Egypt Intensifies Arab, European Efforts to Resolve Water, GERD Issues

Egyptian and Dutch officials after signing the cooperation protocol. (Egyptian government)
Egyptian and Dutch officials after signing the cooperation protocol. (Egyptian government)
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Egypt Intensifies Arab, European Efforts to Resolve Water, GERD Issues

Egyptian and Dutch officials after signing the cooperation protocol. (Egyptian government)
Egyptian and Dutch officials after signing the cooperation protocol. (Egyptian government)

Egypt has intensified regional and international efforts to secure water needs as Ethiopia is expected to start the third phase of filling the Renaissance Dam’s reservoir during the rainy season in July.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is set to be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa but has been a center of dispute with downstream nations Egypt and Sudan ever since work first began in 2011.

The last round of talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in Kinshasa ended in early April 2021 with no progress made. Ethiopia refused then to involve the quartet in GERD talks and renewed its commitment to the African Union-led talks.

In mid-September, the UN Security Council called on the three countries to resume negotiations under the auspices of the African Union, stressing the need to reach a “binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam within a reasonable timetable.

Meanwhile, Egypt and The Netherlands signed on Tuesday a cooperation protocol in the field of water resources.

Egyptian Water and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty said Egyptian-Dutch cooperation over water represents an example of cooperation and mutual respect and benefits.

The signing event was attended by the Netherlands’ Ambassador in Cairo, Han Maurits, and the Undersecretary of the Irrigation Ministry and Supervisor of the minister’s office, Ragab Abdel Azim.

This step aims at bolstering the existing friendly relations between the two countries, in light of the similar challenges they have been facing in the field of water resources, remarked Abdel Aty.

He said both countries are aware of the great potentials of the bilateral technical cooperation in this field and its social and economic impacts.

In a statement to the cabinet, Abdel Aty said the protocol includes boosting cooperation in the fields of planning and managing water resources, achieving the principles of integrated water resources management, the optimal use and sustainable management of water resources, raising the efficiency of water use, reusing agricultural wastewater, and cooperating in water treatment and modern irrigation systems.

Egypt suffers from a scarcity of water resources and needs about 114 billion cubic meters annually, while the available water resources amount to 74 billion cubic meters.

The Nile water accounts for more than 90 percent of Egypt’s needs or 55.5 billion cubic meters.

Egypt is expecting a shortage in its water share as Ethiopia begins operating the GERD on the Nile River.

Separately, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry briefed his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita on the latest developments related to the mega-dam.

The officials held talks in the Moroccan capital Rabat on Monday.

Bourita reiterated the kingdom’s full support for Egypt’s water security, saying it is an integral part of Arab water security.

He urged involved parties to avoid taking unilateral measures and adhere to the 2015 Declaration of Principles, which prohibits any of the parties from taking unilateral actions in the use of the Nile waters.

The FM underscored the importance of cooperating in good faith to reach a legally binding agreement on the rules of filling and operating the GERD.



Yemen's National Airline Suspends Flights from, to Sanaa

Sanaa International Airport (Facebook)
Sanaa International Airport (Facebook)
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Yemen's National Airline Suspends Flights from, to Sanaa

Sanaa International Airport (Facebook)
Sanaa International Airport (Facebook)

Yemen's national airline, Yemenia, has suspended its entire flights from and to Yemen's capital Sanaa for the whole month of October in response to the Houthi administration blocking the carrier from withdrawing its funds in Sanaa banks for the six last months, Yemeni sources working in the traveling sector told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Yemenia halted the flights after negotiations with the Houthis failed to secure the release of airline funds, which executives at the carrier said amounted to $80 million.

Normally, the Yemeni airline schedules its flights to and from Sanaa Airport in the second half of September.

The sources explained that travel offices had been waiting for two weeks to receive the new flight schedule before they were informed on Friday that the company had suspended all its flights.

Yemenia said in a statement that it had been unable to withdraw its funds in Sanaa banks for several months. It called on the Houthi authorities to lift restrictions “illegally” imposed on its assets.

The company added that it was aware of the latest political developments in the country and the recent and important changes. The war that has been going on for seven years had and continues to affect the company’s activity as the only national carrier, which acted objectively facing the country’s tensions, it said.

Also, Yemenia had proposed the Houthi administration take 70 percent of the funds while the remaining 30 percent would go to the internationally recognized government, it said.

The Houthi administration rejected the offer which was when the airline decided to suspend flights to Jordan, the company added.

In the past months, Yemenia had also tried to rely on its other internal resources and added three additional flights between Amman and Sanaa airports as a goodwill move.

“We again received a request to operate from Sanaa airport without being allowed to withdraw from the company’s assets, which causes us additional and significant harm,” it added.

The company has reiterated the need to remain neutral in any political conflict so that it can properly carry out its functions, noting that its funds in the Sanaa banks have exceeded $80 million.


Interior Minister: Syrian Refugees Are a Threat to Lebanon’s Demographics, Identity

Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi. (AP)
Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi. (AP)
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Interior Minister: Syrian Refugees Are a Threat to Lebanon’s Demographics, Identity

Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi. (AP)
Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi. (AP)

Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi warned on Saturday that Syrian refugees “have become a threat to Lebanon’s demographics and identity.”

It is no longer acceptable for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to continue to handle this file in total disregard of the Lebanese state and laws, he declared during a conference in Beirut.

The Syrian refugee crisis “has become unbearable,” he added, saying his ministry and the government were carrying out their duties towards them.

However, the UNHCR “can no longer continue with its approach in this file,” he remarked.

He criticized the agency for not coordinating its work with the state and for failing to hand over data related to the refugees to the General Security directorate.

“How do you expect us to protect the refugees if we don’t have data on them?” wondered Mawlawi.

“This is unacceptable and we, along with the government, will no longer tolerate this,” he stated.

The government has been demanding data on the displaced so that it can drop the refugee status of anyone who returns to Syria.

Mawlawi praised several municipalities, specifically those in Beirut, Tripoli, Sin al-Fil, al-Ghobeiry and al-Dekwaneh, for taking preemptive steps in controlling the number of Syrian refugees and holding them accountable before the law.

“The refugee problem is major, and we must approach it according to our keenness on Lebanon’s existence, interests and laws,” he demanded.

“The law must be applied equally on the Syrians and the Lebanese people,” he urged, while calling on the international community to come up with a clear plan that would ensure their return home.


Iraqi PM: Security Reforms Top Government Priorities

Prime Minister of Iraq Mohammed Shia al-Sudani addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City, US, September 22, 2023. (Reuters)
Prime Minister of Iraq Mohammed Shia al-Sudani addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City, US, September 22, 2023. (Reuters)
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Iraqi PM: Security Reforms Top Government Priorities

Prime Minister of Iraq Mohammed Shia al-Sudani addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City, US, September 22, 2023. (Reuters)
Prime Minister of Iraq Mohammed Shia al-Sudani addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City, US, September 22, 2023. (Reuters)

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani stressed on Saturday that reforms at the security institution were his government’s top priority.

He spoke of restructuring and modernizing the institution and the training of its members and of combating corruption.

The government has worked on rehabilitating 34,000 members of the security forces, he told a graduation ceremony at the Higher Institute for Security and Administrative Development.

Tens of thousands of new members have been recruited “to pump new blood into the institution,” he added.

On corruption, the PM called on the security forces to be on constant alert and readiness.

Their plans must be based on intelligence information, he added, while also urging the need to constantly modernize these plans to benefit from the latest developments in the security field.

Sudani spoke of combating drugs, which he said were no less dangerous than ISIS terrorism.

They are a threat to social security, he warned, calling for intensifying border security to combat smuggling.

He also stressed the need for cooperation and coordination with regional and international organizations in the fight against drugs.


Italy, Libya Resume Commercial Flights after 10-year Hiatus, Officials Say

An aircraft departs from Tripoli heading to Rome on September 30, 2023, after the Italian government lifted its 10-year-old air ban on Libyan civil aviation. (Photo by Mahmud Turkia / AFP)
An aircraft departs from Tripoli heading to Rome on September 30, 2023, after the Italian government lifted its 10-year-old air ban on Libyan civil aviation. (Photo by Mahmud Turkia / AFP)
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Italy, Libya Resume Commercial Flights after 10-year Hiatus, Officials Say

An aircraft departs from Tripoli heading to Rome on September 30, 2023, after the Italian government lifted its 10-year-old air ban on Libyan civil aviation. (Photo by Mahmud Turkia / AFP)
An aircraft departs from Tripoli heading to Rome on September 30, 2023, after the Italian government lifted its 10-year-old air ban on Libyan civil aviation. (Photo by Mahmud Turkia / AFP)

Italy and Libya on Saturday resumed commercial flights for the first time in a decade, authorities in the Libyan capital said.

Flight MT522, operated by the Libyan carrier Medsky Airways, departed Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli for Rome's Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, according to Libyan airport authorities.

A return flight was scheduled to land in Tripoli on Saturday afternoon, according to Mitiga International Airport. Going forward, there will be one round-trip flight between the Libyan and Italian capitals on both Saturdays and Wednesdays, according to the Mitiga airport announcement.

The government of Prime Minister Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah in Tripoli lauded the resumed flights, posting photos on social media that showed passengers boarding the flight and officials celebrating.

Italy and other western nations banned flights from Libya as the oil-rich nation in North Africa plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Amid the chaos, Libya has had direct flights to limited destinations, including cities in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, and other Middle Eastern countries, such as Jordan.

The government of Premier Giorgia Meloni in July lifted Italy's 10-year ban on civil aviation in Libya. Italian and Libyan authorities agreed that one airline company from each country would operate flights between the two capitals.

Dbeibah subsequently returned from attending a conference on migration in Rome on a chartered flight with a commercial airline.


Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinian Man in West Bank

Jewish worshippers walk alongside Israeli border police officers during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Jewish worshippers walk alongside Israeli border police officers during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
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Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinian Man in West Bank

Jewish worshippers walk alongside Israeli border police officers during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Jewish worshippers walk alongside Israeli border police officers during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank late Friday, Palestinian health officials said, the latest death in a monthslong surge of violence in the occupied territory.

The Israeli military said that soldiers had shot two Palestinians who hurled Molotov cocktails at an army post near the West Bank city of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian authority.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the soldiers killed Muhammad Rumaneh from the hardscrabble Amari refugee camp in Ramallah. It did not identify his age, saying that Israeli authorities were withholding his body, The AP reported.

Israeli officials have suggested in the past that holding onto the bodies of Palestinians slain in security incidents can deter attacks and prevent the exaltation of assailants at funerals that often draw giant crowds of protesters.

In lieu of a funeral, residents of Ramallah called for a general strike Saturday to pay tribute to Rumaneh. Student groups at the prominent Birzeit University near Ramallah called off Sunday classes.

The incident was the latest in a spiral of violence that has gripped the occupied territory for more than 1 1/2 year. The Israeli military has mounted near-nightly raids into Palestinian towns, often prompting deadly clashes with residents. Militancy has surged among young Palestinians who have lost hope in their leadership and in the prospect of a political resolution to the conflict.

Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire so far this year in the West Bank, according to a tally by The AP— the highest death toll in years. Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting incursions as well as innocent bystanders have also been killed.

Palestinian attacks against Israelis have killed more than 30 people since the start of 2023.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war.


Renewed Accusations against Islamic Movement of Fueling War in Sudan

 A circulating archive photo of the leader of the “Freedom and Change” coalition, Khaled Omar Youssef
A circulating archive photo of the leader of the “Freedom and Change” coalition, Khaled Omar Youssef
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Renewed Accusations against Islamic Movement of Fueling War in Sudan

 A circulating archive photo of the leader of the “Freedom and Change” coalition, Khaled Omar Youssef
A circulating archive photo of the leader of the “Freedom and Change” coalition, Khaled Omar Youssef

Following the imposition of US sanctions against former Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti, civilian leaders and officials in the Forces of Freedom and Change called for designating the Islamic Movement, especially its extremist wing, a “terrorist group,” pointing to its role in igniting the war in the country.

The leader of the Forces of Freedom and Change, Khaled Omar Youssef, said that the sanctions confirmed the involvement of the “third party” in the war, which has been going on for 6 months between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Omar, who served as minister of the Council of Ministers in the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, said on X that the sanctions included, for the first time, a “third party” other than the two warring sides, which is the Islamic Movement, represented by its current leader, Ali Ahmed Karti.

Omar explained that the continuation of the current war was not in the interest of any party in Sudan, except elements of the former regime.

On Thursday, the United States announced individual sanctions against Ali Karti, the Secretary-General of the Sudanese Islamic Movement, and two companies associated with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Shihab Ibrahim, leader of the Forces of Freedom and Change, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the sanctions confirmed the role of the Islamic Movement, led by Karti, in igniting the war and its determination to return to power or to remain influential on the political scene.

He also called for designating the movement as a “terrorist group.”

Meanwhile, the Sudanese Islamic Movement described the US Treasury Department’s decision as a source of “honor”.

“The decision of the US Treasury Department is akin to a badge of honor for the Secretary-General of our movement. He has steadfastly dedicated himself and his resources as a jihadist in the name of God and the nation,” the movement said in a statement.

It also emphasized that it “comes as no surprise that the United States is making unjust decisions and positioning itself on the wrong side during a pivotal era in Sudan’s history.”


Türkiye Confirms Readiness to Resume Normalization Talks with Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chairing the National Security Council meeting (Turkish Presidency)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chairing the National Security Council meeting (Turkish Presidency)
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Türkiye Confirms Readiness to Resume Normalization Talks with Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chairing the National Security Council meeting (Turkish Presidency)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chairing the National Security Council meeting (Turkish Presidency)

Türkiye has confirmed its readiness to resume normalization talks with Syria, but refused calls for a military withdrawal from the north of the country, saying that it was “illogical” to raise this matter at the present time.

Turkish Defense Minister Yaşar Guler noted that his country “is ready to resume talks with Syria, with the participation of Russia and Iran, as part of the normalization of relations between Ankara and Damascus.”

In statements to the media on Friday, Guler said that Ankara was always ready for dialogue, but the demands of the Syrian side were “not something that can be accepted immediately.”

Türkiye questions the ability of the Syrian army to protect the borders, which Ankara says are threatened by the spread of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the largest component of the SDF.

Moscow, which is sponsoring the process of normalizing relations between Ankara and Damascus, proposed returning to the Adana Agreement, signed in 1999, which allows Turkish forces to penetrate 5 kilometers deep into Syrian territory if they are exposed to threats. However, Türkiye insists on a distance of 30 kilometers and refuses to withdraw from areas under its control in northern Syria.

Iran also revealed that an agreement had been reached between Ankara and Damascus during the last Astana round, which was held on June 20-21, on a formula for the withdrawal of Turkish forces and securing the borders. But the two capitals did not comment on this announcement, which was made by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian.

Meanwhile, the Turkish National Security Council confirmed Ankara’s determination to fight terrorist organizations in the region, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which Türkiye considers to be an arm of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Syria.

A statement issued on Thursday night, at the conclusion of the council meeting, pointed to “the legitimate resistance of the Syrian people against the terrorist organization, which kills innocents and recruits children...”

The statement added that this organization “is the biggest obstacle to peace, security and stability in Syria.”


The National Council Welcomes IAEA’s Decision to Consider Palestine a State

The Palestinian delegation at the IAEA General Conference
The Palestinian delegation at the IAEA General Conference
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The National Council Welcomes IAEA’s Decision to Consider Palestine a State

The Palestinian delegation at the IAEA General Conference
The Palestinian delegation at the IAEA General Conference

The Palestinian National Council and other official institutions in Ramallah welcomed two recent decisions that were described as historic.

The General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency voted by a majority on a draft-resolution to officially adopt the designation of “State of Palestine”. In parallel, the Anglican Church in South Africa decided to declare Israel an “apartheid state.”

In a statement on Friday, the Palestinian National Council said that the overwhelming vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency was a clear condemnation of the Israeli occupation policy of expansion and illegal annexation in violation of international laws.

The Council thanked “all the countries that supported and endorsed the decision, especially the sister Arab Republic of Egypt, which submitted the request on behalf of the State of Palestine.”

The General Conference of the IAEA had voted, with an overwhelming majority of 92 countries, on the Egyptian draft-resolution to officially adopt the designation of “State of Palestine”, and grant it more privileges and rights. The voting was held within the 67th Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference in Vienna.

Meanwhile, the head of the Palestinian National Council, Rawhi Fattouh, welcomed the decision of the Anglican Church in South Africa to declare Israel an “apartheid state.”

In a statement on Friday, Fattouh said: “This decision is a victory for our Palestinian cause, and expresses the extent of injustice and racial discrimination against the Palestinian people, especially the storming of Islamic and Christian places of worship, the attacks on Christian clergy, and the operations of repression committed by the fascist occupation government.”

The Higher Committee of Churches Affairs in Palestine also hailed the decision of the Anglican Church, noting that it came in response to and in solidarity with the calls made by Palestinian Christians to hold Israel accountable for its “crimes against the Palestinian people.”

The Anglican Church in South Africa has dioceses in Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Angola, and St. Helena, in addition to South Africa. It holds its church council, the “Synod,” every three years.


UNICEF: More Than 16,000 Children Are Displaced Following Libya Floods

A Libyan child near his destroyed house in Derna (Reuters)
A Libyan child near his destroyed house in Derna (Reuters)
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UNICEF: More Than 16,000 Children Are Displaced Following Libya Floods

A Libyan child near his destroyed house in Derna (Reuters)
A Libyan child near his destroyed house in Derna (Reuters)

More than 16,000 children are displaced in eastern Libya following “Africa’s deadliest storm in recorded history,” UNICEF has warned.

The UN agency said Friday that the displaced children’s psychosocial well-being is at stake, noting that many more children are affected due to a lack of essential services, such as health, schooling, and safe water supply.

While the number of children among the casualties is not yet confirmed, UNICEF fears hundreds died in the disaster, given that children account for about 40 percent of the population.

UNICEF stated that significant damage to health and education infrastructure means children once again risk further disruption to their learning and the outbreak of deadly diseases.

It noted that waterborne illnesses are a growing concern due to water supply issues, significant damage to water sources and sewer networks, and the risk of groundwater contamination.

In Derna alone, 50 percent of water systems are estimated to have been damaged.

UNICEF has actively supported the children in eastern Libya since day two of the crisis.

Sixty-five metric tons of relief supplies have been delivered to affected areas, including medical supplies for 50,000 people for three months, family hygiene kits for almost 17,000 people, 500 children’s winter clothing sets, 200 school-in-a-box kits, and 32,000 water purification tablets.

UNICEF has also dispatched mobile child protection and psychosocial support teams to help children cope with the emotional toll of the disaster.


Houthis Intensify Campaign of Arrests in Sanaa

Protesters demonstrate in Taiz (Reuters)
Protesters demonstrate in Taiz (Reuters)
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Houthis Intensify Campaign of Arrests in Sanaa

Protesters demonstrate in Taiz (Reuters)
Protesters demonstrate in Taiz (Reuters)

In an unprecedented security deployment, Houthi security forces have spread throughout Sanaa, intensifying a campaign of arrests against individuals suspected of participating in celebrations marking the anniversary of the September 26 Revolution.

The group threatened opposition figures while its supporters continued their campaign against Yemeni women, accusing them of being agents.

Local sources and residents in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis had closed the Sabeen Square, which is one of Sanaa's largest squares and a significant place for youth and military displays.

The Houthi forces have deployed armed units throughout various districts of the capital and pursued young individuals accused of participating in the September 26 Revolution anniversary celebrations. They arrested numerous individuals, including teenagers.

According to sources, Houthis promised to release detainees under fourteen years of age after detaining them for several days. However, the rest of the prisoners will be referred to intelligence agencies for investigation, sparking fears of torture.

Houthi media continues its campaign against celebration participants, particularly in Sanaa and Ibb.

Local sources reported that opposition figures received death threats for calling for the release of detainees.

- The government denounces

Yemen's Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism Moammar al-Eryani condemned the Houthi smear campaign against Yemeni women who took to Sanaa streets, raising flags and chanting national slogans, in celebration of the 61st anniversary of the September 26 Revolution.

Eryani said the campaign revealed the "true and ugly face of the militia and its disavowal of all values ​​and customs."

The Minister noted that Yemeni women suffered unprecedented pains since the Houthi militia's coup in 2015, as thousands of women were abducted from their homes, workplaces, public streets, and checkpoints.

The Yemeni Minister warned of Houthi "brainwashing" attempts through media, platforms, and cultural policies implemented in schools and universities.

The attempts aim to "limit the role of women to be a reproductive role driven by the idea of ​​jihad and providing child soldiers who use them as fuel for their endless wars, and pushes women to retreat to home."

The Minister characterized Houthi group policies as "destructive policies for the society that extend to future generations, and with which they lead Yemen in the footsteps of the Taliban and other terrorist groups to threaten not only the peace of Yemen but the security and peace of the entire world."

Eryani criticized restricting women's movement and freedom by preventing their movement between governorates and their travel through Sanaa airport without a mahram, a male relative escort.

He stated that the Houthis prohibited them from working with organizations, using telephones and cosmetics, and going to restaurants without showing the marriage contract, and sitting in public places.

- Diverse violations

The Minister highlighted Houthi practices against women, stating that they mobilized and recruited hundreds of women, blackmailed them for their livelihoods, and integrated them into their security apparatus known as al-Zainabiyat.

He called on the international community, the UN, its special envoy to Yemen, and human and women's rights organizations to assume their part in stopping ongoing Houthi violations against Yemeni women.

According to him, they constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity and a flagrant violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination against Women.

Eryani emphasized the need to work immediately to release all abducted and forcibly disappeared women, prosecute those involved in crimes and violations against Yemeni women, and include the militia and its leaders on terrorist lists.