Lebanon has come at the bottom of a ranking of women in the lower house or single house of parliament in The Women in Politics Map 2014, launched by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and U.N. Women. The research, which was released on Tuesday, gave Lebanon a 3.1 percent of female representation, putting it 139th in the rankings. There are only four women in the 128-member parliament in Lebanon.
At the bottom of the rankings are Micronesia, Palau, Qatar and Vanuatu without a single woman parliamentarian and 13 countries, with less than 5 percent female representation — Yemen, Oman, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Comoros, Lebanon, Iran, Belize, Tonga, Samoa, Haiti and Kuwait. The research, showed the number of women parliamentarians at a record 21.8 percent globally, following a 1.5 percent increase in the past year. [Link]
As the conflict enters its fourth year, millions of children in war-torn Syria and in refugee camps in neighboring countries are suffering from a severe lack of medical care. One in 10 children — more than 1.2 million — has fled Syria; there are over 500,000 Syrian children living as refugees in Lebanon. Since an outbreak of polio in Syria last year, world health officials have rushed to vaccinate children in the camps against the paralyzing disease.
Polio, a disease that has been mostly eradicated in most of the world, returned in Syria in October of 2013. Vaccination rates in Syria have fallen from 91 percent in 2010 to just 68 percent in 2012 — and the number today is most likely much lower. Twenty five cases of polio have been confirmed in Syria, in addition to 84 cases of measles in the first week of 2014, according to the World Health Organization. [Link]
A militant group issued a rare apology Saturday for a twin suicide bombing in Beirut that killed eight people and wounded dozens, including children from a nearby orphanage.
The al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades issued the statement on militant websites apologizing for civilian deaths.
It said a "technical fault" affected the second of two Feb. 19 suicide bombings targeting an Iranian cultural centre in Beirut, but didn't specify what it was. The group insisted its suicide bombers were trained to not target civilians. "We affirm, always to our suicide bombers, to be cautious, and to abort any operation if they believe it will hit others but the targeted," it said. [Link]
The privatization of public sectors would boost economic output and public access to services, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman said Saturday. “We need to think seriously about re-studying subsidies policies in addition to adopting the right privatization methods in some sectors to improve productivity and reduce the burden for citizens,” he said. This is the first time Sleiman has raised the issue of privatization since he took office almost six years ago.
Observers believe that privatization is not expected to take place this year as Lebanon will be preoccupied with the presidential and parliamentary elections as well as key security issues. “We need to hasten the adoption of the partnership law between the private and the public sectors while setting the adequate framework for directing foreign and local investments toward services sectors instead of focusing only on bank deposits and the construction sector,” Sleiman added. [Link]
President Michel Suleiman thanked on Monday Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, for Doha's role in the release in Syria of more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns.
A Baabda Palace statement said that during phone conversations, Suleiman also thanked the Syrian government and other parties involved in the release of the nuns in exchange for Syrian authorities setting free dozens of female prisoners. The release of the nuns and their helpers, 16 women in all, is a rare successful prisoner exchange deal between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad.
Syrian rebels, including members of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, seized them from the Mar Takla convent when fighters overran the Christian village of Maalula, north of Damascus, in December. The presidential statement said Suleiman rejected kidnappings under any excuse and stressed during meetings with army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji, General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous the importance of following up the cases of two bishops and a journalist kidnapped in Syria. Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi were kidnapped in April 2013 in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo while they were on a humanitarian work. [Link]
Maaloula is a Syrian town located 50Km North of Damascus. It is situated at an altitude of more than 1500 meters and is considered the most important Christian site in Syria and one of the very few remaining villages in the world that still speak Aramaic. Maaloula is a town where the language of Jesus Christ lives on, and is of utter importance to the Christians in the whole world and an important souce for anthropological linguistic studies regarding first century Aramaic. It is also listed as an Unesco World Heritage Site.
The two important monastries in Maaloula are Mar Sarkis and Mar Taqla. Mar Sarkis is a Greek Catholic Monastery while Mar Taqla is Greek Orthodox.
Mar Sarkis Monastery was built in the 4th century on the remains of a pegan temple. It was named after Saint Sarkis (Saint Sergius), a Syrian horseman who fell in the reign of King Maximanus in 297. It has one of the two oldest icons in the world, one depicting the Last Supper. The Saint Sergius Chapel has architectural elements which go back to the Byzantine era and have been built before the Council of Nicaea in 325. On the plateau behind the church, there are also remains of ancient rock-cut tombs.
Mar Taqla Monastery holds the remains of Saint Taqla, daughter of Selucid Princes, and pupil of Saint Paul. According to some legends, Taqla was being pursued by soldiers of her father to capture her because of her Christian faith. She came upon a mountain, and after praying, the mountain split open and let her escape through. Of course there are many variations to this story. The monastery is visited by both Christians and Muslims to gain blessings and make offerings. St. Taqla is believed to be buried in the mountain just above the monastery.
In addition to those, there are two parish churches in the villages, one of Saint Elias where you can find a fourth century mosaic. Moreover, Maaloula has three major festivals during the year, the Holy Cross Festival on September 14; the Festival of Mar Takla on September 22; and the festival of Mar Sarkis on October 7. Hundreds of visitors attend these celebrations and they enjoy some of the most imaginative festivals in the whole of Syria.
Qatar's intelligence chief and a Lebanese General Security team crossed into Syria on Sunday from the Bekaa town of Arsal to receive the Maalula nuns who will be freed by their abductors, Lebanon's National News Agency reported. “Qatari intelligence chief Ghanim al-Kubaisi and a General Security delegation have crossed Arsal towards the Syrian border ahead of the release of the Maalula nuns,” NNA said. Meanwhile, local and regional TV networks aired footage showing heavy presence by General Security agents and reporters at the al-Masnaa border crossing between Lebanon and Syria.
A number of Christian and Muslim clergymen were also spotted in the border area of Jdeidet Yabous. MTV said it was not clear yet whether the nuns' convoy would take the Yabrud-Arsal-Masnaa route or the road from Yabrud towards Syria's al-Zabadani and Damascus ahead of traveling towards al-Masnaa. [Link]