Bloodied and terror-stricken Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression

Special Bloodied and terror-stricken Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression
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Several schoolchildren have been hiding for fear of more bombings from drones.
Special Bloodied and terror-stricken Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression
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A wounded man receives treatment at a hospital following strikes by Iranian forces on the village of Altun Kupri in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Region on Sept.28, 2022. (AFP)
Special Bloodied and terror-stricken Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression
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A wounded man receives treatment at a hospital following strikes by Iranian forces on the village of Altun Kupri in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Region on Sept.28, 2022. (AFP)
Special Bloodied and terror-stricken Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression
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Smoke rises from the Iraqi Kurdistan headquarters of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) after Iran's Revolutionary Guards' strike on Sept. 28, 2022. (Reuters)
Special Bloodied and terror-stricken Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression
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Terrified Kurdish school children shelter on hillside after the Iranian drone strike in the town of Koya in Iraqi Kurdistan. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 October 2022

Bloodied and terror-stricken Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression

Bloodied and terror-stricken Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression
  • Civilians died when Iran launched a massive aerial assault on northern Iraq on Wednesday 
  • Analysts say strikes were intended to divert attention from protests roiling the Islamic Republic

IRBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: The photo of a blood-stained Kurdish girl, whose school in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan Region was attacked on Wednesday by Iranian drones and missiles, has put a human face on the mounting cost of Tehran’s indiscriminate assault on the semi-autonomous region.

Clips posted by journalists showed terror-stricken Kurdish school children being escorted to safety and sheltering on hillsides near the town of Koya, which analysts described as an intolerable act of aggression aimed at diverting international attention away from the ongoing protests roiling the Islamic Republic.

Mobile phone footage shared with local news channels shows primary school children screaming in response to nearby explosions as panicked parents and teachers try to usher them away.

On Wednesday, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched several Fateh 360 ballistic missiles, a new missile Iran only test-fired for the first time earlier in September, and Shahed 136 suicide drones, the same recently deployed by Russia in the Ukraine war, at targets throughout the Kurdistan Region of neighboring Iraq.

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The purported targets were the headquarters of Iranian Kurdish dissident groups. At least 14 people are reported to have been killed and 58 injured, including women and children.

Kurdish dissident groups targeted in the strikes include the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), the Kurdistan Freedom Party, and Komala. According to local reports, Rozhhalat primary school in Koya, which is situated close to the KDPI’s main base in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, was also hit in what experts believe was a deliberate attack. 

“It appears that Iran acted upon geospatial intelligence for the strikes, but it remains to be known how precise such intelligence was,” Ceng Sagnic, head of analysis at TAM-C Solutions, a multinational geopolitical intelligence and consultancy firm, told Arab News.

“It is fairly unlikely that targeted locations were randomly selected for strikes since they occurred in areas with high KDPI activity, which may suggest that a school was selected on purpose.”

He added: “Iran had previously targeted civilian-populated areas of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, in attempts to pressure both the local population and the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) against Iranian Kurdish dissident groups.”

Osamah Golpy, a Kurdish journalist who was in Koya on Wednesday, said most of the previous attacks Iran carried out against dissident bases in Iraqi Kurdistan were “almost always done at night.”

“This time Iran chose to attack in the daytime since it wanted media coverage, as if to send a message,” he told Arab News. “Iran wanted to show it can carry out attacks against the Peshmerga (the KRG’s armed forces) and civilians to terrorize the (Iranian Kurdish) dissident groups and send a message to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, including the population.”

The attacks coincided with anti-regime protests across Iran following the death of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police, who had detained her on the grounds that she was wearing her mandatory hijab improperly.

The Iranian strikes on Iraq’s Kurdistan Region were broadcast live on Iranian television throughout the day. Golpy believes this was an intentional move on Tehran’s part to “set the agenda.”

“There is less coverage of the protests and more coverage of Iranian attacks inside Iraqi Kurdistan,” he said. “My understanding is that it was intentional and it was timed to send these messages to various stakeholders, including the Kurdistan Region and the Iranian Kurdish dissident groups.”

Sagnic of TAM-C Solutions also suspects the attacks by the IRGC are designed to deflect attention from the ongoing domestic protests. “Iran’s widespread cross-border strikes overlapping with the largest anti-regime protest movement do not seem to be a mere coincidence,” he said.




Handout picture provided by the Iranian Army office on August 25, 2022 shows the launch of a military UAV during a drill at an undisclosed location in Iran. (AFP)

“Iran has particularly been using cross-border attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan as a diversionary tool for public opinion during times of crises, with most of these attacks being portrayed as retaliation against the US and Israel.”

Sagnic believes that a “similar but expanded campaign” was likely the reason for the latest strikes, which he added is “underscored by a failed attempt to target US military facilities in (the Iraqi Kurdish capital) Irbil.”

He added: “In my opinion, Iran may have attempted to change the course of the public debate domestically by pointing to an outside ‘enemy’ said to be supported by the West. Tehran’s claims that the current public unrest is fueled by the US complements this theory.”




A partial view shows the aftermath of Iranian cross-border attacks in Zargwez, where exiled Iranian Kurdish parties maintain offices, around 15 km from Sulaimaniyah, Iraq on Sept.  28, 2022. (AFP)

Sagnic does not believe that Iran launched the cross-border assault as a preemptive move to deter or prevent Iranian Kurdish groups from actively intervening in Iran’s western Kurdish-majority region.

“I think attacks in Koya have more to do with the image that Iran wants to portray with regard to the purported foreign enemy and the involvement of dissidents rather than preventing further intervention by Kurdish groups stationed in Iraqi Kurdistan,” he said.

Although Sagnic does not believe Wednesday’s attacks are unprecedented, he says the timing was “rather interesting” and suggested it may “show a certain level of panic within the regime establishment.”

“In my understanding, Tehran’s main goal was to claim to its own public that the unrest is rooted outside Iran, hence required cross-border retaliations,” he said.

“Indeed there remains a strong probability that Iran may attempt to advance the policy of linking the current unrest to extraterritorial actors, and conduct continued cross-border attacks to condition the public opinion. Therefore more attacks in the Kurdistan Region, especially in Irbil where the closest large-scale Western military and diplomatic presence to Iran is located.”




Iranian Americans rally in Washington, DC, in support of the Iranian resistance movement and to denounce the death of Mahsa Amini under the custody of Iranian religious police. (AFP)

Kurdish journalist Golpy concurs, saying that the timing of the attacks on a neighboring country appears to be more than a mere coincidence while mass protests are taking place within Iran’s own borders.

“Almost every time when there are protests, the regime tries to contain and somehow address the issue within the country,” said Golpy. “Of course they have always blamed external stakeholders such as Israel and the US, but they never take action against the alleged external actors.

“But this time, I think for the first time, Iran tried to address the issue outside of its borders by attacking these Kurdish dissident groups, which, in my understanding, is a sign of weakness.”

 

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Magnitude-7.8 quake destroys buildings in Turkiye and Syria, at least 10 confirmed dead

Magnitude-7.8 quake destroys buildings in Turkiye and Syria, at least 10 confirmed dead
Updated 41 min 19 sec ago

Magnitude-7.8 quake destroys buildings in Turkiye and Syria, at least 10 confirmed dead

Magnitude-7.8 quake destroys buildings in Turkiye and Syria, at least 10 confirmed dead
  • Salih Ayhan, governor of Sanliurfa province near the Syrian border, says 10 people were confirmed dead
  • Temblor felt in neighboring countries, particularly in Lebanon, Cyprus, Syria and Jordan

RIYADH/ANKARA: A 7.8 magnitude quake knocked down multiple buildings in Turkiye and Syria early Monday and officials warned of many casualties.

At least 10 deaths have been confirmed in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, according to Gov. Salih Ayhan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to the areas hit by the quake.

“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” he wrote.

There were at least 6 aftershocks and he urged people not to enter damaged buildings due to the risks, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.

“Our priority is to bring out people trapped under ruined buildings and to transfer them to hospitals,” he said.

In northwest Syria, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the rebel-held region as “disastrous” adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble. The civil defense urged people to evacuate buildings to gather in open areas.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake was centered about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from Gaziantep, a major city and provincial capital. It was centered 18 kilometers (11 miles) deep, and a strong 6.7 aftershock rumbled about 10 minutes later.

Turkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management agency, AFAD, said the quake measured 7.4 and was centered in the town of Pazarcik, in Kahramanmaras province.

The German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) measured the quake at Magnitude 7.7, with a shallow depth of 10 kilometers.

Several buildings tumbled down in the neighboring provinces of Malatya, Diyarbakir and Malatya, HaberTurk television reported. 

Syria’s state media reported that some buildings collapsed in the northern city of Aleppo and the central city of Hama.

In Damascus, buildings shook and many people went down to the streets in fear.

The quake jolted residents in Lebanon from beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many residents of Beirut left their homes and took to the streets or drove in their cars away from buildings.

The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue until Thursday.

Netizens from as far as Jerusalem and Beirut talked of being awakened by the strong shaking.

"I live in Gaziantep, Türkiye.  Was sleeping when it started. Absolutely terrifying," Nasip (@iam_nasib) commented on a video posted on Twitter.

"Felt it in Jerusalem," said Amy di Nardò (@amybellabella).

Sagittarius (@JRsagittarius) said he was in Beirut and the experienced "was terrifying."

Karolingston (@karolingston) of Cyprus said he was awakened because "My bed was shaking."

"Felt it in Lebanon. It was a hell of a feeling!" chimed in CharbelRahmé (@charbelrahm_e)

Turkiye is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.

Duzce was one of the regions hit by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999 — the worst to hit Turkiye in decades.

That quake killed more than 17,000 people, including about 1,000 in Istanbul.

Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate Istanbul, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.

A magnitude-6.8 quake hit Elazig in January 2020, killing more than 40 people.

And in October that year, a magnitude-7.0 quake hit the Aegean Sea, killing 114 people and wounding more than 1,000.

(With agencies)

 

 


Turkiye’s President Erdogan says Western missions will ‘pay’ for closures

A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
Updated 06 February 2023

Turkiye’s President Erdogan says Western missions will ‘pay’ for closures

A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
  • Turkiye suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession last month following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Qur'an was burned

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Western missions would “pay” for issuing security warnings and temporarily closing consulates in Turkiye last week, while police said there was no serious threat to foreigners after detaining 15 Daesh suspects on Sunday.
Ankara summoned the ambassadors of nine countries on Thursday to criticize their decisions to temporarily shut diplomatic missions and issue security alerts. Turkish officials said the following day that Western nations, including the United States and Germany, had not shared information to back up their claims of a security threat.
“The other day our foreign ministry summoned all of them and gave the necessary ultimatum, told them ‘You will pay for this heavily if you keep this up,’” Erdogan said during a meeting with youth that was pre-recorded and broadcast on Sunday.
Alongside the closures, several Western states warned citizens of a heightened risk of attacks to diplomatic missions and non-Muslim places of worship in Turkiye, following a series of far-right protests in Europe in recent weeks that included several incidents of burning copies of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an.
Turkiye suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession last month following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Qur'an was burned.
Erdogan said that the Western states were “playing for (more) time” and that the “necessary decisions” would be taken during Monday’s cabinet meeting, without elaborating.
’NO CONCRETE THREATS’
Earlier on Sunday, police said they had not found evidence of any concrete threat to foreigners in the detentions of 15 Daesh suspects accused of targeting consulates and non-Muslim houses of worship, state media reported.
Anadolu Agency cited an Istanbul police statement saying the suspects had “received instructions for acts targeting consulates of Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as Christian and Jewish places of worship.”
While the suspects’ ties to the jihadist group were confirmed, no concrete threats toward foreigners were found, the statement said.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated on Saturday Turkiye’s frustration with what it says is Sweden’s inaction toward entities that Ankara accuses of terrorist activity. All 30 NATO members must ratify newcomers.
Turkiye, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement in June aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their NATO bids, with the Nordic states pledging to take a harder line primarily against local members of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.
 

 


Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
Updated 05 February 2023

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
  • Calls grow for deeper investigation into motivations and protection of youngsters amid shock and despair

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Security services of the southern Yemeni city of Taiz said that two children committed suicide in two separate events on Saturday, leaving the beleaguered population in shock and despair.

Police in Taiz said in a statement that they were notified of two suicide victims in the city on Saturday evening, citing the deaths as “dangerous precedents.”

Police named the first child as 12-year-old Kareem Abdul Kareem from the Al-Jamhuria neighborhood, who hanged himself inside his room on Saturday afternoon by tying a scarf around his neck.

Ammar Khaled, a 16-year-old who committed suicide on Saturday evening by wrapping a rope around his neck and tying it to a door outside his family’s home, is the second victim. 

After forensic investigators gathered photographs and evidence, his family requested his burial on the same day. 

Police in Taiz pledged to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the victims and have asked the community and professionals for assistance in determining the reasons behind the suicides.

In a statement, police urged both authorities and members of the public “to collaborate…in order to provide the appropriate answers.”

Mohammed Alawi, an investigator with police in Taiz, told Arab News that a team, including social and psychiatric professionals, was looking into the cases and would release their findings this week.

Initially, Alawi ruled out the possibility of cyberbullying or even sexual harassment and attributed the deaths of the two children to the mobile game PUBG. 

“These are risky games, and we advise parents to monitor their children’s mobile devices to see what they are seeing or playing,” Alawi said.

He also touched on other instances of suicide, which he blamed on psychological suffering caused by the war.

“Women and children in Yemen, particularly in besieged Taiz, have suffered emotionally because of the war. We had never seen such crimes before the war,” he said.  

On social media, the police statement and photographs of the two deceased children have elicited condolences for the families and calls for an investigation into the motivations behind the suicides and for the protection of children.

“You should investigate with the family about the electronic games they played, such as PUBG, and whether they have Facebook or WhatsApp accounts,” said Adnan Taha on Facebook.

“All communications should be reviewed, since (the children) may be vulnerable to harassment and extortion,” Taha said.

Another social media user, Muneir Al-Qaisi, urged local security agencies not to bury the victims before autopsies are conducted to determine whether they consumed anything poisonous.

“We hope you will not hurry to bury them and (will) examine their bodies,” Al-Qaisi said. 

“It is conceivable that the parents are unaware of beverages or meals being shared among the children,” said Al-Qaisi.

Investigator Alawi responded to accusations of a hasty burial by stating that one of the boys was buried at the request of his family and only after investigators examined both the corpse and the scene.

“He was buried after forensic teams examined the scene, photographed it, and performed investigations. Additionally, his relatives requested burial from the prosecution,” Alawi said.


Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
Updated 05 February 2023

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
  • Rachid Karami International Fair has decayed due to conflict, poor maintenance and country’s financial crisis

TRIPOLI: Its arch is cracking and its vast pavilions lie empty, but the crumbling Rachid Karami International Fair in Lebanon’s port city Tripoli now has hope of revival, having been added to the United Nations’ list of world heritage sites in danger.
Designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1962, the collection of structures on the 70-hectare plot is considered one of the key works of 20th century modernism in the Middle East.
But the fair park has slowly decayed due to repeated rounds of fighting over the last 60 years, poor maintenance and most recently Lebanon’s crippling, three-year-old financial crisis.
“It was placed on the World Heritage List exceptionally, quickly and urgently – and on the list of heritage in danger because it’s in a critical situation,” said Joseph Kreidi, UNESCO’s national program officer for culture in Beirut.
Its elegant arch is missing concrete in some parts, exposing the rebar underneath. Rainwater has pooled at the locked entrances. One section is sealed off by a sign that reads, “Unsafe building entry.”
“Placing it on the World Heritage Danger List is an appeal to all countries of the world, as if to say: this site needs some care,” said Kreidi.
He said it was up to the Lebanese authorities to draw together a plan for the site’s protection and rehabilitation but that UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, could help search for funding and provide technical expertise.
Lebanon has five other sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, most of them citadels and ancient temples.
Niemeyer is recognized as one of the fathers of modern architecture and the site in Tripoli was an early foray into the Middle East.
Construction of the fairground began in the 1960s but was delayed when civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975. Fighters used the site to stage operations and stored weapons underneath its concrete dome.
Mira Minkara, a freelance tour guide from Tripoli and a member of the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation’s Tripoli chapter, has fond – but rare – memories of the fairground as a child.
For the most part, it was off-limits to Tripoli’s residents given safety concerns. But Minkara remembered her first visit during a festival of pan-African culture and crafts.
She hopes that UNESCO’s recognition could bring new festivals, exhibitions and economic benefits to Tripoli – already one of the poorest cities on the Mediterranean before Lebanon’s financial meltdown began.
Lebanon’s cultural heritage has been hit hard in recent years. The 2020 Beirut port blast tore through 19th-century homes in historic neighborhoods and power outages caused by the financial crisis have cut supplies to the national museum.
“We hope things change a little,” Minkara said. “It’s high time for this fairground to emerge from this long sleep, this almost-death.”


Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges
Updated 05 February 2023

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges
  • Budget for event will instead be used to fund development initiatives
  • Event was set to start later this month

CAIRO: In response to a host of global economic challenges, this year’s World Youth Forum, which was set to start later this month, has been canceled, its organizers said on Saturday.

Instead, the budget for the event, which was to be held in the Egyptian town of Sharm El-Sheikh, will be used to fund the implementation of five development initiatives aimed at young people in Egypt and beyond.

This year would have marked the fifth edition of the forum, with the fourth being held in January last year. The event is organized by the Presidential Program for Qualifying Youth for Leadership.

It said the decision to cancel this year's conference was an acknowledgment of the multiple crises facing the world that have put huge humanitarian and economic pressures on nations and governments.

Among the beneficiaries of the redirected funding is a series of international exchange programs for young people. These will be arranged in cooperation with the Decent Life Foundation, National Alliance for Civil Development Action, Arab Union for Volunteering and UN Volunteers Program.

Parliamentary Counselor Issam Hilal Afifi told Arab News that the proceeds from the sponsorship rights to this year’s forum would be redirected toward a large package of initiatives.

Dr. Muhammad Mahmoud Mahran, secretary-general of the International Committee for the Defense of Water Resources, said the move would also enable recommendations made at the previous forum to be implemented.

The planned initiatives would have a positive impact at the local, African and global level, he said.