Greater Middle East
gezi

Europe rights court censures Turkey over detained activist

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Turkey violated a prior judgement in the case Kavala v. Turkey by keeping activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala in detention. Kavala was arrested in 2017, ostensibly for involvement in the Gezi Park protests in 2013 and an attempted coup d’etat in 2016. Kavala brought a complaint to the ECHR for wrongful detainment and won his case, with the court ordering his release. However, upon his release, he was immediately detained again, this time on the charge of “espionage.” Kavala was then sentenced to life in prison, and the ECHR opened infringement proceedings to determine whether this new sentence defied their original judgement. (Image: #OccupyGezi)

Greater Middle East
MLSA

Turkey arrests 16 Kurdish journalists

Turkish officials formally arrested and jailed 16 Kurdish journalists after detaining 21 journalists for eight days without charges. Five of the original 21 were released. According to Turkey’s Media & Law Studies Association (MLSA), the 21 journalists were originally detained on suspicion of “terrorism.” The MLSA’s Mehmet Ali Birand dismissed the validity of the charges, saying: “Most of these colleagues were working in media organs such as DÄ°HA [news agency] and Ă–zgĂĽr GĂĽndem [newspaper]… None of these journalists participated in terrorist activities. None of these journalists carried a gun, pulled a trigger, or killed anyone.” Turkish officials claimed the arrests were part of an investigation into the “press committee” of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). (Image: MLSA)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

Weapons manufacturers sued over Yemen war

Three human rights organizations filed a lawsuit in France against three arms manufacturers for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yemen. The European Center for Constitutional & Human Rights, Mwatana for Human Rights and Sherpa allege that Dassault Aviation, Thales and MBDA France, through their military sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have enabled the killing of Yemeni civilians. Humanitarian organizations and rights groups have charged that air-strikes from the Saudi-UAE military coalition have targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure since 2015. (Photo via Jurist)

Greater Middle East
Manjorah

Middle East: ‘peak wheat’ fears amid deep drought

Facing long lines and bread shortages, Lebanon’s government has been forced to give private importers $15 million to bring more wheat into the country. But it’s a short-term fix for a government that is broke and waiting for the IMF to approve a bailout deal. And nations across the Middle East may be looking for similar solutions as they struggle with the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—both countries are key wheat producers, and exports are effectively cut off by the war. The food crisis is deepened by a decades-worst regional drought impacting Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and especially Iran. A new assessment on Iran from the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) documents water shortages, disappearing wetlands and emptying villages, making the impacts “impossible to ignore.” (Photo of IDP camp in Yemen: Moayed Al Shaibani/Oxfam)

Greater Middle East
yemen

‘Disappointing’ aid for hunger-stricken Yemen

As the country heads into an eighth year of war, Yemen is considered one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian crises: debilitated basic services, a collapsed economy, an estimated 20.7 million people (more than two thirds of the population) in need—all amid escalating conflict involving numerous different actors. Yet in the UN’s emergency appeal for $4.3 billion in aid for Yemen, donor states coughed up less than a third of that request, with pledges amounting to $1.3 billion. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia—top donors to Yemen in previous years—pledged nothing, while Kuwait pledged a surprisingly low $10 million. The UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, called the result “a disappointment.” The outcome is in stark contrast to Ukraine’s pledging conference just two weeks prior, considered the “fastest and most generous” response ever to a flash appeal. As the world’s attention is fixated on Ukraine, aid workers worry that it could draw resources away from other crises, such as Yemen. (Photo: OCHA)

Greater Middle East

UN warns of ‘catastrophic’ crisis in Yemen

UN agency chiefs stated that war-torn Yemen’s hunger crisis is “teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe,” with more than 17.4 million Yemenis facing food insecurity and an additional 1.6 million expected to fall into emergency levels of hunger in the coming months. The number experiencing “catastrophic” levels of hunger is projected to increase five times from the current 31,000 to a staggering 161,000, taking the number of those with emergency needs to 7.3 million by the end of 2022. “These harrowing figures confirm that we are on a countdown to catastrophe in Yemen and we are almost out of time to avoid it. Unless we receive substantial new funding immediately, mass starvation and famine will follow. But if we act now, there is still a chance to avert imminent disaster and save millions,” World Food Programme executive director David Beasley said. (Photo: Fahd Sadi/WikiMedia)

Planet Watch

Ukraine war’s fallout on global wheat supplies

One knock-on effect of the war in Ukraine has been a jump in the global price of wheat—to its highest level since 2008. Russia and Ukraine account for a third of the world wheat supply, and Ukraine’s most productive regions lie in the path of the conflict. If Ukrainian wheat is taken off the market, or ports are badly damaged, prices could possibly double. That would especially hurt the Middle East and North Africa—but also places as far afield as Bangladesh and Nigeria, which are major importers of Russian and Ukrainian wheat. The real test for the world supply will be the next harvest in four months’ time. If Western sanctions target Russian production—or Moscow responds to pressure by squeezing supplies—then shortages could really bite, potentially worsening global huger. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Greater Middle East
Marib

Yemen: Biden warned against Houthi ‘terrorist’ tag

President Joe Biden is said to be considering re-designating Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization following the group’s missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates, which leads the anti-Houthi military coalition with Saudi Arabia. Aid groups—part of a successful lobbying campaign that saw Biden remove the label shortly after he took office last January—warn that a redesignation would have “catastrophic consequences for Yemeni civilians.” Not only would it hit the economy hard, making it even more difficult to import food, fuel, and medicine, but it would also decrease the flow of much-needed aid to Houthi-controlled territory. Violence is meanwhile escalating, and not just around the battlefields of the contested province and city of Marib. Between early October and early February, 1,535 civilians were reportedly killed or injured, more than double the figure for the previous four months. (Photo of displaced persons camp in Marib by Mohamed Ghazi/TNH)

Greater Middle East
UAE

UAE ‘cybercrime’ law restricts free speech: civil society

A coalition of human rights and civil society organizations published a joint statement protesting the United Arab Emirates’ new cybercrime law, saying it “severely threatens and unduly restricts the right to freedom of expression (both online and offline) and the rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly.” The letter says that the language of the statute creates ambiguity prone to misuse, especially regarding issues related to “national security,” which provide the authorities with “excessive discretion to impose lengthy prison sentences” for political dissent. The wording of these provisions is so broad that they can be used to target journalists, whistle-blowers, activists, and peaceful critics of the government. The letter notes that the law stipulates no maximum prison sentence for acts that “harm the State’s interests,” which violates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Photo: Pixabay)

Greater Middle East
ANHRI

Egypt: rights group closes under regime pressure

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), one of Egypt’s last independent human rights organizations, officially closed, citing government pressure. In its statement, ANHRI described political repression and expansion of arrests against human rights defenders, journalists and political activists as reasons for the organization’s closure. The statement was accompanied by a list of attacks that ANHRI members have suffered over recent years, including violent physical assaults and illegal summonses. The group charged that in today’s Egypt there is an “absence of the bare minimum of the rule of law and respect for human rights.” (Image: Facebook via AlBawaba)

Greater Middle East
Alaa Abd El Fattah

Egypt: prison term for activist Alaa Abdel Fattah —again

An Egyptian court sentenced prominent activist Alaa Abd El Fattah to five years in prison after he was convicted on charges of “spreading false news” and “undermining national security.” Alongside Abd El Fattah, the Emergency State Security Court also sentenced human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer and blogger Mohammed “Oxygen” Ibrahim to four years each. All three defendants faced charges concerning their social media posts on human rights violations. Both Abd El Fattah and El-Baqer had been held in pretrial detention for more than the legal limit of two years. Verdicts issued by the emergency court cannot be appealed. Human rights groups have criticized the use of “emergency trials,” due process violations, and general repression of freedom of expression in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government. (Photo: Amnesty International)

Greater Middle East
egypt police

State of emergency lifted in Egypt —charade?

The ending of Egypt’s nearly four-year state of emergency, announced by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was hailed by international human rights groups as a positive step. But Sisi is now trying to make permanent a more recent, and officially temporary, national security law that would give the military powers normally used during a state of emergency. The amendments to the national terrorism law, which have been approved by the House of Representatives, would give the president the authority to take “measures necessary to preserve security and public order,” including the ability to impose curfews. It would also expand the purview of military courts, giving them power over any crimes concerning “public infrastructure.” A related measure passed by the House would impose penalties for conducting “research” on the military. (Photo via Wikipedia)