Gulf crisis seen widening split in Syria rebellion

UNTV News   •   June 14, 2017   •   4158

FILE PHOTO: Rebel fighters from the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement carry their weapons as they move towards their positions near Morek frontline in the northern countryside of Hama, Syria, March 16, 2015. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi/File Photo

Confrontation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is creating unease among Syrian rebels who expect the crisis between two of their biggest state backers to deepen divisions in the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

Together with Turkey and the United States, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been major sponsors of the insurgency, arming an array of groups that have been fighting to topple the Iran-backed president. The Gulf support has however been far from harmonious, fuelling splits that have set back the revolt.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar a week ago, accusing it of fomenting regional unrest, supporting terrorism and getting too close to Iran, all of which Doha denies.

It is the biggest rift among Gulf Arab states in years.

“God forbid if this crisis is not contained I predict … the situation in Syria will become tragic because the factions that are supported by (different) countries will be forced to take hostile positions towards each other,” said Mustafa Sejari of the Liwa al Mutasem rebel group in northern Syria.

“We urge our brothers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar not to burden the Syrian people more than they can bear.”

The Syrian rebellion can ill afford more internal conflict.

The opposition has been losing ground to Damascus ever since the Russian military deployed to Syria in support of Assad’s war effort in 2015. Assad now appears militarily unassailable, though rebels still have notable footholds near Damascus, in the northwest, and the southwest.

In the fractured map of the Syrian insurgency, Qatari aid has gone to groups that are often Islamist in ideology and seen as close to the Muslim Brotherhood – a movement that is anathema to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Turkey, which has swung firmly behind Qatar in the Gulf crisis, is thought to have backed the same groups as Qatar in northern Syria, including the powerful conservative Islamist faction Ahrar al-Sham.

Qatar is also widely believed to have ties to al Qaeda-linked jihadists of the group once known as the Nusra Front, which has rebranded since formally parting ways with al Qaeda and is now part of the Tahrir al-Sham Islamist alliance.

While Qatar has officially denied Nusra ties, it has mediated the release of hostages held by the group including Americans, Greek Orthodox nuns and members of the Lebanese security forces.

Saudi aid has meanwhile been seen as targeted more closely at groups backed through programs run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency – programs in which Qatar has also participated even as it has backed groups outside that channel.

The United Arab Emirates has also played an influential role in that program, together with staunch U.S. ally Jordan. These powers wield more influence in southern Syria than the north.

NORTH-SOUTH SPLIT

“It will increase the split between north and south, as the north is mainly funded by Qatar and Turkey, and the south is supported by Jordan and the (U.S.-led) coalition,” said an opposition source familiar with foreign support to the rebels.

A second opposition source, a senior rebel official, said the Gulf crisis “will certainly affect us, people are known to be with Saudi, or Qatar, or Turkey. The split is clear.”

Adding to rebel concerns, the crisis has also nudged Qatar closer to Iran, which has sent planes loaded with food to Doha. “Any rapprochement between Qatar and Iran, or any other state and Iran, is very concerning for us,” the rebel official said.

A senior Turkish official said it was very important that the Qatar crisis did not take on “further dimensions”.

“These developments will have certain effects on the developments in Syria, its effects will be seen on the field. The elements which Qatar supports may slightly weaken on the field,” the official said.

Opposition sources fear the Gulf crisis could spark new bouts of conflict, particularly in the Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus where the Saudi-backed Jaish al-Islam has been fighting the Qatari-backed Failaq al-Rahman intermittently for more than a year. That quarrel has helped government forces regain parts of the area.

The four Arab states that have turned against Qatar last week issued a list of dozens of people named as terrorists with links to Qatar, including prominent Islamist insurgent Sheikh Abdullah al-Muhaysini, a Saudi national based in Syria known for mobilizing support for jihadist groups.

The U.S. Treasury last year blacklisted him for acting on behalf of and supporting the Nusra Front, saying he had raised millions of dollars for the group. — By Tom Perry and Suleiman Al-Khalidi | BEIRUT/AMMAN

(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Turkey; writing by Tom Perry; editing by Peter Graff)

Filipino household workers not yet covered by labor reforms in Saudi Arabia — DFA official

Marje Pelayo   •   September 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government is in talks with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) as regards cooperation on the welfare and benefits of Filipino household workers there, Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Robert Borje said on Thursday.

The Kingdom, he said, is currently implementing labor reforms, however, these do not cover Filipino household workers.

“Mas paiigtingin ang pag-uusap ng Pilipinas at ng KSA kung ano pa ang dapat gawin,” said Borje at Thursday’s Laging Handa press briefing.

“Sa ngayon nga po hindi pa kasama ang household workers natin sa category ng reform, labor reform initiative ng Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pero kasama po ito sa kanilang prayoridad. Iyon po ang kanilang assurance sa atin noong nakausap po natin sila,” he added.

In his speech at the 76th UN General Assembly on Wednesday (September 22), President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his call to abolish the ‘kafala system’ or the sponsorship system being imposed in the Arab states used to monitor migrant unskilled workers.

Duterte maintained that “nothing can justify its continued existence.”

Nevertheless, Borje said the government is working continuously to achieve the needed reforms for the protection of Filipino migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

“Asahan po ninyo na through the [Department of Labor and Employment] and the Department of Foreign Affairs [DFA] ay gagawain po ang lahat upang maayos at mabigyan ng karampatang atensyon ang reporma,” the official said.

Philippines added to Qatar’s list of ‘special risk’ COVID-19 countries

Marje Pelayo   •   August 31, 2021

Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health has listed the Philippines among countries under the “special risk” category in the Arab state’s COVID-19 travel list.

The list was posted on Qatar’s official agency websites – the Ministry of Public Health of Qatar (MOPH) and its primary health care provider Hamad Medical Corporation.

The Philippines is among six countries which Qatar labeled with special risk in terms of threat of COVID-19 infection along with the following:

  • Bangladesh
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka

According to Qatar’s travel policy, travelers from these countries are required to follow additional rules:

– Those vaccinated/recovering from COVID-19 in the State of Qatar are subject to a two-day hotel quarantine and are allowed to leave the hotel on the second day if the result of the PCR test is negative.

– The rest of the people are subject to a hotel quarantine for a period of 10 days.​

Meanwhile, passengers coming from countries in other categories will have to pre-register in the State’s Ehteraz website (www.ehteraz.gov.qa) for other arrival requirements.

Generally, Qatar classifies COVID-19 risks into three levels – green, yellow and red.

The Arab state added a category for countries flagged as “Special Risk Six-Country Zone” which includes the Philippines.

“The Ministry of Public Health would like to remind everyone to follow the official website of the Ministry for details of the travel lists of Countries Based on Categorization of COVID-19 Risk,” the HMC reminded.

 

Afghanistan Crisis: OFWs escape to Dubai, Qatar with help from employers

Marje Pelayo   •   August 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Relatives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Afghanistan confirmed with UNTV that their family members have reached Dubai safely after narrowly escaping the unrest in the Taliban-controlled country.

From Dubai, they are expected to return home to the Philippines soon.

On Tuesday (August 18), 35 Filipinos arrived in the Philippines from Afghanistan.

Based on records of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), there are around 130 Filipinos in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Joseph Glenn Gumpal, who acts as president of the Samahang Pilipino in Afghanistan, said 11 more Filipinos have already made it to Qatar with the help of their employers.

UNTV was able to get in touch with other stranded Filipinos in Afghanistan whose fates remain uncertain after a series of flight cancellations.

Among them is Rio Adrias, who confirmed that they are in constant communication with the Philippine Embassy in Pakistan which has jurisdiction over Filipinos in the Afghan country.

The only problem, Rio said, was that the chartered flight that they were supposed to board on Tuesday was canceled and they were told that they would need to take a commercial flight.

“Hindi pa rin po namin malaman kung kailan makakalapag ang eroplano dito sa Kabul kasi puno pa rin po ng tao ang Kabul airport. Hindi pa rin po lumilikas nasa 10,000 Afghan po ang naghihintay [na] doon na po natutulog,” she said.

Rio is one of the 24 Filipinos currently staying in a shelter some distance away from Kabul airport.

As for their personal needs, Rio said they still have enough supply for several days.

They also worry, however, for the safety of other Filipinos stranded in areas with no access to food and proper lodging.

“Sa pamilya ko, huwag kayong mag-alala ako’y nakakangiti pa pero ako’y naiiyak. Pero doon po sa gobyerno po natin sana po talaga una, matulungan nyo kaming mailikas talaga dito kaming lahat na gustong umuwi kasi talagang ang hirap,” Rio said asking for government support.

“Hindi safe. Hindi kami okay. Hindi namin ma-explain yung pakiramdam namin dito,” she added.

Rio said if she makes it back to the Philippines, she would never go back to Afghanistan.

All she asks for is a livelihood support from the Philippine government in recognition for their contribution to the country’s economy. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

REACH US

The Philippine Broadcast Hub

UNTV, 915 Barangay Philam,

EDSA, Quezon City M.M. 1104

(+632) 8396-8688 (Tel)

info@untv-newsandrescue.com (General inquiries)

ABOUT UNTV

UNTV is a major TV broadcast network with 24-hour programming. An Ultra High Frequency station with strong brand content that appeal to everyone, UNTV is one of the most trusted and successful Philippine networks that guarantees wholesome and quality viewing experience.