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‘Game show’: Iranian candidates slam debate format, trade barbs | Elections News

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Tehran, Iran – The seven men running to become Iran’s president have once again traded barbs in their second debate, while also criticising state television for the way the sessions are being conducted.

Several of the candidates, both conservative and moderate, recognised that the peculiar format of the debates – the first of which was held on Saturday – stifle meaningful dialogue on the major issues at hand ahead of the June 18 polls.

In Tuesday’s three-hour debate, each candidate was randomly posed a question and then had four minutes to reply, after which his microphone was automatically turned off. Throughout the broadcast, candidates also had two four-minute sessions to address other candidates and their programmes, as well as two three-minute periods to defend themselves and their plans.

The event, which was on political and social issues, incorporated no moderation. The only authority given to the presenter was to point out to candidates that they are straying from the question posed to them.

Abdolnaser Hemmati, a moderate who was recently dismissed as the governor of the central bank in order to be able to run for president, said the debates, with their random selection of questions and shallow conversations, look like a “weekly game show”.

Conservative Saeed Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator and senior security official, said the current format “does nothing to help people choose” between candidates, and called for changes in the third and final debate scheduled for next Saturday.

Mohsen Rezaei, former commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, concurred with Jalili, while lawmaker Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi criticised the lack of diversity in the questions chosen by state television.

Key issues absent

The format also meant that some of the most important questions – including how to handle Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and how to manage United States sanctions – were quickly glossed over.

The question on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal is formally known, was posed to reformist candidate Mohsen Mehralizadeh.

He spent less than one minute answering the question, only to say he supported restoring the accord, which the US unilaterally abandoned in 2018, and for which a sixth round of talks will be held in Vienna later this week.

Mehralizadeh chose to spend the rest of his time once more calling into question the qualifications of frontrunner candidate Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s conservative chief justice, who disputed the claim that he has only six grades of classical education.

Raisi, who has also been touted as a main candidate to replace Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei when he passes away, said he boasted the “strong will” to improve the country’s economy and lift US sanctions.

“But at the same time, we need to nullify sanctions and make the economy self-sufficient in a way that no sanctions or corona[virus] or floods and earthquakes could shake it,” he said.

 

Another major issue largely absent from the debate was the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 81,000 people in Iran, the biggest official death toll in the Middle East.

Several candidates briefly mentioned the pandemic, mostly to criticise outgoing President Hassan Rouhani’s handling and to promise they will rein it in.

“Our [state] television never reports from North Korea, Vietnam or China and how low their death tolls are,” protested lawmaker Ghazizadeh, saying those countries benefit from “strong leaders” that lead the way.

Rezaei, a conservative, said the Iranian people were living under “the most difficult conditions” since the eight-year war with neighbouring Iraq that ended in 1988, in an economy defined by inflation, unemployment and instability.

Hardline lawmaker Alireza Zakani promised to “eradicate poverty” and pay monthly cash handouts to young people who struggle to find a job.

Tuesday’s debate again saw the two moderates pitted against the five conservative and hardline candidates. Moderate Hemmati once more claimed that the five others are all covering for Raisi to become president.

The barbs come amid a controversial election cycle that is expected to be capped with low voter turnout due to public dissatisfaction.

The seven candidates were cleared to run while 585 other aspirants were disqualified by the Guardian Council, a powerful 12-member constitutional vetting body that reports to the supreme leader.

Khamenei said last week that some of the excluded figures were “wronged”, in an apparent reference to former three-time parliament speaker Ali Larijani, but his comments did not change the council’s decision.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Pakistan FM accuses previous gov’t of ‘mishandling’ Jadhav case | India News

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Shah Mehmood Qureshi says the bill passed by Parliament last week aims at bringing Pakistani laws in line with orders from the International Court of Justice.

Pakistan’s foreign minister has blamed the country’s previous government for “mishandling” the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national convicted for spying by a Pakistani military court four years ago, as legislation related to the cases passes up to Pakistan’s Senate.

Speaking to the media in the Pakistani city of Multan on Sunday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said a bill passed by the lower house of parliament last week was aimed at complying with orders from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and to deprive India of an opportunity to have Pakistan “dragged back” to the court.

“The PML-N are the ones who mishandled the Kulbhushan Jadhav case,” he said, referring to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, a main opposition political party.

“The steps we have taken are in order to comply with the International Court of Justice’s orders and recommendations.”

Qureshi’s comments follow a noisy debate on the bill in Parliament on Thursday, with both treasury and opposition benches accusing each other of incompetence in the handling of the case.

Jadhav was arrested by Pakistani security forces in March 2016, and convicted a year later by a military court for espionage and facilitating attacks by armed groups on Pakistani soil.

At the time of his arrest, the military released a video of Jadhav appearing to confess to having operated a network of operatives to conduct attacks in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province.

In July 2019, after a petition lodged by India, the ICJ ordered Pakistan to allow Jadhav full and unimpeded consular access to Indian officials but rejected an Indian plea for his conviction to be dismissed.

The court also ordered that Jadhav be given the right of review and reconsideration of his conviction before a civilian court.

The bill passed by Pakistan’s lower house of parliament on Thursday gives foreign nationals convicted by military courts in Pakistan the right to file an appeal before a high court, as well as to file petitions seeking consular access.

India’s government has not so far remarked on the passage of the bill, which will also have to be voted on by the upper house of parliament before it becomes law.

In August 2020, India’s foreign ministry said New Delhi had asked Pakistan to allow an Indian lawyer to represent Jadhav in his appeals.

In defence of the bill, on Sunday, Qureshi said: “India wants that [Jadhav] not be given consular access, and on that excuse, Pakistan be dragged back into the International Court of Justice,” he said.

“This is what India wants. I hope that our opposition members will not misunderstand things and will understand India’s plan.”

India’s foreign ministry has not commented on Qureshi’s accusation.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Rwandan Army Releases Abducted UPDF Soldier – Here is How He Got in Trouble

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Private Bakulu Muhuba has regained his freedom following his release by Rwandan security. According to the Rwanda government, Muhuba who is attached to the 32nd Battalion Nyakabande in Kisoro district was arrested by Rwanda Defense Force-RDF soldiers at around 2:45pm on Sunday while loitering in Kamanyana-Majyambere village, Cyanika sector in Burera district, Northern Province.

RDF soldiers on patrol intercepted Muhuba while donning a UPDF uniform and carrying a Medium Machine Gun (MMG) with 100 rounds of ammunition, a binocular, cell phone, and his military identification documents. However, a Ugandan security official at Chanika border who preferred anonymity refuted Rwanda’s claims saying that Muhuba was in a group of fellow UPDF soldiers while patrolling the Ugandan side of Chanika border on Saturday evening at around 5:50pm but stayed behind to make a short call.

He says that he later fell in an ambush of Rwandan soldiers who had crossed to the Ugandan side. They placed him at gunpoint and whisked him off to Rwanda. At around 9:00pm on Sunday evening, Rwandan security officials repatriated Muhuba and handed him over to Ugandan security officials at the no man’s land at Chanika border.

They also handed over a Medium Machine Gun (MMG) with 100 rounds of ammunition, binocular, cell phone and the military identification documents recovered from Muhuba. Captain Peter Mugisha, the Kisoro Resident District Commissioner witnessed the repatriation and hailed RDF for releasing Muhuba unhurt. Such incidents are common along the Uganda-Rwanda border.

On May 25, this year, two RDF soldiers crossed to Kazaza and Mukayaga villages in the Kamwezi sub-county, Rukiga district. The soldiers who included a captain and his two escorts crossed to Uganda in pursuit of Waragi smugglers.

The soldiers returned to Rwanda without being arrested by Ugandan security authorities. The governments of Uganda and Rwanda have been feuding since 2019. On February 27, Rwandan President Paul Kagame issued a travel advisory to his nationals against travelling to Uganda, saying their safety is not guaranteed.

He accused Ugandan authorities of abducting its citizens and locking them up in non-designated areas. Kagame also accused Uganda of hosting and facilitating dissidents especially from Rwanda National Congress-RNC and the Democratic Forces for the liberation of Rwanda FDLR, which have declared war on the Kigali government.

The Rwandan authorities advised the truck drivers to use the Mirama Hill border in Ntungamo district. The border closure took a huge toll on truck drivers and suffocated business along the border especially Katuna and Chanika town. This led to an increase in smuggling along the border with most Rwandan nationals crossing to Uganda through porous border points to buy food.

Rwandan authorities on accusations of smuggling have shot dead at least eight people including Ugandan and Rwandan nationals. On July 30, 2019, President Museveni told journalists at Kabale State Lodge that they are discussing the impasse with his Rwandan counterpart. However to date, the negotiations mediated by the Angolan President João Lourenço and his Democratic Republic of Congo counterpart Félix Tshisekedi, are yet to bear positive results.

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Source – thetowerpost.com

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Trauma and mental health in Gaza | Mental Health

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The May 20 ceasefire between the Israeli government and Hamas brought the latest round of conflict in the region to an end and led to a collective sigh of relief from the beleaguered Palestinians of the Gaza Strip.

But the deep wounds the violence opened remain fresh.

Eleven days of Israeli bombardment on the besieged enclave left 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, dead. Nearly 2,000 have been injured. Homes, offices and hospitals have been destroyed.

As the fragile ceasefire appears to hold, those who survived the conflict are once again trying to rebuild their lives. But the damage inflicted during those 11 days was not only physical and material. The mental health of Palestinians in Gaza was also bombarded during those dark days.

Living in fear of the next air attack, the spectre of death looming. Losing loved ones and homes. It is hard to imagine how utterly traumatising their reality has been.

Residents of Gaza have been enduring layer upon layer of trauma for decades. The deadly Israeli onslaughts are the most damaging – four in the last 14 years – but they occur against the background of chronic trauma imposed by the occupation.

Atrocities like the seizure and demolition of homes, oppressive policing, unlawful killings, detention without trial and torture all inflict profound psychological damage. Such perpetual subjugation can destroy self-esteem and leave victims in a state of “learned helplessness” – resigned to their fate and vulnerable to depression.

Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza also amounts to a psychological stranglehold. The resulting economic deprivation has caused widespread unemployment and poverty – well-recognised risk factors for mental illness – and left health services underfunded, underdeveloped and unable to meet the demand. Each war on Gaza decimates them further – at least six hospitals, two clinics, a health centre and a Palestine Red Crescent Society facility sustained damage this time.

For most other countries, COVID-19 is currently the primary public and mental health concern. In Palestine, it is almost an afterthought, superseded by more dangerous assailants – air attacks and oppression. Nonetheless, more than 110,000 people in Gaza have been infected with the virus thus far, with more than 1,000 deaths. There are only enough doses available to vaccinate 60,200 people in a population of more than 2 million. So pandemic anxiety is also rampant in Gaza, adding to the mental burden.

All this turmoil translates to actual mental illness. In Gaza, rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which features disrupted sleep, feeling permanently on edge and easily startled, flashbacks and nightmares of the trauma and emotional numbing – are incredibly high. A 2017 study found 37 percent of the adults living on the Strip qualify for the diagnosis.

In my work as a psychiatrist, I have treated refugees with PTSD from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It can be severe, complex and protracted. It would be almost impossible to start the healing while the root causes persist. The head of mental health services in Palestine once said her people do not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because their trauma is ongoing. Present-traumatic stress disorder may be a more fitting description of their experience.

As is often the case in these situations, children suffer the most in Palestine. A study conducted in 2020, before the latest conflict, found that 53.5 per cent of children in Gaza were suffering from PTSD. Nearly 90 percent had experienced personal trauma. The Norwegian Refugee Council reported the devastating news that 11 of the children killed by the recent Israeli air attacks were participating in its trauma programme. No wonder UN Secretary-General António Guterres described Gaza as “hell on earth” for children.

Of course, Israelis have suffered too. Twelve were killed by Hamas rockets in May, two of them children – a tragic loss of human life. But for the Israelis, the Iron Dome defence system and bomb shelters provide a vital safety net and sense of security that Palestinians live without. Their highly developed healthcare services are far better equipped to deal with both physical injuries and the psychological impact of rocket fire. They are not living through the mental anguish of occupation either. All this is reflected in their lower PTSD rates, ranging from 0.5 to 9 percent of the population.

Back in 2008, I went on a trip to post-conflict Somaliland to teach psychiatry to medical students. The civil war affecting the area ended in 1991 but its effects on the mental health of the population and health infrastructure were still evident some 17 years later. They still continue to this day. It will take time to rebuild the fragmented minds and health services in Gaza, but there is little hope for them until Israel ends its illegal occupation, settlement expansion and blockade on Gaza.

The oppression of Palestinians has led Human Rights Watch to the conclusion that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid. Perhaps viewing this situation through the prism of human rights violations and their grave impact on mental health might prompt the international community to pressure Israel to act. Palestinians and Israelis both deserve security and protection from trauma. The best way to achieve this is by affording Palestinians their basic human rights.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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