New Beirut art museum to ‘resist ignorance and commit to change’

Beirut art museum. (Supplied)
Beirut art museum. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 February 2022

New Beirut art museum to ‘resist ignorance and commit to change’

Beirut art museum. (Supplied)
  • Lebanese PM joins key political, cultural figures at cornerstone ceremony

BEIRUT: A stone’s throw from the famous National Museum of Beirut, a cornerstone has been laid for a new and unique museum to showcase modern and contemporary art.

The launch took place in a ceremony attended by Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati as well as political and cultural figures.

The museum is set for completion by 2026.

Sandra Abu Nader, who founded the Beirut Museum of Art Association together with Rita Nammour, said that the idea of establishing the museum “was based on the fact that art is not a luxury but a means of peace and a necessity for the integrity of our culture, development, quality of life and role in the world.”

Abu Nader added that the museum, which will bear the name of the association, will be a space for science, work, culture and will aspire to show a positive and prosperous future, and a civilized legacy for future generations.

She said: “Only the cultural and artistic imprint remains to embody and document civilizations and nations, no matter how much they suffer from wars and turmoil.”

Nammour said that laying the foundation stone was “the culmination of a path that Sandra Abu Nader and I planned for more than seven years to be a platform for artistic, civic and cultural education in close cooperation with artists and cultural institutions.”

She added: “We are convinced today more than ever that the museum should be committed to a culture of change and be a platform that takes into account the world we live in, and the values and principles that made Lebanon the beacon of the Middle East.”

The prestigious Saint Joseph University in Lebanon, which is located in the cultural square that includes the National Museum, the French Cultural Center and the Museum of Minerals, allocated a piece of land to build the new museum.

President of the University Father Salim Daccache said it “is an act of partnership between the private sector and the public sector, in which a group of Lebanese personalities, at home and abroad, and their friends, participated in order to employ their passion, feelings, convictions, love for art, drawing and painting, and their financial capabilities to build the museum.”

He added: “It is an act of resistance in the face of extremism and ignorance.”

One problem facing the museum is neglect of Lebanon’s artistic relics, many of which are stored by the Ministry of Culture or in the vaults of the UNESCO Palace, and a considerable amount having been sold to private buyers.

But plans to fill the museum preceded the laying of the foundations.

The association signed an agreement on behalf of the museum with the Lebanese Ministry of Culture to preserve and restore about 3,000 paintings and sculptures by pioneers of fine art in Lebanon, including modern and contemporary works, from the ministry’s private collection, under the supervision of local and international experts.

The collection, which will be loaned to the museum, documents the history and development of the country.

Joe Saddi, chairman of the BeMA board of directors, said: “The BeMA Museum is a project that challenges violence, pessimism and frustration through culture, which in itself is a strategic asset and repertoire for building more open, creative and sustainable countries, cities and societies.”

The association is managed by a board of directors consisting of 17 members who work in the private sector and believe in the importance of preserving and developing Lebanese heritage.

According to an architectural design by Lebanese designer Amale Andraos, former dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Columbia University in the US, the museum will feature an open-door design to promote cultural exchange.

11 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port

11 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port
Updated 8 min 38 sec ago

11 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port

11 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port
  • Specialized teams dealing with the leak
  • Local authorities call on Aqaba citizens to close, seal doors and windows and to avoid going out

AMMAN: At least 11 people have died and more than 250 were being treated in hospital after a toxic gas leak from a storage tank in Jordan's Aqaba port, according to government spokesman Faisal Al-Shaboul.

Specialized teams were dealing with the leak after a tank filled with toxic gas fell during its transportation, leading to a leak at the site, Petra said, citing the spokesperson of the Public Security Directorate.

Video carried by state-run media showed a crane hoisting a large tanker from a truck and then dropping it on the deck of a ship, causing an explosion of yellow smoke and sending dock workers racing away.

The area was immediately evacuated, according to Aqaba Governor Mohammad Al-Radayaa, who said the situation “had been controlled.”

Local authorities also called on Aqaba citizens to close and seal doors and windows and to avoid going out.

The Director of Aqaba Health Department, Dr. Jamal Obeidat, announced the city's hospitals are full after they reached the maximum capacity in addition to opening a field hospital to receive injuries.

Obeidat added that cases of gas suffocation are referred to health centers, noting that the health condition of the injured is between medium and critical.

Chest diseases consultant, Dr. Mhammed Al-Tarawneh, said the gas leaked from the tank, believed to be chlorine, is a very toxic substance, which may significantly affect the surrounding areas.

Al-Tarawneh added that contact with this gas leads to irritation of the mucous membranes and the occurrence of a red rash in the flesh, in addition to pneumonia, pointing out that the gas entering the mouth also leads to burning in the esophagus and the occurrence of cases of diarrhea, headaches, impairment, and loss of consciousness.

The Minister of State for Information Affairs, Al-Shaboul, said that Prime Minister Dr. Bishr Al-Khasawneh instructed the formation of an investigation team, headed by the interior minister, into the accident and explosion.

The US ambassador to Jordan, Henry T. Wooster, expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and those affected by the accident.

“Along with the entire staff of the US Embassy in Amman, I extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the explosion in Aqaba,” he said.

“We stand ready to support the government of Jordan as it responds to this tragedy, I urge all US citizens in Aqaba to follow all public health guidance,” he added.

The Secretary-General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC), Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajjraf, also expressed his sincere condolences to Jordan, the king, government people, and the victims.

Al-Hajraf affirmed that the GCC stands with the government and the Jordanian people, in these difficult moments, extending his condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims, asking “God Almighty to bless them with his mercy, to grant the injured a speedy recovery, and to protect Jordan and its people from all evil and calamities under the leadership of King Abdullah II.”

Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment

Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment
Updated 27 June 2022

Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment

Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment
  • The meeting followed the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Egypt,

CAIRO: A delegation from the Saudi National Real Estate Committee has held talks with the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones in Egypt on how to boost investment cooperation between the two countries.

The talks were led by Mohamed Abdullah Abdel Aziz Al-Murshed, who chairs the Saudi committee, and Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, CEO of the Egyptian investment authority. Also present were Tariq Shukri, who chairs Egypt’s real estate development chamber, and representatives of 27 leading Saudi companies in the fields of real estate development, industry, agriculture and building materials.

The meeting followed the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Egypt, on the sidelines of which 14 investment agreements were signed between the two nations, according to a press release.

Abdel-Wahab stressed the “importance of strengthening investment relations between the two countries, especially in light of what the current period is witnessing in providing unprecedented support to the private sector, and encouraging Arab and foreign companies to pump more investment into the Egyptian market, including the construction sector.”

He said the sector was “one of the main pillars of the national projects being implemented, such as the Suez Canal axis, and fourth generation cities such as the Administrative Capital, New Alamein and others, which aim to create smart cities based on electronic services and renewable energy, in addition to implementing a huge network of roads and bridges to connect national projects and new cities.”

The meeting looked at ways to enhance cooperation by exploiting the competitive advantages of Egypt as a destination for investment in the region, and reviewing the investment opportunities available.

It also highlighted the importance of strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries.

Abdel-Wahab said the investment authority was keen to attract more Saudi investment in Egypt by intensifying communication with major companies and introducing the Saudi business community to the latest developments there.

Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle

Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle
Updated 27 June 2022

Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle

Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle
  • Ukrainian local community in Gaza highlight similar struggles civilians face in the Russian occupation and Israeli occupation

LONDON: There are around 830 Ukrainian-born people living in Gaza, the largest population of foreigners living in the blockaded coastal zone, according to community leaders.

While for decades, their families in Ukraine have feared for safety in the Gaza Strip, these expats are now also fear for their families’ safety in Ukraine.

Natalya Hassoumi, a endocrinologist in Beit Lahia, was frequently unable to contact her family in Ukraine for days at a time while airstrikes targeted the Palestinian territory.

Now, she has not heard from her parents and siblings in Russian-occupied Kherson for three weeks.

“I never thought that war could happen in Ukraine, no food, no electricity … Gaza and Ukraine have the same problems now,” she told the Guardian.

The Soviet Union was a major supporter of the Palestinian cause, offering scholarships and business visas to people from West Bank and Gaza for decades, according to Hassoumi.

Many of those ties remained after Ukraine declared independence in 1991.

The vast majority of Ukrainians in Gaza are women who met their Palestinian husbands while studying at Ukrainian universities.

Approximately 120 Gaza families with ties to Ukraine were evacuated during the 11-day war last May between Israeli forces and Palestinian militant groups, which killed 256 people in Gaza and 14 people in Israel.

However, less than a year later, Viktoria Saidam and her husband Ibrahim have decided to seek refuge with Ibrahim's parents in the southern Gaza Strip, where the population suffers from electricity shortages, polluted water and political turmoil, according to the Guardian report.

Natalya Mabhouh has lived in Gaza since 1997. Her mother, sister are still in her home town of Kharkiv.

“When I came to Gaza the economic situation was good, there was peace, but we got used to wars and escalation since then. This has been a huge shock. Russians and Ukrainians are like one people … I still don’t understand how this could happen,” the hairdresser said to the Guardian.

In general, the Palestinian society have supported Russia over Ukraine, viewing it as a proxy superpower struggle with the US, Israel’s most important ally.However, neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority has taken a public position on the Russian invasion.

The Russian invasion has also heightened tensions between Gaza's Ukrainian and Russian-speaking communities.

Many local Ukrainians were upset after a pro-Moscow demonstration was held in March.

In March, many local Ukrainians were upset after a group of Russians held a pro-Moscow demonstration, causing many long lived friendships to end.“It is really difficult,” said Hassoumi. “My mother is Ukrainian and my father is Russian and suddenly people are not talking to me. I feel like many people don’t care about the details, but it’s an occupation, like the Israelis.”

The Ukrainian community in Gaza remains worried about the prospects of both their homeland and their adopted home.Ashraf Al-Nimr, a leader of the local Ukrainian community, told the Guardian: “We built a life here, so despite everything we will stay”.

He says that 15 of his wife’s family members in Mariupol have gone missing since Russia’s siege began. “We can help by giving people in Ukraine instructions on how to deal with war, how to hide, and raising money. Any way we can help, we will,” he said.

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn
Updated 27 June 2022

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn
  • Country’s anti-torture unit lacks govt budget, laws and courts ‘ineffective’

LONDON: Lebanese authorities must protect people from torture and ill-treatment in detention, a group of organizations including Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

The appeal came on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at HRW, said: “Despite an improvement to Lebanon’s anti-torture framework on paper, torture remains prevalent, and accountability for torture and ill-treatment is elusive.

“Lebanon needs to show that it is serious about combating torture, and it should start by moving forward the many torture complaints that have been languishing before the judiciary without effective investigations.”

In 2019, 44-year-old Hassan Al-Dika died in custody reportedly as a result of torture. An HRW investigation found that judicial authorities failed to investigate Al-Dika’s allegations of torture before his death.

They had also tasked the same security agency that Al-Dika accused of torture with investigating his claims.

And in the case of actor Ziad Itani, who was accused and later exonerated of spying for Israel, Lebanese justice authorities have yet to take action regarding his claims of torture at the hands of State Security officials.

The Lebanese Parliament passed a law criminalizing torture in 2017. Two years later the government appointed five members to the National Preventative Mechanism against Torture.

But the unit has yet to be allocated a budget to allow the fulfillment of its mandate.

“The Lebanese authorities should promptly and impartially investigate all complaints of torture, allocate a sufficient budget to allow the torture prevention unit to get to work, and bring the anti-torture law in line with international standards,” Majzoub said.

Torture remains prevalent in Lebanon, despite complaints regularly being filed under the 2017 law.

The HRW warned that the 2017 law fails to abide by Lebanon’s obligations under the UN Convention against Torture, because it fails to criminalize cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday
Updated 27 June 2022

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

CAIRO: Bahraini Royal Court says Egyptian President to visit kingdom on Tuesday, will hold talks with King, the state-run news agency said.  

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will receive President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his accompanying delegation upon his arrival in Bahrain tomorrow, Bahrain news agency said. 

During  the visit, the leaders will hold talks related to bilateral relations, in addition to the latest developments on the regional, Arab and international arenas.