The fighting in Libya's capital has reached a detention center holding hundreds of detained migrants and refugees, the U.N. said Tuesday.
Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said the U.N. aid agency has received reports that the Qasr Ben Ghashir detention center, holding some 890 refugees and migrants, was "breached by armed actors." The facility is 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) south of central Tripoli.
The U.N. says some 3,600 refugees and migrants are held in facilities near the front lines of fighting between the self-styled Libyan National Army and other heavily-armed militias. Five detention centers are in areas already engulfed by fighting, while six more are in close proximity to the clashes.
"The situation in these detention centers is increasingly desperate, with reports of guards abandoning their posts and leaving people trapped inside," Dujarric said, adding that one facility has been without drinking water for days.
Libya became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe after the uprising that toppled and killed Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Thousands have been detained by armed groups and smugglers.
The latest fighting in Libya pits the LNA, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, against rival militias allied with a weak, U.N.-supported government. The World Health Organization says the fighting has killed more than 270 people, including civilians, and wounded nearly 1,300. It says more than 30,000 people have been displaced.
Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday called on the government and state energy company Naftogaz to hold talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on lowering household gas prices from May 1.
Almost two million UK people will lose more than £1,000 a year following the switch to universal credit, with those claiming disability benefits the worst affected, according to research by a leading think tank.
India’s central bank is likely to join counterparts in Russia and China scooping up gold this year, adding to its record holdings and lending support to worldwide bullion demand as top economies diversify their reserves.
China’s central bank extended ¥267.4 billion ($39.8 billion) to some commercial banks on Wednesday via its targeted medium-term lending facility (TMLF) as it looks to provide struggling smaller business with a steady stream of affordable financing.
The tongue does not just detect taste, but might pick up on odors too, according to research shedding new light on how we perceive flavor.
California lawmakers worked to find common ground Tuesday between law enforcement groups and reformers intent on adopting first-in-the-nation standards designed to limit fatal shootings by police.
Almost half of the child sexual abuse images reported to the Internet Watch Foundation last year were hosted in the Netherlands, the organization said.
Three men miraculously survived after their helicopter crashed into the freezing sub-Antarctic waters off New Zealand’s southern tip by swimming to shore at night and camping on an island for hours until they were rescued.
In the wake of the Christchurch attack, New Zealand said on Wednesday that it would work with France in an effort to stop social media from being used to promote terrorism and violent extremism.
Even light rain significantly increases your risk of a fatal car crash, a new study finds.
Experts have created a new type of aircraft that can stay in the air indefinitely by varying its buoyancy.
NASA’s robotic probe InSight detected and measured what scientists believe to be a “marsquake,” marking the first time a likely seismological tremor has been recorded on another planet, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California reported on Tuesday.
Author: By PHILIP ISSA and SALAR SALIM | APID: 1556086422820783000Wed, 2019-04-24 06:11
MOSUL, Iraq: When Ahmed Khalil ran out of work as a van driver in the Iraqi city of Mosul three years ago, he signed up with the Daesh group’s police force, believing the salary would help keep his struggling family afloat.
But what he wound up providing was a legacy that would outlast his job, and his life.
In Mosul and elsewhere across Iraq, thousands of families — including Khalil’s widow and children — face crushing discrimination because their male relatives were seen as affiliated with or supporting Daesh when the extremists held large swaths of the country.
The wives, widows and children have been disowned by their relatives and abandoned by the state. Registrars refuse to register births to women with suspected Daesh husbands, and schools will not enroll their children. Mothers are turned away from welfare, and mukhtars — community mayors — won’t let the families move into their neighborhoods.
The Daesh group’s “caliphate” that once spanned a third of both Iraq and Syria is now gone but as Iraq struggles to rebuilt after the militants’ final defeat and loss of their last sliver of territory in Syria earlier this year, the atrocities and the devastation they wreaked has left deep scars.
“They say my father was Daesh,” said Safa Ahmed, Khalil’s 11-year old daughter, referring to Daesh by its Arabic name. “It hurts me.”
Iraq has done little to probe the actions of the tens of thousands of men such as Khalil who, willingly or by force joined, worked and possibly fought for IS during its 2013-2017 rule. Instead, bureaucrats and communities punish families for the deeds of their relatives in a time of war.
Khalil was killed in an airstrike in Mosul, in February 2017, during the US-backed campaign to retake the city that Daesh seized in 2014. It was liberated in July 2017, at a tremendous cost — around 10,000 residents were believed to have been killed in the assault, and its historic districts now lie in ruins.
His widow, Um Yusuf, and their seven children were left to bear the stigma of his Daesh affiliation. She cannot get social assistance, and her teenage son Omar is being turned away from jobs.
They live in an abandoned schoolhouse, living on what they can make selling bread on the streets of the devastated city. Just three of the children are in school — the oldest two dropped out because of bullying about their father, and the youngest two cannot enroll because the civil registrar’s office won’t issue their IDs.
“It’s true their father made a mistake,” Um Yusuf said. “But why are these children being punished for his sin?“
Under Iraq’s patrimonial family laws, a child needs a named father to receive a birth certificate and an identity card, to enroll in school and to claim citizenship, welfare benefits and an inheritance.
But in post-Daesh Iraq, virtually every bureaucratic procedure now includes a security check on a woman’s male relatives, further frustrating mothers and children.
A UN report this year estimates there are 45,000 undocumented children in Iraq. Judges and human rights groups say an urgent resolution is needed or the country risks rearing a generation of children without papers or schooling.
“By punishing entire families, you marginalize them and you seriously undermine reconciliation efforts in Iraq,” said Tom Peyre-Costa, a spokesman for the Norwegian Refugee Council, which provides legal aid to Mosul mothers struggling to get their children ID papers.
At Al-Iraqiya school in western Mosul, one of the city’s first to reopen in 2017, principal Khalid Mohammad said he faces pressure from the community to deny enrollment to children whose fathers are in jail or missing — an absence many interpret as proof of Daesh affiliation.
“If anyone complains and someone is sent to investigate, I could lose my job,” he said.
At a legal office and clinic supported by the Norwegian Refugee Council, Nour Ahmed was looking for a way to claim legal custody of her undocumented younger son, in order to collect food and fuel aid for the family.
Her husband, she said, was abducted two years ago in Mosul by a group of pro-government militiamen who likely thought he was an Daesh member. Ahmed insists he wasn’t. He has been missing to this day.
Born in 2016 at a hospital run by Daesh, their son was given a birth certificate notarized by the Daesh group. As Iraq doesn’t recognize Daesh documents, the 3-year-old has no legal mother or father.
Ahmed was told she would need to find her husband to re-register her son’s birth. If she submitted a missing person’s report, it would raise questions about the child’s parentage, jeopardizing his right to citizenship.
“I just want to find him,” said Nour.
Adnan Chalabi, an appeals court judge, said he sees more than a dozen cases each day related to civilian documentation, brought largely by the wives, widows or divorcees of IS suspects. There is little he can do to help, he said, without a change to the law first.
“Daesh held the city for three years. Did people stop getting married, divorced, and having children during those three years?” he said. “We need a legislative solution.”
There is little appetite to change the country’s family and patrimony laws, said Iraq’s parliament speaker, Mohamad Halbousi, though there is a proposal to open civil registries for a limited period, to register undocumented children.
“These families need to be cared for. They cannot be left to melt away into society,” he said.
Outside a mosque in Mosul, where Um Yusuf was selling bread with her children, the widowed mother of seven said she was losing the strength to look after her family.
“We are deprived of everything,” she says. “The whole family is destroyed.”
Main category: Middle-EastTags: Daesh Morocco arrests six Daesh-linked extremist suspectsJoining Daesh was a disastrous mistake, say former female members
A rifle resting on his shoulder, Tatji Arara looks despondent as he steps over the trunks of huge trees felled by timber traffickers in the heart of Brazil's Amazon rainforest, now the scene of numerous land conflicts.
New Zealand’s carbon emissions are continuing to rise according to the new Environment Aotearoa 2019 report released this month.
Levels of wild salmon in Scotland are at their lowest since records began, sparking calls for a radical effort to preserve the species as a matter of UK national priority.
Author: Amir HAVASI | AFPID: 1556080191510577400Wed, 2019-04-24 03:38
TEHRAN: Iranians, already hard hit by punishing US economic sanctions, are bracing for more pain after Washington abolished waivers for some countries which had allowed them to buy oil from Iran.
“In the end the pressure (America) is putting out is on the people,” said a 28-year-old technical instructor in Iran.
“Some have crumbled, and those still standing will probably give up when things worsen,” he added, asking not to be named.
In 2015 when Iran struck a landmark nuclear deal with world powers, hopes were high that it would end the country’s years of crippling economic isolation.
Thousands even flooded the streets of the capital, Tehran, to celebrate and hail Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as he arrived back from tough negotiations in Vienna.
But those hopes were shattered when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord last year and reimposed sanctions.
Pressure has piled up ever since, with Washington saying Monday it would sanction all countries that buy Iranian oil, in a move meant to squeeze Iran’s main source of revenue down to zero.
Iran’s economy has been battered. Inflation has shot up, the country’s currency has plummeted and imports are now vastly more expensive.
“The country’s revenues will naturally reduce and maybe the rial will drop further,” the instructor told AFP.
Analysts have put Iran’s oil exports in March at around 1.9 million barrels a day, while the Central Bank had forecast revenue from oil sales in 2019 at around $10.57 billion.
Many of the country’s woes pre-date Trump and the sanctions, however, as it has struggled with a troubled banking system, a stifled private sector and the lack of foreign investment.
Yet life continues at Tehran’s Tajrish Bazaar, located north of the city.
On Tuesday people thronged the tight alleyways, drawn in by the tantalising smells of fresh vegetables and fruit as stall-owners shouted out prices, haggled with customers and hurriedly packed their goods.
But other parts of the bazaar selling non-essential goods such as pots, perfume and clothing were noticeably less busy.
“Have sanctions affected me? Which rock have you been hiding under all these years?” asked one irritated stall-owner, keeping an eye out for potential customers among the window-shoppers.
A 55-year-old housewife agreed.
“We have a limited wage, you see. (When sanctions came back) we were forced to spend what was meant for food and meat on the rent that went up,” she said.
Most people questioned by AFP asked to remain anonymous, and complained bitterly about inflation, saying they were especially pressured by growing housing and food prices.
According to the Statistical Center of Iran, overall inflation for the Iranian month of Farvardin (March 21-April 20) rose to 51.4 percent compared to the same month last year.
Food and services prices shot up by by 85 and 37 percent respectively over the same month.
This has caused “the class gap to really widen. There is only rich and poor now, nothing is left in between,” said the housewife.
“It will get worse. As ordinary citizens, we already expect prices to rise further” if oil exports reach zero, she added.
Iranians have also been forced to cut back on traveling, a tradition during the Nowruz, the Iranian new year which started on March 21, as prices grew out of many people’s reach.
“The situation is shocking,” the head of Tehran’s travel agencies association, Amir Pooyan Rafishad recently told ISNA news agency.
“Demand for trips, whether abroad or in Iran has dropped significantly.”
For Zarif, the US move to sanction Iran’s oil sales is another instance of what the Islamic Republic has repeatedly called “economic terrorism.”
“Escalating #EconomicTERRORISM against Iranians exposes panic & desperation of US regime,” he wrote Tuesday on Twitter.
The foreign ministry denounced the sanctions as “illegal” and said Iran was in “constant talks with its international partners including the Europeans.”
Russia on Tuesday called the US tightening of sanctions an “aggressive and reckless” policy.
Other major sources of income for the Iranian economy are minerals, about $8 billion annually, and agricultural exports, at about $5 billion — but it also imports large quantities of both, offsetting much of that income.
Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, however, has said he believes the US will not be able to block Iran from selling its oil.
“America’s dream for bringing Iran’s oil exports to zero will not be realized,” he told lawmakers on Tuesday, ISNA reported.
“America and its allies have made a big mistake by politicizing oil and using it as a weapon,” he added. “Given the market’s circumstances, (it) will backfire on many.”
Main category: Middle-EastTags: IranUS US calls on Iran to keep energy flow through Strait of Hormuz Iran lawmakers authorize firm action against US ‘terrorist’ acts
A United States initiative toward three key figures within Hezbollah's financial networks would be the first in a series of actions against the Lebanese militant group to drain it of resources, analysts predict.
The U.S. on Monday offered $10 million for information on three financiers of the Lebanese terror group.
“This looks like it will be one move of many targeting the funding streams Hezbollah uses,” Phillip Smyth, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told VOA on Tuesday.
“While some offers for rewards have been better with some groups over others, this may show further cracks within the group regarding overseas financiers and those linked to them,” he added.
Cash rewards program
The U.S. announcement is part of the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program, which has largely focused on offering cash rewards for information that leads to the capture of wanted terrorists around the world.
U.S. officials said this announcement marks the first time that the U.S. State Department has offered a reward for information on Hezbollah financial networks.
“In previous years, Hezbollah has generated about $1 billion annually through direct financial support from Iran, international businesses and investments, donor networks, and money-laundering activities,” Assistant Secretary for State for Diplomatic Security Michael T. Evanoff said during a press briefing on Monday.
Evanoff said the Shiite group uses these funds to support its destructive activities throughout the world, including Syria and Yemen, and surveillance and intelligence gathering operations in the U.S.
Hezbollah has been increasingly targeted by U.S. sanctions over the past few months.
In 1997, Hezbollah was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. In October 2018, the Department of Justice named Hezbollah as one of the top five transnational criminal organizations in Latin America.
The three Hezbollah figures targeted in the cash rewards program -- Mohammed Bazzi, Ali Charara and Adham Tabaja -- are key figures in the group’s financial network that operates on four continents, U.S. officials said Monday.
“Together, these individuals comprise key parts of Hezbollah’s financial modus operandi, and they have networks that span four continents, with links to the formal financial sector as well as the drug trade and corrupt foreign governments,” said Marshall Billingslea, assistant secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing.
In 2015, the U.S. Treasury designated Tabaja, who has direct ties with Hezbollah’s senior leadership, and three branches of his business in Lebanon and other countries including Iraq, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
In 2016, the Treasury designated Charara, Hezbollah’s personal wealth manager, and his Lebanese-based company, Spectrum Investment Group Holdings SAL.
And Bazzi, who funded Hezbollah from his transcontinental business holdings, was designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the Treasury in May 2018. Bazzi has closely worked with the Central Bank of Iran to expand banking access between Lebanon and Iran, U.S. officials said.
Ties with Iran
Iran, Hezbollah’s main sponsor, also has been targeted by U.S. sanctions in recent months. Since May 2018, when the U.S withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the U.S. has imposed a series of sanctions against Tehran.
“We're talking about Hezbollah today, but any conversation about Hezbollah must begin in Tehran,” said Nathan Sales, ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism, who was also at the Monday’s briefing.
This week, the U.S. ended its sanctions waivers for five countries importing Iranian oil, with the hope to put new pressure on Tehran to curb its military aggression in the Middle East.
“Iran remains the world's leading state-sponsored terrorism… The regime spends nearly a billion dollars a year on its terrorist proxies around the world, and that includes up to $700 million for Hezbollah alone,” Sales said.
Sales added that Iran also actively engages in terrorism itself.
Earlier this April, the U.S. labeled Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization for what U.S. officials call its destabilizing role in the Middle East.
With concurrent sanctions on Iran and Hezbollah, U.S. officials hope both sides will be forced to reduce their military activities in the Middle East and beyond.
“If Hezbollah can’t count on the same levels of support from Tehran, the group increasingly will need to raise money to support terrorism itself. In this administration, we use every tool at our disposal to dismantle Hezbollah’s global financing network,” Sales said.
Kaiser Permanente (an American integrated managed care consortium, based in Oakland, the US) researchers found long-term benefits for patients and health organizations that employ screenings, interventions, and referrals.
E-cigarettes are contaminated with lung-damaging bacterial toxins of the type found in waste-incineration plants, scientists have discovered.
A new British Medical Association (BMA) report based on survey data has found a ‘severe mental health crisis among the country’s physicians and medical students.
Almost two years after Iraqi forces recaptured the city of Mosul from Islamic State (IS), small shops selling alcohol are reopening their doors and new ones are appearing.
Customers purchase bottles or cans of liquor which are then placed in black plastic bags, or emptied out into nondescript plastic bottles.
Mosul was home to two million people before being overrun in 2014 by IS, which proclaimed a "caliphate" stretching into neighboring Syria. It held Mosul for three years.
Under the militant group's strict rule, items such as alcohol and cigarettes were banned. Shops that sold alcohol were burned down and destroyed.
Liquor store owner Nemat Hassan said IS burned his store down in the city.
"There was more than $40,000 worth of stock. They burned it," he said.
Since the city was recaptured, some have decided to return to what remains of their homes and rebuild their stores. Hassan reopened his shop and said he hasn't faced any problems.
"When we came back after Daesh (Islamic State), the security forces were controlling Mosul. There are no problems, thank God.
There have been no threats by any groups, no problems in Mosul."
Another liquor store owner, Adel Jindy, said many more stores are appearing in the neighborhood as more licenses are being granted.
"Before there were four stores in Al Dawasah (neighborhood) now there are many licensed shops," he said.
Business is generally good - the only time customers are afraid of coming in is after an attack or a car bomb. But once the initial panic fades, it's business as usual, said Jindy.
In Iraq members of the Yazidi and Christian religious minorities are allowed to have alcohol licenses. Alcohol is prohibited by Islam.
Mosul has been the site of several bomb blasts in recent months. In an attack this March, a car packed with explosives blew up killing two people and wounding another 24 near Mosul University.
Nearly two million Iraqis are still displaced by the fight against IS, according to a survey by REACH, a non-governmental organization. Many say they are not ready to go home because of the destruction and lack of services.
The World Health Organization says 264 people have been killed and 1,266 wounded in three weeks of fighting by rival governments for control of Libya.
The U.N.'s health agency said large numbers of civilians are seeking shelter from the fighting in medical clinics. But it says its immediate concern is for the thousands of people trapped inside government-run detention centers close to the fighting.
Along with a call for an immediate cease-fire, U.N. humanitarian officials say they urgently need more than $10 million to keep helping beleaguered civilians in Libya.
The officials say they have received just 6% of pledges so far.
Meantime, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi held an emergency meeting of three other African Union members Tuesday to talk about the crisis in Libya.
El-Sissi told diplomats from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and South Africa that the international community must "assume its responsibility" and bring the warring parties in Libya back to the peace table.
"The Libyan people have been subject to an abuse of their resources over the past years. Unprecedented chaos caused by militias and terrorist organizations, human trafficking and smuggling due to political disputes between various factions supported by foreign powers. Now the time has come to end this," he said.
Forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar and his rival government in the east have launched a military offensive against Tripoli and the internationally recognized administration of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
The fighting has been primarily centered in the suburbs south of the capital.
Libya has been in chaos since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was toppled and killed in 2011.
Numerous armed factions and militias have been jockeying for power and control of Libya's oil wealth.
The U.N. fears the fighting will not only create a new refugee crisis in North Africa, but that terrorist groups such as Islamic State will take advantage of the crisis to dig in deeper inside Libya.
A new study suggests that Oncotype DX-guided treatment could reduce the cost for the first year of breast cancer care in the US by about $50 million (about two percent of the overall costs in the first year). The study by Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the country’s National Cancer Institute researchers was published April 24, in JNCI.
Author: AFPID: 1556064645129816600Wed, 2019-04-24 00:01
BEIRUT: Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Lebanon to end what it described as an “inherently abusive” migration sponsorship system governing the lives of tens of thousands of foreigners working in private homes.
Domestic workers in Lebanon are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers’ sponsorship under the so-called “kafala” system.
But activists say this leaves the maids, nannies and carers at the mercy of their employers and unable to leave without their permission, including in numerous documented cases of abuse.
“Amnesty International is calling on the Lebanese authorities to end the kafala system and extend labor protections to migrant domestic workers,” the London-based rights group said.
“The Lebanese parliament should amend the labor law to include domestic workers under its protection,” including to allow them to join unions, the group said.
Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers from countries in Africa and Asia, the vast majority of them women.
In a report released Wednesday titled “Their house is my prison,” Amnesty surveyed 32 domestic workers employed mostly in and around Beirut, revealing “alarming patterns of abuse.”
Among them, 10 women said they were not allowed to leave their employer’s house, with some saying they were locked in.
Twenty-seven said their employers had confiscated their passports.
Many worked overtime, 14 were not allowed a single day off each week, and several had their monthly salaries revoked or decreased, despite it being a breach of their contracts.
The labor ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language they cannot read.
The government in late 2018 said it had translated the contracts into several other languages.
Amnesty registered eight cases of forced labor and four of human trafficking, the report said.
Six reported severe physical abuse, while almost all had been subjected to humiliating treatment and several were deprived of food.
“Sometimes I would get so hungry... I used to mix water with sugar when I was hungry and drink it,” one worker said.
With the abuse taking a toll on their mental health, six said they had contemplated or attempted suicide.
Only four of those interviewed had private rooms, while the rest were relegated to living rooms, storage rooms, kitchens or balconies.
“There is a man in the house who can enter the living room any time he wants,” said one worker who was forced to sleep in the living room.
Activists accuse the Lebanese authorities of being lax in bringing abusive employers to account.
Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come.
In 2008, Human Rights Watch found that migrant domestic workers in Lebanon were dying at a rate of more than one per week from suicide or in failed escapes.
Many other countries in the Arab world also follow the “kafala” system for household workers.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: Lebanon Hong Kong domestic worker fired for cancer awarded damagesIsraeli women hold nationwide protest over domestic violence
The women say it was misguided religious faith, naivete, a search for something to believe in or youthful rebellion. Whatever it was, it led them to travel across the world to join the Islamic State group.
Now after the fall of the last stronghold of the group's "caliphate," they say they regret it and want to come home.
The Associated Press interviewed four foreign women who joined the caliphate and are now among tens of thousands of IS family members, mostly women and children, crammed into squalid camps in northern Syria overseen by the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces who spearheaded the fight against the extremist group.
Many in the camps remain die-hard supporters of IS. Women in general were often active participants in IS's rule. Some joined women's branches of the Hisba, the religious police who brutally enforced the group's laws. Others helped recruit more foreigners. Freed Yazidi women have spoken of cruelties inflicted by female members of the group.
Within the fences of al-Hol camp, IS supporters have tried to recreate the caliphate as much as possible. Some women have re-formed the Hisba to keep camp residents in line, according to officers from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces guarding the camp. While the AP was there, women in all-covering black robes and veils known as niqab tried to intimidate anyone speaking to journalists; children threw stones at visitors, calling them "dogs" and "infidels."
'How could I have been so stupid'
The four women interviewed by the AP said joining IS was a disastrous mistake. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces gave the AP access to speak to the women at two camps under their administration.
"How could I have been so stupid, and so blind?" said Kimberly Polman, a 46-year-old Canadian woman who surrendered herself to the SDF earlier this year.
The women insisted they had not been active IS members and had no role in its atrocities, and they all said their husbands were not fighters for IS. Those denials and much in their accounts could not be independently confirmed. The interviews took place with Kurdish security guards in the room.
To many, their expressions of regret likely ring hollow, self-serving or irrelevant. Traveling to the caliphate, the women joined a group whose horrific atrocities were well known, including sex enslavement of Yazidi women, mass killings of civilians and grotesque punishments of rule-breakers, ranging from lashings, public shootings and crucifixions, to beheadings and hurling from rooftops.
Their pleas to return home point to the thorny question of what to do with the men and women who joined the caliphate and their children. Governments around the world are reluctant to take back their nationals. The SDF complains it is being forced to shoulder the burden of dealing with them.
Repatriating children, not parents
Al-Hol is home to 73,000 people who streamed out of the Islamic State group's last pockets, including the village of Baghuz, the final site to fall to the SDF in March. Nearly the entire population of the camp is women or children, since most men were taken for screening by the SDF to determine if they were fighters.
At the section of the camp for foreign families — kept separate from Syrians and Iraqis — women and children pressed themselves, four deep, against the chain-link fencing, pleading with guards and aid workers for aid, favors and to be sent home. Many shared the same cough, and some wore surgical masks. Behind them, children played in puddles of mud, as women washed clothes in plastic tubs. Girls as young as three wore veils, while men and boys wore dishdashas, often associated with Central Asia.
Around 11,000 people are held in the foreign section of al-Hol; The Associated Press met some from South Africa, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Russia, India, Tunisia, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The women interviewed by the AP there and in Roj Camp, another site for foreign women and children, said they were deceived by IS's promises of an ideal state ruled by Islamic law promoting justice and righteous living. Instead, they said their lives became a hell, with restrictions, punishments and imprisonment.
But in a measure of the West's broad skepticism about these narratives, governments say they are focusing on repatriating children but not the parents who took them to Syria.
Belgium's current policy is to bring back child nationals under 10 years old.
"Up to today, our priority remains to return these kids because they are the victims, so to speak, of the radical choices made by their parents," said Karl Lagatie, deputy spokesman of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Aliya, a 24-year-old Indonesian, said that back home she grew up in a conservative Muslim family but was not herself practicing. Then her boyfriend broke up with her and, brokenhearted, she threw herself into religion. To "make up for" her past, she said she went far to a hard-line direction, watching videos of IS sermons.
"I believed they were the real Islamic state ... They said when you make hijra [migration to the caliphate], all your sins are cleared," she said. She spoke on condition her full name not be used for fear of drawing harassment to her family back home.
In 2015, she flew to Turkey, planning to go on to Syria. In Turkey, she married an Algerian man she met there who was also considering joining IS. But he had doubts, and suggested they move to Malaysia.
She was the one who insisted they go to the "caliphate," she said. They settled in IS's de facto capital, Raqqa, and soon after their son Yahya was born in February 2017.
She said it was not what they'd been promised. Their passports were confiscated, their communications monitored. She said her husband was imprisoned for a month by IS for refusing to become a fighter, then worked in the IS administration's welfare office.
She said she was unable to escape IS territory until late 2017, when the militants gave her and her son permission to leave. Her husband had to stay behind. She has been unable to contact him for nearly a year and believes he is now in SDF hands.
Her parents are trying to persuade Indonesian officials to allow her home.
"I want to tell my government I regret, and I hope for a second chance. I was young," Aliya said. "Some people still love ISIS. Me, because I've lived there, I see how they are, so I'm done with them."
Gailon Lawson, 45
Gailon Lawson, of Trinidad and Tobago, said she began to regret her decision even before she reached the "caliphate." The night she crossed with her then 12-year-old son and her new husband into Syria in 2014, people had to dash across in the darkness to evade Turkish border guards.
"I saw people running, and that's when I realized it was a mistake," the 45-year-old Lawson said.
She had converted recently to Islam and married a man in Trinidad who apparently had been radicalized — becoming his second wife. Only days after they married, they traveled to Syria.
"I just followed my husband," she said.
They divorced not long after arriving. Lawson's biggest concern over the next years was keeping her son from being enlisted as a fighter. He was arrested three times by IS for refusing conscription, she said.
During the siege at Baghuz, she dressed her son as a woman in robes and a veil, and they slipped out. Kurdish security forces detained the son, and Lawson has not heard from him in a month.
Samira, a 31-year-old Belgian woman, said that back home when she was young, she drank alcohol and went dancing at clubs. Then "I wanted to change my life. I found Islam." She said she came to believe IS propaganda that Europe would never accept Muslims and only in the caliphate could one be a proper member of the faith.
"It was very stupid, I know," she said.
When she reached Syria, IS militants put her in a house for women and brought suitors for marriage. Samira chose a French citizen, Karam El-Harchaoui. She said IS imprisoned her husband for a year for refusing to become a fighter. After his release, he sold eggs and chickens.
In 2016, they tried to pay a Syrian smuggler to escape, but the smuggler pocketed the money and ratted them out to IS. Finally in January 2018, she and her husband fled with their 2-year-old child and surrendered to Kurdish-led forces. Her husband was imprisoned and has since been sent to Iraq to stand trial there.
"I know he will not have a fair trial," Samira said. Iraqi courts are notorious for cursory trials of suspected IS members in which almost no evidence is presented.
Meanwhile, she is trying to get home to Belgium. "What we saw with Daesh was a lesson to us and allowed us to gain perspective on the extremists. All we want is to reintegrate in our society," she said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
"I hate them," she said of the group. "They sold us a dream, but it was an open prison. They kill innocent people. All that they do, these things, it's not from Islam."
Lagatie, the Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said his government would not comment on individual cases, but said Samira was "well known to Belgian authorities."
Kimberly Polman, 46
Polman, the Canadian woman, came to the caliphate to join her new husband, a man she knew only from online. One of her siblings in Canada, contacted by the AP, confirmed this part of her story. Soon after they were united in Syria, the husband became abusive and they divorced.
She married again and worked in a hospital, treating children wounded in the fighting.
"I saw an incredible number of children die," she said. She recounted mopping up blood on the hospital floor and breaking down after failing to revive a dying 4-month-old. Polman said she came to blame the militants for the horrors she saw.
"Why would the rest of the world be responding to this if you were any kind of normal human being? Why? ...You can say this is about religion but I don't buy it," she said, referring to other IS supporters who often accuse the world of ganging up against the group because it is Muslim.
In early 2019, she and her husband surrendered to the SDF.
She wants to return to Canada, saying she is not safe in the camp because she has spoken out against IS.
"I feel so badly that I think I don't deserve a future. I shouldn't have trusted."
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded 37 Saudi citizens, most of them minority Shiites, in a mass execution across the country for alleged terrorism-related crimes. It also publicly pinned the executed body and severed head of a convicted Sunni extremist to a pole as a warning to others.
The executions were likely to stoke further regional and sectarian tensions between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Saudi dissident Ali Al-Ahmed, who runs the Gulf Institute in Washington, identified 34 of those executed as Shiites based on the names announced by the Interior Ministry.
“This is the largest mass execution of Shiites in the kingdom's history,” he said.
Amnesty International also confirmed the majority of those executed were Shiite men. The rights group said they were convicted “after sham trials” that relied on confessions extracted through torture.
It marked the largest number of executions in a single day in Saudi Arabia since Jan. 2, 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people for terrorism-related crimes in what was the largest mass execution carried out by Saudi authorities since 1980.
Among those executed three years ago were four Shiites, including prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose death sparked protests from Pakistan to Iran and the ransacking of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Saudi-Iran ties have not recovered and the embassy remains shuttered.
King Salman ratified by royal decree Tuesday's mass execution and that of 2016. The king, who has empowered his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has asserted a bolder and more decisive leadership style than previous monarchs since ascending to the throne in 2015.
The kingdom and its Sunni-led Arab allies have also been emboldened by U.S. President Donald Trump's unwavering dedication to pressuring Iran's Shiite clerical leadership, which includes his decision to pull out of a nuclear agreement with Iran and re-impose punishing sanctions to cripple its economy.
Al-Ahmed described Tuesday's executions as a politically motivated message to Iran.
“This is political,” he said. “They didn't have to execute these people, but it's important for them to ride the American anti-Iranian wave.”
The Interior Ministry's statement said those executed had adopted extremist ideologies and formed terrorist cells with the aim of spreading chaos and provoking sectarian strife. It said the individuals had been found guilty according to the law and ordered executed by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, which specializes in terrorism trials, and the country's high court.
The individuals were found guilty of attacking security installations with explosives, killing a number of security officers and cooperating with enemy organizations against the interests of the country, the Interior Ministry said.
The statement was carried across state-run media, including the Saudi news channel al-Ekhbariya. The statement read on the state-run news channel opened with a verse from the Quran that condemns attacks that aim to create strife and disharmony and warns of great punishment for those who carry out such attacks.
Al-Ahmed said among those executed was Shiite religious leader Sheikh Mohammed al-Attiyah, whose charges included seeking to form a sectarian group in the western city of Jiddah. Al-Ahmed said the sheikh publicly spoke of the need to work closely with Saudi Arabia's Sunni majority and would lead small prayer groups among Shiites.
In a speech he gave in 2011 under then King Abdullah, the sheikh was quoted as saying that frank and open dialogue between Sunnis and Shiites could help strengthen Saudi unity. He urged patience and expressed hope in a national dialogue that had taken place among Shiite dissidents and Sunni leaders.
As long as we live in the same country, we have no choice but to accept one another and live with one another, no matter the degree of difference between us,” he said.
Amnesty International said 11 of the men were convicted of spying for Iran and sentenced to death after a “grossly unfair trial.” At least 14 others executed were convicted of violent offenses related to their participation in anti-government demonstrations in Shiite-populated areas of Saudi Arabia between 2011 and 2012.
Among those put to death was a young man convicted of a crime that took place when he was 16 years-old, said Amnesty.
Saudi Arabia's supreme council of clerics, who are all ultraconservative Sunnis, said the executions were carried out in accordance with Islamic law.
Powerful tool for deterrence
The Interior Ministry said the body of one of the executed men — Khaled bin Abdel Karim al-Tuwaijri — was publicly pinned to a pole. The statement did not say in which city of Saudi Arabia the public display took place.
He appears to have been convicted as a Sunni militant, though the government did not give a detailed explanation of the charges against each individual executed.
The government defends such executions as a powerful tool for deterrence.
Saudi analysts and pro-government writers brought in to discuss the executions on al-Ekhbariya said they are a powerful sign that the country's leadership will not hesitate to use the full might of the judicial system to punish Saudis who seek to disrupt the kingdom's security.
Those executed hailed from Riyadh, Mecca, Medina and Asir, as well as Shiite Muslim populated areas of the Eastern Province and Qassim. The executions also took place in those various regions.
It brings the number of people executed since the start of the year to around 100, according to official announcements. Last year, the kingdom executed 149 people, most of them drug smugglers convicted of non-violent crimes, according to Amnesty's most recent figures.
Executions are traditionally carried out after midday prayers. Public displays of the bodies of executed men last for around three hours until late afternoon prayers, with the severed head and body hoisted to the top of a pole overlooking a main square.
This latest mass execution comes days after four Islamic State gunmen were killed by Saudi security forces while trying to attack a security building north of the capital, Riyadh.
Islamic State claim attacks
It also comes on the heels of Sri Lanka's Easter Day attacks that killed over 300 people, including two Saudi nationals. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.
Local affiliates of the Islamic State group and Saudis inspired by its ideology launched several attacks in Saudi Arabia between 2014 and 2016, killing dozens of people, including security officers and Shiite worshippers. The last major attempted attack is believed to have been two years ago.
The group, like al-Qaida in the past, has sought to undermine the Al Saud royal family's legitimacy, which is rooted in part in its claim to implement Islamic Shariah law and to be the protectors of Islam's most sacred sites in Mecca and Medina that are at the center of hajj.
Nobel laureate and former Islamic State captive Nadia Murad reproached the international community Tuesday, saying in the five years since thousands of ethnic Yazidi women were enslaved by the terror group in Iraq, not a single perpetrator has been brought to justice.
"Thousands of ISIL elements are free. Thousands are detained without trial," Murad said, referring to the group by an acronym. "We come here today and ask that those perpetrators of genocide be brought to justice."
Murad made the appeal at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the issue of sexual violence in conflict.
At its peak, the so-called Islamic State controlled large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. In 2014, its fighters seized the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, where tens of thousands of Yazidis lived. The Yazidis are a mostly Kurdish-speaking people who practice a unique monotheistic faith and are a minority in the region.
Fighters killed scores of Yazidi men and enslaved several thousand women and girls, in atrocities the U.N. said amounted to genocide. The women were used as sex slaves, often sold or traded from one fighter to another. Many now have children by the men who raped them. Older women were made to do manual labor.
Last month, IS lost its last stronghold in Syria, and thousands of its fighters have been detained by local Kurdish authorities. The fate of many non-Iraqi and Syrian fighters is unclear as governments in Europe and elsewhere debate what to do about their citizens-turned-terrorists.
"They used Yazidi women as a weapon of war, hence, they need to be tried before a special court so that they will be tried for the crimes they committed," Murad told Security Council members. "Bringing elements of ISIL to justice in the framework of an international tribunal that tries them for crimes of genocide and sexual violence against women, would send messages to others and prevent such crimes in the future."
'We need steps, not just slogans'
Murad, who was kidnapped by the terror group and subjected to sexual violence for three months in 2014 , said there has been little international assistance for survivors.
"We come to the U.N., we deliver statements, but no practical steps are taken that include reconstruction or bringing the perpetrators to justice, or returning victims and displaced to their homes," she said. "We need serious steps on the ground and not just slogans."
Her lawyer, Amal Clooney, also addressed the council, warning that if the international community does not seek accountability now, it could soon be too late.
"Let us remember that the crimes committed by ISIS against women and girls are unlike anything we have witnessed in modern times," Clooney said, using another acronym for the group. "But the question of bringing them to justice has barely raised a whisper."
She said if the Security Council cannot prevent sexual violence, it must at least punish it.
"We are facing an epidemic of sexual violence, and I believe justice is the antidote," Clooney said.
In September 2017, the U.N. Security Council authorized the creation of a U.N. investigative team to collect and preserve evidence of IS crimes in Iraq for future trials. Clooney said the team's work got fully under way last month, and they have begun exhuming mass graves to identify the victims' remains.
On Tuesday, after much discussion and some deep disagreements, the Security Council adopted a resolution that focuses on supporting survivors of sexual violence in conflicts around the world.
"We have now a concentration on accountability. We have a survivor-centered approach. We are putting sanctions much more in the center of actions. We have the U.N. system watching it, reporting it," said German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, whose delegation drafted the text.
'Real fight' for resolution
The resolution was adopted with 13 votes in favor and the abstentions of Russia and China. The U.S. had threatened to use its veto if language was not removed recognizing the importance of providing sexual reproductive health care assistance to survivors of sexual violence. After difficult negotiations, the Germans dropped the reference.
"It was for us not the ideal solution. As you could imagine, we would have liked to have strong language repeated and strengthened that language, but this was not possible," Heusgen told reporters. "So, the choice was, 'Do we give up everything for not reaching this?' Our choice was the one that civil society and the victims asked us to do."
France's envoy, Francois Delattre, told reporters ahead of the vote that negotiations were "a real fight." He expressed disappointment that there has been backsliding on women's rights by some countries.
"If we believe in the values of the U.N., if we believe in the values of women's rights, this is a real fight,"he said. "There are attitudes that we just don't understand."
"A survivor-centered approach means ensuring both their rights and addressing their needs," Inas Miloud, director of the Tamazight Women Movement in Libya, told council members. "As a priority, access to lifesaving interventions and post-rape medical care, including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health rights services, emergency contraception, the options of safe abortion services, and HIV prevention and treatment."
Wed, 2019-04-24 00:12
DUBAI: More than 100 years on, Armenians and experts alike remember the brutal atrocities and forced exodus from what is now Turkey, which left up to 1.5 million Armenians dead.
April 24 marks the start, in 1915, of the Armenian Genocide. “Every Armenian is affected by the repeated massacres that occurred in the Ottoman Empire as family members perished,” said Joseph Kechichian, senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.
“My own paternal grandmother was among the victims. Imagine how growing up without a grandmother — and in my orphaned father’s case, a mother — affects you,” he added.
“We never kissed her hand, not even once. She was always missed, and we spoke about her all the time. My late father had teary eyes each and every time he thought of his mother.”
Every Armenian family has similar stories, said Kechichian. “We pray for the souls of those lost, and we beseech the Almighty to grant them eternal rest,” he added.
“We also ask the Lord to forgive those who committed the atrocities and enlighten their successors so they too can find peace,” he said. “Denial is ugly and unbecoming, and it hurts survivors and their offspring, no matter the elapsed time.”
Donald Miller, professor of religion and sociology at the University of Southern California, said: “The ongoing denial of the genocide by the government of Turkey pours salt into the wound of the moral conscience of Armenians all over the world. On April 24, the genocide will be commemorated all over the world.”
On that day, the Ottoman government arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals.
Ordinary Armenians were then turned away from their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water.
Ottoman killing squads massacred Armenians, with only 388,000 left in the empire by 1922 when the genocide ended, from 2 million in 1914.
Many were deported to Syria and the Iraqi city of Mosul. Today they are scattered across the world, with large diasporas in Russia, the US, France, Argentina and Lebanon.
To date, only 28 countries have officially recognized the tragedy as a genocide. The only Arab country that has done so is Lebanon, although a bill is pending in Egypt’s Parliament to do so as well, while Muslim clerics in Iraq have called on Turkey to end the denial.
“The other significant consequence of the Armenian Genocide is the denial that successive Turkish governments have practiced, even though the last Ottoman rulers acknowledged it and actually tried a number of officials who were found guilty,” Kechichian said.
“Denial translates into a second genocide, albeit a psychological one. Eventually, righteous Turks — and there are a lot of them — will own up to this dark chapter of their history and come to terms with it, but it seems we’re not there yet.”
This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)
For some 3,000 years, Armenians had made their home in the Caucasus, with Christianity their official religion. During the 15th century it became a part of the Ottoman Empire, whose rulers were Muslim.
Soon enough, Armenians were viewed as “infidels,” having to pay higher taxes than Muslims and with very few political and legal rights.
Despite this the Armenian population thrived, causing great resentment among their Turkish neighbors.
And shortly after World War I began, atrocities against Armenians started taking place, with crucifixions, drownings, live burnings and mass murders.
Some children were kidnapped, converted to Islam and given to Turkish families. Meanwhile, women were raped and forced to join Turkish “harems” or work as slaves, and Armenian properties were seized.
“The Armenian Genocide was the first major calamity that hit an entire nation in the 20th century,” Kechichian said.
“Although the term genocide wasn’t in use at the time — it was coined by Raphael Lemkin in his 1944 book ‘Axis Rule in Occupied Europe’ — the Polish attorney applied it to the Armenian case.”
Turkey still denies the persecution of Armenians after World War I. But Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international scholar in Saudi Arabia, said: “We know that the genocide happened. The Ottoman Empire in that era conducted many massacres against many people, including Arabs and Armenians.”
He compared the situation to that of Turkey today, with its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “We still see that he wants to have his empire again,” Al-Shehri said. “He thinks he’s the sultan of that empire.”
Al-Shehri also drew a parallel with Iran and the Persian Empire. “They (Iran) want to control the whole region, so they’re living with that era in their mind and (trying) to apply it on the ground,” he said.
“This is the difference between us and them — they don’t want to leave countries alone, and this is what we’re facing with Iran.”
Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior advisor at Gulf State Analytics, said the Armenian Genocide remains a “contentious” issue because of “the acrimonious debate over how to define genocide, particularly from the Turkish point of view. Ankara doesn’t recognize genocide because of many reasons, all of them extremely poor.”
Main category: Middle-EastTags: Armenian GenocideEditor’s Choice What led to the genocide of Armenians by the OttomansTurkey condemns French declaration of Armenian genocide commemoration day
Iran has said it would block the Strait of Hormuz if it was barred from using the strategic waterway through which about a fifth of oil that is consumed globally passes.
The threat from an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander followed a U.S. announcement Monday that it would end exemptions granted last year to eight buyers of Iranian oil and demanding they stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions.
Oil prices have surged to six-month highs.
The Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route linking Middle East oil producers to markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond, has been at the heart of regional tensions for decades. Iran has made threats to block the waterway in the past, without acting on them.
Below is some background about the Strait:
What is the Strait of Hormuz?
* The waterway separates Iran and Oman, linking the Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea.
* The Strait is 21 miles (33 km) wide at its narrowest point, but the shipping lane is just 2 miles (3 km) wide in either direction.
Why does it matter?
* The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that 18.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of seaborne oil passed through the waterway in 2016. That was about 30 percent of crude and other oil liquids traded by sea in 2016.
* About 17.2 million bpd of crude and condensates were estimated to have been shipped through the Strait in 2017 and about 17.4 million bpd in the first half of 2018, according to oil analytics firm Vortexa.
* With global oil consumption standing at about 100 million bpd, that means almost a fifth passes through the Strait.
* Most crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq — all members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — is shipped through the waterway.
* It is also the route used for nearly all the liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced by the world's biggest LNG exporter, Qatar.
* During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, the two sides sought to disrupt each other's oil exports in what was known as the Tanker War.
* The U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, is tasked with protecting the commercial ships in the area.
* "While the presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet should ensure that the critical waterway remains open, provocative Iranian military maneuvers are likely in the immediate offing as is a nuclear restart," analysts at bank RBC said on April 22.
* Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear program in return for an easing of sanctions under a 2015 deal with the United States and five other global powers. Washington pulled out of the pact in 2018. Western powers fear Iran wants to make nuclear weapons. Tehran denies this.
* "All of these geopolitical stories could present a cruel summer scenario for President [Donald] Trump as he seeks to keep oil prices in check," the RBC analysts said.
Are there alternative routes for Gulf Oil?
* The UAE and Saudi Arabia have sought to find other routes to bypass the Strait, including building more oil pipelines.
Have there been incidents in the Strait before?
* In July 1988, the U.S. warship Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner, killing all 290 aboard, in what Washington said was an accident after crew mistook the plane for a fighter. Tehran said it was a deliberate attack. The United States said the Vincennes was in the area to protect neutral vessels against Iranian navy attacks.
* In early 2008, the United States said Iranian boats threatened its warships after they approached three U.S. naval ships in the Strait.
* In June 2008, the then-Revolutionary Guards commander-in-chief, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said Iran would impose controls on shipping in the Strait if it was attacked.
* In July 2010, Japanese oil tanker M Star was attacked in the Strait. A militant group called Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility.
* In January 2012, Iran threatened to block the Strait in retaliation for U.S. and European sanctions that targeted its oil revenues in an attempt to stop Tehran's nuclear program.
* In May 2015, Iranian ships fired shots at a Singapore-flagged tanker which it said damaged an Iranian oil platform, causing the vessel to flee. It also seized a container ship in the Strait.
* In July 2018, President Hassan Rouhani hinted Iran could disrupt oil flows through the Strait in response to U.S. calls to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero. A Revolutionary Guards commander also said Iran would block all exports through the Strait if Iranian exports were stopped.
Capitalism is too firmly entrenched in Turkey to be uprooted overnight, according to the country's sole communist mayor, but small steps to create local jobs and promote cooperative farming can help nudge it along "the path to socialism.”
Fatih Macoglu, from the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), took over as mayor of the central district of Tunceli this month after victory in March 31 local elections, which saw President Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party lose control of the capital Ankara and Turkey's business hub, Istanbul.
In a country where politics have often been dominated by right-wing nationalist or Islamist parties and where the TKP won just 0.16% of the vote in the March polls, Macoglu's victory has been a cause for celebration among Turkish leftists.
But then the eastern town of Tunceli, home to minorities such as the Kurds, Zazas and Alevis, has long been known for its leftist, secularist views and for bucking national trends.
The Turkish government removed Tunceli's last elected mayor for suspected links to the outlawed militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and appointed a trustee who built walls around the town hall for security reasons.
The first thing Macoglu did after his election was to remove the walls, but he also knows he has to adapt his ideals to the tough economic and security conditions of provincial Turkey.
"When we went to people before elections, they had two problems. First, they did not want walls, bureaucracy between the people and the municipality. Second was the issue of unemployment," he told Reuters at an interview in his office.
"As part of this world where capitalism, imperialism, fascism rule, this country is unable to work without them," he said, striking a pragmatic tone that has earned him respect beyond far-leftist circles and also beyond Tunceli.
"Of course, we are not establishing communism. We want to clear the path to socialism that has been polluted by capitalism."
‘Fairness and equality’
Macoglu came to prominence five years ago when he was elected to run Tunceli's Ovacik district. He paid off most of the municipality's sizeable debt, provided free public transportation and opened up government land for agriculture.
Macoglu's work in Ovacik has changed ordinary Turks' views of communism, said Serife Ozdemir, 64, a retired teacher from nearby Malatya, one of many admirers from around Turkey to visit Tunceli to offer their congratulations to its new mayor.
"In the past, if two people fought, instead of swearing, one would yell, 'communist, communist,' and the other would feel offended," she said.
Tunceli has always been a "socialist society", said Serkan Sariates, 44, a bookstore owner who wears a beret with a red star, "because people here believe in fairness and equality."
Pledging greater transparency, Macoglu has put up posters outside the town hall detailing municipal expenditure and income.
He aims to curb high unemployment — which he puts as high as 35% — by promoting tourism, cooperative farms and the construction of eco-friendly homes for rent. He also wants to slash the municipality's heavy debt load within two years, repeating his success in Ovacik.
But not everyone in Tunceli is convinced he can succeed.
"The conditions are not suitable here," said Firaz Tekol, a 24-year-old sociology student. "He's going to have a hard time tackling all these problems."
Egypt says voters have overwhelmingly approved a national referendum on constitutional changes that will allow President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi stay in power until 2030. Hamada Elrasam has this report for VOA from Cairo.
U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to end waivers from sanctions for countries importing Iranian oil threatens to further escalate tensions with Turkey.
"If there is any individual or entities who are engaging in sanctionable conduct, we will sanction that," warned Brian Hook, U.S. senior policy adviser to the secretary of state, and special representative for Iran.
The waivers for China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey are set to expire in May, after which the countries could face U.S. sanctions. The Iranian sanctions were reinstated after Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slammed Washington's latest move.
"We support an international system and multilateralism established through legal rules. The fact that a country alone disrupts this and puts pressure on everyone to comply with its decisions is damaging and jeopardizing the international legal system," Cavusoglu said at a press conference Tuesday.
"Why are you putting pressure on other countries? Take your own measures. Why do other countries have to obey your unilateral decisions?" he asked.
Cavusoglu dismissed Washington's proposal of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as alternative suppliers.
"Pushing to buy oil from other countries besides Iran goes too far," he tweeted Monday.
Turkish energy needs
Analysts point out that energy-hungry Turkey will be reluctant to rely on supplies from either the UAE or Saudi Arabia, given that relations remain deeply strained with both countries.
Washington said it is working hard to find a solution to Turkish energy needs.
"We've worked through significant diplomatic overtures and helped on the technical side with Iraq to boost their output," said Francis Fannon, assistant secretary of state for energy resources, speaking Tuesday at a telephone press briefing. "And we are very pleased to see significant volumes now imported into Turkey, and those overtures will continue."
While condemning Washington over the reintroduction of Iranian sanctions, Ankara has cut oil imports from Iran to comply with U.S. waiver requirements. Turkey also is continuing to increase its cooperation with Iran.
"Ankara is developing deepening ties with Tehran. The Syrian civil war is providing increasing common ground," said Iranian expert Jamshid Assadi of France's Burgundy Business School. "They still have very many differences with Iran, but by all means, now Turkey and Iran are closer to each other on many issues."
Tehran and Ankara back opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, but along with Moscow, the three countries are working together under the auspices of the "Astana Process" to end the conflict.
Ankara's deepening relationship with Moscow is another point of tension with Washington. Turkey is already facing U.S. sanctions over the procurement of Russia's S-400 missile system. The sale violates the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or "CAATSA," which prohibits the purchase of specific Russian military equipment.
The Turkish economy is still recovering from the previous clash with Washington. Last year, the Turkish lira collapsed after Trump imposed sanctions on Ankara over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has since been released.
"If the crisis continues with the United States, it will probably devastate the economy," said international relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul's Kadir Has University.
The U.S. Treasury is still considering penalties that could run into billions of dollars against Turkish state lender Halkbank for violations of previous U.S. Iranian sanctions. Last year, a New York court convicted and jailed a senior Halkbank official on Iranian sanction-busting charges.
Until now, Ankara has failed in its efforts to resolve the Halkbank fine, along with removing the threat of further investigations into Turkish state lenders, by U.S. authorities. Analysts claim Washington is likely using the threat of fines and further investigations as leverage over Ankara.
However, Ankara could yet be banking on Trump to thwart any new sanctions. Earlier this month, in a break with diplomatic protocol, Trump met in the Oval Office with Berat Albayrak, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's son-in-law and economics chief. Albayrak reportedly has developed a close relationship with Jared Kushner, Trump's adviser and son-in-law.
"The photo opportunity in the Oval Office was not something negligible and the fact two sons-in-law met and spoke," said Ozel. "I am not sure the expectation that Trump will intervene and save Turkey from the fires of Congress is necessarily a realistic expectation, but we shall see."
Observers say Erdogan is aware that standing up to Washington plays well with his constituents, but with no scheduled elections for four years, an economy in recession and a vulnerable currency, the Turkish president may yet bow to U.S. pressure.
"These are cliffhanger weeks for Turkey, where Mr. Erdogan is playing an all-or-nothing game. We are at the proverbial fork in the road," said analyst Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners.
Tue, 2019-04-23 23:13
RIYADH: Eyad Abu Shakra, a Middle East specialist, said there were three things that needed to be considered when researching how the Ottoman Empire handled Armenia during the First World War. Approaching the subject in this way made it possible to understand the violent repression of non-Muslim minorities in the Ottoman Empire, especially the Armenians.
Speaking to Arab News on Tuesday, Abu Shakra said the first point was related to Armenian history and heritage. They were among the first people to convert to Christianity, which was the dominant religion in Anatolia prior to Islam. The majority of Armenians belong to the Armenian Orthodox Church, which is one of the oldest churches in the world. It was founded in the first century A.D. by St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew, two of Jesus Christ’s disciples.
Abu Shakra said the second point was related to the “Eastern question,” a reference to the final decades of the Ottoman Empire and the mounting pressure it faced from European powers that were competing to carve out their own territories.
He said the historical roots of the Eastern question dated back to the 16th century, when Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and Emperor Francis I reached an understanding by which France was granted special status as protector of the non-Muslim minorities in the Ottoman Empire, which was at the time at the height of its power.
But what started as a generous grant bestowed by a powerful state in the 16th century, became in the 19th century a tool of European pressure, and impositions from Christian powers on a weakened Ottoman state. This imbalance was reflected in the military losses of the Ottomans at the hands of the Europeans.
The Ottoman Empire was known during the 19th and early 20th centuries as the sick man of Europe.
The worst setbacks were during the Russo-Ottoman war of 1768-1774, when the Ottoman Empire lost territories in the northern Black Sea region. The Ottoman decline climaxed by the end of the 19th century, when they lost much of the Balkans to separatist Serbs and Bulgarians.
“The Eastern question was finally answered after the First World War with the total collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which was forced to sign the Treaty of Sevres and then the Treaty of Lausanne. It gave up its claims to the Balkans and the Middle East. New states came into existence, such as Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey which was established in Anatolia, Istanbul and the Straits, while other territories came under direct rule of the allied victors,” said Abu Shakra.
The third point, according to Abu Shakra, lay in the Ottoman reforms that started during the reign of Sultan Abdul Majid I and continued until the First World War in 1914. For a long time the Ottoman Empire occupied swathes of territory across the continents of the ancient world. It included diverse populations and religions and this great power had an influential role in world politics. However, from the 18th century onward it became a decaying power.
This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)
The European powers, on the other hand, were on the rise despite their rivalries. So while the Ottoman state bureaucracy and military deteriorated, its army suffered from defeats in various wars that it fought on various fronts, draining the empire’s resources.
These defeats made the Ottoman intelligentsia consider going through reforms to save whatever could be saved and modernize the empire. This reform movement made important achievements, but it was argued by conservatives that the internal fabric could not withstand the pace of reforms. This tension became a pretext for questioning the validity of the reforms which increased the confidence of non-Muslims (including Armenians), non-Turks (especially Arabs), who started to have a growing sense of identity. This friction was encouraged by the European powers, who had been interfering in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire.
As a result, Sultan Abdul Hamid II came to power representing the conservative nationalist line, which was apathetic to the aspirations of non-Turks, especially the European ones. Although Abdul Hamid was removed from power after 30 years, the theater was prepared for the “Armenian Genocide” during the years of the First World War.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: ArmeniansOttomanEyad Abu ShakraYerevanArmeniaOttoman EmpireArmenian Genocide Armenia unites to mark Ottoman massacres after leader quitsTens of thousands of Armenians shut down capital in show of defiance
Author: Tue, 2019-04-23 23:01
ALGIERS: Algeria’s army chief said on Tuesday he welcomed an anti-graft drive against figures close to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, state TV reported, a day after the authorities announced the arrest of five business tycoons.
Bouteflika quit on April 2 after mass protests against his two-decade rule, in which protesters accused him of allowing widespread corruption in the Algerian political elite.
Army Chief Ahmed Gaid Salah played a role in Bouteflika’s resignation by calling for him to be removed from office, and has since called for a crackdown on corruption.
On Monday, Algeria’s richest man Issad Rebrab was detained on the public prosecutor’s orders. News of his arrest came as thousands of students thronged through the capital’s streets calling for trials against members of the deposed leader’s inner circle.
Rebrab, the 74-year-old chief executive of Algeria’s biggest privately-owned conglomerate Cevital, was placed in detention overnight according to the APS news agency.
Forbes magazine lists Rebrab as Algeria’s richest man and the sixth-wealthiest in Africa, with a net worth of $3.38 billion in 2019.
He is “suspected of having made fake statements concerning the transfer of funds to and from abroad,” APS reported.
He is also suspected of having imported “used equipment” despite enjoying tax and customs breaks made available by authorities for the purchase of new material.
On Monday, Rebrab tweeted that he had gone voluntarily to a police station to discuss “equipment that has been held up at the Algiers port since June 2018.”
Cevital, which he founded, employs 18,000 people and is active in electronics, steel and food, and in recent years acquired businesses in France.
According to Forbes, Cevital also owns one of the largest sugar refineries in the world with the capacity to produce 2 million tons a year.
But while his business activities may have flourished under Bouteflika’s rule, Rebrab has had a tense relationship with the ruling circle.
In open conflict with Algerian authorities since 2015, he has accused them of blocking his investments in the country and last month threw his support behind the anti-Bouteflika protests. Rebrab is one of a number of tycoons detained in graft investigations since the president stepped down. The arrests come after Salah called on prosecutors to “accelerate the pace” of corruption probes into those with ties to Bouteflika’s inner circle. Late Sunday, four brothers from the influential Kouninef family were arrested, according to state television, in relation to a probe into non-compliance with state contracts.
Prosecutors are investigating “insider influence to obtain undue advantages and misappropriation of real estate,” according to the broadcaster.
Abdelkader, Reda, Karim and Tarek Kouninef have dealings in everything from agribusiness to civil engineering.
The family is said to be close to Said Bouteflika, the younger brother and former adviser of the deposed leader.
Crowds of students gathered in the heart of the capital Tuesday. “We want a new system that is committed to fighting the corruption that has plagued the country,” said Hamid, a finance student in Algiers.
On Monday state television reported the current Finance Minister Mohamed Loukal, and former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia had been summoned for questioning by a magistrate in connection with the alleged misuse of public funds.
The latest developments follow the arrest late last month of Ali Haddad, one of Algeria’s top businessmen and a Bouteflika backer, who had tried to cross the border into Tunisia with two passports and undeclared currency.
The day after he was detained, prosecutors announced graft probes into unnamed individuals and banned corruption suspects from leaving the country.
Algerian media has reported around a dozen businessmen are under investigation, all with ties to Bouteflika’s entourage.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: AlgeriaAlgiersAbdelaziz Bouteflika Wit and grit: Algeria's sizeable youth lead fight for changeFive Algerian billionaires arrested as part of antigraft investigation
Israeli soldiers shot a blindfolded, handcuffed Palestinian teenager who had been arrested on suspicion of taking part in disturbances as he tried to flee.
Author: Tue, 2019-04-23 22:54
TRIPOLI: Despite the war on Tripoli’s doorstep, residents are filling the salons and cafes in some quarters of the Libyan capital as they carry on as best they can.
“Life has to go on. It will end when it ends,” said Samira, who runs a hair and beauty salon in Tripoli’s central Ben Achour neighborhood.
Originally from neighboring Tunisia, Samira has been living in Libya for years and her salon is always packed with clients.
“At least three or four brides come in each week to have their hair done and get ready for their big day,” she said, as she prepared a palette of eyeshadows and brushes to start making up a young bride.
“That’s as well as dozens of women who come for a haircut, to get a makeover, or skincare before a big event,” she added.
Clashes between warring sides have centered on the southern outskirts of the city, just 15 km from the center.
Fighting intensified with a counter-attack launched by GNA force on Saturday, when sustained rocket and shellfire could be heard in several districts and some witnesses reported airstrikes.
Tripoli residents fear that the battle could escalate into a wider conflict that would devastate the North African country, already rocked by years of instability and economic hardship since former ruler Muammar Qaddafi was ousted in 2011.
But for now, the honking of car horns on the seafront is louder than the distant boom of rockets and gunfire.
Schools and businesses in Tripoli remain open when they can, while residents of the Mediterranean city try to indulge in their favorite leisure activities.
“Libya is not just about television footage showing tanks and militiamen brandishing their guns or destroyed buildings,” said schoolteacher Mariam Abdallah.
“We are still having weddings, parties, school activities and sports events.” On the seafront in the west of Tripoli, outdoor cafes are packed, especially toward the end of the day when residents like to unwind after a day’s work.
Many of the clients are students and young employees attracted by the offers of free wifi.
Issam, a waiter at a cafe, said coffee shops and restaurants provide a “rare” form of leisure in Libya, a country that has “no cinemas, theaters or concert halls.”
So the “best places to meet (friends) and spend some good times are cafes and restaurants,” he said.
“My daughter, her husband and their children came to shelter in our house because of the fighting, so the family has grown,” said Faiza, as she shopped for some crockery and other supplies.
“It is always nice to have something new in the kitchen,” she said cheerfully as she checked out some bowls with a flowery motif.
Faiza said she needed to prepare ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which begins in early May.
“New things inspire me to create new dishes for the family,” she added, her grandchildren running up and down the aisles of the supermarket.
“It’s hard to come up with different meals to break the (Ramadan) fast every evening for a month,” she said.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: LibyaTripoliLibyans Libyans fear showdown as eastern commander eyes capitalLibyans, to varying degrees, celebrate 2011 uprising
Naminata Koulibaly, 30, receives training in a Moroccan Muslim teaching institute, founded by King Mohammed VI in 2015, and hopes to return to her home in Ivory Coast better equipped to advise women on religious issues.
She is one of 100 women admitted every year to study for up to three years in the institute in Rabat, run by Morocco's ministry of religious affairs.
Morocco, which is nearly 100 percent Muslim, has marketed itself as an oasis of religious tolerance in a region torn by militancy — and has offered training to imams and male and female preachers of Islam from Africa and Europe on what it describes as moderate Islam.
It currently trains 1,300 people mostly from the sub-Sahara nations of Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Guinea, Gambia and Chad, where Al Qaeda and Islamic State are active.
"When I go back to my country, I will find some children and women who did not go to school and don't know a lot about religion, ... We will be very useful to them and we will teach them about the fundamentals of religion," said Koulibaly.
"We will show them how to behave with others and not to be extremists. We will show them how to be moderate in religion."
Compared to other countries in North Africa, Morocco has been largely insulated from militant attacks. The first since 2011 took place last December when two Scandinavian tourists were found murdered in a tourist spot in the Atlas Mountains. Four suspects had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Students at the institute receive 2,000 dirhams ($208.33) a month in addition to free accommodation, plane tickets, and health insurance. Admission criteria include having a Bachelor university degree.
The curriculum covers Islamic studies along with philosophy, history of religions, sexual education, and mental health.
"We show them that the concepts of democracy and human rights serve purposes rooted in Islamic values," said institute director Abdeslam Lazaar.
Imams also receive vocational training in electrics, agriculture or tailoring to enable them to have a source of stable revenue when they return home.
Imam training can help sub-Saharan countries facing militancy and a vacuum in the supervision of religion, Salim Hmimnat of the Rabat-based African Studies Institute said.
Pope Francis visited the imam training institute during his trip to Morocco in March.
Students also come from France, such as 25-year-old Aboubakr Hmaidouch.
"The Muslim community in France is in great need of imams and female religious preachers to ensure that the values of religion contribute to living together and to the spiritual well-being of society," he said.
Training takes into account practical life and culture, and accepts diversity he said.
"When I return ... I hope to put into practice and transmit this knowledge, especially this spirit of peace, love, fraternity and tolerance."
The institute also helps Rabat expand its foothold in a region where major Moroccan banks and companies have been investing for years.
"The use of religion plays an important role in the kingdom's overall soft power equation," said Anouar Boukhars, a Maghreb expert and Carnegie Endowment fellow, noting Morocco promotes its tolerant Islam as an alternative to the extremist ideologies in the Sahel.
($1 = 9.6000 Moroccan dirham)
Egypt's government is drawing up a plan to turn over as many as 150 crumbling historic buildings to the private sector to refurbish and lease out for profit, the Minister of Public Enterprise said on Tuesday.
The plan could potentially save an eclectic mix of neo-classical, beaux arts, art nouveaux, art deco and early modern styles built mostly in the first half of the 20th century then nationalized in the early 1960s.
It could also revitalize important tourism districts in central Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said on the Suez Canal. The buildings have fallen into various degrees of disrepair for lack of funding and maintenance, with many tenants paying tiny sums for units that have remained rent controlled for more than half a century.
Public enterprise minister Hesham Tawfik said the government would follow the model of privately owned Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment, which has been slowly renovating 23 historic buildings it has bought in downtown Cairo.
"They take the buildings, they settle with individuals or companies who are renting these apartments, they do the necessary renovations, inside and outside, and they simply rent them to the private sector. And they are making some decent return on their investment," Tawfik said.
"We intend to do this by offering parcels of buildings, and by parcels I mean four to five buildings per transaction, for the private sector to repeat what Ismaelia did, on a revenue-sharing basis," he said at business conference.
The plan was being studied at the state Insurance Holding Co. which along with the state insurance company owns 350 buildings, 150 of which are classified as historic.
"Probably they will come up with something very soon to offer to private developers, who we will insist be Ismaelia-style, with the right social background to be able to make sure that the development is done at the right level," Tawfik said.
The government was also preparing to sell about 2 million square meters of unused land owned by state holding companies to help pay back more than 38 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.22 billion) in debts owed to other public entities, he said.
These include the National Investment Bank, the Ministry of Petroleum, the Ministry of Electricity, pension funds and the tax authority.
Once paid, any extra proceeds will be used to finance restructuring plans for companies under the ministry, including 21 billion pounds for textile industry and 5 billion pounds for chemical and metallurgical industries, Tawfik said.
Author: Tue, 2019-04-23 22:43
ISTANBUL: Turkey’s high election board has rejected part of an effort by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party to have a rerun of elections in Istanbul, dismissing an appeal regarding voters who were dismissed by decrees from government jobs after an attempted coup in 2016, state news agency Anadolu said.
In a petition submitted to cancel and rerun the city elections that it lost three weeks ago, Erdogan’s AK Party cited thousands of ballots cast by people it said were ineligible to vote due to previous government decrees.
Based on initial results and a series of recounts, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the mayoralty in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, with a margin of some 13,000 votes.
The new CHP mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, took office on Wednesday, despite a formal request submitted a day earlier by the AK Party to annul and repeat the mayoral elections over what it said were irregularities.
The high election board, the YSK, has not yet ruled on the appeal to annul and rerun the elections due to voting irregularities including faulty entering of voting data, a wider issue that has been described by the AK Party as organized fraud.
The YSK also ruled to investigate the status of 41,132 voters, including people who according to the AK Party were dead, ineligible or voted twice, and to look into some ballot box council attendants.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: turkey electionsAKPIstanbulEkrem ImamogluCHP Erdogan's AKP challenges Istanbul results in Turkey electionTurkey election authority denies being source of data leak: report
Author: ReutersID: 1556047711875802000Tue, 2019-04-23 15:30
TRIPOLI: Migrants in a detention facility in the Libyan capital Tripoli have reportedly been seriously wounded in a random shooting, the UN migration agency IOM said on Tuesday.
IOM gave no more details of the incident which it said took place in a facility in Qasr Ben Ghashir, a southern suburb fought over by forces loyal to Libya’s rival governments.
IOM has been moving some migrants out of detention centers in Tripoli, which forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar have been trying to take in a three-week offensive.
But more than 3,000 migrants are still in detention centers there, among them women and children, IOM said in a tweet.
Libya hosts more than 700,000 people who have fled their homelands, often trekking through desert in pursuit of their dream of crossing the sea to a better life in Europe.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: migrantsLibyajail
Author: Tue, 2019-04-23 22:33
AL-HOL CAMP, SYRIA: The women say it was misguided approach, naivety, a search for something to believe in or youthful rebellion. Whatever it was, it led them to travel across the world to join Daesh.
Now after the fall of the last stronghold of the group’s “caliphate,” they say they regret it and want to come home.
The Associated Press interviewed four foreign women who joined the caliphate and are now among tens of thousands of Daesh family members, mostly women and children, crammed into squalid camps in northern Syria overseen by the US-backed Kurdish-led forces who spearheaded the fight against the extremist group.
Many in the camps remain die-hard supporters of Daesh. Women in general were often active participants in Daesh’s rule. Some joined women’s branches of the “Hisba,” the religious police who brutally enforced the group’s laws. Others helped recruit more foreigners. Freed Yazidi women have spoken of cruelties inflicted by female members of the group.
Within the fences of Al-Hol camp, Daesh supporters have tried to recreate the caliphate as much as possible. Some women have re-formed the Hisba to keep camp residents in line, according to officers from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces guarding the camp. While the AP was there, women in all-covering black robes and veils known as niqab tried to intimidate anyone speaking to journalists; children threw stones at visitors, calling them “dogs” and “infidels.”
The four women interviewed by the AP said joining Daesh was a disastrous mistake. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces gave the AP access to speak to the women at two camps under their administration.
“How could I have been so stupid, and so blind?” said Kimberly Polman, a 46-year-old Canadian woman who surrendered herself to the SDF earlier this year.
The women insisted they had not been active Daesh members and had no role in its atrocities, and they all said their husbands were not fighters for Daesh. Those denials and much in their accounts could not be independently confirmed. The interviews took place with Kurdish security guards in the room. To many, their expressions of regret likely ring hollow, self-serving or irrelevant. Traveling to the caliphate, the women joined a group whose horrific atrocities were well known, including sex enslavement of Yazidi women, mass killings of civilians and grotesque punishments of rule-breakers.
Their pleas to return home point to the thorny question of what to do with the men and women who joined the caliphate and their children. Governments around the world are reluctant to take back their nationals.
The SDF complains it is being forced to shoulder the burden of dealing with them.
Al-Hol is home to 73,000 people who streamed out of Daesh’s last pockets, including the village of Baghouz, the final site to fall to the SDF in March. Nearly the entire population of the camp is women or children, since most men were taken for screening by the SDF to determine if they were fighters.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: DaeshSyriacaliphateSDF Daesh kills almost 60 regime fighters across SyriaDaesh terror plots targeting Europe and Middle East exposed
Author: Tue, 2019-04-23 22:20
KHARTOUM: When Omar Bashir wanted protection from rivals during his long rule as president of Sudan, he turned to Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, a commander of widely feared Arab militias.
Gen. Dagalo, who goes by the nickname Hemedti, could soon become the most powerful man in Sudan himself following the military coup that ousted his old ally on April 11, Western diplomats and opponents say.
Hemedti has played down his political ambitions. But as deputy head of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) set up by the military to run Sudan for up to two years until elections, he has become the second most powerful man in the country.
The Western envoys and opposition figures, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, say Hemedti is hungry for more power, and that he helped force out Bashir after 30 years in office because he has set his sights on the presidency.
“Hemedti planned on becoming the No. 1 man in Sudan. He has unlimited ambition,” said an opposition figure who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.
With the TMC under pressure from the opposition and protesters to hand power to civilians swiftly, Hemedti and other generals risk being sidelined soon.
In his new role, Hemedti has been meeting Western ambassadors and is already well placed to influence events from his office in the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum.
The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) he commands are deployed across the city and he is backed by Gulf Arab states that have pledged billions of dollars to support Sudan since the coup.
His rise is a concern for many of the protesters who helped bring down Bashir and are now blocking the Defence Ministry and some surrounding roads as they press demands for a quick transition to civilian rule.
Militias he commanded were accused by human rights groups of genocide during the war than began in Darfur in 2003, allegations that Bashir's government denied.
Hemedti and the RSF did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in a speech to army officers on Monday, he said: "I personally ... don't want to be vice-president. I ... don't want an inch more than the Rapid Support Forces."
He said the priority was to defend Sudan and reach agreement with the people of Sudan on how the country should be run. But he added: "We won't allow chaos."
He spoke in favour of a "government of competencies, technocratic, for all the people, with no relation to any party."
"EITHER VICTORY OR EGYPT"
Protesters have expressed fears that Sudan is going the same way as Egypt did after the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. One of their chants has been "either victory or Egypt".
Egypt's armed forces chief effectively brushed Mubarak aside when it became clear security forces could not contain street protests against the veteran leader.
Two years later, army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led the overthrow of Egypt's first freely elected president, Mohamed Mursi, with the backing of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Sisi went on to win elections in 2014 and 2018, on both occasions with 97 percent of the vote.
A coalition of protesters and opposition groups said on Sunday the TMC was not serious about handing over power to civilians.
TMC head Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan told state television the formation of a joint military-civilian council -- one of the activists' demands -- was being considered.
But the TMC warned against blocking roads and said people "exercising the role of the police and security services in clear violation of the laws and regulations" was unacceptable.
A senior Western diplomat said it was unlikely the TMC would hand over power to civilians.
"It will be very hard to remove Hemedti from the political theatre because he has a force at his disposal," said the diplomat.
One option the TMC might consider is allowing the formation of a government, provided the generals have the ultimate say on decision-making, some political analysts said.
"If the council (TMC) stays in power, a civilian cabinet will have no authority," said Khalid Omar Youssef, General Secretary of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party.
FROM FIGHTER TO COMMANDER
Born in 1975, Hemedti is much younger than the other officers on the TMC and is the only general on the council who did not graduate from a military college.
He was initially a fighter before becoming a commander of the Arab militias that were later transformed into the RSF and were accused by human rights groups of burning villages, raping and executing civilians in Darfur.
Hemedti's emergence captured the attention of Bashir, whose government denied the allegations of atrocities and said only rebels were being targeted. About 300,000 people were killed in Darfur and 2 million were displaced.
Hemedti won the backing of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia after sending his forces to fight on their side in Yemen's civil war.
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have not publicly called for a quick transition to democracy in Sudan. Both countries declined comment on their involvement in Sudan. The Gulf oil powers said on Sunday they had agreed to send Sudan $3 billion worth of aid, throwing a lifeline to the country's new military leaders.
Although the RSF lack the discipline of Sudan's regular army, they are widely seen as fearless fighters hardened by war in Darfur against rebels who rose up against the government. They are armed with AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns mounted on pick up trucks.
"Cooperation between Hemedti's Rapid Support Forces and the army is strong and there is no way they will agree to hand over power," said the diplomat.
Opposition figures said Hemedti could wield huge influence behind the scenes if he did not win power personally. Such an arrangement would have parallels with Algeria, where the military has been a kingmaker for decades and forced President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign this month following protests.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: SudanOmar Al-BashirKhartoum Sudan tensions escalate after talks with military break downSudan’s army ruler vows to hand ‘power to the people’
The U.N. Security Council has approved a watered-down resolution on combatting sexual violence in conflicts after eliminating language on providing “sexual and reproductive health care” to survivors of rape and abuse to get U.S. support.
Tuesday's vote on the German-drafted resolution was 13-0, with Russia and China, which had submitted a rival draft, abstaining.
The resolution expresses the council's deep concern at “the slow progress” in addressing and eliminating sexual violence in conflicts around the world. It says such acts often occur with impunity “and in some situations have become systematic and widespread, reaching appalling levels of brutality.”
It urges strengthened access to justice for victims, but eliminated a positive reference to the International Criminal Court's work in prosecuting alleged perpetrators.
Egypt has voted to give President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sweeping powers that could keep him in office until 2030.
Heather Murdock contributed to this report.
Egyptian officials say voters have approved constitutional changes that could extend President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's rule until 2030.
The election commission said the referendum held over the weekend passed with 88.8% of the vote.
Opponents to the measure have said the changes would roll back the democratic dreams of 2011, when a popular uprising led to the ousting of 30-year dictator Hosni Mubarak, and that the referendum held was marred by corruption and coercion.
Supporters said a secure leadership will make Egypt safer and help the country climb out of economic crisis.
Amnesty International said the constitutional changes will "strengthen impunity for human rights violations by members of the security forces, furthering the climate of repression that already exists in the country."
Tue, 2019-04-23 20:58
CAIRO: Egypt's election commission says voters have approved constitutional amendments allowing President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to remain in power until 2030.
Lasheen Ibrahim, the head of the commission, said on Tuesday the amendments were approved with 88.83% voting in favor. The turnout was 44.33% of eligible voters. The nationwide referendum took place over three days, from Saturday through to Monday to maximize turnout.
Pro-government media, business people and lawmakers had pushed for a "Yes" vote and a high turnout by offering incentives.
More to follow...
Main category: Middle-EastTags: Middle EastEgyptAbdel Fatteh El-Sisi Egypt's El-Sisi calls on international community to ‘shoulder responsibilities’ in LibyaFinal day of Egyptian referendum to extend El-Sisi’s rule
Oil prices reached a six-month high Tuesday after the Trump administration announced it would no longer exempt countries from U.S. sanctions, if they continue to buy Iranian crude oil, a move aimed at imposing a complete oil embargo on Iran.
Waivers granted to eight countries, including big Iranian crude importers China, India, Japan, Turkey and South Korea, are due to expire on May 2.
RBC Capital Markets, a global investment bank, has told clients it anticipates a loss of 700,000 to 800,000 barrels of oil a day from markets as a consequence of the waivers-withdrawal.
That will tighten oil supplies as seasonal demand picks up in the Northern Hemisphere, forcing importers to seek alternative supplies, a search made more challenging with production falling off in Venezuela and Libya because of domestic unrest and conflict.
U.S. sanctions were snapped back on Iran last year when President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal, signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, in which Tehran agreed to nuclear curbs in return for sanctions relief.
The European Union has been at loggerheads with Washington over Iran and the nuclear deal, which the Trump administration fears only delays Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
“Today I am announcing that we will no longer grant any exemptions,” Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, said Tuesday. “We’re going to zero. We will continue to enforce sanctions and monitor compliance. Any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution. The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits,” he added.
The Trump administration gave waivers last year to avoid a price spike.
Some oil analysts are predicting the price of a barrel could rise to $80 as a result of the withdrawal of the exemptions and say the Trump administration may have to release oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an emergency supply of up to 727 million barrels, if the administration wants to keep prices low.
“There isn't much doubt about the trigger for the latest rally, with Trump's decision not to extend waivers on imports of Iranian oil beyond May unsurprisingly providing further upward pressure,” according to Craig Erlam, an oil market analyst at OANDA, a U.S. currency brokerage.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have said they will in principle increase production, but are unlikely to do so before a meeting in June of the 14 members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Analysts say they will want to wait to see the effect of the withdrawal of exemptions before committing to make up the shortfall on the international market.
Last year, OPEC countries increased production when the Trump administration first announced the return of U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Brent crude and West Texas Intermediate oil have surged in price more than 30 percent this year because of production disruptions in Venezuela, Nigeria, and Libya.
Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst of Energy Aspects, a research consultancy, says a jump in OPEC cartel production won’t necessarily keep prices in check. “The problem we have is the quality of the crude. Iran produces a lot of medium to heavy crudes, whereas the spare capacity in Saudi Arabia and the UAE is of lighter crudes. The quality issue is going to become a very big problem,” she says.
One of the big questions when it comes to oil prices is whether importers decide to comply with the U.S. demand to stop buying Iranian oil.
Sen says China has made very strong statements it is within its legitimate rights to do business with Iran. "We think Iranian exports will still be about 600,000 to 700,000 barrels per day. And if prices rise quite substantially and compensates for the drop of 500,000 to 600,000 the revenue shortfall [for Iran] might not be that substantial,” Sen added.
In retaliation for the withdrawal of waivers, Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and one of the world's most strategically important maritime choke-points. Few analysts believe Iran will follow through on its threat as it would risk a firm U.S. response and undermine Tehran’s efforts to keep Europeans wedded to the 2015 nuclear deal.
More likely is Iran will use “proxy wars” in the region, in Syria and Yemen, to retaliate, they say.
The U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal in part because, it said, Iran was failing to act like “a normal country.” Trump officials laid down a dozen conditions Tehran would have to fulfill for sanctions to be lifted, including an end to all uranium enrichment, stopping its support of Hezbollah, Lebanon’s radical Shi’ite movement, and other militant groups including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Author: AFPID: 1556038158294985100Tue, 2019-04-23 15:42
JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he plans to name a new settlement in the occupied Golan after US President Donald Trump in appreciation of his recognition of Israel’s claim of sovereignty there.
Netanyahu, who has been on a trip to the region with his family for the week-long Passover holiday, said in a video message that he would present a resolution to the government calling for a new settlement named after the US president.
“All Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” he said.
Trump again broke with longstanding international consensus on March 25 when he recognized Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the part of the strategic plateau it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.
The decision came only two weeks ahead of a tightly contested Israeli election, which saw Netanyahu win a fifth term in office.
Trump has shifted US policy sharply in Israel’s favor since taking office, most notably by recognizing the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel annexed 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan it seized in 1981, a move never recognized by the international community.
Around 18,000 Syrians from the Druze sect — most of whom refuse to take Israeli citizenship — remain in the occupied Golan.
Some 20,000 Israeli settlers have moved there, spread over 33 settlements.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: Benjamin NetanyahuDonald Trump Trump’s Golan Heights move causes concern in Lebanon for land ownersUS criticized for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Golan
Tue, 2019-04-23 19:52
CAIRO: Egypt's president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called on Tuesday for the international community to "shoulder its responsibilities" to ensure the start of political negotiations between parties in Libya.
Speaking at the African Union Summit, he asked countries of the bloc to offer their support to Libya to help eliminate terrorism in the country.
El-Sisi said: "You must enable the army and police in Libya to perform their duty to maintain security and stability."
Egypt was hosting African leaders for emergency talks on Tuesday on the upheavals in Sudan and Libya, as El-Sisi warned against "a slide into chaos."
El-Sisi called for a coherent regional response to Sudan, as protesters in Khartoum keep up demands for a civilian government and Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar's forces bear down on Tripoli.
The leaders in Cairo urged Sudan's military rulers, who took power after toppling longtime president Omar Al-Bashir, to implement "peaceful, organised and democratic transition measures" within three months, the Egyptian presidency said.
But they also agreed on "the need for more time" for a transition, urging the African Union to extend its end of April deadline for the ruling military council to hand power to civilians or face suspension from the bloc.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: Abdel Fattah El-Sisi Egypt to host African summits Tuesday on Sudan, LibyaLibyan force slows Tripoli push over concerns for civilians
The White House is planning to release its long-awaited Middle East peace plan in the next few months.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said Tuesday that it would be unveiled sometime after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which this year ends on June 4.
Kushner, speaking at a conference sponsored by Time Magazine, said the plan was originally poised to be released earlier this year but was delayed after elections were called in Israel.
Kushner, who is President Donald Trump's son-in-law, would not discuss any details of the plan, including whether it would endorse a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.
The peace proposal has been in the works for two years and the process has been greeted with skepticism both on Capitol Hill and in global capitals.
Author: AFPID: 1556034666954686700Tue, 2019-04-23 15:28
NEW YORK: President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner said Tuesday that he would present his long-awaited Middle East peace plan after the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan ends in early June.
Kushner, speaking at a forum of Time magazine, said he had hoped to offer the proposal late last year but that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then called elections and still needs time to form a coalition.
“Once that’s done we’ll probably be in the middle of Ramadan, so we’ll wait until after Ramadan and then we’ll put our plan out,” said Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump.
Kushner, who is President Donald Trump's son-in-law, would not discuss any details of the plan, including whether it would endorse a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.
The peace proposal has been in the works for two years and the process has been greeted with skepticism both on Capitol Hill and in global capitals.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: Middle EastMiddle East peace processJared KushnerUS President Donald TrumpPalestineIsraelRamadan Pompeo says Israeli-Palestinian peace plan to be presented ‘before too long’
Saudi Arabia has executed 37 men convicted of terror-related crimes, the kingdom's official news agency said Tuesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he wants to name a new settlement in the Golan Heights after President Donald Trump out of gratitude for the White House's recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the territory.
Netanyahu was touring the Golan Heights on Tuesday and said there was a “need to express our appreciation” to the president. He says he will advance “a resolution calling for a new community on the Golan Heights named after President Donald J. Trump.”
Last month Trump officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the territory it captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast War.
Israel annexed the mountain plateau in 1981, a move unrecognized by most of the international community. An estimated 20,000 Israelis live in Golan Heights settlements, which most of the international community considers illegal.
Tue, 2019-04-23 18:12
WASHINGTON: The US State Department has called on Iran to keep the straits of Hormuz and Bab Al-Mandeb open, an official said on Tuesday after the US a day earlier demanded that Iran oil buyers halt their purchases by May 1.
"We call on Iran, and all countries, to respect the free flow of energy and commerce, and freedom of navigation" in the straits, the official said.
Iran has said it would block the Strait of Hormuz if it was barred from using the strategic waterway through which about a fifth of oil that is consumed globally passes.
The threat from an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander followed a US announcement on Monday that it would end exemptions granted last year to eight buyers of Iranian oil and demanding they stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions.
Oil prices have surged to six-month highs.
The Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route linking Middle East oil producers to markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond, has been at the heart of regional tensions for decades. Iran has made threats to block the waterway in the past, without acting on them.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: Middle EastIranUSStrait of HormuzBab al Mandeb US Secretary of State: Iran does not control Strait of HormuzUS sanctions over Iran oil will ‘intensify Mideast turmoil’: China
Author: AFPID: 1556028723774169100Tue, 2019-04-23 14:08
DUBAI: The UAE on Tuesday unveiled a new branch of government, a Ministry of Possibilities, three years after launching a department in charge of happiness.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the UAE’s premier and ruler of Dubai, said the “unconventional” ministry would function “without a minister” but with input from the whole cabinet.
“We launched the world’s first virtual ‘Ministry of Possibilities’, a new government work system in the UAE,” he said on Twitter.
“The virtual ministry, administered by the cabinet, will address pressing national portfolios and build future government systems.”
It would also cut waiting times for government services, according to the Dubai government’s media office.
Sheikh Mohammed said: “Future challenges require the constant development of the government structure... and impossible is not in our dictionary.”
In 2016, the UAE created ministries of happiness and tolerance.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: Middle EastDubaiUAESheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Saudi Arabia reveals Dubai Expo 2020 pavilion plansDubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed praises Jacinda Ardern and lights up Burj Khalifa to honor New Zealand
Beijing has lashed out at a U.S. decision to impose sanctions on countries that buy Iranian oil, warning that it will intensify turmoil in the Middle East and in the international energy market.
"China firmly opposes the U.S. implementation of unilateral sanctions and its so-called long-armed jurisdiction," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a Tuesday press briefing.
The White House announced on April 22 that the United States will not renew exemptions granted in 2018 to five buyers of Iranian oil -- top customer China as well as India, Turkey, South Korea, and Japan -- pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran.
The exemptions, or waivers, allowed the five countries to buy Iranian oil without facing U.S. sanctions. The White House has said that the decision to end them is intended to bring Iran's oil exports -- a key source of revenue for the authoritarian government -- to zero.
The United States has said it was working with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two of the largest oil exporters, to ensure the market was "adequately supplied."
Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main regional rival, welcomed the U.S. decision to end all Iran sanctions waivers by May.
"Saudi Arabia fully supports this step...as it is necessary to force the Iranian regime to end its policy of destabilizing stability and its support and sponsorship of terrorism around the world," Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf said on April 23.
Japan has said it expects a limited impact from the U.S. decision.
"We will closely watch international oil markets and exchange views with Japanese companies involved in crude imports and may consider taking necessary measures," Japan’s trade and industry minister Hiroshige Seko said on April 23.
A spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry dismissed the U.S. decision on April 22, calling sanctions "illegal" and saying that the country "did not and does not attach any value or credibility to the waivers.”
The United States quit a 2015 deal between Iran and world powers that granted Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
Renewed U.S. sanctions have hit Iran's economy and contributed to the fall of the national currency, the rial.
Some information was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters
A separatist group seeking disintegration of Northern Ireland from Britain has claimed responsibility for an attack in the region on Thursday that killed a young journalist.
Saudi Arabia said it executed 37 of its citizens on Tuesday after they were convicted of "terrorism" in the kingdom, which is one of the world's top executioners.
The sentences were carried out in Riyadh, the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, central Qassim province and Eastern Province, home to the country's Shiite minority.
The men were executed "for adopting terrorist and extremist thinking and for forming terrorist cells to corrupt and destabilize security", a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency said.
It said that one person was crucified after his execution, a punishment reserved for particularly serious crimes.
Executions in the ultra-conservative kingdom are usually carried out by beheading.
At least 100 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the year, according to a count based on official data released by SPA.
Last year, the oil-rich Gulf state carried out the death sentences of 149 people, according to Amnesty International, which said only Iran was known to have executed more people.
Rights experts have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of trials in Saudi Arabia, governed under a strict form of Islamic law.
People convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking face the death penalty, which the government says is a deterrent for further crime.
Dozens of Palestinian demonstrators have called on the United Nations to put an end to the Tel Aviv regime’s tight blockade on the Gaza Strip, which has been in place against the impoverished coastal enclave for more than a decade.
Author: AFPID: 1556026613413991500Tue, 2019-04-23 13:17
RABAT: Moroccan authorities said Tuesday they have arrested six suspected jihadists with links to Deash.
The suspects, aged between 22 and 28, were "supporters" of Daesh and suspected of planning "terrorist acts", the central bureau of investigations said in a statement.
They were arrested in the town of Sale near Rabat in a raid led by the bureau's anti-terrorism squad, during which electronic devices, bladed weapons and "extremist" manuscripts were found, it added.
Suspected extremist sympathisers are to go on trial in Sale next week for the murder of two Scandinavian women in Morocco's High Atlas mountains last December.
Morocco has been spared largescale extremist attacks since a 2011 bombing in Marrakesh's famed Jamaa El Fna Square that killed 17 people, mainly European tourists.
But each year authorities announce the dismantling of dozens of Daesh cells.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: Middle EastMoroccoDaesh Wisconsin woman taught bomb-making online for DaeshIraq court sentences four to death for joining Daesh
Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh slams the US and its allies for using oil as a political “weapon” to put more economic pressure on the Islamic Republic, emphasizing, however, that Washington will never be able to achieve its “dream” of cutting Tehran’s oil exports to “zero.”
A U.N.-commissioned report says the war in Yemen has set back its development by more than 20 years.
The study commissioned by the U.N. Development Program found that if the war ends this year, it will have caused economic losses of $88.8 billion. If the conflict lasts until 2030, it would leave 71 percent of the population in extreme poverty, 84 percent malnourished and cause economic losses of $657 billion.
The UNDP's Yemen representative, Auke Lootsma, says that "even if there were to be peace tomorrow, it could take decades for Yemen to return to pre-conflict levels of development."
A Saudi-led coalition has been battling Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels since 2015. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and driven the country to the brink of famine.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris has said that the US Congress should take steps toward impeaching President Donald Trump in the wake of the publication of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, saying she believes that Mueller's report revealed evidence of obstruction of justice.
The Syrian government has agreed to a request by the Qatari civil aviation authority to allow planes of Qatar Airways to fly over Syria, eight years after the Persian Gulf's peninsular state suspended its ties with Damascus.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un will "soon" travel to Russia on his first ever meeting with President Vladimir Putin, state media say.
Most of the Democrats running for president are vowing to put the United States back in the Iran nuclear deal that President Trump withdrew from nearly a year ago.
Chairman of the Majlis Economic Committee Mohammadreza Pour-Ebrahimi said on Tuesday that promoting trade cooperation is a priority for Iran-China relations.
Ronnie O’Sullivan was dramatically knocked out of the World Snooker Championship in the first round at the hands of amateur James Cahill.