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. (File/AFP)
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Updated 30 September 2022

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.


Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV
Updated 26 November 2022

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

DUBAI: Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that Basij militia forces sacrificed their lives in “riots” sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September.
The Basij force, affiliated with the country’s Revolutionary Guards, has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests that have spread across the country. “They have sacrificed their lives to protect people from rioters,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.


Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country

Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country
Updated 26 November 2022

Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country

Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country

LONDON: Kuwait detected cholera in a citizen arriving from a neighboring country where there is an outbreak, the health ministry said in a statement on Friday.
According to the World Health Organization, Lebanon is in the latest phase of a outbreak that began in Afghanistan in June before spreading to Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
“The Ministry of Health announced Friday a national who had returned recently from a neighboring country which suffers from cholera outbreak and showed symptoms of cholera infection,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the “infected citizen had been isolated and received the treatment at a ministry hospital until his recovery.”
It also said that the ministry dealt with those who came into contact with the infected citizen according to the relevant protocols.
The ministry ruled out the possibility of a cholera outbreak in the country, but advised nationals and residents to be cautious and avoid unsafe water and food sources when visiting countries which have reported cholera outbreaks.
It encouraged those who show suspected symptoms, such as fever and diarrhea, within seven days of their arrival from one of the countries where the disease is prevalent to go to the nearest health center to receive the necessary advice and treatment.


No injuries in rocket attack against forces in Syria — US military

No injuries in rocket attack against forces in Syria — US military
Updated 26 November 2022

No injuries in rocket attack against forces in Syria — US military

No injuries in rocket attack against forces in Syria — US military

Two rockets targeted a US patrol base in northeastern Syria but did not result in any injuries or damage to the base, the US military said on Friday.
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces visited the origin site of the rockets and found a third unfired rocket, the US military said in a statement.
The base was located in Al-Shaddadi, Syria.


Turkish threats leave Syria Kurds in fear for symbolic city

Turkish threats leave Syria Kurds in fear  for symbolic city
Updated 26 November 2022

Turkish threats leave Syria Kurds in fear for symbolic city

Turkish threats leave Syria Kurds in fear  for symbolic city
  • Turkiye blamed the Istanbul bombing on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — designated a terrorist group by the EU and the US — and said it was ordered from Kobane

In the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane, gripped by fear of a Turkish offensive, Saleh Abdo Khalil passes an open-air “museum” of buildings reduced to rubble.
“Daesh destroyed these buildings,” the local baker said.
That danger has passed, but now, he says: “Turkiye wants to destroy the rest of the city.”
Since Sunday, Turkiye has carried out airstrikes against the semi-autonomous Kurdish zones in north and northeastern Syria, and across the border in Iraq.
Those raids, which started in Kobane, have killed 58 Kurdish fighters and Syrian soldiers as well as a Kurdish journalist, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Ankara has threatened a ground offensive and made clear that Kobane, also known as Ayn Al-Arab, would be a primary objective.
US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces, now the Kurds’ de facto army in the area, led the battle that dislodged Daesh fighters from the last scraps of their Syrian territory in 2019.
Years before, in 2015, Kurdish forces drove Daesh from Kobane, on the border with Turkiye, and the city became a symbol of their victory against Daesh.
To keep the memories of the combat alive, Kurdish authorities erected a cordon around a group of destroyed buildings, burnt-out vehicles and missile remnants, dubbing the area the Kobane “museum.”
While the football World Cup in Qatar has captured some residents’ attention, tension can be read on their faces.
Most fled the combat with Daesh before slowly returning and rebuilding.
“We fought Daesh for the whole world, and today the world closes its eyes and acts like an ostrich while Turkiye bombs,” said the baker Khalil, 42.
One week after a bombing in Istanbul on November 13 that killed six people and wounded 81, Ankara said it launched air strikes from “70 planes and drones” against Kurdish bases in Iraq and Syria, starting with Kobane.
Turkiye blamed the Istanbul bombing on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — designated a terrorist group by the EU and the US — and said it was ordered from Kobane.
The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, and Turkiye alleges that Syrian Kurdish fighters are the group’s allies.
Kurdish groups denied any involvement in the Ankara blast.
Turkiye then hit other areas including the SDF bastion of Hasakeh province, in the northeast, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Tuesday that Turkiye would “soon” begin a ground operation.
“The situation in Kobane is bad. People don’t sleep at night” out of fear that the city could be “bombed at any moment,” said Nabo Jumaa Ramadan, who opened a minimart in Kobane after he returned from Lebanon in 2019.
“Kobane is a symbol for the Kurds and she defeated Daesh,” Ramadan said with pride. Erdogan wants to “break the will of Kurds in the city,” according to Ramadan.
“If Kobane falls, all Rojava will fall,” he predicted, using the name Kurds in Syria give to the area they administer.
The Kurds faced an earlier Turkish incursion in 2019 when Ankara’s forces and its Syrian proxies grabbed a swathe of land along the frontier.
Under a deal between Moscow and Ankara, Kurdish forces which controlled nearly a third of Syria had to pull back to a line 30 km from the border.
The withdrawal included Kobane.
On Thursday, despite fears of a new ground incursion, there was no visible Kurdish military mobilization in the streets of Kobane, AFP correspondents said.
A civilian vehicle traversed the city-center, calling residents through a loudspeaker to join a demonstration against Turkiye’s strikes.
Even when bombs are not falling, Turkiye’s proximity is hard to avoid, and its flags can be seen along the border from several districts of Kobane.
Flags of Syria and Russia — a major ally of Damascus — are also visible, on a nearby hill with a post for government troops.
“We’re afraid of bombs. We are poor, without possessions or land,” said Amina Youssef, 65, in front of her home.
“We only have this house. What does Turkiye want? We don’t know what to do.”
The trauma spans generations.
“We came back years ago and began to rebuild our homes,” Sherwan Hami, 39, said, sheltering from rain inside a shop.
“The city and the markets prospered and people went back to work,” he said.
“But there’s a new war. We’re living under the bombs again.”

 


Dozens of casualties as Iranian security forces fire on protesters

Demonstrators stage a protest at the soccer match between Wales and Iran. (AP)
Demonstrators stage a protest at the soccer match between Wales and Iran. (AP)
Updated 26 November 2022

Dozens of casualties as Iranian security forces fire on protesters

Demonstrators stage a protest at the soccer match between Wales and Iran. (AP)
  • Human rights group: Revolutionary Guard Corps use military equipment, including heavy machine
  • The people’s protest has shown that the policies of the last 43 years have reached a dead end

TEHRAN: Iranian security forces opened fire on protests after Friday prayers in the restive southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, leaving dozens of people dead or wounded, activists said.

Iran has intensified a crackdown on protests sparked by the Sept. 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman of Kurdish origin.
Campaigners had called for nationwide demonstrations this week in solidarity with Kurdistan, which along with Sistan-Baluchistan has borne the brunt of Iran’s deadly protest crackdown.
“Kurdistan, Kurdistan, we will support you,” protesters were heard chanting on Friday in a video from the Sistan-Baluchistan capital Zahedan, one of the few Sunni-majority cities in Iran.
“Kurds and Baluchs are brothers, thirsting for the leader’s blood,” they sang in other unverified footage posted on social media, in reference to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
Activists said later that the security forces had opened fire on protesters in the city.
“Dozens have been killed or injured,” the London-based Baloch Activists Campaign said on its Telegram channel. AFP was unable to confirm the toll.
BAC shared a video showing a group of men carrying a man who appears to be wounded out of what it said was Zahedan’s Makki mosque.
Demonstrators also took to the streets of the Sistan-Baluchistan cities of Iranshahr, Khash and Saravan, said BAC and the 1500tasvir monitor.
Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had used military equipment, including heavy machine guns, to suppress the people.
The Revolutionary Guards have built up their presence in restive Kurdish regions.
The Kurdish-populated provinces of western and northwestern Iran have been hubs of protest since the death of Amini after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women. On Tuesday, IHR said the Iranian security forces had killed at least 416 people, including 51 children and 27 women, since the protests broke out.
Its toll included at least 126 people killed in Sistan-Baluchistan and 48 people slain in Kurdistan province.
More than 90 were killed during a mass shooting in Zahedan on Sept. 30. Friday’s protests came a day after the UN Human Rights Council voted to create a high-level investigation into Iran’s bloody crackdown.
Iran condemned the move, saying it is “useless and represents a violation of the country’s national sovereignty.”
A prominent Baluch cleric, Molavi Abdolhamid, used his Friday prayers to call for an end to the repression of protests through arrests and killings.
“The people’s protest has shown that the policies of the last 43 years have reached a dead end,” his website quoted him as saying.
More Revolutionary Guards armored units and special forces were heading to the west and northwest border regions, home to the Kurdish minority, several state news agencies reported, after earlier reinforcements were announced on Sunday.
The Tasnim news agency showed a photograph of smiling Revolutionary Guards commanders standing on a military vehicle and saluting a long line of troops.
Iran has accused Western countries of orchestrating the unrest and accused protesters in ethnic minority regions of working on behalf of separatist groups.
Molavi Abdolhamid also used his sermon to denounce the reported abuse of detainees.
“Things are said about the mistreatment of women in the media that are heavy and I can’t bring myself to say,” he said, apparently referring to reports of alleged rapes of detained women.
The UN Human Rights Council, which on Thursday voted to start investigating Iran’s crackdown, has demanded the authorities halt the violence.