Spain and Morocco to open land borders next week after two years

Spain and Morocco to open land borders next week after  two years
View of the border fence that separates Spain, left, and Morocco, right, as seen from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, Thursday, June 3, 2021. (AP/File)
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Updated 13 May 2022

Spain and Morocco to open land borders next week after two years

Spain and Morocco to open land borders next week after  two years

MADRID: The land borders between Morocco and Spain’s North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla will reopen next week, Spain said, after being closed for more than two years due to COVID-19 restrictions and tensions between the two countries.

Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said the reopening will start gradually from May 17.

Crossings will be initially limited to residents of Europe’s passport-free Schengen area and their family members, and will be expanded to cross-border workers by the end of the month. The local economies on both sides of the fences that slice off the tiny Spanish enclaves from Morocco depend on the crossings of goods and workers.

The new announcement came as Madrid and Rabat are working to mend relations after a months-long spat centered on the disputed region of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1976. Tensions began to thaw earlier this year after Spain backed Morocco’s plan to grant more autonomy to Western Sahara.

That decision — a reversal of Spain’s longstanding position of neutrality on Western Sahara — came as a surprise to many and sparked anger among key political allies of Spain’s Socialist-led government.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI responded positively, however, sending back the Moroccan ambassador to Spain 10 months after she was recalled and hosting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in an April visit to Rabat.

The border is set to be opened exactly one year after Morocco loosened its border controls around the enclave of Ceuta, allowing thousands of migrants to cross into Spain. That move was widely seen as retaliation for Spain’s decision to allow the leader of Western Sahara’s pro-independence movement to be treated for COVID-19 at a Spanish hospital.

Morocco is considered critical in the fight against radical groups, as well as in holding back increasing numbers of African migrants seeking to reach Europe as they flee violence and poverty at home.


Tehran regime faces international isolation as protests spread abroad

Tehran regime faces international isolation as protests spread abroad
Updated 9 min 7 sec ago

Tehran regime faces international isolation as protests spread abroad

Tehran regime faces international isolation as protests spread abroad
  • At least 76 people have been killed in Iran’s violent crackdown on the protests
  • Taliban disperse demo in Kabul, clashes at embassy in Oslo, threat of new EU sanctions

JEDDAH: The Tehran regime faced growing international isolation on Thursday as a wave of unrest inside Iran spread across borders. 

In Afghanistan, Taliban forces fired shots into the air to disperse a women’s rally in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul in support of the protests in Iran. 

Afghan women rally in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul on September 29, 2022 in a sympathy protest for Mahsa Amini. (AFP)

Demonstrators carried banners that read: “Iran has risen, now it’s our turn” and “From Kabul to Iran, say no to dictatorship,” and chanted the “Women, life, freedom” mantra used in Iran. Taliban forces snatched the banners and tore them in front of the protesters. 

One of the protest organizers said it was staged “to show our support and solidarity with the people of Iran and the women victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan.” 

In Norway, two people were injured and 90 were arrested in clashes at a demonstration in front of the Iranian embassy in Oslo. Several dozen protesters, some draped in the Kurdish flag, tried to break into the embassy compound. 

Norwegian police restrain activists protesting outside Iran's embassy in Oslo on Sept. 29, 2022. (AFP)

The demonstration came a day after Iran launched missile and drone strikes that killed 13 people in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tehran accuses Kurdish dissidents there of fueling two weeks of protests in Iran, which began when 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini died in morality police custody. 

Amini had been on a visit to Tehran with her family when she was arrested and accused of wearing her hijab with “insufficient modesty.” 

At least 76 people have been killed in Iran’s violent crackdown on the protests, with security forces using tear gas, batons, birdshot and live ammunition. 

Germany’s foreign minister on Thursday urged the EU to impose further sanctions on Iran because of its treatment of protesters.

“The Iranian authorities must immediately end their brutal treatment of demonstrators,” Annalena Baerbock told the German parliament.

Activists protest in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on September 28, 2022, against the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran. (Reuters)

She said she would do everything within the EU framework to impose sanctions against those responsible for oppressing women in Iran.

France’s Foreign Ministry has said it would back sanctions as a response to “new massive abuses on women’s rights and human rights in Iran.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc would “consider all the options at its disposal ... to address the killing of Mahsa Amini and the way Iranian security forces have responded to the ensuing demonstrations.”

Inside Iran, the regime warned prominent sports and entertainment figures against any further support of the protests. “We will take action against the celebrities who have fanned the flames of the riots,” Tehran provincial governor Mohsen Mansouri said.

Former TV host Mahmoud Shahriari has already been arrested for “encouraging riots and solidarity with the enemy,” and Oscar-winning film director Asghar Farhadi urged people to “stand in solidarity” with the protesters.

“They are looking for simple yet fundamental rights that the state has denied them,” he said.
 

 

 


Abu Dhabi prepares to host ‘first-of-its-kind’ Parenthood: The Unconference

Abu Dhabi prepares to host ‘first-of-its-kind’ Parenthood: The Unconference
Updated 30 September 2022

Abu Dhabi prepares to host ‘first-of-its-kind’ Parenthood: The Unconference

Abu Dhabi prepares to host ‘first-of-its-kind’ Parenthood: The Unconference
  • The event will cover all stages of parenting with the aim of redefining and elevating the critical role parents and the extended family play in raising healthy, thriving children
  • ‘Parental support influences children’s levels of confidence and motivation and plays a huge role in their interest in school,’ said Sara Awad Issa Musallam, Emirati minister for early education

ABU DHABI: Parenthood: The Unconference, an event organized by Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge and said to be the first of its kind in the world, will take place at Etihad Arena on Yas Island from Nov. 2 to Nov. 4, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

ADEK said it forms part of its larger mission to prioritize and enhance parental engagement and involvement with the aim of improving children’s success. As such, the event aims to redefine and elevate the critical role that parents, and the wider family unit, play in raising healthy and thriving children.

The goal of Parenthood: The Unconference, organizers said, is to encourage global dialogue to help better equip parents to face new and critical challenges in a world where traditional guideposts have vanished and the old rules no longer apply.

It will provide visitors with new learning opportunities to help them improve as individuals, spouses and caregivers through a comprehensive program that covers all stages of parenting, from early childhood to adolescence. The event will focus on five themes in particular: identity, new perspectives, development, well-being, and early childhood.

“The launch of Parenthood: The Unconference in Abu Dhabi underscores the commitment of our leadership to improving the state of education, with a focus on future generations,” said Sara Awad Issa Musallam, minister of state for early education.

“To achieve this, we cannot overlook the essential role of parents and their extended support circles — the aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends who become part of the family — because it really does take a village to raise a child.

“Parental support influences children’s levels of confidence and motivation and plays a huge role in their interest in school and their pursuit of goals. That is why we champion parental engagement to ensure it is an integral part of education-improvement efforts for all learners.”

Musallam said that the event aims to encourage an “important global conversation that seeks to enhance the positive relationship between schools, parents and students.” To achieve this it will gather some of the world’s foremost experts to share and discuss the latest views on child development and parenting.

“It’s an opportunity to connect, exchange and learn from each other,” said Musallam. “By impacting current and future parenting practices, we hope to generate opportunities for a future in which children everywhere thrive and interact positively with the world around them.”

According to UNICEF, which is supporting and participating in the event as an official knowledge partner, positive parenting and family support are critical factors in giving children the best possible start in life, as they lay the groundwork for healthy development, lifelong learning and social cohesion.

Organizers said that over the course of three highly interactive days, Parenthood: The Unconference will offer an unprecedented opportunity to learn from more than 60 leading experts through a series of engaging information sessions, keynote talks, panel discussions, immersive experiences, hands-on workshops, and networking opportunities.

Among the featured speakers is Dr. Shefali Tsabary, a prominent clinical psychologist and Oprah-endorsed parenting expert. She is also a three-time New York Times bestselling author, whose integration of Western psychology with Eastern philosophy is said to offer a ground-breaking approach to mindful living and parenting.
 


Al-Azhar’s grand imam to attend Bahrain forum alongside Pope Francis

Al-Azhar’s grand imam to attend Bahrain forum alongside Pope Francis
Updated 30 September 2022

Al-Azhar’s grand imam to attend Bahrain forum alongside Pope Francis

Al-Azhar’s grand imam to attend Bahrain forum alongside Pope Francis

CAIRO: Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, will participate from Nov. 3-4 alongside Pope Francis in the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence.

Sheikh Ahmed, the seniormost cleric at Al-Azhar and chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, will travel to Bahrain on Nov. 3 following an invitation from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa.

Over 200 religious figures from around the world representing all religions and sects will attend the forum.

Sheikh Ahmed and the pope last met in Kazakhstan earlier this month where they attended the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

In April 2016, Sheikh Ahmed received King Hamad at Al-Azhar, where the king thanked Egypt’s highest seat of learning for supporting Bahrain’s unity and stability.

During his meeting with King Hamad, Sheikh Ahmed said that Bahrain was and will remain a melting pot of cultures and ideas.

At the invitation of King Hamad, Pope Francis will travel to Bahrain in November, which is home to the largest Catholic church on the Arabian Peninsula.

According to Vatican News, Pope Francis, 85, will be the first pope to visit the predominantly Muslim nation in the Arabian Gulf.


Houthi attacks in Taiz kill 15 civilians, wound 69 during truce

Houthi attacks in Taiz kill 15 civilians, wound 69 during truce
Updated 30 September 2022

Houthi attacks in Taiz kill 15 civilians, wound 69 during truce

Houthi attacks in Taiz kill 15 civilians, wound 69 during truce
  • Taiz residents say militia snipers, landmines, and siege exacerbate city’s humanitarian crisis

AL-MUKAALLA, YemenAn international rights group has said that 15 Yemeni civilians have been killed and 69 others wounded by Houthi fire and landmines in the city of Taiz since the UN-brokered truce began on April 2.

In a 30-page report titled “The Fragile Truce,” the Geneva-based SAM organization stated that Houthi snipers, as well as thousands of landmines and explosives-rigged drones fired by the Houthis at densely populated areas in Taiz, have killed 15 civilians, including seven children and eight women, and injured 69, including 28 children and eight women.

There have been 90 violations of the truce by the Houthis in the last six months.

They have targeted residential areas with heavy weapons, maintained a blockade of the city, and mobilized troops along the city’s outskirts, the organization said.

The UN-brokered truce, which is set to expire next week, has resulted in a significant reduction in fighting across the country, the resumption of commercial flights from Sanaa airport, and the entry of dozens of fuel ships into Hodeidah port.

Residents in Yemen’s third largest city, Taiz, which has been under Houthi siege since early 2015, complained that the truce had made no difference to their lives because the Houthis had not lifted the siege or stopped their attacks.

The Houthis have also refused several proposals and failed to attend a meeting with the Yemeni government to discuss road opening arrangements.

The militia has insisted on opening a small, unpaved road instead of the Yemeni government’s preferred main route leading into and out of the city.

Residents told SAM that Houthi snipers, landmines, and the siege have exacerbated the city’s humanitarian crisis and prevented them from reaching relatives, schools, or farms, accusing the Houthis of deliberately gunning down unarmed civilians.

Fatima Ibrahim said that her son, a shepherd, was shot by a Houthi sniper while grazing sheep in the open in Taiz.

When the mother and other residents rushed to save him, Houthi snipers pointed guns at them, forcing them to carry him to a nearby hospital on a motorbike.

“Houthi snipers do not differentiate between people. They regularly prey on women, children, the elderly, and even animals. Where is the cease-fire? We only see killing,” the mother said.

SAM demanded that more pressure be put on the Houthis to stop attacking residents in Taiz and called for the deployment of foreign peacekeepers to save civilians from Houthi attacks.

“The international community should take the truce in Yemen seriously by forming a monitoring committee overseen by neutral countries.

“The siege of Taiz must be lifted immediately, and the Houthi group must stop all attacks on civilians,” the organization said.

In a blow to peace efforts, the militia’s leaders reaffirmed their opposition to extending the ceasefire or the most recent version of the UN envoy’s proposal on Taiz and salary payment.

The militia’s Supreme Political Council president, Mahdi Al-Mushat, told UN Yemen Envoy Hans Grundberg, who is visiting Sanaa, that the movement would not extend the truce until the Yemeni government paid public servants in areas under their control.

The Yemeni government refuses to pay salaries and has demanded that the Houthis pay public servants from the sales of fuel ships passing through Hodeidah port.

In an attempt to break the impasse, the UN envoy proposed that the Houthis pay salaries from fuel sales based on 2014 payroll, with any shortfall covered by the Yemeni government.


Survey: Turks worry about immigration and terror, skeptical of US 

Survey: Turks worry about immigration and terror, skeptical of US 
Updated 30 September 2022

Survey: Turks worry about immigration and terror, skeptical of US 

Survey: Turks worry about immigration and terror, skeptical of US 
  • NATO must trust Ankara’s geopolitical policies, analyst tells Arab News
  • Only 38% back American role in European security: Transatlantic Trends

ANKARA: The Turkish people’s three top security challenges are immigration, terrorism and inter-state war, while Western countries are mostly concerned about climate change and Russia, the latest Transatlantic Trends report, published by the German Marshall Fund of the US on Thursday, revealed.

The 2022 edition of the survey was conducted in 14 countries between June and July 2022. The 11 European countries are France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. The other nations are the US, UK and Canada.

Turkey is also the country that desires the least US involvement in the defense and security of Europe. Compared to 88 percent of Poles, 86 percent of Lithuanians and 85 percent of Portuguese, only 38 percent of Turks back the US role in European security.

The traditional skepticism regarding the US remains among Turks. While a clear majority of respondents in Europe approve of US President Joe Biden’s handling of international affairs, the approval is highest in Poland and lowest in Turkey.

In the same vein, Turkey is the only country with a large majority (67 percent) with negative views of US influence.

“The perceived security threats of the Turkish population differ significantly from those of their NATO allies,” Nils Lange, research fellow at Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Turkey, told Arab News.

“It is important that European partners continue to support Turkey on migration, especially in tense times, and that NATO allies support and listen to Turkey in the fight against terror,” said Lange.

The survey in Turkey was conducted with 1,063 people face-to-face and 500 online between May and July, with the financial support of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung's Turkey branch.

The biggest declines in terms of being considered a reliable partner were detected for Poland, Turkey, the US and Spain. Turkey is still considered the least reliable partner on average, with 27 percent in 2022, compared to 23 percent in 2021.

The countries with the least positive views of Turkey’s reliability are Sweden (11 percent), Germany (17 percent), France (18 percent), and the Netherlands (19 percent).

In Turkey, perceptions about the US’ reliability have also plummeted from 23 percent in 2021 to 17 percent this year.

GMF Ankara Office Director Ozgür Unluhisarcikli thinks that this is the single most important finding of the survey.

“Alliances are built on shared interests and values but thrive on mutual trust. The mutual distrust between the Turkish public and publics of Turkey’s allies highlights the main problem (of) Turkey’s relations with allies,” he told Arab News.

As the Turkish population’s trust in other countries has continued to decline, Lange said the countries on which Turks have less trust surprisingly included Germany, which traditionally enjoys a relatively high level of trust in Turkey by comparison.

“However, on the other side, the German population seems to have very little confidence in Turkey,” he said.

“Considering the fact that the Turkish population however sees Germany as the most influential country in Europe, the German government must take a closer look at the relations with Turkey. They must also decide how Turkey’s future relationship with Europe should be shaped.”

According to Lange, the relatively well-meaning attitude of the Turkish population toward Germany and the negative perception of Turkey and its government among the German population form a stark contrast that must be addressed through greater education.

“It is a fact that the average German knows too little about Turkey and its people,” he added.

About 3 million people of Turkish origin currently live in Germany, which began hosting guest workers from Turkey in 1961.

Sweden is perceived as the most reliable partner across all countries surveyed (71 percent), with the exception of Turkey, with 33 percent.

Last year, Turkish respondents considered Sweden as the second-most reliable country after Germany.

“While we often focus on how policy may be impacted by public opinion, Sweden’s being demoted from the second-most reliable partner to the least reliable partner in just (a) year shows how public opinion is impacted by domestic and foreign policies,” Unluhisarcikli said.

Although there is overwhelming support in Europe (73 percent) for Finnish and Swedish membership of NATO, only 36 percent of Turks are in favor, while almost one third of respondents strongly disagree with this membership.

In late June, Turkey reached a deal to support the two Nordic countries’ bids to join NATO after an intense diplomatic deadlock on the grounds that they had failed to react positively to Ankara’s extradition requests.

In Turkey, a significant number (58 percent) say the EU is important to their country’s security, with younger respondents considering the EU as important for national security.

But a majority of respondents in all countries, except Turkey, see the EU’s influence in global affairs as positive. A total of 53 percent of Turks consider the EU’s global influence as negative.

Similarly, Turks are also against the Russian and Chinese influences in global affairs, as they consider it as negative by 66 percent and 68 percent respectively. In managing their country’s relations with China and Russia, 56 percent of Turkish respondents also prefer pursuing an independent approach.

Lange thinks that these results show that the Turkish government’s desire for a more autonomous foreign policy is gaining ground in society.

Turkish respondents are less interested in working through NATO (18 percent, compared to 27 percent on average among non-EU countries), and 13 percent want to work with the EU (against the average of 16 percent among non-EU countries).

According to Unluhisarcikli, these statistics reflect the unilateralist tendencies in Turkish society mainly stemming from distrust toward allies.

Globally, the share of respondents considering NATO’s role in the security of their country as important is 78 percent, an increase of 11 points from 2021, while in Turkey it is 65 percent, a decrease in 4 points from last year.

Within the transatlantic community, the respondents consider Germany the most influential country in Europe, followed by France, the UK, Italy, Spain and Turkey.

A majority of respondents in Turkey want their country to address global challenges by working only with democracies.

However, the share of Turks saying the democracy in their country is in a good state decreased from 35 percent to 21 percent in a year, while almost half of them say democracy is in danger, an increase of 7 points from last year.

Regarding the reactions to the war in Ukraine, Turks took a balanced stance, with only 42 percent favoring the prosecution of Russia for war crimes (average of 74 percent), with 43 percent supporting stronger economic sanctions on Russia (average of 71 percent).

Similarly, only 34 percent of Turks approve the NATO membership offer to Ukraine (average of 58 percent), while 46 percent back the increase of military supplies and equipment to Ukraine (average of 66 percent), and 45 percent favor the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine for Russian aircraft (average of 64 percent).

“The majority of Turks are against sanctioning Russia because they believe that such a course of action would also hurt the Turkish economy,” Unluhisarcikli said.

“The fact that Turkey itself has been the subject of sanctions or threat of sanctions by the US and European countries during the last years cannot be ignored either. Unilateralist tendencies also prevent the Turkish public from automatically supporting transatlantic initiatives,” he added.

Transatlantic Trends is a project co-led by the GMF and the Bertelsmann Foundation (North America).