Tunisian interior ministry says there are threats to president’s life

Tunisian interior ministry says there are threats to president’s life
Official spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior, Fadhila Khlifi, speaks during a news conference in Tunis on Friday. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 June 2022

Tunisian interior ministry says there are threats to president’s life

Tunisian interior ministry says there are threats to president’s life
  • The ministry said both internal and external elements were involved in plans targeting the president
  • An attacker was arrested after injuring two police while targeting a security point outside a Tunis synagogue overnight

JEDDAH: Security chiefs in Tunisia have uncovered plots to assassinate President Kais Saied amid concerns over a growing political crisis, they said on Friday.

The threats were revealed as an attacker previously jailed on terrorism charges and released in 2021 tried to stab two police officers guarding a synagogue in the center of Tunis.

“According to credible information and investigations still underway, the president of the republic and the presidency as an institution are the target of serious threats,” Interior Ministry spokeswoman Fadhila Khelifi said.

“There is a plan by groups both at home and abroad to target the security of the president” and to “damage state security and create chaos,” she said.

In Tunis, the man armed with a knife attacked police deployed to guard the Grand Synagogue in the city center, wounding two officers before he was overpowered. The ministry said an investigation was underway.

Before its independence from France in 1956, Tunisia was home to over 100,000 Jews, but emigration has brought their numbers down to about 1,000.

Since the so-called “Arab Spring” revolution that overthrew dictator Zine El-Abidine ben Ali in 2011, a number of jihadist attacks in Tunisia have killed dozens of people.

The latest attack comes amid a deep economic and political crisis almost a year since Saied assumed complete power in July 2021. The president’s opponents accuse him of a coup for ruling by decree and preparing a new constitution that he plans to put to a referendum next month.

Opposition to Saied has broadened over recent months as nearly all major political parties and the powerful labor union have come out against his plans, holding street rallies against him.

However, while critics of the president say his moves have raised concerns over rights and freedoms won in the 2011 revolution, there has been no widespread crackdown on the opposition.

Saied says his moves are legal and were needed to save Tunisia from years of political
paralysis, economic stagnation and the malign influence of Islamist groups.

Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, a prominent left-wing politician and Saied opponent, cast doubt on claims of a plot to kill the president. “This is just to justify new arrests and to take revenge against his rivals,” Chebbi said. “The president is politically isolated and is trying to stir up public sympathy.”

Ennahdha, the Islamist party that had dominated Tunisian politics before Saied took power, dismissed the threats as “theater.”


Iranian woman died of 'blow to the head': family in Iraq

Iranian woman died of 'blow to the head': family in Iraq
Updated 16 sec ago

Iranian woman died of 'blow to the head': family in Iraq

Iranian woman died of 'blow to the head': family in Iraq
  • ‘By the time she reached hospital she was already dead from a medical point of view’

SULAIMANIYAH: Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini was visiting Tehran with her family when she encountered the notorious morality police and died after a “violent blow to the head,” her cousin living in Iraq said.
“Jhina’s death has opened the doors of popular anger,” said Erfan Salih Mortezaee, 34, using Amini’s Kurdish first name and referring to the ongoing wave of protests that her death has sparked.
In a phone call after the young woman’s death was announced, Amini’s mother told him what happened when her 22-year-old daughter was detained, Mortezaee said.
AFP spoke with Mortezaee in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region — bordering Amini’s native Kurdistan province in Iran — where he has been living for a year.
There he joined Iranian Kurdish nationalist group Komala, which has conducted a long-running cross-border insurgency against the Tehran authorities, seeking autonomy for Kurdish-populated areas of northwestern Iran.
Mortezaee said that, before starting university, Amini had gone to Tehran with her parents and 17-year-old brother to visit relatives.
On September 13, Amini, her brother and female relatives went out in the capital.
On leaving the Haghani underground station, “the morality police stopped them, arresting Jhina and her relatives,” Mortezaee said.
Wearing military fatigues and speaking at a Komala base in the Sulaimaniyah area of northern Iraq, Mortezaee said Amini’s brother tried to tell the police that they were “in Tehran for the first time” and “did not know the (local) traditions.”
But his appeals fell on deaf ears.
“The police officer told him, ‘We are going to take her in, instil the rules in her and teach her how to wear the hijab and how to dress’,” Mortezaee said.
Amini was “dressed normally. Like all women in Iran, she was wearing the hijab,” her cousin added.
In Iran, women — regardless of their faith — are required to cover their hair, and the morality police bans them from wearing coats above the knee, tight trousers, bright colors or torn jeans.
The code has been widely skirted for decades, particularly in major cities, but there have been periodic crackdowns.
“The police officers hit Jhina, they hit her in front of her brother,” Mortezaee said.
“They slapped her, they hit her hands and legs with a baton,” said Mortezaee, adding that they also sprayed her brother in the face with pepper spray.
Jhina and her relatives were forced into the morality police van and taken to a station on Vezarat Street.
The beatings continued during the ride, Mortezaee said.
“When they hit her in the head with the baton, she lost consciousness,” he said. “One of the officers said: ‘She’s putting on an act’.”
After they arrived, it was at least another hour and a half before she was taken to a Tehran hospital, despite pleas from her relatives, Mortezaee said.
After three days in a coma, she was pronounced dead.
Amini’s mother said doctors at the hospital told the family that her daughter “had received a violent blow to the head,” Mortezaee said.
Iranian authorities have denied all involvement in Amini’s death, which has sparked 12 consecutive nights of protests and a security crackdown.
“What is happening in Kurdistan and everywhere else in Iran is popular anger against the Islamic republic’s regime, against the dictatorship,” Mortezaee said.
At least 76 people have been killed in the demonstrations, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), while Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency has put the toll at “around 60.”
Authorities said Monday they had made more than 1,200 arrests.
The protests come at a particularly sensitive time for Iran’s leadership, when the country’s economy remains mired in a crisis largely caused by US sanctions over its nuclear program.
The country has seen protests in recent years, including deadly demonstrations in November 2019 over fuel price rises.
But this time “women are taking the lead and are actively taking part in the protests,” Mortezaee said.
“Women are participating in the demonstrations courageously and are taking to the streets, day and night,” he said.
“We the youth know that if this regime falls, a better life awaits us.”


UAE and Oman sign 16 agreements in transport, energy, and finance

UAE and Oman sign 16 agreements in transport, energy, and finance
Updated 49 min 20 sec ago

UAE and Oman sign 16 agreements in transport, energy, and finance

UAE and Oman sign 16 agreements in transport, energy, and finance
  • UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed arrived in Oman on Tuesday for a two-day visit
  • Sultan Haitham bin Tariq hosted a dinner banquet for his Emirati counterpart

DUBAI: The UAE and Oman signed 16 agreements in transport, energy, industry, and finance on the sidelines of UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed’s visit to Muscat.
As part of the agreements, the national railway operators of both countries established a joint company with investment of about $3.01 billion to set up and operate a railway linking Oman’s Sohar port with the UAE’s network, Oman's state news agency reported on Wednesday.
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed arrived in Oman on Tuesday for a two-day visit.
He was received by Sultan Haitham bin Tariq of Oman before both leaders engaged in talks on strengthening bilateral ties at Al-Alam Palace.
“Their talks centered around the two leaders’ shared vision for a secure and stable region that promotes sustainable development and supports a thriving economy where people can realise their full potential,” according to a statement on the Emirates News Agency
Sultan Haitham bin Tariq hosted a dinner banquet for his Emirati counterpart on the first day of his visit. Both leaders also exchanged medals and gifts at Al-Alam Palace.


Iranian oil workers: End government crackdown or we go on strike

Iranian oil workers: End government crackdown or we go on strike
Updated 28 September 2022

Iranian oil workers: End government crackdown or we go on strike

Iranian oil workers: End government crackdown or we go on strike
  • Massive unrest has roiled Iran, with protests spreading to more than 80 cities and towns

DUBAI: Iranian oil workers have threatened to go on strike if the government crackdown against protesters continued, a move that could cripple the country’s economy dependent on hydrocarbon revenues.

“We support the people’s struggles against organized and everyday violence against women and against the poverty and hell that dominates the society,” the Organizing Council of Oil Contract Workers said on September 26, in a report from Radio Farda.

Iranian crude oil and natural gas exports accounted for 18 percent of GDP and about one-quarter of government revenues in 2019, according to estimates.

Massive unrest has roiled Iran, with protests spreading to more than 80 cities and towns, after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while under custody by morality police on September 13 for allegedly for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

Her death has sparked the first big show of opposition on the streets since authorities crushed protests against a rise in gasoline prices in 2019.

Labor protests in Iran also have been on the rise in recent months in response to declining living standards and state support as crippling Western sanctions bear on the economy.


Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is dead but his poison lives on

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is dead but his poison lives on
Updated 28 September 2022

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is dead but his poison lives on

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is dead but his poison lives on
  • Spiritual leader of outlawed Muslim Brotherhood spent decades propagating an ideology that fueled violence across the Middle East
  • He justified suicide bombings, repeatedly spoke out against Jews as a community, and issued fatwas that demean women

JEDDAH: Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood who died on Monday at the age of 96, has left behind a poisonous legacy of hatred and Islamic supremacy.

Al-Qaradawi was formally the chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, a position he held for 14 years from its establishment in 2004.

More importantly, he was one of the fountainheads of the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious-political organization that has been sanctioned and proscribed by Gulf states and many Western countries.

Founded in 1928, the Brotherhood established itself in the mid-20th century as the main opposition movement in Egypt, as well as in other countries in the region. Cairo blacklisted the movement as a terrorist organization in 2013.

A BBC News website report of 2004, quoting an Arabic-language website, said Al-Qaradawi was born in a small village in the Nile Delta in 1926 and studied Islamic theology at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, from where he graduated in 1953.

Between 1949 and 1961, he was imprisoned several times in Egypt over his links to the Muslim Brotherhood and accusations that he ordered the assassination of political figures.

The Brotherhood’s followers were seen across the Islamic world as fanning religious hatred and promoting a cult of violence in order to achieve political power.

AL-QARADAWI’S CONTENTIOUS FATWAS

2003-2005: Issued several fatwas calling for a jihad against Israel and Jews, in which he deemed all adult Jews living in Palestine as “occupants” and combatants,” making them legitimate targets of war.

2004: Justified an uprising against the American presence in Iraq and permitted the killing of those who fight.

2010: Contended that suicide bombers do not really commit suicide, but die as an accidental consequence of carrying out their operations, which counts as a glorious sacrifice in holy war and qualifies them for martyrdom.

2013: Advocated the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak’s government in Egypt during the Arab Spring.

2015: Called anyone who went against the legitimate leader of the land “khawarij” (enemies of Islam) after Mohammed Morsi took office in Egypt.

In a 2019 tweet, Al-Qaradawi claimed he was not a preacher of hate and that he had spent the past 25 years promoting moderate thought.

“I stood against extremism and extremists for approximately a quarter of a century. I saw its threat to deen and dunya (religion and the temporal world), on the individual and society, and I have reinforced my pen, tongue and thought (to support) the call for moderation and reject exaggeration and negligence, either in the field of fiqh and fatwa (Islamic jurisprudence and legal pronouncement in Islam) or in the field of tableegh and da’wah (guidance and preaching),” he tweeted at the time.

However, his track record revealed exactly the opposite. He justified suicide bombings, especially in Palestine, repeatedly spoke out against Jews as a community, and issued fatwas (religious edicts) that demean women.

In a fatwa on his website, he stated that martyrdom is a higher form of jihad. And in a notorious 2004 interview on the BBC’s Newsnight program, he praised suicide bombings in Israeli-occupied Palestine as martyrdom in the name of God.

“I supported martyrdom operations, and I am not the only one,” he said.

He also encouraged Muslims who were unable to fight to financially support mujahideen (those engaged in jihad) everywhere in foreign lands. This could hardly be described as a stand against terrorism

In 2008, he was refused a visa by the UK Home Office to visit the country to receive medical treatment. David Cameron, the former Conservative Party leader, described Al-Qaradawi as “dangerous and divisive” in his appeal to the government to reject the visa application.

The Home Office said: “The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any acts of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence.”

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s vocal support for suicide bombers and edicts demeaning women brought global condemnation. (AFP)

At the time, Al-Qaradawi was already banned from entering the US. In 2012 he was barred from entering France.

Al-Qaradawi became a familiar name in Arabic-speaking Muslim communities with his weekly appearance on the religious phone-in program Al-Shariah wa Al-Haya (Islamic Law and Life), that was broadcast to millions worldwide.

Al-Qaradawi issued fatwas authorizing attacks on all Jews. On Al Jazeera Arabic in January 2009, he said: “Oh God, take Your enemies, the enemies of Islam … Oh God, take the treacherous Jewish aggressors … Oh God, count their numbers, slay them one by one and spare none.”

He held a similar disdain and deep-seated hatred of Europeans. That Al-Qaradawi was an Islamic supremacist with a total disregard for European civilization and culture could be gauged from one of his lectures on Qatar TV in 2007.

“I think that Islam will conquer Europe without resorting to the sword or fighting. Europe is miserable with materialism, with the philosophy of promiscuity and with the immoral considerations that rule the world — considerations of self-interest and self-indulgence,” he said.

“It’s high time (Europe) woke up and found a way out from this, and it won’t find a lifesaver or a lifeboat other than Islam.”

On his show in 2013, Al-Qaradawi blasted Muslim countries as weak, and called on citizens to overthrow their governments and launch a war against all who oppose the Brotherhood, describing them as “khawarij” (enemies of Islam).

Many intellectuals and commentators in the Arab world viewed his lectures as dangerous regurgitation of Islamist dogma out of touch with the modern world.

Even though mass protests overthrew Mubarak’s successor Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood loyalist, some Sudanese Islamists protested the death sentence handed out to him by an Egyptian court. (AFP)

When an uprising began in Egypt against the rule of long-time President Hosni Mubarak, Al-Qaradawi supported the protesters in his TV broadcasts and issued an edict forbidding security personnel from opening fire on them.

AL-QARADAWI BIO

Name: Yusuf Al-Qaradawi

Nationality: Egyptian-born Qatari citizen

Occupation: Spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood; head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research; co-founder of IslamOnline.net

Legal status: Banned from Egypt since 1997; sentenced to death in absentia in 2015; on the terror list of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain

Media: Hosted his own show on Al Jazeera Arabic, “Ash-Shariah wal-Hayat” (“Shariah and Life”); appearances on Al-Hayat TV, BBC Arabic, Palestinian Authority TV, Al-Faraeen TV, Al-Hiwar TV; more than 4 million Twitter and Facebook followers combined

Upon his return to Egypt in 2011, he began to lead Friday prayers for hundreds of thousands of people in Tahrir Square a week after Mubarak’s resignation.

“Don’t let anyone steal this revolution from you — those hypocrites who will put on a new face that suits them,” he told the crowd.

After long-time Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned, Al-Qaradawi led sermons before hundreds of thousands of people spreading his ideas and believes. Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 but was cleared by a higher court in 2014. (AFP) 

However, Al-Qaradawi was forced again into exile in 2013 when the military overthrew Mubarak’s successor Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood loyalist, following mass protests against his policies.

Al-Qaradawi condemned what he described as a “coup” and appealed to all groups in Egypt to restore Morsi to what he called his “legitimate post.”

Al-Qaradawi was sentenced to death in absentia by an Egyptian court in 2015 alongside other Brotherhood leaders.


Iran security forces clash with protesters over Amini’s death

Iran security forces clash with  protesters over Amini’s death
Updated 27 September 2022

Iran security forces clash with protesters over Amini’s death

Iran security forces clash with  protesters over Amini’s death
  • Twitter videos show protesters chanting ‘Death to the dictator,’ a reference to Khamenei

DUBAI: Iranian riot police and security forces clashed with demonstrators in dozens of cities on Tuesday, state media and social media said, amid continuing protests against the death of young Iranian woman Mahsa Amini in police custody.

Amini, 22, from the Iranian Kurdish city of Saqez, was arrested this month in Tehran for “unsuitable attire” by the morality police who enforce the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

Her death has sparked the first big show of opposition on Iran’s streets since authorities crushed protests against a rise in gasoline prices in 2019.

Despite a growing death toll and a fierce crackdown by authorities, videos posted on Twitter showed demonstrators calling for the fall of the clerical establishment while clashing with security forces in Tehran, Tabriz, Karaj, Qom, Yazd and many other Iranian cities.

State television said police clashed with what it called “rioters” in some cities and fired tear gas to disperse them.

Videos posted on social media from inside Iran showed protesters chanting, “Woman, Life, Liberty,” while women waved and burnt their veils.

Videos on Twitter showed protesters chanting “Death to the dictator,” a reference to Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj and Sardasht, riot police fired at protesters, videos on Twitter showed.

“I will kill those who killed my sister,” chants of protesters could be heard in one of the videos from Tehran, while activist Twitter account 1500tasvir said: “The streets have become battlefields.”

To make it difficult for protesters to post videos on social media, authorities have restricted internet access in several provinces, according to internet blockage observatory NetBlocks on Twitter and sources in Iran.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Iran’s clerical rulers to “fully respect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

In a statement, Ravina Shamdasani said that reports indicated “hundreds have also been arrested, including human rights defenders, lawyers, civil society activists and at least 18 journalists.”

“Thousands have joined anti-government demonstrations throughout the country over the past 11 days. Security forces have responded at times with live ammunition,” the statement said.

Officials said 41 people, including members of the police and a pro-government militia, had died during the protests. But Iranian human rights groups have reported a higher toll.

The Iranian human rights group Hengaw said “18 were killed, 898 people were injured and over 1,000 Kurdish protesters have been arrested in the last ten days,” estimating the figures to be higher.

“Between Monday and Friday, more than 70 women have been arrested in Iran’s Kurdistan ... at least four of them are under age 18,” Hengaw said on Tuesday.

Iran’s judiciary has set up special courts to try “rioters,” according to state media.

Social media posts, along with some activists, have called for a nationwide strike. Several university teachers, celebrities and prominent soccer players have supported the protests against Amini’s death, according to statements published by them on social media.

Students in several universities have refused to participate in classes, staging protests against the widespread arrest of students and forceful encounters with security forces in universities.

Amini’s death has drawn widespread international condemnation while Iran has blamed “thugs” linked to “foreign enemies” for stirring up unrest. Tehran has accused the United States and some European countries of using the unrest to try to destabilize the Islamic Republic.