Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists

Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists
With her Jan. 22 arrest, Amira Osman joined hundreds of activists and protest leaders targeted since a military coup last October removed a transitional government from power. (File/AP)
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Updated 11 February 2022

Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists

Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists
  • The detentions have intensified in recent weeks as Sudan plunged into further turmoil with near-daily street protests
  • It’s unclear who the officers are who stormed Osman’s house

CAIRO: Amira Osman, a Sudanese women’s rights activist, was getting ready for bed a few minutes before midnight when about 30 policemen forced their way into her home in Khartoum last month.
The men, many in plainclothes and armed with Kalashnikov rifles, pistols and batons, banged on her bathroom door, ignoring her mother’s pleas to at least allow her to get dressed before they took her away.
“It was like they were engaging in a battle or chasing a dangerous terrorist, not a disabled woman,” said Osman’s sister, Amani, a rights lawyer.
Osman, who uses crutches since a 2017 accident, was imprisoned twice under Sudan’s former autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir for violating strict Islamic laws governing women’s behavior and dress. This time, she was detained for speaking out against military rule.
With her Jan. 22 arrest, Osman joined hundreds of activists and protest leaders targeted since a military coup last October removed a transitional government from power.
The detentions have intensified in recent weeks as Sudan plunged into further turmoil with near-daily street protests, sparking fears of an all-out return to the oppressive tactics of Al-Bashir. The coup upended Sudan’s transition to democratic rule after three decades of international isolation under Al-Bashir, who was removed from power in 2019 after a popular uprising.
“The military delivers one message to international diplomats, that they are interested in a political dialogue and fundamental reform of the state, but then they do nothing to hide their blatant efforts to maintain the status quo and undermine efforts to unseat them,” said Cameron Hudson, a former US State Department official and Sudan expert at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.
Following the coup, security forces launched a deadly crackdown on protesters. They fired live ammunition and tear gas at crowds on the streets and knocked the country’s Internet and mobile signal offline — all in efforts to keep people from gathering. Around 80 people, mostly young men, have been killed and over 2,200 others injured in the protests, according to a Sudanese medical group.
Sudanese security forces have also been accused of using sexual violence against women taking part in the demonstrations. The ruling, military-led Sovereign Council said a probe was launched into the allegations of rape and gang rape on Dec. 19, after the United Nations called for an investigation. It is not the first time security forces have been accused of using rape — such attacks occurred under Al-Bashir and also under the military during the transitional period.
The US, UK, and Norway, along with the European Union, Canada and Switzerland, called the recent pattern “troubling,” and urged the release of “all those unjustly detained.”
“We remind Sudan’s military authorities of their obligations to respect the human rights and guarantee the safety of those detained or arrested and the need to ensure that due process is consistently followed in all cases,” the group said in a statement released by the US State Department.
Osman’s detention drew condemnation and concern internationally. She was finally released on Sunday.
But for nearly a week after the arrest, her family didn’t know where she was held. Then, they received a phone call asking them to send clothes to a prison in Khartoum’s twin city, Omdurman, according to her sister, who also is her lawyer.
Osman said she spent the first three days in solitary confinement in “very bad and humiliating conditions.” Then another activist, Eman Mirghani, joined her in the cell. Mirghani remains in detention.
Authorities accused Osman of possession of illegal weapons and ammunition — the “five old bullets” found in her wardrobe, she said, souvenirs from the 2016 national shooting championship in which she competed.
It’s unclear who the officers are who stormed Osman’s house. During the raid, they said they were from a drug-combating force, but Amani Osman, the sister-lawyer, said she believes they were actually from the country’s feared General Intelligence Service.
Formerly known as the National Intelligence and Security Service, the agency was for decades a tool used by Al-Bashir’s government to clamp down on dissent. After the coup, the military reinstated the agency’s powers, which include detaining people without informing their families. They are known to keep many of their detainees in secret prisons called “Ghost Houses.”
Gibreel Hassabu, a lawyer with the Darfur Bar Association, a legal group that focuses on human rights, said the exact number of those detained across the county is still unknown — a situation reminiscent of Al-Bashir’s rule.
Hassabu says he knows of over 200 activists and protest leaders detained in the Sudanese capital alone. Many activists were taken from their homes or snatched from the streets, according to documents he provided to The Associated Press.
At least 46 activists are held in Khartoum’s Souba Prison, the documents show. Some female activists — including Amira Osman — are sent to the women’s prison in Omdurman.
The wave of arrests has expanded following the killing of a senior police officer during a Jan. 13 protest close to the presidential palace in Khartoum. The officer was stabbed to death, according to local media. Security forces raided a Khartoum hospital and arrested six, including an injured protester and women who were visiting him, accusing them of being responsible for the killing.
And on Jan. 29, paramilitary troops from the Rapid Support Forces, another security body with a reputation for brutality, grabbed Mohamed Abdel-Rahman Naqdalla, an activist and physician, from a Khartoum street, his family said.
A spokesman for the RSF did not answer requests for comment. The force is largely comprised of former militiamen and has been implicated in atrocities under Al-Bashir in the the western region of Darfur. It is headed by the country’s second most powerful general, Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, and runs its own detention centers in Khartoum and elsewhere in the country.
This week, authorities rearrested Khalid Omar, a minister in the ousted transitional government. Omar had been detained in the Oct. 25 coup and was released a month later as part of a deal between the military and civilian leaders. His party, the opposition Sudanese Congress Party, said he was taken Wednesday at the party’s headquarters.
Also arrested Wednesday was Wagdi Saleh, a member of a government-run agency tasked with dismantling the legacy of Al-Bashir’s regime, according to the pro-democracy Forces of Freedom and Change alliance.
The trend has frustrated diplomats working to bring the military and civilian leaders to some sort of an agreement.
“Arbitrary arrests and detention of political figures, civil society activists and journalists undermine efforts to resolve Sudan’s political crisis,” said Lucy Tamlyn, US chargé d’affaires in Sudan.


Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space
Updated 04 October 2022

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space
  • Saman test spacecraft was built by the country’s Space Research Center
  • Iran has long pursued a space program saying it is aimed at peaceful purposes

TEHRAN, Iran: Iranian state media said Tuesday the government has launched a space tug capable of shifting satellites between orbits.
State TV said the Saman test spacecraft was built by the country’s Space Research Center and launched Monday by the Defense Ministry.
Hassan Salarieh, chief of the Islamic Republic’s space agency, told state TV that officials “hope to use and test the main tug in near future.” Iran unveiled the craft in 2017. A space tug can transfer a satellite from one orbit to another.
Iran has long pursued a space program saying it is aimed at peaceful purposes. The country has both a civilian and a military space program, which the US fears could be used to advance its ballistic missile program.
In June Tehran had launched a solid-fuel rocket into space and in August a Russian rocket successfully launched an Iranian Khayyam satellite into orbit. It’s named after Omar Khayyam, a Persian scientist who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries.
However, Iran has seen a series of mishaps and failed satellite launches over recent years
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in April 2020 revealed its own secret space program by successfully launching a satellite into orbit. The Guard operates its own military infrastructure parallel to Iran’s regular armed forces.


Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz
Updated 04 October 2022

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz
  • Work plans and challenges were reviewed ahead of finalizing projects under the Saudi Program for Yemen’s Development and Reconstruction

ADEN: Yemeni officials reviewed plans with charity organizations to implement developmental projects in Taiz as part of ongoing reconstruction efforts in the province.

On Monday, Taiz Governor Nabil Shamsan discussed work plans and challenges ahead of finalizing projects under the Saudi Program for Yemen’s Development and Reconstruction.
Yemen is working closely with Saudi Arabia to establish a college of medicine in Taiz University, construct a center to treat cancer and rehabilitate a road linking Taiz with Makha.
Shamsan said these sustainable projects aim to serve the people of Taiz, which remains under Houthi siege, and mitigate the effects that the war has left on vulnerable communities.
Meanwhile, Major General Abdul Karim Al-Sabri, the Undersecretary of Taiz Governorate for Defense and Security Affairs, discussed de-mining efforts with the HALO Trust, a Scottish charity organization specialized in clearing mines in war zones.
He vowed collaboration with the organization in surveying targeted areas, detecting the type of mines implanted and raising awareness among citizens on dealing with mines that might be encountered.
He said local authorities would facilitate the work with the organization to de-mine high-priority targeted areas and save lives.


Iran arrests prominent rights activists

Iran arrests prominent rights activists
Updated 04 October 2022

Iran arrests prominent rights activists

Iran arrests prominent rights activists
  • Iranian government has been referring to the protests as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them

DUBAI: Iran’s crackdown against prominent individuals linked to ongoing protests in the country continues with the arrest of prominent human rights activists in Tehran.

Bahareh Hedayat, a university student, was detained early on October 3, Radio Farda reported, as the unrest hit a crescendo in Tehran and has hit far-flung provinces in open demonstration of grievances against rigid social restrictions, political repression and a failing economy.

Hedayat is a former political prisoner who has been arrested and imprisoned several times, the report noted, quoting the BBC.

Hossein Masumi, another political activist, was arrested on October 2 with his whereabouts unknown according to his family.

The protest actions, spurred by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while under detention by Iran’s morality police for alleged violations of the Islamic dress code, are on their third week despite government efforts to quell them.

The Iranian government has been referring to the protests as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them, and being used as basis for the detention of key personalities.


UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault
Updated 04 October 2022

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault
  • Adam Bouloukos said: ‘I witnessed the extent of the damage caused by the recent Israeli military operation. I saw fear and concern in school children’s eyes’
  • He added that the current level of violence in the camp, and across the West Bank, is at the highest level the agency has seen in years

JERUSALEM: Adam Bouloukos, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s director in the West Bank, has visited Jenin refugee camp, the Palestine News and Info Agency reported on Monday.

His visit came just days after a large-scale Israeli military assault on the camp last Wednesday that left four people dead and 44 injured.

During his visit to the camp, Bouloukos was shown an UNRWA clinic that was hit by bullets during the attack, which took place while patients and medical staff were inside. It provides healthcare services to about 35,000 people. He also visited a UNRWA school, where he met students and teachers.

“I witnessed the extent of the damage caused by the recent Israeli military operation,” Bouloukos said. “I saw fear and concern in schoolchildren’s eyes.

“The level of violence in Jenin camp, and across the West Bank, is the highest we have seen in years. Many Palestinians, including refugees, were killed or injured. Violence only brings loss of life, grief for families and instability.

“All parties to the conflict should protect civilians, including Palestine refugees. UN staff and facilities and civilian infrastructure must be kept out of harm’s way. I specifically call on the Israeli security forces to limit the use of excessive force and spare the loss of civilian life in Jenin and across the West Bank.”


Tired of power cuts, blockaded Gaza turns to solar power

Tired of power cuts, blockaded Gaza turns to solar power
Updated 04 October 2022

Tired of power cuts, blockaded Gaza turns to solar power

Tired of power cuts, blockaded Gaza turns to solar power

GAZA CITY: Palestinians living in the Israeli-blockaded enclave of Gaza have long endured an unstable and costly electricity supply, so Yasser Al-Hajj found a different way: Solar power.

Looking at the rows of photovoltaic panels at his beachfront fish farm and seafood restaurant, The Sailor, he said the investment he made six years ago had more than paid off.

“Electricity is the backbone of the project,” Hajj said, standing under a blazing Mediterranean sun. “We rely on it to provide oxygen for the fish, as well as to draw and pump water from the sea.”

The dozens of solar panels that shade the fish ponds below have brought savings that are now paying to refurbish the business, he said, as laborers loaded sand onto a horse-drawn cart.

Hajj said he used to pay 150,000 shekels ($42,000) per month for electricity, “a huge burden,” before solar power slashed his monthly bill to 50,000 shekels.

For most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, living under Hamas rule and a 15-year-old Israeli blockade, power cuts are a daily fact of life that impact everything from homes to hospital wards.

While some Gazans pay for a generator to kick in when the mains are cut — for around half of each day, according to UN data — ever more people are turning to renewables.

From the rooftops of Gaza City, solar panels now stretch out into the horizon.

Green energy advocates say it is a vision for a global future as the world faces the perils of climate change and rising energy costs.

Gaza bakery owner Bishara Shehadeh began the switch to solar this summer, by placing hundreds of gleaming panels on his rooftop.

“We have surplus electricity in the day,” he said. “We sell it to the electricity company in exchange for providing us with current during the night.” 

Solar energy lights up the bright bulbs illuminating the bustling bakery, but the ovens still run on diesel.

“We are working on importing ovens, depending on electrical power, from Israel, to save the cost of diesel,” said Shehadeh.

Both the bakery and the fish farm have relied partially on foreign donors to kick-start their switch to solar, although their owners are also investing their own cash.

But in a poverty-stricken territory where nearly 80 percent of residents rely on humanitarian assistance, according to the UN, not everyone can afford to install renewable energy.

Around a fifth of Gazans have installed solar power in their homes, according to an estimate published in April by the Energy, Sustainability and Society journal.

Financing options are available for Gazans with some capital, like Shehadeh, who got a four-year loan to fund his bakery project.

At a store selling solar power kits, MegaPower, engineer Shehab Hussein said prices start at around $1,000 and can be paid in instalments. Clients included a sewing factory and a drinks producer, which see the mostly Chinese-made technology as “a worthwhile investment,” he said.

Raya Al-Dadah, who heads the University of Birmingham’s Sustainable Energy Technology Laboratory, said her family in Gaza has been using simple solar panels that heat water for more than 15 years.

“The pipe is super rusty, the glass is broken ... and I just had a shower and the water is super hot,” she said during a visit to the territory.

But Dadah encountered obstacles when she tried to import a more sophisticated solar system for a community project in Gaza, where imports are tightly restricted by Israel and Egypt.

“Bringing them to the Gaza Strip has proved to be impossible,” she said.

The advanced set-up includes more efficient panels and equipment that tracks the sun’s path.

Such technology is being used by Israeli firms such as SolarGik, whose smart control systems factor in weather conditions and can harness up to 20 percent more energy than standard panels, chief executive Gil Kroyzer told AFP.

Across the frontier in Gaza, in the absence of such high-tech equipment, Dadah relies on the standard panels to power a women’s center and surrounding homes in the strip’s northern Jabalia area.