Thousands in Khartoum rally against military rule, authorities fire teargas

Update Thousands in Khartoum rally against military rule, authorities fire teargas
The protests come on the anniversary of a previous coup in 1989, which toppled the country’s last elected civilian government and ushered in three decades of iron-fisted rule by general Omar Al-Bashir. (File/AFP)
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Updated 01 July 2022

Thousands in Khartoum rally against military rule, authorities fire teargas

Thousands in Khartoum rally against military rule, authorities fire teargas
  • Pro-democracy medics said one demonstrator was shot dead “by a bullet in the chest” Wednesday night
  • Troops and police blocked off roads leading to both army headquarters and the presidential palace

KHARTOUM: Security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades as thousands of anti-coup protesters took to the streets of the Sudanese capital Khartoum and its suburbs Thursday demanding an end to military rule, AFP correspondents said.
“Down with Burhan’s rule,” protesters chanted in north Khartoum, urging the reversal of an October military coup by army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan that prompted foreign governments to slash aid, deepening a chronic economic crisis.
“Even if we die, the military will not rule us,” they cried.
Pro-democracy medics said one demonstrator was shot dead “by a bullet in the chest” Wednesday night, in small-scale protests in the run-up to the main rallies.
More than 100 people have been killed in protest-related violence, according to UN figures, as the military has cracked down on the anti-coup movement over the past eight months.
An AFP correspondent said Internet and phone lines had been disrupted since the early hours of Thursday, a measure the Sudanese authorities often impose to prevent mass gatherings.
Security was tight in Khartoum despite the recent lifting of a state of emergency imposed after the coup.
Troops and police blocked off roads leading to both army headquarters and the presidential palace, witnesses said.
Shops around the capital were largely shuttered.
Activists have been calling for “million-strong” rallies.
UN special representative Volker Perthes said Thursday that “violence needs to end,” while the US embassy in Khartoum urged restraint and “the protection of civilians so that no more lives are lost.”

Sudan’s foreign ministry has repeatedly criticized the UN envoy’s comments, saying they were built on “assumptions” and “contradict his role as facilitator” in troubled talks on ending Sudan’s political crisis.
The latest protests come on the anniversary of a previous coup in 1989 that toppled the country’s last elected civilian government and ushered in three decades of iron-fisted rule by Islamist-backed general Omar Al-Bashir.
They also come on the anniversary of 2019 protests demanding that the generals, who had ousted Bashir in a palace coup earlier that year, cede power to civilians.
Those protests led to the formation of the mixed civilian-military transitional government which was toppled in last year’s coup.
Sudan has been roiled by near-weekly protests as the country’s economic woes have deepened since Burhan seized power last year.
“June 30 is our way to bring down the coup and block the path of any fake alternatives,” said the Forces for Freedom and Change, an alliance of civilian groups whose leaders were ousted in the coup.
Alongside the African Union and east African bloc IGAD, the United Nations has been attempting to broker talks between the generals and civilians, but they have been boycotted by all the main civilian factions.
The UN has warned that the deepening economic and political crisis has pushed one third of the country’s population of more than 40 million toward life-threatening food shortages.


British team to retrace steps of epic Philby trek across Saudi Arabia

British team to retrace steps of epic Philby trek across Saudi Arabia
Updated 27 sec ago

British team to retrace steps of epic Philby trek across Saudi Arabia

British team to retrace steps of epic Philby trek across Saudi Arabia
  • Explorer’s 1,300 km journey a century ago led to lifelong friendship with Ibn Saud, Kingdom’s first ruler
  • The expedition was launched by the UK’s Princess Anne, and the team includes Philby’s granddaughter

LONDON: An Arabian desert expedition aims to retrace the steps of a famous journey by a British explorer who served as an adviser to the first ruler of Saudi Arabia.

The planned 1,300-km Heart of Arabia coast-to-coast trek across the peninsula was launched by Anne, Princess Royal of the UK, on Wednesday. It was her first public engagement since the death this month of her mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

The expedition will honor the undertaking and achievement of adventurer, Arabist and intelligence officer Harry St. John Philby, who traveled from the Gulf coast village of Al-Uqair to Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast, on a mission in support of Ibn Saud, the Kingdom’s first ruler.

The Heart of Arabia journey will set off in November, a century after Philby’s crossing. It is led by veteran British explorer Mark Evans and the team, which will travel by foot and on camels, includes Philby’s Saudi granddaughter, Reem.

After reaching Riyadh they will travel west on the final stage to Jeddah, which is likely to present the greatest challenge because of harsh winds and rough terrain, including sand and loose rock.

Philby was sent to Arabia during the First World War to assist T. E. Lawrence as part of the British efforts to foment an Arab uprising against the Ottoman Empire, which at the time stretched across the Red Sea side of the Arabian Peninsula all the way to Yemen.

His journey led to groundbreaking cartographic and natural discoveries, and resulted in significant changes to the political landscape of the Middle East.

Philby, who would later reside in Riyadh, developed a close relationship with Ibn Saud, who at the time was a significant tribal leader. Philby adopted local dress and customs, and converted to Islam, which helped him play a key role in the events that led to the Arab Revolt and the creation of Saudi Arabia.

Evans said of Philby: “He is considered by many as one of the greatest early explorers of Arabia. He not only set out across uncharted land but took time to record everything he saw.”

Reem Philby said that she is drawn to “the stillness and constant movement of the desert at the same time.”

She added: “Just observing how nature controls everything in harmony and how we are the ones that have to adapt, makes one very humble.”

Princess Anne said: “How did people live in the environment that he crossed? What was different about it? And actually, what’s perhaps even more important in modern terms, is to understand how much has changed compared to what existed before.”

The Arabian landscape has long attracted interested intrepid Britons, including explorer and writer Wilfred Thesiger, who commended the tribes he encountered during his crossing of the Kingdom’s Empty Quarter for their loyalty and generosity.
 


Hajj, Umrah e-services app undergoes update, name change

Hajj, Umrah e-services app undergoes update, name change
Updated 17 min 35 sec ago

Hajj, Umrah e-services app undergoes update, name change

Hajj, Umrah e-services app undergoes update, name change

MAKKAH: Hajj and Umrah government officials have alerted pilgrims around the world about an important update and name change to a key services and permits app for the Two Holy Mosques.

Launching the newly named Nusuk app, an update on the Eatmarna platform, Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said visitors and worshippers would be able to access a range of e-services including applying for a visa and booking hotels and flights.

Hajj and Umrah services adviser, Ahmed Saleh Halabi, told Arab News: “During the past few years, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has been keen to switch to the e-government system to add ease to the experience of pilgrims and visitors. As such, their experience will be forever remembered as an enriched religious journey.”

He pointed out that the portal allowed users to select from a list of service packages.

“The program will provide the pilgrims with a cultural and religious journey, while reflecting the bright and civilized side of the Kingdom in the Two Holy Mosques,” he added.

The platform has been designed to provide services and information to help worshippers perform rituals with ease and is part of the Saudi Vision 2030 objectives to improve service offerings and the quality of religious experience.

Ahmed Bajaiffer, an investor in Umrah companies, said: “Nusuk is the representation of the strong will of the Kingdom’s leaders and their loyalty toward Muslims, citizens, and residents.”

Nusuk has been launched in cooperation with the Saudi Tourism Authority and is linked to the services provided by the Kingdom’s official tourism website, Visit Saudi Arabia.

Head of the World Hajj and Umrah Convention, Mohsin Tutla, told Arab News: “What Nusuk has developed resonates with the World Hajj and Umrah Care Foundation’s vision toward enhancing the pilgrim’s experience.

“When traveling to a foreign country, visitors may often feel anxiety or even fear; for many, Arabic is not their first language, and trying to make sense of the cultural practices of a new country at times can be difficult.”

Via the nusuk.sa platform, Hajj and Umrah performers can receive visit or Umrah visas with the option to buy a service package and pay electronically.

“The launch of this service sends a strong message with it: We are listening, we are caring, and we will provide the solutions to continually enrich your experience, and we do it with passion, as the Kingdom sees serving pilgrims as a privilege and obligation,” Tutla added.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, more than 21.5 million Umrah and Hajj performers had registered with the Eatmarna app since its launch, and it has issued 6.4 million permits to visit and pray at Al-Rawdah Al-Sharifah at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.


Netflix launches ‘New Saudi Voices’ collection to celebrate Saudi filmmakers

Netflix launches ‘New Saudi Voices’ collection to celebrate Saudi filmmakers
Updated 21 min 43 sec ago

Netflix launches ‘New Saudi Voices’ collection to celebrate Saudi filmmakers

Netflix launches ‘New Saudi Voices’ collection to celebrate Saudi filmmakers
  • 11 films will celebrate creativity and talent of emerging figures in the Kingdom

DUBAI: Netflix is releasing a collection titled “New Saudi Voices” consisting of 11 specially curated short films to celebrate the creativity of emerging Saudi filmmakers.

The collection comprises movies across genres including horror, fantasy and animation, in an attempt to capture the full scope of Saudi filmmakers’ creativity and talent.

The 11 films are part of the New Saudi/New Cinema Shorts showcased at the Red Sea Film Festival last year and encapsulate the work of some of the most promising new voices in the Kingdom.

The films include Mohamed Basalamah’s “Hallucinated,” which tells the story of a delivery worker who suffers from worsening insomnia until the line blurs between his reality and hallucinations; and Rami Alzayer’s “The Day I Lost Myself,” which explores how a young man with anxiety finds himself stuck in an elevator on his way to an interview.

Documentaries like “Arufea” by Abbas Alshuwayfie offer a peek into an old Saudi neighborhood, and Omar Al-Omirat’s “Covida the 19th” explores lifestyle changes post-pandemic.

The collection also includes an animated short called “Whisper Down the Lane” by Raghad Albarqi, “The Jakar” by Abdulaziz Saleh, “The Palm Witch” by Hala Alhaid, “Hide and Seek” by Mohammad Helal, “Red Circle” by Abdulaziz Sarhan and “Little Bird” by Khalid Fahad.

Nuha El-Tayeb, director of content acquisitions, Netflix, MENA and Turkey, said: “We’re very excited to amplify the voices of up-and-coming filmmakers in Saudi Arabia through this collection. There’s incredible talent in the Kingdom, and they have unique stories to tell. We hope that as people tune into the films, they learn more about these creators, and catch a glimpse of their passion, originality and creativity, as we have.”

It is not the first time that Netflix has shined the spotlight on Saudi cinema. Earlier this year, the company launched a specially curated collection of 21 Arab films, “Because She Created,” featuring movies from filmmakers across Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt and more.

At the time, El-Tayeb told Arab News: “There’s incredible talent in Saudi Arabia. The entertainment landscape is rapidly evolving and Saudi women — like other women from the Arab world and globally — have beautiful, complex and layered stories to tell.”

The streaming giant has also worked with writer and director Hana Al-Omair on “Whispers,” an eight-part psychological thriller, as well as with Haifaa Al-Mansour on “Wadjda,” the first feature film made by a female Saudi director.

The “New Saudi Voices” collection will be available on Netflix on Sept. 29.


Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day

Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day
Updated 50 min 48 sec ago

Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day

Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day
  • Metaverse will shape new digital future for humanity, says Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Dubai crown prince
  • Over 500 professionals and 40 organizations specialized in metaverse and digital tech taking part in the event

DUBAI: Hundreds of global experts and policymakers, and leading global organizations specialized in metaverse and digital technologies attended the first day of the inaugural Dubai Metaverse Assembly on Wednesday.
Present at the inauguration, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, said the metaverse will shape a new digital future for humanity, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
The two-day Dubai Metaverse Assembly is being organized by the Dubai Future Foundation.
Over 500 professionals and more than 40 leading organizations specialized in metaverse and digital technologies are taking part in the event.
WAM said that more 20,000 people attended on Wednesday, using both virtual platforms and metaverse technologies.
Sheikh Hamdan said Dubai is emerging as a major contributor to shaping a new global vision for advanced technology and a pioneer in adopting next-generation digital innovation.
“We are constantly working to foster the development of technological tools and applications to raise the community’s quality of life. In the coming years, the metaverse will shape a new digital future for humanity and Dubai will consolidate its status as a testbed for innovation in this emerging technology.”
Dubai will always welcome innovators and experts to explore and design the future of the metaverse and explore its potential, he said.
“Through the Dubai Metaverse Assembly, we aim to provide a global platform for the metaverse community to discuss new opportunities emerging from this new technology and promote knowledge-sharing and partnerships between entrepreneurs and innovators. We also look forward to discussing how the metaverse can generate solutions for some of the world’s most critical challenges,” Sheikh Hamdan said.
Sheikh Hamdan, who is also DFF’s chairman of the board of trustees, met with officials from around the globe and visited activations installed by the event’s partners to showcase experiences from the metaverse.
Meanwhile the UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Teleworking Applications, Omar bin Sultan Al-Olama, delivered a speech in which he outlined the goals of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy and the key initiatives to strengthen Dubai’s position in the digital sector.
“Over the next 50 years, we will work to turn challenges into opportunities and build a digital, knowledge-driven economy. With world-class infrastructure, talent and bold leadership, Dubai can become the beating heart of the metaverse economy and an epicenter for its growing community,” Al-Olama said.
The event hosts more than 25 sessions and workshops at the Museum of the Future and AREA 2071, DFF’s innovation ecosystem, located at the Emirates Towers.
 


Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president
Updated 28 September 2022

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president
  • Nabih Berri’s announcement comes weeks before Michel Aoun is due to leave office
  • Parliament also contains 30 independents and reformists, meaning no bloc enjoys an absolute majority

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament speaker has called a Thursday session to elect a new president, despite a political deadlock caused by a splintered chamber failing to agree on a candidate.
Nabih Berri’s announcement comes weeks before Michel Aoun is due to leave office, and as rival parliamentary blocs refuse to nominate or even discuss who should replace him.
Lebanon’s Parliament of 128 MPs contains two main blocs after elections earlier this year: The Hezbollah-aligned March 8 Alliance with 60 MPs, and their opponents, the March 14 Alliance with 38.
Parliament also contains 30 independents and reformists, meaning no bloc enjoys an absolute majority. As a result, a new president must have cross-bench support.
Ali Darwich, a former MP, said the announcement by Berri, whose Amal Movement is part of March 8, is intended “to hold everyone accountable.”
He said: “We hope that the session leads to the election of a president, but tomorrow’s scene will reveal that an agreement on the new president’s identity has yet to be reached.”
Consultations among parliamentary blocs have intensified since Berri’s announcement, with sources suggesting that many have agreed to attend the session.
Melhem Khalaf, a member of the 13-member Forces for Change opposition bloc, said Berri had “fulfilled his constitutional duty by urging deputies to carry out their responsibilities and avoid a presidential vacuum,” and “as reformists, we will be the first to attend.”
His alliance has however not nominated a candidate. Instead, it has issued a set of standards for Aoun’s replacement: “Lebanese-made, a savior chosen from outside the corrupted system that contributed to the destruction of the country.”
Under the constitution, which divides power between the country’s religions, any Maronite Lebanese can run for the presidency.
The most prominent candidates are usually the leaders of Christian parties, such as former deputy Suleiman Franjieh, the leader of the Marada Movement and an ally of the Syrian regime; Gibran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement and an ally of Hezbollah; and the head of the Lebanese Forces Party, Samir Geagea. However, none enjoy majority support in parliament.
The names that were reported on Wednesday to have received some support include Lebanon’s ambassador to the Vatican since 2018, Farid Elias Al-Khazen; former MP Salah Hanin; Michel Moawad, the son of former President Rene Moawad; and independent Neamat Ifram, an MP and businessman formerly of the Free Patriotic Movement.
Other tips for candidacy include Damianos Kattar and Jihad Azour, both former finance ministers; banker Samir Assaf; and Ziad Baroud and Marwan Charbel, both former interior ministers.
The Lebanese president is elected by secret ballot. Candidates must gain a two-thirds majority of the 128 MPs in the first round of voting to be elected outright.
A candidate with a simple majority of 65 votes can be declared the winner if further rounds are required.