x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Talabani: 'Tareq Aziz won't be executed'

The recently-re-elected president of Iraq has said he will not execute the former Iraqi foreign minister because of Aziz's age and because he is a Christian.

The recently re-elected president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, said he will not sign off on the execution of Tareq Aziz, the former Iraqi foreign minister who served under Saddam Hussein. Mr Aziz was sentenced to death in October by an Iraqi court on charges of persecuting religious parties. In an interview with the London-based newspaper Al Hayat, Mr Talabani declared: "Tareq Aziz will not be executed. I will not sign the execution order."

Mr Talabani said the execution will not take place "first, because of [Mr Aziz's] old age and, second, because he is Christian and we have to mind very carefully the feelings of the Christians". 

For its part, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi wrote an editorial on Wednesday saying that, by not ratifying the court order, Mr Talabani was simply trying to dodge responsibility in the death sentence against Mr Aziz.

"It is unacceptable that Mr Talabani should try to clear himself from responsibility in this crime of sentencing a man who was tried by a fabricated court, over a fabricated case, simply by refusing to ratify the court order. All previous Iraqi governments - past and present - have practised murder and assassination against their opponents, and the recent WikiLeaks files present hard evidence indicting the very people who have tried Mr Aziz." 


Wear the niqab if you want, but not on TV

"I have no problem whatsoever with the niqab," wrote Ahmed Abdul Malik, a Qatari academic, in an opinion article for the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

"And I recognise every human being's right to practice their freedoms in any way they see fit. However, we see some sisters wearing the niqab on television to talk about their work or other activities, and this goes against the rules of media and communication. TV is by definition a display tool. And this display must happen with clarity and precision."

So, there is a problem. A woman wearing the niqab does not want her face to be put on display. Some women lecturers who are scheduled to present their papers in a symposium would refuse to go to the podium unless photographers leave the room.

"This causes great embarrassment to the organisers and to the media people. The woman who does not want her picture published must avoid places where pictures are taken. And it is quite strange that a female government official, making a statement about an issue relating to the institution she works for, would accept that her picture wearing the niqab be published. Yet a picture with the niqab has no significance whatsoever. Any other picture of a woman wearing the niqab could be put there instead."


The US sabotages talks with offer to Israel

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from Washington with a generous offer for a tight-fisted settlement freeze, commented Hussam Kanafani in the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

"Security agreements, free weapons, international support and other strategic deals that allow Israel to respond to every potential threat - all of this is in exchange for a temporary settlement freeze that would not exceed 90 days and would not include Jerusalem."

The Israeli government still hasn't made up its mind on whether to take the offer or reject it. But, at this point, who cares?  

The question now is: just what is it that the Palestinians are going to gain from this American bigheartedness towards the Israeli administration? "As it stands, this settlement freeze formula does not benefit the Palestinians in any way. If Israel accepts the offer, Benjamin Netanyahu will hop back into the slot of 'peace champion' in the eyes of the US. And, now that he is protected by a US veto against any unilateral - Palestinian or Arab - efforts to take the case to the United Nations, this 'champion' will do all he can to scuttle the peace negotiations and corner the Palestinians into the slot of 'road-blockers'."

Being offered all he wanted on a platter, the Israeli prime minister is left with no reason to try and make a breakthrough in the peace process.


Haj dream came true for 125-year-old

Since he was born 125 years ago, Saeed Khalifa Abu Jabal, a Palestinian, never managed to go to Mecca and perform the Haj, the fifth pillar of Islam, until this year, according to a news report in the Saudi newspaper Okaz.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah took charge of all Haj expenses for the man who was reportedly born in 1885.

Mr Abu Jabal learned the Turkish language under the Ottoman rule and English under the British mandate in the Middle East, without compromising his native Arabic under the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The first-time Palestinian pilgrim went for a check-up before leaving for Mecca, which confirmed that he was physically able to sustain the physical strain of a pilgrimage. "The medical test found that he did not suffer from any geriatric condition," Mr Abu Jabal's daughter, Mariam, who accompanied him on the pilgrimage, told Okaz.

"The physician actually called other doctors to come see that [Abu Jabal's] heart was in better shape that his," she added.

Mr Abu Jabal survived three of the five wives he had married during the course of his life. Though he had children with only one of them, he is a proud father of a son killed in the struggle against the Israeli occupation.


* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi