Archive for June, 2014

Qatar accuses Maliki of triggering Iraq unrest


DOHA – Qatar’s foreign minister has accused Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of triggering the unrest that has swept his country through his policies of “marginalization” of the Sunni Arab minority.

Militants spearheaded by powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and joined by supporters of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, have in the past week overrun a large chunk of northern and north-central Iraq, although their advance has since been slowed by a government counter-offensive.

“This (unrest) is partly a result of negative factors… mainly implementing factional policies, marginalization and exclusion,” said Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah in comments carried late Sunday by QNA state news agency.

Attiyah was referring to Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, which has mostly been disgruntled since the US-led invasion in 2003, which changed the regime after ousting dictator Saddam Hussein.

The Qatari minister also cited the “forceful dispersement of peaceful rallies,” in reference to crackdowns in April 2013 and January this year on Sunni Arab protests that demanded Maliki’s ouster.

“This has deepened the divide between the components of the brotherly Iraqi people,” QNA cited Attiyah as saying in an address to the G77 summit in Bolivia.

He urged the Iraqi government to take into consideration the “demands of a large part of the population who are only asking for equality and participation, away from sectarian discrimination.”

Relations between Doha and Baghdad are strained. Maliki in March accused Qatar, along with Saudi Arabia, of supporting terrorism.

Source: Middle East Online.


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Kuwait urged to end labor sponsorship system


KUWAIT CITY – A Kuwaiti human rights organization on Sunday urged the Gulf state to fulfil pledges to abolish the sponsorship system for foreign labor and to end the arbitrary deportation of expatriates.

In a report on human rights in the oil-rich emirate, the Kuwait Society for Human Rights also called for measures to end abuse of thousands of domestic workers and for a final resolution to the plight of more than 100,000 stateless people.

The group said that Kuwait pledged several years ago to end the sponsor system which is likened to slavery and common in Gulf States, but so far nothing has been done.

The current system ties a migrant worker’s residency status to an individual employer, or sponsor, without whose consent the worker cannot change jobs.

This gives employers unchecked leverage and control over workers, who remain completely dependent on their sponsor.

A few weeks ago, neighboring Qatar said it was introducing measures to abolish the system.

The Kuwaiti group also called for an end to so-called administrative deportation which allows police to deport foreigners without a court ruling.

However, it noted that the interior ministry has recently regulated the procedure by restricting the right to deport to the ministry’s undersecretary.

Some 2.8 million expatriates work in Kuwait compared with 1.25 million nationals. More than 600,000 expatriates are domestic workers.

The society urged the government to pass a special law on domestic workers to stop abuses that it said are tantamount to slavery.

“Domestic helpers are subjected to many abuses, some of which could be called slavery, in addition to torture, humiliation and rape. The society has monitored a large number of such violations,” the report said.

On stateless people, known locally as bidoons, the society urged speedy measures to improve their humanitarian and legal as a prelude to “granting them their full rights”.

Bidoons claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship because they or their forefathers lived in the country before the 1959 nationality law.

But the government says a majority of them came from neighboring countries after the discovery of oil, and destroyed their identification papers.

The society said the government should adopt a clear roadmap aimed at resolving the problem in steps.

Source: Middle East Online.


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Top Bahrain activist released from prison

May 24, 2014

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A prominent human rights activist in Bahrain was released from prison on Saturday after spending nearly two years behind bars.

Nabeel Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to three years in 2012 on charges of encouraging “illegal gatherings” tied to anti-government protests in the country. An appeals court later reduced his term by a year.

After his release from prison, Rajab was greeted by dozens of supporters and stopped to visit his mother’s grave before heading home. The activist is a key icon for the protest movement against the Gulf Arab monarchy’s Sunni rulers. Since 2011, the country’s majority Shiites have been protesting, demanding greater rights and political freedoms.

A statement from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said Rajab was imprisoned for “advocating peaceful demonstrations to defend the civil and human rights of all the citizens in the country.” Rajab told The Associated Press that he is happy to be out after more than 600 days in prison, and called for the release of all political prisoners. He said stability can only be achieved “through respect for human rights.”

“After two years in prison, I see Bahrain’s political environment as more difficult and still without a roadmap for real reforms,” he said. In mid-2012, Rajab was also sentenced to three months for his comments on Twitter about Bahrain’s prime minister. His conviction was overturned on appeal during his prison sentence for taking part in protests.

Also on Saturday, thousands of people marched in a funeral for 15-year old Sayed Mohsen, who died during protests earlier this week in Sitra, south of the capital, Manama. The procession turned violent when mourners clashed with security forces nearby. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Mohsen’s family and the country’s main opposition group Al Wifaq said the teenager died after being shot in the chest at close range with bird shot — a weapon commonly used by Bahraini police. The country’s Interior Ministry said police were investigating the circumstances of the death. The ministry said police in Sitra reacted after being attacked with firebombs Wednesday during a funeral procession of a man who had died earlier in a bomb blast.

“While the specific circumstances in which Sayed Mohsen was shot remain unclear, the use of force in policing public assemblies … must conform to the requirements of necessity and proportionality; and firearms may only be used as a last resort,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

The rights group urged an independent and transparent inquiry into the teenager’s death. The opposition in Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, claims that at least 100 people have been killed in the past three years of protests.

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Iran’s Rouhani meets with Turkish PM Erdogan

June 09, 2014

ISTANBUL (AP) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is meeting with Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the first official Iranian presidential visit to Turkey since 1996.

Rouhani’s meetings in Ankara come just before the start of direct talks in Geneva between Iran and the U.S on the Iranian nuclear program. Rouhani is expected to sign agreements with Turkey aimed at improving ties that have been strained over the war in Syria, where Iran backs the government and Turkey the rebels. Rouhani will also meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

Iran is both an important trading partner for Turkey and a rival for influence in the region. Turkey, anticipating that the nuclear talks lead to a further easing of sanctions on Iran, is looking to boost energy cooperation.

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