RIYADH: Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and his Omani counterpart Badr Al-Busaidi on Sunday led the ninth session of the Kuwaiti-Omani joint committee meetings in Muscat, the Kuwait News Agency reported.
The two ministers and their delegations discussed a wide range of issues, including the economy, development, culture, and the environment.
They also reviewed new opportunities for cooperation and stressed a shared desire to strengthen bilateral relations at all levels.
The two-day event resulted in the signing of five memorandums of understanding, and agreement on executive programs in the fields of diplomatic studies and training, higher education, competition protection and monopoly prevention, environmental protection, and developing industrial exports.
Teen girl in coma after Iran metro assault: rights group
Updated 5 sec ago
PARIS: An Iranian girl aged 16 has been left in a coma and is being treated in hospital under heavy security after an assault on the Tehran subway, a rights group said on Tuesday. The Kurdish-focused rights group Hengaw said the teenager, named as Armita Garawand, had been badly injured in a run-in on the Tehran metro with female morality police officers. This has already been denied by the Iranian authorities who say that the girl “fainted” due to low blood pressure and that there was no involvement of the security forces. Iranian authorities remain on high alert for any upsurge of social tension just over a year after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini who had been arrested for allegedly violating the strict dress rules for women. Her death sparked several months of protests that rattled Iran’s clerical leadership and only dwindled in the face of a crackdown that according to activists has seen thousands arrested and hundreds killed. Hengaw said that Garawand was left with severe injuries after being apprehended by agents of the so-called morality police at the Shohada metro station in Tehran on Sunday. It said she was being treated under tight security at Tehran’s Fajr hospital and “there are currently no visits allowed for the victim, not even from her family.” Though a resident of Tehran, Garawand hails from the city of Kermanshah in Kurdish-populated western Iran, Hengaw said. Maryam Lotfi, a journalist from the Shargh daily newspaper, sought in the aftermath of the incident to visit the hospital but was immediately detained. She was subsequently released, it added. The case has become the subject of intense discussion on social media, with a purported video of the incident said by some to show the teen, with friends and apparently unveiled, being pushed into the metro by female police agents. Masood Dorosti, managing director of the Tehran subway system, denied there was “any verbal or physical conflict” between the student and “passengers or metro executives.” “Some rumors about a confrontation with metro agents... are not true and CCTV footage refutes this claim,” Dorosti told state news agency IRNA. The IranWire news site, based outside Iran, cited a source as saying she had sustained a “head injury” after being pushed by the officers. A year after Amini’s death, Iranian authorities have launched a renewed push to crack down on women defying the Islamic republic’s strict dress rules for women, including the mandatory hijab. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said women and girls “face increased violence, arbitrary arrests and heightened discrimination after the Islamic Republic re-activated its forced-veiling police patrols.”
‘Left to die’: report exposes horrors at Syria army hospital
Sick prisoners sent from detention facilities to the capital’s Tishreen Military Hospital for treatment rarely received any medical attention
Instead, security forces at the hospital jail and even medical and administrative staff inflicted “brutal torture” on detainees
Updated 12 min 26 sec ago
BEIRUT: Syrian authorities abused and left detainees to die at a Damascus military hospital, using the facility to cover up the torture of prisoners, a rights group and former detainees said.
Sick prisoners sent from detention facilities to the capital’s Tishreen Military Hospital for treatment rarely received any medical attention, according to a report released Tuesday by the Association of Detainees and the Missing in Sednaya Prison (ADMSP), a Turkiye-based watchdog.
Instead, security forces at the hospital jail and even medical and administrative staff inflicted “brutal torture” on detainees, including physical and psychological violence, according to the report titled “Buried in Silence.”
It covers abuses from the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011 to 2020, but the authors said they believe many of the practices persist today.
Abu Hamza, 43, said he was taken to the jail at the Tishreen hospital three times during his incarceration, but only saw a doctor once.
“Prisoners were afraid to go to the hospital, because many did not return,” said Abu Hamza, who was jailed for seven years, including at the notorious Sednaya prison on the Damascus outskirts.
“Those who were very sick would be left to die in the hospital lockup,” said Abu Hamza, who like others AFP spoke to used first names or pseudonyms for fear of reprisals.
“If we could walk, we’d be sent back to prison,” he added.
ADMSP was founded by former detainees held in Sednaya, Syria’s largest jail which has become a by-word for torture and the darkest abuses of the regime.
In a report last year the group described Sednaya’s “salt rooms,” primitive mortuaries designed to preserve bodies.
The latest ADMSP report is based on interviews with 32 people including former detainees, security personnel and medical staff, as well as leaked documents.
Rights groups have long accused President Bashar Assad’s government of torturing detainees and executing prisoners without fair trials.
In 2011, Syrian government forces cracked down on peaceful protesters, triggering a complex war that has left more than 500,000 dead and forced millions to flee.
Up to one-fifth of that toll died in government-run prisons, according to Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Some of the horrific images of dead Syrians smuggled out by “Caesar,” a defector who had worked as a photographer for the military police, were shot inside Tishreen hospital, according to human rights groups.
Abu Hamza said guards at the hospital prison “once barged in and ordered us to lie on the ground,” beating them for 15 minutes before leaving.
According to the ADMSP report, inmates who died in custody from torture or poor conditions, particularly at Sednaya, were taken to the Tishreen hospital and then to “mass graves” near the capital.
Inmates arriving at the hospital were first held “in the same room where bodies of detainees were collected,” and sick detainees were forced to help transport prisoners’ corpses, the report said.
Abu Hamza said he was made to toil for hours, barefoot and in the bitter cold, loading bodies into a vehicle at Sednaya prison and then offloading them at Tishreen hospital near its jail.
There, security forces wrote a number on the corpse or on a piece of paper. A photographer would then take pictures of the dead.
The ADMSP report said no autopsies were conducted and the hospital issued “death certificates with false information,” often citing heart attack, kidney failure or stroke as the cause of death.
Sometimes inmates “between life and death” were placed among the corpses and left to die or even killed, according to the report.
Abu Hamza recalled a detainee who was “fighting for his life” in the hospital jail.
“They did not bring a doctor. Instead, they put him aside, among the corpses. They left him to die,” he said.
The report said a jail officer would sometimes kill very sick detainees, or prisoners would be ordered to take part in doing so.
Tishreen hospital plays a “central role in enforced disappearances, covering up torture, falsifying the causes of death” and other abuses amounting to “crimes against humanity” said ADMSP co-founder Diab Serriya.
“What happens inside Tishreen hospital and other military hospitals is a systematic policy” adopted by the authorities, he added.
A Syrian doctor is currently on trial in Germany accused of torture, murder and crimes against humanity while working in military hospitals in his homeland.
Lawsuits have been filed elsewhere in Europe, as well as the United States and at the International Court of Justice, against the Syrian government and officials on accusations of torture.
Mahmud was only 16 when he was jailed in 2014 and sent to Tishreen hospital, where he said other detainees beat him severely.
“They held me to the ground, stepped on me and covered my mouth... (until) I passed out,” he said.
“I woke up a short time later and found myself among corpses in the corner of the cell,” Mahmud said, adding he was taken back to Sednaya prison without receiving any medical attention.
During the rest of his time in detention, he was too scared to visit a doctor, despite contracting tuberculosis.
“I could no longer chew food at one point, but I didn’t tell anyone so they wouldn’t take me back to Tishreen hospital,” Mahmud said.
President Biden thanks Qatar’s emir for mediation in freeing Americans from Iran
Biden praised “Qatar’s active and constructive role on the international stage.”
Updated 25 min 49 sec ago
WASHINGTON D.C.: US President Joe Biden called Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to thank him for Doha’s mediation that resulted in the release of a number of Americans from Iran, the Amiri Diwan said on Tuesday.
“During the call, the strategic relations between the two countries and aspects of supporting and strengthening them in various fields were reviewed,” the Amiri Diwan, or Emir’s office, said in a statement.
It also said that Biden had praised “Qatar’s active and constructive role on the international stage.”
Last month, with Doha’s mediation, Iran freed five Americans as part of a prisoner swap for five Iranians held in the United States and the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds.
Rising poverty forces Syrian parents to choose between children’s schooling and survival
Economic collapse has made textbooks, uniforms and stationery unaffordable for many impoverished households
“Lost generation” feared as conflict, earthquakes and spending cuts leave schools damaged and underfunded
Updated 13 min 24 sec ago
LONDON: Syria’s dire economic situation has forced students from impoverished backgrounds to miss school this year, as families cut back on expenses and try to shore up household incomes by sending their children to work.
Schools in government-held areas of Syria reopened in September after the summer break, welcoming back an estimated 3.7 million children, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency. However, many others did not show up.
Among those marked as absent were young people who have had no other choice but to become laborers to earn money and help their families make ends meet as they grapple with a devastating and unprecedented economic crisis.
In an attempt to prevent children being deprived of their right to education, and ensure they are not forced into exploitative child labor, civil society groups have established projects designed to help vulnerable students continue their studies.
For example, Mart Team, a charity in Damascus, has launched a campaign called “Aqlamouna Amalouna” — which translates as “Hope in our pens” — to support struggling primary school students.
“After conducting a study to investigate why many students in grades one to six were not attending school, we found that a major factor was the soaring costs of stationery and educational supplies,” Marwan Alrez, the general manager of Mart Team, told Arab News.
“Parents have told us schools demand hefty fees and charges, prompting many of them to remove their children from school and force them into the labor market in order to contribute to the household earnings.”
Donya Abo Alzahab, who has been teaching a second-grade class at a primary school in Damascus for a year, sees how desperate the situation has become for many of her young students, and also their teachers.
“I was thrilled to start my first job as a schoolteacher,” she told Arab News. “Little did I know it would prove to be a costly, significant challenge, given the lack of much-needed support and teaching aids.”
With some students lagging behind their peers by as much as three years in terms of learning, teachers such as Alzahab often find themselves compelled to spend a substantial portion of their own modest incomes on essential teaching aids, including textbooks, which are not cheap at a time when the value of the nation’s currency has fallen to record lows.
Alrez said the average cost of educational supplies for a single primary school student is at least 200,000 Syrian pounds (approximately $16); a backpack alone can cost 100,000 pounds. If schools fail to provide students with textbooks, these can cost parents an additional 50,000 pounds.
Such costs are increasingly out of the reach of many public-sector employees, whose salaries were only recently increased to 185,940 Syrian pounds. At the same time, the government slashed fuel subsidies, sparking rare protests in southern Syria.
Alzahab, who holds a degree in special educational needs, said transport costs alone can exceed 80,000 pounds per month, equivalent to almost half her salary. She also spends 30,000 pounds on teaching aids and 15,000 for a teacher’s planner that has to be replaced every month.
“The only reason why I won’t quit my job is the students, she said. “If I resign, they will be left for a long period without a replacement.”
• 3.7m Syrian students returned to school in government-held areas in September.
• Economic crisis has made schooling too expensive for many households.
• Some children have become laborers to help provide for their families.
Such a gap in their education would be devastating for her pupils’ learning outcomes, which in many cases are already behind schedule. Of the 30 students in her class, 20 are unable read or write.
A recent report by UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, titled “Every Day Counts” revealed that in 2022, about 2.4 million children in Syria were not in school and an additional 1.6 million were at risk of dropping out.
According to a subsequent UNICEF report covering the period from January to March this year, the figures have not improved. Furthermore, the share of the national budget allocated by the Syrian government to education fell from 7.1 percent in 2021 to 3.6 percent in 2022.
UNICEF estimates that the Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, has damaged or destroyed 7,000 schools across the country. This situation was compounded by the devastating twin earthquakes that hit parts of northern Syria and southern Turkiye on Feb. 6 this year.
The agency warned of the danger of a generation of young children who have never gone to school and “will face difficulties in enrolling and adjusting in formal schooling as they grow older.”
Until the economic crisis in the country is brought under control, however, many households will continue to prioritize survival over schooling.
“Syria’s children are quite often faced with a dilemma: whether to support their families to survive or continue their education,” Hamzah Barhameyeh, the advocacy and communication manager at World Vision, an international child-focused charity, told Arab News.
“The Syrian conflict has decimated the education infrastructure and the earthquake has compounded the predicament, leaving schools in need of rehabilitation and school supplies, which in turn has made the choice between education and child labor a much easier decision.”
Alrez highlighted the importance of supporting schoolchildren because “this generation is Syria’s future.”
His charity’s initiative has so far succeeded in meeting the needs of about 300 primary school pupils in parts of Rif Dimashq, including Maaraba and Sbeneh, areas of Ghouta, such as Zamalka, and the outskirts of Damascus.
The Syrian government has said it recognizes the struggles many students and their families face and is trying to help. The Ministry of Education has urged schools to be lenient when enforcing policies on the wearing of uniforms, for example, according to a report by SANA.
The ministry also called on schools to cut their demands for certain supplies, wherever feasible, to alleviate the burden on poverty-stricken families, at least in part.
Such small measures are unlikely to prove substantially successful, however, given that 90 percent of the Syrian population now lives below the poverty line. Even teachers in government-held areas, such as Alzahab, are struggling to do their jobs despite being innovative and resourceful wherever possible.
The situation is hardly any better for children in parts of Syria outside the government’s control. The earthquakes in February largely affected opposition-held regions in the northwest, where facilities for children had already been decimated by conflict.
At least 450 schools in the northwest were “damaged to varying degrees” by the earthquakes, according to a report published in April by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Thousands more have been damaged or destroyed during more than 12 years of civil war, which has been particularly destructive in the northwest of the country.
World Vision currently has six educational projects operating in northwestern Syria, Barhameyeh said, focusing on “school rehabilitation, educational centers, school winterization and teacher training.”
He added: “Those projects also include a livelihood intervention (program) that provides food packages, hygiene kits, school supplies and, in some instances, cash vouchers to reduce families’ need to send their children to work.”
Still, it remains an uphill battle, especially given that more than 1.7 million children in northwestern Syria rely on humanitarian assistance, a situation that has, predictably, forced more children into work at the expense of their education.
“The food crisis and recent cuts to World Food Program programs are actively pushing young boys to head to the labor market and drop out of schools,” said Barhameyeh. “This will have a devastating impact on the future of the Syrian children.”
EU agrees sanctions framework for key actors in Sudan war — sources
EU foreign ministers still need to give a final sign off later this month
The United States, Britain, Norway and Germany plan to submit a motion to the UN Human Rights Council
Updated 03 October 2023
BRUSSELS: European Union ambassadors agreed a framework of sanctions that will be used to target key actors in Sudan’s war and impose asset freezes and travel bans, sources familiar with the matter said.
War broke out in Sudan in April this year between the army, led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, who ousted longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir in 2019, and a paramilitary force led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti.
The fighting and bloodshed has continued to escalate despite international attempts to forge a lasting ceasfire. The war has uprooted more than 5 million people from their homes and created a humanitarian crisis with local medics warning of spreading cholera and dengue fever.
The sanctions proposal was sent in July but not approved until Monday. EU foreign ministers still need to give a final sign off later this month before the bloc can start adding individuals and entities to the list.
The United States, Britain, Norway and Germany plan to submit a motion to the UN Human Rights Council to set up an investigation into alleged atrocities in Sudan, including ethnically motivated killings, a draft motion showed on Friday.