Saturday, February 11, 2012

2 American women arrested during protest in Bahrain


Left: Huwaida Arraf in Gaza aboard the Free Gaza boat.

"(CNN) -- Two American women were arrested during a demonstration Saturday in the capital of Bahrain, with state news and one of the women's husbands offering divergent accounts as to whether they were then deported.

Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath arrived in Bahrain several days ago and obtained tourist visas, reported the state-run Bahrain News Agency .

They were arrested Saturday afternoon by authorities in Manama, the news agency and the advocacy group Witness Bahrain both said.

Adam Shapiro, Arraf's husband, told CNN late Saturday from Ireland that the two have been charged with being at an illegal gathering -- because the protest they were at was not considered legal -- as well as giving false reasons for entering the county. He based his account on talks with U.S. embassy officials, though he hadn't talked with his wife directly.

He denied that the women had been deported back to the United States, as the Bahrain News Agency reported.

Rather, Shapiro said the women spent part of what was early Sunday morning at a Bahraini court hearing attended by a prosecutor, their lawyers, a judge and two U.S. embassy officials.

U.S. State Department spokesman Harry Edwards confirmed the American embassy was aware and engaged in the case, noting that consular officials had visited the pair......."

Assad's bloodbath

David Simonds on the brutal repression of the Syrian uprising

David Simonds

The Observer, Saturday 11 February 2012

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Homs from the frontline: never-ending shelling and a child buried in the night

In a special report from the city's Baba Amr district, the BBC's Paul Wood meets those facing the military's shells and mortars

Paul Wood, Saturday 11 February 2012

"Abu Suleiman was working methodically to wrap the body of a seven-year-old girl in a white shroud. He didn't flinch as a volley of mortar bombs crashed down only a street away. He has been preparing the dead for burial since the start of the uprising. Last week he had his busiest day.

Carefully, he folded over the white cloth to cover the girl's curly chestnut hair, matted with blood. He did not clean it off. "If they are killed by a bomb or a bullet, we don't wash their martyrs' blood," he said. He wrote the girl's name on the shroud, Nuha al-Manal.....

We slipped out of the city during a pause in the bombardment. Our cameraman, Fred Scott, had filmed the burial of the little girl, Nuha al-Manal. It took place at night since, they said, funerals were regularly attacked. Even so, it was too dangerous for relatives of the child to attend.

A volunteer ran, stumbling, across the graveyard, with the small body grasped in his arms. There was no time to offer prayers. There was only the rapid scrape of shovels and a burst of gunfire in their direction as she was hurriedly put in the ground. There will be many more such lonely and desperate burials in Homs."

Syria: veteran French surgeon saves lives after 44 years in world's war zones

'We are just here to help in some way', says Dr Jacques Bérès, 71, pressed into action within hours of arriving in Homs area

Martin Chulov, Saturday 11 February 2012

"When Dr Jacques Bérès crossed into Syria by truck last week, his hulking suitcase full of surgical kit was perched against an awkward cargo – two dozen rocket launchers.

The retired French surgeon – who has volunteered his services in nearly every major global conflict since Vietnam in 1968 – said he rarely had to share transport with gunrunners on his mercy missions. But nothing about this war in Syria seems to be going to script....

In the three days that the 71-year-old orthopaedic surgeon Bérès has been near Homs, he has been at the centre of an escalating uprising. Hours after arriving on Thursday he helped to save the life of a gunshot victim and gave first aid to five seriously wounded opposition fighters.....

Abu Mahmoud is a recent defector; he waited for almost 10 months before fleeing and was party to some of the most prominent operations of the regime crackdown, in Idlib, Deraa and Homs. But the time it took him to defect is not being held against him in his home town, where he is now one of the Free Syrian Army's local leaders.

"Every officer like him had three people from Assad's army watching him," said the lead physician at the clinic, Dr Qassem. "He couldn't run. If he did, he would have been killed.".....

Frontline medics have been killed and wounded in Homs and their facilities and dispensaries have been hit by mortars and rockets. So, too, has a hospital. The opposition-held sectors of the city have been battered into submission by the eight-day barrage.

Few people are making it out of the satellite towns and villages that spill north to Hama, or south towards Lebanon. "We still can't get there," said one medical worker. We want to go very much, but the roads are not safe."

So, too, does Bérès. "The symbolism is very strong," he said of the presence of foreign doctors in a war zone. "People here are happy to meet a surgeon from a well-developed country who just wants to be with them. "It seems to be a war here, yes. But I don't know if it's a continuation of the (Arab) spring, or a religious war between the Alawite and the Sunni people."

For Bérès, some 44 years in the field, including 10 trips to the war zones of Lebanon, Gaza, the Balkans, Ivory Coast, Afghanistan and Iraq, interspersed with time at Paris hospitals, have chipped away at the ideals he first brought to the profession. "Humanity is not drifting away, but it's not improving," he said.

As he prepared to move on into Homs itself, which could for him be perhaps his last stop on a long road of humanitarian help, he delivered a prediction that seemed to echo around this place, in the hinterland of civil war. "I am not optimistic about Syria," he said gravely. "It is a very difficult situation.""

Al-Jazeera Video: Yemenis celebrate a year of protests

From 9/11 to 2/11: How Egypt's revolution became the world's

The revolutionaries of the Arab world pioneered strategies of activism that influenced the movements around the globe.

By Mark LeVine

History changes course

In the wake of the ousting of Ben Ali and Mubarak, Western governments and organisations have touted their role in helping to "train" the activists behind the revolutions. The reality was quite different. This generation of activists did not need the West to teach it how to use Facebook or Twitter or build more effective civil society structures. But it was able to use Western NGOs (both independent and government-sponsored) to help strenghten and support the local as well as pan-Arab networks of civil society, who so famously coalesced together in late 2010 with the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution. They were not the necessary condition for revolution, but they certainly helped enable it.

Ultimately, however, far from owing their success in any significant measure to Western tutelage or support, the soon-to-be revolutionaries in the Arab world were, in the second half of the past decade, pioneering strategies and styles of activism that, however influenced by the previous decade of protests globally, added new dimensions that would prove crucial to the initial success of the Arab Spring revolts....."

الزهار: اتفاق الدوحة خطوة خاطئة لم يستشرنا فيها مشعل

"قال د. محمود الزهار القيادي في حركة حماس، في تصريحات لوكالة أنباء الشرق الأوسط في غزة، أن تولي الرئيس عباس مسؤولية الحكومة المقبلة لم يتم استشارة أحد فيه من قادة الحركة في غزة أو خارجها مضيفا "أن تسليم أبو مازن زمام الأمور مرفوض تماما وخطوة خاطئة وغير مقبولة من الناحية الإستراتيجية".

وقال القيادي البارز في حركة حماس وعضو مكتبها السياسي، ان مشاورات ستجريها قيادات حماس في الداخل والخارج خلال اليومين المقبلين لحسم رأيها حول إعلان الدوحة وتولي الرئيس محمود عباس مسؤولية الحكومة المقبلة.

وكانت الأيام القليلة التي تلت إعلان الدوحة والذي تم بمقتضاه إعلان تولي الرئيس "أبو مازن" مسؤولية الحكومة قد شهدت تضاربا في التصريحات بين قادة حماس في داخل غزة وخارجها.

وأعلن يوم الاثنين الماضي في الدوحة عن التوافق بين رئيس المكتب السياسي لحركة حماس خالد مشعل والرئيس محمود عباس وبمقتضاه تم التوافق على تولي الرئيس عباس مسؤولية الحكومة القادمة.

The Lousy Arab is Losing it Over Syria

"Nir Rosen on Homs
Nir Rosen reports from Homs. His article is simply an anthology of exaggerations, claims, rumors, fabrications, lies, deceptions and inventions by the Saudi/Qatari-supported Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Nir did not even bother to talk to any side except the side that killed the French journalist. Oh, yes: Nir did mention sectarian attacks on innocent `Alawites in one line: "Members of the Alawite community in Homs, as well as security officials, claimed that Alawites had been killed by mortars originating from Sunni areas." Notice that news of their killing is merely "claims". "

Not long ago, Nir's reports and articles were featured by the Lousy Arab; no more.

Al-Jazeera Video: تظاهر في تونس تضامنا مع الشعب السوري

Al-Jazeera Video: US releases satellite image of Homs

"The United Sates has been putting more pressure on the Syrian government to end the violence in the country.

The US state department released new satellite pictures that it says were taken over Homs. Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: Yemenis celebrate anniversary of uprising

Al-Jazeera Video: Protesters call for nationwide strike in Egypt

Homs Massacre, by Emad Hajjaj

Gunmen assassinate army general in Damascus

"BEIRUT (AP) — Gunmen assassinated an army general in Damascus on Saturday in the first killing of a high ranking military officer in the Syrian capital since the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began in March, the state-run news agency said.

The attack is a sign that violence in Syria is reaching the tightly controlled capital, which has been relatively quiet compared to other cities. Though there was no immediate claim of responsibility, it could also indicate that rebel soldiers who have risen up in numerous cities and towns are trying to step up action in Damascus.

SANA news agency said three gunmen opened fire at Brig. Gen. Issa al-Khouli in the morning as he left his home in the Damascus neighborhood of Rukn-Eddine. Al-Khouli was a doctor and the chief of a military hospital in the capital.

Such assassinations are not uncommon outside Damascus and army officers have been killed in the past, mostly in the restive provinces of Homs and Idlib......"

Israel: Hunger Striker’s Life at Risk

Charge or Release Detainee in 8th Week Without Eating

February 11, 2012

"(Jerusalem) – Israeli military authorities should immediately charge or release a Palestinian detained since December 17, 2011, without charge on the basis of secret evidence that he is not allowed to see or contest, Human Rights Watch said today. Khader Adnan Mousa went on hunger strike on December 18 to protest his administrative detention.

Adnan’s family, his lawyer, and doctors from an Israeli rights group, who visited Adnan this week told Human Rights Watch that his health has deteriorated seriously and that Israeli authorities had shackled him to his hospital bed.

“Israel should immediately end its unlawful administrative detention of Adnan and charge or release him,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “He may be approaching death from his hunger strike, and yet Israel is chaining him to his hospital bed without bothering to even charge him with any wrongdoing.”

Adnan, 33, has been on hunger strike for 55 days. According to a 2006 study by the British Medical Association, “during the 1980 and 1981 hunger strikes in Northern Ireland […] death generally occurred between 55 and 75 days.” In general, “the final stage” of a hunger strike occurs between 45 to 75 days “due to cardiovascular collapse or severe arrhythmias,” the study said....."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Syria: 'True freedom is without fear'

In a town near Homs residents walk a fine line every Friday between fear of the Assad regime and the courage to fight it

Martin Chulov near Homs, Friday 10 February 2012

"Just after noon in this rebel-held Syrian town, demonstrators took to the streets to denounce the regime of Bashar al-Assad, as they have done every Friday for the last 11 months.

There were small groups of men at first, emerging silently from mosques, homes and alleyways, then converging like a shoal of fish as they neared the main square. The gathering masses chanted as they walked. Each taunt towards Assad and the Syrian power they so despise seemed to empower the crowd, by now more than 1,000 strong and bellowing to the heavens.

The people were keen to note that the Syrian army, only a few kilometres away, did not dare come after them. And they were just as eager to stress that things are very different up the road in Homs, where Syrian troops on Friday closed in on the rebel-held areas they had bombarded for the past week.....

Sectarianism clearly touches a nerve with the almost exclusively Sunni population of this town. Despite that, the people play to prejudices, which they seem unable to set aside. A self-fulfilling prophecy seems well on the way to being realised, if this forsaken corner of the Sunni heartland is any guide.

"Assad is trying to incite a sectarian war," said one man after being assured his identity would be protected. "There has never been talk [among the Syrian people] of Sunni, Shia, Allawite or Christian. Assad is setting the people against each other."

In a bid to prove his claim of cross-sectarian tolerance, he reached through the throng around us to a grieving man whom he identified as a Christian.

"This Christian lost his nephew last night," the man said." He was fighting with us." Indeed, a dead Free Syrian Army (FSA) soldier had been taken to the town's medical clinic in the evening. His colleagues identified him as a Christian, and said he was one of the few in town to have joined the opposition.

The dead man's uncle could barely speak, and was too terrified to talk for fear of retribution....

"It was like all this in Hama in 1982," said a woman who called herself Umm Zaharedine. "I was there and so was my husband. Assad the father killed 30,000, maybe 40,000 people, and it made the news outside Syria for maybe two minutes. But it's different now, there are cameras, reporters, witnesses and voices. This is part of freedom and is something that even an old woman like me can taste. For too long we have been a society that is not truthful."...."

Al-Jazeera Video: ما وراء الخبر - المسؤولية عن تفجيري حلب

Syria violence spreads to Aleppo as bomb blasts kill 28

Further 175 hurt in security compound blasts but opposition blames attacks on security forces aiming to disrupt protests

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor, Friday 10 February 2012

"The worsening violence in Syria spread to the country's largest city, Aleppo, on Friday with two blasts outside security compounds that left 28 people dead.

The explosions outside military intelligence and police compounds, which Syrian state media blamed on "terrorists", wounded 175 people, the worst bloodshed Aleppo has seen since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began last year. The northern city and economic hub has been largely quiet, but protests had been planned for Friday. Anti-Assad activists accused the regime of setting off the blasts to discredit the opposition and disrupt demonstrations.

Government forces, meanwhile, continued their siege of rebel-held districts in Homs and other opposition areas, going house to house arresting people in the Insha'at district and keeping up an artillery and tank barrage on Baba Amr........

.....However, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, is due to address the general assembly on Monday to press the case for indictments.

"We believe, and we've said it and we'll keep repeating it, that the case of Syria belongs in the international criminal court. This would give a very, very strong message to those running the show," Rupert Colville, Pillay's spokesman, said.

British officials said the UK government had been providing training and materials for independent human rights groups to record suspected atrocities, to provide admissible evidence for future trials at the international criminal court or elsewhere.

"The UK has funded and is continuing to fund work aim at collecting evidence of crimes and preserve that evidence so that it can be use at a later date," the official said. "Even though these people may be out of reach of justice today, there may be a time when are they are not.""

The battle for Homs

(Click on map to enlarge)

Government forces appear determined to regain control of opposition-held areas in restive Syrian city.

By Nir Rosen

"The Syrian city of Homs has been under attack for nearly a week, as government forces allied to President Bashar al-Assad try to regain control of opposition-held areas.
The city, in the centre of the country, has emerged as the capital of the uprising and its Revolutionary Council runs a virtual state-within-a-state, providing services and fielding its own armed groups.

This latest army offensive, which began on the night of February 3, was interpreted by leaders of Homs' uprising as a response to their recent gains......

'Controlling most of Homs'

After the initial assault on Khaldiyeh, more areas of Homs were hit by government forces in the following days, and opposition leaders reported that soldiers were shooting from some checkpoints.

"They are afraid to move troops into the neighbourhoods," one activist leader said, interpreting the indirect attacks as a sign of the regime’s weakness.

"We ordered our armed groups to remain silent for now," he said. "We don’t want them to attack or engage with the army because we don’t have much ammunition."....

Hama’s Revolutionary Council offered the Homs Revolutionary Council help with food, medicine, arms and ammunition.

The two councils co-operate closely and the team from Hama, about 30km north of Homs, was waiting for an opening to provide help.

As shelling continued, the fighters expected an eventual ground assault. But despite the increased crackdown, leaders of the Homs Revolutionary Council insisted they had lost no ground.

"We control most of Homs," one member of the council’s executive council said....."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria's second city hit by explosions

Al-Jazeera Video: Gunfire shakes northern Lebanese city

"Al Jazeera's Sue Turton reports from the city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, where supporters and opponents of Assad are trading gunfire. She says no casualties have yet been reported but the army has been called in to restore. Gunfire can be heard."

Likud leaders to go to Al-Aqsa, call for "cleansing" Jerusalem and building Jewish temple on mosque’s "ruins"

By Ali Abunimah

"Leaders and members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party are leading an incursion and rally into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – which Israel calls the “Temple Mount” – in eastern occupied Jerusalem this Sunday to call for its destruction and building a Jewish Temple on its “ruins.”

A flyer circulated online states:

The Likud
Members of the Likud Center
Along with the thousands of party members

Led by Reb’ Moshe Feiglin
Chairman of the Likud Leadership

Are invited to make aliyah to [go up] the Temple Mount. To thank and praise the Creator of this World. To declare that healthy leadership. [sic] Its beginning is in the complete control of Temple Mount.

Cleansing the place of the enemies of Israel, the land thieves, and building the Temple on the ruins of the mosques.

Without Any Fear Whatsoever

We shall meet on Sunday, 19 Shvat, near the top of the Maimonides Gate at 8:00 a.m.

Yearning for destruction of Muslim holy sites

An image distributed by the Israeli army chief rabbinate in December depicts the Al-Aqsa compound with the Dome of the Rock removed.


The ‘Cairo 19′ Got What They Deserve

Regime-changers up against the wall in Egypt

by Justin Raimondo, February 10, 2012

Left: A Democracy Promoting Product Supplied by the US.

".......Again and again, US policymakers and commentators have underestimated – and misunderstood – the powerful wave of protest that has toppled regimes from Tunisia to Yemen. It isn’t an ideological drive for “democracy,” as such, or one motivated by the economic downturn, although these factors are surely present: what the “Arab Spring” represents is an upsurge of radical nationalism, similar to the pan-Arabism unleashed by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the Egyptian revolution of 1952. In each and every instance, the target of the crowds in the streets has been a regime sporting the West’s imprimatur. Even Gadhafi had finally made his peace with those he once denounced as “imperialists,” and gained a degree of legitimacy in Western circles.

The Arab world has essentially been under occupation by the West since the fall of the Ottomans in the aftermath of World War I. The “anti-colonial” revolutions of the 1950s and 1960s ended in the consolidation of sclerotic regimes that oppressed their own people and – as the cold war petered out – wound up in the Western orbit. Indeed, as Mubarak and Gadhafi prepared their sons to succeed them, these regimes became indistinguishable from the monarchies traditionally backed by Washington and London.

US attempts to hijack and manipulate this nationalist tidal wave, beside being futile, are likely to result in a serious case of “blowback – unintended and highly unfortunate consequences that will reduce our influence and in the region and provoke an anti-American backlash. We are, in short, playing with fire – and no one should be surprised that, in Egypt and elsewhere, we are being burned.

By the way, before we elevate Sam Lahood, son of US Labor Secretary and former GOP congressman Ray Lahood, to the status of a martyr for “democracy” and “liberalism,” let’s note that his former gig was serving as a censor for the US Occupation Authority in Iraq. Putting him and his fellow “democracy-promoters” on trial is the Egyptians’ way of ensuring he never takes up similar duties in Egypt. "

حماس إذ تتحدى الضغوط وتخرج من سوريا

"قبل اندلاع الاحتجاجات في سوريا حاول رئيس المكتب السياسي التواصل مع قيادة النظام في دمشق مقدما لها نصائح واضحة وصريحة بخصوص الإصلاح السياسي، ومحذرا من أن قطار الإصلاح لن يتوقف عند حدود سوريا، وأن الشعب السوري ينشد الحرية مثله مثل سائر الشعوب العربية.

لم يستمع النظام لتلك النصائح، وأصرَّ على أن "نظام المقاومة والممانعة" يختلف عن سواه، وأن الشعب السوري لن يثور في وجهه، فكان أن بدأ الشعب السوري البطل ثورته التي لم تفاجئ النظام وحده، بل فاجأت العالم أجمع بمستوى بطولتها وإصرارها وتضحيتها من أجل الحرية.
بعد مرور قليل من الوقت على اندلاع الثورة، وفي محاولة لاستثمار وجودها في دمشق، طلب النظام رسميا من حركة حماس تحديد موقف مما يجري، وهو ما ردت عليه الحركة بكلام واضح خلاصته أن تحالفها معه هو تحالف ضد العدو الصهيوني، وليس ضد الشعب السوري، وانتهى الموقف إلى إصدار الحركة بيانا حياديا اعتبرته دوائر النظام بمثابة خيانة لها في مواجهة الاستحقاق الذي تواجهه.

تواصلت الضغوط على الحركة من أجل إخراج بيان أو موقف مختلف عن الذي اتخذ في البيان المشار إليه، لكنها رفضت بكل إباء، ودخل الإيرانيون على الخط في محاولة لدفع الحركة إلى اتخاذ موقف آخر، ووصل بهم الحال حد وقف الدعم المالي الذي تحتاجه الحركة من أجل تسيير الأوضاع في قطاع غزة، لكن الحركة لم تغير موقفها وصمدت أمام الضغوط، وهو ما فرض على الإيرانيين إعادة بعض الدعم بعد تسرب الأخبار حول موقفها، وإن لم تعد العلاقة إلى وضعها القديم، الأمر الذي لا يتوقع أن يتغير في حال قيام رئيس الحكومة في غزة إسماعيل هنية بزيارة طهران، وهي الزيارة التي تأتي ردا على دعوة إيرانية قديمة، وربما تقديرا للدعم الذي قدمته إيران للقطاع، والذي يتفوق للأسف على معظم الدعم العربي، ولهذا البعد حديث خاص، لاسيما أن الدعم المشار إليه سيتوقف على الأرجح، أو توقف عمليا، ولا بد من تعويضه من الجانب العربي والتركي.

لقد وجدت الحركة نفسها في موقف صعب إثر اندلاع الثورة السورية، لكنها لم تجد بدا من اتخاذ الموقف الذي اتخذته لجملة من الاعتبارات أهمها البعد المبدئي والأخلاقي الذي يحتم عليها الانحياز لثورات الشعوب المطالبة بالحرية.
دعك هنا من حقيقة أن كثيرا من السوريين لا يظهرون اقتناعا بحكاية المقاومة التي يتبناها النظام مستندين إلى تراثه في ضرب المقاومة الفلسطينية في لبنان، ووقوفه في حلف حفر الباطن، ومستندين إلى حقيقة أن دعم حزب الله قد أخذ يصب في إطار طائفي مستدلين بتهميش السنة في لبنان.

أيًّا ما يكن الأمر، فإن أي شيء لا يمكنه تبرير القتل الذي جرى ويجري، كما لا يمكنه تبرير قمع الناس المطالبين بالحرية، ولذلك لم يكن بوسع حماس في ضوء ذلك غير اتخاذ الموقف الذي اتخذته.

ما ينبغي أن يقال هنا هو أن اتخاذ الحركة موقفا حاسما لصالح الثورة السورية منذ البداية لم يكن ممكنا تبعا لارتباطاتها داخل سوريا، وكثرة الناس العاملين معها الذين ينبغي ترتيب أوضاعهم قبل اتخاذ خطوة كهذه، فضلا عن الخوف على الجالية الفلسطينية التي تحسب بهذا القدر أو ذاك على حماس، وليس على الفصائل الهامشية التي انحازت للنظام.

من هنا شرعت الحركة منذ شهور طويلة في ترتيب أوضاعها من أجل الخروج من سوريا، الأمر الذي كان يتم بشكل تدريجي وصولا إلى الخروج النهائي الذي يمكن القول إنه تم بالفعل، رغم أن الأمر لم يكن سهلا بحال في ظل وجود أناس ليس بوسعهم الخروج من هناك لاعتبارات الوثائق التي يحملونها وعوامل أخرى.

على أن ذلك لم يثن الحركة عن قرار الخروج من سوريا حتى تسحب من النظام فرصة استثمار ذلك الوجود في الترويج لنفسه، ولنتخيل ما واجهته وتواجهه الحركة من هجمات شرسة شنتها عليها بعض القوى القومية واليسارية بسبب رفضها تأييد النظام.

في الآونة الأخيرة وقبل الخروج النهائي كانت الضغوط التي يمارسها النظام بدعم من الإيرانيين قد بلغت أوجها، وقد تسربت أنباء كثيرة حول طلب النظام من قيادتها مواقف وتصريحات، بل لقاءات أمام الإعلام تستخدم في سياق الترويج للنظام، الأمر الذي رفضته قيادة الحركة بكل إباء، في موقف سيسجله لها التاريخ

Syria: what can be done?

Five commentators discuss the merits of five ways in which the outside world could respond to Syria's crisis

Abdel Bari Atwan, Michael Weiss, Seumas Milne, Shashank Joshi and Mehdi Hasan, Friday 10 February 2012

"1. Full-scale military intervention?

Abdel Bari Atwan I am opposed to military intervention by the west. Syria is not Libya, the army is well-armed and equipped with sophisticated weaponry. We would witness catastrophic civilian casualties. We have already seen the disasters caused by such intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the dangers of an internationalisation of the conflict are too great, with Russia, Iran and possibly China standing with Syria and Hezbollah against Nato and Israel. Such action would need a UN resolution which is clearly not forthcoming given Russia and China vetoed the last attempt to condemn Assad.....

Seumas Milne A direct invasion of Syria to topple the regime would be another disaster on the Iraq or Afghanistan model, lead to a catastrophic loss of life, trigger a long-running guerrilla war, draw in armed groups from neighbouring states and Iran against another western military occupation of an Arab, Muslim state. Fortunately, there is currently no significant support for such a course.....

2. Safe zones and humanitarian corridor?

Abdel Bari Atwan
These would need to be policed either by air or troops on the ground. Syria would interpret this as a declaration of war and would certainly attack. Assad would not want to provide shelter for defectors and opposition leaders either. Again, this risks escalation.....

Seumas Milne This is effectively the Libyan option, which would entail heavy Nato air bombardment of Syrian forces and defences and deployment of special forces, but without a UN fig leaf. It would mean direct involvement of the western military in another Arab civil war in a much more toxic sectarian and regional context, dramatically increase the death toll and risk morphing into full-scale intervention.....

3. Train and equip the Free Syrian Army?

Abdel Bari Atwan This would take time and a host country for training camps would have to be found. No country has volunteered, almost certainly because they fear Syrian reprisals. In addition there are two opposition armies, the FSA and the Revolutionary Army. The opposing forces then, are fragmented and weak....

Seumas Milne Gulf autocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already begun to do this and there are also reports of covert western support. But funnelling weapons to the armed wing of a fractured opposition will only escalate the conflict and killing without any prospect of tipping the military balance against the Syrian army, leading to pressure for more far-reaching intervention.....

4. A 'Friends of Syrian people' package?

Abdel Bari Atwan This succeeded in Libya, where the regime was widely reviled and there was the added incentive of oil. Assad still has a lot of supporters – the Alawites and the Syrian Shia back him. In the long run this option would probably end in military intervention and lead to full-scale war....

Seumas Milne The US, Britain and others are now backing this option, which will mean opposition groups coming under greater supervision by the west, undermining their national credibility and feeding the sense of western involvement in the crisis as part of a proxy war with Iran. War crimes indictments would only make regime leaders less likely to agree to a political transition.....

5. Mediated talks between Damascus and the opposition?

Blah, blah, blah

Syria: Stop Shelling of Residential Areas (video included)

Hundreds Killed, Wounded in Homs, Denied Medical Care

Human Rights Watch
February 9, 2012

"(New York) – The Syrian government should immediately stop its shelling of residential neighborhoods in the city of Homs, Human Rights Watch said today. Since February 3, 2012, the attacks have killed more than 300 persons in the city, according to Syrian monitoring groups, and wounded hundreds others, including women and children. No adequate medical assistance is available to the victims due to a blockade of the city by government forces and fear of arrest if treated at government-controlled hospitals, Human Rights Watch said.

Eight witnesses to the attacks interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that government troops have fired hundreds of “shells and mortars” into populated neighborhoods. Videos and photos of the attacks, reviewed by Human Rights Watch’s arms experts, and accounts from international journalists on the ground, confirm that government forces launched long-range indirect fire attacks into densely populated areas.

This brutal assault on residential neighborhoods shows the Syrian authorities’ contempt for the lives of their citizens in Homs,” said Anna Neistat, associate emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “Those responsible for such horrific attacks will have to answer for them.”......"

Salafi religious conservatives to lead Egypt education reform

Bikya Masr

"CAIRO: If religious conservatives have their way, educational reform in Egypt will reflect their strict and literalist interpretation of Islam.

This will include separate programs for girls to teach them their “special roles and God-given obligations.”

A member of the ultra-conservative Islamist Salafi Al-Nour party, Shabaan Abdel Aleen, will be chairing Parliament’s new education committee.

Tasked with instituting much-needed reform to the country’s under-funded and under-performing educational system, the committee’s agenda will be important to the country’s future development.

The Salafi reading of Islam rejects speculative theology, considering the use of discourse and debate a foreign import from Greek philosophy. Salafis strive instead for a purer form of religious devotion that adheres to literal readings and dress and behavior from the time of the prophet, such as the all-enveloping black niqab with eye-slits for women and the short galabaya robe for men.

Beyond recommending that schools emphasize teaching skills most needed by Egypt’s labor market, the group’s al-Nour party website’s education platform recommends eradicating everything in contradiction with Islam. Their ideas include:

Curricula that conforms with Egyptian ethics and the moral values.

Hiring religious teachers to revise curricula to teach “true Islam” so students enter the world “understanding the importance of religion.”

Communicating that: “science, as a means to become closer to God, is not separate from religion.”

Developing curricula “distinctly suited to girls, commensurate with the nature of their God-given duty in society.”

Understanding that “not all teaching methods appropriate for male students are appropriate for female students.”

Teaching girls “their special role in society through specialized teaching methods that cater to their special nature.”"

Egypt’s 6th of April: Feb 11 is beginning of the end for military junta

Bikya Masr

"CAIRO: Egypt’s powerful 6th of April Youth Movement said the movement continues to call for the nationwide general strike scheduled for Saturday, stressing that civil disobedience “is a constitutional and legal right” and a “similar strike took place in 2008,” explaining that this strike is the “beginning of the end to the military rule.”

Their confirmation of their participation in the general strike comes as religious institutions and the military junta in power in Egypt have called the strike plans “destructive” and “un-Islamic.”

Engi Hamdi, a member of the political bureau of the movement said, “the strike is a peaceful means that we use in pressurizing to achieve our demands, and the completion of the revolution,” stressing that it was not the first choice, “but this comes after resorting to marches, demonstrations and sit-ins” did not yield the desired results....."

Video: لقائي مع حسام الحملاوي

Interview with Hossam El-Hamalawy
الإضراب العام هو الحل

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Guardian Video: The last 24 hours in Syria

Footage obtained from social media websites purports to show the ongoing violence in Syria. Images from 8 February shows events in Homs and Idlib, while other footage is reported as showing the Free Syrian Army attacking a military checkpoint in Homs. Human Rights Watch says witness accounts, as well as analysis by arms experts, suggest Bashar al-Assad's forces are using long-range mortars to pound the city

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian uprising divides minority communities

"Since the beginning of the protest movement, Syria's government has insisted that one of the main reasons for its nationwide military crackdown on dissidents is to protect minority groups from "armed terrorists" within the country's majority Sunni Muslims.

However, a seemingly increasing number of Christians and Alawites - members of the same sect as the family of President Bashar al-Assad - have joined the uprising and accuse the government of trying to sew sectarian strife to stay in power.

Al Jazeera's Jane Ferguson reports from the flashpoint city of Homs."

بيان الحركة الإسلامية بجناحيها: لبيك يا سوريا...

أهلنا في الداخل الفلسطيني..
ما زال النظام البعثي-الطائفي في سوريا يقتل شعبها العظيم، وما زال شعب سوريا الصابر والمصابر -بعد مضي قرابة العام- يعض على النواجذ صابرا، محتسبا، متوكلا على الله، ومواجها بصدره العاري عدوان وهمجية النظام القمعي البوليسي في سوريا.

أيها الأهل في الداخل الفلسطيني..
إن هذا الطاغية ومن يواليه من منتفعي النظام، محليا وعالميا، قد أخذ قراره بذبح شعب سوريا الثائر ضد الظلم والطغيان، فقد آثر فحيح طائفيته على كل ما سواه، وقد أعماه وقوف روسيا والصين إلى جانبه، فضلا عن المثلث المتمثل بإيران والعراق وحزب الله، والصمت العربي والدولي المخزيين.

ها هي الصورة القبيحة لهذا النظام تتضح، فلطالما تاجر بالمقاومة والممانعة وجعلها رافعة لأهدافه الخسيسة، المتمثلة بالسيطرة المطلقة على مقدرات الشعب السوري الحر.
أهلنا في الداخل الفلسطيني..
إننا في الحركة الإسلامية بجناحيها نعلن رفضنا المطلق للقتل المنظم والإبادات الجماعية التي يرتكبها هذا النظام العفن، ونؤكد وقوفنا إلى جانب الحق وإلى جانب المستضعفين، إلى جانب شعب سوريا البطل المجاهد.

وإننا ندعو جماهيرنا في الداخل الفلسطيني إلى:
1. المشاركة في المظاهرتين القطريتين اللتين ستنطلقان يوم الجمعة القادم الموافق 17/2/2012م بعد صلاة الجمعة مباشرة من مدينة الطيبة ومن قرية كفركنا بعد صلاة العصر مباشرة.
2. كما ندعو الأهل للمشاركة الواسعة في عمليات الإغاثة التي ستنطلق اليوم الجمعة من مختلف مساجدنا في الداخل الفلسطيني، وتستمر حتى يوم الجمعة القادم 24/2/2012 .
قال تعالى: (قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ سُنَنٌ فَسِيرُواْ فِي الأَرْضِ فَانظُرُواْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُكَذِّبِينَ * هَذَا بَيَانٌ لِّلنَّاسِ وَهُدًى وَمَوْعِظَةٌ لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ * وَلاَ تَهِنُوا وَلاَ تَحْزَنُوا وَأَنتُمُ الأَعْلَوْنَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ * إِن يَمْسَسْكُمْ قَرْحٌ فَقَدْ مَسَّ الْقَوْمَ قَرْحٌ مِّثْلُهُ، وَتِلْكَ الأَيَّامُ نُدَاوِلُهَا بَيْنَ النَّاسِ، وَلِيَعْلَمَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَيَتَّخِذَ مِنكُمْ شُهَدَاء، وَاللَّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِينَ * وَلِيُمَحِّصَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَيَمْحَقَ الْكَافِرِينَ * أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَن تَدْخُلُواْ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَعْلَمِ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ جَاهَدُواْ مِنكُمْ وَيَعْلَمَ الصَّابِرِينَ).
* النصر للمجاهدين والصابرين والمحتسبين من أبناء سوريا العظيمة.
* الخزي والشنار لنظام الأسد وشبيحته ومن دار في فلكه.

الحــــركة الإسلامية بجناحيها

Syria uprising is now a battle to the death

Rockets rain down on towns that residents can neither defend nor leave, as Bashar al-Assad's forces besiege Free Syria Army

Martin Chulov near Homs, Thursday 9 February 2012

"In the heartland of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad a grinding war of attrition has now become an unforgiving battle to the death.

The Free Syria Army has held this territory of orchards and farmland since September, during which time loyalist forces have never been closer, nor seemed more menacing. As rockets regularly thundered on Thursday into towns that residents could neither defend nor leave, the three months of freedom they had savoured now seemed illusory.

There is little left in the town in which the Guardian was based on Thursday, or in the equally deprived and forsaken villages that dot the hinterland near Homs. Electricity here was switched off two months ago, the phone lines were downed last week. And on Wednesday, contact by road was cut with Homs, Syria's besieged third city, whose fate is seen as a dire warning of what lies ahead for the rest of the area.

Homs was on Thursday a very difficult place from which to flee. Only three seriously wounded residents are known to have made it out of the devastated opposition held sectors of the city into the relative safety of nearby Lebanon. Two of the wounded are unlikely to survive.

The rest face a desperate plight, barricaded in concrete homes that are crumbling in the face of the relentless onslaught now spreading to nearby farmland and villages....."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian forces continue Homs offensive

"Syrian security forces continue an offensive to take over the Bab Amr neighborhood in Homs, a stronghold of the armed opposition.

Ordinary people say the shelling is random, with many civilians being killed.

The government insists it's fighting armed gangs which are attacking both civilians and security forces.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin reports."

The Invisible Arab: Excerpt from Chapter 1

The following is the second of a series of excerpts that Al Jazeera will be publishing from The Invisible Arab: The promise and peril of the Arab revolutions. The excerpt from the preface can be found here.

"What went so wrong? How did the dream of liberation from colonialism turn into a nightmare for Arab states of north and northeast Africa and the Middle East? How did sovereignty designed to keep the West out turn into an alibi for keeping the people down? How did self-declared political leaders become national criminals? Why did they last so long and become so brutal, frequently even more so than their colonial predecessors?

In tracing the ills of the modern Arab world, some pundits have highlighted religion as the main source of its "backwardness", while others have underlined Arab cultural deficiencies that prevented the region from embracing rational policies and democratic principles - a mindset known as cultural exceptionalism, or its latest media term, "the caged Arab mind". But it's not within the scope of this essay to expose these and other fallacies about an intrinsic Arab backwardness, or analyze racist views of Arabs and Islam.

What is important to remember is that the Islamic world counts for some of the world's most economically successful and democratic nations, and to recall the great historical periods in Arab civilisation, including the period when Arabs documented, translated, and revived interest in the achievements of the classical world, while Europe was mired in the dark ages. It's also important to remember that full universal suffrage was adopted by the West as late as the twentieth century, with most other countries implementing it only over the last few decades, and recognise how Arabs have embraced the idea of elections whenever possible, even under military occupation, as in the case of recent Iraqi and Palestinian elections, where citizens voted with little hesitation in the hope that their ballots would count.

It's my contention that the roots of Arab problems are not civilisational, economic, philosophical, or theological per se, even if religion, development, and culture have had great influence on the Arab reality. The origins of the miserable Arab reality are political par excellence. Like capital to capitalism, or individualism to liberalism, the use and misuse of political power has been the factor that defines the contemporary Arab state. Arab regimes have subjugated or transformed all facets of Arab society.

Since gaining liberation from Western colonialism, the Arab world has been ruled mostly but not entirely by regimes whose practice has been antithetical to any sense human progress, unity, democracy, and human rights. Those who tried, albeit selectively to chart a better way forward on the basis of national security and national interest, were dissuaded through pressure, boycotted, or defeated on the battlefield. The political backwardness of the larger postcolonial transformation soon became the plague that infected everything else. The guardians of the state who were entrusted with the welfare of their nations monopolised power, controlled the economy, and ignored the civil liberties of the majority in order to privilege the few.

That is why twenty-first-century Arab revolutionaries need to go beyond changing leadership and actually reinvent state structures if they want to transform Arab society......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Activists from Homs speaks to Al Jazeera

Al-Jazeera Video: UN appeals for urgent action on Syria

"Navi Pillay, the UN rights chief, has issued an appeal for urgent international action to protect civilians in Syria, as government forces continued a relentless assault on the city of Homs.

"I am appalled by the Syrian government's wilful assault on Homs, and its use of artillery and other heavy weaponry in what appear to be indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas in the city," a statement from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

Activists said that the army was firing rockets and mortar rounds to subdue opposition districts and tanks entered the Inshaat neighbourhood and moved closer to Bab Amr.

More than 50 people have reportedly been killed in the city on Wednesday.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin reports from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon."

Real News Video: Egyptian Women Demand Justice, Denounce Military

Jihan Hafiz reports Egyptian women protestors confront police and soldiers as they prepare for general strike

More at The Real News

Real News Video: Tahrir's Revolutionary Artists' Union

Reed Lindsay Reports from Cairo "People who can't read and write can convey their message using art and simple tools"

More at The Real News

"Since massive protests erupted throughout Egypt last January, Egyptians from all walks of life have taken the streets to demand the end of military rule. They included artists, actors, singers and musicians who joined with their fellow revolutionaries in street battles with police, soldiers and thugs. Last February, when they managed to seize control of Tahrir Square, they formed an organization, called the Revolutionary Artists Union, painting, drawing, singing and performing, expressing themselves freely for the first time in their lives. As a second uprising took place in December, they returned to Tahrir Square..."

The World Turned Upside Down

By Philip Giraldi

".....But the real kicker last week was an op-ed by neocon-lite David Ignatius of The Washington Post, who is in Europe traveling with Panetta, in which he spelled out the steps the White House was taking to stop Israel from starting a war with Iran. Oddly, or perhaps not, the article included the following referring to possible U.S. abstention from the conflict: “Administration officials caution that Tehran shouldn’t misunderstand: The United States has a 60-year commitment to Israeli security, and if Israel’s population centers were hit, the United States could feel obligated to come to Israel’s defense.” Ignatius is unusually well-plugged in to White House and Pentagon circles, so what he says should be regarded as reliable. If his “could” should be understood as meaning “would,” his comment basically means that if Israel starts a war, even without warning Washington that it is coming, an Iranian reaction that hits civilian targets in Israel, either deliberately or not, would require a U.S. response because America is pledged to “defend” Israel no matter what and no matter who started the fighting. As Israel is physically a small country and Iranian missiles cannot hit targets with pinpoint accuracy, it is hard to imagine any Iranian response that would not strike civilian targets. If the U.S. response would be automatic, that means that the White House has effectively turned over its foreign policy to Israel’s kleptocratic leadership. The world has turned upside down. "

Guardian Photo Gallery: Syria violence continues

Syrian troops continue shelling residential neighborhoods in the central city of Homs, Thursday 9 February 2012

(11 photos)

Bahraini activist goes on hunger strike before anniversary of uprising

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, convicted of leading last year's protests, restarts hunger strike calling for his release, Thursday 9 February 2012

"A jailed rights activist in Bahrain has gone back on hunger strike before the anniversary of the country's pro-democracy uprising on 14 February, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights has said.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was one of 14 prominent figures convicted of leading the protests who took part in an eight-day hunger strike to demand their release. Bahraini authorities said that hunger strike ended last week.

"Al-Khawaja said in a telephone call to his family: 'Freedom or death,' which means he started an open hunger strike until his release," said the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights on its website......"

Syrian authors condemn 'savage' Homs bombardment

Poet Adonis and novelist Khaled Khalifa speak out against actions of Assad regime, Thursday 9 February 2012

"Two of Syria's most prominent authors have spoken out against the military actions of the regime. Adonis, widely held as the Arabic-speaking world's greatest living poet, has called the artillery bombardment of the city of Homs "savage" and "horrible", while novelist Khaled Khalifa said the regime was committing "genocide".

"It's savage," Adonis said of the bombardment. "It's the logic of all dictatorships – any dictator would do likewise against the people."

The poet, who was imprisoned by the regime for a year in 1955 and now lives in Paris, called for Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad to step down last June, warning that he could not "imprison an entire nation" . But he also criticised elements of the Syrian opposition for its "violent tendencies", leading to criticism from supporters of the revolution.

Speaking to the Guardian at an exhibition of his art in London, Adonis reiterated his call for the opposition to use "only peaceful means – like Gandhi", suggesting that "there is no cause which could justify violence", and pointing out that "violence from the opposition gives a justification for the regime to attack."[This murderous regime does not need justification! It has killed thousands even when the uprising was predominantly peaceful! The children of Der'a were not armed when the uprising started. This bloody regime has to be taken down, by the Syrian people themselves, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY; got that Mr, Adonis?]....."

US: Wrong Time for Bahrain Arms Deal

Its Government Has Yet to Deliver on Accountability, Reforms

Human Rights Watch

"(Washington, DC) - The Obama administration’s decision to move forward on a $1 million arms sale to Bahrain sends the wrong signal to a country that is engaged in serious human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said today.“Bahrain has made many promises to cease abuses and hold officials accountable, but it hasn’t delivered,” said Maria McFarland, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “Protesters remain jailed on criminal charges for peacefully speaking out and there has been little accountability for torture and killings – crimes in which the Bahrain Defense Force is implicated.”....."

Yemen: Unlawful Attacks, Denial of Medical Care in Taizz

US, EU, Gulf Should Reject Immunity for Saleh, Aides

Human Rights Watch
February 8, 2012

"(New York) – Yemeni security forces stormed and shelled hospitals, evicted patients at gunpoint, and beat medics during an assault on Yemen’s protest movement that killed at least 120 people in the flashpoint city of Taizz last year, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is in the United States receiving medical treatment, received amnesty in Yemen for such attacks.

In the 75-page report, “No Safe Places’: Yemen’s Crackdown on Protests in Taizz,” Human Rights Watch called on the United States, the European Union, and Persian Gulf states to publicly acknowledge that the domestic immunity granted Saleh and his aides last month has no legal effect outside Yemen.

“President Saleh’s forces killed and wounded hundreds of civilians, evicted hospital patients, and blocked war wounded from reaching care,” said Letta Tayler, Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Saleh is entitled to medical treatment, but he and his aides have no right to immunity from prosecution for international crimes.”......"

Syria: Brutal assault on Homs must end

8 February 2012

"Russia and other countries with influence over Syria must act urgently to stop the bombardment of Homs, Amnesty International said today.

More than 200 people have been killed in Homs since Friday, the majority of them unarmed victims of shelling and shot by snipers.

While Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday met with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Syrian security forces’ unrelenting bombardment of Homs continued and has since intensified.

Amnesty International called on Russia to make it clear to the Syrian government, both publicly and in private, that the military assault on the city of Homs must end immediately.

The organization also called on the Arab League to continue its diplomatic efforts on Syria.

The situation in Homs is critical, and is turning into a major humanitarian crisis. Russia has blocked international efforts to stop the massive human rights violations in Syria, stating that they have a better plan for resolving the crisis,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General.

“Russia, and other countries with influence over Syria, must use whatever means they have to restrain the Syrian military in Homs and ensure it stops using heavy weaponry in residential areas.”

The Syrian government seems to think that Saturday’s Security Council veto has given it the green light to crush resistance in Homs by any means – Russia needs to make clear, with a loud voice, that this is not the case.”

Since Friday residential areas in Homs - including al-Khaldieh, Bab ‘Amr, Bab al-Seba’ and al-Insha’aat - have been subjected to shelling by government forces and there have been heavy exchanges of fire with anti-government fighters in these areas.

The Syrian army has deployed tanks in certain areas. Armed groups in the city are reported to be using Kalashnikovs and RPGs in response.

Since Friday Amnesty International has received 246 names of people reported to have been killed in Homs, including at least 17 children. While some of those killed were armed men fighting against the government forces, the majority were reported to have been unarmed.

Hundreds more are reported to have been injured. Most people are being treated in makeshift field hospitals or at their homes......"

Egypt tanks, soldiers to “secure” country as national strike approaches

By Joseph Mayton
Bikya Masr

"CAIRO: Ahead of planned nationwide strikes and a campaign of civil disobedience in Egypt, the country’s ruling military junta said it would deploy tanks and soldiers across the country in an effort to secure and maintain peace.

The move is being met with widespread criticism as it is largely seen as a warning to activists planning the campaign, which already has seen over 120 labor groups and movements announce their participation of the walkout on Saturday.

The campaign aims to quicken the transition from military rule to civilian rule in the country. When the military took power on February 11, 2011, it said it would remain in power for only 6 months, but now as the one year anniversary of their power grab nears, Egyptians are becoming more forceful in their calls for transition.

The civil disobedience campaign arose during the recent clashes between activists, football fans and security forces this past week following a massacre of at least 75 people at a football match in Port Said.

The ruling military council issued a statement saying it would send patrols across the country to “maintain the security … of public, private and state buildings.”

The country’s Islamic institutions, including al-Azhar – the Sunni world’s most prestigious institution – have called the planned strike “destructive” and “un-Islamic,” but activists are not backing down......"

Pope Shenouda rejects calls for civil disobedience

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church [who previously strongly endorsed the Pharaoh Mubarak!], joined other political and social forces Wednesday in rejecting the civil disobedience that some activists have called for on 11 February to mark the first anniversary of former President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.

Prominent Islamic institutions, including Al-Azhar and Dar al-Ifta, have voiced their disapproval of the plan, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party.

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces has also criticized the idea.

Political forces, particularly the April 6 Youth Movement and supporters of Mohamed ElBaradei, have called for nationwide civil disobedience on that day to demand a swift handover of power to civilians and speedier trials for those involved in killing demonstrators.

On Tuesday, 40 political movements and parties agreed to start the civil disobedience a day in advance, with a marches to the SCAF headquarters in Abbasseya.

Shenouda said during his weekly sermon Wednesday that civil disobedience is “unacceptable by religion and the state.”

The verses of the Bible which urge [people] to obey their ruler are many," said Shenouda. "Maybe the people calling for civil disobedience will express themselves through it for some days and then end it. May God pass these days peacefully."

“In these days, we live in a state of fluidity, which some call chaos, and it may turn into a habit and practice because there is no one to put a limit on it. Some call it civil disobedience, and I don’t know what this word means,” Shenouda said in the prelude to his sermon on repentance.

Shenouda called on the police and military to protect people......"

Religion in service of the state

By Hossam El-Hamalawy

"Just like in April 2008, and 25 January 2011, both Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church, the two main arms of the state’s religious establishment, have come out to denounce the calls for general strike and civil disobedience planned on 11 February 2012.

Add to the list of course, the Muslim Brotherhood. Their leadership did not endorse the 6 April 2008 strike, neither did they endorse the 25 January 2011 protests (they only officially lent support to the revolution on its fourth day), and now are they are denouncing the calls for this coming 11 February strike. "

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

What course is best to stop the spiralling violence in Syria against revolutionaries and civilians?

1) Military intervention.
2) Isolation of the regime and more sanctions.
3) Dialog and negotiations.

With about 800 responding, here are the results:

1) 78%
2) 10%
3) 12%

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Syria Between Civil War and Sanctions

[Long good Analysis about Syria]
The Syrian regime is aggressively stepping up repression following Russia's and China's veto of a UN Security Council resolution--pushed by the U.S. and its allies--that calls for the withdrawal of the Syrian military from cities and town.
China and Russia claim they blocked the UN resolution because it didn't encourage dialogue between the opposition and the regime. But both governments calculate that a UN resolution on sanctions would lead to a Libya-type military intervention, which would further extend the influence of the West in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, key parts of the Syrian regime around President Bashar al-Assad seem to have decided that there will be no reliable exit from the crisis through a negotiated transition or safe departure and exile--and therefore they will plunge the country into civil war. In the almost 11 months since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution, some 7,000 people have been killed, according to opposition activists.
To try to crush the revolution, Assad is trying to channel it into a sectarian civil war. It's no coincidence that as the UN debated its resolution, the Syrian military launched a mortar attack on the central city of Homs, a predominately Sunni Muslim town. Reports from the city stated that more than 200 civilians died over the weekend of February 4 and 5 as a result of artillery and mortar attacks against neighborhoods.
......Looking at the interests of the various players--the U.S./Israel, Russia/China, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood--it is clear that Syria is at the nexus of an international power struggle, the outcome of which can affect the entire region. Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current ruler, was adept at maneuvering Syria into precisely that position in order to get international consent as a state of regional significance.
Thus, the claim that what is taking place is simply a Western-hatched conspiracy against Syria misses the mark by a wide margin.
At best, this argument reflects a condescending view of the Syrian people as incapable of self-mobilization and completely ignores the social crisis faced by Syrians under an illegitimate dictatorship. At worst, it shows a hollow understanding of anti-imperialism--one that opposes any struggle for self-emancipation against an absolute ruler who says something half-critical of the U.S., even while the regime carves out a mutually beneficial relationship with imperialism.

Egypt’s al-Azhar says strikes un-Islamic ahead of general campaign

Joseph Mayton 8 February 2012
Bikya Masr

Left: Mubarak's stooge Ahmed el-Tayyab.

"CAIRO: Egypt and the Sunni Islamic world’s most prestigious institute, al-Azhar, has said general strikes and civil disobedience are “un-Islamic” and called on Egyptians not to participate in the massive campaign currently underway to launch a nationwide strike on February 11 by activists.

Al-Azhar’s deputy chief Ismail Shaheen urged Egyptians to maintain work during the day, saying that to stop working, “even for one hour” was un-Islamic and against Shariah, or Islamic law.

Shaheen said that Egyptians who participate in the civil disobedience campaign are “un-patriotic,” calling for other means of protesting, although he did not say what these are specifically, in comments published by state-run al-Ahram newspaper.

Al-Azhar’s Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayyab [the stooge who was appointed by Mubarak!] also said that the strike should not be following, urging Egyptian Muslims to follow the “three duties” required on Earth: “Worship God, take responsibility for their families and work to build this world.”

Ahram said he went on to say that Egyptians should not stop work out of respect “towards themselves, their family, their nation and God.”

However, this has not stopped the campaign from gaining much steam ahead of Saturday’s beginning of the civil disobedience. At least 120 labor groups, student unions and activist movements have stated publicly their willingness to join the countrywide effort to bring the military junta to its knees."

Syria: rockets rain down on Homs as violence escalates

More than 200 rockets fall in space of three hours on opposition-controlled suburb of Baba Amr, according to residents

Julian Borger, Luke Harding and Chris McGreal in Washington, Wednesday 8 February 2012

"The Assad government escalated its military onslaught on the Syrian opposition with the most intense bombardment of rebel-held areas so far, as the west and the Arab world scrambled to find a new diplomatic strategy without Russian and Chinese help.

Tanks and heavy artillery were used on an unprecedented scale, according to witnesses. More than 200 rockets fell in the space of three hours on just one part of Homs, the opposition-controlled suburb of Baba Amr, residents said.

One activist, Raji, speaking from a basement inside Baba Amr, said Syrian forces were now using a heavier artillery round with devastating effect. In addition to the 27 people killed , he said many people were lying dead under the rubble of their houses. There were also reports that 18 premature babies had died in hospital after power cuts caused their incubators to fail, according to the BBC....."

جرائم ضد الإنسانية في سوريا

"وصفت منظمات حقوقية دولية ما تقترفه القوات النظامية السورية من جرائم بحق المدنيين بأنها قد تمثل جرائم ضد الإنسانية.
ودعت مفوضة الامم المتحدة السامية لحقوق الانسان نافي بيلاي إلى تحرك دولي عاجل لحماية المدنيين في سوريا.
تقرير/ ناصر آيت طاهر