Middle East & Africa

Why Syrian Refugees In Germany Might Not Have A Peaceful Life Anymore?
Middle East & Africa

Why Syrian Refugees In Germany Might Not Have A Peaceful Life Anymore?

Syrian refugees are going to have a harrowing time outside of their nation, as their past comes haunting once in a while. Despite having stayed in Germany, under the wings of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Syrian refugees have found themselves caught in various kinds of embarrassing situations. 

Former members of the Syrian security forces are the ones in front of the firing squad. It is now being debated whether they should be persecuted for war crimes or should they serve as key witnesses in an effort to bring senior officials to justice. 

In both cases, there is no peace for the Syrian refugee community that has been trying to learn the German language to be able to get absorbed into the milieu of German way of life. Germany, today is home to as many as 6million Syrian refugees.  Additionally, prosecutors have used universal jurisdiction laws that allow them to prosecute crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world to seek justice for victims of alleged torture and extrajudicial killings by Assad’s forces.

The former members of the Syrian security forces who were removed or escaped from the Assad regime have found themselves caught in this web. Termed as defectors who were given asylum to Germany are now being questioned of their intents- should they be looked as friends or foes?

 Some of these might have genuinely got away with mass crime and murder. Human rights groups have been following up and indentified some of such protagonists that have later escaped persecution and escaped to Germany, living with family. 

Those who have been witness to crimes might also fear their safety of being pulled into court cases. 

Saudi Arabia slams Iran for the accusation over nuclear scientist killing
Middle East & Africa

Saudi Arabia slams Iran for the accusation over nuclear scientist killing

Saudi Arabia slams Iran: On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir stated that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was too eager to reprimand the Kingdom for anything negative that occurred in Iran. 

“Will Zarif reprimand us for the following flood or earthquake?” he tweeted. “It isn’t the policy of Saudi Arabia to engross in assassinations; in contrast to Iran, which has been involved in such strides since the Khomeini Revolution in 1979. 

“Ask numerous nations who have lost a significant number of their residents because of Iran’s lawbreaker and illicit conduct,” Al-Jubeir added. 

On Tuesday, Iran’s parliament passed a bill requiring the public authority to help uranium enrichment by 20% and end UN assessments of its atomic plants.

The current bill would require another parliamentary vote to get cleared and also approval from the Guardian Council. Besides, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last say on every atomic policy. 

The bill would provide European signatories to the 2015 atomic arrangement three months to lift sanctions on Iran and to reestablish its admittance to the global banking system. 

As per political analysts following the assassination of Iranian atomic scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Tehran has been blaming different nations for having a hand in it. 

“There is no uncertainty that this step establishes a threat, increasing it to 20 percent implies that it will be near developing an atomic bomb,” political researcher Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri revealed to Arab News.

He added that the move showed the Iranian government‘s emphasis on destabilizing the locale, and its assurance to dominate the competition to build atomic weapons. 

“If Iran obtains atomic weapons or accomplishes that objective then it will bring about an extraordinary peril to the region. Fakhrizadeh’s killing proposes that Iran was anticipating for an escalation.” “Iran may have the atomic bomb at this point without the global community making any move against it. 

Al-Shehri added. 

He added that the killing of the nuclear scientist won’t alter the condition, even the attacks on Iranian offices would not influence the real Iranian foundation.

In Nov, Netanyahu held discussions with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, as per Israeli media reports, Netanyahu and Mossad agency chief Yosef Meir Cohen met Prince Mohammed, along with US Secretary Mike Pompeo, in the Red Sea city of Neom, the sources added. However, Riyadh refused any such conference took place.

Moreover, The New York Times stated that the US and two other intelligence officials stated Israel had a hand in the firing on Fakhrizadeh. Israel has not yet commented on the allegation or neither denied it.

Tigray Crisis: TPLF still fighting against forces in Mekelle, release federal soldiers
Middle East & Africa

Tigray Crisis: TPLF still fighting against forces in Mekelle, release federal soldiers

TPLF still fighting against forces: The month-long conflict between Addis Ababa government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) in the northern region of Tigray has reached its “final phase”. The fighting is continuing in the region’s capital, Mekelle, which was taken under control by federal forces at weekend. TPLF’s leader Debretsion Gebremichael has also said that its fighters have retaken another city, Aksum, back from the military. But government claims that TPLF has been crushed and is in no position to engage in a guerilla war.

Hundreds and thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in Tigray region. Hundreds have been forced to fled and many displaced, spreading concern among UN and other human rights groups regarding the humanitarian crisis. 

PM Abiy Ahmed has said of no civilian killings as of Monday. The claims, however, can’t be confirmed of either side as the region has been completely cut off of any communication lines, including phone and internet. 

TPLF has also released over 4000 captured federal soldiers. They were held captive when the TPLF troops had attacked a military base in early November. This attack by Tigray forces was the last straw that had initiated the bloody conflict. 

In recent messages from TPLF leader, Gebremichael, he said that Tigray forces had shot down federal warplane and taken the pilot into captivity. Also, he said that “TPLF was close to Mekelle, fighting.”  

The claims have however been rubbished by the government. Abiy Ahmed announced that Mekelle had been captured by federal army on Saturday, marking it as “last phase” in the offensive. According to the ministers in Abiy Ahmed’s government, the TPLF rebels are “running for their lives.”

The most horrid part of the Tigray crisis is the lack and limited access of humanitarian aid in the conflict zone. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday that the supplies in main hospital in Mekelle are running “dangerously low”, including body bags. But no official figure on number of injured or dead has been communicated. 

Though the government officials have ensured humanitarian aids and groups to carry out their work in Tigray, UN has called for better access saying “it is extremely concerned about the safety and welfare of civilians in Tigray”

TPLF troops have also been deployed to its border with Sudan to stop people fleeing to the neighbouring country. 

International community is urging Ethiopian government to open a dialogue for resolving the crisis. 

Who Is Gaining Jobs In Pandemic Times?
Middle East & Africa

Who Is Gaining Jobs In Pandemic Times?

Jobs In Pandemic Times: The E-retailing giant Amazon has invested heavily in its expansion, giving hope of jobs to thousands in the MENA region. By increasing its storage capacity by over 45 per cent across its fulfillment network, it has now opened a new delivery station in the UAE. This in itself has created more than 2000 permanent and seasonal jobs. 

According to official figures, the company has added 427,300 employees in 10 months, bringing its global work force to more than 1.2 million. Amazon is tapping land hiring in remote areas of India and Italy and investing heavily into its warehousing infrastructure. At an average, the company is hiring 1400 people a day.

The pandemic led to some social distancing norms to be followed. This restriction saw a dramatic shift in the way business was done since March when lockdowns were implemented worldwide. The ripple effect has seen many business houses close shop. The customer is preferring safer modes of purchase like the E-retail model and are refraining from venturing into mom-n-pop stores too. The company now has more than 2.4 million cubic feet of storage capacity across its network and third-party partners.

The UAE has seen a huge boom of jobs in the operational sectors. Hospitality and retail has been badly hit, forcing business owners to shift to the e-retail models for selling. Many stores now have websites and applications for easy buying for customers. 

Besides jobs in operations, Amazon is also offering opportunities in the corporate side, apart from opportunities in its extended partner networks.  Speaking on the development, Prashant Saran, director of operations for Amazon Middle East and North Africa has confirmed that Amazon has “increased its workforce across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) by 30 per cent in 2020.” 

They have plans to continue to hire for roles that enable the company to provide the best possible customer experience, underpinned by the vast selection, low prices and fast delivery. “We are creating jobs across our operations in the Middle East in UAE, KSA and Egypt,” confirmed Saran. 

Tigray crisis: Ethiopian army advances with attacks, claims control on several towns
Middle East & Africa

Tigray crisis: Ethiopian army advances with attacks, claims control on several towns

Ethiopian army: Weeks into the conflict between Ethiopian army and the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front in the north Tigray region of Ethiopia, army has advanced with what it calls the ‘final phase’ of the offensive in region to cease the TPLF control in the region. After the 72 hours deadline given by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to rebels to surrender expired on Wednesday, the army has begun its operation and proceeded its advancement towards the region. 

The army has claimed of since seizing control of many towns in the northern Tigray region. Lt. Gen. Hassan Ibrahim has communicated of capturing various towns including Wikro town, that lies north of Mekelle, capital city of Tigray. 

The Tigray conflict has been gaining attention of human rights groups and activists, and the United Nations that are fearing a greater humanitarian crisis in the region due to bloody and aggressively advancing conflict. Till date hundreds and thousands of people have been killed and several have been forced to fled from their homes to escape the war and as the towns get seized by the Ethiopian army. Hundreds of people have also been reported to fled to neighbouring Sudan, which the UN fears can lead to crisis in Sudan also as the country is already receiving great influx of immigrants from other African countries. 

Ethiopian government has blocked all communication channels, including internet and mobile communications with Tigray region and hence exact details of fighting are tough to confirm. 

On Friday, PM Abiy Ahmed told African Union (AU) appointed peace envoy that civilians will be protected in the region. Ahmed had also previously told Mekelle civilians to stay at home. TPLF, the governing body in Tigray has vowed to keep fighting and refused to surrender. 

No humanitarian worker or AU envoy are allowed to visit the conflict zone and this has been raising concerns. UN has warned of war crimes due to absence of any neutral body in Tigray region. In response, Ethiopian authorities have said of opening a ‘humanitarian access route’ in region that well be overseen by Ethiopian government. They affirmed of their commitment to “work with UN agencies… to protect civilians and those who need it.”

On Thursday, army sealed its borders with Sudan to prevent people from fleeing the war in country. Already over 40,000 have been displaced. 

Experts at the UN fear that in absence of either side ready to settle down, the war can turn into a guerilla conflict. TPLF leader, Debretsion Gebremichael said that Tigray forces are “ready to die in defence of our right to administer our region.” The conflict has great chances of destabilizing the Horn of Africa. 

Tigray crisis: ethnic dimension to conflict sparks fear of racial cleansing in Ethiopia
Middle East & Africa

Tigray crisis: ethnic dimension to conflict sparks fear of racial cleansing in Ethiopia

Tigray crisis: Ethiopia is under rampant and aggressive conflict in the Tigray region led by long time friction between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The offensive led by Abiy Ahmed makes it clear emphasizing that the conflict is against the ‘criminal’ dominant party in the northern Tigray region, TPLF. But recent reports from Ethiopian citizens tell an entirely different story. The citizens inhabiting the region claim of an ethnic dimension and racial profiling in the ongoing conflict. The government, however, has rejected of any such activities and has instead argued that any action in the region is backed by a security reason. 

Many people in the security forces and military have reported of being ordered to stay home and have been stripped off weapons. One such female officer, employed in police forces for over 20 years, has come forward with her story. She shares of being part of TPLF before joining police. Two days after fighting began between two sides, she received orders from superiors to “hand over all government property and my firearm.” Similarly, many senior ranking officials who are Tigrayan, too have been given same orders.

Government hasn’t cleared the allegations but has condemned any such actions if true. Mamo Mihretu, senior advisor to PM Abiy Ahmed said, “There is a clear instruction to the security agencies to take their measures based on risk and actionable intelligence.” He added that actions were aimed at “hardliners – disgruntled and reactionary elements of the TPLF.”

Few soldiers with long service in federal forces too have reported of being singled out due to their Tigrayan ethnicity. This has come out as a shock as Abiy Ahmed, last year’s winner of Nobel Peace Prize, since coming to power in 2018 has stressed on national integrity and unity while respecting individual rights and identities of Ethiopian people, country which has 10 federal states of separate ethnicities. The fallout as a result of conflict has raised questions on Ahmed’s ability to follow the initial position. 

Another shocking incident has come to light. A soldier shares that he was detained in a warehouse along with at least 90 armed forces soldiers who were Tigrayan. They were detained by fellow soldiers and were treated as ‘prisoners of war’. He added, “It was only the Tigrayans who were disarmed and detained together. So, it’s obviously based on our ethnicity.” 

Detained soldiers and officials include the veterans who were a part of the 1991’s struggle of TPLF against Marxist dictator Mengistu Hailemaiam. After he was toppled, TPLF became a strong political entity in Ethiopia. But after Abiy Ahmed came to power, the TPLF was sidelined. Veterans who had served in African Union in Somalia too are among the detained officials. 

Tigrayans constitute 6% of the total Ethiopian population. Other major ethnic groups in the country are Oromo (34%), Amhara (27%), Somali (6.2%), Sidama (4%), Gurage (2.5%), Wolayta (2.3%) and Hadiya (1.7%). 

But the ethnic profiling accusation is not limited to military and police officers, but also civilians. The homes of Tigrayan civilians are being searched by armed forces, their bank account documents seized and capturing people. 

UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) officials have said that they were approached by police officers at the Amhara office and asked them of details of their employees along with birthplaces. 

The fear is that if the conflict extends then ethnic profiling can be a big problem with looming fear of ethnic cleansing. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has urged international community to “standby until the government of Ethiopia submits its request for assistance”. 

Deadline set by government for rebels to surrender is set to expire on Wednesday. This will mark three weeks of ongoing fighting in Tigray region. 

‘Spare Tigray civilians’: Ethiopia urged as PM gives rebels 72 hours to surrender
Middle East & Africa

‘Spare Tigray civilians’: Ethiopia urged as PM gives rebels 72 hours to surrender

Spare Tigray civilians: Ethiopia is facing humanitarian crisis to extremity, attracting international cries of sparing civilians in the Tigray region. Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed has given the Tigrayan rebel forces 72 hours to surrender as military advances on the capital, Mekelle. The rebels of region, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which control the mountainous region have pledged to keep fighting. 

The United Nations has warned of extreme humanitarian crisis in Tigray as hundreds and thousands of people have already succumbed to the conflict so far with thousands displaced. Over 36,000 people have reportedly fled to nearby Sudan and others are moving withing Tigray to escape from the war-torn region. Warning issued by Ethiopian government regarding attack on Mekelle may prompt further displacement of over half million inhabitants of the capital. 

On Sunday night, PM Abiy Ahmed posted on Twitter, “We urge you to surrender peacefully within 72hours, recognizing that you are at the point of no return.” 

Country’s military has warned civilians to separate themselves from the rebels who are believed to be hiding withing the civilian areas or no mercy will be offered in the assault. Military has said that tanks are encircling Mekelle and artillery too might be used on the highland capital city situated in northern Tigray region, that lies on a plateau at altitude of over 2,500 metres. 

Col. Dejene Tsegaye said that till now military has avoided targets that might risk civilians but noted that Mekelle might be a different case. He said, “The next phases are the decisive part of the operation, which is to encircle Mekelle using tanks, finishing the battle on mountainous areas and advancing to the fields.” 

Abiy Ahmed hinted last week of future attacks as “final push” to end the conflict withing few days. But assessment by UN says otherwise. UN suggests that Ethiopian military forces are facing resistance than is being communicated officially. Though troops were deployed days before, they are still struggling to secure territory. This, as per UN experts, raises chances of a lengthy and bloody guerilla war. 

The war is result of consummation of months of turmoil and conflicts between TPLF and ruling party in Addis Ababa. TPLF held the polling even after national elections were cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic. This further aggravated the tensions. Ahmed, last year’s winner of Nobel Peace Prize and Ethiopia’s youngest leader, commenced his aggressive operation after alleging TPLF to have attacked a military camp. 

African Union (AU), who were appointed to mediate the conflict have not been allowed to visit the war-hit region by Ethiopian government. The envoy was appointed by AU President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, including in envoy former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The former presidents of envoy will only meet Abiy Ahmed and not visit the region, said senior advisor to the Ethiopian PM. 

Explaining the reason of not allowing the envoy to visit the war-torn region, the government official said, “Tigray is currently under military operation. We believe that the military operation will come to an end soon. If this disgruntled TPLF wants to bring an end to the current conflict all they need to do is peacefully surrender and for that nobody needs to go to Tigray or Mekelle to make that clear to them.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged to spare Ethiopian civilians who are inhabiting the Tigray capital city of Mekelle. The rising humanitarian crisis is leading to massive influx of refuges from Ethiopia to Sudan. UN fear that this will force Sudan to edge of the cliff as it is already supporting millions of displaced from other African nations.   

African Growth Needs Innovative Technological Push : UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
Middle East & Africa

African Growth Needs Innovative Technological Push : UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

African Growth Needs Innovative Technological Industrial Push: Africa has been clearly giving out signals that it is interested in developing its economy. Infrastructural development is close on heels. The message has been getting mixed responses from across the world. 

Marking the African Industrialization Day recently, UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres said that, “Technology and innovation were being embraced across the continent, and progress had been made in unity and economic integration.” 

Today, nothing can be achieved without use of technology. Africa has seen some heavy investment being made in the continent in that context. In order to manage the loss that the continent has borne due to the pandemic led slowdown, Guterres has suggested a more sustainable growth model to be adopted in the continent to facilitate inclusive industrialization. 

Speaking in a virtual meeting Guterres touched upon the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa that runs from 2016 to 2025. He also stressed upon the 2030 Roadmap for Sustainable Development and Africa’s Agenda 2063. 

His focus was more on usage of new equipment and techniques that can benefit various domestic economies across the continent.  Africa has been primarily an agri-economy that has not seen too much industrial development in three decades. It is only now that the continent is looking at growing and has a lot to offer to the world in terms of natural resources. The main focus in his suggestions was also on farmers who need the help of digitalization to transform agri-food systems and achieve rural development. 

Many political analysts believe that the continent first needs to concentrate on industrialization and Free Trade Area can come thereafter. The agreement came into action in May2019. It covered trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy. Of the 55 African Union member states, only Eritrea has yet to sign it.

The immediate objective of the free trade area is principally to boost trade within Africa by eliminating up to 90% of the tariffs on goods and reducing non-tariff barriers to trade. While the UN Conference on Trade And Development claimed that intra-country trade would help everyone increase their domestic earnings by 33%, it would not matter even if industrial growth had not happened in the meantime. That could follow. 

But a general consensus is that industrial revolution is important even before intra-country trade can start. 

Iran admits breach of 2015 nuclear deal post IAEA inspection
Middle East & Africa

Iran admits breach of 2015 nuclear deal post IAEA inspection

Iran admits breach of 2015 nuclear deal: The recent UN nuclear weapons inspectorate found out that Iran had recently fired up its uranium enrichment centrifuges which are very advanced version, and installed underground in Natanz underground nuclear plant. The finding was confirmed and admitted by Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), the UN nuclear weapons inspectorate. 

According to the 2015 nuclear deal which was struck under former US President Barack Obama, the Islamic Republic of Iran is only allowed to use first generation IR-1 machines for accumulating enriched uranium in its underground plants. But the nation has been repeatedly breaching the deal, and as per the latest findings by IAEA, Tehran has been supplying Uranium Hexaflouride (UF6) to the advanced IR-2m machines. 

IAEA’s previous report had said of Iran installing the IR-2m machines in its underground plants. This report was made on November 2, before Joe Biden was elected the next President of United States but the latest report, dated Tuesday, has been post Biden’s victory. The latest report by IAEA states, “On 14 November 2020, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding UF6 into the recently installed cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Natanz.” 

Last week President Donald Trump has been reported to contemplating, but later rejecting a military strike on Natanz, the Iranian city lying south of capital Tehran, and the Islamic Republic’s main uranium enrichment site. But latest provocative moves by Iran can potentially change his and Israel’s risk calculation and modus operandi. It is to be noted that the development comes before President-elect Joe Biden officially enters the White House, who is committed to re-enter the nuclear deal that Trump had exited from. 

Iran has been consistently breaching the nuclear deal and the agreements made. Keeping that in mind, the US decision to exit from deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) seems a logical and natural step. Trump’s administration has in this line of action imposed various sanctions on Iran and also threatened of actions against European nations which engage with Iran for trade. 

Iran currently possesses over 1000 IR-2m machines, of which it is only using 174. Under the nuclear deal, Iran is allowed to use 6000 IR-1 machines. Tehran could have a good argument point over use of the machines if it uses low number of IR-2ms, as trying to restore what it had above ground before it exploded in Natanz facility on July 2.  

IAEA said last week that Tehran’s explanations were unsatisfactory regarding the nuclear program related particles were found at sites where there was no business of it to be present. 

Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, said on Tuesday that Iran will clarify its position with Biden administration. He said, “If the US implements its commitments under the UN security council resolution 2231, we will implement our commitments under the JCPoA. This can be done automatically and needs no negotiations. But if the US wants to rejoin the JCPoA then we will be ready to negotiate how the US can re-enter the deal.”

Russia Expands Power Portfolio Into African Continent
Middle East & Africa

Russia Expands Power Portfolio Into African Continent

Russia Expands Power Portfolio: If Vladimir Putin is losing his grip on Azerbaijan and Algeria situation, he is trying to garner more control elsewhere. Continuing to increase his footprint in Sudan, he now has plans to establish a naval base with nuclear powered military equipment. This is Kremlin’s official foothold into the African continent since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The new facility is earmarked to be built near the Port of Sudan. Confirmed reports state that it will be capable of accommodating upto 300 military and civilian personnel. This strategic move will not only give Russia access to Africa’s huge untapped fossil fuel resources but also improves Kremlin’s ability to operate in the Indian Ocean.

While Africa had been keenly looking for developmental support and collaboration with the world, its desire to strengthen its military prowess through external support is going to be double-edged sword. 

Plans are to use this as a repair and rest facility. However, with such free space given away by Sudan, Russia tends to have found a free passage into the continent that comprises 54 United Nation members. Sudan has been the bedrock of civil war and has only recently started to find itself assemble into a democracy. 

Nevertheless, its mineral rich status makes it a virgin land to be blundered. There are many takers for the wrong reasons. Political analysts are also forecasting that Russia might actually fortify its new African outpost with advanced surface-to-air missile systems, allowing it to create a no-fly zone for miles around. 

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