Gaza’s women and girls see no escape from violence

Palestinians Suleiman and Nazmiya Baraka show a picture of their slain daughter Istabraq Baraka, who was killed by her husband last year, on June 27, 2022 in their home, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Palestinians Suleiman and Nazmiya Baraka show a picture of their slain daughter Istabraq Baraka, who was killed by her husband last year, on June 27, 2022 in their home, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Updated 24 July 2022

Gaza’s women and girls see no escape from violence

Gaza’s women and girls see no escape from violence
  • Fifteen years since the Israeli-led blockade of Gaza began, it is almost impossible for women fleeing violence to leave the Palestinian enclave
  • UN Women said the situation worsened at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, which resulted in the "lockdown of survivors of violence with their abusers"

ABASSAN, Palestinian Territories: Seventeen-year-old Istabraq Baraka fell pregnant soon after her wedding in the Gaza Strip. Three months later her husband killed her.
“She died from a severe beating, which caused bleeding on the brain and lungs and broken ribs,” said her mother Nazmiya.
Sitting with her husband Suleiman in a garden in Abassan, near the city of Khan Yunis in the south of the Palestinian territory, the 53-year-old talks at lightning speed about last year’s killing of one of her two daughters, as well as the loss of an unborn grandchild.




Sitting with her husband Suleiman in their garden in the south of the Gaza Strip, Nazmiya Baraka talks about last year's killing of her pregnant 17-year old daughter. (AFP)

Istabraq’s father wipes tears away with the corner of a red-and-white keffiyeh wrapped around his head.
He laments the slow pace of legal proceedings since his daughter’s husband handed himself in to the police shortly after the killing.
“The perpetrator admitted his crime, a year and a month until now and nothing’s happened,” said the 70-year-old.
Femicide is on the rise in Gaza, according to figures from the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling, a Palestinian civil society group.
The organization registered six killings and suspicious deaths related to domestic violence in 2019, a figure which rose to 19 the following year.
UN Women said the situation worsened at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, which resulted in the “lockdown of survivors of violence with their abusers.”
Ayah Alwakil, a lawyer from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said women can consider violence from their husbands normal behavior in Gaza’s patriarchal society, which has been controlled by the Hamas Islamist group since 2007.
“Some women don’t know their rights and some others are afraid of going to court, for lack of family support,” she added.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said 38 percent of women in Gaza faced physical or psychological violence from their husbands in 2019, but Alwakil estimated the true figure to be far higher.

Men convicted of killing their wives can be jailed or face the death penalty. But the sentence is reduced if they commit a so-called “honor killing,” in which a relative is murdered because they are deemed to have brought shame to the family.
UN Women says such “outdated and discriminatory laws” impede justice.
Additionally, those seeking to escape domestic violence risk losing their children.
If a wife obtains a divorce, custody passes to the ex-husband once a daughter turns 11 or a son reaches nine.
Noha Khaziq, 31, stayed with her abusive husband because they had four children.
He killed her in February.
“Her husband tied her up and left her at home so that she couldn’t escape and get out. When he returned she was dead,” said her brother Abdelaziz, who shares his sister’s green eyes.
“We feel satisfied with the death sentence ruling against the husband, five months after the heinous crime, but we demand the sentence be enforced quickly,” said the 28-year-old.
The Khaziq family has not seen Noha’s children since she was killed, because custody was granted to their father’s relatives.

Fifteen years since the Israeli-led blockade of Gaza began, it is almost impossible for women fleeing violence to leave the Palestinian enclave.
In a territory home to 2.3 million residents, around 40 women are staying in only two specialized refuges.
When AFP visited one of them, a woman with bruises covering one side of her face sat in a corner. She was about to return to her husband, rather than risk losing access to her children.
“The law is not on women’s side all the time in the Gaza Strip,” said Aziza Elkahlout, a spokeswoman for the social development ministry which runs one of the refuges.
“We thought of opening the safe house because of the injustice women are exposed to,” she added, blaming the Israeli blockade for Gaza’s dire living conditions.
But such reasoning is inadequate for Suleiman Baraka, who says the authorities are partly responsible for his daughter’s killing.
“The government helps the offender because it doesn’t take any immediate decisions,” said Istabraq’s father.
He is reminded of his daughter every time he reaches for his phone, whose screen shows a photo of him with his two girls.
More than a year since Istabraq was killed, he warned that delays in reaching justice only “encourage criminals.”


Jordan ranks eighth regionally as it moves up UN E-Government Survey

Jordan ranks eighth regionally as it moves up UN E-Government Survey
Updated 25 sec ago

Jordan ranks eighth regionally as it moves up UN E-Government Survey

Jordan ranks eighth regionally as it moves up UN E-Government Survey
  • Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship said survey included 193 countries in total
  • The kingdom ranked 74th internationally in 2022 report, compared to 143rd in 2020 report

AMMAN: Jordan has made a major leap of two levels to rank in eighth place regionally on the UN 2022 E-Government Survey.
According to the biannual survey issued by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Jordan made remarkable progress, moving up two ranks regionally and 17 ranks to 100th place globally, said the Jordan News Agency, or Petra.
In a statement published on Petra, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship said the survey included 193 countries in total. The report includes one main indicator, the development of e-government, which has three sub-indicators: online services, communications infrastructure and human resources.
Jordan ranked 74th internationally in the 2022 report, compared to 143rd in the 2020 report on the online services sub-indicator. The kingdom also ranked 125th compared to 100th on the communications infrastructure sub-indicator and 108th compared to 115th on the human resources sub-indicator.
The ministry said the decline in the communications infrastructure sub-indicator was driven by a delay in launching 5G technology, the slow-paced installation of fiber-optic Internet services and the process of reviewing subscriptions for telecommunications services.
Meanwhile, Jordan achieved 40 percent progress in the Open Government Data Index, developed in the 2020 report, from 0.5729 to 0.7915 in absolute numbers, added the ministry.
The UN E-Government Survey reviews the rate of digital transformation in UN member states and addresses the various programs that utilize information and communication technologies to provide better and faster public services to the public.


Morocco arrests suspected Daesh group member

Morocco arrests suspected Daesh group member
Updated 24 min 1 sec ago

Morocco arrests suspected Daesh group member

Morocco arrests suspected Daesh group member
  • The 29-year-old man was arrested in the economic capital Casablanca
  • The suspect had reportedly sought to "join terrorist organisations" including those based in sub-Saharan Africa

RABAT: Moroccan police said Thursday they had arrested a suspected Daesh group member, in cooperation with US intelligence officers, who was accused of plotting a “terrorist” act.
The 29-year-old man was arrested in the economic capital Casablanca “for his alleged involvement in the preparation of a terrorist scheme aimed at seriously undermining public order,” Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) said in a statement.
The suspect had carried out “reconnaissance visits to identify certain security checkpoints, with a view to attacking them and using their weapons in terrorist operations,” the BCIJ added.
The suspect had reportedly sought to “join terrorist organizations” including those based in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in Syria and Iraq.
In 2003, Casablanca was hit by a dozen suicide bombers, killing 33 people and wounding dozens more.
Since then, Morocco has been spared major attacks, but its security services regularly report foiling plots.
Since 2002, Moroccan police claim to have dismantled 2,000 “terror cells” and arrested some 3,500 people in cases linked to terror, according to the BCIJ.


British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report
Updated 29 September 2022

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report
  • Marc Bennett, 52, was found hanged in a hotel in 2019 after 3 weeks without charge in jail
  • British coroner ruled there was ‘no specific evidence of suicidal intent’

LONDON: A British travel industry expert found hanged in Doha in 2019 told friends he had been arrested and tortured by Qatari secret police 10 weeks before his death, The Times reported on Thursday.

Marc Bennett, 52, had been hired by Qatar Airways to work on improving tourism to the Gulf country ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

He was arrested at the company’s Doha headquarters, blindfolded and handcuffed, and told friends he had been stripped, hosed, assaulted, and subjected to sleep deprivation over a period of three weeks in detention.

He was then prevented from leaving the country after his release, not knowing if he would be re-arrested, and placed in “legal limbo,” according to his family.

His arrest came after he resigned from Qatar Airways and received a job offer from a Saudi travel firm, something a former colleague said had been taken as a “massive insult” by figures within the company.

Qatar Airways said Bennett, who worked closely with the airline’s CEO Akbar Al-Baker, was discovered to have sent “highly confidential documents” to a private email address, which was reported to police.

Bennett was released on Nov. 2, 2019, the day before a UN legal team was due to visit Qatar to inspect the state of the country’s detention centers over allegations of human rights abuses.

The team from the UN’s working group on arbitrary detention was denied access to the facility he was held at.

Bennett was left at a hotel in Doha with no documents relating to his arrest or any legal proceedings he might face.

A Qatari coroner ruled Bennett’s death suicide, but a British coroner said there was “no specific evidence of suicidal intent” and “the circumstances of the months leading up to his death remain unclear.”

Bennett left no suicide note, and despite being popular, with a wide circle of friends and family, gave no indication of intending to take his own life.

The night before his death, he was described as “laughing and joking” during a video call with his family back in the UK.

His widow Nancy Bennett, 51, told The Times: “There are so many questions. He left here with the whole world ahead of him.”

The UN legal team investigating human rights abuses in Qatar has said there are “credible allegations” that the unit that detained Bennett engages in extra-judicial arrests and mistreatment of prisoners.

“When the working group decided to visit one of the state security detention facilities, in relation to which it had received credible allegations of prolonged detention without judicial control and of ill-treatment, it was prevented from doing so,” it said.

“Equally, when the working group visited some other places of deprivation of liberty, it found these facilities nearly empty and received credible reports that detainees had been transferred to other facilities prior to its arrival.”

An investigation into Bennett’s treatment and death by the UK Foreign Office was closed, despite the findings of the coroner and concerns of the family, by Liz Truss, a week after she became foreign secretary in September 2021.

Truss, now the UK’s prime minister, visited Qatar in October that year for “strategic dialogue,” and to foster “deeper co-operation on security, development, trade and investment.”

In May 2020, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, announced a £10 billion ($10.845 billion) investment package for the UK.

Qatar has faced routine accusations of mistreatment of foreign workers in the build up to the World Cup.

The Mail on Sunday reported that of the approximately 30,000 recruited to build infrastructure for the tournament, 2,823 foreign laborers have died in Qatar since 2011 in unexplained circumstances, with another 551 committing suicide.

One British businessman told The Times: “Whether you’re a Pakistani laborer or a well-to-do British guy, you will be treated like dirt if your employer turns against you.

“It feels like you’re a slave. You can’t even leave the country for a weekend away without the permission of your employer.”

A Foreign Office spokesman told The Times: “We provided assistance to the family of a British man following his death in Doha.”


Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests

Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests
Updated 29 September 2022

Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests

Iran celebrities warned against inciting Mahsa Amini protests
  • A number of Iranian sportsmen as well as actors and filmmakers have put their support behind the movement
  • Iran’s judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei has criticized celebrities over their actions

TEHRAN: Iranian celebrities were warned Thursday against coming out in support of protests that flared across the country over the death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.
A wave of unrest has rocked Iran since the 22-year-old died on September 16 after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for reportedly failing to observe the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
The street violence has led to the deaths of dozens of people — mostly protesters but also members of the security forces — and hundreds of arrests.
“We will take action against the celebrities who have fanned the flames of the riots,” Tehran provincial governor Mohsen Mansouri said, quoted by ISNA news agency.
A number of Iranian sportsmen as well as actors and filmmakers have put their support behind the movement, asking authorities to listen to the people’s demands.
Iran’s two-time Oscar winning director Asghar Farhadi on Sunday urged people around the world to “stand in solidarity” with the protesters.
“They are looking for simple yet fundamental rights that the state has denied them for years,” Farhadi said, in a video message on Instagram.
At a football match against Senegal in Vienna on Tuesday, the entire Iranian team remained dressed in black during the anthems rather than exposing the national strip.
In an Instagram post, star forward Sardar Azmoun condemned the authorities and appeared to complain of a gag order against the team, before retracting his statement.
Another former prominent player, Ali Karimi, has repeatedly supported the protests and condemned Amini’s death on Instagram and Twitter, saying not even holy water could “wash away this disgrace.”
Iran’s judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei has criticized celebrities over their actions.
“Those who became famous thanks to support from the system have joined the enemy when times were difficult, instead of being with the people,” said Ejei.
“All of them should know that they have to pay back the material and spiritual damage caused to the people and the country,” he added.


Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty
Updated 29 September 2022

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty
  • Secretary-general calls for UN probe into Tehran’s behavior, including use of sexual violence
  • ‘The crisis of systemic impunity that has long prevailed in the country must end, and it must end now’

LONDON: Iran has used “unlawful force and ruthless violence” in its repression of popular protests across the country following the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16, according to Amnesty International.

The human rights group said its investigations into the regime’s behavior, which has left “dozens” of people dead, revealed the use of live ammunition and sexual violence against women as tools to quell dissent. 

It urged the world to take action by signing its petition to establish a UN Human Rights Council investigation into the events of the past few weeks.

“We see the images of Iranian people from across the country bravely standing up to security forces, of women cutting off their hair and setting their scarves on fire,” said Amnesty’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard.

“Dozens of people, including children, have been killed so far and hundreds injured. The voices of the courageous people of Iran desperately crying out for international support must not be ignored.”

Amini’s death in custody followed her arrest by Iran’s so-called morality police for incorrect wearing of her headscarf.

This prompted mass protests, including by women removing their headscarves and cutting their hair.

As well as live ammunition and sexual violence, birdshot, metal pellets and beatings have also been used liberally against protesters by the Iranian authorities in response, as well as mass arrests of “protesters and bystanders … journalists, political activists, lawyers and human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists and those belonging to oppressed ethnic minority groups.”

One witness in Tehran told Amnesty: “The security forces did not show mercy to anyone.” The group says it is continuing to identify more people killed in the clashes.

“Iran’s discriminatory laws, decades of repression of any form of dissent, and systemic impunity for unlawful killings during protests and behind prison walls, have triggered this unprecedented nationwide outrage,” Callamard said.

“We ask all the people of the world to sign our global petition and demand decisive action from their leaders.

“An independent investigative and accountability mechanism must be established by the UN Human Rights Council for the most serious crimes under international law committed by the Iranian authorities.

“People in Iran deserve more than empty words. The crisis of systemic impunity that has long prevailed in the country must end, and it must end now.”