Fears grow for Arab migrants adrift off the coast of Italy

The fate of migrants on board a boat that set off from northern Lebanon over 10 days ago remains uncertain amid conflicting reports. (AP/File Photo)
The fate of migrants on board a boat that set off from northern Lebanon over 10 days ago remains uncertain amid conflicting reports. (AP/File Photo)
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Updated 06 September 2022

Fears grow for Arab migrants adrift off the coast of Italy

Fears grow for Arab migrants adrift off the coast of Italy
  • Tripoli MP Ashraf Rifi called on the Italian authorities to rescue the migrants

BEIRUT: The fate of migrants on board a boat that set off from northern Lebanon over 10 days ago remains uncertain amid conflicting reports.

The boat, thought to be carrying about 70 Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian migrants, is reportedly stranded near the coasts of Malta and Italy was in danger of sinking after its engine broke down. The captain of the boat is said to have abandoned the vessel three days ago on a rubber boat.

Tripoli MP Ashraf Rifi called on the Italian authorities to “rescue the migrants stuck in a primitive and broken boat off the Maltese and Italian coasts.”

Rifi urged the Lebanese Foreign Ministry and the country’s embassy in Rome to act quickly to avoid another tragedy at sea.

The boat set out from Arida beach on the border with Syria, at dawn on Aug. 27, headed for Italy. It evaded the Lebanese navy and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, which patrol the country’s shores.

The passengers kept in touch with their families via a two-way radio. According to one of the migrants’ relatives, the Lebanese passengers are from the town of Benin in the Akkar region. Among the passengers are women and children.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one relative said that he communicated with the migrants by radio and heard them screaming for help, but neither the Italian authorities nor the Greek coast guard responded to their calls for rescue.

According to the Associated Press, the 60 or so Lebanese and Syrian migrants on board told their relatives and volunteer groups by satellite phone earlier that they had been without food, water, and baby formula for the past several days and had urged European coast guards to rescue them.

A relative of one migrant onboard said his brother told him during their last call, on Monday night, that water was leaking into the boat and that they were drenched.

“The adults are handling the cold and lack of supplies, but the children are really struggling,” he said.

Typically, migrants pay $5,000 or more per person to smugglers to get them to Europe. Every week, the Lebanese army thwarts several such attempts. A few days ago, migrants were discovered on a bus late at night on the way to to one of the country’s northern beaches to board a boat. They had a few life jackets and other personal items. They admitted paying smugglers to transport them.

A tragedy that occurred earlier this year saw a boat sink off the coast of Tripoli and left over 30 people dead. Most of those who perished in the incident were women and children who were confined to the boat’s cabin.

Many attribute the reason for taking the sea and bearing its risks to the repercussions of the economic and living deterioration in Lebanon and the search for a better life.

Rashid Derbas, former Lebanese minister of social affairs and a resident of Tripoli, told Arab News: “According to a survey conducted in 2015 in cooperation with the Arab Towns Organization, the city of Tripoli was classified as the poorest city on the Mediterranean coast. Given the ongoing economic collapse, the facilities that used to generate resources for Tripoli and northern Lebanon have stopped, the population has doubled, and so have poverty rates.

“The northern coast of Lebanon is long and difficult to monitor in full, despite all the efforts made by the Lebanese army. It is thus easier to escape from there, and many smugglers lure people with promises to get them to Europe.

“They claim to offer them ‘a trip from hell to heaven,’ which is never the case. Victims sell everything they own and borrow money to pay these smugglers, who put them on death boats and flee with the cash.”


Iraqi security forces kill two protesters in the south

Iraqi security forces kill two protesters in the south
Updated 21 sec ago

Iraqi security forces kill two protesters in the south

Iraqi security forces kill two protesters in the south

BAGHDAD/NASSIRIYA: Iraqi security forces shot dead two protesters in the southern city of Nassiriya on Wednesday after using live ammunition to disperse an anti-government protest, police and medical sources told Reuters.
At least 16 protesters were wounded, mainly by live bullets, when security forces attempted to move them away from bridges and a central square, the sources said.
Police said protesters threw stones at security forces, wounding 17. A Reuters witness said crowds subsequently gathered outside a hospital morgue, demanding the release of the two bodies.
Around 300 people took part in the demonstration which was called to protest against recent arrests that targeted activists in the mainly Shiite city of Nassiriya.
Protesters took to the streets against a court ruling this week sentencing Hayder Hamid Al-Zaidi, 20, to three years in prison over alleged criticism of state-sanctioned militias.
Zaidi, 20, who was active in popular anti-government protests that began in October 2019, was sentenced Monday in a criminal court in Baghdad over comments on Twitter that he maintains he did not write. He had been charged under a penal code section that outlaws publicly insulting any government institution or official.
Al-Zaidi was arrested over the tweet in June and released after 16 days on bail. He has maintained that his account was hacked.
It was the first such deadly demonstration since a new government was formed by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani in October. 
(With Reuters and AP)


Islamic school funded by Kuwaitis opens in Venezuela

Islamic school funded by Kuwaitis opens in Venezuela
Updated 47 min 17 sec ago

Islamic school funded by Kuwaitis opens in Venezuela

Islamic school funded by Kuwaitis opens in Venezuela
  • Establishment to teach Arabic, Islamic education, Venezuelan curriculum to more than 180 students

KUWAIT: The Venezuelan Islamic School, funded by Kuwaiti businessmen and overseen by Zakat House, has opened in the country’s capital Caracas, the Kuwait News Agency reported on Wednesday.

More than 180 students in kindergarten, primary, and secondary school will be taught Arabic, Islamic education, and the Venezuelan curriculum following Kuwait’s first charitable work in the country.

The inauguration was attended by Kuwait’s Ambassador to Venezuela Nasser Al-Enezi, Head of the Venezuelan Islamic Center Baligh Saeed, and a number of dignitaries, students and school staff.

Al-Enezi praised the Zakat House of Kuwait for sponsoring projects for the Arab community, and business for its contribution.

 


Sister of Iran’s supreme leader denounces ‘tyranny’ of regime

Sister of Iran’s supreme leader denounces ‘tyranny’ of regime
Updated 07 December 2022

Sister of Iran’s supreme leader denounces ‘tyranny’ of regime

Sister of Iran’s supreme leader denounces ‘tyranny’ of regime
  • Khamenei condemned her brother in letter posted on Twitter by exiled son
  • Her daughter was arrested in November after criticizing regime in YouTube video

LONDON: Badri Hosseini Khamenei, the sister of Iran’s supreme leader, said on Wednesday that she soon hopes to see the overthrow of her brother’s “tyranny,” adding that he “has brought nothing but suffering and oppression” to his people. 

Khamenei’s family have been fierce critics of the Islamic regime since 1979, after the revolution deposed the last shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.  

Khamenei and her husband, Ali Tehrani, regularly spoke out against the government while in exile in Iraq during the 1980s, The Times reported. Upon their return to Iran in 1995, her husband, who died in October, was imprisoned for 10 years.

According to The Times, Khamenei has since refrained from publicly denouncing the regime while living in Iran.

However, she is now openly condemning the authorities’ violent crackdown on the nationwide protests.

In a damning letter posted on Twitter by her France-based son Mahmoud Moradkhani, Khamenei wrote: “I think it is appropriate now to declare that I oppose my brother’s actions and I express my sympathy with all mothers mourning the crimes of the Islamic Republic regime.

“I am sorry that due to physical ailments I cannot participate in protest movements as I should. But in heart and soul, I am with the people of Iran.

“Our family’s opposition and struggle against this criminal system began a few months after the revolution.

“The crimes of this system, the suppression of any dissenting voice, the imprisonment of the most educated and the most caring youth of this land, the most severe punishments, and the large-scale executions began from the very beginning.”

Khamenei’s daughter Farideh Moradkhani was arrested for the third time last month after calling on all foreign governments to stop supporting Tehran.

The activist described her uncle’s regime on Nov. 25 as “murderous and child-killing” in a video posted on Youtube.

Addressing this, Khamenei added: “When they arrest my daughter with violence, it is clear that they apply thousands of times more violence to other oppressed boys and girls who are subjected to inhumane cruelty.”

Khamenei also said that her brother was not listening to the “voice of the people in Iran,” but was instead taking note of “mercenaries and money-grubbers.”

She called on Revolutionary Guards to lay down their arms and join the people “before it is too late.”

 


Rifts appear between Lebanon’s two political allies

Rifts appear between Lebanon’s two political allies
Updated 07 December 2022

Rifts appear between Lebanon’s two political allies

Rifts appear between Lebanon’s two political allies
  • Free Patriotic Movement hints at parting with Hezbollah, accusing it of attacking president’s position

BEIRUT: The Free Patriotic Movement’s anger over caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati convening a Cabinet session on Monday led to a shakeup in the relationship between the party and its ally, Hezbollah.

FPM head Gebran Bassil, in a press conference on Tuesday, expressed anger over “expanded decentralization, even without laws.”

Hezbollah and the Amal Movement provided political cover for Mikati to convene a Cabinet session to approve the process of securing medicines for dialysis and cancer patients, which Mikati deems an absolute necessity.

The FPM refuses to hold any Cabinet session in light of the presidential vacuum in order to prevent Mikati from exercising the powers of the Christian president, especially since the movement believes the caretaker government has no right to play this role.

As the country experiences a devastating economic crisis, eight attempts by Lebanon’s divided parliament to elect a president have failed after the term of President Micael Aoun ended over a month ago.

Aoun’s son-in-law Bassil has indirectly presented himself as a presidential candidate, given that his parliamentary bloc is the largest Christian bloc and has the right to nominate the future president.

Bassil rejects the candidacy of former Minister Suleiman Frangieh for the post, who is supported by Hezbollah and Amal.

In a press conference, Bassil said that the Cabinet session on Monday was “unconstitutional, illegal and unconventional,” describing it as “an execution of the constitution and a fatal blow to (the) Taif Agreement.”

The FPM ministers boycotted the Cabinet session, with the exception of the Minister of Industry George Boushkian, who secured the quorum for the session. His behavior resulted in his party, the Tashnak, an ally of the FPM’s, renouncing him for not abiding by its decision to boycott the session.

The FPM website stated that “Hezbollah contributes to the normalization of the vacuum and the assault on the president’s position.”

Bassil indirectly addressed Hezbollah, saying: “If someone thinks that they are pressuring us on the presidential issue, we would like to tell them that it will not work.

“We will not attend the parliament sessions if we do not find a great national need to do so, and we will seek to abandon the blank vote quicker and go for a presidential candidate.”

MP Michel Moussa, a member of the Development and Liberation parliamentary bloc headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, downplayed the possibility of any change in the political map at the level of the presidential elections as a result of the tensions following the Cabinet session. “Not electing a new president contributes to deepening these conflicts,” he said.

Moussa stressed the need to conduct a serious and effective dialogue between all parties to calm tensions and elect a president.

Hezbollah avoided commenting on Bassil’s statements.

MP Bilal Abdullah, a member of the Democratic Gathering bloc, said: “One party has unsuccessfully tried to raise the sectarian discourse. Hezbollah did not respond.”

A political observer, preferring anonymity, said: “Hezbollah, by participating in the Cabinet session, tried to assure Bassil that it was not alone on the scene.”

The Sovereign Front for Lebanon, which opposes Hezbollah, stressed that the MPs must remain in the parliament hall until a new president is elected for the sake of the country and the constitution.


Jordanian, Egyptian and Iraqi foreign ministers discuss opportunities for trilateral cooperation

Jordanian, Egyptian and Iraqi foreign ministers discuss opportunities for trilateral cooperation
Updated 07 December 2022

Jordanian, Egyptian and Iraqi foreign ministers discuss opportunities for trilateral cooperation

Jordanian, Egyptian and Iraqi foreign ministers discuss opportunities for trilateral cooperation
  • They identified potential areas in which their nations could work together in the fields of politics, economics, security and industry

AMMAN: The foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, Ayman Safadi, Sameh Shoukry and Fuad Hussein, met on Wednesday to discuss ways in which the strategic integration of their countries might be boosted through a trilateral cooperation mechanism, the Jordan News Agency reported.

They reportedly identified potential areas for cooperation in politics, economics, security and industry, and recommended that efforts continue to move forward toward signing agreements.

Safadi and Shoukry expressed the full support of their countries for stability and security in Iraq and congratulated the nation on the formation of its new government.

The three ministers also discussed regional issues of mutual interest, including the Palestinian cause. In addition, they agreed to maintain institutional communications to facilitate upcoming projects and plans and overcome economic challenges that requiring systematic cooperation.