Immortalising Syria’s disappeared with chicken bones, sauce and blood

Confined in a series of brutal prisons of Syria for over a year, Mansour Omari, a human-rights activist fighting for freedom of speech, set out to do exactly what he had been imprisoned for in the first place – chronicle Syria’s missing and disappeared, and how!

After witnessing the atrocities on those languishing in the country’s notorious prisons, Omari began listing the names of 82 inmates on panels of fabric, which he would then sew into the collar and cuffs of a shirt. Omari and four of his fellow inmates would use fabric carefully cut from the back of their shirts, used chicken bones as pens, and tomato sauce was used as ink. If the sauce proved too thin, there was always blood from their gums to write the names of the “missing” — all in the hope of informing the family members of inmates of their fate.

Transgender service members hit back at Trump 

Three army soldiers, one air force airman and one member of the Coast Guard are suing  Donald Trump. All of them happen to be transgender members of the US military, who are obviously irked by the president’s abrupt three-tweet plan to stop transgender individuals from serving.

Out of nowhere, Trump had tweeted last month that the US “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military” – only to have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff immediately contradict him. The policy of who serves in the military would not change until the White House sent the Defense Department new rules, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said. Yet, the peeved transgender community is in no mood to sit back and wait.

“It is critical to act now because the harms are happening now…These service members deserve to know where they stand,” the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights said.

Palestine’s leadership is ageing and ailing

It’s an urgent – possibly now or never – moment in a century-plus old conflict. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has held onto power in the region, and despite the antagonistic posturing, Israel’s security establishment likes him too. But he is now 83, and ailing. What’s worse is that his chief peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who is the front-runner to be his successor, is also suffering from pulmonary fibrosis and needs a lung transplant – raising concerns about what’s next for the troubled region.

From the looks of it, the Palestinians will manage. It is not as though they do not have the wherewithal for a transition. Besides, Israel has a stake in stability is Palestine – and an obvious interest in ensuring that there is no full-blown fighting between Abbas’ Fatah party and Hamas, the Islamist movement controlling Gaza. Whether they can pull off a peaceful transition is the more vital question.

Zimbabwe’s ‘populism that defies logic’

He was accused of leading Zimbabwe to the brink of economic collapse. Now, the country is dedicating a $1 billion university to Robert Mugabe, its 93-year old president. The eponymous university would be a “fitting tribute” to the president’s “commitment to education and his exemplary leadership”, Zimbabwe’s minister of tertiary education said.

The opposition is obviously not pleased. “This is populism that defies logic…It is meant to stroke Mugabe’s ego because we know this government is broke”, an opposition spokesperson said. He isn’t wrong.

The announcement has instantly raised questions over where this money will actually come from in a country where unemployment and poverty are rampant. Once known as the breadbasket of Africa, 4 million Zimbabweans were in need of food aid last year. The nation’s economic output has halved since 2000, and 90 percent of the country’s budget is spent just on wages.

The game’s on for Qatar

Qatar just unveiled a draft law that would do something unprecedented in the Persian Gulf: allow foreigners to acquire permanent residency. The move is possibly Doha’s attempt to thwart the economic blockade by giving both foreign workers and investors incentive to choose the tiny country as the region’s business hub.

While the Gulf countries are heavily dependent on foreign workers, they rarely, if ever, grant them citizenships or other privileges afforded to their nationals. The draft also seeks to upend a patriarchal practice when it comes to granting citizenship, by giving permanent residency to the children of Qatari mothers and non-Qatari fathers. The Saudi-led bloc sought to boycott Qatar into submission. It has instead led Doha to wean itself off its dependence on its neighbours almost entirely, and unleash reforms that could reshape the region for years to come.


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