The World Economic Forum in 5 Charts that Bust some Myths about Migration gives a clear idea as to how the current population flows are shaping, thus directly affecting all countries. Will this phenomenon be felt differently in the MENA region? For starters, a good number of this region’s populations are within the highest contributors to the in or outflows of migrants. In any case, reading the WEF article before any discussion is seriously recommended.
There is widespread misinformation about international migrants and migration, especially in Europe and North America.
The United States, Germany and Saudi Arabia are the top destinations for international migrants.
Most international migrants in Asia and Africa move within the region in which they were born.
Cross-border displacement is pronounced and complex in Africa.
Few issues have been as dominant and enduring in political and public discourse as migration. Around the world, but especially in Europe and North America, international migration has come into sharp focus in recent years, becoming one of the most prominent political wedge issues.
Media reports on migration are often unduly negative, and key issues in migration have too often been hijacked by those who peddle misinformation and disinformation on migrants and migration.
At a time when “fake news” is increasing and more countries are adopting nationalist frameworks, the data and information in the recently released World Migration Report 2020 provides a more accurate picture of international migration and displacement.
Here are five charts dispelling migration misinformation.
1. Where do international migrants come from and where do they live?
Historically, the United States has been the major destination country for international migrants. This trend continued in 2019, with an estimated 51 million international migrants living in the country, the largest population of them in the world. Despite the highly politicized negative rhetoric on migrants, the US has been the most significant destination country for decades, with many migrants positively and disproportionately contributing to aspects of American life.
Germany and Saudi Arabia, both with around 13 million international migrants in 2019, were the second- and third-largest destinations for international migrants, with displacement from Syria driving much of the recent increase in Germany’s international migrant population.
India, Mexico and China topped the list of countries with the largest number of migrants living abroad in 2019. More than 40% of international migrants worldwide were born in Asia, with India alone the origin of 17.5 million.
2. Migration patterns are not uniform and vary across regions.
As migration has gained prominence in recent years, it has become increasingly clear there is either a lack of understanding or, at times, deliberate misrepresentation of some migration trends. A common assumption, for example, is that most African international migrants leave the continent. The data shows otherwise. Most international migrants in regions such as Africa and Asia are not headed to Europe or Northern America, but move within the region in which they were born.
3. What do the main migration corridors show?
The largest migration corridor in the world (Mexico to the United States) did not emerge recently. Contrary to popular media and political representations, Mexican emigration to the United States has occurred over many decades.
But the second-largest corridor in the world, Syria to Turkey, has developed only recently. The conflict in Syria has resulted in mass displacement, forcing millions of Syrians to leave their country. An estimated 3.7 million Syrians were residing in Turkey in 2019.
Meanwhile, other large corridors, such as the one between India and Pakistan, are partly due to historical events such as the mass displacement during the 1947 partition.
4. Which countries host the largest number of refugees?
Developing countries continue to host the majority of refugees globally. Of an estimated 25.9 million refugees globally in 2018, developing regions hosted the vast number (84%). Turkey and Germany were the only two countries out of the top five refugee hosts that were not developing countries, with the former hosting the largest number of refugees in the world (3.7 million), many of whom are Syrians. Turkey was followed by Pakistan, which was home to around 1.4 million refugees (mostly Afghans), while Uganda hosted the third-largest number (1.1 million).
Syria is by far the largest origin country of refugees in the world (6.7 million). But in 2010, Syria was the third-largest host country of refugees in the world, hosting more than 1 million refugees, mainly from Iraq.
5. Cross-border displacement is complex in regions such as Africa.
While cross-border displacement remains significant in many parts of the world, it is especially pronounced in Africa. The intractable conflict in South Sudan, which has dragged on for years, produced the largest number of refugees on the continent in 2018, with most hosted in neighboring Uganda.
What is especially striking, however, is that several countries producing large numbers of refugees, such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, also hosted significant refugee populations. This underscores the complexity of displacement in regions such as Africa. To a lesser extent, these dynamics can also be seen in Asia, particularly in Iraq.
What is clear from these five charts is that international migration is not only complex and influenced by both historical and contemporary factors, but that migration patterns are also different across regions and countries. Understanding these dynamics is important for anyone interested in getting a clearer and less myopic picture of international migration. Importantly, a broader and more complete understanding is key to dispelling migration myths, especially in our current age when airwaves are saturated with untruths masqueraded as facts.
Around 3,300 years ago, the port city of Ugarit was a vibrant urban centre, located strategically on the overland network linking Egypt with Asia Minor and on the route between Persia and India in the east and Greece and Cyprus in the west. The city’s origins date back to 3000BC and the first alphabet and alphabetic writing system are believed to have developed there in the 14th century BC.
Today Ugarit is a Bronze Age archaeological site in northwest Syria, first excavated in 1929. It can tell us a huge amount about the past, but Ugarit is also a place in its own right. The conservation of the site needs to help us understand the site’s history, as well as preserving and restoring what remains. Our work on virtual reality and reconstruction can meet both these goals.
Although only 30% of Ugarit has been excavated, the discovered areas give clues about the organisation of the city. The buildings include royal palaces, large houses, tombs, sanctuaries, public buildings and temples. Ugarit’s golden age was between the 14th and 12th century BC, and the excavated ruins show that interesting political, social and economic evolution took place in the city.
The royal area shows evidence of a developed political system, with complex defensive architecture and a well-structured palace. Domestic areas reveal important information about the Ugaritic people’s everyday life and their veneration of the dead. However, the structures are in a ruined condition and some are deteriorating, thanks to being exposed for more than 90 years with only minimal maintenance and repair work.
A shift toward using virtual technologies as preservation methods to document historic sites and provide educational opportunities has taken place in recent years. This prevents misguided architectural conservation, which can damage a site.
Augmented reality can project reconstructions onto archaeological ruins, such as at the medieval village of Ename in Belgium. Elsewhere, virtual reconstruction has produced 3D textured models, including of the “Sala dello Scrutinio” at the Doges’ Palace in Venice.
We have used computer-aided design modelling to test out conservation options for Ugarit and to investigate the effects of possible conservation interventions on the ruins. This led to changes in design concepts and materials to better fit the aims of the conservation.
Preserving a sacred route
Excavations have revealed a key sacred route that linked the Royal Palace with the main Temple of Baal and passed through public areas of Ugarit. Researchers believe that the king followed this sacred path to practice cult sacrifices at the temple.
The route contains important tangible elements, such as the remains of the palace, houses, and the temple, for example. But the conservation strategy also intends to reconstruct the intangible aspects of the route – the monumental fortifications, the scale of the temple, and the experience of walking the sacred path, all of which cannot be easily grasped from the remaining ruins.
Virtual reconstruction is an effective tool to assess these proposals and judge their ability to protect the ruins, as well as revealing intangible aspects, such as the atmosphere of a street, which are lost to time. We have developed virtual tours which create an opportunity for screen displays to be installed on the site before the actual proposal is implemented.
These virtual tours include an area of the site that historically featured a plaza and tavern. Here the conservation approach includes the creation of a social and entertaining hub. This will allow the urban environment of the plaza and the dim and cosy interior of the tavern to be restored.
The tours provide reliable evidence for the second stage of the conservation proposal, the design stage and community consultation. However, the political situation in Syria has put the consultation process on hold.
This political situation also means that it is not possible to visit Ugarit at the moment – a position shared by hundreds of archaeological sites around the world. So the virtual reconstructions serve another purpose: they allow those interested a glimpse of this fascinating city and provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the site’s cultural importance with an international audience.
The Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (Seven), established by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and mandated to invest, develop and operate entertainment destinations in Saudi Arabia, has announced the expansion of new entertainment complexes to prime locations across the kingdom.
RIYADH, These will delight residents and tourists alike and contribute to positioning Saudi Arabia as a hub for entertainment and leisure, said a statement from Seven.
The entertainment complexes will meet the fast-growing tourism sector and contribute to realising the goals outlined in Saudi Vision 2030, it stated.
These projects are being developed in key strategic geographic locations, providing large resident populations with innovative leisure choices that will appeal to all the family. Each complex will feature several entertainment and leisure choices including cinemas, play areas, rides, food and beverage (F&B) outlets, attractions and more, it added.
Chairman Abdullah Al Dawood said Seven is building the entertainment ecosystem of the kingdom, having already opened the first cinema in Saudi Arabia in 35 years.
“We have a clearly structured development plan to build 20 entertainment destinations, 50 cinemas and two large theme parks in prime locations across the kingdom,” stated Al Dawood.
In Jeddah, Seven will develop several entertainment complexes adding to the leisure choices for over four million residents and visitors.
With entertainment complexes coming up by the azure waters of the Red Sea as well as in areas that are popular among residents, the leisure ecosystem of Jeddah will witness a dramatic transformation.
In line with the vision of the leadership to offer more attractions that add to the quality of life of residents and visitors to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, Seven will open new entertainment complexes.
Another addition is in Taif, the fifth biggest city in Saudi Arabia and the unofficial ‘summer capital’, where the cool climes draw people to its location on the slopes of the Sarawat Mountains.
Known as the spring by the sea for its popularity among tourists as a scuba-diving destination with white sandy shores, Yanbu is another strategic location. With easy connectivity from Riyadh and Dammam, Al-Kharj will also feature a Seven entertainment complex.
Another area which will feature a project by Seven will be Buraydah, located in the centre of Saudi Arabia, said the statement from Seven.
Abha and Khamis, set in the Asir Mountains and known for equitable all-year weather, will also have new entertainment complexes by Seven, adding to their touristic value.
The port city of Jazan by the Red Sea, serving as a large agricultural heartland of the kingdom, features several ambitious infrastructure projects and is another natural choice for Seven – along with Tabuk, one of the historic sites, rich in rock art, archeological sites, castles and mosques.
Adding to the entertainment ecosystem of the capital city of Riyadh is the development of the entertainment complex at Al Hamra that will serve the densely populated neighbourhoods in the north-east of Riyadh.
At the intersection of King Abdullah Road and East Ring Road, the project will serve over 2.5 million people within a radius of a 30-minute drive. Another exciting upcoming addition to Riyadh is the entertainment complex at Al Nahda, with the Nahda Park Metro Station just a few metres away. Announced last year, work on these projects is progressing as per schedule.
Further adding to the communities of Dammam and Al Khobar, which serve as vital hubs for several key industries and global businesses, Seven is bringing waterfront attractions that will create unforgettable moments of joyful entertainment for everyone. Announced last year, these projects will also offer a range of entertainment choices for residents and visitors.
“We are committed to realising the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 to accelerate the creation of world-class entertainment assets in the Kingdom that support economic diversification, create new jobs, and contribute to socio-economic progress. Our complexes will position the kingdom as an entertainment, culture and tourism hub of the region,” he stated.
“At Seven, we believe in promoting and creating opportunities for the private sector to thrive in the fast-evolving entertainment landscape of the kingdom,” noted Al Dawood.
“We are inviting the most ambitious and creative business partners and vendors to join us in our remarkable step forward to shape the entertainment landscape of the Kingdom,” he added.
Middle Eastern buyers surge to third place in the UK’s country house £5 million+ buyer rankings, just behind UK and European buyers who maintain their positions in first and second place, according to Knight Frank.
Analysis of purchaser data confirms that 2019 saw a tripling in the market share taken by Middle Eastern buyers in the £5 million+ country market compared to their share in 2018
This makes them the third largest source of international demand
Brexit went official last month, which could cause a shift in spending habits
Middle Eastern buyers surge to third place in the UK’s country house £5 million+ buyer rankings, just behind UK and European buyers who maintain their positions in first and second place, according to Knight Frank.
Analysis of purchaser data confirms that 2019 saw a tripling in the market share taken by Middle Eastern buyers in the £5 million+ country market compared to their share in 2018, making them the third largest source of international demand. This was followed closely by near doubling in the share of purchases taken by European buyers, who upheld their second place position in the country house buyer rankings.
Although dropping slightly in 2019, UK buyers maintained their position with the largest share of the prime country market responsible for nearly six in ten purchases.
Henry Faun, Head of London International Project Sales at Knight Frank Middle East, said:“The attraction of private education options is particularly significant to Middle Easterners seeking to place their children in the UK education system. Areas in close proximity to London, such as North Surrey, have been extremely popular with Middle Eastern buyers. The many respectable international schools, combined with easy access into London, makes the Surrey area particularly attractive to buyers from the Middle East looking to settle in the UK.”
Rupert Sweeting, Head of National Country Sales at Knight Frank, said:“Although the dip in UK buyers can be explained by the concerns over the general election and Brexit that clouded 2019, international purchasers still consider the UK as politically stable and are confident in the country’s long term growth prospects – despite stamp duty taxes.”
Stretched across Bahrain’s north-eastern coastline, Diyar Al Muharraq is among Bahrain’s most anticipated projects, which will be an archipelago of seven man-made islands.
Located off the shores of Muharraq, the kingdom’s historic former capital, construction is well underway on the 12.2km2 masterplan development, which is part of a joint venture with Abu-Dhabi based real estate developer Eagle Hills.
Speaking to Construction Week, Diyar Al Muharraq CEO Ahmed Alammadi said they have been working on the development since 2007 and described the project as a “huge masterplan” for any region, especially “for a small island such as Bahrain”.
“For the whole development, we plan to have four to five phases. In Arabic, Diyar means ‘a small town’ and the reclaimed land is around 10km, which will feature 8 public beaches,” Alammadi tells CW.
“We have started phase 1 on the south island, which is 5.3km. As part of the 5.3km, 1km of this is part of our joint venture with Abu Dhabi’s Eagle Hills to establish Eagle Hills Diyar, which is a local based developer in Bahrain.”
The development will feature facilities including villas worth $1.3m (AED 5m) which comprise a mix of modern and traditional Arabic designs, two reputable hotels that also integrate residences, as well as one of Bahrain’s largest shopping malls.
“Within this joint venture with Eagle Hills, we are developing a 2,000m2 shopping mall, the Vida and Address hotels, as well as two residential towers,” Alammadi added.
“The 2,000m2 shopping mall will be one of the largest shopping malls in Bahrain. Vida hotel and Vida residences, Address hotel and Address residences, as well as the two residential towers, which will be named Marassi Residence, will all be linked to the mall.”
Marassi, which is Arabic for ‘multi-port’, is a mix of residential, commercial properties and extensive retail, entertainment and dining options. It will feature 2km of sandy beaches, as well as a dedicated harbour for cruise liners.
In terms of construction, Alammadi outlined that building works have started on all of the projects.
“The development of all these towers, along with the mall, which are all under construction, except the Marassi residence, have been handed over and should be ready by 2021.”
Another part of Diyar Al Muharraq’s built-up areas is Al Bareh, located on the west side of the masterplan development, comprising seafront villas that have been completely sold out, according to Alammadi.
As well as Al Bareh residential plots, there are two villa types, Al Bahar 1 and Al Bahar 2, which feature the latest smart-home technology and measure between 805m2 and 972m2 respectively.
With views over Diyar Al Muharraq’s main canal, the residences are built around a number of key spaces, including traditional courtyards and swimming pools.
Another milestone for the development was the handover of its Deerat Al Oyoun under the Mazaya scheme.
The Mazaya scheme is part of Bahrain’s Ministry of Housing initiative in collaboration with the private sector for the provision of social housing for citizens who are listed on the Ministry of Housing waiting lists.
Deerat Al Oyoun will comprise more than 3,000 villa units and is located close to the Dragon City retail precinct, as well as schools, healthcare facilities, and entertainment facilities.
Foundations have also been laid for the development’s Souq Al Baraha market amongst the residential communities.
Alammadi said all the preparations to begin work on Souq Al Baraha had been completed, and Almoayyed Contracting Group were appointed to complete the entire project and launch the project by the end of the first quarter of 2021.
“Souq Al Baraha will reflect the unique architectural culture of the Kingdom of Bahrain, in line with our eagerness to establish a Bahraini identity throughout various residential and commercial projects in the city,” Alammadi said.
Diyar Al Muharraq is certainly filling the gaps in Bahrain’s real estate market as part of the country’s economic vision 2030 agenda to build a better life for Bahraini people.
Carolyn Lamboley of BBC Monitoring thinks that One year on, Algeria’s protest movement is soul-searching. Yesterday, people filled, as usual, all main streets of Algiers and other cities in the country, It was the 53rd consecutive Friday, thus marking the anniversary of the pro-democracy mass protest movement that carries with demands for a radical regime change.
21 February 2020
Around a year ago, on 22 February 2019, Algerians thronged the streets to protest against then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term after nearly 20 years in power.
Mr Bouteflika stood down in April. But Algerians kept on protesting. By this time, the protests had a name – the Hirak (movement).
Ten months into the protests, an election ushered in Abdelmadjid Tebboune as president. But the demonstrations continued.
One year on, some political players and national figures have sounded alarm bells, warning of the movement’s “failure” and “radicalism”. They have called for dialogue with the authorities and the pursuit of “achievable” goals.
But others are more optimistic and insist that things will never be the same again in Algeria.
Has the movement failed?
In January this year, Algerian writer and journalist Kamel Daoud wrote an article in which he said the Hirak had “failed”. His analysis appeared in French weekly Le Point, and made waves in Algeria.
He cited the “myopia” of the “urban elites of the opposition” and a “quixotic war” against perceived foreign intervention – in particular from France, the former colonial power. Daoud concluded that the movement had failed and had met an “impasse”, albeit “temporarily”.
He is not the only one to have said so. Others have warned that the Hirak has reached a standstill as the authorities plough on with their agenda.
Since the start of 2020, President Tebboune – who briefly served as Mr Bouteflika’s prime minister – has been consulting political figures about amendments to the constitution.
A referendum on the amendments is expected in the summer, followed by legislative elections by the end of the year.
This month, Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad pitched his government’s plan of action – dubbed “a new deal for a new Algeria” to parliament, promising to “cleanse the disastrous heritage” of past governance.
But many are sceptical about the authorities’ promises. More than 100 protesters are reportedly still in detention, events organised by the opposition are still often banned, and the judiciary continues to show subservience to the executive branch.
As for the authorities’ purge against former officials and powerful businessmen, it has actually drawn criticism from many protesters and political players, who have called instead for a transitional justice system to be put in place.
“Nothing has changed” is the leitmotiv repeated by human rights lawyer and political activist Mostefa Bouchachi, a familiar face at the protests who gives frequent interviews to the press. That is why Algerians will carry on, he says, far from being discouraged.
To talk or not to talk with the authorities?
Whether or not to engage with the authorities has been a bone of contention, causing divisions in the movement.
Sofiane Djilali, the leader of the Jil Jadid (New Generation) party and erstwhile coordinator of the Mouwatana (Citizenship) movement has warned against the “radicalism” of some segments of the Hirak and argues that cooperating with the authorities is the only way to effect real change. But he has stopped short of saying the movement has failed.
Jil Jadid was set up in 2011. Mouwatana, which was launched in 2018 and has often come under pressure from the authorities, played a leading role at the start of the demonstrations, calling for fresh protests just two days after 22 February, crystallising the Hirak’s momentum.
Mr Djilali met the president in mid-January, drawing the wrath of those advocating a more radical stance.
In an interview with El Khabar, he warned against the Hirak espousing “goals which cannot be achieved” and voiced his opposition to a constituent assembly process like that in neighbouring Tunisia, which has been advocated by some protesters.
“In my opinion, the demands of the Hirak are clear and do not require much discussion. Everyone is demanding rule of law, balance of powers, respect for the people’s sovereignty and an independent judiciary. It is easy for the new constitution to guarantee… all this directly.”
Organizing outside the framework of the state – an approach advocated by some – would be a form of “civil disobedience”, he said, warning that “this approach cannot change the system”.
In contrast, some have called for a complete separation from the authorities. The Political Pact of the Forces of the Democratic Alternative (PAD) – launched last summer by seven established opposition political parties including the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) and the Workers’ Party (PT) – is working on organizing a national conference which will exclude the authorities.
The PAD had opposed the holding of a presidential election and called for a constituent assembly.
Other prominent figures such as human rights lawyer Mostefa Bouchachi have called for more goodwill gestures – in particular the release of detainees – from the authorities as a prerequisite to any form of dialogue.
Despite diverging opinions about the road ahead, many Algerians share the same demands – as Mr Djilali said – and many feel that things have changed permanently.
Some observers are confident that a new dynamic and social pact have been established and will bear fruit. One word that crops up again and again in commentaries is “opportunity”, conveying the sense that the Hirak is a work in progress.
“Some people think the Hirak has failed because there was a presidential election… They see the Hirak as a political party that failed to make it to power. But, that’s not what the Hirak is… The Hirak is political, but it’s not a political party,” journalist Said Djaafer said in an episode of Radio M’s flagship Cafe Presse Politique programme.
“It’s a movement that comprises all political currents, all social classes, which wants to change the rules of the political game. They don’t want to take power.”
“Those who say it has failed are not looking at this new dynamic: students are organizing, there are people who have never taken an interest in politics who suddenly are interested, it is these things that are being sown… you cannot talk about a failure.”
“It’s a movement that will not stop, even if the demonstrations stop.”
One journalist threw the ball back at the authorities, saying they were the ones who had “failed”.
“The regime has failed. It is over, and the democratic revolution is only beginning,” Amin Khan said on the Radio M website. “The equation is simple. This is a historic opportunity for the country. The regime is faced with a popular movement characterised by rare wisdom. Algerians are not hungry for violence, revenge, expeditious justice or a witch hunt.”
“They want the peaceful and orderly departure of the regime through the law, via… democratic elections [and] the establishment of legitimate institutions… in other words, the complete opposite of a wild adventure or extravagant ambitions.”
An international research group has analyzed the visual impact of PV facades on buildings which include crop cultivation. Architects, PV specialists and farmers were surveyed and the results showed broad acceptance of such projects. The ‘vertical farming’ survey generated suggestions for the design of productive facades. So here is Raising crops in PV facades of buildings by Emiliano Bellini.
The researchers conducted anonymous 10-minute, multiple-choice web surveys in English with 15 questions. The group also provided images of four variants of productive facade, with respondents asked to rate their architectural quality on a scale of one to five.
The questions addressed topics including the visual impact of PV modules and crops, preferences about the arrangement of PV modules and ease of operation for owners and workers. Around 80% of the 97 respondents were architects with the remainder engineers, PV specialists, productive facade experts, horticulturalists, solar facade professionals, consultants and other professionals.
The results indicated architects and designers gave low ratings to all four of the designs presented and rated the design of PV installation poor. However, respondents with experience in horticulture, farming and PV facades showed stronger acceptance of building-integrated productive facades. “All groups of experts agree that PFs have the most positive effect on the exterior facade design and have accordingly graded them with higher marks than the designs without PV and VF [vertical farming] systems,” the paper noted.
Concerns were expressed by almost all respondents about the logistics of crop cultivation and irrigation near electronic devices such as the vertical solar modules.
“Several comments recommended exploring more creative designs,” the researchers added.
The lowest rating – 2.84 – was given to a productive facade with only PV modules visible from the inside. The highest mark – 3.9 – was scored by the image in which only plants were visible.
Tips for developers
The study also generated recommendations for the improvement of productive facade prototypes. “It should be noted that the selection of elements for practical application cannot be made based on a single isolated PF element – the entire building should be considered, especially the aesthetic elements of the building envelope, such as composition, proportion, rhythm, transparency, scale, colors and materials,” the researchers stated.
The study’s authors recommended the installation of the PV systems on north and south-facing facades, with ceiling level a preferable location.
Tilt angles of less than 20 degrees were suggested as a better aesthetic solution which would also avoid reflection onto neighboring buildings. “However, a well-designed integration of the PV modules with the planter of the above storey provides additional advantages – it improves the quality of indoor daylight and obstructs the view from inside to a lesser degree,” the study stated.
The researchers added copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) panels were preferred to crystalline silicon modules, due to their more homogeneous structure.
Emiliano joined pv magazine in March 2017. He has been reporting on solar and renewable energy since 2009.
Report reviews human rights in 19 MENA states during 2019
Wave of protests across Algeria, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon demonstrates reinvigorated faith in people power
500+ killed in Iraq and over 300 in Iran in brutal crackdowns on protests
Relentless clampdown on peaceful critics and human rights defenders
At least 136 prisoners of conscience detained in 12 countries for online speech
Governments across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) displayed a chilling determination to crush protests with ruthless force and trample over the rights of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets to call for social justice and political reform during 2019, said Amnesty International today, publishing its annual report on the human rights situation in the region.
Human rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Review of 2019 describes how instead of listening to protesters’ grievances, governments have once again resorted to relentless repression to silence peaceful critics both on the streets and online. In Iraq and Iran alone, the authorities’ use of lethal force led to hundreds of deaths in protests; in Lebanon police used unlawful and excessive force to disperse protests; and in Algeria the authorities used mass arrests and prosecutions to crack down on protesters. Across the region, governments have arrested and prosecuted activists for comments posted online, as activists turned to social media channels to express their dissent.2019 was a year of defiance in MENA. It also was a year that showed that hope was still alive – and that despite the bloody aftermath of the 2011 uprisings in Syria, Yemen and Libya and the catastrophic human rights decline in Egypt – people’s faith in the collective power to mobilize for change was revived Heba Morayef
“In an inspiring display of defiance and determination, crowds from Algeria, to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon poured into the streets – in many cases risking their lives – to demand their human rights, dignity and social justice and an end to corruption. These protesters have proven that they will not be intimidated into silence by their governments,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Director for MENA.
“2019 was a year of defiance in MENA. It also was a year that showed that hope was still alive – and that despite the bloody aftermath of the 2011 uprisings in Syria, Yemen and Libya and the catastrophic human rights decline in Egypt – people’s faith in the collective power to mobilize for change was revived.”
The protests across MENA mirrored demonstrators taking to the streets to demand their rights from Hong Kong to Chile. In Sudan, mass protests were met with brutal crackdowns by security forces and eventually ended with a negotiated political agreement with associations who had led the protests.
Crackdown on protests on the streets
Across the MENA region authorities employed a range of tactics to repress the wave of protests – arbitrarily arresting thousands of protesters across the region and in some cases resorting to excessive or even lethal force. In Iraq and Iran alone hundreds were killed as security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators and thousands more were injured.In an inspiring display of defiance and determination, crowds from Algeria, to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon poured into the streets – in many cases risking their lives – to demand their human rights, dignity and social justice and an end to corruption. These protesters have proven that they will not be intimidated into silence by their governments Heba Morayef
In Iraq where at least 500 died in demonstrations in 2019, protesters showed tremendous resilience, defying live ammunition, deadly sniper attacks and military tear gas grenades deployed at short range causing gruesome injuries.
In Iran, credible reports indicated that security forces killed over 300 people and injured thousands within just four days between 15 and 18 November to quell protests initially sparked by a rise in fuel prices. Thousands were also arrested and many subjected to enforced disappearance and torture.
In September, Palestinian women in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories took to the streets to protest against gender-based violence and Israel’s military occupation. Israeli forces also killed dozens of Palestinians during demonstrations in Gaza and the West Bank.
“The shocking death tolls among protesters in Iraq and Iran illustrate the extreme lengths to which these governments were prepared to go in order to silence all forms of dissent,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for MENA. “Meanwhile, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel’s policy of using excessive, including lethal, force against demonstrators there continued unabated.” The shocking death tolls among protesters in Iraq and Iran illustrate the extreme lengths to which these governments were prepared to go in order to silence all forms of dissent Philip Luther
In Algeria, where mass protests led to the fall of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika after 20 years in power, authorities sought to quash protests through mass arbitrary arrests and prosecutions of peaceful demonstrators.
While the mass protests in Lebanon since October, which led to the resignation of the government, began largely peacefully, on a number of occasions protests were met with unlawful and excessive force and security forces failed to intervene effectively to protect peaceful demonstrators from attacks by supporters of rival political groups.
In Egypt, a rare outbreak of protests in September which took the authorities by surprise was met with mass arbitrary arrests with more than 4,000 detained.
“Governments in MENA have displayed a total disregard for the rights of people to protest and express themselves peacefully,” said Heba Morayef.
“Instead of launching deadly crackdowns and resorting to measures such as excessive use of force, torture, or arbitrary mass arrests and prosecutions, authorities should listen to and address demands for social and economic justice as well as political rights.”
Repression of dissent online
As well as lashing out against peaceful protesters on the streets, throughout 2019 governments across the region continued to crack down on people exercising their rights to freedom of expression online. Journalists, bloggers and activists who posted statements or videos deemed critical of the authorities on social media faced arrest, interrogation and prosecutions. Governments in MENA have displayed a total disregard for the rights of people to protest and express themselves peacefully Heba Morayef
According to Amnesty International’s figures, individuals were detained as prisoners of conscience in 12 countries in the region and 136 people were arrested solely for their peaceful expression online. Authorities also abused their powers to stop people accessing or sharing information online. During protests in Iran, the authorities implemented a near-total internet shutdown to stop people sharing videos and photos of security forces unlawfully killing and injuring protesters. In Egypt, authorities disrupted online messaging applications in an attempt to thwart further protests. Egyptian and Palestinian authorities also resorted to censoring websites including news websites. In Iran social media apps including Facebook, Telegram, Twitter and YouTube remained blocked.
Some governments also use more sophisticated techniques of online surveillance to target human rights defenders. Amnesty’s research highlighted how two Moroccan human rights defenders were targeted using spyware developed by the Israeli company NSO Group. The same company’s spyware had previously been used to target activists in Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as an Amnesty International staff member.
More broadly, Amnesty International recorded 367 human rights defenders subjected to detention (240 arbitrarily detained in Iran alone) and 118 prosecuted in 2019 – the true numbers are likely to be higher.
“The fact that governments across MENA have a zero-tolerance approach to peaceful online expression shows how they fear the power of ideas that challenge official narratives. Authorities must release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally and stop harassing peaceful critics and human rights defenders,” said Philip Luther.
Signs of hope
Despite ongoing and widespread impunity across MENA, some small but historic steps were taken towards accountability for longstanding human rights violations. The announcement by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that war crimes had been committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and that an investigation should be opened as soon as the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction has been confirmed offered a crucial opportunity to end decades of impunity. The ICC indicated that the investigation could cover Israel’s killing of protesters in Gaza. The fact that governments across MENA have a zero-tolerance approach to peaceful online expression shows how they fear the power of ideas that challenge official narratives. Authorities must release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally and stop harassing peaceful critics and human rights defenders Philip Luther
Similarly, in Tunisia the Truth and Dignity Commission published its final report and 78 trials started before criminal courts offering a rare chance for security forces to be held accountable for past abuses.
The limited advances in women’s rights, won after years of campaigning by local women’s rights movements, were outweighed by the continuing repression of women’s rights defenders, particularly in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a broader failure to eliminate widespread discrimination against women. Saudi Arabia introduced long-overdue reforms to its male guardianship system, but these were overshadowed by the fact that five women human rights defenders remained unjustly detained for their activism throughout 2019. Governments across the region must learn that their repression of protests and imprisonment of peaceful critics and human rights defenders will not silence people’s demands for fundamental economic, social and political rights Heba Morayef
A number of Gulf states also announced reforms to improve protection for migrant workers including promises from Qatar to abolish its kafala (sponsorship system) and improve migrants’ access to justice. Jordan and the United Arab Emirates also signalled plans to reform the kafala system. However, migrant workers continue to face widespread exploitation and abuse across the region.
“Governments across the region must learn that their repression of protests and imprisonment of peaceful critics and human rights defenders will not silence people’s demands for fundamental economic, social and political rights. Instead of ordering serious violations and crimes to stay in power, governments should ensure the political rights needed to allow people to express their socio-economic demands and to hold their governments to account,” said Heba Morayef.
HOTEL BUSINESS on February 17, 2020, informs that MENA to see $23B in Hotel Building by 2023, mostly in the Gulf region. A region that still knows a significant construction boom despite inevitable volatility in its primary revenue would be hosting crowds of visitors soon to two major international events. These are the International Exhibition of 2020 and the Football World Cup 2022 in Qatar. The other regions of the MENA, whether North African or of the Levant that mostly preoccupied with their respective geostrategic concerns, have smaller demand for hotels buildings.
INTERNATIONAL REPORT—The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) 2020 has released the third annual AHIC Hotel Investment Forecast, which reveals that more than $23 billion worth of hotel construction contracts are scheduled to be awarded in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) between now and 2023.
According to research conducted by regional project tracking service MEED Projects in Q4 2019, the hotel development sector will be most active in Oman, Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia, making these the markets to watch in 2020.
“On the back of the more than 700 new hotels worth in excess of $53 billion having been built over the past seven years, the Middle East is rightly viewed as a high-growth region for tourism,” said Ed James, director of content and analysis, MEED Projects. “Growing economies, enhanced infrastructure and the opening up of the sector have acted as catalysts for development.”
He continued, “In terms of the hotel pipeline, Saudi Arabia is the leading future market with just under $9 billion worth of projects planned to be awarded over the next four years. This includes a minimum of 21,500 rooms, across 36 individual hotel, resorts and master-planned tourist destinations. The Kingdom has made tourism and the opening up of its cultural heritage and pristine Red Sea coastline key components of its 2030 Vision. Self-styled ‘gigaprojects’ like The Red Sea Project, Amaala, Neom and the Qiddiya entertainment hub are set to transform Saudi Arabia and the region over the next few years.”
The UAE is in second place, with $7.6 billion worth of hotel construction contracts on the four-year horizon. Oman has hotel developments worth more than $2 billion in the pipeline, while Egypt has some $1.9 billion worth of projects set to be awarded by 2023.
The levels of investment revealed by the AHIC Hotel Investment Forecast over the next four years are testament to an incredibly buoyant market, according to forecasters. “New hotel resorts like Jebel Sifah and the St. Regis Muscat in Oman, the Ritz-Carlton in Sharm el-Sheikh and the MGM Resort and Bellagio Hotel in Dubai are set to continue to make the Middle East one of the most vibrant and diverse tourism destinations in the world,” said James.
The regional hotel pipeline and the future outlook for hotel investment in the Middle East will be discussed in depth at the 16th edition of AHIC, which returns to Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai from April 14-16.
“The AHIC Hotel Investment Forecast is an incredibly valuable piece of research that clearly demonstrates that the Middle East still has so much to offer when it comes to future hotel expansion and investment,” said Jonathan Worsley, chairman, Bench Events, and founder, AHIC. “We’re especially excited to see markets such as Oman and Egypt, which offer incredibly rich and diverse tourism landscapes, return to the forefront of development in the region.”
In the traffic-choked megacity of Cairo, the historic Heliopolis district has long stood out for its leafy boulevards, but now construction crews are cutting new highways through it and uprooting its century-old trees.
As Egypt with its burgeoning population nears the milestone of 100 million people, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government is building a colossal new capital in the desert east of Cairo.
And at least six new highways leading there cut right through Heliopolis, an upmarket district with tree-lined streets laid out in the early 1900s in the style of a mini-European metropolis.
At least 390,000 square meters (96 acres) of green space – or more than 50 football fields – have been razed in the past four months, said activist group the Heliopolis Heritage Initiative (HHI).
One local writer decried what she graphically described as “the raping of a suburb … with its guts spilling out” in a column shared widely online.
Since last August, the military’s engineering arm has been building highways worth about 7.5 billion pounds ($450 million) to link Cairo with the pharaonic new capital under construction about 45 kilometers (30 miles) to the east.
Known as the New Administrative Capital, it is set to boast skyscrapers, a new presidential palace, dozens of ministries and flats for tens of thousands of civil servants, with the aim of easing Cairo’s chronic overcrowding and air pollution.
‘Act of sabotage’
The first victim of the mega-project, however, is Heliopolis, built in 1906 by Baron Edouard Empain, a wealthy Belgian entrepreneur who settled in Cairo while working on modernizing its nascent railways.
He designed the area with wide streets and elegant buildings that meld various design motifs, as embodied in his impressive palace, which is still standing. As one of Egypt’s most expensive suburbs, Heliopolis also houses powerful institutions including the presidential palace, the military academy and several other armed forces facilities.
There are plenty of green spaces, which is rare in the city of over 20 million.
But now Triomphe Square and the lush arterial avenues of al-Nozha and Abou Bakr al-Seddik, marked by palm trees and ficus plants, have become sites for about a dozen routes out of the suburb.
Many residents have been vocal on social media about fatal traffic accidents in recent weeks on new bridges that lack pedestrian crossings or clearly marked speed limits.
Cairo University urban design professor Dalila al-Kerdany slammed the re-zoning of the capital’s green lung as “an act of sabotage”.
That view was shared by Choucri Asmar, a resident and founding member of HHI, who voiced regret that more cars would choke up the road, instead of the old tramline.
“We have been presented with a fait accompli,” he said, sitting in the courtyard of Chantilly, a chic cafe and a venerable institution in the area.
Asmar said no local community consultations were conducted during the planning stages, and that the urban planning decision came “straight from the presidency”.
Kerdany also charged that the re-districting was launched “illegally”, without approval from Egypt’s top heritage body, the National Organization for Urban Harmony.
Comment was sought from Cairo’s Governorate several times – without success.
“Heliopolis was founded for pedestrians, not for cars – they were always meant to come second”, said Alia Kassim, 33, an incensed resident who works in the media.
Kerdany said “the result is frightening… creating a monstrous and unmanageable” mega-city at the expense of green spaces.
Developments are also planned in other historic neighborhoods with millions of residents, such al-Matariya and Nasr City.
With many Heliopolis residents going on with their daily lives and adjusting to the new routes, HHI has remained active online, documenting the district’s vanishing heritage.
Asmar said the initiative will keep up the protest because “if we keep quiet, everyone will be quiet”.
But given Egypt’s fast-growing and youthful population, pressure for urban expansion is unlikely to ease anytime soon.
Kerdany predicted that at the current rate greater Cairo will eventually extend all the way to Suez, about 130 kilometers from Heliopolis.
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