Iran disperses crowd angry over building collapse killing 29

Iran disperses crowd angry over building collapse killing 29
The collapse of the 10-story Metropol building under construction in Abadan, Khuzestan province was one of Iran’s deadliest such disasters in years. (Tasnim News/AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2022

Iran disperses crowd angry over building collapse killing 29

Iran disperses crowd angry over building collapse killing 29
  • A large section of the 10-story Metropol building that was under construction in Abadan, Khuzestan province crumbled on Monday

TEHRAN: Iranian riot police fired tear gas and shot into the air to disperse an angry crowd of hundreds of people near the site of a building collapse in the southwestern city of Abadan, online video analyzed on Saturday showed.
One report by Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency also acknowledged the unrest late on Friday over the disaster this week that killed at least 29 people, with more feared still buried under the rubble of the 10-story building.
This comes as Iran suffers worsening economic conditions under crushing US sanctions over its nuclear program, fueling concern in the country of renewed, widespread unrest.
Meanwhile, Iran faced both targeted killings and other violence this week into Saturday, even as its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized two Greek oil tankers apparently over Athens allowing America to impound Iranian oil in the Mediterranean Sea.
Videos shared online showed a massive crowd of hundreds near the Metropol Building on Friday night, with lights shining on its facade.

BACKGROUND

Iran is suffering worsening economic conditions under crushing US sanctions over its nuclear program, fueling concern in the country of renewed, widespread unrest.

A second video showed demonstrators at street level chanting: “Our enemy is here; they lie that it is America!” A third showed an angry crowd with one shot heard. The person filming turned and ran, shouting: “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”
The details in the videos corresponded with each other and to known features of Abadan, some 660 kilometers (410 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran.
Foreign-based Farsi-language television channels described tear gas and other shots being fired.
Fars described the situation as a riot that forced police to intervene.
It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured or if police made any arrests.
In other cities, people gathered peacefully to mourn, Fars and human rights activists reported.
However, angry crowds have been gathering in Abadan since Iran on Thursday held a 100,000-person rally to mark the release of a new state-backed pop song called “Hello Commander.”
On Friday, protesters in Abadan shouted: “In Tehran, there is wedding; Abadan is bleeding!”
Authorities acknowledge the building’s owner and corrupt government officials allowed construction to continue at the Metropol Building despite concerns over its shoddy workmanship.
The building collapsed on Monday. Authorities have arrested 13 people as part of a broad investigation into the disaster, including the city’s mayor.
Rescue teams pulled three more bodies from the rubble on Saturday, bringing the death toll in the collapse to 29.
The deadly collapse has raised questions about the safety of similar buildings in the country and underscored an ongoing crisis in Iranian construction projects.
The collapse reminded many of the 2017 fire and collapse of the iconic Plasco building in Tehran that killed 26 people.
Violence continued elsewhere in the country.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said gunmen shot and wounded two police officers and a civilian on Saturday in downtown Tehran.
It said one officer was in critical condition. Authorities offered no cause.
Separately, the semiofficial ISNA news agency said a gunman shot and killed a senior police officer, Maj. Abbas Raah Anjam, in Iran’s restive Sistan and Baluchistan province.
The attack also wounded his wife, ISNA said.
Gun violence is rare in Iran, where tight controls govern who can own a firearm.
Earlier this month, a senior member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, was shot dead outside his home in Tehran by unidentified gunmen on a motorbike. Iran has blamed Israel for the shooting, which mirrored other attacks carried out by its intelligence service and allies.


Five killed in Aden blast targeting security official

Five killed in Aden blast targeting security official
Updated 16 sec ago

Five killed in Aden blast targeting security official

Five killed in Aden blast targeting security official
  • An improvised explosive device planted in a car went off when a vehicle carrying Lahj province Security Chief Saleh Al-Sayed passed through Aden’s Khormaksar neighborhood
  • Al-Sayed, who is loyal to the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council, narrowly escaped death as the explosion burned his car and many other vehicles

AL-MUKALLA: At least five people were killed and several others wounded on Wednesday when a blast targeted a security official in Yemen’s southern city of Aden, the country’s interim capital and the seat of its internationally recognized government, a local security source and residents said. 

An improvised explosive device planted in a car went off when a vehicle carrying Lahj province Security Chief Saleh Al-Sayed passed through Aden’s Khormaksar neighborhood, killing five people — four civilians and a bodyguard — and wounding seven others, a security source told Arab News by telephone. 

Al-Sayed, who is loyal to the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council, narrowly escaped death as the explosion burned his car and many other vehicles that were passing through the street.  

Al-Sayed is known for leading troops that purged the Lahj province of Al-Qaeda, Daesh and other armed groups in 2016 and also commanded troops that battled the Houthis in Aden in 2015. 

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local officials blame terrorist groups for such attacks. 

Wednesday’s explosion in Aden is the latest in a string of deadly attacks that have shaken the city during the past two years. 

This month, a Yemeni journalist was burned to death in Aden when an IED blast ripped through his vehicle. 

In May, the commander of joint operations at the Aden-based 4th Military Region escaped death after a blast hit his armed SUV in Aden’s Mualla. 

In November, a pregnant journalist was killed when an explosion blew up her vehicle in Aden.  

The latest attack in Aden came a day after Aden Gov. Ahmed Hamed Lamlis told a group of UN officials based in Yemen that the city is “safe” to host their offices.  

Lamlis pledged during a meeting with Diego Zorella, UN deputy resident coordinator for humanitarian affairs in Yemen, to protect the UN delegations that visit or settle in Aden, urging them to intensify their humanitarian operations in the city.


Populist Turkish politicians stoke tensions over Syrian refugees as elections loom

Populist Turkish politicians stoke tensions over Syrian refugees as elections loom
Updated 20 min 53 sec ago

Populist Turkish politicians stoke tensions over Syrian refugees as elections loom

Populist Turkish politicians stoke tensions over Syrian refugees as elections loom
  • Umit Ozdag, the leader of the nationalist Zafer (Victory) Party, was stopped from entering Hatay after he pledged to place a “symbolic” mine at the border with Syria
  • Turkish police, the gendarmerie and officials from the Hatay governorate prevented Ozdag from entering the city

ANKARA: A toxic and dangerous anti-refugee discourse is gaining momentum in Turkey. Umit Ozdag, the leader of the nationalist Zafer (Victory) Party, was recently stopped from entering the southern border town of Hatay after he pledged to place a “symbolic” mine at the border with Syria to prevent crossings.

Turkish police, the gendarmerie and officials from the Hatay governorate prevented Ozdag from entering the city, as his move could provoke hatred and incitement against the refugee population in the city. Hatay is home to some 400,000 Syrians.

Experts have warned about far-right politicians using Syrian refugees as a political card ahead of general and presidential elections scheduled for next year.

Ozdag’s party is mainly based on anti-Syrian ideology, pursuing a campaign against the presence of refugees in Turkey and accusing them of causing the country’s dire economic and financial problems.

The Zafer Party, having an insignificant share of votes according to the polls, also criticizes the high birth rates among the refugees, which it terms a “silent invasion” of Turkey.

Ozdag has tweeted controversial videos, claiming he would expel all refugees from Turkey once he comes to power.

He also said that his party would quit the international treaty banning anti-personnel mines and would replant them on the borders to stop refugees.

Ozdag added that every Turkish citizen who wants the Syrian refugees to stay in Turkey is a “traitor.”

According to Friedrich Puttmann, a researcher at the Istanbul Policy Center, Ozdag’s latest statements appear to be inspired by far-right nationalists in the EU, such as the German party Alternative für Deutschland, which also suggested in the heat of Germany's refugee debate in 2016 that its borders should be defended with military means against the arrival of asylum seekers.

“Ozdag can be considered a political entrepreneur, trying to gain power by basing his party 100 percent on a single new issue in Turkish politics, and doing everything he can to make this issue as big as possible to generate votes from it,” he told Arab News.

Puttmann said that by deploying this strategy, Ozdag is seeking to exploit not only Turks’ grievances with regard to the hosting Syrian refugees but also their strong sense of nationalism.

“To counter this, his critics should therefore not fall into his trap by defending the refugees themselves but rather challenge him on the grounds of what it means to be Turkish,” he said.

Syrian refugees in Turkey have been banned from visiting their families back home during Eid Al-Adha, while new quotas have been applied to residence permits. As of July 1, Turkey will limit permits for foreigners to a ceiling of 20 percent of the population of some neighborhoods.

Puttmann noted that much of the Turkish debate on the Syrian refugees is an extension of the debate on the meaning of Turkish identity.

“If Ozdag’s critics can present a vision of Turkishness that is not divisive but speaks to values shared across different segments of Turkish society, they can also convince the public that planting mines on the Turkish-Syrian border would be the most ‘un-Turkish’ thing to do,” he said.

Turkey currently hosts about 3.7 million Syrian refugees within its borders, apart from more than 200,000 Syrians who were granted Turkish citizenship in a decade. Turkey also provides security and humanitarian assistance to over 3 million Syrians in Turkey-controlled regions in Syria.

According to the latest surveys, anti-refugee sentiment is gaining popularity in Turkey.

A recent survey by the İstanbul Ekonomi Arastirma (Istanbul Economics Research) organization revealed that 61 percent of respondents favored a harsher stance against refugees. The repatriation of Syrians is believed to be among the top topics of the impending election commitments of the opposition parties.

Prof. Murat Erdogan, director at Ankara University’s Migration Research Center and a CATS-SWP Fellow in Berlin, told Arab News that the anti-refugee discourse cannot be resolved by stopping someone from entering a city where the refugee population has reached more than 20 percent of the local population.

“Ozdag and his party are bringing up the existing concerns and anger that are deeply rooted in Turkish society following a large influx of refugees in a short period of time,” he said.

According to the academic, who predicts the development of new political formations, the high levels of attention directed to anti-refugee perspectives has caused the Syrian issue to become associated with discussion surrounding Turkey’s national security.

“The indefinite nature of the immigration process creates a sense of insecurity and fuels concerns in Turkish society that the domestic borders cannot be protected and the immigration wave cannot be managed,” he said.

“While the government frames the refugees as the elements of religious or cultural solidarity as part of its humanitarian foreign policy, the opposition criticizes this policy by securitizing this issue. This is a reality and has been used by populist politicians in recent years,” Prof. Erdogan added. 

“It is very important to boost the resilience of Turkish society in the coming period and to implement cohesion policies for Syrians at the local level to prevent further conflicts,” he said.

Two young Syrians — Sultan Abdul Baset Jabneh and Sharif Khaled Al-Ahmad — were killed in Istanbul in June, while a 70-year-old Syrian woman was hit in the face in the southeastern province of Gaziantep last month, triggering an outcry on social media.

On May 31, an immigrant sexually harassed a 10-year-old Turkish boy in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district hosting a large population of refugees. The immigrant was arrested, but local anger swiftly poured into the streets.

As part of a new project, the Turkish government recently committed to voluntarily relocating 1 million Syrians to northern Syria by establishing necessary infrastructure.


Jordanian Ministry of Transport announces five-year public transportation strategy for 2022 to 2027

Jordanian Ministry of Transport announces five-year public transportation strategy for 2022 to 2027
Updated 18 min 40 sec ago

Jordanian Ministry of Transport announces five-year public transportation strategy for 2022 to 2027

Jordanian Ministry of Transport announces five-year public transportation strategy for 2022 to 2027
  • The ministry stated that it will be forming partnerships with the private sector to close a significant funding gap for transportation projects

AMMAN: The Jordanian Ministry of Transport has announced a five-year public transportation strategy for the years 2022 to 2027, Jordan News Agency (Petra) reported on Wednesday.

The ministry's goal is to increase the sector's employment by 18 percent and increase its current GDP contribution from 2.6 percent to 7 percent in that time.

The ministry also said in a statement that it will collaborate with its partners at the World Bank and the European Union to align its new five-year strategy with the recently released Economic Modernization Vision recommendations.

As the strategy sources additional funding, the ministry stated that it will be forming partnerships with the private sector to close a significant funding gap for transportation projects.

The strategy also aims to cut down on the use of cars, increase the percentage of people who use public transportation from 12 to 17 percent, and reduce household spending on transportation to 5 percent.

It also aims to reduce the cost of losses caused by traffic accidents by 35 percent, the energy used by the transportation industry by 7 percent, and the emissions produced by the industry by 125 percent.


Migrants in Libya forced into rape for food: UN

Migrants in Libya forced into rape for food: UN
Updated 29 June 2022

Migrants in Libya forced into rape for food: UN

Migrants in Libya forced into rape for food: UN
  • Investigators described how migrants in detention face “acts of murder, torture, rape and other inhumane acts”
  • A flimsy rubber boat collapsed and sank off Libya's coast, leaving at least 30 people missing and feared dead

GENEVA/CAIRO: Migrants detained in Libya face horrific abuse, with women especially facing sexual violence, and often forced to submit to rape in exchange for food, UN investigators said Wednesday.
In a fresh report, the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya reiterated that the worst crimes under international law were likely being committed in the war-ravaged country, with migrant women suffering some of the worst abuse.
“The mission has reasonable grounds to believe that the crimes against humanity of murder, torture, imprisonment, rape, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts have been committed in several places of detention in Libya since 2016,” it said.
Migrants are routinely detained by authorities, human traffickers and others in Libya — a key departure point for tens of thousands of people mainly from sub-Saharan Africa hoping to reach Europe.
Human traffickers have profited from the chaos that has raged since the 2011 toppling and killing of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Talks between rival Libyan governments are being held in Geneva this week over the rules for long-awaited elections, with an aim to end the chaos.
The fact-finding mission report, to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council next week, said it had gathered broad evidence of “the systematic use of prolonged arbitrary detention” of migrants in Libya.
The investigators, who made several trips to Libya, described how migrants in detention face “acts of murder, torture, rape and other inhumane acts.”
The report highlighted “sexual violence at the hands of traffickers and smugglers, often with the aim of extorting families.”
“The mission has also documented cases of rape in places of detention or captivity whereby migrant women are forced to have sex in order to survive, in exchange for food or other essential items,” it said.
In fact, the known risk of sexual violence is considered too great, the report said, that “some migrant women and girls get fitted with a contraceptive implant before traveling there to avoid unwanted pregnancy due to such violence.”
The investigators relayed some heartbreaking stories heard from migrants in Libya.
One woman, who was held in the northern town of Ajdabiya, “described how her captors demanded sex in exchange for access to water she direly needed to wash her six-month-old sick child’s soiled clothes,” the report said.
“I let them rape me. I had no choice. It was for my daughter. I could not leave her like that,” she said, according to the report.
The fact-finding mission, which was created by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020, will see its mandate expire in a few days.
But a group of African countries has presented a draft resolution to the council that would allow it to continue its work for another nine months.
Meanwhile, a flimsy rubber boat collapsed and sank in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya’s coast, leaving at least 30 people including women and children missing and feared dead, an international charity said Wednesday.
The vessel sank in the deadly central Mediterranean Sea route, said Doctors Without Borders, also known by its abbreviation MSF for the French name of the group.
A rescue ship operated by MSF reached the boat, and managed to rescue dozens of other migrants including some women. A pregnant woman died on board the rescue ship, Geo Barents, it said.
Among the rescued migrants from Monday’s boat sinking was a woman who lost her child in the sinking and another one who said she lost two children, the charity said.
The charity has called for Italian and Maltese authorities to determine a port of safety to allow the disembarkation of survivors.
* With AFP and AP


‘People will die’ if cross-border aid to Syria stops, UN says

‘People will die’ if cross-border aid to Syria stops, UN says
Updated 29 June 2022

‘People will die’ if cross-border aid to Syria stops, UN says

‘People will die’ if cross-border aid to Syria stops, UN says
  • The UN Security Council mandate allowing trucks of aid to enter Syria via Turkey is due to expire on July 10

BEIRUT: People living in Syria’s battered northwest could die of malnutrition or lack of water if Russia vetoes UN authorization for cross-border aid, an aid official said on Wednesday.
The UN Security Council mandate allowing trucks of aid to enter Syria via Turkey is due to expire on July 10. But Syrian ally Russia has hinted it may veto, prompting fears of a cut-off as Syrians grapple with drought and growing food insecurity.
Mark Cutts, deputy UN regional humanitarian coordinator, told Reuters the “eyes of the world have turned away from Syria” precisely when it most needs outside help.
“If the resolution is not renewed, we know that many people are going to suffer, people are going to die,” he said.
Around 4.4 million Syrians live in the northwestern enclave controlled by Turkish-backed groups and hard-line Islamist militants and virtually all of them — 4.1 million — need humanitarian assistance, the United Nations says.
One in three children are under-nourished and many rely on therapeutic feeding made possible by cross-border aid, he said.
“Many are in hospitals that will no longer get the medical aid they need, vaccination programs will be affected,” he said, adding that water being trucked in to hundreds of thousands of people living in camps may not reach them.
Since the Security Council first authorized cross-border aid in 2014, Russia has repeatedly threatened to veto extensions or amend language to curtail operations, arguing they violate Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that more help should be delivered from within the country.
“The stakes are higher this year with the war in Ukraine and the tensions in the Security Council,” Cutts said.
Needs have meanwhile hit an all-time high, with more displaced families pouring into the zone, Syria’s economy deteriorating, the COVID-19 pandemic and the spike in food prices worldwide.
Cross-border military operations threatened by Turkey to oust Kurdish-led forces from some areas in the north would only add to the suffering, aid groups have warned.
Funding has also dried up, with donor countries spread thin by crises in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Yemen. The UN says it has only received a quarter of the $4.4 billion needed for aid operations to continue.
“The crisis is now worse than it’s ever been,” Cutts said.