ARWAD ISLAND, Syria: Khaled Bahlawan hammers nails into a traditional wooden boat he built by hand, toiling under the scorching sun on Syria’s Mediterranean coast to preserve a disappearing ancient skill.
“We are the last family that makes wooden ships and boats in Syria,” said the 39-year-old on the shores of Arwad Island, near the city of Tartus. “This is the legacy of our ancestors ... We are fighting to preserve it every day.”
Located about 3km off the coast, Arwad is Syria’s only inhabited island and a haven of peace in a country torn by 11 years of war.
Hundreds of workers, residents and visitors commute to and from there every day in wooden boats, mostly built by the Bahlawan family.
But demand for a craft that dates back to ancient Phoenician times has dropped to all but a trickle.
The eight members of the Bahlawan family now share the work, making boats for fishermen, resorts and passenger transport.
The tradition of building and repairing wooden boats has been in their family for hundreds of years.
Long power cuts due to years of conflict mean that Bahlawan cannot use his electrical equipment.
Instead he works with his grandfather’s manual tools, smoothing the wood by hand rather than with an electric plane.
“It’s a hard task,” he said, standing inside the hull of a boat and tapping each nail carefully.
He heads to his narrow, open-air workshop near the beach every day, despite the low demand and modest means.
“We are doing our best to overcome difficulties,” said Bahlawan, his face covered in sweat and sporadic wood shavings.
Boat building has been a village tradition since Phoenician times, said Noureddine Suleiman, who heads the Arwad municipality.
In the past, the majority of Arwad’s residents were boat makers, he said.
“Today, only the Bahlawan family remains,” he said.
Thousands of years ago the Phoenicians, renowned for their ship and boat making, laid the foundations of marine navigation.
The skilled sailors and traders roamed the seas, bringing their knowledge, craftsmanship and their alphabet to other parts of the Mediterranean.
But traditional boat making now risks disappearing altogether, Suleiman warned, as young people emigrate or search for easier, more profitable work.
Farouk Bahlawan, Khaled’s uncle, said his family had preserved the original shape and structure of ancient Phoenician boats, with a few modifications.
“We mainly make ships from eucalyptus and mulberry wood from the Tartus forests,” said the 54-year-old, a skilled carpenter.
Young children played hide-and-seek in the boats’ hulls at the workshop, while an elderly man smoked in the shade of a large ship.
Close by, more than 40 wooden boats were moored at the Arwad port.
“We used to manufacture four big ships and several boats every year that we would export to Cyprus, Turkey and Lebanon,” Farouk Bahlawan said.
“This year, we only worked on one ship, and it still needs a lot of work before it is done.”
He gazed at the beach, where the children ran in the sand.
“We must continue this journey,” he said, his voice welling up with emotion. “We bear a historic responsibility on our shoulders.”
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
Updated 21 min 51 sec ago
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.
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
Updated 28 September 2022
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
Twitter videos show protesters chanting ‘Death to the dictator,’ a reference to Khamenei
Updated 27 September 2022
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.
Jewish settlers storm Al-Aqsa compound for second day
A Palestinian security official told Arab News that Israeli police had deployed in large numbers throughout East Jerusalem and imposed restrictions on worshippers as part of a well-rehearsed tactic to prevent protests
Updated 27 September 2022
RAMALLAH: Hundreds of settlers protected by Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem for a second day as tensions soared during the Jewish new year.
Dozens of Palestinian men and women remained inside Al-Aqsa to defend it as police prevented others under 40 from entering, deployed officers on horseback and used drones to monitor the grounds.
Despite the restrictions, dozens of Muslims were able to perform pre-dawn prayers shortly before the settlers moved in.
At least two Palestinians inside the compound were arrested for using religious chants to disrupt the settlers as they performed new year rituals in the compound’s courtyards.
A Palestinian security official told Arab News that Israeli police had deployed in large numbers throughout East Jerusalem and imposed restrictions on worshippers as part of a well-rehearsed tactic to prevent protests.
“The number of Israeli police escorting the intrusive settlers is equal to the number of settlers, and this reflects the extent of the precautions to secure the incursions,” he said, adding that Palestinians “reject the desecration of Al-Aqsa by settlers.”
The huge police operation was also geared towards dissuading Palestinian from allowing their children to go to Al-Aqsa, he added, but warned that the situation could boil over if anyone was assaulted or killed by the police.
Israeli police had not sought coordination with the Palestinian security services, the official added.
Meanwhile, top Israeli police officer Maj. Gen. Yacov Shabtai toured the mosque, accompanied by several officers.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said turning the area around Al-Aqsa into a virtual military barracks and imposing restrictions on Muslim worshippers was “like reoccupying the holy city of Jerusalem and its old city by force.”
It warned of the consequences of the “gradual Judaization” of the mosque and its courtyards, saying such moves were a “blatant attack” on the beliefs of millions of Muslims and the “legal and legitimate right” of the Islamic Awqaf Department “to supervise the movement of worshippers.”
Meanwhile, Palestinians reacted with anger to President Mahmoud Abbas’s greetings to Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on the Jewish new year.
Gantz asked Abbas during a call to ensure that the Palestinian security services made every effort to prevent an escalation in the West Bank during the new year holidays.
In reply, a Fatah member in Ramallah told Arab News: “Abbas didn’t surrender Jerusalem during his call with Gantz. It was a courtesy call, nothing more than that.”
Jordanian appeal court upholds convictions of 5 jailed, fined over Salt Hospital deaths
10 COVID-19 patients died at hospital in 2021 after facility ran out of oxygen
Amman Appeal Court confirms acquittal of 8 other suspects
Updated 27 September 2022
AMMAN: A Jordanian court on Tuesday rejected the appeals of five people convicted over a hospital oxygen outage that resulted in the deaths of 10 COVID-19 patients.
Amman Appeal Court upheld the three-year prison terms handed down to the five by a separate court last year, the Jordan News Agency (Petra) reported.
However, it upheld the acquittal of eight other suspects in connection with the incident at the Al-Hussein New Salt Hospital on March 13, 2021. Ten patients died after the facility ran out of oxygen, sparking public outrage leading to the resignation of Jordan’s health minister.
Petra said a panel of judges at the Amman Magistrates Court found four previous directors and an oxygen technician in the hospital accountable for causing the deaths.
Last year, the primary court convicted the former director of the hospital, his assistant for services, the head of the medical gases group, the director of medical devices, and an ex-oxygen technician, with causing the deaths and sentenced each of them to three years in jail with individual fines of 3,575 Jordanian dinars ($5,265).
Records said the court heard the testimonies of 87 witnesses.
At the time, hundreds of angry people gathered outside the hospital holding nightly protests that prompted the intervention of security forces. The victims’ relatives said the hospital had been suffering from a severe shortage of oxygen and medical staff.