More Lebanese expats vote in national election

A Lebanese expat casts her vote for Lebanon's parliamentary election in Paris, France, May 8, 2022. (REUTERS)
A Lebanese expat casts her vote for Lebanon's parliamentary election in Paris, France, May 8, 2022. (REUTERS)
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Updated 08 May 2022

More Lebanese expats vote in national election

A Lebanese expat casts her vote for Lebanon's parliamentary election in Paris, France, May 8, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • President Aoun hopes ‘elections will end smoothly, without problems or objections’
  • Expat voting reportedly weaker than 2018 elections

BEIRUT: The second round of Lebanese expat voting took place on Sunday, with overseas voters from 48 countries heading to the polls as the country hopes for a break in the political impasse.

Given the different time zones, it was difficult to monitor votes in each continent. However, young expats who recently left Lebanon expressed great enthusiasm in voting for the forces of change over the ruling parties.

A total of 194,348 Lebanese expats were registered to vote on Sunday, but turnout trickled in relatively weakly, but the enthusiasm many had shown in the first round of expat voting on Friday ensured optimism remained high.

Turnout is low compared to the last national elections in 2018. The weak voting rate has even been reflected in some countries where voters have explicitly expressed affiliation with Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.




President Michel Aoun visits the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Supplied)

Expats living in countries that have a Sunday weekend voted on Sunday, while those living in the 10 Arab and Muslim countries that have a Friday weekend were the first to vote on Friday. The third and final stage will take place on May 15, with the Lebanese voting at home.

At midnight on Saturday, Beirut time, the polls opened in Australia, where the number of registered voters was 20,602. The polling process in the UAE kicked off at 6:00 a.m., with 25,066 registered voters living in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Polls then opened in European and African countries. As soon as the polls closed in Australia at 3:00 p.m. Beirut time, the polls opened in Canada, the US, Brazil and Venezuela.

Speaking from the operations room designated to monitor the elections via the Internet, which is linked to all polling stations around the world, Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib announced that the turnout in Australia had reached 54 percent an hour before the polls closed.

The queues at the Lebanese General Consulate in Dubai stretched for over 1 km, as voters waited for hours under the scorching sun to cast their votes, while the turnout in Abu Dhabi hit 65.2 percent at 3 p.m. Beirut time.

In 2018, expat turnout in the UAE exceeded 66 percent.

The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections reported some violations, such as voters taking selfies or pictures of the lists they were voting for behind the isolators. It added that isolators in some polling stations in Australia were exposed.

Delegates for candidates observed the voting process in different countries. In African countries and Germany, supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement flocked to polling stations to campaign for their parties. Meanwhile, voters in Australia complained about different polling stations being assigned to several members of the same family, forcing them to take relatively long trips to cast their votes.

In Turkey, 999 Lebanese expats registered to vote overseas, with 323 in Russia, 696 in Romania, 528 in Greece and 840 in Cyprus.

A total of 27,813 voters were registered in France, 233 in Ireland, and 6,535 in Britain.

In Germany, 16,171 voters were registered, 2,601 in Switzerland, 2,128 in Italy, 1,226 in Spain, 965 in the Netherlands, 706 in Denmark, 282 in Austria, 215 in Poland, 200 in Luxembourg, and 221 in Hungary.

In Zambia, 410 expats were registered, 405 in South Africa, 2,580 in Nigeria, 848 in Gabon, 653 in DR Congo, 518 in Benin, 332 in Angola, 228 in Cameroon, 248 voters in Morocco, 6,070 in Côte d'Ivoire, 532 in Guinea, 1,012 in Ghana, 724 in Sierra Leone, 707 in Senegal, 458 in Togo, 376 in Liberia, 317 in Mali and 293 in Burkina Faso.

Meanwhile, President Michel Aoun visited the operations room in Beirut where he was briefed on how elections abroad are being monitored. Speaking to the press, Aoun hoped that “the elections will end smoothly, without problems or objections and for things to improve in the upcoming elections so that they would be easier and at a lower cost than today, by using a code to vote and not having to fly in ballot boxes.”

Many foreign diplomats also visited the operations room to inspect the electoral process. The EU’s Election Observation Mission’s deputy, Jarek Domanski, said: “The mission’s 16 teams are monitoring the progress of the electoral process, and they are distributed over 13 European countries.”

Domanski noted: “The teams that will undertake the same task next Sunday will include about 170 observers. The mission team will monitor the numbers of ballot boxes coming from abroad in order to match them when the counting process begins on May 15.”


Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles

Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles
Updated 47 min 38 sec ago

Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles

Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles
  • The five were given roles at sites and police stations in the Taiz Security Department as part of a security overhaul
  • The appointments were intended to empower women in security roles as part of a push to end the disorder and lawlessness that has plagued Taiz

AL-MUKALLA: Five Yemeni policewomen were appointed to key security posts for the first time in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz, sparking excitement among gender equality advocates and the media.

The five were given roles at sites and police stations in the Taiz Security Department as part of a security overhaul that saw the appointment of 12 new security heads, said local officials.

The appointments were intended to empower women in security roles as part of a push to end the disorder and lawlessness that has plagued Taiz for years.

Second Lt. Amera Al-Bukaili, who was recently elevated to the role of deputy director of training for Taiz security, told Arab News that women’s fight for empowerment and senior positions had finally borne fruit.

“I am so delighted today. The appointments have restored a portion of our rights, which is something that should have occurred a long time ago,” she said.

A holder of a master’s degree in social science, Al-Bukaili has almost two decades’ experience in the security field. She was made second lieutenant in 2019, while her male counterparts with similar levels of experience and education were promoted to higher ranks, she added.

“When women hold positions of authority, they will have the capacity to influence and innovate. This is an opportunity to get more rights.”

The appointments have been welcomed by both men and women who have long advocated for the promotion of women to positions of power in the country.

Sara Qassem, a human rights activist from Taiz, characterized the appointments as “special milestones” toward granting women greater rights, urging other Yemeni provinces to follow suit by appointing women to crucial posts.

“We applaud this action, which is in response to efforts to empower women in politics, human rights, security and other areas,” Qassem told Arab News, adding that the move would improve security in Taiz at a time when the city is teetering on the brink of chaos and facing a renewed Houthi siege.

Journalist Zakaria Al-Sharabi agreed, saying that deploying policewomen to key security positions will enable operations in areas that are inaccessible to men due to social barriers. The appointees will also help in combating sexual harassment and other crimes against women, she added.

“Without a doubt, the participation of women in the police force is critical, since many police duties and services, particularly those involving women, children, harassment offenses and juvenile protection need the presence of women,” Zakaria said.

Human rights and gender equality campaigners in Yemen say that women’s rights have been trampled upon and abandoned throughout the country’s civil war, particularly in Houthi-controlled regions, where the militia restricts women’s freedom of movement and other rights.

The Houthis have prohibited women from traveling between Yemeni cities without a male companion or mahram, according to observers in Sanaa.

Women also report that some service departments no longer assist unaccompanied women.

Angela Abu-Asba, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of Sanaa, said that a technician at an auto repair shop in Sanaa refused to fix her vehicle because she was unaccompanied by a male guardian.

“He said that women are not permitted to enter without a mahram. Bring your mahram and come. I told him, oppressively and bitterly, that my father was in Ibb and my brother was at work,” Abu-Asba said on Facebook.

She later deleted the social media post over fears of Houthi reprisal, with the militia frequently targeting critics from the public sector and elsewhere.


Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32

Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32
Updated 01 February 2023

Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32

Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32
  • The fire took place at the Noor Mohammadi hospital in eastern Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood
  • Firefighters were able to put out the blaze

CAIRO: A fire broke out Wednesday at a hospital in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, killing at least three people and injuring at least 32 others, health authorities said.
The Health Ministry said the fire took place at the Noor Mohammadi hospital in eastern Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood. The facility is run by a charity.
The ministry said in a statement that flames broke out at the hospital’s radiology department without elaborating on what caused it. Provincial authorities said firefighters were able to put out the blaze.
Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said the injured patients suffered from burns, fractures and smoke inhalation. They were transferred to other hospitals in Cairo.
He said the causality tally was a preliminary one, suggesting it could increase.
Safety standards and fire regulations are poorly enforced in Egypt and have been linked to many deaths. A 2020 fire at an intensive care unit at a private hospital in Cairo killed seven coronavirus patients.


Militants kill eight soldiers in northwest Syria: monitor

Militants kill eight soldiers in northwest Syria: monitor
Updated 01 February 2023

Militants kill eight soldiers in northwest Syria: monitor

Militants kill eight soldiers in northwest Syria: monitor
  • "HTS fired shells and rockets at a Syrian military post, killing eight soldiers," the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said
  • The Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced

BEIRUT: Eight Syrian soldiers were killed in the country’s northwest on Wednesday in an attack carried out by the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham militant group, a war monitor reported.
“HTS fired shells and rockets at a Syrian military post, killing eight soldiers near Kafr Ruma in Idlib province,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
HTS is headed by ex-members of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda franchise.
Syrian state media did not immediately report the attack.
About half of the northwestern province of Idlib and areas bordering the neighboring provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia are dominated by HTS and other rebel factions.
The Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that since the end of 2022, the militants “have intensified operations against regime forces in Idlib... in the context of a rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus.”
He said exchanges of fire and clashes between regime forces and militant factions had killed 63 people since the start of the year, 45 of them pro-regime forces. One of the 18 militants was a French national.
Ankara became a sworn enemy of Damascus when it began backing rebel efforts to topple Assad at the start of the civil war.
But in late December the defense ministers of Turkiye and Syria held landmark negotiations in Moscow — the first such meeting since 2011.
The mooted reconciliation has alarmed Syrian opposition leaders and supporters who reside mostly in parts of the war-torn country under Ankara’s indirect control.
President Bashar Assad said in January that a Moscow-brokered rapprochement with Turkiye should aim for “the end of occupation” by Ankara of parts of Syria.
Turkiye has military bases in northern Syria and backs some local groups fighting the regime and against Syrian Kurdish forces which it considers “terrorist” groups.
Ankara has never publicly backed hard-line group HTS but is believed to coordinate with its forces.
HTS, which is sanctioned by the UN as a terrorist organization, formally broke ties with Al-Qaeda in 2016 and incorporated a number of smaller Syrian rebel factions in a major re-branding effort.
Widely seen as the strongest and best organized of Syria’s rebel groups, it has presented itself as the mainstay of Syria’s opposition.
With Russian and Iranian support, Damascus has clawed back much of the ground lost in the early stages of Syria’s conflict, which erupted in 2011 when Assad’s government brutally repressed pro-democracy protests.
The war has killed nearly half a million people since it broke out over a decade ago, displacing almost half of Syria’s pre-war population.
Despite periodic clashes, a cease-fire reached in 2020 by Moscow and Turkiye has largely held in the northwest.


Israel steps up demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Israel steps up demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
Updated 01 February 2023

Israel steps up demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Israel steps up demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
  • Properties were razed in the city’s Sur Baher, Wadi Al-Hummus and Silwan neighborhoods on Wednesday
  • Residents of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar are staging a sit-in amid fears they will be displaced after a final deadline to leave the village expired

RAMALLAH: Israeli authorities have stepped up their demolitions of Palestinian homes in parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, following a policy formulated by extreme right-wing ministers in the country’s new government, local leaders say.
On Wednesday, Israeli bulldozers knocked down buildings in the Sur Baher, Wadi Al-Hummus and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Rights activists urged people to publicly denounce the demolitions by posting messages on social media sites such as Twitter using the hashtag #Stop_Demolishing_Jerusalem.
They also called on the Palestinian Authority, the international community and global institutions to intervene immediately to force Israel to halt the demolitions and displacements that threaten the Palestinian community in Jerusalem.
Since the beginning of this January, occupation forces have razed 30 homes in a number of the historic city’s neighborhoods. Last year, 211 Palestinian homes were demolished in Jerusalem.
In the village of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, a sit-in protest by villagers and activists from the Palestinian Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission continued for a second day on Wednesday.
Residents of the village and surrounding Bedouin communities fear Israeli authorities will demolish their homes, after a final six-month deadline for them to leave expired on Wednesday.
Eid Khamis Jahalin, a Bedouin leader from Al-Khan Al-Ahmar, told Arab News that people are scared that Israeli bulldozers will destroy the village and displace its 250 residents.
“The electoral program of both Itamar Bin-Gvir (the new Israeli national security minister) and Bezalel Yoel Smotrich (the minister of finance) is based on the demolition of Al-Khan Al-Hamar and the displacement of its inhabitants,” he said.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, from the Palestine Liberation Organization, called on the international community to intervene immediately to halt the demolitions carried out by Israeli occupation forces in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which he described as a continuation of a policy of displacement and “apartheid.” He said the Palestinian leadership would meet on Friday to discuss ways to respond.
Elsewhere, Israeli army forces continued to besiege Jericho, in the eastern West Bank, for a fifth day on Wednesday as they searched for two young men responsible for an attempted gun attack on a settlers’ restaurant at the entrance to the city five days ago.
Critics accused Israeli authorities of imposing a collective punishment policy in the city by obstructing the free movement of residents, searching their cars and checking their identities, resulting in long queues and people being stuck in their vehicles for hours.
Journalist Adel Abu Nima from Jericho told Arab News that the Israeli army on Saturday set up military checkpoints at all main entrances to Jericho city and its camps, Aqbat Jabr and Ein Al-Sultan, and blocked secondary entrances with mounds of earth, causing great disruption to the lives of city residents and visitors.
“Some citizens and workers wait at the Israeli military checkpoints for four hours, and some are prevented from leaving Jericho,” Abu Nima said.
Jericho is the only place from which 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank can travel to other countries, so the checkpoints have affected people traveling abroad and those who are returning.
“As a journalist covering the events in West Bank, including Jenin and Nablus, I have not seen such Israeli military measures against entire cities as is happening now against Jericho,” Abu Nima said.
Meanwhile, an Israeli human rights organization has accused Israeli authorities of tolerating settler violence against Palestinians for more than 17 years.
Yesh Din said in a report published on Feb. 1 that only 3 percent of cases of ideological crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank during that time resulted in convictions and 93 percent of cases were closed with no indictment filed.
Data contained in the report showed that between 2005 and 2022, Israeli police failed to investigate 81.5 percent of alleged crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians and their property.
The researchers said: “The state of Israel is evading its duty to protect Palestinians from Israelis who seek to harm them in the West Bank, as international law requires.
“Yesh Din’s long-term monitoring of the results of police investigations into incidents of ideological crime committed by Israelis demonstrates the enduring systemic failures of the Israeli authorities to enforce the law on Israeli civilians who harm Palestinians and their property in occupied territory.
“The fact that this systemic failure has persisted for at least two decades indicates that this is a deliberate policy of the state of Israel, which normalizes ideological settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, supports it and then reaps the rewards resulting from it.”
In another development, the Israeli Cabinet is due to discuss a decision to stop recognizing degrees awarded by Palestinian universities.
Avi Dichter, the Israeli agriculture minister, who previously was chief of the Israeli spy agency Shin Bet, said: “During the studies of Palestinian students from Israel in Palestinian universities, they are exposed to anti-Israel materials and messages, with which they return to the country and pass on to their students.”
Sheeran Haskel, a member of the Likud Party, claimed that more than 20 percent of teachers in Arab schools in Israel had graduated from Palestinian universities “after they absorbed the implications of portraying Israel as an enemy.”
Thousand of Palestinians who live in Israel study at universities in the West Bank.


IAEA chides Iran for undeclared change to Fordow uranium enrichment setup

IAEA chides Iran for undeclared change to Fordow uranium enrichment setup
Updated 01 February 2023

IAEA chides Iran for undeclared change to Fordow uranium enrichment setup

IAEA chides Iran for undeclared change to Fordow uranium enrichment setup
  • IAEA found the change during an unannounced inspection on Jan. 21 at the Fordow Fuel enrichment Plant
  • Fordow is so sensitive that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers banned enrichment there

VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog criticized Iran on Wednesday for making an undeclared change to the interconnection between the two clusters of advanced machines enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons grade, at its Fordow plant.
The International Atomic Energy Agency found the change during an unannounced inspection on Jan. 21 at the Fordow Fuel enrichment Plant (FFEP), a site dug into a mountain where inspectors are stepping up checks after Iran said it would dramatically expand enrichment.
Fordow is so sensitive that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers banned enrichment there. Since the United States pulled out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Iran, the Islamic Republic has breached many of the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities.
In a confidential report to member states seen by Reuters, the IAEA did not say how the interconnection between the two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges had been changed except that “they were interconnected in a way that was substantially different from the mode of operation declared by Iran (to the IAEA).”
In a public statement summarising that confidential report, the IAEA said its chief Rafael Grossi “is concerned that Iran implemented a substantial change in the design information of FFEP in relation to the production of high-enriched uranium without informing the Agency in advance.”
“This is inconsistent with Iran’s obligations under its Safeguards Agreement and undermines the Agency’s ability to adjust the safeguards approach for FFEP and implement effective safeguards measures at this facility.”
The IAEA has had regular access to Fordow to carry out verification activities like inspections and it is in talks with Iran on stepping up those activities, the report said.
“The Agency and Iran have continued their discussions. The Agency has increased the frequency and intensity of its verification activities at FFEP. However, some other safeguards measures are still required and are being discussed with Iran,” the report added.