Greater Middle East
Yemen

US slaps ‘terror’ label on Yemen’s Houthi rebels

The United States has announced it will designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, a move aid groups and diplomats have long warned will make getting assistance to people trapped in the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” even harder. In a¬†statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was officially notifying the US Congress of his intent to designate Ansar Allah, the official name of the Houthis, a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” The change is go into force on Jan. 19, and three Houthi leaders will also be blacklisted. NGOs have lobbied heavily against the designation, saying it will seriously hamper efforts to bring aid to the estimated 80% of Yemen’s 30 million people who live in parts of the country controlled by the Houthis. It’s already hard to deliver aid in Yemen, in part because of obstacles put up by the Houthis themselves. (Map:¬†Perry-Casta√Īeda Library)

Iran
Stratofortress

Will strikes on Iran be Trump’s Plan B?

The world is breathing a collective sigh of relief after General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy officially contacted the team of president-elect Joe Biden, marking the Trump administration’s belated initiation of the transition process.¬†But along with the news of Murphy’s capitulation come reports that the US has deployed heavy ¬†bombers to the Middle East, and that¬†Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a secret meeting¬†in¬†Saudi Arabia with¬†Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.¬†Simultaneously, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have conveniently claimed responsibility for a missile attack on a Saudi¬†oil facility in the port of Jeddah.¬†And this all comes just days after the disconcerting news that Trump had gathered his cabinet and advisors for a White House conclave weighing the options for military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. With his attempted judicial coup failing, Trump’s Plan B could be postponement (read: cancellation) of the presidential transition under pretext of a world crisis of his own making. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Africa
sudan workers

Solidarity with striking Sudan sugar workers

Over a thousand workers at Kenana Sugar Company in Sudan are starting their second month on strike to demand basic trade union rights, increased wages to offset the spiralling cost of living, the removal of figures associated with the old regime from company management, and reinstatement of 34 workers sacked for taking part in the uprising against dictator Omar el-Bashir. Other demands¬†include improvements to health services in the company town, and investment in education for workers’ children. According to Sudan Labour Bulletin, the strike is now the longest in Sudan’s history as an independent republic. Sudanese activists say that solidarity is urgently needed, warning that “the government may be contemplating the option of breaking up the workers‚Äô strike by the force of arms.” (Photo via MENA Solidarity Network)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

UN experts: refer Yemen war crimes to ICC

A UN group of experts has called on the Security Council to refer human rights violations and war crimes committed in the ongoing Yemen conflict to the International Criminal Court. The Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen concluded in a new¬†report¬†that the governments of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Southern Transitional Council are responsible for rights violations including “arbitrary deprivation of life, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, gender-based violence, including sexual violence, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the recruitment and use in hostilities of children.” The report also alleges thatde facto authorities” in the capital Sana’a (the Houthi rebels) are responsible for the same violations. (Map:¬†Perry-Casta√Īeda Library)

Greater Middle East
Lujain al-Hathloul

Saudi detention state under scrutiny

Saudi Arabia has denied prominent detainees contact with their family members and lawyers for months, Human Rights Watch said in a letter requesting access to the country and private prison visits with detainees. The situation raises serious concerns for the detainees’¬†safety and well-being, the rights group said. Saudi authorities have banned in-person visits with prisoners across the country since March to limit the spread of COVID-19. But Saudi activists and other sources say that authorities have also unduly denied numerous imprisoned dissidents and other detainees regular communication with the outside world.¬†Prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul had been on hunger strike for six days before Saudi authorities finally allowed her parents to visit on Aug. 31, according to family members. Al-Hathloul had spent almost three months before that under incommunicado detention.¬†(Image:¬†social media post with the word “traitor”¬†stamped on the faces of activists detained in 2018, including Loujain al-Hathloul, top center. Via Middle East Eye.)

Greater Middle East
al-bokari

Saudi Arabia imprisons Yemeni dissident blogger

A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a Yemeni blogger to 10 months in prison, a fine of 10,000 riyals ($2,600) and deportation for a social media post supporting equal rights for people in same-sex relationships. Mohamad al-Bokari was arrested in Riyadh in April, after posting a video on social media, which authorities said contained “sexual references” and “violated public order and morals.” This was apparently a reference to the line: “Everyone has rights and should be able to practice them freely, including gay people.” Sources told Human Rights Watch that al-Bokari was subjected to a forced anal exam, an internationally discreditedpractice used to seek “proof” of homosexual conduct. HRW says the practice has no scientific basis, violates medical ethics, and constitutes cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that may rise to the level of torture. Al-Bokari was charged with “violating public morality” and “imitating women.” (Image: Amnesty International)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

Yemen: secret torture centers revealed

In an exhaustive report, the independent monitor Mwatana for Human Rights documents a chilling aspect of Yemen‚Äôs more than five-year war that has gone overlooked, precisely because of its secretive nature: “enforced disappearances,” torture, and killings at illegal detention centers across the country. The report documents abuses by all parties to Yemen’s war, some of which it says may constitute war crimes. The Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, forces backed by the United Arab Emirates, and the Houthi¬†rebels are all accused of running detention centers‚ÄĒsome on military bases or intelligence compounds, some in cellars below private homes or requisitioned public buildings. (Map:¬†Perry-Casta√Īeda Library)

Greater Middle East
NEOM

Tribesman killed for resisting Saudi robot city?

Saudi activists and dissidents are disputing official accounts alleging that a tribesman who refused government orders to surrender his home to make way for a new mega-project was killed in a shoot-out with security forces. Authorities say Abdul Rahim Ahmad al-Hwaiti, from Tabuk province on the Red Sea, was a “wanted terrorist” who opened fire on State Security agents who arrived at his home. But the incident came two days after al-Hwaiti posted a video statement saying he and other local residents were being pressured by the government to give up their properties and accept relocation. Al-Hwaiti, a member of the powerful al-Huwaitat tribe, accused the government of a policy of “forced displacement.” The¬†project at issue is the NEOM, a planned “special economic zone” for high-tech industry, to cover an area bigger than Belgium, where robots will outnumber human residents.¬†(Image via NeoScribe)

Greater Middle East
KSA

Saudi Arabia abolishes flogging, execution of minors

Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court announced that it has abolished flogging as a form of punishment, part of a series of reforms to advance human rights in the kingdom. Court-ordered floggings sometimes extended to hundreds of lashes, and the punishment could be imposed for offenses such as extramarital sex and breach of the peace. The ruling came along with a¬†royal decree ending the death penalty for individuals convicted of crimes when they were minors.¬†These reforms follow unprecedented international criticism¬†that Saudi Arabia received in 2019 for its human rights record, which included 184 executions, 84 of which were for non-violent drug crimes. (Photo: Pixabay via Jurist)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

Yemen’s southern separatists declare self-rule

Yemen’s southern separatist group declared self-rule in the parts of the country it controls, leading to fears of a new and even more dangerous conflict after five years of war. The Southern Transitional Council said in its announcement that it plans to govern several southern provinces, including the de facto capital city of Aden,which the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi also claims as its seat. (Map of Yemen before 1990 unification via Wikipedia)

Planet Watch
Oilsands

Negative oil prices slow tar sands production

Despite a new agreement by Saudi Arabia and Russia to end their price war, the oil market remains in free-fall amid the virtual shut-down of the world economy by the COVID-19 pandemic. The price of the main US and Canadian oil benchmarks have now fallen below zero‚ÄĒthe first time oil prices have ever turned negative. Canada, the world‚Äôs fourth-largest oil producer, has already started slashing oil sands output. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $2.5¬†billion in aid to the industry, and¬†Trump is now also pledging a bail-out. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

Ceasefire confusion as COVID-19 arrives in Yemen

Yemeni government officials reported the country‚Äôs first case of COVID-19, shortly after the Saudi Arabia-led coalition announced that it would be observing a two-week unilateral ceasefire, in part to help confront the pandemic. The move was welcomed by the UN, and the office of Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said he was working with the warring parties on a “comprehensive initiative” to end the five-year war. But a Houthi rebel spokesperson said coalition air-strikes have continued after the truce’s onset, and dismissed the initiative as a “political and media manoeuvre.” The past weeks have seen an increase in violence, including Saudi air-strikes on the Houthi-controlled capital city of Sana’a, and the shelling of a prison in the province of Taiz that killed at least five women and one child. (Map:¬†Perry-Casta√Īeda Library)