In the shadow of continued instability in Yemen, a potential breakthrough has been reported by the local authorities, with the identification of a suspect in the murder of Moayad Hameidi, the World Food Programme (WFP) representative based in Taiz. Hameidi, a key figure of the Rome-based UN food agency’s work in Yemen, was tragically gunned down last Friday in the neighbouring city of Turbah.
The suspect has allegedly resided in Taiz since 2017 after leaving Aden in the wake of security operations against Al Qaeda militants. The identity of the official who revealed this information remains confidential, and they were unable to confirm whether the suspect has connections to any Islamist groups.
Aden has served as the base for Yemen’s internationally recognised government since Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, seized control of the capital Sanaa in 2014. The conflict escalated further in 2015 with the intervention of a Saudi-led coalition supporting the embattled government.
Taiz, controlled by the government, faces a blockade from surrounding Houthi-controlled areas. The chaos of the war in Yemen has provided fertile ground for extremist groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS loyalists. A considerable security effort has been made by the Saudi-led coalition, backed by US and UAE forces, to suppress these radical elements.
An arrest warrant for the suspect has been issued, as confirmed by an Interior Ministry telegram obtained by AFP. The violence has diminished over the past year, yet sporadic attacks continue to disrupt the fragile peace.
The late Moayad Hameidi, a Jordanian national, had been a stalwart of the WFP for 18 years, serving not only in Yemen, but also in Sudan, Syria, and Iraq. His sudden death triggered profound sadness within the agency, with WFP’s Yemen country director, Richard Ragan, declaring any loss of life in humanitarian service as an “unacceptable tragedy.”
The global community has also responded, with Hans Grundberg, the UN special envoy for Yemen, expressing condolences to Hameidi’s family, friends, and colleagues, while mourning alongside the humanitarian community in Yemen.
The UAE’s Minister of State for International Co-operation, Reem Al Hashimy, condemned the murder emphatically, highlighting the targeting of humanitarian aid staff as a “flagrant violation of all international treaties that ensure their protection.”
US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, also denounced Hameidi’s killing and extended his deepest sympathies to Hameidi’s family and the WFP team.
This tragic event echoes the 2018 killing of Lebanese aid worker Hanna Lahoud, a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose murderers are yet to be found. Hameidi’s death serves as a harsh reminder of the significant dangers faced by humanitarian workers in conflict-ridden zones like Yemen.
China is heightening its presence in the Middle East, demonstrating a renewed interest in assisting the resolution as a mediator in Yemen’s ongoing crisis. An increased focus on diplomatic engagement underpins China’s strategy, highlighting its emergent importance in regional affairs.
On Friday, 7 July, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, met with Zhai Jun, China’s Special Envoy for the Middle East. The officials engaged in discussions regarding “ways to strengthen international support for mediation,” a measure currently led by the UN in a bid to end the war that has ravaged Yemen. While this diplomatic dialogue didn’t produce any immediate, substantial announcements, it underscored China’s rising role in the Middle East, extending to the complex Yemen issue.
China’s approach has so far remained relatively subdued, limiting itself to diplomatic meetings such as this, and the welcoming of Yemen’s President in Beijing last December. Despite the absence of explicit declarations or the orchestration of highly publicised summits, it is apparent that Chinese diplomacy is quietly, but increasingly, becoming a force in the Middle East.
China has considerable potential to influence the situation in Yemen. Prior to the war, it was the country’s second-largest trading partner. In 2021, its imports from Yemen still reached $411 million, primarily in oil and copper. Though Beijing officially maintains no relations with the non-state armed groups in the country, it is unlikely that such a high level of trade could be sustained solely with the exiled government. This suggests that China may be engaging commercially with various Yemeni factions.
Beijing is also playing a strategic geopolitical card. Anticipating a US disengagement from the region, China has increased its investment and involvement. It has notably sponsored the Saudi-Iran reconciliation and strengthened its ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are the main sponsors of the conflicting groups in Yemen. These connections place China in a strong position to act as a mediator in Yemen, underscoring its ever-growing influence in the Middle East.
Image Credit: AFP – JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD
As the significant festival of Eid Al Adha approaches, communities in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region face a steep obstacle. Escalating livestock prices, propelled by rampant inflation, are placing the central tradition of animal sacrifice under strain.
Eid Al Adha, often referred to as the Festival of Sacrifice, is a key commemoration for Muslims worldwide. It recalls the Quranic tale of the Prophet Ibrahim being commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Ismail – a supreme test of faith, which culminated in the angel Gabriel replacing Ismail with a ram at the final moment.
This ritual sacrifice of livestock, typically sheep, goats, and cows, traditionally takes place before the Eid Al Adha prayer. However, amid skyrocketing prices and inflation, this custom is becoming increasingly taxing.
For Baghdad resident Akeel Hameed, a previous business owner who succumbed to bankruptcy following widespread pro-reform protests and the Covid-19 pandemic, the price surge is palpable. “I, along with everyone else, enjoy making a sacrifice on this occasion, but year on year, it becomes increasingly challenging due to spiralling prices,” he said.
Inflation has seen the cost of most goods surge by at least 50% since the close of 2020 in a nation where the poverty rate stands at 31.7% among its population of 40 million. The meat prices, having risen by no less than 20% on last year’s, are adding further strain to the budgets of those wanting to participate in the age-old tradition.
Community initiatives, such as a local mosque in Mr Hameed’s neighbourhood, are offering more affordable alternatives. These community-led projects collect around 25,000 Iraqi dinars, equivalent to approximately $17, from each resident, allowing the tradition to continue collectively. “This joint approach lessens individual financial stress and promotes a sense of unity and community spirit,” Mr Hameed said.
The ripple effects of inflation are also impacting Eid remittances, with many Muslim individuals, particularly those in Western nations, opting to send money home for the sacrifice to be made on their behalf. The type and size of the sacrificial animal is dictated by each household’s financial status, and many find it cheaper to have the act performed in their home countries.
Naeem Ali, a Pakistani expatriate living in Jeddah, notes the variability in the market: “Depending on their financial circumstances, people buy smaller or larger sacrificial animals. Everyone will distribute and consume according to their abilities and means. It’s costly for us to purchase here, so we send money back home for it.”
Despite the difficulties, many continue to uphold the tradition, with some choosing to utilise official government resources such as the Saudi Adahi portal. Salma Hashem, a Saudi citizen, shared: “I trust the government’s portal, and honestly, it is the most straightforward and quickest transaction. This ensures our funds go to the right place, and meals are distributed by the government too.”
As Muslims worldwide navigate the challenges of maintaining cherished traditions amidst economic pressure, the spirit of unity and sacrifice that characterises Eid Al Adha continues to resonate, even in difficult times.
Image Credit: Rumman Amin on Unsplash
Monday night saw a powerful earthquake strike Turkey, leading to concerns about the possibility of a tsunami affecting various regions in the Mediterranean, including the Balearics. However, the situation has since changed and all tsunami alerts have been lifted by Italy and other regions.
Manuel Regueiro, the President of the Illustrious Association of Geologists (ICOG), initially warned of the potential for a tsunami in the wake of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The quake released energy similar to the explosion of 1.2 million tonnes of trinitrotoluene (TNT) and took place on the southern edge of the Anatolian Plate, a tectonic subplate of the Eurasian Plate.
According to Regueiro, the Eurasian Plate has two major sets of transform faults, with the latest quake being aligned with Cyprus. However, after thorough assessments, it has been concluded that a tsunami in Turkey is unlikely. The earthquake was recorded at a depth of about 7 km by Turkish seismographic services and slightly deeper, about 10 km, by US teams, located about 600 km east of Ankara.
While the recent earthquake in Turkey was indeed powerful, there is no longer any cause for concern regarding a potential tsunami. This is due to the swift actions of various authorities and organizations, who were able to assess the situation and provide accurate updates to the public.
Aftershocks in Turkey
However, aftershocks will continue to shake the area as local faults adjust to such a huge tremor, and scientists say that aftershocks could continue for days, months and even years to come. There is even a possibility, albeit small that an aftershock could be bigger than the original quake itself. Aftershocks are smaller earthquakes that occur after a main shock and are a result of the Earth’s crust adjusting to the changes brought on by the main shock. Although the exact time frame and magnitude of aftershocks cannot be predicted, they are generally considered to be a normal part of the earthquake cycle. Scientists study aftershocks to better understand the behaviour of earthquakes and to help prepare for future earthquakes.
This past Friday, Interior Ministry Spokesman Saad Maan reported on Twitter the death of 22-year-old Tiba al-Ali, who was killed by her father on the 31st of January in the Diwaniya province of the south.
Maan reported that the police had tried to conciliate between al-Ali (who resided in Turkey and was currently in Iraq) and her kin to “come up with a long-term solution to the family conflict”.
Tapes that were not verified seemed to reveal that al-Ali’s father was not pleased with her choice to reside independently in Turkey.
Maan reported that the family’s interaction with law enforcement had been amicable, yet “they were stunned the following day when her father confessed to having taken her life”.
No additional information was provided about what the disagreement entailed.
Al-Ali had cultivated a fanbase on YouTube through her posts, which usually included video clips of her day-to-day activities and her fiancé.
An anonymous source from the police force disclosed to AFP that the “family dispute” was from as far back as 2015.
In 2017, Al-Ali visited Turkey with her family, yet upon their return, she chose not to accompany them, electing to remain in the country instead. According to the police source, she has been living there ever since.
No ‘honor’ can be found in so-called honor killings. Whoever attempts to legitimize the murderer of Tiba is as guilty as the killer, and whoever dishonors Tiba’s life lacks honor.
As of present, no legislation in Iraq has been passed to penalize domestic violence.
In 2014, a legislative proposal on domestic violence was first presented to parliament, though it has seen little advancement since then. Legislators who are against the bill have expressed that it could “deteriorate Iraq’s social makeup”.
The demise of Al-Ali has caused an uproar in Iraq on social networks, prompting mass demonstrations in Baghdad on Sunday to call for justice in the wake of her death.
According to Ala Talabani – a veteran politician – in our societies, women are subject to outdated customs because of the lack of legal consequences and governmental steps – which are not adequate for the magnitude of domestic violence incidents, as she pointed out in a tweet.
Hanaa Edwar, an advocate for human rights, informed AFP that, based on audio files believed to be from the young female, “she had departed her family … because she was sexually assaulted by her brother”.
Amnesty International spoke out against the “terrible” murder, affirming that “the Iraqi penal code continues to be too lenient towards ‘honor crimes’ like physical assault and murder”.
Aya Majzoub, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, commented that, as long as the Iraqi authorities do not pass strong legislation that safeguards women and girls, there will be an ongoing occurrence of ghastly killings.
Image Credit: HAIDAR HAMDANI