Organized begging networks in Baghdad: Children are victims

Poverty and financial destitution are no longer the main causes of the spread of begging in the cities of Iraq. Instead, begging has turned into a profitable job which is not limited to the elderly or women. It has rather become dominated by children of all ages, who are spread in markets, traffic junctions, near worshiping places and hospitals, in a phenomenon the country has not witnessed before the 2003 US invasion.

Abu Fatima, a merchant in Baghdad, told The New Arab that “children beggars cannot be blamed because they are exploited by brokers and organized networks. This phenomenon has become a threat to drivers and passers-by after beggars turned into using manners that are not limited to asking for sympathy, but rather went beyond that and turned into threatening.”

He added: “The spread of these networks is raising everybody’s concerns. I am afraid of driving on the streets of Baghdad because of beggars and what they could possibly do if I refuse to help them. Some of them throw stones at cars, and others carry sharp objects like knives and blades.”

Read More: Iraq’s marriage and family rights are under threat

Social researcher, Ruaa Al-Jubouri, says that “begging has turned into a job that everyone uses. While brokers earn millions through this job, children beggars get nothing but crumbs at the end of the day. Some of them have become drug and alcohol addicts and most of them have become street children exploited by organized networks.”

Jubouri explained to The New Arab that “there are several begging methods. There are those who ask for help under the pretext of having a child in the hospital in a severe situation. There are those who print leaflets or write on a piece of paper that they are displaced and in need of help to support their families. There are also women who stand near the checkpoints carrying babies they might have rent for begging purposes. In addition, there are those who sell chewing gum or handkerchiefs at intersections, or beg to wash your car.”

The researcher pointed to the beggars’ negative social impacts, especially that “most beggars are exploited by gangs and brokers who have relations that protect them from those who have religious or political powers.”

Read More: Iraqi PM vows to respond to attacks from Syria

In September, the spokesman for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Ammar Moneim, said that the Council of Ministers’ vote on the bill against human trafficking and its submission to the House of Representatives to be legislated represents an important step towards reducing the phenomenon and its negative impact on society. This would contribute in reducing the phenomenon of begging in the streets and the exploitation of beggars by heartless people.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Saad Maan, revealed in press statements that “there are those who supervise the work of beggars in Baghdad, guide them and provide them with protection from the security services.” He explained that “security services cannot prevent the begging phenomenon once for all due to the spread of poverty throughout the country. However, they constantly warn beggars of getting near security departments and institutions.”

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UN warns if no Yemen aid access, world will see largest famine in decades

United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock warned on Wednesday that if a Saudi-led military coalition did not allow humanitarian aid access to Yemen then it would cause “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims.”

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Houthi movement in neighboring Yemen said on Monday it had closed all air, land and sea ports to the Arabian Peninsula country to stem the flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran.

The move, which follows the interception of a missile fired towards the Saudi capital Riyadh on Saturday, is likely to worsen a humanitarian crisis in Yemen that according to the United Nations has pushed some seven million people to the brink of famine and left nearly 900,000 infected with cholera.

Lowcock, who visited Yemen late last month, briefed the UN Security Council behind closed doors at the request of Sweden.

Read More: Saudi-led forces close air, sea and land access to Yemen

“I have told the council that unless those measures are lifted … there will be a famine in Yemen,” he told reporters. “It will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims.”

He said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir earlier on Wednesday and called for an immediate resumption of humanitarian access.

Lowcock said the UN’s World Food Programme was feeding seven million people a month in Yemen. “What we need is a winding down of the blockade … so that we can save the lives of those people,” he said.

The UN Security Council expressed concern about the humanitarian situation, Italian UN Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, council president for November, said after Lowcock’s briefing.

“The members of the Security Council emphasized … the importance of keeping all Yemen’s ports and airports functioning, including Hodeidah port, as a critical lifeline for humanitarian support and other essential supplies,” Cardi said.

The United Nations and international aid organizations have long criticized the coalition for blocking aid access, especially to north Yemen, which is held by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

“Humanitarian access through the ports was inadequate even before the measures that were announced on the 6th November,” said Lowcock, adding that there had also been no UN flights allowed into Yemen since Monday.

Read More: Saudi deputy governor killed in helicopter crash near Yemen

The Saudi-led coalition has been targeting the Houthis since they seized parts of Yemen in 2015, including the capital Sanaa, forcing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee.

Lowcock called for an immediate resumption of UN and other aid flights to Sanaa and Aden, assurances from the coalition that there would be no further disruptions to those flights, and immediate resumption of humanitarian and commercial port access.

He also called for the coalition to allow a WFP ship to be pre-positioned off Aden and assurances that there would be no further disruption to its functions and demanded that all vessels that have passed UN inspection be allowed to offload.

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Hariri’s resignation will not hinder government’s operations

Government stays in charge and the resignation of the Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri does not entail its collapse, the Lebanese parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, said yesterday.

Berri added in a statement issued by his press office that “the resignation announced by Hariri from Saudi Arabia won’t stop the government operations,” stressing that “ministers still have full prerogatives to carry out their tasks.”

The official hailed the Lebanese people’s “unity.”  “Despite all the crises, the Lebanese people were able to overcome all the tribulations,” he said.

Read More: Leak: Israel supported Hariri’s resignation

In a visit to Saudi Arabia last Saturday, Hariri announced his resignation during a speech he gave saying that he believed there was” an assassination plot against him.”

He accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of “sowing strife in the Arab world.”

Following the announcement, the Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, said that he would not accept Hariri’s resignation until he returns to Lebanon.

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In purge crackdown, Saudi Arabia makes fresh arrests, freezes royals’ accounts

Saudi Arabian authorities have carried out further arrests and frozen more bank accounts under an expanding anti-corruption crackdown that was announced last Saturday against the Kingdom’s political and business elite, Reuters reported, quoting official sources.

Since the campaign kickoff, dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have already been held in the purge. They face allegations of money laundering, bribery, extortion and exploiting public office for personal gain.

According to the sources, the anti-corruption authorities have also frozen the bank accounts of Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, one of the most senior members of the ruling Al Saud, and some of his immediate family members.

Read More: Saudi corruption crackdown could raise $800bn

Nayef, known as MbN, was ousted as Crown Prince in June when King Salman replaced him with the then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Those who were held most recently include individuals with links to the immediate family of the late Crown Prince and Defence Minister Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz who died in 2011, the sources noted.

“Others appear to be lower-level managers and officials,” the sources told Reuters.

Since Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s central bank has been expanding the list of accounts it is requiring lenders to freeze on an almost hourly basis, according to an official banker, who preferred anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

The number of domestic bank accounts frozen as a result of the purge is over 1,700 and rising, up from 1,200, the banker added.

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30 killed in Saudi offensive against Yemen’s Houthis

Saudi Arabia targeted the Houthi territory in north Yemen today, killing civilians including women and children, reported Al Jazeera.

The air strikes targeted a village in Hiran, located in the Hajjah region in the north of the country. Thirty people died in the strikes, Hussain Al-Bukhaithi, a Yemeni-based journalist told Al Jazeera.

Air strikes began at midnight and continued for five hours, according to locals on the ground.

The first strike targeted Sheikh Hamdi’s family home, a Houthi loyalist, killing him and his family. The strikes prevented rescue workers and the relatives of those injured or killed from accessing the site to rescue those affected, Al-Bukhaithi said.

Read: Houthis threaten to target ports, cities of Saudi coalition members

Ten paramedics were killed in the strikes.

None of the claims can be verified.

Yemen has been subject to air strikes since March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition entered the civil war to stop the Houthis from capturing territory from internationally recognised President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

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Sudan, Egypt review visa, residency agreement

The joint Sudanese-Egyptian Consular Committee yesterday reviewed the implementation of previous decisions and recommendations concerning immigration issues such as residency permits, visas and following-up on issues concerning citizens of both countries.

The Sudanese foreign ministry said in a statement that it had hosted at its headquarters in Khartoum the third session of the Sudanese-Egyptian Consular Committee on 5-7 November.

“The committee has also discussed a number of consular issues which aim to remove the obstacles facing the citizens of both countries,” the statement added.

According to the statement, the committee meeting was co-chaired by the Sudanese Undersecretary of the Foreign Minister, Ambassador Abdul-Ghani Al-Naeim, and Egypt’s Assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs, Ambassador Khaled Yusri Rizg.

The officials are due to meet again in Cairo in April 2018.

Read: Egypt and Sudan hold high-level military talks in Cairo

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PA resumes security ties with Israel

Palestinian Authority today said it had resumed security coordination with Israel in the occupied West Bank, frozen in July as a result of Israel’s increased surveillance around Al-Aqsa.

Police chief Hazem Attallah told foreign reporters in a briefing that the suspension of ties had ended two weeks ago.

“Security coordination between Palestinian and Israeli services have resumed as it used to be before it stopped,” Attallah said, adding that he was referring to joint efforts to prevent militant attacks, as crime-fighting police cooperation between the sides had never stopped.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas halted security coordination with Israel on 21 July, demanding it remove metal detectors it had installed outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Amid mass protests across the world and a Palestinian refusal to pass through the detectors, Israel dismantled the barriers two weeks later and said it would install less obtrusive security measures. Earlier this week, Israeli police began placing cameras at gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque to monitor Palestinians as they entered and exited the holy site, Safa News Agency  reported.

Read: PA takes control of Gaza crossings

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Yemen’s Houthis will provide asylum to Saudi princes

The Houthi armed group has offered Saudi princes political asylum in Yemen after Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrested 11 last Saturday, Al Jazeera reported.

Sources close to the Houthi leadership told the news site that Saudi princes or any national seeking refuge would be “welcomed” by Yemen.

“We are ready to offer sanctuary to any member of Al Saud family or any national that wants to flee oppression and persecution,” said the source.

Dozens of Saudi nationals were detained on Saturday in an alleged anti-corruption crackdown, including billionaire Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, Saudi Arabia’s richest businessman and investor.

Read more: Is Saudi’s Bin Salman tacking corruption or making money?

“To our fellow Al Saud royals, to anyone in the ruling family, to any employee or person who feels targeted by the regime – we’re ready to welcome you with open arms to reside with us as our oppressed brothers,” Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi wrote on Twitter.

A Saudi royal decree responsible for the crackdown said it was executed in a response to “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly accrue money”.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General said the individuals detained have been questioned and “a great deal of evidence” had been gathered.

Those detained have had their assets frozen until further investigation.

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Daesh blast kills more than 75 in eastern Syria

At least 75 displaced civilians have been killed after a car bomb exploded in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ez-Zor on Saturday, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The attack, which took place one day after the Syrian army wrestled control of most of the region, also injured some 140 refugees gathering on the east side of the Euphrates River. The blast took place between the Conoco and Jafra energy fields; an area controlled by the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Daesh is currently battling both the Russian allied Syrian regime, and the SDF in separate offensives in the region.

Whilst the group has lost vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq in recent months, the scale of the incident indicates that it still has the ability to mount deadly attacks.

Read: Rights group: 1,000 civilians killed in Syria last month

The Syrian army launched its attack against Daesh fighters in Deir Ez-Zor in September, fighting alongside Iran-backed militias and the Lebanese group Hezbollah, and backed by Russian air strikes.

Daesh held most of the city since 2014, except for one large pocket where Syrian regime troops and 93,000 civilians had been fighting from for three years.

Fighting across the Deir Ez-Zor province has sent thousands of civilians fleeing for their lives, some forced into the desert as they try to escape the violence. International NGO Save the Children estimates that some 350,000 people have fled the oil-rich province, half of whom are children.

Despite being driven out of large parts of Deir Ez-Zor, Daesh still controls over a third of the area with many of its fighters being deployed on the eastern side. The US-led coalition estimates that around 1,500 jihadists are still in the region.

Read: Russia mercenaries operate in Syria alongside army

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Algeria: 6 jailed for attacks on teachers

Five students and a security guard have been sentenced to between 12 and 18 months in prison by a court in Bir Mourad Rais in a case of the aggression against teachers in the Algiers 3 University earlier this year.

In February, teachers from the Faculty of Political Science and Information in the Algiers 3 University were targeted by a number of students which included interrupting the National Council of Higher Education Teachers (CNES)’s meetings and physically assaulting teachers.

“We were between professors debating issues relating to our job, we suspected nothing, things quickly deteriorated when this group of criminals landed in the room,” one of the teachers explained.

Read: Algerian Professor beaten unconscious by university students

Teachers have openly accused Rector Rabah Cheriet of involvement in the aggression and have since held regular strikes to protest the “barbaric acts”. The cases of aggression were linked to a case of falsification of the results of the doctoral study competition in “European Studies” in which the director was implicated.

After being postponed, the verdict against the assailants was delivered yesterday by the administrative court of Bir Mourad Rais.

According to the representative of the faculty of political science, three students were sentenced to 18 months in prison in absentia, while the other two were sentenced to one year in prison each.

A security officer was also charged in the case and given a suspended one year prison sentence.

Teachers have also reportedly filed a case to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research for administrative sanctions against the students.

One of the teachers explained: “It’s a fourth-degree fault that involves the immediate dismissal of the student, so the university has to make some arrangements.”

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