Thousands of Yemeni children brainwashed in Houthi ‘summer camps’

Houthis woo children into joining recruitment centers and summer camps through financial incentives, says director of SEYAJ Organization for the Protection of Children. (AFP/File)
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Updated 17 August 2021

Thousands of Yemeni children brainwashed in Houthi ‘summer camps’

  • Youth ‘taught to hate damned culture of US, become loyal soldiers,’ father warns

ALEXANDRIA: Iran-backed Houthis have arranged graduation ceremonies for thousands of children who joined their summer camps this year in the densely populated areas of Yemen under their control.

The biggest ceremony was organized in Sanaa, where hundreds of children, their relatives and Houthi officials showed up to see the graduating children display their skills.

The Houthis claim that for 45 days, the children were educated, trained and “immunized from false cultures.”

But Yemeni government officials and human rights activists have accused the group of using the camps to indoctrinate Yemeni children with sectarian ideologies and antisemitic propaganda, before sending them to the battlefields.

“These camps prepare children and adolescents to be part of the war machine,” Ahmed Al-Qurashi, director of SEYAJ Organization for the Protection of Children, told Arab News.

During the ceremonies in Sanaa, Saada, Hajjah, Hodeidah and Al-Bayda, children in military attire displayed their combat skills and chanted slogans cursing the US and Israel, blaming them for starting the war on Yemen.

“We tell the world that the Yemeni youth are at the forefront of the ranks in fighting off brutal aggression. These people say no to the damned culture of the US and Israel,” a Houthi figure said at a Sanaa gathering, as nearby children carried the movement’s slogan and pictures of leaders before their relatives.

Parents in Sanaa warn that the Houthis blacklist families who do not encourage children to join recruitment camps during the school summer break.

“There is a clear brainwashing process going on for our children, and we cannot do anything or would be accused of being mercenaries. Those camps and centers turn our children into soldiers loyal to Abdul Malik Al-Houthi,” Mohammed, a middle-aged father of a child who joined the Houthi camps, told the Al-Sahwa news site.

He added that he later had to re-educate his child at home in order to correct some of the Houthi-taught radical ideologies.

Jamel, an 11-year-old student, told the same news site that he “learned in the Houthi camps the true Islam and was educated about expressing loyalty to the Houthis and hating the US and Israel.”

When the Houthis first demanded people in their areas send their children to the summer camps, Yemeni officials and activists quickly warned people against joining the events, and said that the group was “indoctrinating children into joining the battlefields and hating Yemenis and the West.”

However, SEYAJ Organization said in a report that the Houthis have recruited more than 500,000 children through summer camps in 2021.

“SEYAJ is concerned that large numbers of children will be involved in the fighting. We call on the Houthi group to immediately stop the recruitment and involvement of children in the armed conflict, and the use of schools for military purposes.”

Al-Qurashi said that the Houthis woo children into joining recruitment centers and summer camps through financial incentives.

Families that send their children to the battlefields or summer camps are given money and food baskets. The recruited children are usually given the nickname Mujahid.

“Those titles give teenagers big social status and they think that they are important,” he said.

A joint report released by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and SAM for Rights and Liberates in February said that the Houthis turned schools and other educational facilities into military camps, and modified textbooks with texts that incite violence and glorify the movement.

“Houthis also deliberately used schools and educational facilities for military purposes and used the education system to incite violence and indoctrinate students with the group’s ideologies. They did this by giving lectures with sectarian propaganda contents and promoting their military victories,” the report said.


Civilians among 10 dead in north Iraq attack blamed on IS: officials

Updated 8 sec ago

Civilians among 10 dead in north Iraq attack blamed on IS: officials

IRBIL: At least three civilians and seven Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters have been killed in northern Iraq in an attack blamed on the Daesh jihadist group, the forces said Friday.
The jihadists attacked the village of Khidir Jija, south of Irbil, killing three civilians, a statement said. The peshmerga, Kurdistan’s armed forces, launched an operation in response, and seven fighters died when “an explosive device planted by Daesh elements” blew up.

Iran nuclear talks to break on Friday with formal meeting

Updated 7 min 8 sec ago

Iran nuclear talks to break on Friday with formal meeting

  • The Iranian official said the meeting would be held around noon (11:00 GMT)
DUBAI/VIENNA: The current round of indirect talks between Iran and the United States on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which began this week, will end on Friday with a formal meeting of the remaining parties to the deal, European and Iranian officials said.
The meeting of Iran, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China is in a format known as the Joint Commission which has bookended previous rounds of talks. The Iranian official said the meeting would be held around noon (11:00 GMT). The aim is to resume the talks next week, the European diplomat said.

UN says Daesh committed war crimes at Iraqi prison

Updated 03 December 2021

UN says Daesh committed war crimes at Iraqi prison

  • ‘At least 1,000 predominantly Shiite prisoners were systematically killed’
  • Daesh fighters seized Iraqi cities and declared a self-styled caliphate in a large swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014

UNITED NATIONS: The head of a UN team investigating atrocities in Iraq said that Daesh extremists committed crimes against humanity and war crimes at a prison in Mosul in June 2014, where at least 1,000 predominantly Shiite Muslim prisoners were systematically killed.
Christian Ritscher told the UN Security Council on Thursday that evidence collected from mass graves containing the remains of victims of executions carried out at Badush Central Prison and from survivors shows detailed preparations of the attack by senior Daesh members followed by an assault on the morning of June 10 that year.
“Prisoners captured were led to sites close to the prison, separated based on their religion and humiliated,” he said. “At least 1,000 predominantly Shiite prisoners were then systematically killed.”
Ritscher said the investigators’ analysis of digital, documentary, survivors and forensic evidence, including Daesh documents, has identified a number of members from the extremist group, also known as IS or ISIL, who were responsible for the crimes.
As a result of the investigations, he said the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes committed by the Daesh group in Iraq has concluded that Daesh committed “crimes against humanity of murder, extermination, torture, enforced disappearances, persecution and other inhumane acts” at Badush prison as well as the “war crimes of willful killing, torture, inhumane treatment, and outrage upon personal dignity.”
Daesh fighters seized Iraqi cities and declared a self-styled caliphate in a large swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014. The group was formally declared defeated in Iraq in 2017 following a three-year bloody battle that left tens of thousands dead and cities in ruins, but its sleeper cells continue to launch attacks in different parts of Iraq.
In May, Ritscher’s predecessor Karim Khan told the council that investigators had found “clear and compelling evidence” that Daesh extremists committed genocide against the Yazidi minority in 2014. He also said the militant group successfully developed chemical weapons and used mustard gas.
Ritscher hailed the “landmark moment” two days ago that saw the first-ever conviction of a Daesh member for the crime of genocide at the regional court in Frankfurt, Germany. The 29-year-old Iraqi was also convicted of crimes against humanity, war crimes and bodily harm resulting in death over the death of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl he had purchased as a slave with her mother and then chained up in the hot sun to die.
“We now have the chance, collectively, to make such prosecutions the norm, not a celebrated exception,” Ritscher said. “In cooperation with Iraqi authorities and those of the Kurdistan region, together with survivors and with the support of this council, we are building the evidence that can deliver meaningful justice for all those who suffered from ISIL crimes in Iraq.”
Ritscher said evidence collected relating to the Badush prison attacks underlined the detailed planning by Daesh in carrying out their atrocities.
The extremist group’s approach “is seen even more clearly in two other key lines of investigation that have accelerated in the last six months: the development and use of chemical and biological weapons by ISIL, and the financial mechanisms through which it sustained its campaign of violence,” he said.
The team’s evidence also “shows that ISIL clearly identified and then seized chemical production factories and other sources of precursor material, while also overtaking the University of Mosul campus as a hub for research and development,” Ritscher said.
The extremist group’s program became more sophisticated and investigators have identified more than 3.000 victims of Daesh chemical weapons attacks as well as its use of rocket artillery projectiles containing a mustard sulfur agent, he said.
In his next briefing to the Security Council, Ritscher said he will present the team’s findings on Daesh’s use of chemical weapons including the crimes it committed.
He also stressed the critical importance of bringing the Daesh’s financiers and those who profit from the group’s crimes to justice.
Ritscher said investigators have uncovered the inner workings of the Daesh central treasury and a network of senior leaders who also acted “as trusted financiers, diverting wealth that Daesh gained through pillage, theft of property from targeted communities and the imposition of a systematic and exploitative taxation system imposed on those living under ISIL control.”
He said the team recently shared information with the Iraqi judiciary on the use of money service businesses by the group “as key facilitators of their financing,” and it looks forward to expanding this kind of cooperation.


Hashemite kingdom’s Expo 2020 Dubai provides an authentic Jordanian experience

Updated 03 December 2021

Hashemite kingdom’s Expo 2020 Dubai provides an authentic Jordanian experience

  • Pavilion tells the story of the Hashemite kingdom from both the cultural and economic standpoints
  • Jordan has been hosting events designed to promote trade, cultural understanding and stimulate tourism

DUBAI There are two main types of pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai: “Self-build” pavilions that were funded by the participating nations themselves, and those that either received financial assistance from, or were fully built by, the expo.

Despite an unassuming exterior, Jordan’s pavilion — which sits within an expo-built structure at the heart of the Mobility District — is a must-see.

This standard style of fitted pavilion has been transformed into a unique space filled with varying textures and experiences. The resultant atmosphere is inviting, stylish and sensory.

As soon as they enter the reception area, visitors are welcomed to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. A relief display outlines the country’s territory and highlights the significance of its position between Turkey to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south.

Jordan’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai captures the sights and sounds of the country through interactive, multimedia exhibits. (Supplied)

From there, visitors walk down a winding wooden path called the Siq, with every step on their journey accompanied by multimedia effects and sounds. In Jordan, the Siq is the pathway through rock canyons that marks the entrance to the Nabataean city of Petra, which was built 2,500 years ago.

The Siq at Expo 2020 Dubai is a 30-meter, wooden sided path that leads to the pavilion’s main exhibition stage. Here, visitors are invited to enjoy a one-of-a-kind, authentic Jordanian experience that will stimulate all of their senses.

At the end of the pathway, they are greeted by a series of tassel curtains that they must walk through to enter a room bustling with light and sound. It is alive with images of Jordanian landmarks and attractions, including Wadi Rum, The Dead Sea, archaeological sites and lush green landscapes.

In a matter of minutes, visitors can get a taste of the finest experiences Jordan offers, from the lowest land-based point on Earth, on the shores of the Dead Sea, to the highest viewpoints across the country.

For a more immersive experience, they can put on a headset and explore the country in virtual reality.

Visitors are encouraged to explore the exhibition space at their leisure and fully engage with the displays. Every element includes an interactive or sensory element. The highlight is an audio-visual journey that introduces the country’s treasures, past and present.

A PAVILION FOR EVERY NATION

Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo to adopt a “One Nation, One Pavilion” approach, which means each of the 192 participating countries has its own pavilion.

This gives them the chance to showcase their national identities, stories, innovations and future strategies in dedicated spaces assigned to one of three key, themed districts devoted to a particular concept: Sustainability, Mobility or Opportunity. This gives visitors a chance to fully experience the beauty and culture of every participating nation.

To make the “One Nation, One Pavilion” goal a reality, host country the UAE set up an assistance fund to support the participation of countries that otherwise might not have been able to justify the cost.

Countries that received assistance were carefully selected based on criteria such as level of development, income and geography, with smaller landlocked countries and island nations given special consideration.

As a result Expo 2020 Dubai features two main types of pavilions: “Self-build” structures that were fully funded by the participating nations themselves, and those fully or partly funded by the expo.

Self-build pavilions vary in size, are spread across the expo site, and are accessible from the main concourses. They are large and diverse, featuring unique facades adorned with national symbols and branding. The largest of these pavilions belong to the UAE, China and India.

The structures built by, or with assistance from, the expo are more similar in external appearance, and surrounded by courtyards or exhibition spaces. The eligible developing countries were provided with a fully fitted pavilion of their own, complete with internal finishing, fittings and basic furnishings, situated at the heart of one of the themed zones to ensure high visibility.

Illuminated fields are projected onto the floor, and when stepped on they change shape and trigger the sounds of traditional Jordanian song and musical instruments, including the oud, nai and tabla.

The role of an expo pavilion, whatever its shape, size or design, is to tell the story of the country it represents from the cultural and economic standpoints.

While some of the interactive displays that help to do this in Jordan’s pavilion are fun and immersive, others provide more specialized, technical information on a range of business topics, including the country’s economy, its agenda for entrepreneurship and policies for female empowerment.

Despite an unassuming exterior, Jordan’s pavilion — which sits within an expo-built structure at the heart of the Mobility District — is a must-see.

Jordan links the content of its pavilion to Expo 2020’s wider, future-focused theme with a display dedicated to the launch of the first Jordanian satellite, CubeSat, which is one of the smallest of its kind.

The innovative design is the product of a cooperative program that partners engineering students at Jordanian universities with experts from NASA, under the supervision of Jordan’s Crown Prince Foundation. It is the first Jordanian venture in the space industry and was of particular interest during Expo 2020’s space-themed week.

Throughout the expo, Jordan will be hosting events designed to promote trade and cultural understanding and to stimulate inbound tourism. On Nov. 12, for instance, the country marked its National Day with a show at the expo featuring traditional music, a military band and other live performances.

Jordan’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai includes a gift shop offering authentic artisan products from the Hashemite kingdom. (Supplied)

After experiencing all that the pavilion has to offer, visitors can browse a gift shop showcasing a wide range of beautiful and unique Jordanian products, including handbags, olive oil and beauty products derived from the minerals of the Dead Sea.

Artisans are on hand to explain the cultural significance of the products, including face masks adorned with the national colors, bracelets made from local turquoise and other natural stones, and tea trays painted and decorated in traditional styles.

A message at the entrance to the pavilion states: “Whatever appeals to you, no doubt you’ll find it in Jordan. This hospitable land was, and still is today, a destination to many who call it home. Its people are known for their generosity and hospitality, making Jordan a visitors’ haven.”

Jordanians who have visited the pavilion told Arab News it lived up to their expectations, capturing not just the sights and sounds but also the spirit of their home country. Visitors are, indeed, likely to find something that appeals to them, they added.


Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts

Updated 03 December 2021

Experts warn upcoming Libyan elections unlikely to heal rifts

  • Armed groups have reportedly already strongarmed voters at polling stations and the full list of candidates has still not been finalized

LONDON: The political situation in Libya will remain unstable whether or not planned elections go ahead later this month, experts have warned, pointing to legal, political, and security failings that endanger stability in the near future.

In an event hosted Thursday by London think-tank Chatham House and attended by Arab News, a panel of speakers outlined their grim predictions for the future of Libya’s political roadmap.

Wolfram Lacher, senior associate at the German Institute for International Affairs, warned that the political situation is even worse than in the lead-up to the 2014 election, which ultimately saw the eruption of conflict between Tripoli and Benghazi-based parties.

“The current situation is immensely more problematic than it was in 2014. It’s not comparable at all,” said Lacher.

Parliamentary and presidential elections are planned for Dec. 24 for the first time since the cessation of hostilities in a civil war between the Government of National Unity’s Tripoli-based forces, the Government of National Accordand Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, based in Benghazi.

Lacher explained that the years of division that ensued during that civil war have led to a more divided country than in pre-2014.

The creation of rival administrations, Lacher said, “essentially led to the whole constitutional architecture of Libya breaking down. There is no basis anymore than anyone agrees on.”

He continued: “We’ve had two civil wars in Libya since (2014) that have inflicted deep rifts on the social fabric. The militias have grown incredibly powerful since 2014, and much more politically involved.”

But Lacher warned that the legal process convened to run this month’s elections actually threatens to enflame these divisions, not heal them — as the election was intended to do.

Libyan authorities are currently embroiled in a dispute over the legal basis upon which certain candidates, such as former Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, could run. Some candidates have argued that Dbeibeh should be barred from running for President because he did not comply with laws that force officials to resign a minimum of three months before an election takes place.

But these ostensibly legal technical issues — that appear administrative in nature — have an important role in deciding the outcome of the vote itself, as well as the political reality and intra-Libyan dynamics in the days following the vote.

Experts warned that militias and armed factions could refuse to accept the vote if it does not go their way, and use legal issues, such as certain candidates being allowed to run, as grounds to delegitimize the entire process. It is not clear what would happen if losing candidates choose to do this.

Zahraa Langhi, member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, told participants that both the LNA and GNA are currently benefitting from a political stalemate in Libya, and so they have no true interest in seeing a free and fair election carried out.

“The current political stalemate, the political fragmentation — all these forces are benefitting from it,” Langhi said, explaining that any delay in the election could “reward” those who spoil the election’s integrity.

She also said that interim governments, convened as part of international multilateral measures, “failed miserably” to rectify Libya’s political fragmentation — despite that objective being a “major, basic milestone in the roadmap to creating national unity.”

Langhi lamented a failure by the UN to engage effectively with actors on the ground in Libya.

“The (UN) special envoy is leaving (his post) in a couple of days, leaving the whole process without oversight.”

She said that the UN has left the issue of vetting candidates — fundamentally important to a safe and secure election — to Libya’s judiciary, which she believes has “failed to address the issue.”

Now Libyans are left with a series of candidates that Langhi said do not provide any real choice for Libyans, the most prominent of which are former Prime Minister Dbeibeh, former warlord Haftar, and possibly even Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi — son of late dictator Muammar Qaddafi. “This cannot continue,” she said.

But Otman Gajiji, former chairman of the Libyan High National Election Commission, cast doubt on the possibility that Libyans will manage to vote freely and fairly at all.

Not only do Libyans not have enough time to familiarize themselves with the dozens of candidates currently in the running for election, he said, but a series of attacks on polling stations are a grim omen for voting day.

“There are new unofficial reports that four polling stations were attacked by armed groups in Aziziya, and one was in Tripoli — all voter cards, or most of the voter cards, were taken by these armed groups. For me that is a very bad sign,” Gajiji said.

He added: “We are 22 days, three weeks, ahead of the elections. Such events are not a good indicator for the near future, or for the future of the elections.”