French left reels after violence against women claims

National Secretary of the ecologist party Europe-Ecologie Les Verts Julien Bayou has withdrawn from the co-presidency of the party’s parliamentary group at the National Assembly following accusations of psychological violence by an ex-partner. (AFP)
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Updated 21 September 2022

French left reels after violence against women claims

  • On Tuesday, Julien Bayou was "suspended from his role" as co-president of the Greens' bloc in the lower-house National Assembly
  • On Sunday one of the most prominent MPs of France Unbowed (LFI), Adrien Quatennens, admitted to slapping his wife

PARIS: Two key parties in France’s left-wing alliance were facing crises Wednesday after senior figures were accused of violence against women.
Meanwhile, a Greens party chief stepping back from his role days after a fellow lawmaker from the hard-left France Unbowed.
The mounting tempest has shown up their parties’ struggle to respond to allegations of sexual harassment and assault in the wake of the #Metoo movement, as outraged activists often demand quicker, more forceful responses than the justice system can provide.
On Tuesday, Julien Bayou was “suspended from his role” as co-president of the Greens’ bloc in the lower-house National Assembly, the party said, after he was accused of psychologically abusing a former partner.
“We are a feminist party, and so we place ourselves at the service of women’s testimony... we acknowledged that the only way to show we weren’t pretending and weren’t hiding was a temporary suspension,” Sandra Regol, vice president of the Green MPs group, told broadcaster Franceinfo.
On Sunday one of the most prominent MPs of France Unbowed (LFI), Adrien Quatennens, admitted to slapping his wife after her legal complaint was revealed by the investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaine.
He stepped down from a senior role as party coordinator.
“Our political ethics can’t be the same as the criminal law,” said Laurence Rossignol, deputy president of the Senate, Parliament’s upper house, and a member of the Socialist Party, which is allied with the Greens and LFI in a broad coalition against President Emmanuel Macron.
“The facts are there, they’ve been identified, and this is a political representative, in a political group that has committed itself to fighting violence against women... their group must be the first to deal with them,” Rossignol told Europe 1 radio.
Among the older generation of the left, the instinct can still be to close ranks.
LFI leader and three-time presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon leapt to Quatennens’ defense on Twitter, blasting “police ill-will, media voyeurism and the social networks” while hailing his protege’s “dignity” and “courage.”
He had made a similar response earlier this year when another ally, MP Eric Coquerel, was accused of groping a female activist — but who went on to receive the party’s support to lead parliament’s powerful Finance Committee.
“Protection of the party, protecting the leader, often come before consistency” with the movement’s stated values, Rossignol said Wednesday.
It was not until hours later that Melenchon posted another message gesturing toward Quatennens’ wife — too late for many critics.
Macron’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Tuesday that it was “extremely shocking to have someone playing down domestic violence.”
And some 550 feminist activists co-signed an editorial in left-wing daily Liberation on Wednesday calling for Quatennens to resign his seat in parliament.
“When a political group supports a feminist program, we have a right to expect that it stops protecting assaulters,” the activists wrote, listing a string of other left-wing figures who have been accused of assault and even rape.
“It’s not up to the assaulter’s friends to judge how serious the crime is and call for their private life to be respected. Private life is political,” they added.
The Greens, LFI and Macron’s Renaissance party have all set up internal panels to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and assault, with mixed results.
A report about Bayou had already been submitted to the ecologists’ panel in July, prompting allegations the probe had moved too slowly.
“These are volunteers working on cases that are sensitive by definition. Calm and time are needed to gather testimony and take the necessary decisions,” said Marine Tondelier, expected to stand soon for the Greens’ leadership.
“We acknowledge that we’re feeling our way forward, that this is a difficult question,” LFI lawmaker Daniele Obono said.
Allegations that sexual harassment and even assault are rife in French politics stretch well beyond the left.
In July, Damien Abad, a right-winger who was named minister in Macron’s freshly installed centrist government, was forced to step down over rape allegations.
He denies the claims and has since returned to his seat in parliament.


Women protesters demand more security after Afghan bombing

Updated 01 October 2022

Women protesters demand more security after Afghan bombing

  • The demonstration was quickly broken up by Taliban police
  • The bomber struck an education center Friday packed with hundreds of students in a Shiite neighborhood

KABUL, Afghanistan: A group of Afghan women Saturday protested a suicide bombing that killed or wounded dozens of students in a Shiite education center in the capital Kabul a day earlier, demanding better security from the Taliban-run government.
The demonstration was quickly broken up by Taliban police.
The bomber struck an education center Friday packed with hundreds of students in a Shiite neighborhood, killing 19 people and wounding 27. Among the casualties were teenagers taking practice university entrance exams, a Taliban spokesman said.
The morning explosion at the center took place in Kabul’s Dashti Barchi neighborhood, an area populated mostly by ethnic Hazaras, who belong to Afghanistan’s minority Shiite community. The Daesh group has carried out repeated, horrific attacks on schools, hospitals and mosques in Dashti Barchi and other Shiite areas in recent years.
About 20 protesters Saturday gathered in the Dashti Barchi area for about 45 minutes before their rally was broken up by Taliban security. They carried banners in English and Dari reading “Stop Hazar Genocide.”
“We are asking the Taliban government, when they claim that they have brought security, how they cannot stop an attacker from entering an educational center to target female students. In this incident, one family has lost four members, why is it still happening,” said demonstrator Fatima Mohammadi.
Staff at the Kaaj education center spent Saturday cleaning up the wreckage caused by the attack, while victims’ family members searched through items covered with blood belonging to their loved ones.
Hussain, who goes by one name, witnessed the attack. He said he believed the death toll was significantly higher, based on the large number of bodies he saw.
“First the attacker just over there, where a huge crowd of students was standing, opened fire. At least 40 people were killed there,” he said.
Zahra, a student who survived the attack, was unharmed because she went out just minutes before to buy a pen. She said she lost her friends in the attack and also her hope for a better future.
“I am not even sure if there is a future for us anymore or not,” she said.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. The Daesh group — the chief rival of the Taliban since their takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 — has in the past targeted the Hazara community, including in Dashti Barchi, in a brutal campaign of violence.
Militants have carried out several deadly attacks in Dashti Barchi, including a horrific 2020 attack on a maternity hospital claimed by IS that killed 24 people, including newborn babies and mothers.


At least 20 killed in Russian shelling of convoy in late Sept, Kyiv says

Updated 01 October 2022

At least 20 killed in Russian shelling of convoy in late Sept, Kyiv says

  • Seven vehicles were hit in shelling between occupied Svatove in Luhansk region and Ukrainian-held Kupiansk
  • The SBU published graphic images of destroyed civilian vehicles

KYIV: Ukraine’s SBU security service said on Saturday at least 20 civilians were killed in the Russian shelling of a civilian convoy in late September in an eastern “grey zone” between Russian-controlled and Ukrainian-controlled territory.
Seven vehicles were hit in shelling between occupied Svatove in Luhansk region and Ukrainian-held Kupiansk which Kyiv recaptured in the Kharkiv region last month, the SBU said in a statement.
The SBU published graphic images of destroyed civilian vehicles on a track next to a railway line and what appeared to be the charred remains of people. Two bodies were seated in the driving seats of their cars; one was holding the steering wheel.
Russian-installed officials in Ukraine’s east accused Kyiv on Thursday of shelling a convoy of refugees being evacuated from the Kharkiv region and killing around 30 civilians, Russian state media reported.
It was not immediately clear if those officials were referring to the same convoy.
Reuters could not independently verify the allegations.


UK train strikes and energy hikes add to a week of turmoil

Updated 01 October 2022

UK train strikes and energy hikes add to a week of turmoil

  • Only about 11% of train services were expected to operate across the UK on Saturday
  • Consumers were also hit with a jump in their energy bills Saturday

LONDON: Trains in Britain all but ground to a halt Saturday as coordinated strikes by rail workers added to a week of turmoil caused by soaring energy prices and unfunded tax cuts that roiled financial markets.
Only about 11 percent of train services were expected to operate across the UK on Saturday, according to Network Rail. Unions said they called the latest in a series of one-day strikes to demand that wage increases keep pace with inflation that is expected to peak at around 11 percent this month.
Consumers were also hit with a jump in their energy bills Saturday as the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine pushes gas and electricity prices higher. Household bills are expected to rise by about 20 percent, even after the government stepped in to cap prices.
Prime Minister Liz Truss, who has been in office less than a month, cited the cost-of-living crisis as the reason she moved swiftly to introduce a controversial economic stimulus program, which includes 45 billion pounds ($48 billion) of unfunded tax cuts.
Concern that the plans would push government debt to unsustainable levels sent the pound tumbling to a record low against the dollar this week and forced the Bank of England to intervene in the bond market.
“We need to get things done in this country more quickly,” Truss said in an unapologetic column for The Sun newspaper published Saturday. “So I am going to do things differently. It involves difficult decisions and does involve disruption in the short term.”
Many workers aren’t convinced.
Four labor unions have called three, 24-hour strikes over the next eight days, ensuring service disruptions for much of the week.
The timing is of particular concern for runners and fans trying to get to the capital for Sunday’s London Marathon, with is expected to attract 42,000 competitors.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union, said the strikes were designed to target the annual conference of Truss’s Conservative Party, which begins Sunday in Birmingham, England.
“We don’t want to inconvenience the public, and we’re really sorry that that’s happening,’’ Lynch said. “But the government has brought this dispute on. They (put) the challenges down to us, to cut our jobs, to cut our pensions and to cut our wages against inflation.”
Lynch urged Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan to take “urgent steps to allow a negotiated settlement.” The union said the latest figures showed railway bosses benefiting from government tax cuts.
As a result of the strike, there will be no service between London and major cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle on Saturday. Lingering disruptions are likely to effect service on Sunday morning as well.
Runners and spectators traveling to London for the marathon, which begins at 9:30 a.m., have been warned they are likely to be frustrated by the strike.
“It is particularly disheartening that this weekend’s strike will hit the plans of thousands of runners who have trained for months to take part in the iconic London Marathon,’’ said Daniel Mann, director of industry operations at Rail Delivery Group. “That will also punish the many charities, large and small, who depend on sponsorship money raised by such events to support the most vulnerable in our community.”


Iranian city goes into blackout after IRGC intelligence chief killed in clashes

Updated 01 October 2022

Iranian city goes into blackout after IRGC intelligence chief killed in clashes

  • At least 36 people believed to have died when security forces opened fire on demonstrators
  • Protests broke out in Zahedan after an outcry over the rape of a 15-year-old girl

QUETTA: Communication services were down in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan on Saturday, after a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander was killed in clashes.  

Protests broke out in the capital of the Sistan and Balochistan province bordering Pakistan on Friday after an outcry over the rape of a 15-year-old Baloch girl, allegedly by a local military commander.

Ali Mousavi, IRGC intelligence chief of Sistan and Balochistan, was shot during the confrontation with protesters. The IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported he was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Residents of southeast Iran's Zahedan city tend to a wounded person after police shot at protesters on Sept. 30, 2022. (Photo courtesy: Muhammad Asif)

The killing was claimed by the Jaish Al-Adl militant group, which says it is fighting for the independence of Sistan and Baluchistan and greater rights for Baloch people, who are the main ethnic group in the province.

Footage emerging from Zahedan showed people carrying dead and wounded protesters amid heavy gunfire. The provincial administration said 19 people have died in the clashes. Local news agency Haal-e Vash reported the number of deaths to be at least 36, with dozens of others wounded.  

The internet has been blocked and mobile networks largely shut down in the city and surrounding areas since Friday, data from watchdog Netblocks shows, with residents of neighboring towns saying they have been unable to reach their relatives.

Mohammad Zia, a shopkeeper in Taftan, a city on Iran’s border with Pakistan, some 90 km from Zahedan, told Arab News that in some parts of the town weak mobile signals could be caught.

“But the internet services are still suspended in the entire Sistan and Balochistan region,” he said.

Muhammad Asif, who lives in Nokundi, a nearby town on the Pakistani side of the border, said he received disturbing footage from the deadly clashes in Zahedan on Friday and has since been unable to contact his family there.

“I have been constantly trying to contact my cousin who traveled there for business,” he said. “Due to the internet and mobile network blackout I am unable to contact him, which increases my worries.”

The death of the provincial IRGC intelligence chief is a major escalation in the antigovernment demonstrations that began in mid-September, triggered by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Iranian morality police.

The country-wide rallies have been the largest manifestation of dissent against the Iranian government in over a decade.

As of Friday, at least 83 protesters have been killed by security forces, mainly in the provinces of Mazandaran, Gilan, Western Azerbaijan, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, Alborz, and the capital Tehran, according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization.

Thousands of demonstrators and civil activists have been arrested.

The toll is likely to increase with the Sistan and Balochistan casualties.


Powerful earthquake shakes Indonesia’s Sumatra, kills 1

Updated 01 October 2022

Powerful earthquake shakes Indonesia’s Sumatra, kills 1

JAKARTA: A strong and shallow earthquake shook Indonesia’s Sumatra island on Saturday, killing a resident, injuring 11 and damaging more than a a dozen houses and buildings, police said.
The magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck about 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) northeast of Sibolga, a coastal city in North Sumatra province, according to the US Geological Survey. It was 13 kilometers (8 miles) deep.
The pre-dawn earthquake was followed by two 5.0 magnitude aftershocks.
A 62-year-old man died of a heart attack while fleeing to safety in Tarutung village, which is closest to the epicenter, said local police chief Johanson Sianturi. Eleven people have been injured and at least 15 houses and buildings damaged in the village, he said.
Authorities were still investigating the full extent of the damage.
A footage released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency showed several residents evacuating an injured person by a van to a hospital while panicked voices cried for help. The agency also showed several people receiving treatment and walls cracked by the earthquake.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 270 million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
In February, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed at least 25 people and injured more than 460 in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500 in West Sulawesi province.
A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed nearly 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.