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IRIN Middle East | Middle East | MIDDLE EAST | MIDDLE EAST: MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 29 for 1 - 7 July 2005 | Other | Weekly
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MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 29 for 1 - 7 July 2005

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Key Humanitarian Developments in Iraq

Insecurity continued to be a major concern in Iraq with three insurgent attacks on foreign diplomats and over 30 people killed in mortar attacks, bombings and ambushes.

On Saturday, Egypt's new ambassador-designate to Iraq, Ihab al-Sherif, was kidnapped by gunmen after being in the country for only five weeks. The Egyptian government said al-Sherif had gone to Iraq to help people and pleaded with his kidnappers to treat him well. On Thursday however, the Egyptian government announced that they believed al-Sherif's kidnappers had murdered him.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan released a statement condemning the killing of the Egyptian envoy.

"The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms those who planned and executed this callous act, which no cause can justify," said the statement, which also expressed Annan's "deepest sympathy" and condolences to the family of al-Sherif as well as to the government and people of Egypt.

"Such acts perpetrated by a few will not deter the commitment and resolve of the United Nations and the international community to help the Iraqi people in their transition towards a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Iraq," the statement said.

The Bahraini and Pakistani envoys to Iraq were both attacked in separate incidents within hours on Tuesday by groups of gunmen in the upmarket Mansour district of the capital, Baghdad. The Bahraini envoy, Hassan Malallah al-Ansari, was travelling in his diplomatic car when at least two armed men tried to flag it down. They opened fire when he failed to stop, wounding him in the arm but he managed to drive to safety.

A short time later, Mohammad Younis Khan, the Pakistani envoy, was travelling in a convoy of vehicles that was raked by gunfire. His bodyguards returned fire and the vehicles managed to escape without any reported injury to the occupants.

"You know how dangerous and precarious the situation here in Baghdad is," he later commented to the BBC Urdu service.

Late on Thursday last week, the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) which considered financial claims following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, finished 12 years of deliberations. In the final three-day session, the UNCC awarded nearly US $367 million to successful claimants, bringing the total it has awarded to some $52.5 billion.

Approximately $19.2 billion dollars has been made available to successful claimants so far, with up to $200 million more to be available for distribution next month. Under a UN scheme the Iraqi government pays a 5 percent levy on oil revenues towards compensation payments but the deputy foreign minister, Mohammed Hamud Bidan, has called for an end to the arrangement, saying Iraq wishes to negotiate settlement of the claims instead.

The parliamentary committee drawing up a new constitution was joined by 15 more representatives of Iraq's Sunni Muslim community on Wednesday. The committee is due to complete their work on a draft constitution by mid-August and there had been concerns that the Sunni community remained under-represented within the group.

There had been only two Sunnis among the more than 50 members but the new representatives improve the balance between Sunnis, Shia and Kurds, increasing the Sunni representation to over 20 percent. The group remains under considerable pressure to complete deliberations by the 15 August deadline so that the new constitution can gain popular support in a referendum due in September, allowing for fresh elections by 15 December and a new government before the end of the year.

The European commissioner for external relations and European neighbourhood policy, Dr Benita Ferrero-Waldner, called the situation in Iraq 'impossible and unsustainable' for any country in an address to the European parliament on Wednesday.

She warned that the task of reconstruction was enormous and called on the international community to do more to reduce or reschedule Iraq’s debt, saying that the EU Commission would be pushing member states to lead by example. She said that the EU would open a delegation in Baghdad in the coming months as a sign of continuing commitment to the region.


IRAQ: Water supply held back by lack of investment and insurgency
IRAQ: Focus on illegal organ trade
IRAQ: Intellectuals call for caring constitution
IRAQ: Attacks on oil facilities cost US $12 billion
IRAQ: Acid attacks on "immodest" women on the rise
SYRIA: Raising HIV/AIDS awareness
YEMEN: Social impact of temporary marriages
YEMEN: Confirmed polio cases reach 300
EGYPT: New reports criticise restrictive NGO law

IRAQ: Water supply held back by lack of investment and insurgency

The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) has said there is a lack of investment in Iraq's ailing water supply system, estimating that US $15 billion will be required to put things right. "Although we are one of the richest countries concerning water resources in the Middle East, we have no money to bring this water to the people," Ali Sinnan, a senior official at the MoWR, said. Officials blame the slow rate of improvement in the nation's water infrastructure on the continuing insurgency. Both donors and private companies have expressed an interest in helping improve the situation but poor security is holding back assistance and investment in many sectors.

Full report

IRAQ: Focus on illegal organ trade

Kassim Fadhel, a 58-year-old businessman in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, has been waiting for more than three years to find a reliable kidney donor to replace one of his own failing organs. Frustration led to him having to buy a kidney on the black market in the capital, Baghdad. "I had to save my life, I did not want to die. We couldn't find one relative of mine who could be my donor, but thank God I found someone who sold me their kidney" Fadhel said. Poverty in Iraq means there are currently plenty of people willing to sell their kidneys, with middlemen bringing vendor and buyer together.

Full report

IRAQ: Intellectuals call for caring constitution

Iraqi intellectuals and academics called for a constitution based on human rights, democracy and free speech at a conference held in the capital, Baghdad, last week. The conference was organised by the National League of Iraqi Intellectuals and Academics (NLIIA) an NGO formed in May 2003. Participants called for establishment of a democratic, multi-party, federal country that preserves the unity of the nation, as well as its Arabic and Islamic identity. "We should guarantee that all these topics are addressed when the constitution is written. Iraqi officials who are responsible for the constitution drafting should also respect human rights, according to international laws," chairman of the conference, Srood Najeeb, said. Women's rights were also highlighted during the conference.

Full report

IRAQ: Attacks on oil facilities cost US $12 billion

Iraq's Ministry of Oil (MoO) has announced that billions of dollars have been spent on repairing and replacing oil industry infrastructure damaged or destroyed by terrorist attacks nationwide. The money could have been invested in aid and development according to officials. "The attacks on oil facilities have required very large investments to repair. Billions of dollars have been spent. For sure, if the security situation was better in the country, this money would have been invested in humanitarian and badly needed development programmes," Assem Jihad, spokesman for the MoO, said.

Full report

IRAQ: Acid attacks on "immodest" women on the rise

For Sumeya Abdullah, a 34-year-old primary school teacher in the capital Baghdad, life will never be the same again. In late June she had her legs burned by corrosive acid in a street attack because, she believes, she was not wearing her veil and the traditional 'abaya' covering common in many Middle Eastern countries. "I was shopping in one of the most crowded districts in Baghdad when I felt my skin burning by something corrosive. It was horrible, a terrible pain, then I found myself in hospital," Abdullah said. Witnesses in the district where the attack happened, said that for more than two weeks, women have been targeted by acid attackers for dressing immodestly. Sometimes the assailants spray or throw the acid on foot, or on occasion, from a moving car. Other attacks have been even more shocking.

Full report

SYRIA: Raising HIV/AIDS awareness

A national campaign has recently started to develop awareness among NGOs, social workers and staff at Syria’s National AIDS Programme. As part of the new strategy a workshop was recently held to provide more and better information to those tackling the deadly disease. “The workshop focused on education on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and how to look at Communicating Behaviour Change (CBC) to prevent young people in Syria from becoming infected with AIDS,” Dr Imad al-Daker, national officer for HIV/AIDS at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) office in the capital, Damascus, said.

Full report

YEMEN: Social impact of temporary marriages

Amal Mohammed is an 18-year-old Yemeni woman living in the city of Ibb, 150km south of the Yemeni capital, Sana, who says she is suffering from psychological problems and a constant headache following an unsuccessful marriage to an elderly Saudi man. She says she now sees marriage as a nightmare after being married and divorced in the course of only a few weeks. Amal was the victim of a so-called 'summer' or 'tourist' marriage, as Yemenis call the unwittingly temporary unions which are having a negative impact on religiously and culturally conservative Yemeni society.

Full report

YEMEN: Confirmed polio cases reach 300

Although the number of confirmed polio cases in Yemen has soared to 300, a massive immunisation campaign starting on 12 July should go a long way to reducing further infections, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative for Yemen, Dr Hashim Al-Zain, said in the capital, Sana. The polio outbreak was confirmed in mid-May after 18 cases were reported, following the completion of a routine national immunisation programme conducted in April. "The number of polio virus cases has gone up to 300, across 17 provinces. We got the most recent results on 29 June. The governorate of Hodeidah [226 km west of the capital] was the worst affected area with 197 cases," Al-Zain added.

Full report

EGYPT: New reports criticise restrictive NGO law

The international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) launched two separate reports on Monday, both criticising an Egyptian law that excessively regulates civil society and the activity of NGOs. "Freedom of association is a core political right. One cannot talk about democracy without being able to have an environment that allows people to come together in a free and unrestricted way," Joe Stork, Deputy Director of HRW's Middle East Division, said at a press conference in Cairo. HRW's report, entitled 'Margins of Repression: State Limits on Non Governmental Organisation Activism,' discusses the impact of the 2002 law on NGOs.

Full report


 Theme(s) Other
Other recent MIDDLE EAST reports:

Appeal to Arab world to give more to world’s poorest,  16/Dec/05

MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 52 for 11–15 December 2005,  15/Dec/05

“Invisible” children suffering from neglect, says UNICEF,  15/Dec/05

MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 51 for 4 – 8 December 2005,  11/Dec/05

MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 50 for 25 November – 1 December,  2/Dec/05

Other recent reports:

RWANDA: Body found in Brussels canal confirmed that of ex-minister's, 23/Dec/05

CENTRAL ASIA: Weekly news wrap, 23/Dec/05

WEST AFRICA: IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 309 covering 17 - 23 December 2005, 23/Dec/05

CENTRAL ASIA: IRIN-Asia Weekly Round-up 51 covering the period 17 - 23 December 2005, 23/Dec/05

SOUTHERN AFRICA: IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 262 for 17-23 December 2005, 23/Dec/05

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