Tunisians firmly backed new constitution: final results

Tunisians firmly backed new constitution: final results
Sadok Belaid, head of Tunisia’s constitution committee, submitting a draft of the new constitution to President Kais Saied at the Carthage Palace in Tunis. (AFP/File)
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Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisians firmly backed new constitution: final results

Tunisians firmly backed new constitution: final results
  • The charter was approved by just over 2.6 million people, the board's president Farouk Bouasker told reporters
  • The referendum came a year to the day after Saied sacked the government and froze parliament in what rivals have branded a coup

TUNIS: The final results of a controversial referendum granting unchecked powers to the office of Tunisia’s President Kais Saied showed 94.6 percent of votes in favor, the electoral authority said Tuesday.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the new constitution, the electoral board said, officially announcing definitive results from the July 25 poll.
The charter was approved by just over 2.6 million people, the board’s president Farouk Bouasker told reporters.
Turnout was considered very low at 30.5 percent.
The referendum came a year to the day after Saied sacked the government and froze parliament in what rivals have branded a coup.
Despite the low turnout, Saied’s move against a system that emerged after the 2011 overthrow of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was welcomed by many Tunisians.
Many people were fed up with high inflation and unemployment, political turmoil and a system they felt had brought little improvement to their lives.
However, opposition politicians and human rights groups have warned of a return to dictatorship under the new constitution.
“The constitution comes into force with the announcement of the final results, its promulgation by the president and its publication in the official journal,” Bouasker said on Tuesday.
He said the fact that appeals against the referendum process had been rejected “confirmed the integrity and transparency of ISIE,” the North African country’s electoral commission.
Bouasker said ISIE had been subjected to “an unprecedented wave of allegations by certain political parties and civil society groups.”
The new text puts the president in command of the army, allows him to appoint a government without parliamentary approval and makes it virtually impossible to remove him from office.
He can also present draft laws to parliament, which will be obliged to give them priority.
A second chamber is created within parliament to represent the regions and counterbalance the assembly itself.
Tunisia is mired in crisis with growth of just three percent, nearly 40 percent of young people jobless and four million people out of a population of nearly 12 million in poverty.
For weeks the heavily indebted country has been negotiating a new loan with the International Monetary Fund, hoping to obtain $4 billion, and also the chance to open other avenues of foreign aid, mainly European.


Egypt’s parliament to discuss proposed changes to Suez Canal Authority law

Egypt’s parliament to discuss proposed changes to Suez Canal Authority law
Updated 19 sec ago

Egypt’s parliament to discuss proposed changes to Suez Canal Authority law

Egypt’s parliament to discuss proposed changes to Suez Canal Authority law
  • Bill submitted by govt seeks to establish fund owned by the authority
  • Facility would help boost canal’s revenue

CAIRO: The Egyptian parliament is expected next week to discuss a new bill submitted by the government to amend the Suez Canal Authority law.

The aim is to establish a fund owned by the authority with an independent legal personality to be headquartered in Ismailia. More offices could be set up in the future elsewhere in the country.

The amendments would enable the fund to contribute to the canal’s economic development through the exploitation of its resources in accordance with international standards, and better deal with crises and emergency situations as they occur.

The changes would grant the authority the right to participate, alone or with others, in establishing companies, investing in securities, buying, selling, renting, exploiting and benefiting from its fixed and movable assets — provided that the authorized capital of the fund is 100 billion Egyptian pounds ($5.09 billion).

The government has said the fund would maximize the canal’s revenues.

The move is significant in light of the challenges facing the Suez Canal facility as a result of weak global economic performance and a decline in international trade rates.

“Issuing such amendments to the Suez Canal Authority law are related to the economic conference that will be held at the end of this month, which may also lead to other economic ideas,” journalist Emad El-Din Hussein told Arab News.

“The successive international developments will impose different and varied challenges on the Egyptian government, especially the repercussions of the global economic crisis and its effects on us in the region,” he said.

Economist Ahmed Sayed Mahmoud said: “I expect a local economic boom, especially with the Egyptian government’s desire to change and amend some laws that would contribute to supporting the national economy, including the amendments to the Suez Canal Authority law.”

He added: “Opening up to all kinds of investment is very beneficial to the economy, whether through acquisitions or pumping investments in new companies and factories.”


At least 82 people killed in Iran crackdown in Zahedan since Sept 30: Amnesty

At least 82 people killed in Iran crackdown in Zahedan since Sept 30: Amnesty
Updated 1 min 10 sec ago

At least 82 people killed in Iran crackdown in Zahedan since Sept 30: Amnesty

At least 82 people killed in Iran crackdown in Zahedan since Sept 30: Amnesty
  • Protests in Zahedan were triggered by anger over reported rape of teenage girl by a police commander in the region

PARIS: At least 82 people have been killed by Iranian security forces in the city of Zahedan in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province since protests erupted there on September 30, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
In a violent crackdown after Friday prayers on September 30, security forces killed at least 66 people, including children, Amnesty said.
Since then, 16 people have been killed in an ongoing clampdown on protests, it added, warning the real toll is likely to be even higher.
With Iran already convulsed by protests over the death of Mahsa Amini who had been arrested by the Tehran morality police, the protests in Zahedan were triggered by anger over the reported rape of a teenage girl by a police commander in the region.
Amnesty said that security forces fired “live ammunition, metal pellets and teargas” at protesters, bystanders and worshippers when a group of people gathered for a protest outside a police station after Friday prayers on September 30 in Zahedan.
“Evidence gathered by Amnesty International shows that the majority of victims were shot in the head, heart, neck and torso, revealing a clear intent to kill or seriously harm.”
It added that the firing had come from the “police station rooftop.” At least three children were killed on September 30, it added.
Iranian officials have characterised the unrest as attacks by “extremists” on police stations that left five members of the Revolutionary Guards dead.
But Amnesty said that beyond “a minority” of protesters throwing stones toward the police station, it had found “no evidence” the conduct of protesters posed a serious threat to security forces.


Kuwaiti-funded schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon start their 10th academic year

Kuwaiti-funded schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon start their 10th academic year
Updated 06 October 2022

Kuwaiti-funded schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon start their 10th academic year

Kuwaiti-funded schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon start their 10th academic year
  • The pupils thanked the authorities and people of Kuwait for their assistance, which is enabling them to continue their education

BEIRUT: The 10th academic year has started at 12 charity-run schools for Syrian refugees in North Lebanon that were established and are funded by Kuwait.
The pupils thanked the Kuwaiti authorities and people for their assistance, which is enabling them to continue their education, the Kuwait News Agency reported on Wednesday.
It came as a delegation that included representatives of the International Islamic Charitable Organization, the Kuwaiti Society for Humanitarian Excellence, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development visited the schools and reviewed their needs.
The news agency said the pupils organized receptions for the delegates, during which they presented various educational activities.
Khalid Al-Subaihi, chairperson of the Society for Humanitarian Excellence, told the agency that the schools cater to more than 9,000 students and are model examples of what charitable work can achieve. He noted that the grades achieved by pupils at the schools are higher on average than those achieved by their peers in mainstream schools in Northern Lebanon.
He also pointed out that the education of students facing dire situations and with great needs, such as refugees, requires much greater effort than teaching youths in normal circumstances.
Hamid Al-Rifai, a board member of the Excellence Society, said: “We realized the difficulties in teaching these refugees and guiding the teachers 10 years ago, when we started to build the schools with contributions from Kuwaiti philanthropists. We solved the problems facing the learning process and developed the teaching techniques to a higher level.”
Atiq Rafiq, director of the education department at UNICEF’s office in Lebanon, thanked Kuwait for the support it provides to refugees, especially in education.
“I am happy to see that these children are receiving education and attending schools,” he said.
Mohammed Al-Jawabra of the Islamic Solidarity Fund said: “Our visit to the schools reveals the strategic work that affects the life of the refugees, and the requirements and needs of the refugee students.”
He thanked charitable associations and organizations in Kuwait for their contributions and said his organization is proud of those who help in the fight against poverty and efforts to provide education.


Turkey names former Jerusalem envoy as new ambassador to Israel

Turkey names former Jerusalem envoy as new ambassador to Israel
Updated 06 October 2022

Turkey names former Jerusalem envoy as new ambassador to Israel

Turkey names former Jerusalem envoy as new ambassador to Israel
  • A career diplomat with decades of experience, Torunlar was Turkish Consul General in Jerusalem from 2010 until 2013

ANKARA: Turkey appointed Sakir Ozkan Torunlar as its new ambassador to Israel late on Wednesday following a mutual decision taken last month to restore full diplomatic ties, two Turkish foreign ministry officials said.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu briefed Torunlar on Wednesday night as part of the ministry’s new appointments abroad, the officials told Reuters.
A career diplomat with decades of experience, Torunlar was Turkish Consul General in Jerusalem from 2010 until 2013.
Israel has already named Irit Lillian as its next ambassador to Ankara.
Relations between Turkey and Israel have been rocky since 2011, when Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador following a 2010 Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara aid ship to Gaza, which killed nine Turkish citizens.
The rift healed when full diplomatic relations were restored in 2016 and the two countries exchanged ambassadors.
Tensions escalated again in 2018 when Israeli forces killed a number of Palestinians who had taken part in the “March of Return” protests in the Gaza Strip.
Turkey recalled all diplomats and ordered Israeli envoys to leave the country.
The latest developments come five months after Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Ankara as part of his first visit to Turkey by an Israeli leader since 2008.


Iran authorities ‘fire at crowds’ using shotguns, rifles, says rights group

Iran authorities ‘fire at crowds’ using shotguns, rifles, says rights group
Updated 06 October 2022

Iran authorities ‘fire at crowds’ using shotguns, rifles, says rights group

Iran authorities ‘fire at crowds’ using shotguns, rifles, says rights group
  • Human Rights Watch demands international pressure to end regime violence

LONDON: New evidence shows that Iranian security forces continue to use lethal force against peaceful protesters around the country, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned.

Through videos captured by demonstrators and reporters, as well as interviews with witnesses and security officials, HRW uncovered evidence of the use of excessive and lethal force in more than a dozen cities around Iran.

Weapons including shotguns and assault rifles were deployed against protesters during the security response to the demonstrations, which began last month in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was killed by a mob after “improperly” wearing the hijab after President Ibrahim Raisi strengthened laws on the headdress.

Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “The Iranian authorities’ brutal response to protests across many cities indicates concerted action by the government to crush dissent with cruel disregard for life. The security forces’ widespread shooting of protesters only serves to fuel anger against a corrupt and autocratic government.

“People in Iran are protesting because they do not see the death of Mahsa Amini and the authorities’ crackdown as an isolated event, but rather the latest example of the government’s systematic repression of its own people.”

A 35-year-old woman from Sanandaj city told HRW: “We had gathered to chant when security forces on motorcycles came toward us.

“We ran toward the alley as they followed us and started throwing tear gas and some started shooting bullets. A man behind us was shot in the leg and fell on the ground. People dragged him into another alley and inside someone’s home. His wound was bleeding very heavily and was very deep.”

At least four videos reviewed by HRW show security forces using shotguns against crowds of protesters.

Another witness said: “Security forces ran toward a 13-year-old boy who was standing among the crowd.

“He was so delicate and small that he didn’t even resist. He was on the grass protecting his head while they were beating him. I yelled ‘Leave him alone!’ and walked towards them. They fired in the air and people started fleeing while they dragged the boy across the street.

“While I was running, I kept yelling ‘He is my brother!’, thinking that was going to provoke their mercy. I saw an officer turning, sitting down, and aiming at me. I saw the fire from his weapon. I got scared and ran away. I had a burning sensation until I got home and realized that I was hit in my chest.”

The human rights organization has gathered a list of 47 people who died during the violence as a result of lethal force, many having been shot.

However, HRW said that the true number of deaths is likely far higher than Iranian state media has reported. At the end of September, state television claimed that the death toll stood at about 60.