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US Providing Political Cover for Saudi Strikes, says Yemen’s Houthi Leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi

The United States is a key ally of Saudi Arabia, which has come under fire from human rights groups over the air strikes that have repeatedly killed civilians in Yemen

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FILE - A supporter carries posters depicting Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi during a rally in Sana'a, Yemen, March 6, 2015. Image source: VOA

The leader of Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi faction Abdel-Malek al-Houthi accused the United States of providing logistical support and political cover for Saudi-led air strikes in the 18-month Yemeni conflict.

In his first published interview since the start of the civil war, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi also told the Houthis’ quarterly magazine his group was open to a peaceful solution of the conflict, in which at least 10,000 people have died.

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“The United States plays a major role in the aggression… including logistical support for air and naval strikes, providing various weapons… and providing complete political cover for the aggression, including protection from pressure by human rights groups and the United Nations,” he said.

The United States is a key ally of Saudi Arabia, which has come under fire from human rights groups over the air strikes that have repeatedly killed civilians in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, which have intervened in the conflict in support of the exiled government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, see the Houthis as proxies of their archrival Iran.

The Houthis deny this and say Hadi and Saudi Arabia are pawns of the West bent on dominating their impoverished country and excluding them from power.

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U.N.-sponsored talks to try to end the fighting collapsed last month and the Houthis and allied forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh have resumed shelling attacks into Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s large northern neighbour.

In his interview, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi said his opponents did not understand the meaning of real dialogue.

“The hurdle facing negotiations and dialogue is that the other party wants to achieve through the talks what it wanted to achieve through war, not understanding that the path of dialogue and peace is different to the path of war,” he said.

Last month U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had agreed in talks in Saudi Arabia with Gulf Arab states and the United Nations on a plan to restart peace talks for Yemen with a goal of forming a unity government.

Both the Houthis and the exiled government have welcomed the idea of a return to talks since then. (VOA)

 

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Google, Apple to Remove Saudi App Allowing Men to Control and Monitor Wives

The app is available in the Saudi version of the Google and Apple online stores.

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FILE - A Saudi woman speaks on the phone in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 2, 2017. VOA

A Saudi Arabian government app that allows men in the country to monitor and control their female relatives’ travel at the click of a button should be removed from Google and Apple’s online stores, a U.S. politician and activists said on Wednesday.

Human rights campaigners argued the tech giants are enabling abuses against women and girls in the ultra-conservative kingdom by hosting the app.

The free Absher app, created by the Saudi interior ministry, allows men to update or withdraw permissions for their wives and female relatives to travel internationally and get SMS updates if their passports are used, said human rights researchers.

The app is available in the Saudi version of the Google and Apple online stores.

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The app is available in the Saudi version of the Google and Apple online stores. VOA

“Part of the app’s design is to discriminate against women,” said Rothna Begum, an expert in women’s rights in the Middle East at Human Rights Watch.

“The complete control that a male guardian has is now facilitated with the use of modern technology and makes the lives of men ultimately easier and restricts women’s lives that much more.”

Begum said a few women had turned the app to their advantage by gaining access to their guardian’s phone and changing the settings to grant themselves freedom, but such cases were rare.

Neither Apple nor Google were immediately available for comment. Apple CEO Tim Cook told U.S. public radio NPR yesterday that he had not heard of Absher but pledged to “take a look at it”.

Saudi women must have permission from a male relative to work, marry, and travel under the country’s strict guardianship system, which human rights groups have criticized as abusive.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden has publicly called on both Apple and Google to remove it from their stores, arguing it promotes “abusive practices against women” in a Twitter post.

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Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most gender-segregated nations, is ranked 138 of 144 states in the 2017 Global Gender Gap. Pixabay

However, Suad Abu-Dayyeh, a spokesman on the Middle East for women’s rights group Equality Now, raised doubts over whether the companies would take action.

“Power and money talks, unfortunately, without giving any attention to the violations of human rights,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I really hope they take a concrete stand towards removing these apps but I am not really hopeful.”

Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most gender-segregated nations, is ranked 138 of 144 states in the 2017 Global Gender Gap, a World Economic Forum study on how women fare in economic and political participation, health and education.

Its guardianship system came under fresh scrutiny after Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun fled from her family and was granted asylum in Canada in January.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman indicated last year he favored ending the guardianship system but stopped short of backing its annulment.

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But any moves toward gender equality have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including the arrest and alleged torture of women’s rights activists as well as Muslim clerics. (VOA)