Protesters rally around the 'flower of Syria'



BEIRUT // A young woman was found beheaded and mutilated in Syria, underscoring what witnesses and the United Nations human-rights office said was a fearsome new government tactic of retaliating against protesters' families.

Zainab Al Hosni, 18, is believed to be the first woman to die in custody since the uprising began in mid-March.

Amnesty International said on Friday she had reportedly been detained by Syrian security agents to pressure her activist brother to turn himself in.

Her parents found her body by chance in the same morgue as that of her brother, after they had been summoned to identify his corpse.

The violence serves as a grim reminder of how the Al Assad family has kept an iron grip on power in Syria for more than 40 years by brutally crushing every sign of dissent.

The idea that the regime has eyes and ears everywhere resonates in a nation of 22 million, where decades of autocratic rule have nurtured a culture of deep fear and paranoia.

Witnesses and activists have said retaliation against the families of those involved in the uprising has ranged from threatening phone calls to beatings and even killings, as in the case of Al Hosni.

The UN human-rights office said on Friday that the harassment was extending beyond Syria's borders.

"Prominent human-rights defenders, inside and outside the country, are reported to have been targeted," the spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said in Geneva.

"We are also concerned by reports of the targeting and attacking of families and sympathisers of the protesters by security forces."

The Syrian opposition movement has proved remarkably resilient despite a massive military assault against them.

According to UN estimates, more than 2,700 civilians have been killed in the crackdown since March and thousands more have been detained.

Al Hosni was from the central city of Homs, one of the hotbeds of the protest movement. She was seized by men in plain clothes on July 27, apparently to pressure her brother Mohammed, who was organising protests in the city, Amnesty said.

After her arrest, he was told by telephone that she would be released only if he stopped his activities, the New York-based group said.

Her brother was eventually arrested this month. On September 13, his mother was summoned by security forces to pick up his body, which showed bruises, burns and gunshots, the group said.

At the same morgue, the mother happened to find her daughter's body as well.

The family said Zainab had been decapitated, her arms cut off, and skin removed, according to Amnesty.

After Zainab's burial last weekend, women held a protest in Homs, hailing her as the "flower of Syria" and chanting "Syria wants freedom" ", according to video footage posted on the internet by local activists.

"They plucked the flower, and she said, 'After me, a bud will rise up.' Rejoice in eternal paradise, Zainab," read a sign held by one of the women.

The deaths of Zainab and her brother bring to 103 the number of people who have been reported killed in Syrian custody since the uprising began, Amnesty said.

"If it is confirmed that Zainab was in custody when she died, this would be one of the most disturbing cases of a death in detention we have seen so far," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

* Associated Press

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1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

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Investors: Fahad bin Juma, self-funding, family and friends

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Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

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The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

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Company: Eco Way
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