Outrage at new Iranian attacks on protesters

Update Outrage at new Iranian attacks on protesters
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People gather during a protest for Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic’s ‘morality police’, in Tehran. (AFP)
Update Outrage at new Iranian attacks on protesters
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Public anger has grown since authorities on Friday announced the death of Mahsa Amini following her arrest by Tehran’s morality police. (AFP)
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An Iranian police officer, center, raises a baton to disperse demonstrators during a protest in Tehran on Sept. 19, 2022. (AFP)
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Public anger has grown since authorities on Friday announced the death of Mahsa Amini following her arrest by Tehran’s morality police. (AFP)
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Updated 21 September 2022

Outrage at new Iranian attacks on protesters

Outrage at new Iranian attacks on protesters
  • Iranian lawmaker makes a rare criticism of controversial ‘morality police’
  • Public anger has grown since authorities on Friday announced the death of Mahsa Amini

JEDDAH: There was mounting international outrage on Tuesday over Iran’s deadly crackdown on protesters after a young woman died in the custody of Tehran’s notorious morality police.

At least five people have died and hundreds have been injured in the most serious protests in Iran since the November 2019 demonstrations over fuel price rises.

The Iran Human Rights group said security forces used batons, teargas, water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition “to directly target protesters and crush the protests.”

The group’s director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “The international community shouldn’t be silent observers of the crimes the Islamic Republic commits against its own people.

“We call on countries with diplomatic relations with Iran, the EU in particular, to stop further state killings by supporting the people’s demands to realize their basic rights.”

The new demonstrations follow the death last Friday of Mahsa Amini, 22, who was taken to hospital for urgent treatment after she was arrested and beaten by members of the specialist Gasht-e Ershad, or “guidance patrol,” who enforce Iran’s strict dress code for women. Activists said she suffered a blow to the head while in custody.

Protests continued on Tuesday in Kurdistan, around Tehran’s main universities, and at the city’s bazaar. Demonstrators shouted slogans including “Death to the dictator” and “Woman, life, freedom,” and many female protesters removed their headscarves.

The fiercest clashes were in the northern Kurdistan province where Amini was from, and where activists accused security forces of using live fire.

Human Rights Watch said Iranian authorities were “using teargas to disperse protesters and have apparently used lethal force in Kurdistan province.”

Its senior Iranian researcher Tara Sepehri Far said: “Cracking down with teargas and lethal force against protesters demanding accountability for a woman’s death in police custody reinforces the systematic nature of government rights abuses and impunity.”

UN human rights chief Nada Al-Nashif expressed alarm at Amini’s death and “the violent response by security forces to ensuing protests,” and demanded an investigation.

She said: “Mahsa Amini’s tragic death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority, that ensures, in particular, that her family has access to justice and truth.

“The authorities must stop targeting, harassing, and detaining women who do not abide by the hijab rules.”


Think hard before working in Qatar: British engineer

Think hard before working in Qatar: British engineer
Updated 9 sec ago

Think hard before working in Qatar: British engineer

Think hard before working in Qatar: British engineer
  • Ranald Crook, 76, was trapped in the country for 8 years over a commercial dispute
  • His warning follows claims that another Briton was tortured, killed by secret police

LONDON: A British engineer trapped in Qatar for almost eight years over a commercial dispute has urged people to think hard before accepting large salaries to work there, after his own exhausting battle to leave followed the alleged torture and death of another Briton in 2019.

Ranald Crook, 76, was unable to fly home from Qatar because of a series of travel bans imposed on him at the request of former business associates, which left him tangled in legal actions in which every victory of his resulted in the initiating of a new case against him. 

Crook spoke to The Times after reading on Thursday about a former senior vice president of Qatar Airways who was found dead in a Doha hotel room on Christmas Day in 2019 following his arrest and alleged torture by secret police.

Marc Bennett was accused of keeping confidential information belonging to the airline after his resignation in October that year, and was held for three weeks in a state security detention center before being released without charge but banned from leaving the country.

Qatari authorities claimed his death was suicide, but a British coroner found “no evidence of suicidal intent.” The UK Foreign Office urged Qatar on Wednesday to look into the allegations thoroughly.

Not only did Bennett not leave a suicide note or email or text his family and wide circle of friends, but the night before his death he had a video call with his wife and children during which, The Times reported, he was “laughing and joking.”  

Bennett’s widow Nancy said: “There are so many questions. He left here with the whole world ahead of him.”

Crook, who finally returned to the UK at the end of 2021, said he was drained by his ordeal. He warned Britons to think hard before accepting large salaries to work in Qatar, noting that while still in the country, his wife would wake because he had been crying in his sleep.

He added: “If you go to work there, be very careful. Look very carefully at those you’ll be working with and their reputations.

“The accusations are made in five minutes, but it takes years to clear your name. I thought I had been cleared in November 2016, but another case began and another travel ban was slapped on.

“I wasn’t served with any court papers, I found out about the second action by chance in April 2017. There shouldn’t even have been a travel ban but this was Qatar, and these things happen.”

Both the detention of Crook and the circumstances surrounding Bennett’s death have raised further concerns in the build-up to the World Cup in November, and the decision to allow Qatar to host it.


HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity

HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity
Updated 36 min 47 sec ago

HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity

HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity
  • EU-Israel Association Council meeting taking place next week after 10-year hiatus
  • Human Rights Watch: European officials should stop ‘reciting empty platitudes’

LONDON: Human Rights Watch has urged the EU and its member states to use next week’s EU-Israel Association Council meeting to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity.

The meeting comes just weeks after Israeli authorities raided and ordered the closing of the offices of seven prominent Palestinian civil society organizations — some of which receive EU funding — despite objections from the bloc and its member states.

“Europeans should know they’ll be shaking hands with representatives of a government committing crimes against humanity and outlawed prominent civil society groups challenging these abuses,” said Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel and Palestine director.

“Pretending it’s business as usual with Israel amid escalating repression sends the message that EU condemnation is worth little more than the paper it’s written on.”

Criticized by Palestinian, European and international NGOs, as well as 47 members of the European Parliament, next week’s meeting will mark the first in a decade after they were paused following Israel’s objections to the EU’s position on West Bank settlements.

HRW, however, has said the bloc’s position represents “empty platitudes” that fail to consider the human rights identified as essential within the Association Council.

Alon Liel, former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told the press earlier this year that as long as the Europeans did not take concrete action, “Israel doesn’t give a damn. It feels very confident this anti-human rights behavior will have no cost in the international arena.”

In May 2021, EU member states abstained or voted against the UN Human Rights Council’s establishment of an inquiry to investigate abuses and identify the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite consistent voting to support accountability mechanisms in other contexts.

“The decades-long European failure to take action in the face of grave human rights abuses has emboldened Israeli authorities to brazenly escalate their repression of Palestinians,” said Claudio Francavilla, EU advocate at HRW.

“Instead of reciting empty platitudes, European officials should use the Association Council to finally condemn Israel’s apartheid and persecution and make clear there will be meaningful consequences should the Israeli government not reverse course.” 


Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move

Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move
Updated 51 min 9 sec ago

Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move

Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move
  • Letter signed by all Arab states, including those that signed Abraham Accords with Israel
  • Liz Truss warned that embassy move could jeopardize free-trade agreement with GCC

LONDON: Arab ambassadors have urged Prime Minister Liz Truss to backtrack on “an illegal and ill-judged” plan to move the UK Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that it could jeopardize a free-trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, The Guardian reported on Friday.

The comments were made in a private letter sent before her trip to the UN last week. It was signed by all Arab states, including those that signed the 2020 Abraham Accords with Israel.

Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot said: “Any embassy move would be a blatant violation of international law and the UK’s historic responsibilities.

“It undermines the two-state solution and inflames an already volatile situation in Jerusalem, the rest of the occupied territories, and among communities in the UK and worldwide. It would be disastrous.”

It is the understanding that some of the states most inclined to the accords are those particularly concerned, believing that the accords could be thrown into disrepute by the claim that they paved the way for the embassy move.

Given that the pending UK-GCC FTA is seen as central to Truss’s foreign policy for the region, any worries that this may be thrown into doubt could cause a backtrack.

Allies in Europe have also questioned the move, letting the UK know that they consider it unwise, while others have privately speculated that Truss’s decision is based as much on her desire to be perceived as a “disruptor” as it is anything to do with her close ties with Israel.

A former British diplomat told The Guardian: “She seems to think she should ape (former President) Donald Trump (who moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem in 2018). The difference is that the US is big enough to get its way in the Middle East. The UK is not.”

The former diplomat added: “If the UK shifted its embassy it would … damage British interests in the Arab world.”

Truss pledged to the Conservative Friends of Israel during her leadership campaign that she would open a review into the location of the UK Embassy, instituting the review last week during a meeting at the UN with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Details of how the review is being conducted inside the Foreign Office have yet to be made public.


Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on

Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on
Updated 30 September 2022

Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on

Yemen truce deadline approaches as wait for peace drags on
  • Yemen’s war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the The Coalition has left hundreds of thousands dead
  • Talks to strike a lasting peace deal and a definitive end to the war remain at a standstill

SANAA: As a cease-fire deadline in war-ravaged Yemen draws near, civilians hope the truce will be extended — fearing any fresh fighting would wipe out the small gains they have made.
In the rebel-held capital Sanaa, agriculture graduate Loujain Al-Ouazir has been working to raise goats and chicken poultry for three years on a farm on top of one the ancient city’s iconic mud brick tower houses.
Ouazir only managed to make the farm successful in recent months amid the truce, which allowed goods to move more freely and cut the price of supplies.
“Thanks to the truce, the prices of animal feed and fuel have come down,” Ouazir said. “It’s easier to bring in feed and goats from other regions.”
Yemen’s war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the The Coalition has left hundreds of thousands dead and created what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
A UN-brokered cease-fire, which took effect in April and has twice been renewed, has reduced casualties by 60 percent and quadrupled fuel imports into the rebel-held Hodeida port, more than 40 humanitarian groups said on Thursday.
The truce has largely held, although the rival sides have traded blame over violations.
Ouazir said the relative peace — especially an end to air strikes in Sanaa — has created a safer environment for her business of selling milk and eggs.
“I hope the truce will continue until the war stops completely,” she said, adding that she dreamt of expanding her farm “on the ground, and not on the roof of the house.”
The truce is due to expire on Sunday, with the UN working to ensure each side agrees to extend once again.
Under the truce, commercial flights have resumed from the rebel-held capital Sanaa to Jordan and Egypt, while oil tankers have been able to dock in Hodeida, also under Houthi control.
The series of temporary truces have brought some respite to a people exhausted by eight years of war, where about 23.4 million of Yemen’s population of 30 million rely on humanitarian aid.
But there has been little fundamental progress toward peace.
A seige remains in place on Taiz, a large city in the southwest controlled by the government but surrounded by Houthi forces.
Despite the cease-fire, the main roads around the mountainous city remain shut.
In the center of Taiz, old pickups are packed tight with passengers who want to go to the nearby town of Al-Hawban, taking bumpy back roads through the mountain.
Before the war, it was a simple journey of 15 minutes.
“Now I need four or five hours,” Taiz resident Bassem Al-Sabri said.
Diego Zorrilla, UN deputy humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said the truce had improved the situation “in many respects” but “life remains difficult” for the vast majority.
“From a humanitarian point of view, the renewal of the truce on October 2 is a moral imperative,” Zorrilla said.
“Only a resolution of the conflict can allow the economy to recover, lift people out of poverty and reduce humanitarian needs,” he added.
Talks to strike a lasting peace deal and a definitive end to the war remain at a standstill.
In May, the UN envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, said the truce “presented a window of opportunity to break with the violence and suffering of the past.”
But in view of the stalled peace talks, a key aim of the truce, it has therefore “fundamentally changed nothing” and is proving to be “a failure in certain respects,” said Thomas Juneau, from the University of Ottawa.
“On the Houthi side, there is no serious will to negotiate and therefore to make compromises with the government,” said Juneau.
On the government side, differences between multiple anti-rebel factions have widened.
“We have seen the lines of fracture which were very deep widen, tensions worsen and, in many cases, become violent,” he said.
For Juneau, there is an “absurdity in renewing a truce which does not work,” and which therefore only “delays the return” of violence.
But, he added, “I don’t see any other alternative.”


Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections

Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections
Updated 30 September 2022

Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections

Kuwait announces winners of National Assembly elections

DUBAI: Kuwait has announced the winners of Thursday’s National Assembly elections after months of political gridlock in the oil-rich country.

Thousands of Kuwaitis turned up at polling stations to select 50 members out of the 305 candidates, who will be in office for the next four years, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.

The candidates also included 22 women who competed for the seats in five different constituencies. The Parliament has been all-male since the only woman MP lost her seat in December 2020.

Only two women were elected, according to the results published on KUNA.

The winning candidates for the first constituency:

1. Abdullah Al-Mudhaf

2. Hasan Johar

3. Osama Al-Zaid

4. Ahmad Lari

5. Issa Al-Kanderi

6. Adel Al-Damkhi

7. Osama Al-Shaheen

8. Saleh Ashour

9. Hamad Al-Medlej

10. Khaled Al-Amairah

Second constituency:

1. Bader Al-Mulla

2. Mohammad Al-Mutair

3. Shuaib Shabaan

4. Hamed Al-Bathali

5. Khalil Al-Salih

6. Falah Al-Hajri

7. Aliya Al-Khaled

8. Hamad Al-Mutar

9. Abdulwahab Al-Issa

10. Abdullah Al-Anbaie

Third constituency:

1. Ahmed Al-Saadoun

2. Mahalhal Al-Mudhaf

3. Abdul Karim Al-Kanderi

4. Muhanad Al-Sayer

5. Abdulaziz Al-Saqebi

6. Jenan Ramadan

7. Ammar Al-Ajmi

8. Hamad Al-Obaid

9. Fares Al-Otaibi

10. Khalil Abul

Fourth constituency:

1. Shuaib Shabab Al-Muwaizri

2. Mohammed Al-Mutairi

3. Mubarak Al-Tasha

4. Mubarak Al-Hajraf

5. Thamer Al-Dhafiri

6. Marzouq Al-Shimarri

7. Saad Al-Rashidi

8. Abeed Al-Mutairi

9. Abdullah Al-Enezi

10. Yousef Al-Bathli

Fifth constituency:

1. Hamdan Al-Azmi

2. Saud Al-Hajri

3. Khalid Al-Otaibi

4. Al-Saifi Mubarak Al-Saifi

5. Mohammad Al-Huwaila

6. Hani Shams

7. Majed Al-Mutairi

8. Mohammad Al-Mahan

9. Marzouq Al-Hubaini

10. Faisal Al-Kanderi

The polls are the sixth to take place in 10 years in Kuwait – the only Gulf Arab state with a fully elected parliament.

The elections came after Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah announced the dissolution of parliament in June following disputes between lawmakers and the government, the fourth to be named in two years.