LEBANON REPATRIATES REFUGEES BACK TO SYRIA
Lebanon on October 27 said it had secured the voluntary return of 511 refugees to Syria, in coordination with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “The refugees returned aboard vehicles secured by the Syrian authorities,” the Lebanese General Security Directorate said in a statement. On October 26, the Lebanese authorities resumed the repatriation of Syrian refugees to their home country, after a 3-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Lebanese government plans to return 15,000 Syrian refugees to Syria every month, but the scheme was met with criticism from the United Nations, which says that security in Syria has not yet been restored. Lebanon hosts around 1.5 million Syrian refugees, about 900,000 of whom are registered at UNHCR. Most of the refugees suffer from tough living conditions, especially with the exacerbation of the Lebanese economic crisis, on one hand, and the global economic crisis, on the other.
NEW GOVERNMENT FORMED IN IRAQ AFTER NEARLY 13 MONTHS
Iraq formed its new government after almost 13 months. Iraqi lawmakers met to decide on the new government of the country and the government was formed as the parliament gave a confidence vote to the Cabinet led by Mohammed Shia al-Sudani. The Turkish Foreign Ministry welcomed the newly formed Iraqi government. Earlier this month, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, who was designated as Iraq’s prime minister, was assigned to form the country’s new government after months of political instability. Iraq’s lawmakers elected Abdul Latif Rashid on October 20 by a vote of 162-99, succeeding Barham Salih, who had been president since 2018. Iraqi parties have been unable to agree on the formation of the country’s new government since last year’s general elections. Under a political norm in Iraq since 2006, a Kurdish candidate is elected the president, while a Sunni heads the parliament and a Shia takes the role of the prime minister.
IRAN SANCTIONS EU OFFICIALS, ENTITIES AMID PROTESTS
In a tit-for-tat move, Iran on October 26 sanctioned several European Union officials and entities for “supporting terrorism” amid ongoing protests over the death of a young Iranian woman in police custody. The Foreign Ministry released a list that includes EU lawmakers, advocacy groups, and media outlets accused by Tehran of “causing unrest” in the country and “promoting and inciting terrorism and violence and spreading hate”. The list features organisations such as the European Parliament’s Friends of a Free Iran, Brussels-based International Committee in Search of Justice, Berlin-based NGO Stop the Bomb, Germany’s Deutsche Welle Persian, RFI Persian network of France, and French International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, among others. The individuals designated include Alejo Vidal Quadras, President of the International Committee in Search of Justice, Javier Zarazlejos, co-chairman of Friends of a Free Iran, members of the European Parliament Charlie Weimers, Jan Zahradil, and editor of Germany’s Bild newspaper Johannes Boie, among others. The sanctions include a ban on visas to the designated individuals and the seizure of their properties and assets in the territory under the jurisdiction of the Iranian government.
MASS ARRESTS IN WEST BANK
Israeli troops arrested more than 40 Palestinians in sweeping military raids across the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip overnight on October 27. The arrests focused on the town of Beit Ummar in the Hebron governorate, where 19 people were detained, including minors, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. Others were held in Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, Jenin and occupied East Jerusalem. Five fishermen were detained at dawn by the Israeli navy in al-Sudaniya, northern Gaza. According to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, a high proportion of Thursday’s arrests were children and young boys. The monitoring group said the escalation was a form of “collective punishment”, and included the re-arrest of several former prisoners. The Israeli army has been criticised for the closures, which have disrupted the lives of more than 200,000 Palestinians living in the area. “Restricting the movement of more than 200,000 Palestinians has paralysed life in the area, forcing hundreds of businesses to stop operating and harming the livelihoods of all their dependents,” Israeli human rights group B’tselem said on October 27.
YEMEN FARMERS TURN TO PLANTING WHEAT AS PRICES BITE
Some Yemeni farmers have turned to planting their own wheat as global disruptions dent imports and send prices soaring in Yemen, where a seven-year conflict has pushed people deeper into poverty and left millions hungry. Farmer, Khaled Maasar, said most Yemenis cannot afford foreign wheat with prices rising to some 20,000 riyals, equivalent to $33. Food price inflation had already doubled in just two years in some parts of the country. “If the farmer works in the field and this gets him an income – then this is a great blessing. This is what is pushing people back to farming wheat,” he said. “As a result of the Ukrainian crisis, people who never planted crops before have now started to cultivate (wheat) in their lands,” said farmer, Abdo Mohsn Sinan. “Now people are making use of their lands, which is better than relying on imports.”
BRITISH INFLUENCER ANDREW TATE REVERTS TO ISLAM
Former kickboxer and controversial internet personality Andrew Tate has announced his conversion to Islam through his official account on Gettr social media. In his announcement, he revealed his reason for converting to Islam by saying that every Christian who believes in good and understands the battle against evil must convert. The former British Kickboxer, now based in the UAE, closed his announcement by quoting one of the Holy Qur’ān’s verses, “Indeed the promise of Allah is Truth”. The day before the announcement, a video of Tate being seen learning how to perform the prayer, said to be recorded at a mosque in the UAE, went viral on Facebook and Twitter. The video was shared on the official Facebook account of former MMA fighter Tam Khan, that explained in the caption that he recorded the video and appeared to confirm that Tate had said the shahada.
EGYPT’S CURRENCY HITS RECORD LOW AS IMF LOAN DEAL SECURED
Egypt’s currency hit a record low against the US dollar on October 27, reaching over 23 pounds to $1 as the country secured a new loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The rapid dip from the opening level of 19.67 EGP to the dollar came after the central bank raised interest rates by 200 basis points as a part of a new exchange rate regime. The central bank said it was set on intensifying economic reforms, and had “moved to a durably flexible exchange rate regime, leaving the forces of supply and demand to determine the value of the EGP against other foreign currencies”. The policy shift came in a bid to secure a new loan from the IMF after Egypt’s economic woes deepened due to the war in Ukraine. The fund has long been urging Egypt to allow greater exchange rate flexibility. Against the backdrop of the 15 percent currency depreciation, the government said it had clinched a $3bn loan agreement with the IMF over the next three years and eight months.