Experts emphasize the need to protect children in Lebanon from cyberbullying

Experts emphasize the need to protect children in Lebanon from cyberbullying
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Updated 29 March 2023

Experts emphasize the need to protect children in Lebanon from cyberbullying

Experts emphasize the need to protect children in Lebanon from cyberbullying

BEIRUT: A conference held on Wednesday heard that internet abuse had become a threat to the safety of Lebanon’s children.

The conference, Protecting Children in the Digital Space, was held at the Beirut Bar Association.

Speakers warned that child protection was not limited to protecting them from sexual exploitation and human trafficking alone, but “it goes beyond that and includes the phenomenon referred to as cyberbullying, which sometimes leads to suicide.”

A 2018 study conducted by Save the Children in Lebanon showed that children in the country were most exposed to physical bullying (41 percent), while 6 percent were victims of cyberbullying.

The study found that Syrian refugee children were most exposed to verbal bullying (32 percent) and Lebanese and Syrian children were bullied at almost the same rates, at 21 and 19 percent.

Mayke Huijbregts, from UNICEF Lebanon, said: “The many global changes and increasing risks in light of COVID-19 forced children to learn online and they are now facing various kinds of risks, whether through viewing harmful contents in the form of pictures and videos or by sending and sharing their pictures that travel the world in seconds, making them victims of social media.”

Lebanon’s children “were not spared from bullying, harassment and extortion,” she added, stressing the necessity of “sharing UNICEF’s plans in Lebanon with the relevant ministries, launching awareness-raising campaigns at schools and holding training sessions.”

Suha Ismail, head of the International Center for Human Justice, said: “Smartphones and video games, which have become a necessity for everyone, created many risks that could threaten the safety of children, subject them to extortion, kidnapping or addiction, while also affecting their physical and mental development.

“This forces us to determine what is beneficial and what is not, despite the local censorship, which cannot provide protection on its own.

“Internet usage is no longer limited to completing homework; it is now used for many purposes. This situation requires the adoption of regulations and the development of laws. These steps are at the heart of the center’s objectives, with the aim of having a legal framework and training sessions that serve this purpose.”

Nadine Dakroub, president of the Juvenile Affairs and Children’s Rights Committee at the Beirut Bar Association, said that “rapid technological development sometimes gets ahead of the development of local laws related to the protection of juveniles and minors.”

She added that “various workshops on juveniles and children’s affairs are needed to deal with this issue, along with an active participation in the Parliamentary Administration and Justice Committee and the remaining relevant parliamentary committees, especially the Women and Children Parliamentary Committee.”

Inaya Ezzedine, head of the Women and Children’s Parliamentary Committee, said: “Dealing with this issue with legislative fragmentation has resulted in a state of chaos and a lack of effectiveness.

“The approach, which is focused on protecting children in the digital space, should progress on two paths simultaneously: firstly, a legislative path that protects children’s personal data and privacy, while also censoring digital content; secondly, a children’s awareness-raising path that focuses on enhancing their protective skills, allowing them to identify the sources of danger in the digital space.

“In 2019, I submitted a draft law aimed at amending article 120 of the law on electronic transactions and personal data in order to regulate minors’ access to some websites, protecting children from violent and pornographic contents that affect their physical development and behavior in society. I took this step in light of the increasing number of websites that encourage immorality, suicide and homosexuality.

“The sexual harassment law, which was adopted recently, took into account electronic harassment. However, protecting children and implementing the relevant law requires technical capabilities that would allow the Lebanese government to obtain unified data from children signing in, stop illegal internet providers, and have full control over the electronic space, which constitutes part of the country’s national security.”

Abbas Halabi, the caretaker education minister, said: “The child protection principles, including child protection in the digital space, were included in the public education sector’s national pre-university curriculum, while a large number of teachers have received the relevant and necessary training.

“In 2018, the ministry, in cooperation with UNICEF, launched its policy on student protection in the school environment. The ministry’s operations room has a hotline that receives calls related to child protection in schools, including the digital space, and addresses them with the help of experts.

“We rely on the parents’ vigilance, as they are a key partner in the efforts to prevent risks and ensure the safety of children when they use modern technologies. We also rely on the Bar Association when it comes to establishing a legal framework for effective, permanent and comprehensive protection against the various risks children might be subjected to.”

Participants in the discussions warned against “restricting freedoms or adopting regulations that obstruct the right of any person, especially children, to access information and gain knowledge, as it is a sacred right, particularly enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Activist groups have already launched individual initiatives to address the problem of online harassment. Harrasstracker is a platform that enables people to anonymously report cases of sexual harassment in Lebanon.

Egypt’s El-Sisi, top Iraqi cleric discuss political developments in Iraq

Egypt’s El-Sisi, top Iraqi cleric discuss political developments in Iraq
Updated 29 May 2023

Egypt’s El-Sisi, top Iraqi cleric discuss political developments in Iraq

Egypt’s El-Sisi, top Iraqi cleric discuss political developments in Iraq
  • Ammar Al-Hakim commends Egyptian leadership, expresses hopes for continued cooperation between two countries

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met with Ammar Al-Hakim, head of the Iraqi Wisdom Movement, in Cairo on Sunday. The two leaders discussed the latest political developments in Iraq and prominent regional issues of mutual interest.

During the meeting, El-Sisi affirmed his pride in the fraternal relations between Cairo and Baghdad and his government’s support of Iraq’s efforts to achieve progress.

El-Sisi also acknowledged Al-Hakim’s constructive role in maintaining stability in Iraq.

Al-Hakim likewise commended El-Sisi’s leadership and expressed Iraq’s aspiration to continue strengthening relations with Egypt, as well as his country’s appreciation for Egyptian efforts to support Iraq and its keenness to benefit from Egyptian experiences in all fields.

Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry also met with Al-Hakim.

Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, said the two discussed a number of regional issues of common concern and affirmed their interest in continued cooperation to improve security in the region.

Shoukry expressed Egypt’s full support of Iraq in its war against terrorism and highlighted the importance that Egypt attributes to the tripartite cooperation mechanism between Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan, a reflection of the countries’ common political will.

Separately, during a discussion with experts of the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies, Al-Hakim said there are many areas in which Egypt and Iraq can coordinate, citing the importance of regional cooperation as a reason why “Iraq hosted five rounds of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, in addition to discussions between other countries.”

Iraq was able to overcome, to a large extent, the challenges facing it, especially those posed by terrorist groups, which are now only present in some small enclaves in the desert, he added.

“Sectarianism in Iraq is political, not social, and there are political forces that want to entrench themselves behind sects to gain (benefits),” Al-Hakim said.

There has been a “national realization,” he added, that “there is no way to overcome challenges except through dialogue” that promotes “internal solutions” rather than ones “imposed from outside.”

He emphasized that strengthening the state is the main solution to the problems that face it.

DP World launches partnership to get African business moving

DP World launches partnership to get African business moving
Updated 29 May 2023

DP World launches partnership to get African business moving

DP World launches partnership to get African business moving
  • The partnership aims to assist closing the gap in unmet demand for working capital in Africa

DUBAI: Dubai-based DP World has teamed up with the largest bank in Africa by assets to offer new trade finance solutions, Emirates News Agency reported on Monday. 

African businesses seeking trade finance will now be able to receive working capital from Standard Bank through the DP World Trade Finance platform.

The partnership aims to assist closing the gap in unmet demand for working capital in Africa.

DP World Trade Finance connects businesses with financial institutions while also providing trade finance facilities. Customers can apply for credit on the company's digital platform, and it will offer them with the best options from international financiers that would otherwise be out of their reach.

“DP World exists to make the world’s trade flow better and this partnership with Standard Bank is testament to that goal,” DP World’s Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem said. 

“Africa is a key market for us, with this partnership complementing our ongoing investment and development across the continent. 

“Our recent acquisition of Imperial Logistics allowed us to enhance our logistics capabilities in Africa. 

“With the addition of DP World Trade Finance into our offerings, we aim to support African businesses of all sizes for their working capital needs. 

“Together with Standard Bank, we will help African businesses go from strength to strength and grow their exports to new markets.”

DP World Financial Services Senior Executive Officer Sinan Ozcan added: “Standard Bank joining the DP World Trade Finance platform is great news for businesses across Africa. 

“DP World offers Standard Bank access to data on cargo movements, enabling them to lend with confidence. 

“We in turn plan to co-lend and share risk with Standard Bank on deals made via the platform, whilst Standard Bank will be able to support the many suppliers in DP World’s ecosystem across Africa with its strong financing capabilities. 

“This ecosystem has itself been strengthened by the acquisition of Imperial Logistics by DP World in 2022. 

“Standard Bank’s strong presence across countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Mozambique will see this partnership develop further in the African market.”

Since its launch in July 2021, DP World Trade Finance has partnered with 23 financial institutions and generated more than $700 million in credit limit submissions. The company began directly lending to businesses last year.

Kenny Fihla, Chief Executive Officer, Corporate and Investment Banking at Standard Bank said: “Partnering with DP World allows us to enhance how we facilitate cross-border transactions in growing key trade corridors.”

Desert wells help Iraq harvest bumper wheat crop as rivers dry

Desert wells help Iraq harvest bumper wheat crop as rivers dry
Updated 29 May 2023

Desert wells help Iraq harvest bumper wheat crop as rivers dry

Desert wells help Iraq harvest bumper wheat crop as rivers dry
  • Drilling the desert for water could provide immediate relief in a country that the UN says is among the five nations most vulnerable to climate change in the world

KARBALA: Amin Salah used to grow wheat near the banks of Iraq’s Euphrates River, but persistent droughts have led him to switch to farming unlikely new grounds deep in the harsh desert of Najaf.

Watered by sprinklers fitted to wells dug more than 100 meters under the sun-bleached earth, his land now produces double what it did compared to when he relied on ancient methods that flood fields with river water, he said.

“It’s a golden year, a golden season,” said Salah, wearing a traditional white robe and reflective sunglasses as he walked his field and noted the benefits: less money and water spent, as well as a bigger and quality harvest.

Iraq’s government says this officially supported shift has allowed the country to double areas cultivated with wheat this year to some 8.5 million dunams (850,000 hectares) compared to roughly 4 million (400,000 hectares) last year.

Agriculture Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Al-Khuzai said that has translated into a harvest of around 4 million tons of wheat — the largest in years and 80 percent of the needs of a country with a 43 million population who eat bread at almost every meal. The shift in methods is driven by necessity: Iraq’s two main rivers, along which civilization emerged thousands of years ago, have lost more than half of their flow due to reduced rainfall, overuse and upstream dams.

Drilling the desert for water could provide immediate relief in a country that the UN says is among the five nations most vulnerable to climate change in the world, and where climate-induced migration has already begun. However, heavy use of the wells could bleed desert aquifers dry, agricultural experts and environmentalists warn. Some farmers have already noted a drop in the water table.

Iraq has more than 110,000 wells, but only a fraction, some 10,000, are fitted with modern systems that prevent water waste, said Karim Bilal, an agricultural engineer and former director of Najaf’s agriculture directorate.

Hadi Fathallah, director of public policy at consultancy Namea Group who has researched agriculture in Iraq said: “It’s very desperate to go to desert wells.

“You are plugging into aquifers that have been gathering water for thousands of years and will disappear in a few years if used this way,” he said.

Iraq should focus on modernizing agriculture, engage in water diplomacy with its neighbors to increase river flows and revitalize agricultural areas that have not recovered from war, Fathallah said.

Al-Khuzai said the government was focused on sustainable use, supporting the installation of drip and sprinkler systems.

Large institutions have bought into the shift to desert wells: The body that oversees the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine now farms 400 hectares of wheat in the desert — 55 km from the shrine — up from 100 hectares in 2019.

“We have turned the desert into a green oasis,” declared Qahtan Awaz, an agricultural official with the shrine, though he noted that the water table had sunk between 12 to 15 meters since last season.

Behind him, a pair of large green US-made harvesters pulled in wheat grown in large circles, then funneled processed grain into waiting trucks for delivery to government silos.

From there, much of the grain enters one of the largest government-run food programs in the world, which provides most families with monthly rations. 

Crop failures in 2021 and 2022 driven by drought, and a surge in food prices due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine put the scheme under pressure, which the government wants to avoid.

“The government are trying to alleviate a lot of pain,” Fathallah said. 

“But this is not adaptation to climate change. It’s a kind of morphine.” 

Egypt’s El-Sisi, Turkiye’s Erdogan agree on reinstating ambassadors

Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (File/AFP)
Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 May 2023

Egypt’s El-Sisi, Turkiye’s Erdogan agree on reinstating ambassadors

Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (File/AFP)

CAIRO: Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on “the immediate start of upgrading diplomatic relations, exchanging ambassadors,” Egypt’s presidency said in a statement on Monday.
El-Sisi spoke with Erdogan in a phone call to congratulate him on his presidential win.
Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry visited Turkiye in April and met his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, the two parties agreed then on specific time frame to raise the level of diplomatic relations and to prepare for a summit between the two presidents.
The presidents may meet in person again after Turkiye’s May 14 election, Cavusoglu said in April.

Turkiye’s foreign policy under scrutiny as Erdogan takes power

Turkiye’s foreign policy under scrutiny as Erdogan takes power
Updated 29 May 2023

Turkiye’s foreign policy under scrutiny as Erdogan takes power

Turkiye’s foreign policy under scrutiny as Erdogan takes power
  • President has to navigate US push for Russia sanctions, NATO enlargement, say analysts
  • Energy, arms deals, immigration likely to be govt’s key focus

ANKARA: It is perhaps no secret in which direction Turkiye’s foreign policy will be moving with the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan winning another five-year term this past Sunday – which means a continuation of strategies the long-serving leader has championed in the past.

According to Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, Erdogan’s main priority would be to ensure the continued flow of much-needed cash from Russia and Gulf countries, while avoiding friction with Europe and the US so that he can attract investments from the West.

“While Turkiye’s relations with neither Europe nor the US can be expected to be put back on track, they can at least be stabilized as both Erdogan and his Western counterparts would benefit from this,” he told Arab News recently.

“The congratulatory messages from Europe and the United States suggest that this is also the tendency in the West.”

President Joe Biden congratulated Erdogan on his reelection, and tweeted: “I look forward to continuing to work together as NATO Allies on bilateral issues and shared global challenges.”

For Unluhisarcikli, Erdogan will also need to make tough decisions early on in his third term as president.

“The US, which has shown restraint so far due to the elections in Turkiye will press its points on Russia sanctions and NATO enlargement more strongly in the period ahead. Erdogan’s decisions on these issues and developments in the US about Turkiye’s request to purchase new F-16s could pivot the Turkiye-US relationship in any direction,” he said.

The administration of Donald Trump removed Turkiye from the F-35 fifth-generation jet program in 2019 over its acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile system.

Experts also underline that with Erdogan winning, Turkiye will continue its recent efforts to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to zones under Turkish control in compliance with international law.

Although being met with suspicion by Washington, the normalization efforts with Syria’s President Bashar Assad are also expected to continue as Erdogan, and his new ultranationalist and anti-immigrant allies in the parliament, consider the restored ties with Syria as the only solution to send back Syrian refugees in Turkiye to their homeland.

Erdogan’s new ally, Sinan Ogan, who ran as the third presidential candidate in the first elections, then endorsed Erdogan’s candidacy in the runoff, said during his campaign that he would consider repatriating refugees by force if necessary.  

Karol Wasilewski, an analyst for 4CF The Futures Literacy Company and a founder of Krakow-based Institute for Turkiye Studies, expects continuity in Turkish diplomacy and decision-making in the short run, on the economy and foreign policy.

“Erdogan would, most likely, continue his ambiguous foreign policy in which Turkiye, on the one hand, gives its Western allies arguments that it still can be considered an ally — that’s why I won’t be surprised if Erdogan finally agrees on Sweden’s membership — while, on the other, decisively pushes for its interests, even when it harms NATO internal cohesion,” he told Arab News.

Following the support he received in Sunday’s elections, and having regained flexibility for his political and diplomatic maneuvers, Erdogan is also expected to make some U-turns without risking any major backlash from his constituency.

While Sweden’s accession bid has yet to be approved by Ankara, Stockholm’s membership — which has long been rejected by Erdogan, who accused the country of harboring terrorists — may also be used as a trump card for securing a commitment from the US for F-16 fighter jets ahead of NATO’s next summit this July when Erdogan and Biden are expected to meet.

The admission of Sweden by Turkiye would help the US administration in pushing for F-16 sales through Congress.

But Erdogan’s uneasiness with the US support for Syrian Kurdish militia — People’s Protection Units or YPG — is unlikely to change under his third term as his government considers the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkiye.

On Friday, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that after the elections, “whoever pursues a pro-American policy in Turkiye will be labeled a traitor,” hinting at a possible transactional relationship with Washington in the post-elections period.

For Wasilewski, Erdogan’s win may serve as another chance for Euro-Asianist segments in Turkiye to strengthen themselves in the security apparatus.

“In (a) five-year perspective, this may be something that would cast (an) even bigger shadow over Turkiye’s relationship with the West,” he said.

Another dimension of the post-election process would be the Western allies’ position toward Turkiye now that the election dust has settled.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the US decided to increase pressure on Turkiye on areas that seems vital to their interests, such as sanctions on Russia,” he said.

“The way that Erdogan responds to this possible pressure will be one (other) factor determining Turkiye’s relations with the West,” he added.

In terms of Turkish-Russian relations, Ankara is expected to continue its current political and economic relations with the Kremlin as well as deepen its cooperation in the energy field, with the help of the personal rapport between the two leaders.

Close ties with Russia as well as the Gulf will also help Erdogan in achieving his goal of rendering the Turkish economy more independent from Western markets. Ankara has not joined Western sanctions against Russia, but continues to provide military support to Kyiv.

Turkiye’s $20 billion first nuclear power plant, that will be owned for the first 25 years by the manufacturer, Russian energy company Rosatom, was recently inaugurated in a virtual ceremony. And being the largest nuclear construction project in the world, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said the plant deepened Turkish-Russian ties.

Russia also delayed a portion of Turkiye’s natural gas payments in early May ahead of the general elections.

Attracting high numbers of tourists from Russia are also required to help the Turkish economy keep afloat during summertime, while Erdogan will also remain in campaign mode before Turkiye’s next polls, the municipal elections scheduled for March next year.

“Putin is well aware that close ties between Russia and Turkiye are vital to his interests, especially after Russian aggression on Ukraine, and will continue to put a great effort to preserve them in a good shape,” said Wasilewski.

“Feeding Turkiye’s dreams of being the gas hub serves Erdogan’s narrative of Turkiye as a great power,” said Wasilewski.