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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

US, Britain Send Warships to Aid Philippines; President Declares State of Calamity

The President of the Philippines has declared a national state of calamity in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which devestated the country and left over 10,000 dead and affected at least 9.7 million people. In the aftermath of the storm, thousands are without food and water and international aid has been slow to reach some of the worst-affected areas; a desperate mob looted a Red Cross convoy last night, and corpses line the streets of some towns like Tacloban, which was decimated by the storm. British and US warships were dispatched to the Philippines today to aid in the recovery effort.

Egypt Ranked Worst Arab Country for Women

According to a new survey by Thomson-Reuters, Egypt was ranked last among all Arab states in terms of women’s rights.  336 gender experts were surveyed and questions were based on the UN Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Among the reasons why Egypt did so poorly: sky-high rates of sexual harassment, high rates of genital cutting, discriminatory laws, a surge in trafficking, and an increase in general levels of violence after the 2011 uprising. According to a spokesperson for the rights group Harassmap, “the social acceptability of everyday sexual harassment affects every woman in Egypt regardless of age, professional or socio-economic background, marriage status, dress or behavior.” The Comoros, an island nation in the Indian ocean, ranked first, followed by Oman and Kuwait.

Constitutional Committee Outlines Major Changes to Egypt’s Government

Mohamed Salmawy, the spokesperson for Egypt’s constitutional drafting committee, announced yesterday that they had reached a consensus to reject the ‘American-style’ presidential system and adopt a ‘French-style’ system of governance in which a president and prime minister share decision-making powers. “This system grants the prime minister greater powers, so that the president is not the only major decision-maker like in Egypt’s 1971 and 2012 constitutions,” he said. The Prime Minister will be named by the majority party and the president will not retain the sole power to declare war. Military personnel are not allowed to vote in elections, and a future Egyptian president can only serve two terms. The new constitution, if approved, will also include a separate section on culture, to ensure (among other things) that Egyptian antiquities are protected.

HRW: Egypt Needs to Improve Its Treatment of Syrian Refugees

Egypt has illegally detained and also ‘coerced’ hundreds of Syrian refugees to leave the country, according to a Human Rights Watch report released yesterday. The international rights group condemned Egypt’s interim government for its treatment of refugees in recent months. Of 1500 Syrian refugees who were recently arrested, 300 remain in indefinite detention. The others were “coerced” to leave the country: authorities pressed refugees to sign papers saying they had chosen to leave of their own volition, while threatening to keep them in prison if they refused. Many refugees were arrested after a media report that stipulated that Syrians were supporting former president Mohamed Morsi and taking part in demonstrations.

 Ahly Player Suspended Over Political Hand Gesture

One of Egypt’s top football players, Ahmed Abdul Zaher, was removed from the championship match against South Africa earlier this week because he flashed a hand sign showing solidarity with the recently-deposed president Mohamed Morsi. The football club announced yesterday that they are suspending Abdul Zaher and that he is not allowed to participate in the FIFA World Cup next month. Egypt’s Sports Minister called the gesture a “grave insult” and said that it could not go unpunished.

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