Iraqis defy tear gas, upcoming curfew as protests stretch on

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019   •   237

 Iraqi protesters react after police fired tear gas at them during a protest at al-Tahrir square, central Baghdad, Iraq, 28 October 2019. EPA-EFE/MURTAJA LATEEF

Thousands of people in Baghdad continued their protests at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad on Monday (October 28), defying a curfew scheduled to be imposed from midnight until 6am (2100GMT to 0300 GMT).

Protesters took to the streets for a fourth day, despite having endured bloody clashes over the weekend and an overnight raid by security forces seeking to disperse them.

At least 74 Iraqis were killed and hundreds wounded across the country on Friday (October 25) and Saturday (October 26) as demonstrators clashed with security forces and militia groups in the second wave of this month’s protests against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government.

More than 200 people have been killed in October so far.

Iraqi security forces on Monday fired tear gas at school and university students who defied a warning from the prime minister and joined anti-government protests.

A spokesman for Abdul Mahdi, whose position is increasingly precarious as he faces the largest challenge since he came to power a year ago, said on Sunday (October 27) that anyone disrupting work or school days would be severely punished.

Mass street protests in Baghdad and other cities in the southern Shi’te heartland against economic hardship began at the start of the month and resumed on Friday after a pause of about two weeks. (Reuters)

READ: DFA cautions Filipinos against travel to Iraq

(Production: Haider Kadhim, Mohammed Al-Ramahi, Mohammed Katfan, Hannah Ellison)

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BI on alert for Filipino workers illegally deployed to Iraq

Robie de Guzman   •   November 29, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Friday ordered its officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other ports in the country to be on alert following reports of possible deployment of Filipino workers to Iraq by human trafficking syndicates.

In a statement, immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente ordered immigration officials to rigidly screen overseas Filipino workers (OFW) traveling to Dubai which was allegedly used by human traffickers as a transit point for the deployment of Filipino workers to Iraq.

Morente’s order came after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) alerted the bureau on the alleged recruitment of OFWs by syndicates through social media.

The BI cited reports on online ads for newly-opened job vacancies in Iraq which falsely claim that the deployment ban in Iraq has already been lifted.

“Immigration officers are directed to exercise extra vigilance in clearing the departure of Filipino travelers bound for Dubai, particularly those who are departing as tourists, and make sure that they are not going to other foreign destinations in order to work,” Morente said in his directive to BI Port Operations Division (POD) chief Grifton Medina.

The immigration chief also directed airport officers to monitor names of several OFWs who were allegedly illegally recruited to work as restaurant waiters in Baghdad.

“Be sure that none of these illegal OFWs disguised as tourists are able to leave the country. They should be stopped and turned over to the IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) if encountered, for their protection,” Morente said.

Medina also shared information from the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad, which states that the said recruits were already issued visas authorizing them to work in Iraq.

“There are also reports that Iraq-bound OFWs are deployed there by first sending them off as tourists to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur before they proceed to Baghdad,” Medina said.

The illegally-recruited Filipino workers pay the deployment cost of their recruiters through salary deduction, which according to Morente, is a form of human trafficking through debt-bondage.

“These illegal recruiters will sweet-talk their victims, encouraging them to take the job offers while the costs will be deducted from their salaries,” he said.

“When they get to their worksites, many are enslaved, given meager salaries, and made to work more than they supposed to in order to pay off their alleged debt,” he added.

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US Military: No footage on Baghdadi’s death will be released

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

US President Donald J. Trump answers a reporter’s question as he participates in a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, on 07 October 2019. At right is United States Army General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. EPA-EFE/Ron Sachs

Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s remains had been disposed of and there were no plans to share footage on his death, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley announced on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a U.S. military operation in Syria.

Trump said earlier that part of the footage on the operation would be released, but military sources said that the footage might expose some confidential information about the U.S. military, adding that the footage should go through strict checks before it is published.

The Associated Press on Monday released footage taken by a witness when the U.S. military launched a raid in northwestern Syria — but the authenticity of the footage has not been verified.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday expressed “prudent welcome” to Baghdadi’s death, saying the U.S. has made a big contribution to fighting terrorism “if confirmed”.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it does not have reliable information about the U.S. operation in the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria that allegedly killed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Monday stressed that the extremist ideology and the support for it still exist in the Middle East, and the death of Baghdadi was a “creature” killed by the U.S.

On the same day, Iranian government Spokesman Ali Rabiee said al-Baghdadi’s death is the end of a symbol of “destructive terrorism,” and the U.S. should end its interventions in the Middle East. (Reuters)

Tokyo 2020 gymnastics, boccia venue unveiled

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) on Tuesday (October 29) unveiled the new Ariake Gymnastics Centre, which will host Gymnastic and Boccia events during the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The 12,000-seat, 30-meter height venue, whose construction was completed on 25 October, has no pillar in the performance area.

The central element of the architecture is a 90-meter spanned, local larch wood roof that arches over the building’s core.

Timbers of Larch were all domestically sourced including from Hokkaido, Nagano and Miyazaki prefectures to name a few.

The venue, located in the Ariake district of the Japanese capital that will host many other Olympic events, will be also used as an exhibition center when the Games are over.

One of the Tokyo 2020 officials at a press viewing of the venue, Koichi Fukui, told reporters that wood materials would eventually be used as partitions at exhibitions and all the bench boards would be recycled into shoe shelves for schools.

The venue will host the 34th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships in November. (Reuters)

(Production: Akira Tomoshige, Yoko Kono)

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