dump) art collective.

He showed AFP two of his artworks — one a portrait of Yousra as an angel, the other showing a rat eating the section of the Tunisian constitution dealing with environmental rights.

He was among activists who met with President Kais Saied in Tunis on Thursday to highlight the town’s plight.

Ajmi told AFP the protesters had nothing to do with politics.


UAE to host global conference on falconry

UAE to host global conference on falconry
Updated 12 sec ago

UAE to host global conference on falconry

UAE to host global conference on falconry
  • Emirates Falconers Club organizes conference on role of local communities in heritage preservation
  • Event aims to bring together UAE-based experts, researchers and participants to promote sustainable use

ABU DHABI: Emirates Falconers Club hosts on Monday a global conference on the role of indigenous people and local communities in linking intangible cultural heritage and wildlife conservation.
Based on the theme, “Sustainability and Heritage . . . A Reborn Aspiration,” the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center welcomes 24 young falconers (aged 18 to 30), representing 24 countries, to participate in the conference between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2, the Emirates News Agency reported.
Emirates Falconers Club is organizing the conference in cooperation with the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey (IAF), UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Chairman of the conference’s higher organizing committee, Majid Ali Al-Mansouri, and secretary-general of Emirates Falconers Club, said that the event aims to bring together UAE-based experts, researchers and participants to promote sustainable use, which plays a pivotal role in preserving the environment.
The seven-day conference will highlight IUCN’s role and establish a link with the UNESCO Commission on Intangible Cultural Heritage to make use of communities’ readiness to support heritage and environment preservation efforts.
Encouraging communications between falconers and indigenous people and local communities, and promoting falconry and correcting misinformation about it, will be among the conference’s main goals.
The event also aims to encourage cultural approaches to restore ecosystems through sustainable use, recognize the role of falconry as an important heritage in local and indigenous communities, as well as the leading role falconers can play in achieving heritage conservation and preservation goals.
The conference will outline the role of the IAF in promoting the legal practice of falconry and focus on conservation portals and student education projects through cooperation with schools, and the International Falconry Festival, highlighting the UAE’s commitment to preserving and promoting falconry around the world.


Egyptians in online bid to save child with rare illness

Egyptians in online bid to save child with rare illness
Updated 28 min 11 sec ago

Egyptians in online bid to save child with rare illness

Egyptians in online bid to save child with rare illness
  • Twitter hashtag #Save_Celine is trending in the country, with calls to raise $2 million
  • “We have resorted to opening the door for donations in coordination with the Ministry of Social Solidarity,” Celine’s father told Arab News

CAIRO: Egyptians have come together to raise funds online for a baby girl suffering from a rare life-threatening disease.
Celine, who is 15 months old, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy four months ago.
The genetic condition makes the muscles weaker, and causes increasing problems with movement and breathing.
The Twitter hashtag #Save_Celine is trending in the country, with calls to raise 40 million Egyptian pounds ($2 million) to pay for expensive gene therapy medication via a Zolgensma injection.
The hashtag has been used over 100,000 times as people call for contributions to support the girl.
Similar campaigns were organized in the past for other children suffering from the same disease.
“We have resorted to opening the door for donations in coordination with the Ministry of Social Solidarity. So far, we have collected about EGP12 million for the injection,” Celine’s father told Arab News.
Ramy Elhamy, who takes part in campaigns to help sick children, told Arab News: “The injection that Celine needs is the first gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy caused by genetic changes, and gained the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration in 2019.
“It is the most expensive injection in the world, which helps treat respiratory functions and gradually puts the child on the path of normal growth. It is followed by physiotherapy and pulmonary rehabilitation.
“We launched the campaign to save Celine after the success of such campaigns for other children who had the same rare disease. We knocked on all doors to save the child, and many responded to our calls.”
Egyptian actor Mohamed Henedy shared a photo of the child with the caption: “This honey is called Celine. She suffers from a very rare disease and her condition is starting to worsen. The coming days can save Celine’s life. If you don’t know how to donate, share the hashtag, and retweet and write about Celine on your account.”
He added: “This is the simplest thing that you can offer because others can donate. All Egyptians have gathered and saved the life of Ruqayya and the life of the twins Alia and Farida, and now it is our turn, with pleasure, that we are helping Celine.”
Another actor, Ahmed Safwat, joined the donation campaign to highlight the significance of social solidarity and the ability of Egyptians to achieve this goal, as they previously did with other children.
Media personality Esaad Younis hosted Celine’s mother, Radwa Hamdi, on her program to appeal for donations.
Earlier, Hamdi had asked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for help, saying: “I am pleading with you. I know that the injection is expensive, but surely the life of my daughter and your daughter is more expensive. We are asking the state to help Celine take the Zolgensma injection, even if in turn it will take all our salaries. She is all I have.”


Israeli troops kill Palestinian after alleged car-ramming

Israeli troops kill Palestinian after alleged car-ramming
Updated 24 September 2022

Israeli troops kill Palestinian after alleged car-ramming

Israeli troops kill Palestinian after alleged car-ramming
  • The military said the soldiers opened fire when the motorist tried to run them over
  • Israeli media said the driver was killed

JERUSALEM : Israeli troops on Saturday shot and killed a Palestinian motorist who allegedly tried to ram his car into a group of soldiers patrolling in the occupied West Bank, according to Israeli soldiers and media.
The incident took place near the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank — the focal point of the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian violence in the occupied territory since 2016.
In a brief statement, the military said the soldiers opened fire when the motorist tried to run them over. Israeli media said the driver was killed. There was no way to immediately verify the account.
Palestinian assailants have carried out dozens of attempted stabbings and car rammings in recent years. But Palestinians and human rights groups say that Israeli troops often use excessive force, and in some cases, have shot people who did not pose a threat.
Israeli troops have been carrying out stepped-up activity in the northern West Bank since a series of deadly Palestinian attacks inside Israel last spring. Several attackers came from the area.
Some 90 Palestinians have been killed in the crackdown. Israel says many were militants or local youths who hurled stones and firebombs at troops, though several civilians have also died.
Early this week, Palestinian security forces, which coordinate activity with Israel, clashed with Palestinian youths in Nablus. The incident cast a spotlight on the growing ranks of Palestinian youths who see no end in sight to Israel’s 55-year military occupation and view the Palestinian Authority as a vehicle of corruption and collaboration with Israel.
Israeli officials say they are on heightened alert for violence ahead of the Jewish new year, which begins Sunday night.


Kurdish protesters rally in Irbil over Mahsa Amini’s death

Kurdish protesters rally in Irbil over Mahsa Amini’s death
Updated 24 September 2022

Kurdish protesters rally in Irbil over Mahsa Amini’s death

Kurdish protesters rally in Irbil over Mahsa Amini’s death
  • Protestors carrying placards with Amini's photograph gathered outside the UN compound in Erbil chanting "Death to the dictator"
  • "Women, Life, Freedom" chanted others

IRBIL, Iraq: Dozens of Iraqi and Iranian Kurds rallied in Iraq’s northern city of Irbil on Saturday over the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died in the custody of Iranian police.
Protesters carrying placards with Amini’s photograph gathered outside the United Nations compound in Irbil chanting “Death to the dictator” — a reference to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“Women, Life, Freedom” chanted others, many of whom were Iranian Kurds living in self-imposed exile in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Protests broke out in northwestern Iran a week ago at the funeral of Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died after falling into a coma following her detention by morality police enforcing hijab rules on women’s dress.
“They killed (Amini) because of a piece of hair coming out from her hijab. The youth is asking for freedom. They are asking for rights for all the people because everyone has the right to have dignity and freedom,” said protester Namam Ismaili, an Iranian Kurd from Sardasht, a Kurdish town in Iran’s northwest.
Amini’s death has reignited anger over issues including restrictions on personal freedoms in Iran, the strict dress codes for women and an economy reeling from sanctions.
“We are not against religion, and we are not against Islam, we are secularists, and we want religion to be separate from politics,” said protester Maysoon Majidi, who is a Kurdish Iranian actor and director living in Irbil.


Iran regrets Ukraine’s downgrading of ties over drones

Iran regrets Ukraine’s downgrading of ties over drones
Updated 24 September 2022

Iran regrets Ukraine’s downgrading of ties over drones

Iran regrets Ukraine’s downgrading of ties over drones
  • Ukraine said on Friday that it would downgrade diplomatic ties with Iran over Tehran’s decision to supply Russian forces with drones

Iran regrets Ukraine’s decision to downgrade ties over the reported supply of Iranian drones to Russia, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson said on Saturday.
Nasser Kanaani said Ukraine should “refrain from being influenced by third parties who seek to destroy relations between the two countries,” a ministry statement said.
Ukraine said on Friday that it would downgrade diplomatic ties with Iran over Tehran’s decision to supply Russian forces with drones, a move President Volodymyr Zelensky called “a collaboration with evil.”
Kanaani said Ukraine’s decision was “based on unconfirmed reports and resulted from a media hype by foreign parties.”
Military authorities in southern Ukraine said on Saturday they had shot down at least seven Iranian drones, including six Shahed-136 “kamikaze” craft over the sea near the ports of Odesa and Pivdennyi on Friday.
These included — for the first time in Ukraine — a MoHajjer-6, a larger Iranian drone, the southern military command said.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in an English language tweet on Saturday that Iran was supporting Russia “by giving modern drones to (a) backward country for the murders of Ukrainians.”