Pro-Sadr protesters storm parliament in Iraq’s Green Zone

Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr protest against corruption inside the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2022. (Reuters)
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr protest against corruption inside the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 August 2022

Pro-Sadr protesters storm parliament in Iraq’s Green Zone

Pro-Sadr protesters storm parliament in Iraq’s Green Zone

BAGHDAD: Hundreds of supporters of powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr on Wednesday stormed parliament after penetrating the capital’s high-security government Green Zone, protesting against a rival bloc’s nomination for prime minister.
The protests are the latest challenge for oil-rich Iraq, which remains mired in a political and a socioeconomic crisis despite elevated global oil prices.
No lawmakers were present. Only security forces were inside the building and they appeared to allow the protesters in with relative ease.
Protesters “stormed the parliament” after initially being stopped by police firing a barrage of tear gas, a security source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
State news agency INA said on messaging app Telegram that “protesters have entered the parliament building.”
The breach came amid the biggest protest since Iraqi elections were held in October. The demonstrators were protesting the recent nomination of Mohammed Al-Sudani as the official nominee of the Coordination Framework bloc, a coalition led by Iran-backed Shiite parties and their allies.
Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi called on the protesters to “immediately withdraw” from the heavily fortified Green Zone, which is home to both government buildings and diplomatic missions.
He warned in a statement that security forces would see to “the protection of state institutions and foreign missions, and prevent any harm to security and order.”
Riot police used water cannons to repel demonstrators pulling down cement blast walls. But many breached the gates to the area, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies.
The demonstrators walked down the zone’s main thoroughfare, with dozens gathering outside the doors to the parliament building.
Riot police assembled at the doors to the main gates. Demonstrators crowded around two entrances to the Green Zone, with some scaling the cement wall and chanting, “Sudani, out!“
Sadr’s bloc won 73 seats in Iraq’s October 2021 election, making it the largest faction in the 329-seat parliament. But since the vote, talks to form a new government have stalled.
Al-Sudani was selected by State of Law leader and former premier Nouri Al-Maliki. Before Al-Sudani can face parliament to be seated officially as premier-designate, parties must first select a president.
Iraq was plunged deeper into political crisis last month when the 73 lawmakers from Sadr’s bloc quit en masse in an apparent bid to break a logjam over the establishment of a new government.
Sixty-four new Iraqi lawmakers were sworn in later in June, making the pro-Iran bloc the largest in parliament.
Sadr had initially supported the idea of a “majority government” which would have sent his Shiite adversaries from the Coordination Framework into opposition.
The former militia leader then surprised many by compelling his lawmakers to resign, a move seen as seeking to pressure his rivals to fast-track government formation.
Earlier this month, hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshippers loyal to Sadr attended a Friday prayer service in Baghdad, in a display of political might to revive stalled talks on government formation.
The huge turnout came despite scorching heat and the Shiite cleric not being there in person — an indication of his status as a political heavyweight, as well as a key religious authority.
The mercurial cleric’s sermon took aim at rivals from other Shiite factions, including a powerful ex-paramilitary network.
“We are at a difficult... crossroads in the formation of the government, entrusted to some we do not trust,” Sadr said in the speech on July 15, read out by Sheikh Mahmud Al-Jayashi.
Some factions have shown they are “not up to the task,” he added.
(With AFP and AP)


UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey
Updated 18 sec ago

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey
  • Emirates records top results in 4 out of 5 key pillars in this year’s report

ABU DHABI: The UAE has been ranked as the sixth best destination in the world for expatriates in 2022, according to InterNations.

In the annual Expat Insider survey, the German research firm examines every aspect of the expat experience in 181 countries.

The firm’s rankings are based on a range of factors, including language, bureaucracy, professional prospects, leisure options, travel, transport, job satisfaction, safety, healthcare, digital life, housing, wages and job safety, InterNations said.

This “Expat Insider 2022” report included the overall rankings of expatriate destination countries in terms of quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, personal finance and the availability of basic essentials.

Mexico was ranked first in 2022, followed by Indonesia in second, Taiwan in third, Portugal in fourth, and Spain in fifth.

While ranking sixth overall, UAE also ranked highly in four out of five key pillars and 11 out of 17 indexes.

It revealed that 94 percent of those surveyed felt safe in the UAE, while 86 percent were satisfied with the available government services.

Furthermore, 90 percent of respondents said that they can use cashless payments in the UAE.

Regarding health, 78 percent of respondents emphasized the ease of access to healthcare services in the country, while 79 percent of those surveyed said that living in the UAE improved their professional prospects.

About 85 percent of those polled said that not knowing the local language was not a barrier, and 83 percent of people said that administrative procedures are “simple and straightforward.”

The survey also found that 75 percent of people said the process of finding housing in the UAE was simple.

Lastly, 83 percent respondents said that it was simple to apply for a resident visa, making the UAE the world leader in this area.

 


Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital
Updated 17 August 2022

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital
  • Hana Mohammed Khodor, 21, spent 11 days in intensive care being treated for burns to her entire body
  • Husband arrested as he was planning to flee the country

DUBAI: A pregnant Lebanese woman who was badly beaten and set on fire by her husband because she would not have an abortion died in hospital on Wednesday.
Hana Mohammed Khodor, 21, lost her fight for life at Al-Salam Hospital in northern Lebanon where she had been for the past 11 days.
A doctor from the hospital said on Tuesday that Khodor was admitted on Aug. 6 and had been receiving treatment for burns to her entire body.
He added that her unborn child died in the womb and had to be surgically removed, and described Khodor’s chances of survival as “very bleak.”
A family friend, Abdul Rahman Haddad, told Arab News that Khodor died on Wednesday. A hospital official confirmed the news and said her body had already been claimed by her family.
According to local media reports, Khodor’s husband, identified only by the initials A. A., beat his wife because she refused to abort their unborn child.
He was reported to have said the couple — who came from a poor background in the northern city of Tripoli — could not afford to raise it.
Speaking to Al-Jadeed TV on Tuesday, Khodor’s aunt said: “When she refused to abort the baby, he took her home and set her on fire using the gas cylinder.”
Haddad said A. A. had been arrested by Lebanese Internal Security Forces as he was planning to flee the country.
Prior to her death, Khodor’s family made several appeals for financial support to help pay for her hospital treatment, which included multiple operations and blood transfusions.
 


Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis
Updated 17 August 2022

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis
  • The absence of al-Sadr's bloc effectively undermined Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi's effort to resolve the 10-month crisis
  • Al-Sadr and his political rivals, the Iran-backed Shiite groups, have been at odds since after last year's parliamentary elections

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s caretaker prime minister called a meeting of senior political leaders and party representatives Wednesday, seeking a way out of a monthslong crisis amid a power struggle between rival Shiite blocs. But the party of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr did not attend the gathering.
The absence of Al-Sadr’s bloc effectively undermined Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s effort to resolve the 10-month crisis.
Al-Sadr and his political rivals, the Iran-backed Shiite groups, have been at odds since after last year’s parliamentary elections. Al-Sadr won the largest share of seats in the October vote but failed to form a majority government.
His bloc later resigned from parliament and his supporters last month stormed the parliament building in Baghdad. Al-Sadr has demanded that parliament be dissolved and early elections held.
Leaders of Iran-backed Shiite groups, Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish political blocs, and the head of the country’s High Judicial Council attended Wednesday’s meeting, as did the UN special representative, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.
After the meeting, a statement from Al-Kadhimi’s office said the discussions focused on possible solutions to the political crisis, prioritizing the maintaining of peace among Iraqis. Al-Sadr last Wednesday gave the judiciary a week to dissolve the legislature, to which it responded saying it has no authority to dissolve parliament.
On Saturday, he called on his followers to be ready to hold massive protests all over Iraq but then indefinitely postponed them after Iran-backed groups called for similar rallies the same day, saying he wants to preserve peace and that “Iraqi blood is invaluable” to him.
Al-Sadr’s Shiite rivals from the Coordination Framework, an alliance of Iran-backed parties, said earlier that parliament would have to convene to dissolve itself.


Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians
Updated 17 August 2022

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians
  • Iran called on President Joe Biden’s administration to “act instead of performing theatrical shows”

DUBAI: Iran is ready to swap prisoners with the United States, its foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying on Wednesday, calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to “act instead of performing theatrical shows.”
Tehran has sought the release of over a dozen Iranians in the United States, including seven Iranian-American dual nationals, two Iranians with permanent US residency and four Iranian citizens with no legal status in the United States.
“We are ready to swap prisoners with Washington ... The US must release jailed Iranian citizens without any conditions,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani as saying.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that Siamak Namazi had now spent 2,500 days “wrongfully detained” in Iran and Washington was determined to secure the freedom of all Americans held by its Middle East adversary.
Kanaani spoke as Tehran and Washington sought to revive a 2015 nuclear pact after lengthy negotiations. The European Union and United States said on Tuesday they were studying Iran’s response to what the EU has called its “final” proposal to save the deal, after Tehran called on Washington to show flexibility.


Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties
Updated 17 August 2022

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic ties
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the return of ambassadors “is important to improve bilateral ties”
  • But he cautioned that closer ties with Israel should not be interpreted as Ankara “giving up on the Palestinian cause”

JERUSALEM: Israel and Turkey announced the resumption of full diplomatic ties on Wednesday, following years of strained relations between the Mediterranean nations.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid hailed the diplomatic breakthrough as an “important asset for regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel.”
Lapid’s office said the diplomatic development will see ambassadors and consuls general posted to the two countries once more.
The announcement follows months of bilateral efforts to mend ties, with reciprocal visits by top officials.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the return of ambassadors “is important to improve bilateral ties.”
But he cautioned that closer ties with Israel should not be interpreted as Ankara “giving up on the Palestinian cause.”
Cavusoglu in May became the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Israel in 15 years, during a trip which also saw him meet the Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank.
During a landmark visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Ankara two months earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proclaimed their meeting marked “a turning point in our relations.”
Bilateral relations began to fray in 2008, following an Israeli military operation in Gaza.
Relations then froze after the deaths of 10 civilians following an Israeli raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla trying to breach a blockade by carrying aid into Gaza in 2010.
A brief reconciliation lasted from 2016 until 2018, when ambassadors were withdrawn once again over the killing of Palestinians. More than 200 Gazans were shot dead by Israeli forces during border protests from 2018 to 2019.
Reconciliation publicly got underway after Herzog took office in July 2021.
The Israeli president on Wednesday said the full renewal of ties “will encourage greater economic relations, mutual tourism, and friendship between the Israeli and Turkish peoples.”
Despite the diplomatic differences in recent years, trade had continued and Turkey has remained a popular destination for Israeli tourists.
Israel however warned its citizens to return home in June, citing an Iranian assassination plot against its nationals in Istanbul.
Lapid then thanked Ankara for its cooperation on the issue and Israelis swiftly resumed their Turkish holidays.
Israel has been wary of upsetting regional allies over its decision to strengthen ties with Turkey, with Herzog dispatched to Cyprus and Greece ahead of his Ankara trip.
Turkey has meanwhile been keen to stress that its normalization with Israel could yield benefits for the Palestinians.
“As we have always said, we will continue to defend the rights of Palestinians,” Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.