Hundreds in Baghdad protest devaluation of Iraq’s currency

Hundreds in Baghdad protest devaluation of Iraq’s currency
People protested against the dinar’s slide in value against the US dollar, near the central bank in Baghdad. (REUTERS)
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Updated 25 January 2023

Hundreds in Baghdad protest devaluation of Iraq’s currency

Hundreds in Baghdad protest devaluation of Iraq’s currency
  • The protesters — mainly young people — rallied amid a heavy security presence

BAGHDAD: Hundreds of protesters rallied Wednesday near the Central Bank in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, angered by the recent devaluation of the Iraqi dinar and demanding the government take action to stabilize the currency.
The protesters — mainly young people — rallied amid a heavy security presence, with many carrying the Iraqi flag and banners with slogans. One slogan read: “The politicians are the ones covering up the financial corruption for the banks.”
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani on Monday accepted the resignation of the governor of the country’s Central Bank, Mustafa Ghaleb Mukheef, following a weekslong plunge of the Iraqi dinar. Mukheef, who had been in the post since 2020, was replaced by Muhsen Al-Allaq as acting governor.
The dinar hit new lows last Friday, reaching about 1,670 to the dollar. The currency has lost nearly 7 percent of its value since mid-November. The official rate stands at 1,470 dinars for $1.
On Wednesday, the street exchange rate was about 1,610 to the dollar.
Some politicians in Iraq have blamed the drop on recent measures by the US Treasury.
The US has significant control over Iraq’s supply of dollars as Iraq’s foreign reserves are held at the US Federal Reserve. Late last year, the Federal Reserve began imposing stricter measures on transactions, which have slowed the flow of dollars into Iraq, including blacklisting a number of banks from the dollar market over suspected money laundering.
In Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, dozens protested in front of the Central Bank, denouncing the slide of the Lebanese pound, which began in 2019. The value of the pound hit a new low last Thursday, trading at 50,000 to the dollar, as the country’s deeply divided Parliament failed to elect a president for the eleventh time.
Until 2019, the Lebanese currency was fixed to the dollar at a rate of 1,500 pounds to the dollar. This remains the official rate, but in practice, nearly all transactions are conducted at the black market rate.
Meanwhile, five European countries are probing Lebanon’s embattled central bank governor, Riad Salameh — who remains in his post — on allegations of laundering public money in Europe. Switzerland first opened a probe two years ago, followed by France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein.


At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake
Updated 07 February 2023

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake
  • The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said it could not verify whether prisoners had escaped, but confirmed there was a mutiny

AZAZ: Prisoners mutinied in a northwestern Syria prison Monday following a deadly earthquake, with at least 20 escaping the jail holding mostly Daesh group members, a source at the facility told AFP.
The military police prison in the town of Rajo near the Turkish border holds about 2,000 inmates, with about 1,300 of them suspected to be Daesh fighters, said the source.
The prison also holds fighters from Kurdish-led forces.
“After the earthquake struck, Rajo was affected and inmates started to mutiny and took control of parts of the prison,” said the official at Rajo jail, which is controlled by pro-Turkish factions.
“About 20 prisoners fled... who are believed to be Daesh militants.”
The 7.8-magnitude quake — which was followed by dozens of aftershocks in the region — caused damage to the prison, with walls and doors cracking, the source added.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said it could not verify whether prisoners had escaped, but confirmed there was a mutiny.
At least 1,444 people died Monday across Syria after the devastating earthquake that had its epicenter in southwestern Turkiye, the government and rescuers said.
In rebel-held parts of the country’s northwest, at least 733 people were killed and more than 2,100 injured, according to the White Helmets rescue group.
The incident in Rajo comes on the heels of an Daesh attack in December on a security complex in their former de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa, which aimed to free fellow terrorists from a prison there.
Six members of the Kurdish-led security forces that control the area were killed in the foiled assault.
The conflict in Syria started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful protests and escalated to pull in foreign powers and global jihadists.
Nearly half a million people have been killed, and the conflict has forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes, with many seeking refuge in Turkiye.

 


Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
Updated 07 February 2023

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
  • Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime

PARIS: Benjamin Briere, a French national held in Iran, has gone on hunger strike for the second time since his incarceration in May 2020, his sister and his lawyer said Monday.
Briere, who was sentenced to eight years in jail for espionage, is one of seven French and more than two dozen foreign nationals who campaigners say Iran has jailed in a strategy of hostage-taking to extract concessions from the West.
Held in the prison of Vakilabad in the eastern city of Mashhad, he had already gone on hunger strike once before, at the end of December 2021.
“It’s the only weapon he has,” his sister Blandine Briere said in a statement.
He stopped eating on January 28, she said.
Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime.
Briere, the lawyer said, is “mentally and physically exhausted” in the “gloomy” prison which he said was known for frequent “extra-judicial executions” of inmates.
Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, the second of four people executed over the protests, was held in Mashhad and hanged in public in the city on December 12.
The conditions of Briere’s incarceration were “exceptionally harsh,” and he was being denied his rights, Valent said.
Iran needed to be held accountable for the danger to Briere’s “physical and mental wellbeing,” the lawyer said.
Another detainee in Iran, 64-year-old Franco-Irish citizen Bernard Phelan held since October 1, last month suspended a hunger strike that included refusing water, at the request of his family who feared for his life.
Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant was arrested while traveling and is being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran.
Iran accuses him of anti-government propaganda, a charge he has denied.
 

 


Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
Updated 07 February 2023

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
  • Participants in the two-day Global Game Jam were tasked with designing a video game based on a theme revealed during the opening ceremony

AMMAN: The Jordan Gaming Lab, a project developed by the King Abdullah II Fund for Development, hosted a free, video game development event at several locations across the country. The two-day Global Game Jam took place over the weekend at the lab’s branches in Amman, Zarqa and Aqaba.

The participants were tasked with creating a video game based on a theme that was revealed during the opening ceremony for the event. Sixteen games were produced and uploaded to the GGJ website.

The aim of the challenge was to provide participants with hands-on experience of working with advanced technologies, while taking advantage of help and advice from professional game designers from around the world.

The Jordan Gaming Lab was launched in 2011 to help boost the country’s video game industry and provide networking opportunities for those interested in being a part of it.

 


Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
Updated 07 February 2023

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
  • By the end of the 5-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will comprise hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles
  • The plan is in line with the goal of the Roads and Transport Authority to ensure public transportation is emissions-free by 2050

DUBAI: Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has endorsed a plan to make all taxis in the emirate environmentally friendly by 2027.

Under the five-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will complete the switch to fully hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, the Emirates News Agency reported on Monday. This is in line with the authority’s goal of ensuring that public transportation is emissions-free by 2050. The RTA has already replaced 72 percent of Dubai taxis with hybrid vehicles.

“The results of experiments on eco-friendly vehicles, which RTA started trialing in 2008, confirmed the environmental benefits of reducing carbon emissions, fuel consumption and maintenance costs, as well as decreasing noise levels,” the authority’s director-general, Mattar Al-Tayer, said.

“Hybrid vehicles also have a longer lifespan compared with regular vehicles and cost less in the long run. They are characterized by lower purchase prices, maintenance fees, fuel expenses, insurance premiums, and other associated costs that potentially could be as low as 50 percent of regular vehicles.”

The initial phase of the plan, in which 50 percent of Dubai’s taxi fleet was converted to eco-friendly vehicles, succeeded in reducing carbon emissions by up to 420,000 tons a year, the Emirates News Agency said.

 


Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets
  • Four have been referred to the Public Prosecution

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested four citizens found in possession of 63,443 amphetamine pills in the Eastern Region, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday. 

The pills had an estimated street value ranging from $630,000 to $1.8 million, according to figures published in the International Addiction Review journal.

The four have been referred to the Public Prosecution.