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Saudi Gazette, Thursday, August 16, 2018


Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin

is a

Middle East affairs specialist and

security analyst based in Riyadh.

He can be contacted at Ibrahim.

. Follow him on

Twitter @Alothaimin

I think the major

challenge facing countries

regarding the security

threat to sports activities

is to work creatively and

proactively, and to think

outside the box to find

solutions that are simple

and effective, in order to

ensure the safety of sports

fans and sports venues

and activities. A clear

message has to be sent

that sports activities can

be held anywhere, with

large or small audiences

that can enjoy, relax,

appreciate and cheer

without fear for their


Due process for victims

will require overhauling

the institutions that failed

Ethiopians in the past,

some argue.




12-6727621, 12-6764111



How to contact us


Writers’ and readers’

opinions do not

necessarily reflect

SG’s views unless

otherwise stated.

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Saudi Gazette P. O. Box 5576

Jeddah – 21432 Saudi Arabia


Abdullah S. Kamel

Director General

Waleed J. Kattan

Terrorism and the Olympics: Facts

and lessons for the future


HREE days after the World

Cup tournament in Russia

kicked off, eight people

were mown down and in-

jured in a horrific incident which

took place in the center of the Rus-

sian capital, Moscow. This once

again brought the issue of potential

threats facing major sport events to

the fore. At the time no official state-

ment was issued calling the incident

an act of terror, however it was pre-

ceded by threats by Daesh (the self-

proclaimed IS) that terrorist attacks

would be carried out in Russia dur-

ing the tournament. The bombing of

a bus carrying a team in Russia on

April 11 was an act of terror that fol-

lowed the same pattern.

Major sports events such as the

World Cup are potential targets for

terrorist attacks, due to the inflow of

hundreds of thousands of fans from

around the world, as well as the neg-

ative impact that goes beyond the

event itself to the defamation of the

As forgiveness sweeps Ethiopia, some

wonder about justice


THIOPIA has released

thousands of prisoners as

a new prime minister re-

verses decades of security

abuses. No one knows how many

were tortured.

But some of those torture victims

are now talking openly - to the media,

to their relatives and to their friends

- about what happened to them after

they were jailed, in many cases for

protesting against the government.

Their stories raise a hard ques-

tion for the government: how will it

address the injustices committed by

security forces behind prison walls?

Advice India and Pakistan should heed

Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan


a retired Canadian journalist, civil

servant and refugee judge.

host country. We all remember the

2009 terrorist attack on the Lahore

Cricket Stadium in Pakistan, which

resulted in Pakistan unjustifiably

and unreasonably being labeled

the “terrorist capital of the world”.

This caused other countries to

view Pakistan as a terrorist out-

post. Moreover, Pakistan, which

is the home of the world’s cricket

champions, was banned from host-

ing international cricket events for

over eight years, thereby irreparably

damaging its sporting reputation.

The escalation of terrorist at-

tacks on major sports events has

had a significant negative impact

in many respects. For example, all

countries insist that the host coun-

try ensures the safety and security

of players and officials, which has

increased the cost of hosting such

competitions. This has discouraged

poorer countries from investing

in sports activities, thus depriving

them of the joy of competing with

other countries. In addition, the

number of spectators in stadiums

has decreased as people prefer to

stay at home for fear of risking their

lives, and this has affected the local

economy of host countries and in

turn has led to a large increase in the

cost of maintaining sports facilities.

Consequently, governments have

largely resisted investing in new

venues or improving existing ones.

I think the major challenge fac-

ing countries regarding the security

threat to sports activities is to work

creatively and proactively, and to

think outside the box to find solu-

tions that are simple and effective,

in order to ensure the safety of

sports fans and sports venues and

activities. A clear message has to be

sent that sports activities can be held

anywhere, with large or small audi-

ences that can enjoy, relax, appreci-

ate and cheer without fear for their

safety. Meeting the security threat is

not only the responsibility and con-

cern of the host country; it is also

the responsibility of every country

or nation that loves sport. Our se-

curity lies in confronting threats

together; what affects one nation af-

fects all nations.

Since coming to power in April,

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, 41,

has made peace with Eritrea, ended

a state of emergency, freed political

prisoners and announced plans to

sell shares in state-owned firms to

promote growth and create jobs.

Abiy acknowledges that many

prisoners suffered abuses, which he

has denounced as acts of “state ter-


He has not, however, announced

plans to investigate abuses commit-

ted by the security forces or set up a

process for victims to seek redress.

But he has preached forgiveness.

“I call on us all to forgive each

other from our hearts. To close the

chapters from yesterday, and to

forge ahead to the next bright future

through national consensus,” Abiy

said in his inaugural address.

Those who spent years impris-

oned and were recently released say

they are cautiously hopeful.

“I never expected such changes

were possible as long as the EPRDF

(ruling coalition) remained in power.

But even now we don’t know what

will come of all this,” said Keyfalew

Tefera, 33, who says security forces

shot him in 2006 when he was pass-

ing by a student protest.

Another former prisoner, Mesfin

Etana, 43, spent 16 years behind bars

for alleged membership in the Oromo

Liberation Front, a group removed

from the government’s banned list of

“terrorist” groups in June.

No evidence against him was

produced by authorities, he said, but

after six years in prison, a court gave

him a life sentence.

Before Mesfin’s arrest in 2002,

he was a trader and shop owner and

was preparing to marry his fiancée


He was released on July 4. One

of the first things he did was call Zi-

nash, to find she had married another

man at her family’s insistence.

“It was very sad,” he said of their


He was happy to be alive, but

without earnings from his business,

his family had fallen into poverty.

“We don’t want revenge, but we

need help,” he said.

“We would be happy if the gov-

ernment returned what we used to

have,” he said, adding that he felt

justice was important to prevent the

country from “going backward”.

Due process for victims will re-

quire overhauling the institutions that

failed Ethiopians in the past, some ar-


“A lot of work needs to be done

because the judiciary has been dis-

graced,” said lawyer Wondimu Ebsa,

who represented hundreds of prison-

ers and opposition leaders in trials he

decried as a mockery of justice.

Many of his clients have been

freed but they are struggling.

“They don’t have money for

food, they can’t get work,” he said.

“So many of them are living in worse

conditions than they were in prison.”

Ethiopia’s constitution requires

the state to compensate torture vic-

tims, he said, because the govern-

ment failed to protect them from


– Reuters


UGUST 14 ended the Brit-

ish Raj in the subcontinent

in 1947. To me it brings

back memories both painful

and pleasant.

The British had come to Moghul

India as traders. But Moghul rule was

crumbling and its breakaway states

were fighting. The British sided with

had refused to give Pakistan its share of

British India assets. Only Gandhi’s fast

unto death made them relent.

Gandhi urged the Maharajah (ruler)

of Kashmir, a Hindu, to be guided by the

wishes of the people, mostly Muslim, on

whether to join India or Pakistan. But

Nehru flew to Kashmir to press the ruler

to join India. The maharajah’s oppres-

sion of Muslims in Jammu led Afridi

tribesmen to invade Kashmir, instigat-

ing the war in Kashmir.

So the two sister countries, which

should have had excellent relations, be-

came adversaries.

I had learned about Islam through my

father and his books. He taught us that the

One God created every living being and

that He loves His creations. Whether one is

born as a Hindu or Muslim, or even as a

human, is solely decided by the Creator. So

all living beings are one family. I went to a

Christian and a secular school. My teach-

ers were Muslim, Hindu and Christian. So

were our neighbors, friends and servants.

Our house was partly on a lake. Ad-

jacent to our house was a Hindu man-

dir (temple). Hindu and Muslim fisher-

men paddled close to our house as they

fished. Anybody could enter by boating

up to the stairs leading to our house.

They could also enter through the gar-

den which was adjacent to the lake.

Our Hindu servants knew our house

intimately. They also saw we had no pro-

tection. But they remained loyal. Our

sole guard at night was an old man whose

only weapon was a walking stick. When I

moved to Pakistan my parents and siblings

lived alone till they shifted to Pakistan.

Even at the height of Hindu-Muslim

tensions their Hindu neighbors never

sought to harm them. I visited them from

Pakistan occasionally. When returning

from the Philippines, where I had gone to

study, I disembarked at Calcutta and took

the two-day train to Bhopal. Then I took

the two-day train to Amritsar for Lahore

and Karachi. I identified myself as a Mus-

lim and a Pakistani to fellow passengers.

They remained friendly.

Of course there was tension between

Hindus and Muslims and between India

and Pakistan. Even so most Muslims and

Hindus lived in peace. One of the most

admired poets in India was Muhammad

Iqbal, who wrote about Mother India and

the need for brotherly relations between

Hindus and Muslims. He is now consid-

ered the national poet of Pakistan.

Common people still remember their

shared heritage. When Indians visit Paki-

stan to see their religious sites or cricket

matches, Pakistanis often offer them

free food, hotels and taxis. Bollywood

movies and music are widely popular in

Pakistan while many Indians love classy

Pakistani dramas. There are about as

many Muslims in India as are in Paki-

stan. Indians and Pakistanis remain tied

with common past and similar cultures.

Now extremists are ascendant in

India and Pakistan. They are compara-

tively few but are persistent in sowing

hate and violence. Pakistan’s new lead-

er Imran Khan has rejected them and

pledged a new beginning for Pakistan,

including serving the common man,

serving justice, stamping out corrup-

tion and improving relations with all

neighbors, including India.

As I look back at my life, and enjoy

the humanity, compassion, diversity, ac-

ceptance and the rule of law in Canada,

and the best of relations with my fellow

countrymen of all backgrounds, I hope

that the leaders of India and Pakistan

will follow this example both in the way

they treat their citizens and in how they

deal with their neighbors.

As Islam teaches us he is not a

Muslim whose neighbor is not safe

from his mischief.

some, the French traders with others and

the British won.

I was living in Bhopal state, central In-

dia, where Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs re-

mained friendly even when they were kill-

ing each other elsewhere. Muslims from

nearby states sought safety in Bhopal. My

father opened our house to refugees.

The frenzied killings – with trains

passing through Bhopal with corpses -

were traumatic.

Muslim leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah

came to Bhopal before independence as a

lawyer in a case. A relative who managed

the guesthouse invited me to see the Quaid-

e-Azam (great leader). Grow up fast, he

told me, and serve Muslims. I was thrilled.

I also wanted to meet Mahatma Mohan-

das Karamchand Gandhi, who fought for

India’s independence, unity between Hin-

dus, Muslims and Sikhs and equality for

the lowest caste Hindus, the untouchables,

whom he called Harijans, or children of

God. But I did not get the chance.

I did meet Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru

later as a journalist. Nehru visited Karachi

to sign the Indus Waters agreement. Presi-

dent Ayub Khan arranged a reception for

Nehru where I met him. But Nehru was

no Gandhi. In fact Nehru and Indian In-

terior Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel








Disaster in Italy


HE tragic loss of life

from the collapse of

the Genoa motorway

bridge is all the more

moving because of the

spectacular nature of the

disaster. An entire 200-

meter section crashed

down along with one of

the supporting towers,

falling along with trucks and automobiles

into the river and land 45 meters below. The

final death toll may be over 50, including at

least three children.

The distinctive 1.2 kilometer Morandi

Bridge spanned the Polcevera River on the

A10 autostrada, which is a key north-south

route to France and the Italian Riviera. It

carried some 25 million vehicles a year,

both tourists and commercial, many of

the latter trucks running from Genoa’s

important port. The income from the A10

tolls runs into tens of billions of euros every

year. Concrete also crashed down onto two

railway lines but did not affect the larger

set of sidings and lines that run down to

the docks. Even so, train movements have

been halted for fear that other parts of the

bridge could now collapse. The disruption

to the 51 million tons of goods that pass

through Italy’s biggest port is likely to be

substantial and provide a further hit to the

country’s already beleaguered economy.

The Morandi Bridge was built in the

1960s and had an expected life of 100

years. But almost from the outset there

were problems with the design. It is being

reported that one major challenge was a

miscalculation in durability of the concrete.

There have been repeated concerns about

the structural integrity of the bridge. Major

work was carried out in 1990 and then

again two years ago. One engineer is said

to have been warning for the last decade

that a serious failure was imminent but his

advice appears to have been ignored. Even

so, before Tuesday’s catastrophe, engineers

were onsite, dealing with an issue at the

base of the tower that collapsed. There was

also extremely heavy rain when the bridge

came down.

Interior minister Matteo Salvini, who is

the real power behind the new right-wing

coalition government, immediately promised

to prosecute whoever was responsible.

While such a vow may be a reasonable

reaction after such a very public tragedy,

Salvini might have done better by asserting

that this disaster epitomizes so much of

what has been rotten in the state of Italian

politics since 1945. While the A10 alone

brings in to the Italian treasury billions

of euros each year, since the 2008 global

financial collapse, Italy has spent a pittance

on its road infrastructure. Last year the

investment was a mere four billion euros.

The complacency of officials in the face

of this disaster has been breathtaking. A

top manager at Autostrade per l’Italia,

the company which runs more than

half of Italy’s 6,750 kilometers, insisted

the collapse was “unexpected and

unpredictable” and went on to assert that

“the bridge was constantly monitored

and supervised well beyond what the law

required”. Time and again around the world

such statements are trotted out by senior

people. However, if the Morandi Bridge was

so well monitored and supervised, why are

some 50 people dead because it collapsed?

Such mealy-mouthed excuses are utterly