Crossing of humiliation: Palestinian families lament travel delays, congestion

Palestinians traveling from and through Jordan to the West Bank via an Israeli crossing are experiencing long delays and overcrowding. (Supplied)
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Palestinians traveling from and through Jordan to the West Bank via an Israeli crossing are experiencing long delays and overcrowding. (Supplied)
Crossing of humiliation: Palestinian families lament travel delays, congestion
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Palestinians traveling from and through Jordan to the West Bank via an Israeli crossing are experiencing long delays and overcrowding. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 July 2022

Crossing of humiliation: Palestinian families lament travel delays, congestion

Crossing of humiliation: Palestinian families lament travel delays, congestion
  • Nearly 3.5 million Palestinians travel from the West Bank through Jordan in a year
  • Thousands of Palestinians who live abroad and have not been able to visit their families in the West Bank during the past three years due to COVID-19 restrictions have decided to travel this summer, adding pressure to the overcrowding

RAMALLAH: Palestinians traveling from and through Jordan to the West Bank via an Israeli crossing are experiencing long delays and overcrowding.

The Palestinians, who do not have an airport, are forced to travel through Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan.

Nearly 3.5 million Palestinians travel from the West Bank through Jordan in a year.

According to Palestinian sources, about 7,000 passengers cross daily from Jordan to the West Bank and from the West Bank through Jordan, reaching up to 10,000 passengers per day on holidays.

The crossings, which are controlled by Israeli authorities, open for 13 hours daily and for five hours on Fridays and Saturdays, contributing to the overcrowding.

Thousands of Palestinians who live abroad and have not been able to visit their families in the West Bank during the past three years due to COVID-19 restrictions have decided to travel this summer, adding pressure to the overcrowding.

The US and Morocco mediated with Israel to open the crossings around the clock, and Israel said it agreed but needed to prepare the logistics by the end of September. But Palestinian sources told Arab News that they had not yet received any notification about such a possibility.

Passenger anger was expressed on social media.

BACKGROUND

A senior official at the Palestinian General Administration for Borders and Crossings said that the Palestinian crossings were witnessing unprecedented overcrowding due to the holidays, the return of pilgrims, and the arrival of citizens after a three-year hiatus due to coronavirus.

Abu Adam Al-Khalili wrote on the King Hussein Bridge Facebook page on Friday: “The King Hussein Bridge problem is that there is no will to improve people's travel. The system that has existed for 30 years is the same.”

Bilal Abed wrote: “It is now 3 a.m., and there is heavy congestion on the Jordan Bridge departing to the West Bank. To those whose travel is not obligatory, please postpone your travel until tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.”

One of the passengers waiting on the Jordanian side reported on Facebook that the bridge, which links the Palestinian territories in Jordan, would receive passengers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, starting at the end of September. But, a short time later, Khadija Al-Ghorani replied: “The decision must be immediate and not for September because the crisis these days is stifling.”

A woman who identified herself as Um Moataz Mustafa wrote on Saturday morning: “We demand that the bridge be opened 24 hours to solve the overcrowding. Oh, officials, make things easy for travelers because they are humans, not animals. Travel to the North and South Poles is easier than passing over the bridge. Why, officials?”

The Jordanian side calls the bridge at its border crossing — 2 kilometers east of the Jordan River — the King Hussein Bridge.

The Israelis call their crossing — 500 meters west of the Jordan River — the Allenby Crossing.

But Palestinians call both of them the Dignity Crossing, a reference to a 1968 battle that saw the first armed military clash between Israel and Palestinian fighters and the Jordanian army. Israel occupied the West Bank the previous year.

Angry travelers said on social media that it was a crossing of humiliation, not dignity.

The King Hussein Bridge is located in the Jordan Valley, more than 300 meters below sea level.

The summer temperatures in that area peak at 45 degrees Celsius, with children, the elderly, and the sick suffering more while waiting for long hours in the blazing sun.

Ahmed Amer, one of the service drivers on the King Hussein Bridge, told Arab News that he had seen more than 2,000 passengers spending the night waiting in front of the bridge gate until 7 a.m. — its opening time — waiting to leave for the West Bank.

He added that the VIP crossing — where each passenger paid between an extra $110 to $200 to cross — was also crowded with 1,600 passengers.

Amer estimated the number of passengers crossing toward the West Bank daily as between 5,000 and 7,000.

“Hundreds of travelers have spent two nights sleeping in front of the bridge gate, waiting to be able to travel to the West Bank,” Amer told Arab News, noting that the temperature in that area reached 45 degrees Celsius in the middle of the day.

He said the morning hours were overcrowded as thousands tried to enter the West Bank.

A senior Palestinian official at the Palestinian General Administration for Borders and Crossings told Arab News that the Palestinian crossings were witnessing unprecedented overcrowding due to the holidays, the return of pilgrims, and the arrival of citizens after a three-year hiatus due to coronavirus.

He said the Palestinian side had made efforts with all relevant parties, meaning Jordan and Israel, to alleviate the problem and the severity of the crisis.

He added there was international interest from the US and Europe in facilitating the movement of Palestinian citizens through the crossings to and from Jordan.

Palestinian officials are aware of the passenger crisis and are trying to solve it quietly with their Jordanian counterparts, avoiding any media statement that could anger them.

A senior Palestinian official told Arab News that the Palestinian Authority's Foreign Affairs Minister Riad Malki had been tasked by the prime minister to contact the Jordanians to overcome the problem.


Oman calls during UN address for peace and progress in Yemen and Palestine

Oman calls during UN address for peace and progress in Yemen and Palestine
Updated 5 min 10 sec ago

Oman calls during UN address for peace and progress in Yemen and Palestine

Oman calls during UN address for peace and progress in Yemen and Palestine
  • All parties in Yemen must abide by Gulf Cooperation Initiative, said head of Omani UN delegation Mohammed Al-Hassan as he reaffirmed support for work of UN and US envoys
  • He also reiterated his country’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Palestinian crisis, describing it as ‘an urgent need and strategic necessity’

NEW YORK CITY: The head of the Omani delegation to the UN, Mohammed Al-Hassan, told the 77th session of the UN General Assembly on Monday that the sultanate “continues to spare no effort, through constructive cooperation with all parties, to achieve peace in brotherly Yemen.”

He appealed “to all Yemeni parties to come to terms with the painful past and focus on formulating a promising and a better future for the country that would preserve their unity, security and stability.”

Al-Hassan called on those involved in the conflict to abide by the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and all relevant UN resolutions. He added that the sultanate will continue to support the UN and US envoys to the country and appreciates “their endeavors to achieve lasting peace in Yemen through dialogue.”

He called on all Yemeni parties to formulate an approach to peace and the political process in the country that will “safeguard the sovereignty, independence, security and stability of Yemen.”

Oman will “continue to provide all possible facilities and humanitarian assistance to the various Yemeni regions and governorates without exception,” Al-Hassan said, to help end the “suffering of the Yemeni people.”

Shifting his focus to the Palestinian issue, the envoy reaffirmed his country’s commitment to a “two-state solution,” which he described as an “urgent need and a strategic necessity to achieve lasting peace, mutual trust and positive cooperation among all parties in the region.”

Al-Hassan said Oman is also taking an interest in developments in Libya, Syria and Sudan, and is hoping for security and stability in “these brotherly countries.”

Looking further afield, he said that “dialogue and negotiation” efforts must be redoubled as part of moves to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.

Turning to climate issues, Al-Hassan wished Egypt success when it hosts COP27, the UN Climate Change Conference, in November.

“Climate change is one of the most prominent issues of our time,” he added. “We are now facing a decisive moment. The world is in a real and difficult situation, a challenge that has wide-ranging effects, be it rising temperatures or catastrophic floods, which are all threatening the food security of many countries.”

Al-Hassan warned that these problems will become more costly to deal with unless the international community unites to address climate change. He said that Oman is launching several initiatives designed to mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce carbon emissions by “7 percent by 2030, in accordance with the UN climate agreement.”

He added: “We are moving toward achieving a neutrality of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Al-Hassan highlighted Oman’s green-energy sector and set out the sultanate’s green hydrogen aspirations. Referring to the National Alliance for Hydrogen, he noted that the country’s climate is favorable for the development of green hydrogen technology, with the efforts enhanced by the sultanate’s strategic geographical location.

Oman is currently developing the world’s largest green hydrogen plant, which is scheduled to commence operations in 2028 in Al-Wusta governorate.


Tunisia promises democratic reform in UN address

Tunisia promises democratic reform in UN address
Updated 18 sec ago

Tunisia promises democratic reform in UN address

Tunisia promises democratic reform in UN address
  • FM Othman Jerandi: ‘This is the will of the people’
  • Solutions to global crises ‘can only be developed through multilateral action’

LONDON:  Tunisia is working on democratic reforms through parliamentary elections in the wake of months of civil unrest, the country’s foreign minister told the UN General Assembly on Monday.

Othman Jerandi said Tunisia’s development goals remain in line with UN ambitions, describing the organization’s agenda as a “ray of hope” for the international community.

A key focus for the country is to restructure debt and create projects that will generate wealth, he added.

“Democracy for Tunisia is a national choice — one that it will not deviate from. We are working on a reform process through parliamentary elections,” said Jerandi.

“This is the will of the people of Tunisia, who are committed to preserving freedom, constitutional rights, rule of law and sovereignty. Tunisia is always on the side of our universal common principles.”

But he warned that amid spiraling global crises — including climate change, migration, food insecurity and natural disasters — each country “has its own challenges, own problems and own characteristics,” and that “one-size-fits-all models” are unfit for purpose.

Jerandi said it is “regrettable that millions of people around the world are being threatened with being left behind because of the imbalance in the international economic system and a lack of solidarity.”

He highlighted the urgency of energy and food crises felt worldwide, saying the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have exacerbated economic woes.

“This is a critical point in our common destiny and history. We must find transformative, radical solutions that allow us to overcome our circumstances and strengthen durability and resilience,” he added.

“Our peoples are watching us and wondering whether the international community will be able to find these transformative solutions, and whether they will show the required political will to overcome these global crises that continue to worsen.”

Jerandi described the process of finding solutions as a constant concern, adding that “at each (UN) session, new issues are added to those that remain.”

He said: “Crises must be addressed from the roots — if not, it is but a temporary solution. We must find new, just solutions as proposed in our common agenda.”

Jerandi listed a series of proposals to the UNGA, saying solutions “can only be developed through multilateral action and in the spirit of solidarity in coordination with the UN.”

He said: “There must be an economic model created that focuses on quality as opposed to the speed of growth — in particular through investment in modern technology and science.” He noted Tunisia’s hosting of a summit on digital development to achieve national goals.

He added: “It is time to move forward on debt management through new approaches. We must adapt the international monetary order and financial systems, which must be based on national specifics and national needs — in particular in developing countries and in Africa.

“These countries have not found the support they expected to overcome challenges and promote growth as well as achieve the (UN) SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

“Peoples must be able to regain the resources that have been stolen from them. Africa must achieve equal partnerships, equality and better development.”

Jerandi spoke about the Palestinian issue, which he said “requires the end of occupation and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

He added: “We must work to overcome disputes through peaceful means, end absurd conflicts and find solutions to just causes.

“We must move beyond analysis and toward actions. Our peoples no longer want to hear empty promises.”


Yemen president vows to open roads in Taiz, achieve peace 

Yemen president vows to open roads in Taiz, achieve peace 
Updated 43 min 54 sec ago

Yemen president vows to open roads in Taiz, achieve peace 

Yemen president vows to open roads in Taiz, achieve peace 
  • Al-Alimi says presidential council working collaboratively to address thorny issues such as paying salaries, revitalizing economy
  • Leader promises to visit liberated provinces to launch critical projects 

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, Rashad Al-Alimi, has vowed to use force or peaceful means to relieve the Houthi siege of Taiz, make further concessions to ease the country’s humanitarian crisis, and support any rebellion against the Houthis.

Speaking to Yemenis on the 60th anniversary of September Revolution Day on Sept. 26, the Yemeni leader said that the world is more persuaded than ever that the Houthis cannot bring about peace owing to their persistent resistance to requests to open highways in Taiz, violations of the truce, and military parades.

“The world is now more convinced than ever that this type of people cannot bring peace,” he said, adding that the Houthi oppressive rule and “racist” ideologies would spark a new revolution similar to the one against the imams in northern Yemen on Sept. 26, 1962.

“If there is one place in this era where a revolution is still needed, it is without a doubt our provinces, which are under the coercive authority of Houthi militias — a revolution for equal citizenship and justice, for the future that our people deserve.”

Al-Alimi promised to use the southern city of Aden as a base for assisting popular resistance against the Houthis, while also reiterating that his administration would uphold the cease-fire and cooperate with nonviolent efforts to end the war in Yemen.

“Our faith in you has never wavered, and we are confident that the renewed battle we are waging together will result in a bright future, beginning from the city of Aden and the liberated governorates.”

Houthis have repeatedly refused to end their siege of Taiz or cease their deadly attacks on government-controlled areas and have been mobilizing forces outside key cities since the UN-brokered truce came into effect on April 2.

Roads in Taiz, Al-Alimi said, will be opened by hook or by crook.

Despite Houthi violations of the truce, the Yemeni government allowed commercial flights from Sanaa airport to carry approximately 24,000 people and more than 50 fuel ships carrying over 1 million tons of fuel to enter Hodeidah port. The government also recently approved additional measures to expedite ship arrivals to Houthi territory.

“We will not hesitate to respond to any humanitarian appeal made by our oppressed people in militia-controlled areas,” Al-Alimi said.

Al-Alimi stated that the country’s eight-man presidential council is working collaboratively to address thorny issues such as paying salaries, fixing problems with basic services, and revitalizing the economy, promising to visit liberated provinces to launch critical projects.

“I have told you on numerous occasions that our choice is a success, that we always derive our confidence from your patience and awareness, and that despite the differences, this council is continuing to achieve your aspirations,” he said.

The revolution anniversary on Sunday and Monday sparked a flurry of celebratory activities, primarily in the besieged city of Taiz and the central city of Marib, where people lit torches, held parades in the streets, and raised Yemeni flags on their homes and public institutions. Smaller celebrations were held in Houthi-controlled areas, where people defied the Houthis by lighting fireworks and raising the Yemeni flag.

The Houthis usually pushed people to commemorate their Sept. 21 military coup anniversary and discouraged celebrations of the Sept. 26 revolution. 

The militia abducted dozens of people who were celebrating the anniversary of the revolution in Sanaa, Ibb, and Thamar on Sunday, according to local media reports and social media accounts.

Yemeni observers say that the increasing number of revolution celebrations in Houthi areas is a sign of the public’s growing dissatisfaction with the movement.

“I have never seen people celebrate the Sept. 26 anniversary of the revolution this way, including in Houthi-controlled areas,” Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst, told Arab News.

“I think it is a message to the Houthis that Yemenis will not accept going back to a theocracy or the version of the imamate that the Houthis are trying to build. It is a statement of resistance to and rejection of the Houthi rule,” she said.  


Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget

Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget
Updated 26 September 2022

Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget

Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget
  • Banks reopen to queues and security service patrols

BEIRUT: Lebanese army retirees scuffled with Parliament guards in Beirut during a rally on Monday amid anger over decimated monthly pay.

Hours after the protest, Parliament passed the 2022 budget, with 63 legislators voting in favor, 37 voting against and six abstaining.

The new budget will calculate customs tax revenue at 15,000 Lebanese pounds to the US dollar at a time when the black market rate is more than double that at 37,000 pounds to the dollar.

Since the country’s economic meltdown began three years ago, customs tax revenue has been calculated at the official rate of 1,500 pounds to the dollar.

According to the new budget, government expenditures stand at 40.9 trillion pounds ($1.1 billion) at the parallel market rate, while revenue stands at 30 trillion pounds.

The protesters, who appealed to the army chief to listen to their concerns, demanded that their salaries be tripled to account for the loss of purchasing value due to the economic crisis.

A stampede took place earlier as the army and Parliament guards were summoned to tackle the protesters.

The retirees — including military widows — were later able to break the security cordon in the face of what they described as their “military sons.”

Security personnel in charge of protecting Parliament used a tear gas grenade to prevent the protesters from reaching the stairs of the Parliament building.

MP Jamil Al-Sayed, a retired major general, walked out of the plenary session to address the protesters.

He was preceded by MP Cynthia Zarazir, from the Change Representatives bloc, who went out in solidarity with demonstrators.

“This police state is repressing protesters,” the MP shouted as she faced the stampede.

Some protesters sprawled on the ground to prevent attempts to remove them.

A small delegation of protesters, accompanied by Al-Sayed, entered one of the corridors of Parliament.

“The message from the protest has been received, and we don’t want to clash with our military colleagues,” said George Nader, a retired brigadier general.

Caretaker Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Maurice Selim left the Parliament hall to meet retired soldiers in Najma Square.

He told them that it had been decided that salaries would be tripled.

The detailed calculations will be handled by specialized agencies in the Ministry of Finance, the minister said.

MP Sami Gemayel warned that increasing salaries would lead to more currency printing, higher inflation, and consequently, a decrease in purchasing power.

Gemayel called for more focus on carrying out reforms and bringing more US dollars into the country.

Independent MP Michel Moawad described the budget as a “crime against the Lebanese” since it was being discussed without balancing the accounts, which meant a “new escape from accountability.”

MP Ibrahim Kanaan objected to figures sent by the Ministry of Finance for the customs dollar to be based on the exchange rate of the dollar at a value of 15,000 Lebanese pounds.

Director-General of Parliament Financial Affairs Dr. Ahmad Al-Laqis, an academic specializing in budgets and taxes, told Arab News: “It is the least possible budget. It is required by the International Monetary Fund. All objections are for political purposes.”

Al-Laqis added that the budget is only relevant for the remaining three months of the year.

As of next year, there will be general financial regulation, and the solutions required to resolve the economic crisis can be included in the draft 2023 budget as the state sets its economic plan, the official said.

The increase in retired military personnel salaries will be three times the basic salary, and will not include the benefits they receive, Al-Laqis said.

Meanwhile, Lebanese banks, which reopened their doors to customers after a week-long closure, witnessed crowding in front of their doors by employees and military personnel, who flocked to complete transactions and withdrawals.

The Association of Banks has adopted new procedures for receiving customers, including the need for appointments.

Some operations, including cash withdrawals and deposits related to transfers, can be completed through ATM exchange platforms.

Lebanese security services patrolled around bank branches during the reopening.

The banks, which initially resorted to opening a few branches to customers, took strict security measures to prevent a recurrence of the holdups carried out two weeks ago by angry depositors.

Some depositors had used weapons and incendiary devices to threaten employees in order to obtain their dollar deposits, which have been frozen since a decision by the Banque du Liban in 2019.


Why Mahsa Amini’s death will deepen the alienation of Iran’s secular Kurdish minority

Why Mahsa Amini’s death will deepen the alienation of Iran’s secular Kurdish minority
Updated 34 min ago

Why Mahsa Amini’s death will deepen the alienation of Iran’s secular Kurdish minority

Why Mahsa Amini’s death will deepen the alienation of Iran’s secular Kurdish minority
  • Ethnic group that champions gender equality was already a misfit in the authoritarian theocracy
  • Kurds have known the heavy hand of the security state since the Islamic Revolution of 1979

LONDON: Since the death of Mahsa Amini after being taken into custody by Iran’s notorious morality police, protests have raged in cities across the Islamic Republic, beginning in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan.

Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurdish woman, died on Sept. 16, three days after she was arrested in Tehran by the Gasht-e Ershad, the regime’s vice squad, which enforces strict rules on women’s dress, including the hijab.

Her death has highlighted the oppression and marginalization of women in Iran. It has also cast a light on the ill-treatment of the country’s non-Persian ethnic minorities, particularly its substantial Kurdish population, concentrated in the west of the country.

In turn, this has highlighted the contrasting treatment of women in other areas of the Middle East in which Kurds make up a majority of the local population — in northern Iraq, southeast Turkey and northern Syria — where women are prominent in both civic and military life.

On Sept. 24, a protest was held in solidarity with the women of Iran outside the UN compound in Irbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq. Many of those who took part were Iranian Kurds living in self-imposed exile in a city known for its culture of tolerance.

Kurdish opposition groups have consistently fought for an alternative vision for society. (AFP)

Bearing placards with Amini’s face, the protesters chanted “women, life, freedom,” and “death to the dictator,” in reference to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“They killed (Amini) because of a piece of hair coming out from her hijab. The youth are asking for freedom. They are asking for rights for all the people because everyone has the right to have dignity and freedom,” one protester Namam Ismaili, an Iranian Kurd from Sardasht, a Kurdish town in Iran’s northwest, told Reuters.

“We are not against religion, and we are not against Islam. We are secularists, and we want religion to be separate from politics,” Maysoon Majidi, a Kurdish Iranian actor and director living in Irbil, told the news agency.

Last week, Masoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan’s governing party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, called Amini’s family to express his condolences, saying he hoped justice would be served.

Kurdish political identity throughout the region and among the community’s large European diaspora embraces secularist, nationalist and even socialist traditions. In the case of Iran’s Kurds, this frequently puts them at odds with the country’s theocratic regime.

On Sept. 23, the Kurdish-majority town of Oshnavieh in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province briefly fell into the hands of protesters, who set fire to government offices, banks, and a base belonging to the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Amini’s death has highlighted the oppression and marginalization of women in Iran. (AFP)

In response, the IRGC shelled the offices of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups based in Sidakan in Iraq, accusing the Kurdish parties of inciting “chaos.”

Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, said the shelling targeted the offices of Komala and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran for allegedly sending “armed teams and a large amount of weapons … to the border cities of the country to cause chaos.”

The KDPI is a Kurdish opposition party that has waged an on-and-off armed campaign against the regime since the Islamic Revolution. Komala, meanwhile, is a leftist Kurdish armed opposition party, which fights for the rights of Kurds in Iran.

Although Iran’s constitution grants ethnic minorities equal rights, allowing them to use their own language and practice their own traditions, the Kurds, Ahwazi Arabs, Baloch, and other groups say they are treated as second class citizens — their resources extracted, their towns starved of investment, and their communities aggressively policed.

Kurdish opposition groups in Iran have fought for decades to obtain greater political and cultural rights for their communities, which are spread across a part of the country known to Kurds as Rojhelat — or Eastern Kurdistan.

This nationalist spirit has often meant women’s emancipation has been viewed as a secondary concern against the overarching fight for Kurdish nationhood, especially in the case of Iraqi Kurdish leaders, who have long drawn their support from traditional tribal structures.

However, elsewhere in the region, Kurdish opposition groups have consistently fought for an alternative vision for society — one that is based on democratic values and on the equal status of women.

Nowhere is this perhaps more obvious than in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, where the political arm of the US-allied Syria Democratic Forces has established a self-governing polity known to Kurds as Rojava — or Western Kurdistan.

On Friday, Mazloum Abdi, commander in chief of the SDF, condemned the killing of Amini, describing it as a “moral failure” of the ruling authorities in Iran.

He also expressed solidarity with the protests in Iran via Twitter, saying: “The Kurdish and women’s issues must be resolved in appropriate ways.”

On Friday, Mazloum Abdi, commander in chief of the SDF, condemned the killing of Amini, describing it as a “moral failure” of the ruling authorities in Iran. (AFP)

In Rojava, Kurdish women fighting in guerrilla brigades against Daesh have achieved iconic status — especially the Women’s Protection Units, or YPJ, the all-women brigades of the People’s Protection Units.

These YPJ fighters won global acclaim in 2014 for their role in the liberation of the Kurdish-majority city of Kobane in northern Syria from an extremist group whose warped interpretation of Islam would have seen them enslaved.

Soon after their victory, images of young, unveiled, mostly Kurdish YPJ fighters appeared on magazine covers and in newspapers around the world, demolishing many prevailing stereotypes in the West about Middle Eastern women as passive victims.

Within the AANES, there are now several women-only organizations, while in the areas of Syria under YPJ control, child marriage has been abolished, the practice of men taking multiple wives outlawed, and domestic abuse treated with the utmost severity.

The focus on women has also led to a policy called the “co-chair” system, whereby all positions of authority are held by both a man and a woman with equal collaborative power. As a result, women in Kurdish areas of Syria hold 50 percent of official positions.

A similar model is employed by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party in Turkey and among the ranks of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, inspired by the values of its jailed founder Abdullah Ocalan.

Although honor killings and female genital mutilation have remained all too common in parts of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, women’s political participation and leadership has improved greatly in recent years, with the role of speaker in the Kurdistan parliament twice being held by a woman.
 

Kurds, Ahwazi Arabs, Baloch, and other groups say they are treated as second class citizens in Iran. (AFP)

In 2018, the Kurdistan Regional Government raised its gender quota in Parliament from 25 percent to 30 percent, so that 34 out of 111 sitting MPs are now women.

The Daesh attack on Yazidi women in Sinjar in Aug. 2014 also encouraged more Kurdish women to join the frontline war effort, challenging their victim role in warfare and broadening their identity from being mere caregivers to protectors.

This brought forward changes in Kurdish society concerning women’s roles and identities, making it easier for women to join the Peshmerga — the armed forces of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Despite the region’s recent achievements, Iraqi Kurdish women’s campaigner Sherri Talabany reported during the MERI Forum 2019 that women still face high rates of domestic violence and a low share in the labor market of just 14 percent.

Kurdish opposition groups in Iran have fought for decades to obtain greater political and cultural rights for their communities. (AFP)

Meanwhile, only three representatives in the 23-member Iraqi Cabinet are women, and only one in the KRG cabinet of 21 ministers.

But the picture is far bleaker in Iran, where female labor force participation reached just 17.54 percent in 2019, compared with the global average of 47.70 percent, giving Iran one of the lowest levels of labor force female participation in the world.

Women in Iran also face restrictions in reaching managerial and decision-making positions in the public and private sectors. In addition, owing to Western sanctions, erratic economic policies and the COVID-19 pandemic, Iran’s economy has shrunk in recent years, affecting women’s employment opportunities.

What the protests sweeping Iran in response to Amini’s death appear to show is a general rejection of the maltreatment of women and ethnic minorities, frustration over the economic situation, and outrage at the heavy-handed ways of the morality police.

Some Iranians who cross into Iraqi Kurdistan for work or to see relatives have told AFP that while Amini’s death was a trigger, the long-running economic crisis and the climate of repression fed into the explosion of anger.

“The difficult economic situation in Iran … the repression of freedoms, particularly those of women, and the rights of the Iranian people led to an implosion of the situation,” Azad Husseini, an Iranian Kurd who now works as a carpenter in Iraq, told the news agency.

“I don’t think the protests in Iranian cities are going to end anytime soon.”