Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Dialog," Syrian Regime Style by Ali Ferzat

(Click on cartoon to enlarge.....OR ELSE!)

I Am Broke, by Schrank

Egypt: End military trials, scrap repressive laws

"25 June 2011

The Egyptian authorities must earn the trust of the people by abolishing repressive laws and ending abusive practices, the Secretary General of Amnesty International said today in Cairo.

Speaking after his week-long visit to Egypt, his first official trip to the Middle East and North Africa, Salil Shetty called on the Egyptian authorities, including the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), to use the post-Mubarak transition period to carry out urgent reforms and lift new repressive steps such as the law banning strikes and the use of military trials against civilians....

“As a statement of intent, the authorities should immediately scrap the Emergency Law and end the 30-year state of emergency. Its continued existence, combined with other new restrictive measures is creating an atmosphere of distrust which is likely to seriously affect preparations for elections.”

Amnesty International said that while SCAF had a responsibility to maintain law and order, they did not require this range of repressive powers to do so.

SCAF has said that at least 7000 civilians have been tried in military courts since Mubarak stepped down. Amnesty International considers such trials to violate fundamental requirements of due process and fair trials......"

My husband was abducted by Bahrain 'security'

One woman's personal ordeal describes how her husband was jailed following a military trial.

By Alaa Shehabi

"For the first time in its history, Bahrain has embarked on mass military trials of hundreds of civilians on fatuous charges of crimes against the state. While more than 1,000 remain in detention, the opposition estimates that 400 are going through the process of military trials and 100 have been convicted so far. The swift summary justice churned out in these tribunals are a throwback to early 20th century Stalin show trials, designed to punish and humiliate dissenters. One of those being tried is my husband, Ghazi Farhan. On June 21, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Having been born and educated in the UK, I moved to Bahrain in 2009 to marry Ghazi Farhan, a 31-year-old energetic businessman, leaving a respectable job in Cambridge to start a new family life in the land of my ancestors. Little did I imagine that in 2011, when the Arab Spring hit the shores of this island, it would be swiftly nipped in the bud, and would sweep my blossoming family along with it......"

Syria reinforces northern border as Turkey loses patience with Assad

Advance on Khirbet al-Jouz seen as a warning after Ankara seeks reforms and end to crackdown on Syrian protesters

Martin Chulov, Istanbul, Saturday 25 June 2011

"Syrian officials have ordered military units to step up patrolling near the Turkish border in a warning to its increasingly irate northern neighbour not to establish a buffer zone inside Syria.

Diplomats in Ankara and Beirut believe the Syrian advance on the border village of Khirbet al-Jouz, initially portrayed as a sweep against dissidents, was a veiled threat to Turkey, which is steadily turning on President Bashar al-Assad as his regime's crackdown on dissent continues.

In the wake of Assad's speech last week, Turkish officials gave him one week to start reforms and stop the violent suppression of protests, which is estimated to have killed more than 1,400 people in less than four months....

Refugee accounts are being used to compile a referral to the international criminal court, which will be asked to prosecute Assad and key regime officials for crimes against humanity. The referral is being prepared by several rights groups, including Insan, which is also compiling testimonies from defecting Syrian soldiers.
Turkey's growing diplomatic anger at Syria has made Istanbul an attractive hub for the Syrian opposition movement, which has received scores of defectors in recent weeks. Beirut, which is less than three hours' drive from Damascus and offers easy access to Syrian citizens, is now considered too dangerous for anti-regime dissidents. "It is a clearing house only," said one Syrian activist who directs a network of dissidents across the border. "There are many ways that the regime can get to people here – they don't even have to be here themselves. They just use their proxies."...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian refugee camps in Turkey

Brainwashing the polite, professional and British way

In Britain as in America, the object of training professionals in everything from banking to the media is to produce a class of “managers” who instinctively muffle dissent — even if no one tells them to do so.

By John Pilger

Published 23 June 2011
The New Statesman

"......The reputable media play a critical role. Frederick Ogilvie, who succeeded the BBC's founder, Lord Reith, as director general, wrote that his goal was to turn the BBC into a "fully effective instrument of war". Ogilvie would have been delighted with his 21st-century managers. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion, the BBC's coverage overwhelmingly echoed the government's mendacious position, as studies by the University of Wales and Media Tenor show.

Security matters

However, the great Arab uprising cannot be easily managed, or appropriated, with omissions and caveats, as an exchange on the BBC's Today programme on 16 May made clear. With his celebrated professionalism, honed in corporate speeches, John Humphrys interviewed a Palestinian spokesman, Husam Zomlot, following Israel's massacre of unarmed demonstrators on the 63rd anniversary of the illegal expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homes.

Humphrys: . . . it's not surprising that Israel reacted the way it did, is it?
Zomlot: . . . I am very proud and glad [they were] peacefully marching only to . . . really to draw attention to their 63-year plight.
Humphrys: But they did not march peacefully, that's my point . . .
Zomlot: None of them . . . was armed . . . [They were] opposed to Israeli tanks and helicopters and F-16s. You cannot even start to compare the violence . . . This is not a security matter . . . [the Israelis] always fail to deal with such a purely political, humanitarian, legal matter . . .
Humphrys: Sorry to interrupt you there but . . . if I marched into your house waving a club and throwing a stone at you then it would be
a security matter, wouldn't it?
Zomlot: I beg your pardon. According to the United Nations Security Council resolutions, those people are marching to their homes; they have the deeds of their homes; it's their private property. So let's set the record right once and for all . . .

It was a rare moment. Setting the record straight is not a managerial "target"."

Scrubbing Egypt Clean of Mubarak

By Cam McGrath

"CAIRO, Jun 25, 2011 (IPS) - Throughout Egypt the once-ubiquitous name and image of ousted president Hosni Mubarak is becoming increasingly scarce as citizens attempt to purge the land of the former dictator's tarnished legacy.

For three decades, officials hoping to curry favour with the regime named public facilities after the former president and his wife, and plastered their photo-shopped visages across billboards and banners. A portrait of Mubarak hung in every government office.....

The Mubaraks took particular pride in Egypt's dilapidated education sector, and hundreds of schools and research institutes carried their name. Ministry of Education data indicates 549 schools nationwide were named after members of the Mubarak family – 388 after Hosni, 160 after Suzanne, and one school after their youngest son, Gamal.

Many of the schools were rebranded after parents protested that they would not permit their children to receive instruction in any building bearing the Mubarak name. It also became a convenient pretext for students to skip classes....

Removing Mubarak's name and image is the easy part, analysts concur. The colossal challenge that remains is to dismantle the culture of corruption and nepotism that flourished under the ousted dictator's 30-year reign."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

This new poll asks:

Do you support keeping the captured Israeli soldier Shalit captive?

With about 1,000 responding so far, 89% said yes.

Alice Walker: Why I'm joining the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza

Pulitzer prize-winning American writer Alice Walker is on board an international flotilla of boats sailing to Gaza to challenge the Israeli blockade. Here she tells why

Alice Walker
The Guardian, Saturday 25 June 2011

"....Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?

There is a scene in the movie Gandhi that is very moving to me: it is when the unarmed Indian protesters line up to confront the armed forces of the British Empire. The soldiers beat them unmercifully, but the Indians, their broken and dead lifted tenderly out of the fray, keep coming.....

And what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our president's latest speech on Israel and Palestine, and whose impoverished, terrorised, segregated existence was mocked by the standing ovations recently given in the US Congress to the prime minister of Israel?

I see children, all children, as humanity's most precious resource, because it will be to them that the care of the planet will always be left. One child must never be set above another, even in casual conversation, not to mention in speeches that circle the globe.....

It is justice and respect that I want the world to dust off and put – without delay, and with tenderness – back on the head of the Palestinian child. It will be imperfect justice and respect because the injustice and disrespect have been so severe. But I believe we are right to try.

That is why I sail."

For Cairo's slum dwellers, rockfall fears prompt hopes of a broader revolution

Struggle waged by poorest communities lays bare challenges facing post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt

Jack Shenker in Cairo, Friday 24 June 2011

"....Speaking up

Despite up to 1m apartments lying empty across the capital as a result of years of property speculation under Hosni Mubarak, a dearth of affordable housing means that most have nowhere else to go. But now, in the aftermath of the dictator's ousting, Egypt's ashwa'iyat community is beginning to raise its voice.

"In the past we were living without any respect for our lives," explained Zamzam Mohamed Abdel Nabi, a 35-year-old resident of al-Me'adessa who has been leading a local campaign demanding that the government rehouse them. "Currently we're optimistic that things could change. But the state is still fragile and we don't want to profit from the situation for our own self-interest. This is the transition period, and in such a period the important thing is to build, not destroy."

Her dilemma is a common one among the 44% of Egyptians living below the poverty line: with old certainties dissolved and the nation in flux, now appears to be the perfect time to press for a better standard of living from a revolution that has already transformed the state's political apparatus.

But the country's ruling generals have cracked down harshly on what they call "sectoral" interests, insisting that Egypt is too unstable at the moment to meet the vast array of social expectations that have exploded since Mubarak's fall. Strikes and protests have been outlawed on the grounds that marginalised groups – be they workers, women or slum-dwellers – should stay quiet until the transition to civilian democracy is complete.

It is an argument that cuts little ice....

"The revolutionary spirit is so far focused on changing national political structures, and even if successful there is no guarantee that the manipulators and opportunists and bribers, so prominent in the past, will not still find fertile ground," he writes. "Another, more complicated revolution is needed for fundamental reform of ministries and governorates, the courts, and economic authorities so that real accountability and transparency begin to dominate urban development."....."

Western journalists return to Syria

Return of press for first time since being expelled in March suggests Syrian regime willing to engage in propaganda war
, Friday 24 June 2011

"A trickle of western journalists is being allowed back in to Damascusunder close supervision by government minders – suggesting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime is sufficiently concerned about its hold on power to be willing to engage in a foreign propaganda war.

Sky News anchor Jeremy Thompson was reporting from Damascus on Friday, and CNN's Arwan Damon, who is of Syrian and American descent, broadcast from the capital on Thursday. The Sunday Times has a reporter in the country, but declined to confirm their identity on Friday.

Foreign journalists were expelled from the country shortly after unrest began in March, and have been concentrating their efforts on the Turkish border, where Syrians have been gathering in refugee camps to escape military crackdowns....

...suggests that the government is concerned that its message isn't getting out, that the rest of the world misunderstands what they're doing ... and if anything that the propaganda machine of the opposition... is winning the hearts and minds at the moment...."

Syrians pour into Lebanon after Friday protest killings

Shot people taken to hospital across border after crackdown on demonstrations in Damascus, Homs and Aleppo, Saturday 25 June 2011

"Hundreds of Syrians have fled to Lebanon after 20 people were killed in the biggest day of protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

Up to 1,000 Syrians escaped through the al-Qusair crossing in the region of Akkar near Wadi Khaled in northern Lebanon, according to a Lebanese security official.

At least six of those who crossed the border had gunshot wounds and were admitted to hospital in Akkar, the official said.....

The scale and geographical spread of the latest protests – dubbed "the Friday of the end of legitimacy" – appeared to underline Assad's failure to dampen opposition fervour.

In an address to the nation on Monday – his third since the start of the anti-regime demonstrations – he spoke of dialogue and reform, but democracy activists dismissed his offers as cosmetic or insufficient.

Opposition leaders in Damascus are reported to be planning a public meeting next week to discuss strategy."

Tunisia joins International Criminal Court

More countries in the Middle East and North Africa should join the ICC

24 June 2011

"Tunisia took an important step towards strengthening fundamental human rights today by joining the International Criminal Court (ICC).

At a ceremony at the UN in New York, Tunisia became the 116th state party to the Rome Statute, which set up the ICC to investigate and prosecute cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity worldwide.

The Tunisian government has said it also intends to ratify or adhere to several other key human rights treaties.

This kind of government action gives substance to the courageous actions of ordinary Tunisians who took to the streets to demand an end to abuses and the building of a fundamentally fair and just society,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, who is currently in Cairo.

“All countries in the region should follow Tunisia’s example by embracing the international legal framework to protect human rights and prevent injustice.”...."

Friday, June 24, 2011

شام-حمص-مظاهرة حاشدة في أرقى أحياء حمص أمام فتدق السفير

شام-حمص-مظاهرة حاشدة في أرقى أحياء حمص أمام فتدق السفير

شام - الجزيرة - مداخلة الناشطة سهير الاتاسي بحصاد يوم 24-6

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrians mount Friday protests around country

Revolution in Their Eyes

Azmi Bishara on Egypt's Revolution


"Palestinian intellectual and ex-Knesset member Azmi Bishara followed Egypt's 25 January Revolution minute by minute from the Qatari capital Doha where his think tank -- the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Study -- is based.

"It was crucial for me," he told his audience at Cairo University's Faculty of Political Science Tuesday morning. He emerged as crucial for the revolution too -- at least in the eyes of many Egyptians who found in Bishara, 54, an ideologue of sorts during the uprising.

Four months after Hosni Mubarak's ouster, Bishara who was banned from entering Egypt after criticising Cairo's stand during Israel's war on Gaza in December 2008, ventured to visit the new Egypt. His name was still on the traveller's blacklist when he arrived at Cairo Airport Monday. The intelligence official who put his name on the list was the very same person who removed it upon his arrival. This was Bishara's first direct experience with the new Egypt: he is no longer banned, but the powers that be that deemed him unwelcome earlier haven't changed. It says a lot about the revolution that Bishara came to talk about....

But if the Egyptian revolution was spontaneous, he warned, building a democracy can't be left to spontaneity too. "The revolutionaries are the primary people entrusted with the revolution. And whether they like it or not, they have to articulate the objectives of the revolution." In other words, decision-making can't be left to remnants of the regime who were part of its decision-making process but are practically running the country.

But what are the tools for change, he asked? "The regime remains the regime and the revolutionaries continue to plan the next Friday demonstration." Despite his admiration of the revolution, Bishara voiced concern over the flood of foreign aid pouring into Egypt for "development".

Moving forward can't be done with the help of foreign aid, he said, alluding to the $3 billion loan the IMF extended to Egypt earlier this month. "They don't help you, they hamper and handicap your economic and social development." Egypt has to make a choice, he said.

On elections, Bishara said there should be consensus first on a number of principles to safeguard democracy, "which isn't about the rule of the majority... it's about a majority ruling under the principles of democracy." Furthermore, he added, there's "no democracy" without an independent judiciary, separation of the state's branches of power, and an elected legislature....."

Exposing Israel's Most Dangerous Secret

What's Really Going On at the Israeli Institute for Biological Research?


"....That fortress-like structure is the Israeli Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) where Israel develops its biological and chemical weapons and prepares for any eventuality of biological or chemical warfare. It is the most top-secret military installation in Israel. So tightly is it guarded by military censorship that the Israeli press has to turn to Western sources for scraps of information made available to them, very intermittently, by special contacts inside the institute.

Only once has the Israeli press been given leeway to discuss what goes on behind those high security walls. That was last month when Avisha Klein filed a suit against the IIBR administration for harassment and emotional abuse. A long-term employee at the institute, Klein has served in various positions, one of which was as part of a team to develop an ointment to protect the skin from mustard gas. But this is only one of the many details that have come to light in the course of the proceedings, which have shed considerable light on the nature and scope of the institute's work.

The IIBR is staffed by some 300 scientists and technicians employed in one or more of its many departments, each of which specialises in a specific area of chemical or biological research generally aimed at the production of chemical or biological weaponry. One of these departments, for example, is reported to have developed the poison that was used by the notorious Mossad assassination unit, Kidon, in its botched attempt to eliminate Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal in 1997. Nevertheless, if there remains some question over the accuracy of this information, which was reported in Haaretz, no one disputes that the first time the institute's products were used in an assassination operation was in late 1977 when then prime minister Menachem Begin ordered Mossad to eliminate Wadie Haddad....."

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story - Bahrain stability in jeopardy

"A Bahrain military court has convicted activists and opposition members of conspiring to overthrow the government. This could jeopardise a planned national dialogue for reconciliation. Inside Story discusses with Saeed Al Shihabi, a member of the Bahrain Freedom Movement in London sentenced in absentia to life in prison in Bahrain; Joe Stork, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division in Washington DC; and Doctor Saadi Mohammad Abdallah, a former member of the Bahraini parliament in Manama."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria Unrest: EU expands sanctions list

A Sample of Fresh Videos From Inside Syria, Documenting Protests Against the Bloody Regime on Friday June 24, 2011.

شام - القامشلي - مظاهرات جمعة سقوط الشرعية 24-6

شام - حماه - مظاهرات سقوط شرعية النظام 24-6 ج1

شام البوكمال مظاهرات جمعة سقوط الشرعية 24 6 ج1

شام - حمص - الرستن- امظاهرة حاشدة اكثر 15000 الف 24-06

شام - حوران - داعل - جمعة سقوط الشرعية 24-6 ج1

Today's Cartoon by the Syrian Cartoonist Ali Ferzat

(Click on cartoon to enlarge.....OR ELSE!)

Syria Under The Assads....

Al-Jazeera Video: Gaza in 'medical crisis'out of options?

Aleppo: Syria's sleeping giant stirs

As the uprising enters its fourth month, Syria's second city is becoming increasingly unsettled.

Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand

"....But talk to shopkeepers, hotel managers and traders in Aleppo's famous covered souk and one soon finds grumblings of dissent.

For in the Syrian capital of commerce, no one is making money anymore, threatening to undermine the key pillar of a long established pact between Aleppo's Sunni merchant class and the imposed stability of the Alawite-led regime.

"Where are you, Halab?" chanted thousands of protestors, using the city's Arabic name, exasperated by Aleppo's conspicuous quiet while streets in towns and cities across the country filled with demonstrators every Friday since mid-March.

The answer is an interlocking mix of political, religious and economic interests which the regime has been largely successful in co-opting and which have kept Aleppo quiet, but which appear, as the uprising enters its fourth month, to be coming increasingly unstuck, threatening what analysts describe as the regime's Achilles heel....

Massive layoffs imminent

Sitting behind his desk in a lavishly decorated office, a photograph of President Assad hanging on the wall, a 45-year-old Sunni businessman from Aleppo's Old City cautioned that the economic consequences of the crisis in Syria could soon fuel further protests.

"Today I am losing money as no one wants to buy garments and textile. Syrians are buying bread and food stuffs as they are worried about the future. I am seriously considering having to sack or give unpaid vacation to a third of my workforce," he said.

Late last month Assad had met a delegation of Aleppo business leaders, said the textile factory owner. The businessmen had urged Assad to end the crisis in Syria swiftly to avoid massive layoffs....."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian army vehicles in plain sight

حديث الثورة .. 23 يونيو .. د. عزمي بشاره

حديث الثورة .. 23 يونيو .. د. عزمي بشاره

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Escape From Saigon Revisited by Dave Brown

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Egypt's left threatens 'million-strong' protest to stop Islamists winning power

Liberals say post-Mubarak transition proposal favours Muslim Brotherhood – but religious groups reject 'constitution-first' plan

Jack Shenker in Cairo, Thursday 23 June 2011

"Egyptian activists have threatened to bring mass pro-democracy protests back to Cairo, with a "million-strong" occupation of Tahrir Square planned for 8 July unless the ruling army generals abandon their current "roadmap" to democracy.

In an increasingly rancorous debate, which has developed into a proxy war between the nation's fledgling Islamist and secular political forces, 40 different liberal and leftist movements have joined forces to demand that plans to hold elections in September are dropped.

Campaigners fear the existing post-Mubarak transition programme – which would see September's ballot held under an amended version of Egypt's existing constitution and then allow members of parliament to oversee the writing of a new constitution – may cede permanent power to the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious groups, who are expected to dominate the poll.

Islamists have reacted furiously...."

Guardian Video: Syria protesters under attack

Pro-government militia Shabiha appear to stab an anti-regime protester inside a mosque in Damascas while security forces are seen beating a demonstrator at a pro-Assad rally

الاعتداءات الأميركية على الثورات العربية

"حقائق السياسة الأميركية
ركوب الموجة
الأهداف الأميركية
الاستمرار في الثورة

الاستمرار في الثورة
لقد تأخر العرب كثيرا في الثورة على الظلم والاستعباد والطغيان على الرغم من تمادي حكامهم في الاستهتار بشعوبهم ومستقبل الأجيال القادمة، ومن المفروض أن لا يتوقف مسلسل الثورات العربية حتى تتم الإطاحة بكل هؤلاء الطغاة، وليكونوا عبرة لحكام قادمين قد تسول لهم نفوسهم إذلال شعوبهم.

وإذا كانت أميركا تتدخل فإن ذلك يجب أن لا يثنينا عن الاستمرار، وإنما يعني أن علينا رفض كل محاولات التدخل الأميركي المباشر وغير المباشر، ورفض كل تدخل خارجي مهما كان نوعه.

لقد أجرم الأوروبيون والأميركيون بحق العرب جميعا، ولم تتوقف يوما اعتداءاتهم المتنوعة على الأمة، ولا أرى أن قلوبهم قد اتسعت فجأة لتحتضن الأحزان العربية

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian troops mass on Turkey border

Emad Hajjaj's Cartoon in Al-Quds Al-'Arabi

The Arab People.....
Under TWO Dictators.

Al-Jazeera Video: Life sentences for Bahrain dissidents

Real News Video: Selling Israeli militarism like toothpaste

From children's shows to national war drills, a discussion on militarism in Israeli society and gender equality in the army

More at The Real News

Palestinian youth and the healing arts

Youth in Gaza and Jenin break out in artistic resistance that threatens Israel's master narrative.

Mark LeVine

"....The spring of Arab revolutions

If the openness and intellectual maturity of 20-year old actors from the Jenin refugee camp is inspiring, the resilience and audacity of their peers in Gaza borders on astonishing. Even regular viewers of Al-Jazeera would have a hard time understanding the levels of destruction Gazans have lived with for at least a decade. Returning after a several years absence, I felt like I'd stumbled into a giant archaeological dig, only above ground. Each new layer of rubble has added its sad archive to the one below it.

Yet perhaps even more than in Jenin and other West Bank cities, young people in Gaza are erupting in the kind of creative resistance that threatens not just Israel's master narrative of the occupation, but Hamas's violent hold on the Strip as well.

There is a saying making its way around Palestinian circles: "The Palestinian winter gave birth to the Arab spring." For me, the first hint of that spring occurred when a new movement, "Gaza Youth Breaks Out," put out their now (in)famous manifesto in December of 2010, right around the time the protests in Tunisia erupted. As I explained in my column devoted to GYBO, the manifesto began with a scream: ""F*** Hamas. F*** Israel. F*** Fatah. F*** UN. F*** UNWRA. F*** USA!" (the verb is spelled out, and was written originally in English because the Arabic equivalent does not have anything close to the power and anger of the English word). It ends by declaring "We do not want to hate, we do not want to feel all of these feelings, we do not want to be victims anymore."

From Juliano to Vittorio

The GYBO manifesto was, to my mind, the first salvo in a generational war for independence that pushed its way into world consciousness with the uprising in Tunisia and Egypt. An act of extreme will by young people who have nothing left to lose, its poetic metre and naked eloquence are a work of art as powerful as the theatrical ouvre of the Jenin Freedom Theatre (not surprisingly, the manifesto is widely appreciated by JFT members).....

Gazans live, in the words of GYBO founder Osama Shomar, in a double, triple occupation, or even more - thus the multiple curses of the manifesto's opening line. A female blogger and co-founder of GYBO explains it this way: "It feels like it's not even our country anymore. A policeman put a gun at my head and threatened to shoot me. I couldn't imagine, is this guy a Palestinian like me? He couldn't be Palestinian and do this."

But it's not just Hamas that is a threat to the attempts by GYBO to build a new culture of resistance and unity. Equally as dangerous is the hijacking of the youth movement by various outside forces. "We're more known, but we're getting weaker. Suddenly everyone is throwing money at us. We didn't take money from anyone when GYBO started but now NGO people with access to money and fancy meals are coming in, and once you get into that orbit and you have the ngo-ification of resistance, it's game over."...."

Is violence now the only way to change Syria?

Adrian Hamilton
The Independent

"....But it is in Syria where the fight between popular protest and brute force has become most clearly and bloodily drawn. Syria is not like Tunisia or Egypt. The security apparatus of the ruling Alawite regime is far bigger – as many as a million some say. It has learnt the lesson of Cairo and Tunis in stopping any mass concentration of protesters in central squares. And it has no compunction about killing its own people.

It is far too late now to witter on, as Foreign Office ministers do, about President Bashar al-Assad having the choice of reform or isolation. More and more he appears the pathetic creature of a family and clan determined to hold on to power whatever. He speaks the words, his brother and brother-in-law send in the tanks and the snipers.

What is so ennobling about the Syrians is that still they go on protesting, each Friday, on many nights and in many places. Will they succeed in gradually wearing down the regime and encouraging a steady peeling away of its support? Can they succeed without resorting to the weapons and violence that Assad has so grotesquely accused them of? No-one knows.

It is almost impossible to put into words one's admiration for the courage these Syrians have shown in their protests. For their persistent, obstinate revolt is where the Arab Spring is now at. We all have a vested interest in seeing them succeed. Because, if they don't, then Aung San Suu Kyi and every other proponent of peaceful democratic campaigning must face the question: can brutal oppression ever be overthrown except by violent and organised revolution?"

Bahraini Shia defy crackdown as eight given life sentences

Anyone who supported the pro-democracy movement is vulnerable to being accused. The activists were accused of having links to a 'terrorist organisation abroad'

By Patrick Cockburn
Thursday, 23 June 2011

"....Anybody in Bahrain who supported the pro-democracy movement, which began at the height of the Arab Spring on 14 February, is vulnerable to being accused of plotting against the Government at the behest of Iran. The sentenced activists were accused of having links to "a terrorist organisation abroad". Fourteen were tried in court and the other seven in absentia. In addition to the eight life sentences, 10 activists were given 15-year terms, two others received five years and one was sentenced to two years.

The decision is likely to undermine a US and UK-backed attempt to persuade the Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy to start a dialogue with the opposition.

America and Britain have been embarrassed by accusations of hypocrisy for denouncing human rights violations in Libya while ignoring compelling evidence of systematic torture by the state security forces in Bahrain....."

Syrian embassy accused of threatening protesters in UK

UK activists say Assad agents have visited and intimidated them at home as campaigners fear for their Syrian families' safety

The Guardian

"Claims that Syrians involved in anti-government protests in the UK have been threatened and intimidated by agents of the Assad regime have prompted discussions between Scotland Yard and Foreign Office officials.

Syrians who have protested in London say they have received phone calls and visits to their homes, while members of their families in Syria have been threatened.

One man described how the country's secret police had visited his parents' home warning them to stop him taking part in any further demonstrations after he was photographed outside the embassy in London. Another said he had been warned not to mix with the demonstrators by a Syrian official after a protest this month.

The demonstrators say that although the embassy does not have the power to arrest expatriates, the regime can attempt to control their behaviour by intimidating and detaining their relatives, or threatening to arrest them if they return to Syria.

The Foreign Office said it had been made aware of claims that Syria's embassy has photographed protesters, and that those images have been shown to their families in Syria in an attempt to harass them....."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ANALYSIS-Egypt army may pull strings from barracks in future

The Old Pharaoh....and The New One??

Courtesy of Hossam El-Hamalawy

"CAIRO, June 22 (Reuters) - Hossam el-Hamalawy is used to being in trouble with the authorities. State security hauled him in three times for his activism when Hosni Mubarak was in power. He hoped Egypt's uprising would end such summonses. It didn't.

He was called in again in May for questioning. But one element changed. It wasn't internal security but an army general who wanted to question the blogger over accusations he made on television about abuses by the military police.

"We didn't have this revolution ... so that we would replace Hosni Mubarak with the military as a taboo," said Hamalawy, insisting that the army must change its ways.
"The military institution is part of the old regime," he said. "It will have to go through its own change in revolutionary Egypt."....

"The Egyptian military is the institution that can hold the country together, move it forward. It is the only one," said Kamran Bokhari, an analyst at global intelligence firm STRATFOR.

"I don't see it relinquishing power to a very nascent, parliamentary system in which there is also a president."

He added: "There are material interests as an institution. Their privileged status, they want to be able to retain that....

To achieve this, there are several models for Egypt to copy.

Close to home is Turkey, where the army was guardian of the secular constitution for decades and toppled governments when it saw that threatened....Further afield is Pakistan ...."

Arab Spring exposes Nasrallah's hypocrisy

The Shia leader is happy to support protesters in Bahrain and Egypt, but he won't criticise Syria's violent crackdown.


Hamid Dabashi
(Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. )

"Hassan Nasrallah is in trouble. This time the troubles of the Secretary General of Hezbollah, which were hitherto the source of his strength, are not coming from Israel, or from the sectarian politics of Lebanon. Seyyed Hassan's troubles, which this time around are the harbingers of his undoing as an outdated fighter, are coming from, of all places, the Arab Spring.....

....And then Tunisia happened, and Egypt, and Libya, and Bahrain, and Yemen - and then, Hassan Nasrallah and Ali Khamenei's nightmare, Syria happened. It is a sad scene to see a once mighty warrior being bypassed by the force of history, and all he can do is to fumble clumsily to reveal he has not learned the art of aging gracefully.

Deja vu

When Hasan Nasrallah came to the defence of Bashar al-Assad's murderous regime in Syria, signs of frailty were all over the old fighter's countenance. He asked Syrians for patience. He admitted mistakes had been made by Syrians in Lebanon. He promised Assad would do reforms. He pleaded for time. Deja vu: For an uncanny moment the Hezbollah fighter sounded and looked like the late Shah of Iran days before his final demise early in 1979: desperate, confused, baffled by the unfolding drama, worriedly out of touch with what was happening around him.

"Hassan Nasrallah," according to ,an Al Jazeera report on 25 May 2011 has called on Syrians to support president Bashar al-Assad and enter into dialogue with the government to end weeks of ongoing protests across Syria.".....

"Bashar is serious about carrying out reforms," he was now pleading with his audience, "but he has to do them gradually and in a responsible way; he should be given the chance to implement those reforms." When Nasrallah made these remarks more than 1000 Syrian civilians had been gunned down by Bashar Assad's army and security forces, serving the Assad dynasty for about forty years.....

Nasrallah, who could not care less for such revolting behavior by his patrons, now for second time in a row, was siding with brutal, vicious tyrants and their criminally insane security forces against the democratic aspirations of their people - once in Iran and now in Syria. A "freedom fighter"? Really? What kind of a "freedom fighter" is that? Forget about the Shah, Hassan Nasrallah now sounded more like President Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) who once famously said about the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza (1896-1956) that he "may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." Hassan Nasrallah too did not care if Khamenei and Assad tortured and murdered their own people - so far as they kept him in business.....


Nasrallah's predicament with Syria had been moving towards him apace. He has been dillydallying since the commencement of the Arab Spring as to how to calibrate his positions. When Tunisia happened he said,"we must congratulate the Tunisian people on their historic revolution, their struggle, and their uprising.".....

....Is Iranian or Syrian blood any thinner than Libyan blood in the mighty warrior's estimation? Is there a word for this barefaced hypocrisy in any language? What sort of "resistance" is this - and resistance to what? Resistance to Israeli expansionism by a band of militant thugs maiming and murdering their own people in Syria and Iran? Is this the choice that our people must make?....

And then Syria happened, and Hasan Nasrallah began stuttering. "First, we should be committed to Syria's stability, security and safety." Syrians' security and safety - or Bashar al-Assad's? Scores of Syrians are being gunned down, tortured, and killed. There is a massive humanitarian crisis on the Syrian-Turkish border, finally forcing Turkey to sever its ties with Syria. Syrians are fleeing their homeland en masse, fearing for their lives from Bashar al-Assad's murderous army. What about their security and safety?

"Second," he said, "We call upon the Syrian people to maintain their regime of resistance, as well as to give way to the Syrian leadership to implement the required reforms and to choose the course of dialogue." Really? Isn't that what Clinton also says about Bahrain?.....

"Third, we as Lebanese shouldn't interfere in what is going on in Syria, but let the Syrians themselves to deal with the issue." Truly? How come "you as Lebanese" interfere anywhere from Morocco to Iran, from Bahrain to Yemen, but not about Syria? Why? Aren't Syrians humans? If you shoot them do they not bleed? If you torture and mutilate them do they not suffer and die?....

That Hassan Nasrallah is not altogether aware of what is happening around him is also evident in the fact that it seems just to have dawned on him that the US is "seeking to hijack the wave of pro-democracy popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world." Of course they are - but what is Hassan Nasrallah doing to safeguard and promote it, siding with Bashar al-Assad and Ali Khamenei? Hassan Nasrallah is now outmaneuvered, checkmated, made redundant by history, by, of all things, a magnificent Arab Spring, in which he has no role, no say, and no decision. Nothing...."

Obama Limits Criticism of Ongoing Arab Spring Violent Crackdowns in Syria, Bahrain

"The Obama administration has issued minor criticism of human rights abuses against peaceful protests by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and the monarchy in Bahrain. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just recently said the conflict in Yemen would end only if President Ali Abdullah Saleh "steps down." We speak with University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole about why the United States has not been more vocal in supporting these pro-democracy movements in a region of strategic importance...."

Former CIA Agent Glenn Carle Reveals Bush Admin Effort to Smear War Critic Juan Cole

"Former top CIA counterterrorism officer Glenn Carle has revealed the Bush administration sought damaging personal information on Juan Cole, an academic and prominent critic of the Iraq war, in an attempt to discredit him. Carle says the Bush White House made at least two requests for intelligence about Cole, whose blog "Informed Comment" rose to prominence after the Iraq invasion. Carle refused to carry out the request. In a joint interview, Carle and Cole join us to discuss the explosive revelation and why Cole is now calling for a congressional investigation. "I think I was targeted because this was a propagandistic administration … full of people who thought they could pull the wool over the American people’s eyes," says Cole. "The Bush administration was starkly at odds with the intelligence community as a whole—the CIA, in particular, and the National Intelligence Council even more so," Carle says. “I do know the context of tension and hostility between the Bush administration and the intelligence community, and more broadly, any critic of their policies.”...."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

This poll asks:

Do you support stopping the protests in Syria to give a chance to implementing promised reforms?

With over 6,000 responding, 89% said no.

New Egypt? What New Egypt? Mubarak loyalist to lead Egypt's foreign policy

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"The appointment of Mohamed El-Orabi as Egypt’s new foreign minister represents the continuation of the former regime’s policies in both the domestic political landscape and the international one, experts say.

Furthermore, diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs say that Orabi was one of the closest ambassadors to the family of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

“The choice of El-Orabi shows that the country’s military rulers and the cabinet are adopting the wrong strategies in shaping the foreign policy of Egypt. El-Orabi is not a figure who represents Egypt’s interests after the revolution,” said Abdullah al-Ashaal, an ex-diplomat and a presidential hopeful.

Orabi has been a career diplomat for almost 35 years. He served as the deputy ambassador to Israel from 1994 to 1998, and has worked in the United States and Britain. He was Egypt’s ambassador to Germany for eight years, from 2001 to 2008.

His father, Ibrahim El-Orabi, was chief of staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces in the 1980s....."

ما فعلناه بمقاوماتنا المسلّحة وما فعلته بنا

ماجد كيالي

"لم تكن تجارب حركاتنا الوطنية في المقاومة المسلحة أحسن من تجاربنا الأخرى، السياسية والحزبية والأيدلوجية، وبالطبع فهي لم تصل إلى مآلات أفضل من الأحوال التي آلت إليها أنظمتنا، بخياراتها السياسية والاقتصادية، على اختلافاتها وتنوعها. ولعل هذا الأمر ينطبق على حال الحركة الوطنية الفلسطينية، التي أطلقت المقاومة المسلحة، منذ أواسط الستينيات من القرن الماضي، لتحرير فلسطين.

اللافت أن الفلسطينيين، الذين طالما تغنّوا بالكفاح المسلح، وجعلوه بمكانة مقدسة، خارج النقد، لم يبيّنوا قط ماهية إستراتيجيتهم العسكرية، هم فقط أطلقوا المقاومة وتركوها لشأنها! الأنكى من ذلك أن هذه التجربة، برغم كل الثغرات التي اعتورتها، وبرغم العفوية التي طبعتها، لم تحظ يوما بأية مراجعة تقييمية، نقدية، ولم يتم التعامل معها بشكل مسؤول، وبما يخدم الهدف الوطني.

لكن الأكثر لفتاً للانتباه أن أرباب المقاومة المسلحة، عند الفلسطينيين، ظلوا يعلون من شأن كفاحهم المسلح، حتى بعد اختفاء قواعدهم العسكرية (في الخارج)، وبرغم عجزهم عن القيام بأية عملية فدائية، على امتداد ثلاثة عقود من الزمن، لكأن الكلام عن المقاومة المسلحة يعوّض عن وجودها الفعلي!

في هذا الإطار بالضبط يمكن النظر إلى أعمال العنف التي شهدها مؤخرا مخيم اليرموك للاجئين (قرب دمشق)، هذه المرة لم يكن العنف بين فصيل وفصيل، ولا بين جماعة من فصيل ضد قيادتها، هذه المرة وصلت لوثة العنف إلى الجماهير الغاضبة، التي ثارت على فصائلها، وأفصحت عن مخزونها من ثقافة وسلوكيات العنف؛ هذا ما فعلته المقاومات المسلحة بنا وهذا مافعلناه بها. يبقى السؤال لماذا وصلت الأمور إلى هنا؟ وكيف يمكن تدارك هذا الانحدار، عند الفصائل والأفراد والمجتمعات، في مجالي الثقافة والسلوكيات."

The War Against ‘Isolationism’

The empire strikes back

by Justin Raimondo
, June 22, 2011

".... Our elites have neither the will, nor the intention, of shrinking the US presence in the world: they are far too invested, politically and psychologically, in the idea that Washington is and must remain the center of the known universe. Within the limits of the District of Columbia, the virtue of humility is nearly unknown: indeed, it is considered a vice. Rather than admit defeat, they are willing to risk whatever political consequences might follow from their stubborn hubris, confident that they’ve rigged the political system sufficiently to render the popular revolt against interventionism impotent.

How it will end is anybody’s guess, but mine is this: our elites, like those in the Middle East (and now Europe), are underestimating the rage boiling beneath the surface of everyday life in America. Smugly complacent, they scold the people for succumbing to “isolationism” and assure them that they – the “experts” – know best how to solve the world’s problems … when they can’t even solve the problems we are confronting here at home.

This “let them eat cake” attitude is bound to provoke a radical “blowback” effect – as Marie Antoinette realized as she ascended to the guillotine."

Al-Jazeera Video: Renegotiating the Egypt-Israel gas deal

"For years, Egypt has been selling gas to Israel and Jordan at a bargain rate - and mostly to the benefit of just a few allies of Hosni Mubarak's regime.

Now, Egypt is asking the two countries to pay international gas prices, while some Egyptians even want the interim government to annul the deal in its entirety.

The move has angered investors and threatened to further strain relations between Egypt and Israel.

But following the revolution, profiteering at the state's expense is no longer being tolerated by some.

Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Cairo."

More protesters killed despite Assad's pledges

Opposition claims Ba'athists staged rally in Homs by bringing in people from outside of the city

The Independent

"Syria's security forces yesterday opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least seven people just a day after President al-Assad pledged to engage in a "national dialogue" [With bullets, that is!] to safeguard the country's now precarious future.

This new round of civilian bloodshed, the latest in Syria's 12-week insurrection, came as the Ba'athist regime attempted to shore up its tottering government by rallying its own supporters onto the streets. Tens of thousands of people, many waving Syrian flags and chanting pro-government slogans, gathered in city squares across the country.

A witness said that around 10,000 regime supporters arrived in the central Syrian city of Homs yesterday. "Nobody knows them, they are strangers to the city, they were asking for directions," the witness told the Associated Press news agency.

Another activist in Homs told The Independent there had been clashes between the pro and anti-government demonstrators. "I tried to get into the city centre today but I couldn't," said the man. "Some of the roads are blocked by anti-government people and others are blocked by pro-government people, including the police force."

During the stand-off, a number of civilians were killed by bursts of machine-gun fire. There were also reports that the security services were arresting injured demonstrators.

Despite the large pro-government demonstrations, many activists said the rallies bore the familiar hallmarks of an organised Ba'athist protest. Radwan Ziadeh, a US-based human-rights activist, said: "It's orchestrated by the Syrian regime to show that Bashar al-Assad still has some popularity in Syria and some people support him. But it's a failed strategy."....."

The Egyptian army's mask has slipped

Those in control have draped themselves in the revolutionary flag – but trials by military tribunals show how phony this is

Austin Mackell, Wednesday 22 June 2011

"The growing practice of sending Egyptian civilians for trial by military tribunals is one sign that the armed forces council now ruling the country is not serving the goals of the revolution.

Since 1962, when a law passed by President Nasser allowed civilians to be put before military tribunals, such trials have been used to convict political enemies of the regime – often on evidence too flimsy for civilian courts.

Following the revolution earlier this year, many hoped that such trials would cease. But the supreme council of the armed forces (Scaf), which assumed power after the fall of President Mubarak, has not only continued resorting to military tribunals but has been using them more and more. Now, rather than communists or Islamist groups, it is democratic activists, and indeed the population at large that have become the targets.....

This is not surprising considering the privileged positions the upper echelons of the army occupied under the old regime. Indeed, while the National Democratic party might have been the body of the old system, the military – where all three of Egypt's dictatorial presidents began their careers – was its heart.

Like some godawful zombie, Egypt's oppressive system refuses to die. The head may be gone, but the heart is still beating."

Israel: Halt Home Demolitions

Compensate Scores of People Displaced in West Bank Communities

Human Rights Watch
June 21, 2011

"(Jerusalem) - Israel should end discriminatory policies that have forcibly displaced hundreds of West Bank Palestinian residents from their homes, Human Rights Watch said today. In demolition operations on June 14 and 21, 2011, Israeli authorities displaced more than a hundred residents of three West Bank communities, including women and children, destroying their homes and other structures. Israeli authorities should compensate the residents and provide them with housing, Human Rights Watch said.....

"Israeli authorities refuse permits to Palestinians, tear down homes, and then turn around and give Israeli settlers the right to build homes nearby," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The international community should press Israel to immediately end this blatantly discriminatory treatment."...."

Bahrain activists jailed for life

Court issues life sentences for eight prominent activists for allegedly plotting coup during protests.


"Bahrain has sentenced eight prominent activists to life in prison for plotting a coup during protests that rocked the Sunni-ruled Gulf island kingdom earlier this year.

The court on Wednesday also sentenced other defendants, from among the 21 suspects on trial, to between two and five years in jail.

The Bahrain News Agency says the life sentences were issued against prominent Shia political leader Hassan Mushaima; activists Abdulhady al-Khawaja, Abduljalil Al Singace and five others.

Mushaima returned to Bahrain in February, from self-imposed exile in the UK after authorities dropped charges against him.

Ibrahim Sharif, the Sunni leader of the secular leftist group Waad, was sentenced to five years. Waad had joined the largest Shia opposition group Wefaq in calling for reforms to the constitutional monarchy.

Authorities claimed the activists had sought to overthrow Bahrain's Sunni monarchy and have links to "a terrorist organisation abroad" - a veiled reference to Iran.

Protests expected

Witnesses say demonstrators made roadblocks with sand and debris, and called for marches to oppose the trial. No violence was reported.

On Tuesday night, several villages had demonstrated in solidarity with the opposition leaders facing charges...."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Syria's cultural revolution

In their peaceful uprising young people have found art, comedy and music to be weapons Assad fears

Salwa Ismail, Tuesday 21 June 2011

"....For the young activists, some of whom I interviewed recently in Damascus, the uprising has been about reclaiming the country from the ruling clique; transcending ethnic and sectarian divisions that the regime has manipulated to maintain its power; and forging a national identity tied to rights and obligations of citizenship. The movement includes many who, at a very young age, took part in the civil forums of the Damascus spring of 2000, or have political activists or prisoners of conscience in their families. It began with small acts of solidarity with Egypt and Tunisia, in particular candlelight vigils in which a few dared to gather in public places despite the menacing presence of security personnel.

This movement has spread geographically and gained in numbers. Throughout the country, small acts of resistance – evening protests, sit-ins in public squares and women-only home sit-ins – build up every week to the outpouring of anti-regime sentiment after Friday prayers. Participants and leaders come from all sects and include men and women. They maintain regular communication, exchange experiences of local organising and hold virtual debriefing sessions to assess their methods and approach.

In addition to organising and co-ordinating protests, young people have expressed resistance to the regime through an extensive body of artistic work and an expanding counter-culture. In posters, slogans, songs, animation and comedy, they have sought to provide an alternative to the regime's monopoly of the media and its aggressive occupation of the public space.....

Indeed, a new map of Syria drawn up to mark the protests on Fridays shows the remaking of the geography and the politics of the country. In this sense, the uprising could be viewed as the second coming of the Syrian nation."

أغنية المندسين - غناء وأداء فرقة المندسين السوريين

Hezbollah and the Arab revolution

The group's leader keeps his ear close to the ground, bonding with the dispossessed and speaking their language.

Larbi Sadiki

"....Heralded by millions of Muslim fans as "the mastermind of the resistance" - or "the Muslim Che Guevara" - while demonised by the US Congress and Israel as a "terrorist", Nasrallah's rhetoric vis-à-vis the Syrian regime makes him an oddity in two ways.

Firstly, resistance is not divisible
. Resistance is resistance, whether deployed against a colonial oppressor or against the indigenous oppressor, occupying, in this instance, the Arab state.

The same goes for freedom; it is not divisible. Resistance in the quest for freedom applies to the occupied Lebanese and Palestinian as much as to the oppressed Syrian or Yemeni.

Nasrallah was among the first to lend support to Arab revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and later to the down-trodden protesting against marginalisation in Bahrain. Withholding support for the uprising in Syria - because the regime supports muqawamah and opposes imperialism - is speaking with two tongues vis-à-vis Arab revolution.

It is the Syrian masses who stand behind Hezbollah's resistance. The credit does not belong to the Assad dynasty. Some credit is due to the state even if the Assads, for whatever reasons or interests, prefer resistance by proxy, in Gaza and Southern Lebanon - but not in the Golan Heights.

The Assads will depart some day. The Syrians are here to stay.....

Secondly, Nasrallah did not need state endorsement of the Syrian regime - even though his speech back in May expressed equal appreciation to the Syrian people and concern for stability.

Back in 2006, a pearl of wisdom from Sayyed Hassan suggested the Jordanian and Egyptian leaders held their tongues instead of criticising Hezbollah at a critical time - when bombs were raining on the South and al-Dahiya. Silence may have been more eloquent on this occasion too, rather than speaking in favour of a regime that was at the time guilty of massive brutality against many Syrian towns and their communities.

Protests from average citizens eloquently state that they desire a Syria of the people, from and to the people. Not a dynasty. This casts doubt as to whether the current regime is still favoured by a majority of the people - Nasrallah's information suggests otherwise....."

Syria ‘general amnesty’ fails to free hundreds detained after protests

21 June 2011

"A new “general amnesty” announced in Syria falls far short of the political reforms called for by protesters, Amnesty International said today.

According to the state news agency SANA, the amnesty will apply to chronically ill prisoners as well as those held for some criminal offences committed before yesterday, including theft and smuggling. It will not affect hundreds of people being held for their involvement in peaceful political protests.

Several hundred political prisoners were reportedly released following another “general amnesty” announced on 31 May. However, hundreds more remain detained, many of them held incommunicado and at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

“President al-Assad has once again failed dramatically to address the legitimate demands of people who’ve been risking their lives to make their voices heard,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

All those being held without charge for their perceived link to the ongoing protests must be put on trial or released.”...."

Al-Jazeera Cartoon: Dialog, Rabbit Style.

Al-Jazeera Video: Empire - Interview: Ahmet Davutoglu

"Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, talks to Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior analyst, about the Arab Spring, Turkey's Arab policy and its overall strategy in the region and beyond."

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story: Al-Assad running out of options?

Al-Jazeera Video: Iraqis make a living among the dead

"The Najaf cemetery in central Iraq is the largest graveyard in the world.

It is a holy site for Shia Muslims, millions of whom choose to be buried there because of its proximity to Imam Ali's tomb.

But as poverty and violence displace more Iraqis, the cemetary is increasingly becoming a refuge for the living.

Dozens of families with nowhere else to go have now built their homes - and their lives - among the graves.

Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf reports from Najaf. "

Syrian refugees on the Turkish border: Stories of murder, rape, intimidation and thuggery

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"Hatay Province, Turkey - Behind the barbed wire surrounding the refugee camp located in Hatay Province, near the Turkish-Syrian border, stands Khitam, a six-year-old Syrian girl, who along with her family fled the Syrian regime’s crackdown on the protest wave sweeping the nation.....

At the gates of one of the camps, we met with Amm Mohamed and his two little girls.

Jisr al-Shughour is a center for murder and rape. The Syrian Army has not saved an effort,” he said angrily. “They break into homes at midnight, arrest whoever they want and shoot at whoever they want.”

“They don’t even have mercy for the weak women...there were cases of rape. Even the Syrian Air Force struck us in what seemed to be a genocide [This should make Hassan Nasrallah's day!]. Before they came, they sent thugs to burgle our homes.”

Only steps away from tent we could hear Syrians chanting. “The people want to bring down the regime,” they said in unison.

As we approached them a young Syrian man came up to us and said, “Where is the Arab League?! Why hasn’t the Arab League Chief come to see what has happened to us and listen to us?! Or is he too busy?!”...."

Unity? What Unity? This Was a Farce From The Beginning. When Will The Palestinians Ditch These Losers?

حماس تتهمه بالتراجع عن اتفاق المصالحة؛ عباس: الحكومة مسؤوليتي وأنا أشكلها كما أشاء

عرب ٤٨ ووكالات

"اتهمت حركة حماس اليوم الثلاثاء، الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس، بالتراجع عما جرى التوافق عليه بشأن المصالحة الوطنية.

وذكرت وكالة "صفا" المحلية، أن القيادي في حماس صلاح البردويل، وصف تصريحات عباس الليلة الماضية لقناة lbc اللبنانية بأنه "مفاجئ وتوتيري، وأدار الظهر لكل ما تم التوافق عليه خلال الحوارات الثنائية".

وقال البردويل إنّ "تصريحات عباس فاجأت الشعب الفلسطيني، حيث إنه خرج عن سكة ونهج المصالحة الفلسطينية التي تقوم على التوافق الوطني الفلسطيني وصولا إلى وحدة البرامج".

واعتبر أن عباس "عاد إلى سكة فرض البرامج من طرف واحد والتنكر للغة المصالحة، بالرغم من أننا توافقنا أن تكون كل الأمور بالتوافق سواء ما يتعلق بتشكيل الحكومة ومهامها ولجنة الانتخابات ومحكمة الانتخابات واللجنة الأمنية العليا وبقية القضايا".

Leading article: The Assad regime's desperate – and dangerous – gamble

The Independent

"Almost half a year after the start of what became the Arab Spring, the former President of Tunisia is being tried in absentia, Egypt is bogged down in constitutional debate before elections scheduled for the autumn, and Libya's President Gaddafi is fighting for his life. In the Gulf, the government of Bahrain, bolstered by Saudi security forces, is retrenching, with the trials of political opponents and medical staff, while the President of Yemen may or may not return from Saudi Arabia, where he is being treated for injuries sustained in an attack on his palace.

But one of the fiercest and potentially most destabilising – or, more positively, transforming – struggles has still to reach its climax in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad yesterday gave his first televised speech for two months. If he wanted to regain the political initiative, he conspicuously failed. And if he intended to extend an olive branch to his opponents, this is not the message they understood. No sooner had he completed his address, they took to the streets to express their displeasure. As an attempt to calm mounting tensions, it rebounded....

As the fate of Hosni Mubarak demonstrated, there is a point beyond which promises of reform, however well meant, are no longer enough. In Syria, with more than 1,000 protesters dead, more than 10,000 arriving as refugees in Turkey, another 10,000 trying to reach Turkey, and villages and towns laid waste, that point has surely been reached....In trying to defy the wind of change, Mr Assad risks unleashing the whirlwind."

Dave Brown on Greece and the EU

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Syria: the national monologue

Bashar al-Assad presented himself as the fulcrum of change, but in reality the ironwork is firmly jammed

Editorial, Monday 20 June 2011

"President Bashar al-Assad yesterday addressed the nation for the third time since the uprising began three months ago, promising what would have been, 98 days ago, an ambitious and far-reaching programme of reform. He continued to call the demonstrations a conspiracy fomented by foreign enemies. To the growing list of epithets he has used in the past to describe the people being shot at – vandals, saboteurs, Muslim extremists, wanted criminals – he added another one: "germs"....

For some weeks, the Syrian opposition has been saying that a point of no return has been reached. The fury the speech generated among Syrians at home and abroad appears to confirm the view that the uprising is indeed unstoppable. Assad can inflame passions, but no longer has the ability to quench them. On the day he called for a national dialogue, the idea of dialogue is dead. Nor can Assad persuade some of the 10,500 refugees in Turkey to return home. After the fighting at Jisr al-Shughour, where streets were raked with indiscriminate machine-gun fire, the idea that security forces exist to protect residents, rather than mow them down, is treated with derision.

Senior army commanders will eventually decide Assad's fate. But they are not there yet, and Assad will continue to think all he has to do is to dangle vague promises of a brighter future. Yesterday, he presented himself as the fulcrum of change in his country. The reality is the ironwork is firmly jammed, and will not move again until he goes."

Libya's civilian casualties have silenced Sarkozy's crusade

France's president has gone quiet following speculation it was a French missile that killed civilians in a Tripoli housing block

Nabila Ramdani, Monday 20 June 2011

"....The French press lapped up such allusions, looking forward to a brutal but swift military adventure that would topple a tyrant and stop him "killing his own people". Sarkozy, meanwhile, could make up for his appalling domestic record with an honorable crusade against a one-time ally.

How strangely silent the same French press is today
as speculation mounts that it was in fact one of their missiles that ploughed into a housing block in Tripoli, killing at least nine civilians, including young children, and seriously injuring dozens more. While authoritative journalists, including British ones, working in Libya point to the "weapons systems failure" (Nato jargon) being the fault of the French military, Paris has effectively imposed a news blackout on the subject. The day after the lethal attack, there was not one word in the French press, on TV, or on radio about those potentially responsible.

"It doesn't matter whose missile it was," a source at the French Ministry of Defence told me. "It's a combined operation – we're all in it together." Asked directly if a French missile had killed the civilians, he replied: "No comment."...."