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Masoumeh Ebtekar: ‘The whole world was against Iran’

In November 1979, a group of Iranian students took over the United States embassy in Tehran. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days, in what became the longest hostage crisis in modern history.  The students were part of a revolution that overthrew the Shah and replaced his government with the Islamic Republic…

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Masoumeh Ebtekar: ‘The whole world was against Iran’

In November 1979, a group of Iranian students took over the United States embassy in Tehran. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days, in what became the longest hostage crisis in modern history. 

The students were part of a revolution that overthrew the Shah and replaced his government with the Islamic Republic just months earlier.

Any human being reacts to being subjugated to slavery … being subjugated to foreign domination.
Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iranian vice president for Women and Family Affairs

Masoumeh Ebtekar, a prominent figure at the time, was both spokeswoman and translator for the students. Asked by Al Jazeera whether she has any regrets about her involvement with the hostage incident, the Iranian vice president for Women and Family Affairs remains resilient about the intention behind the students’ actions.

“I don’t think any of the students have any regrets because they felt that was a natural reaction. Any human being reacts to being subjugated to slavery … being subjugated to foreign domination. Maybe the only concern or regret that they had was that it could have been resolved quicker,” she says. 

The students had demanded the US government deport the Shah back to Iran to stand trial. The hostages were eventually released in January 1981 and the crisis was over – but not Ebtekar’s career.

After years in academia, she became Iran’s third female member of cabinet in its history, when she was appointed as head of the Department of Environment during former President Mohammad Khatami’s government.

Ebtekar has also served as Tehran’s city councilwoman. In August 2017, President Hassan Rouhani appointed her vice president for Women and Family Affairs.

Forty years after the Iranian revolution, Ebtekar remains a strong believer of the principles she fought for.

Literacy rates and a younger generation of females encouraged to attend both school and university are badges of improvement and Ebtekar claims that challenges are noted and being systematically addressed.

“On the issue of education, the challenge that we have is that we have not addressed life skills properly in our education system,” says Ebtekar. “This is something that we are focusing on specifically. For example, in the elementary or secondary stages, with the college and university system, we’re working on upgrading communication skills among youth. Upgrading their skills to deal with their citizen rights and critical thought. These are life skills which are very important for the young generation.”

As Iran suffers an ongoing economic crisis and sanctions, “again, on behalf of the United States government”, how long can the Iranian people expect to wait for job creation and a release to the stifling economic pressure? 

“Supporting entrepreneurship has been a strategy for us. We have a nationwide project implemented to train young women, particularly women with college degrees, on entrepreneurship skills; 18,000 billion tomans have been given in villages,” says Ebtekar of the Iranian government’s plans to ease economic hardships. 

“I think that people have learned how to increase their resilience in difficult times,” she continues. “This nation has withstood a war in which the whole world was practically against Iran when Saddam [Hussein] attacked. They have learned to be patient and to strengthen their internal capacities.” 

Asked whether Iran has progressed in the way she had hoped, since the refugee crisis and the start of her public career, Ebtekar is hopeful for the future. 

“I think we’ve moved ahead but there is still a long way to go to achieve those sublime goals. We still have a lot to do.”
Source: Al Jazeera

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Children killed in attack on Cameroonian school

Assailants storm private school in city of Kumba, Southwest Region, killing at least four students.Attackers have opened fire on a private school in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing at least four children, according to officials. The unknown assailants stormed the Mother Francisca School in the city of Kumba on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of…

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Children killed in attack on Cameroonian school

Assailants storm private school in city of Kumba, Southwest Region, killing at least four students.Attackers have opened fire on a private school in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing at least four children, according to officials.
The unknown assailants stormed the Mother Francisca School in the city of Kumba on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
“They attacked around noon. They found the children in a class and they opened fire on them,” Kumba sub-prefect Ali Anougou told the Reuters news agency.
At least nine other students were wounded and sent to the hospital. There were fears the death toll could rise.
The Associated Press news agency quoted Anougou as blaming separatists who have been fighting the military in parts of western Cameroon for the attack.

Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions – the Northwest and Southwest Regions – are home to a large minority of English speakers in a country where French speakers are the overwhelming majority – a situation that is the legacy of the decolonisation of western Africa by France and Britain more than 60 years ago.
In late 2016, long-standing complaints of political and economic discrimination against English speakers by the central government spilled over when lawyers, students and teachers began calling for reforms.
The government’s lethal response to the protests provoked rebels to declare in 2017 independence for a region they call “Ambazonia”, triggering a stronger crackdown by the authorities.
Both sides have since been accused of committing atrocities in a conflict that has killed some 3,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya’s government.
Last year, officials blamed separatists for kidnapping dozens of schoolchildren, charges the separatists denied.

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Vietnamese envoy hails KRCS’ global humanitarian efforts

KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation…

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Vietnamese envoy hails KRCS’ global humanitarian efforts

KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation for the society’s aid to the Vietnamese Embassy during the coronavirus crisis.

The ambassador added that they discussed providing his country with aid to face the impact of the recent floods and landslides, considered to be the worst in decades. Sayer said he was pleased with the ambassador’s visit and affirmed that KRCS will continue exerting humanitarian efforts to aid those affected by natural disasters and crises everywhere. – KUNA

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Pain, frustration: Expats lose jobs to new rules and COVID

File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the…

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Pain, frustration: Expats lose jobs to new rules and COVID

File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel

After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the government sector who were being laid off.

As part of its Kuwaitization policy, Kuwait is replacing expats with locals in the government sector. The government has also stopped issuing work permits to expats over 60 years of age without a university degree. These new rules have had a huge impact on the lives of thousands of expats in the country, leaving many with no choice but to pack their bags and leave.

Gulf countries are facing an exodus of foreign workers as the coronavirus pandemic pushes out foreign workers. In the midst of the COVID-19 and financial crunch, the National Assembly approved a draft law to slash expat numbers over the next five years.

As the budget deficit widens and economic conditions worsen, Kuwait is grappling with an economic downturn as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world. The combined shock of collapsing oil prices, the pandemic and joblessness is reshaping labor policies in the region, thus bringing anti-foreigner sentiments to the fore again.

While Kuwait’s expats struggle to secure their jobs, the government is calling for an increase in workforce nationalization in government entities. “Why will foreigners take the jobs meant for us (Kuwaitis)? They can work anywhere – but not in the ministries,” argued Abdullah, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti.

Buttressing Abdullah’s viewpoint, Fatma, an unemployed Kuwaiti woman, complained of the difficulty in competing with foreign workers for jobs in the private sector. “Foreign workers can work longer for less, unlike us Kuwaitis. So most companies prefer to hire non-Kuwaitis. This leaves us with only one sector (the public sector). I think this is why the government introduced Kuwaitization, so as to give unemployed Kuwaitis an opportunity,” she explained.

For Lyon, justice and fairness should override anti-expat sentiments. “It is understandable that ministries would give preference to locals for jobs during these tough times, but it would be fair to consider the efforts of the old staff who have put in their best to build this country,” Lyon, 61, and some of his co-workers who were laid off recently lamented, as they worry about their future.

Expats make up the majority of the population of Kuwait. Residency is tied to employment and Kuwait does not easily offer citizenship routes to non-nationals. “We have been here (in Kuwait) legally for over 20 years. It will be difficult to go back and start afresh in our home countries. More so, Kuwait’s residency is linked to the work permit – when you lose your job, you automatically lose your residency. I worry about my children who are still in school. The three-month notice will not be enough to relocate them,” Mustapha, an Egyptian expat who recently lost his job, said in dismay.

Abdurazak Hamad, an African expat, is in a dilemma. “I feel miserable leaving my family behind. I don’t want to go alone, but I can’t make my wife quit her KD 450 job since she is now the sole breadwinner. Starting afresh in my home country at this age (62) will be very difficult. I wish I can get a permit (residency) to stay here with my family,” said Hamad, who was recently sacked.

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