Saturday, June 16, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story - Egypt's troubled transition

"The latest twists and turns of Egypt's troubled transition since the fall of Hosni Mubarak 16 months ago have left many wondering where the country is heading next. A cloud of uncertainty now hangs over its political future after two decisions handed down on Thursday - ahead of a scheduled run-off election to choose the new president this weekend. The Muslim Brotherhood has warned that Egypt's fragile democratic gains are under threat after a court ruling that dissolved the religious-dominated parliament. The Supreme Constitutional Court has also upheld the right of Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister in Hosni Mubarak's government, to run for president. It leaves Egypt with no parliament and concentrates power even more firmly in the hands of the generals who took over from Mubarak. So, where does this leave Egypt's transition to democracy? And what is left of the Egyptian revolution?"

Al-Jazeera Video: Update: Egypt presidential runoff vote under way

The Price is Right, by Mike Luckovich

Egypt: dangerous tricks

Manoeuvring on the eve of the second round of the election has created the risk of fresh confrontations and uncertainties

The Guardian, Friday 15 June 2012

"The Egyptian military and security establishment has not been a steady, skilled, or unbiased manager of the political process in the almost year and a half of post revolutionary ups and downs the country has endured. Its manoeuvring on the eve of the second round of voting in the presidential election risks creating fresh confrontations and uncertainties.

Whether or not it is the case, few in Egypt seem to believe that the decisions to dissolve parliament and to give the police and armed forces wide-ranging powers of arrest are unrelated, or that they just happened in the normal course of the supreme constitutional court's deliberations or the defence ministry's planning processes. Coupled with the rigging which marked the first round of voting, and which is unlikely to be abandoned in the second, they point, many say, to a deliberate orchestration. It seems designed not only to ensure a victory for Ahmed Shafiq, the old regime's presidential candidate, but to undercut the power of the Muslim Brotherhood in the other institutions of the state, and to further marginalise the liberal and secular forces which carried so much of the burden of the revolution....."

Mohamed ElBaradei warns Egypt it is letting a 'new emperor' take over

Nobel laureate blames Muslim Brotherhood and revolutionary youth for letting the generals engineer coup

Jack Shenker in Cairo, Friday 15 June 2012

"Egypt is suffering under worse conditions now than under Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship, Mohamed ElBaradei has told the Guardian, and it is on the brink of allowing a "new emperor" to establish total domination over the country.

He gave a withering assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which dominated the now defunct new parliamentary assembly and whose presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, will face a run-off against Mubarak's last prime minister in elections this weekend.

ElBaradei said political Islamists had tried to take "the whole cake" for themselves following the overthrow of Mubarak last February, and as a result Egypt's ruling generals had been able to engineer an assault on the revolution.

"We are in a total mess, a confused process that – assuming good intentions – has led us nowhere except the place we were at 18 months ago, but under even more adverse conditions," said the Nobel laureate, who withdrew from the presidential race this year arguing that a fair vote could not be held while the country remained in the grip of a military junta.

"We are going to elect a president in the next couple of days without a constitution and without a parliament. He will be a new emperor, holding both legislative and executive authority and with the right to enact laws and even amend the constitution as he sees fit."......

ElBaradei, a former UN nuclear weapons inspector turned prominent Egyptian dissident, predicted Ahmed Shafiq – Mubarak's last prime minister and the man seen by many as an embodiment of the old regime – would emerge victorious from the poll.

"Shafiq as president of the 'new Egypt' is an oxymoron," said the 69-year-old. "In this scenario the new president would be backed by Scaf and political authority in the country will continue to be held by Scaf, but I think it most likely that he is the one that is going to win.".......

....... with his harshest words reserved for the Muslim Brotherhood – whose role in the past year's "transition process" has led many pro-change activists to blame political Islamists for empowering the military and being sucked into an electoral game designed to give the old regime a façade of democratic legitimacy.

......... And that created a backlash, which will be visible in the next couple of days. People have called on them to withdraw from the presidential race, but they insist on going forward – why?" ......."

Egypt to vote, but will there be democracy?

Joseph Mayton
Bikya Masr
16 June 2012

"CAIRO: Egyptians are heading back to the polls to elect the country’s first post-uprising president on Saturday, but with no parliament, no constitution and a military junta seemingly taking complete control of the country, fears are mounting that the entire democratic process, which began with the now voided parliamentary elections in November, are a sham.

Activists say the two candidates, Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, and ousted and jailed President Hosni Mubarak’s last Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, offer little hope to a revolution that has seen change stifled by the military power that took control of the country on February 11, 2011.

“What are we supposed to do, just wait and hope that the situation gets better?” asked Mona Radwan, an activist who said she plans to void her ballot as part of a campaign to not acknowledge either candidate as viable for the future of Egypt.

“It is the right thing to do. We cannot be part of this sham that is looking like a military coup,” she told

Others agree, with calls for a boycott gaining steam in the past 48 hours since the Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved parliament and allowed Shafiq to continue in the race, ruling that the “Azl” law, or political isolation, which bars former regime politicians from participating in politics, to be unconstitutional.......

Many leading political figures in the country have called Thursday’s moves a “military coup.”

Former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh said on Thursday evening the moves by the military junta were an obvious military coup.

Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, who for months has called the entire election process without a constitution in place was a sham.

On Thursday, after the court threw the future of Egypt into uncertainty, ElBaradei was quick to reiterate the point, while also warning against dictatorship, alluding to a potential Shafiq president.

“Electing president without constitution or parliament means pres has powers unreached by most notorious dictatorships,” he said in response to the court verdict.

And with an election to vote for the country’s first post-revolution president, to give their oath of office to the military, on Saturday and Sunday, uncertainty seems to reign over Egypt at the present moment."

Friday, June 15, 2012

Egyptian Presidential Elections: A Prediction


(Scroll down for more new posts)

I am going to go out on a limb and make a prediction on the eve of the Egyptian presidential elections.

After connecting the dots for a while it became abundantly clear that SCAF was still in full control in Egypt and was playing a very smart game.

Also, taking the sum total of the actions and inaction of the Muslim Brothers, it became equally clear that they are opportunists, politically gullible and should not be trusted.

The decisions of the Egyptian "Constitutional" Court yesterday was a checkmate move by SCAF and was meant to ensure only one thing: the "election" of a new Pharaoh, Ahmed Shafiq.

Other decisions by SCAF, including that it will be in charge of writing a new "constitution" and its re imposition of the emergency law under a different name, giving the military the power to arrest protesters, are steps to tighten the grip on power and to prepare for the next phase of the revolution.

A new "elected" Pharaoh is much more dangerous than the old Pharaoh because he will have been "legitimately elected," unlike the old Pharaoh.

The right thing to do would have been for the Muslim Brothers to boycott the elections in the next two days and to protest this coup by SCAF. That would have left Shafiq exposed and would have shown the elections to be a sham, just like those under the old Pharaoh.

But, true to form, the Brothers miscalculated again and put their narrow and selfish interests above all else, and decided to play ball. Just as the Brothers miscalculated in all of their previous moves, and as a result lost about half of their support, this move could prove fatal for this movement.

Make no mistake about it, SCAF and Shafiq are not taking any chances and they know the results of this coming round of "elections" in advance. He is already speaking as if he is the president. One way or another Shafiq will be "elected." The Muslim Brothers are being used as a stage prop to give the appearance of legality and legitimacy to this unfolding fraud.

SCAF has prepared the ground work and the troops will use full force to suppress the expected massive protests against the new Pharaoh.

The Muslim Brothers should never be forgiven for their dishonest betrayal of the revolution and for making this possible.

I can already read the headlines after the declaration of a Shafiq win. The Brothers will declare that they are ready to work with the new Pharaoh, since he was "fairly" elected. They have made similar declarations before welcoming the old Pharaoh and pledging to work with him.

Assad will breathe a sigh of relief at death of Arab Spring

The 1991 Algerian parallel is relevant: a poll won by Islamists, special powers for the army, torture

By Robert Fisk

"......And the Brotherhood – as uninvolved in Tahrir as Ahmed Shafik – moved in to take over after years of clandestinity and government torture. Mubarak's men and the Brotherhood were never represented in Tahrir. "All we want is for Mubarak to go," the young of Egypt used to shout. And that was all. Easy for the "deep state" to resolve. Almost all the top "Stasi" officers were acquitted. The police murderers are still at work. These men are happy with this latest instalment in Egypt's tragedy.

The 1991 Algerian parallel is all too relevant
. A democratic poll which the Islamists won, suspension of second-round elections, emergency laws that give the army special powers, torture, the round-up of elected members, savage guerrilla war – give and take a slight variation, only the last two have not yet begun in Egypt. But Algeria was less preposterous: le pouvoir had staged a coup and all who opposed it were "terrorists". This process has also begun in Cairo. The army has been given powers of arrest. These powers are meant to be used.

In Egypt, the holding of a presidential election when the parliamentary power base of one of the candidates, Mohamed Morsi (the Brotherhood) has been dissolved by the supporters of his opponent, Shafik, before the final presidential poll is ridiculous......

Desperate days, then. But one thing to remember. The Mubarak-appointed Egyptian judges didn't just get up on Thursday morning and decide to dissolve parliament. This was decided a long time ago. So was the retention of military power.

There will be plans ready for this weekend. They may even know the election result. I dare not think what this means for Egypt. The Arab Spring may be dead (the Arab awakening less so). But the security establishment in Washington will be pleased...."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you believe that the rulings of the constitutional court in Egypt have decisively shifted the results of the election in favor of Ahmed Shafiq?

With over 1,100 responding, 62% said yes.

The True Face of Egypt’s Military

Revolution 2.0


"The masks dropped. The cards are shown.

For over a year, Egyptians have wondered who was leading the efforts to frustrate and obliterate their nascent revolution, or what was dubbed in the local media as the “third party” or the “hidden bandit.”

But the mystery is no more.

It was none other than the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the same body that took power from deposed president Hosni Mubarak under the guise of leading the transitional period towards democracy. It was a masterful work of political art....

Disappointed, yet again, with the MB’s attitude to ignore their consensus, most of the revolutionary groups have vowed to press on with their revolution that has been deeply, but not yet gravely, wounded. Former presidential candidate Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, a favorite among many revolutionary and youth groups, has declared that the latest decisions by the High Court allowing the candidacy of Shafiq and the dissolution of parliament were nothing short of a soft coup d’état orchestrated by the military. He called for the immediate establishment of a revolutionary leadership council comprised of all pro-revolution groups and leaders to challenge the military hold on power and Shafiq’s inevitable presidency.

Sensing these threats dozens of such groups that have sacrificed so much since the early days of the revolution, have vowed to join in and continue the difficult struggle to dislodge the military and achieve the main objective of the revolution in establishing a true democratic civil state and ending the culture of the deep security state. Thousands have taken to the streets, while hundreds started a sit-in in Tahrir Square.

They now quietly admit that a hard lesson has been learned. This time their slogan is not “the people and the army are one.” Rather their cry is: “This time we are serious, we will not leave it (the revolution) to anyone.”"

A Judicial Coup in Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood-Controlled Parliament Dissolved, Military Gains Power

Democracy Now!

"Days before Egypt’s presidential runoff, the Egyptian Supreme Court has dissolved the newly elected parliament, handing power back to the military. The court also confirmed Hosni Mubarak’s former prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, can run for president against Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. Protests have erupted in Egypt, with critics saying the decision is tantamount to a judicial coup. We go to Cairo for an update from Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous. "These court rulings have really dealt the final fatal blow to a military-managed transitional process that’s been so deformed as to barely make sense anymore," he says. "Right now Egypt is in a state where there’s no parliament, no constitution or even a clear process for drafting one, and a presidential runoff that will leave Egypt with a ruler who will be a very divisive president."......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Wael Abbas reacts to court decision to dissolve parliament

"Wael Abbas a journalist and human rights activist, and one of Egypt's most well known bloggers gives his reaction on the constitutional crisis in Egypt."

Al-Jazeera Video: Update: Mike Hanna reports on the latest from Egypt

"Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna report on the latest as protestors are preparing for a mass rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square a day before elections to replace ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is warning of a threat to democracy after a consitutional court dissolved the country's first democratically elected parliament."

Al-Jazeera Video: UN observers find 'ghost town' in Syria

"The road to Haffa, once a town of 24,000 people and popular with tourists, is now empty with most of the people gone. Left are burnt-out cars, bombed buildings, and according to the United Nations observers, a stench of dead bodies.

The UN had been trying to get into Haffa for a week, amid fears of a brutal assault by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

What observers found was evidence of a recent battle, and a strong Syrian army presence.

Al Jazeera's Dominic Kane reports."

Women Targeted in Tahrir Square

By Mel Frykberg

"CAIRO, Jun 15 2012 (IPS) - It is becoming increasingly uncomfortable to be female or foreign in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, birthplace of the January 2011 Egyptian revolution.

A wave of sexual assaults against female protestors and foreign female journalists by mobs of men, some armed with sticks and belts, has taken place in the last few weeks in broad public view.

An American photographer witnessed a Danish woman being seriously sexually assaulted as she was dragged into a building on Tahrir Square by a group of men. Other Egyptian men who tried to come to her aid were attacked. An AP reporter witnessed another foreign woman being attacked similarly.

Several veiled Muslim women had their hijabs pulled off and were sexually molested. The men involved tried to remove more clothing.

Don’t go there you will be attacked, there are many bad men here,” a young man warned this reporter. “I saw a foreign woman being stripped here the other night.”...."

Crowds Form in Tahrir Square to Protest 'Counter-Revolutionary Coup' in Egypt

Egyptian court rulings seen as reversal of last year’s ‘revolution’

Common Dreams

"A pair of judicial decisions on Thursday by Egypt's high court have set the nation back into revolutionary mode on the eve of presidential elections that were suppose to solidify a pathway to a new democracy. Instead, the parliament was dissolved and legislative authority was handed back to the military council.

Growing crowds are now gathering in Tahrir Square in Cairo to protest the court decisions, which many are calling a 'coup' coordinated by 'counter-revolutionary' forces from the old regime and military circles.

“This series of measures shows that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the head of the counter-revolution, is adamant to bring back the old regime and the presidential elections are merely a show,” six prominent parties and movements said in a statement.

"Egypt is entering into a very dangerous stage, and I think a lot of people were caught by surprise," Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, told CNN. "We knew it was getting bad, but we didn't think it was getting this bad."

He called the court rulings the "worst possible outcome" for Egypt and said the transition to civilian rule was "effectively over.""

Egypt's dissolution of parliament is a counter-revolution in all but name

Will the coup by the old regime, and its attempt to install Ahmed Shafiq as president, reignite Egypt's revolutionary forces?

David Hearst, Friday 15 June 2012

"......Then there are the byzantine ways of what is called "soft rigging". In the first round, 2m false ID cards were issued to members of the armed forces and security services who are by law forbidden to vote. The ballot boxes in roughly half of the polling stations were left unguarded by representatives of all political parties for 11 hours. About 40% of the 90m electorate fall below the international poverty line, and in rural areas voters were given 500 Egyptian pounds to vote for any candidate other than the brotherhood.

This is certainly not the last throw of the dice for the old regime, but the challenge is whether the rigging will be enough to tilt the balance in Shafiq's favour......

Not all army generals are in favour of Shafiq, and some see the writing on the wall. Whatever happens, Egypt has been changed by the revolution. It is no longer forbidden to challenge authority. The Pharonic mask has slipped from the face of Egypt's new rulers.

But to get to a political order which reflects this new reality may yet be hard and possibly bloody work. Like the Nile running below the children on the bridge, the revolution is still running a turbulent course."

Syria: Sexual Assault in Detention

Security Forces Also Attacked Women and Girls in Raids on Homes

June 15, 2012

"New York) – Syrian government forces have used sexual violence to torture men, women, and boys detained during the current conflict. Witnesses and victims also told Human Rights Watch that soldiers and pro-government armed militias have sexually abused women and girls as young as 12 during home raids and military sweeps of residential areas.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 10 former detainees, including two women, who described being sexually abused or witnessing sexual abuse in detention, including rape, penetration with objects, sexual groping, prolonged forced nudity, and electroshock and beatings to genitalia.Many of the former detainees told Human Rights Watch that they were imprisoned because of their political activism, including for attending protests. In other cases, the reason for the detention was unclear but detainees suffered the same abusive tactics.

Syrian security forces have used sexual violence to humiliate and degrade detainees with complete impunity,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The assaults are not limited to detention facilities – government forces and pro-government shabiha militia members have also sexually assaulted women and girls during home raids and residential sweeps.”

Human Rights Watch documented over 20 specific incidents of sexual assault, five of which involved more than one victim, that took place between March 2011 and March 2012 across Syria, including in Daraa, Homs, Idlib, Damascus, and Latakia governorates.........."

Egypt must urgently cancel 'dangerous' new powers given to military

14 June 2012

"A decision by Egypt's Justice Ministry to extend the military's power to arrest and investigate civilians for a wide range of offences would pave the way for fresh human rights violations and must be urgently revoked, Amnesty International said.

According to the decision, announced on Wednesday by Minister of Justice Adel Abdel Hamid Abdallah, military police and intelligence officers are now granted the same powers as judicial police when dealing with civilians suspected of offences related to national security and public order.

In the unrest since early 2011, peaceful protesters have routinely been punished for such offences, which include resisting public authorities and disobeying their orders, assaulting by insults and other acts, damaging public property, blocking traffic, strikes in key public places and “thuggery”.

Instead of investigating the serious abuses committed by military officers and soldiers against protesters and others since January 2011, Egypt's authorities are giving them carte blanche to arrest and detain civilians,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International......."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

US preparing Air Strikes against Syria ?

Debka is shady and full of Zionist Propaganda , watch with caution ...

Is Egypt’s revolution dead?

By Joseph Mayton
Bikya Masr

"......However, despite the current tension and uncertainty, there remains a glimmer of hope. Almost everyone I have spoken with in recent weeks, from taxi drivers to cafe workers and average citizens have all voiced their desire to not see a Shafiq presidency. They want the military out, however much they might respect the armed forces.

This is a dramatic change in public opinion than previous months. There seems to be a sense that the activists who took to Tahrir Square following the acquittal of security officials in the case of killing protesters are not aberrations, troublemakers and people who don’t want Egypt to be better. They are more in support of their calls for an end to the Mubarak era. Once and for all.

This is in stark contrast to other protests, and violence, that had erupted over the past 8 months in the country. Then, many people were antagonistic to the protesters, demanding they leave the square and return to daily life.

It is beginning to change. The military is fomenting a new charge of strength that only one segment of Egyptian society can wield: the people. They are coming.

If Shafiq wins in the run-off it will undoubtedly be a result of vote rigging. Egyptians will not accept the country to return to the era of the Pharaoh. Too much blood has been spilled in the past year and a half for the country to be passive against the return of the National Democratic Party (NDP).

Today did go a long way to solidifying the military coup we witnessed on February 12, but it is not unbreakable. We have seen activists push the military junta in the past year for changes. We have seen democracy in action.

Activists should understand this and, if needed, head back to the square and start the next phase in the revolution.

The revolution may be wounded, but the country can, and depending on the people’s will, remove their legs from the snare currently trapping them and make the new Egypt so many want to see manifested."

Egypt, a country lost in transition

Progress from autocracy to democracy has been complicated by tensions, divisions and violence at every turn

Ian Black, Middle East editor, Thursday 14 June 2012

"........Now, just two days before the runoff round of an already polarised presidential election, an extraordinary twist has created profound new uncertainties. The most dramatic interpretation is that it spells a decisive victory for the forces of counter-revolution. "It is like The Empire Strikes Back in the Star Wars saga," commented the popular blogger Zeinobia. Others denounced it furiously as a judicial coup.

It is not surprising that the constitutional court decided that Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, is eligible for the race, having ruled against a "political isolation" law that would have prevented him seeking office as a member of the old regime.

The judges, appointed under Mubarak, are widely seen as representative of the "deep state" that has survived the convulsions of the Egyptian chapter of the Arab spring to manoeuvre, manipulate – and retain power – behind the scenes.

Shafiq's battle against Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, has been dubbed a "nightmare scenario" by Egyptian commentators who see it as a throwback to the bad old days when the military-backed presidency was ranged against the world's oldest Islamist movement, with little else in the way of independent political forces between them.

But the court's second ruling is far more volatile in its implications. The dissolution of the entire parliament – not just byelections for the third of MPs deemed to have been improperly elected – means that the Islamists who dominate it, from the Brotherhood and the hardline Salafi Nur party, will feel disenfranchised and cry foul.

Given that parliament has performed terribly, their prospects for re-election will clearly be damaged....

What happens next is anyone's guess, though it would be surprising if there were not protests – the reflex action of frustrated revolutionaries who see the hopes of Tahrir Square fading fast – and a harsh response by the army and police. What is certain is that Egypt's transition just got a lot messier."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria accused of organised attacks

"Syrian forces and armed gangs loyal to President Bashar al Assad are systematically killing civilians in attacks that could amount to crimes against humanity. That's according to a report by human rights group, Amnesty International. Its researchers working inside Syria found repeated examples of brutality. You may find some of the images in Dominic Kane's report distressing."

Russian Support of the Butcher of Damascus, by Khalil Bendib

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Manly Obama, by Khalil Bendib

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

The Unresolved Question of Egypt's Economy

By Ramzy Baroud
Palestine Chronicle

".....It is expected that Egypt’s intense public discussions in the current phase will be fixed on foundational issues such as the formation of a constitutional assembly and a redefinition of the rule of SCAF. But Egypt’s economy is deeply flawed. An IMF-style free market economy is of no use to millions of Egyptians when they lack proper education and the most basic rights and opportunities. For an Egyptian day laborer to have a better life in a country with a huge and growing income gap between rich and poor, something fundamental needs to take place.

Referencing ‘social justice’ while negotiating IMF loans suggests a precarious start for any truly fundamental economic reforms. While Hamdeen Sabahy is no longer in the race to challenge the free market wisdom of his contenders, the debate must not end here."

In Egypt, new president could be responsible for civilian deaths

A Great Cartoon by Carlos Latuff

Joseph Mayton
Bikya Masr
14 June 2012

"CAIRO: There are currently over 30 charges brought against presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq. Among the charges are his role in the infamous Battle of the Camel during the 18 days of the uprising that toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak, of which Shafiq was prime minister at the time.

In many ways, that’s pretty difficult to digest. A candidate who knowingly participated in the killing of Egyptian civilians. If he is allowed to run – a court ruling on Thursday could end his hopes and give a much needed jumpstart to the revolution – and if he somehow is victorious, it will be a sad day for Egypt......

But there is hope and it is the hope of numbers. I can think of no other time in the past year and half when the call to take Tahrir is more just. The Azl law must be implemented. Those responsible for the killing of civilians must be held accountable, namely Cairo security chief during the waning days of the Mubarak era Ismail al-Shaer, and the calls for an end to sexual violence.

While an election may be taking place, what we are witnessing is the beginning of a new movement, maybe not a revolution, but one that sees the uprising and the ousting of Mubarak as a right to freedom. A right to justice.

Egyptians, from all walks of life, have no desire to see an accomplice to murder sitting in the presidential palace. They will have justice. Egypt will be free of the old regime who tormented and destroyed the country for decades. It is only a matter of time."

Shine My Shoes Next

Now Shine My Shoes!

Oman: Assault on Freedom of Speech

Arrests Follow Public Prosecutor’s Threat to Stop ‘Incitement’

Human Rights Watch
June 13, 2012

"(Beirut) – Omani authorities should halt a sweeping crackdown on political activists and protesters arrested solely for exercising their rights to freedom of speech and assembly. Arrests since the end of May include 22 peaceful protesters and nine online activists and writers amid rising discontent in the Persian Gulf sultanate over its perceived failure to carry out promised reforms.

Most of the arrests followed a statement by Muscat’s public prosecutor on June 4, 2012, threatening to take “all appropriate legal measures” against activists who have made “inciting calls … under the pretext of freedom of expression.”

“Omani activists are speaking out about broken promises for government reform,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of listening, Omani authorities are arresting and prosecuting them to silence them.”....."

Syria: Fresh evidence of armed forces’ ongoing crimes against humanity

Amnesty International
13 June 2012

"The shocking escalation in unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention and the wanton destruction of homes in Syria demonstrates just how urgent the need for decisive international action to stem the tide of increasingly widespread attacks on civilians by government forces and militias which act with utter impunity, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

The 70-page report Deadly Reprisals,, provides fresh evidence of widespread as well as systematic violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, being perpetrated as part of state policy to exact revenge against communities suspected of supporting the opposition and to intimidate people into submission.

“This disturbing new evidence of an organized pattern of grave abuses highlights the pressing need for decisive international action to stem the tide of increasingly widespread attacks against the civilian population, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed by government forces and militias with utter impunity,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Adviser, who recently spent several weeks investigating human rights violations in northern Syria.

"For more than a year the UN Security Council has dithered, while a human rights crisis unfolded in Syria. It must now break the impasse and take concrete action to end to these violations and to hold to account those responsible.”

Although not granted official permission by the Syrian authorities to enter the country, Amnesty International was able to investigate the situation on the ground in northern Syria, and has concluded that Syrian government forces and militias are responsible for grave human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Amnesty International visited 23 towns and villages in the Aleppo and Idlib governorates, including areas where Syrian government forces launched large scale attacks including during negotiations over the implementation of the UN-Arab League-sponsored six-point ceasefire agreement in March/April.

In every town and village visited grieving families described to Amnesty International how their relatives – young and old and including children - were dragged away and shot dead by soldiers - who in some cases then set the victims’ bodies on fire.

Soldiers and shabiha militias burned down homes and properties and fired indiscriminately into residential areas, killing and injuring civilian bystanders. Those who were arrested, including the sick and elderly, were routinely tortured, sometimes to death. Many have been subjected to enforced disappearance; their fate remains unknown.

“Everywhere I went, I met distraught residents who asked why the world is standing by and doing nothing,” said Donatella Rovera.
“Such inaction by the international community ultimately encourages further abuses. As the situation continues to deteriorate and the civilian death toll rises daily, the international community must act to stop the spiraling violence”.

The government crackdown has been targeting towns and villages seen as opposition strongholds, whether the site of clashes with Free Syria Army (FSA) forces or where the opposition remains peaceful.

In Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, on several occasions in the last week of May, Amnesty International watched uniformed security forces and plain clothes shabiha militia members firing live rounds against peaceful demonstrators, killing and injuring protesters and passers-by, including children......."

"وطن يتفتّح في الحرّيّة": اختتام أكبر تظاهرة ثقافية دعما للثورة السورية


"اختممت في العاصمة القطرية الدوحة، الجمعة، التظاهرة الثقافية والفنية الضخمة "وطن يتفتّح في الحرية"، والتي أقيمت دعما للشعب السوري وثورته، وحضرها حشد كبير من الفنانين والأدباء والشعراء والمثقفين السوريين والعرب.

ونظمت التظاهرة التي امتدت لثمانية أيام متواصلة (01-08/06/2012)، هيئة "مثقفون من أجل سورية"، والتي يترأسها المفكر العربي عزمي بشارة، وتضم من بين أعضائها القاص زكريا تامر، والشاعر أحمد فؤاد نجم، ورسّام الكاريكاتير علي فرزات، والروائي إلياس خوري، والشاعر عبد العزيز المقالح، والشاعر أمجد ناصر، والإعلامي علي الظفيري، والموسيقي نصير شمة، والروائي طالب الرفاعي، وغيرهم.

عزمي بشارة: الحرية هي الهم الذي قامت من أجله الثورة، واستجابة الفنانين السوريين فاقت التوقعات

وقد اعتبر عزمي بشارة في تصريحات صحفية على هامش افتتاح الفعاليات، أن "الحرية هي الهم الذي قامت من أجله الثورة"، لافتا إلى استجابة المبدعين والمثقفين السوريين التي جاءت بحسبه فوق التوقع، إضافة إلى مشاركة رمزية من المثقفين والمبدعين العرب."

وأضاف: "إن ملامح نجاح التظاهرة التي جاءت بمبادرة من مثقفين عرب، كانت قد بدأت قبل انطلاق الفعاليات، وأنها جاءت ردا على أقاويل حاولت النيل من الثورة بنعتها بالظلامية والإرهابية"، منوها بالدور الذي لعبته وزارة الثقافة والفنون والتراث القطرية.

وأشار بشارة إلى أن التظاهرة تهدف إلى لفت أنظار العالم للمجازر التي يرتكبها النظام السوري في حق شعبه بدم بارد، وهو ما دعا النخب من الفنانين والكتاب إلى الدعوة لهذه التظاهرة التي تمتد لثمانية أيام تناقش ما يحدث على الساحة السورية من خلال الأعمال الفنية التي تعكس روح ثورة الشعب الأعزل، ولفت إلى أن الحضور المكثف في التظاهرة دليل مهم على حجم التفاعل الثقافي مع الثورة وفعالياتها ودعمها.

حفل الختام

وكان مختتم التظاهرة احتفالية غنائية شارك فيها فنانون من سوريا والعراق وتونس والمغرب، حيث كانت أولى فقرات الحفل إعادة عرض " إيقاعات من الثورة"، وهي مقتطفات من الشعر العربي الممزوج بالموسيقى، قامت بأدائه حلا عمران، بمصاحبة الملحن والمغني الفلسطيني منعم عدوان.

وشمل الحفل كذلك فقرات من الغناء المنفرد، شارك فيها الفنان المغربي رشيد غلام، مستعيدا قصيدة الشاعر السوري نزار قباني "موال دمشقي".
أحمد فؤاد نجم: سأذهب إلى سوريا والثوار في السلطة

وخصصت ضمن فعاليات التظاهرة، أمسية جمعت بين شعرية الشاعر المصري أحمد فؤاد نجم، والموسيقي العراقي نصير شمة.

وقد عبر نجم في أكثر من مرة خلال مشاركته في التظاهرة، عن إيمانه بأن الشعب السوري سينتصر لأنه ليس هناك شعب يهزم برأيه، قائلاً إنه سيذهب إلى سوريا والثوار في السلطة

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Egypt decree grants arrest powers to military

New decree allows army to arrest civilians for a number of crimes, raising concerns it replaces lapsed emergency law.


"Egypt's justice ministry has issued a decree allowing military police and intelligence officers to arrest civilians suspected of crimes, restoring some of the powers of the decades-old emergency law which expired just two weeks ago.

The decree applies to a range of offences, including those deemed "harmful to the government," destruction of property, "obstructing traffic," and "resisting orders."

Several of those provisions would allow the military to detain peaceful protesters. Rallies in Tahrir Square routinely disrupt traffic, for example.

The controversial order was drafted earlier this month, but was not announced until Wednesday.

It will remain in effect at least until a new constitution is drafted, according to the ministry......"

Back to Square One in Egypt?

How to Defeat (or Revive) a Revolution


"On Thursday June 14, the High Constitutional Court in Egypt will rule on two pending motions that may radically change the future course of Egypt and determine the fate of its remarkable – but unfinished- revolution. The two motions are the constitutionality of the political ban on the former regime senior officials, such as Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, the undeclared military’s candidate for president, and the constitutionality of last winter’s parliamentary elections. Each decision might drastically alter the power structure in the country, and possibly propel another revolution whose fate remains unclear.

But how did we get to this point of complete uncertainty?

History will show that the unity displayed by the Egyptian people during the eighteen revolutionary days in early 2011 was decisive in convincing the Egyptian military to dump Mubarak and side with the people......

It was also abundantly clear that, by the second week of the massive demonstrations across the country, the U.S. government encouraged the Egyptian military leaders to take matters into their hands after reaching the conclusion that the best way to keep Egypt in the U.S. orbit was to abandon Mubarak. Ever since that fateful day, the plan by the counter-revolutionary forces -internally and externally- has been to break up the unity of the revolutionary groups and gradually restore the old regime minus its most corrupt public faces.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took the reign of power from Mubarak, recognized early on that the most powerful organized group within the revolutionary forces was the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). As a cautious social and religious movement, the MB is more reformist in nature than revolutionary. For decades, its objective has been to gradually reform the society towards an Islamically-oriented system of government based on its interpretation of Shari’a or Islamic law.

Realizing that it has a huge organizational advantage over other political parties especially the nascent revolutionary youth movements, the MB quickly broke ranks from these groups and reached a tacit understanding with SCAF to push for parliamentary elections ahead of rewriting the constitution or cleansing the state institutions from the loyal remnants of the old regime or the fulool.......

According to a well-informed Egyptian political analyst, when SCAF allowed for free and fair parliamentary elections last winter, its plan was to allow the groups associated with political Islam to get elected, since their popularity was indisputable. But more importantly SCAF never intended to transfer any meaningful executive or governmental power to the FJP or their allies so as to demonstrate to the electorate their impotence once in Parliament. In due course as the revolutionary spirit starts to wane and the support to the Islamic groups weakens, the plan was to invalidate last winter’s parliamentary elections and call for new ones in order to restore some of the power back to the fulool and other secular forces, thus substantially reducing the support and power of the Islamic groups.....

In short, there are four possible scenarios with regard to the outcome of the HCC rulings this week. Each one would most likely benefit a distinct and different political faction. They are.....

It is evident that SCAF has for over a year outfoxed all revolutionary groups, Islamic or secular. Depending on what scenario prevails on Thursday, it is equally clear that SCAF will have to either force their candidate on the Egyptians using all the tools of the “democratic process”, or take the country back to square one through a clever judicial ruse.

No matter what the military decides, the youth this time are determined not to put their trust in either the military or the political class but on their capacity to stay the revolutionary course until all their objectives are achieved. Hundreds of their pioneers, led by dozens of women including Asmaa Mahfouz and Nawwara Nagm, among the first to call for the January 25 demonstration that sparked the revolution, have been on hunger strike and continuous sit-in for over a week in the middle of Tahrir Square.

But now they are determined not to leave until their revolution is revived, the fulool are defeated, and the military return to their barracks."

Is Syria in a Civil War? Journalist Patrick Seale Debates Activist Rafif Jouejati on a Just Response

Democracy Now!

"Has a full-blown civil war broken out in Syria? Hervé Ladsous, the UN under-secretary general for peacekeeping operations, became the first senior UN official to make the assertion on Tuesday amid worsening violence across the country. The U.S. meanwhile is accusing Russia of arming the Syrian military while Saudi Arabia and Qatar are sending anti-tank missiles to the Syrian opposition through Turkey with the Obama administration’s backing. We host a debate between Syrian opposition activist Rafif Jouejati and longtime Middle East journalist Patrick Seale...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Violence intensifies inside Syria

"Russia accuses the US of arming rebel fighters in Syria.

Syria, meanwhile, has rejected any labelling of the ongoing conflict as a civil war - calling it "inconsistent with reality".

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin has more on the worsening conditions inside Syria."

Al-Jazeera Video: UN official calls Syria conflict 'civil war'

"Herve Ladsous, the head of the United Nations' peacekeeping operations, has said that the situation in Syria now amounts to a full-scale civil war.

Meanwhile, the United States says Russia is sending attack helicopters to the country.

Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey reports."

Russian Humanitarian Gift to the Syrian People

Russian Humanitarian Gift to the Syrian People

Tunisian court sentences Ben Ali to 20 years for inciting violence

Ousted dictator, already sentenced to decades in jail for other crimes, is unlikely to be extradited from Saudi Arabia, Wednesday 13 June 2012

"A Tunisian military court has sentenced the ousted dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to 20 years in jail in his absence for inciting violence during a police attempt to smuggle his nephew out of the country during last year's revolt.

Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia as protests engulfed Tunisia on 14 January 2011, has already been sentenced to decades in jail – also in his absence – on charges ranging from corruption to torture and faces more charges.

Last month, a Tunisian military prosecutor demanded that the death penalty be imposed on the former strongman for his role in the deaths of protesters in the towns where the Arab spring began last year.

There is, however, little indication that Riyadh would be willing to extradite Ben Ali.

No senior officials have so far been convicted for the deaths of more than 300 people in last year's uprising, angering the families of the dead and raising pressure on the Tunisian government to ensure that justice is done.

Tunisia's government has faced persistent criticism over its failure to persuade Saudi Arabia to hand over Ben Ali and his wife, Leila Trabelsi, a former hairdresser whose lavish lifestyle and clique of wealthy relatives came to be seen by many Tunisians as a symbol of the corrupt era....."

Egypt activist Asmaa Mahfouz acquitted of battery, assault charges

Bikya Masr

"CAIRO: An Egyptian court acquitted prominent activist Asmaa Mahfouz on Tuesday morning from battery and assault charges.

Mahfouz, whose video message “I am taking part in January 25 protest” helped galvanize youth, received an earlier sentence of one-year in prison and 2,000 Egyptian pounds ($330), appealed and won.

The man who accused her of hitting him with a stick over the head worked as a director in the Youth and Sports Ministry during the old regime.

He claimed Mahfouz hit him with a stick on his head after he testified against another activist in court.

Mahfouz denied all accusations, saying she never saw the man before in her life.

Mahfouz announced to her followers, some 309,823 Twitter followers, saying “acquitted,” three times. She reported that while she was waiting for the verdict, her movement was confined by police.

She wrote on her account that while she wanted to go and wash her face, two policemen asked her where she was going and ordered her to sit still as “her movement was restricted.”

Mahfouz has been on a hunger strike the past week, camping outside the Egyptian parliament in opposition to the non-application of the political isolation law, that should prevent loyalists to the old regime from participating in public life, most notably presidential finalist Ahmed Shafiq, who was imprisoned dictator Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister.

Mahfouz’s happiness was short-lived, as she soon wrote on her Twitter account “the revolution is still going, and still there are detainees in military prisons and still activists are on hunger strikes.”"

On the front lines of Syria's guerrilla war

(21 photos)
Exclusive account of Sham Falcons, a rebel group waging war against the Assad government from their mountain hideouts.

Tracey Shelton


"Idlib Province, Syria - Dawn broke over the northern mountains of Jabal al-Zawia late last month to find a group of anti-government fighters hiding along a ridge line, waiting for their remote-controlled bomb to destroy an army convoy on the road below.

The roughly 100 guerrillas were members of a larger group known as the Sham Falcons. Like many of the hundreds of ad hoc rebel groups that have sprung up across Syria, they are loosely trained but closely knit, and armed only with Kalashnikov rifles, PKT machine guns and a few rocket-propelled grenades.

Like other armed fighting groups, they were drawn from local towns and villages that carried fierce resistance to the Damascus government of President Bashar al-Assad and claimed to have suffered from its brutality. Like so many Syrians, they decided to fight back......

"We are using very simple weapons against the highly sophisticated weapons of the regime," said Fatalah, a former Syrian army lieutenant who defected at the beginning of the uprising.

Before the revolution many, like Fatalah, worked as police officers or soldiers for the government. Others were students, farmers or taxi drivers. United by the government's alleged atrocities, Fatalah said they now fight like brothers.

In pockets of resistance across Syria, groups such as these carry out missions against an army equipped with tanks and helicopters. They fight back with homemade bombs, limited weapons and meagre medical supplies. Many of these operations are carried out on foot or on motorbikes, with the occasional pick-up truck concealed beneath trees a safe distance away......."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Are you in favor of a no-confidence vote against the Maliki government in Iraq?

With over 3,000 responding, 94% said yes.

أساس الخلل

By Azmi Bishara

"يمكن تلخيص الخلل الأساسي في المرحلة الانتقالية في الثورة العربية بأن القوى السياسية المناصرة للثورة، أو المشاركة فيها، انتقلت الى التنافس الحزبي قبل التأكد من تغيير النظام، وقبل وضع أسس ومبادئ النظام الجديد والاتفاق عليها. هذا ما جعل النظام القديم في بعض الحالات ليس أحد الأطراف المتنافسة فحسب، بل منافسا يسيطر على أجهزة الدولة.

سوف يكون بالإمكان إصلاح هذا الخلل،وسوف يحتاج ذلك الى جهد ووقت، وربما تضحية، ولكن نرجو أن يتعلم الثوار العرب الدرس في دول أخرى. نعم للانتخابات، ولكن ليس قبل التأكد انها تجري على أساس مبادئ النظام الجديد، وليس تنافسيا بين النظام القديم الذي يحتفظ بجهاز الدولة من جهة، والجديد الذي لم يتبلور بعد، ويعتمد على قوى هي ذاتها متنافسة خارج جهاز الدولة (اي ما زالت متنافسة على الشارع وليس على الدولة، من جهة أخرى.

أكرر مرة أخرى سيكون إصلاح ذلك ممكنا، ولا عودة الى الوراء. ولكن التشخيص ضروري لتفادي أخطاء فادحة أخرى.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria interview with UN peacekeeper spokesman

"Kieran Dwyer, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping office, discusses his office's assertion that Syria has entered into a civil war."

The mother of the world: The birth of Egypt's democracy

This election is not a 'referendum' on the revolution, but a step in the only direction possible: forward.

Hamid Dabashi

"........So it all depends how you read these numbers - with or without trust in the revolutionary will of a people. In another utterly brilliant reading, offered by Hani Shukrallah, we read:

"Minerva's owl flies at dusk... and this for the first time in our history, we can with a fair degree of confidence say that while a quarter of us want the Brotherhood and another quarter want restoration, nearly half of us want the revolution realised; not at all a bad place from which to start putting that revolutionary house in order."

This is the way a caring revolutionary, committed to the future of his homeland, reads the very same numbers. Even more importantly and poignantly, Hani Shukrallah wisely and accurately reverses the conventional and clichéd fear of the army and the Muslim Brotherhood:

"The electoral triumph of the Mubarak regime on one hand and that of its no-less-authoritarian historical antagonist, the Brotherhood, on the other, heralds not their ascent but their decline. It is not a new dawn of the Muslim Brotherhood that we are witnessing, nor is it a revival of the semi-secular police state à la Mubarak, Gaddafi et al, but rather the twilight of both."....


These insights are accurate and trustworthy, even if we limit ourselves to events here and now in Egypt. But there are other historical comparisons we can make. If you want to have a simple sense of what exactly has happened in the Arab and Muslim world that we celebrate as the "Arab Spring", just compare the Iranian Revolution of 1979 with the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 - in a span of just a little more than three decades.

Look at the candidates and compare the scene with thirty years ago, when the Iranian revolution happened. The combination of Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Mohamed Morsi would be the functional equivalents of Ayatollah Khomeini, while Ahmed Shafiq and his fellow army officers would be the late Shah's army officers that Ayatollah Khomeini had swiftly gathered and sent to the roof of his residence to be summarily executed. Hamdeen Sabahi would be the sum of all the Iranian leftist revolutionaries who Khomeini ordered executed by the stroke of one pen, their supporters and sympathisers violently purged from universities, clubbed to death or silence in newspapers by the thugs at the employment of the clerical leadership, or else forced into exile out of their homeland.

Now: which one is a superior and more hopeful revolution?.

The Egyptian revolution is everything that the Iranian revolution was not: calm, composed, gentle, civil, human, hopeful, principled. All the legitimate fear that all Egyptians now have for the future of their revolution is fuel for visionary progress. It is good that a former army officer, a Muslim Brotherhood member, and a socialist are running, debating, charging, and trying to appease their electorate. This is sublime democracy, with minimum bloodshed, with people, the Egyptians themselves, at the driving seat - with Tahrir Square supremely at their disposal.

Which one is a superior historic moment for us as a people - Arabs, Iranians, Muslims, from one end of Africa to another end of Asia: The moment when the former officials of the Pahlavi regime are summoned on the roof of Ayatollah Khomeini's residence and swiftly executed, or when the former officials of the Mubarak regime are given a democratic chance to go to their people and tell them their vision of their future?....."

جرائم الدكتاتوريات العربية وإسرائيل

Great post by Azmi Bishara

يظهر الاستبداد العربي ممارسات قمعية وحشية. ويروق لبعض الأخوة المندهشين أو المتأذين معنويا من حجم القمع الذي يمارسة الاستبداد بحق الشعوب العربية والإنسان العربي مقارنته بما مارسته إسرائيل ضد الشعب الفلسطيني، وفي الأرض المحتلة عام 1967 بشكل خاص. ويبدو أن من يقوم بهذه المقارنة إنما يفعل ذلك بحسن نية، فهو غالبا ما يقصد أن السياسة الإسرائيلية هي شر معياري، اذا صح التعبير، وأن الشرور الأخرى تقاس به وعليه. ولكن يبدو لي من بعض المناقشات أن ما يقصده أصحابها (وهم قلة) هو دحض شر إسرائيل. بل ونجد محاولات لتقديم إسرائيل بصورة افضل، لا سيما من قبل المعارضين الذين لم يعتبروا يوما أن قضية الشعب الفلسطيني أو العراقي أو الجزائري قضيتهم، وكانوا دائما ينظرون الى أميركا كحليف. وقد لفتت نظري تعليقات بعض الأخوة الإيجابية تجاه خطاب المندوب الإسرائيلي في مجلس الأمن تجاه سوريا وهي، على الرغم من ندرتها وقلتها، ليست في مكانها، فإسرائيل لا ترغب لا بوحدة سوريا ولا بتطورها ولا بديمقراطيتها، فضلا عن عروبتها. ومع ذلك فيما يلي بعض الملاحظات حول خطأ المقارنة:
1. لا تصح المقارنة الكمية لأن الصراع مع إسرائيل لا يقاس بحجم القتلى والشهداء. فإسرائيل القوية اقتصاديا وأمنيا وتكنولوجيا لم تعد بحاجة لهذا الكم من العنف البدائي، ولديها أدوات سيطرة وعنف أكثر "تطورا". ولكنها في الماضي استخدمت عنفا بدائيا، وما هو اكثر فداحة منه، في طرد شعب بأكمله. ولم تحاصر ولم تفرض عليها عقوبات، وما زالت حتى اليوم دولة الغرب المدللة... وهي تستغل ما يجري عربيا لمواصلة الاستيطان وتهويد القدس، وحتى الدول العربية التي تقيم معها علاقات سلام للأسف لم تقطع هذه العلاقات.
2. الشعوب العربية تناضل في أوطانها من أجل مستقبل أفضل. وسوف تناله بنضالها ضد الاستبداد. ولكن الشعب الفلسطيني فقد وطنه. فلسطين هي ارض محتلة من قبل استعمار استيطاني إحلالي... أحل شعبا مكان آخر.
3. إسرائيل هي النقيض للوحدة الوطنية والمحفّز الأول في مسارات البنية الطائفية السياسية للدول، فهي تنظّر للتعامل مع العرب ليس كشعوب بل كطوائف، وتمارس علاقاتها الإقليمية سياسيا على هذا الاساس.
4. قضية فلسطين هي قضية كل عربي ليس بسبب القمع الذي يتعرض له الشعب الفلسطيني، بل لأنها آخر قضية استعمارية في المنطقة، وهي التي تشكل محور الإملاءات الاستعمارية الغربية على دول المنطقة حتى الديمقراطية في المستقبل.
يجب ان نقف جميعا ضد الاستبداد، وان لا نسمح لاي نظام باستغلال قضية فلسطين في تبرير جرائمه، ولا يمكن أن يكون من يقمع شعبه صديقا حقيقيا لإحقاق العدل في فلسطين... ولكن علينا ايضا ان لا نسمح ان يجري بهدوء تهميش قضية فلسطين، أو تحويلها الى مسألة نسبية مقارنة بالقمع العربي، لا سيما من قبل أولئك الذين أعجبوا دائما بالسياسات الغربية في المنطقة، وناهضوا فكرة الرابطة العربية التي تربط شعبهم بشعب فلسطين والشعوب الأخرى، وانضموا الى الثورات لأسبابهم وليس من أجل الديمقرطية. وتحتاج الثورات لمن ينضم إليها ولكن علينا أن نكون حذرين بشأن النوايا والأهداف... فغالبا ما تكون النوايا هي الأهداف.

The Syrian opposition is fighting the enemy within the mind of every citizen

As the Syrian National Council unveils its new leader, it is engaged in a battle of ideas against the regime's dominant Ba'athist ideology

Nadim Shehadi, Tuesday 12 June 2012

".....What makes these plans more difficult is that the opposition is at the same time fighting a battle of ideas against the regime's dominant Ba'athist ideology. These ideas are deeply ingrained in the minds of Syrians, including those of the opposition, and benefit from a headstart of 48 years where Ba'ath party ideology was hammered in through the media, the educational system and other government institutions.

In addition, a complex web of informants, modelled on eastern European security services, created a lack of trust and a kind of thought police where citizens were expected to report on each other. Even Syrian expats and exiles, living as far away as Texas or Paris, never felt free of these ideas or far from the atmosphere of suspicion........

The opposition to the Syrian regime in fact represents every idea that was suppressed in Syria since the 1958 declaration of the United Arab Republic and unity with Egypt, and especially since the advent of the Ba'ath party in 1958. The Arab Socialist Ba'ath party incorporates elements of Arab nationalism calling for pan-Arab unity combined with anti-imperialism and socialism. The authoritarian or even totalitarian nature of the regime evolved from a slogan that no voice can emerge above the noise of the battle against Israel and imperialism. This was consolidated through several wars and battles, both internal and external.

The ideas represented by the opposition include various facets of the antithesis of Ba'ath party teachings. Where the dominant ideology was unity, the opposition has diversity; where it has secularism you have the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious parties; where it had Arab nationalism you have Kurds and ethnic groups; where there was a one-party state you now have a multiplicity of parties. What was a strong centralised state under the Ba'ath is now a debate about various forms of administrative and political decentralisation........

Whenever an element of this ideology comes up in a meeting of the opposition, it is like hitting a brick wall. Syrians were brought up for generations with the idea that any attempts at dissent were part of a conspiracy to fragment the nation and weaken its resolve in the battlefield amounting to treason and collaboration with the enemy. While these may sound like empty rhetoric, Syrians, some of whom are discovering the practice of politics for the first time, experience these mental obstacles and realise the difficulties of surmounting them.

What the SNC hopes to achieve in the near future amounts to co-ordinating different ideas and battling a mentality that is deeply programmed in the minds of people. It is in fact a process that will take at least two generations and will last long after the regime is gone; the enemy is within the mind of each and every Syrian."

The Silence is Deafening

By Maysaloon

"Yesterday there was an enormous gun battle that lasted most of the afternoon and throughout the night in Damascus. Any explanations? Any questions by the esteemed parliament that the president of this banana republic appointed? Has the parliament demanded an end to the Syrian army's activities in Homs, Deraa, and the countless villages where it's passed through like a Tatar horde? No, nothing. They stand there in their "Sunday best" - or should that be Friday? - and clap when asked to clap for the man who has treated this entire country and its people like a joke. When all the voices are silent in a great country like Syria, and the man in the suit gives you that patronising half-smile because he knows that he's got it sorted, what can you feel but utter contempt?

Yet that's nothing besides the renewed vigour of those fifth columnists who did well out of the dictatorship; those young and educated, suited and booted, who have now rallied as a representation of an illusive "internal" opposition which - shock and horror - wants to negotiate with the dictator, and wants him to stay, "just long enough to hand things over", you understand? Pardon my ignorance, but I had thought that the real Syrian internal opposition was the one getting shot at and pounded with artillery on the streets of Syrian cities and towns.

I've read history, in fact I'm currently reading Philip Khoury's history of Syria during the mandate years, and I've never come across anything as barbaric as what this regime is doing to the country today. I grew up with that heady mix of nationalism and intense pride at kicking out the French. Yet the Great Revolt of 1925 is like a picnic compared to what's happening in the Syrian Revolution of 2011."

Al-Jazeera Cartoon: The Butcher of Damascus Speaks

Al-Jazeera Video: Activist Hadi al-Abdallah speaks about the situation in Homs

"Activist Hadi al-Abdallah in Homs speaks to Al Jazeera on the situation in the province.

He says: "We met so many people in schools and homes who said they know they will die. But the question is how will they die"."

Al-Jazeera Video: George Graham from Save the Children

"George Graham from Save the Children talks about UN reports that children are being used as human shields in Syria."

Al-Jazeera Video: Migrant workers mistreated in Qatar

"Qatar, a tiny Gulf monarchy, might be known worldwide for its stunning wealth, ambitious Middle Eastern diplomacy and unprecedented winning bid to host a World Cup, but beneath the country's lightspeed rise to prominence lies a class of unprotected, often forgotten migrant construction workers whose lives can amount to forced labour.

The workers, most of whom have immigrated to Qatar from South Asia, say many are lured by irresponsible companies who make false promises of big salaries and good conditions before withholding paychecks and taking away passports once the workers arrive.

Qatari law requires that wages be paid on time and housing meet minimum standards of comfort, but most companies are never forced to comply, according to a new Human Rights Watch report. Qatar does not have a minimum wage, has not signed key international human rights agreements and prohibits unions, the report said.

Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford reports from Doha."

Al-Jazeera Video: Palestinian prisoner remains on hunger strike

"A Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for 89 days has denied claims by the Israel Prison Services that he had ended his protest.

"(Mahmoud) Sarsak ended his hunger strike," IPS spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said, saying he had taken the decision to end his fast after consulting his lawyer and the prison administration.

But Sarsak's family in Gaza, as well as the Palestinian Prisoners' Club in Ramallah, denied that he had ended his strike.

And his lawyer, Mohammed Jabarin, said he had no comment on the Israeli claim.

Al Jazeera's Nadim Baba reports from Gaza."

Syrian forces killing and sexually abusing children, says UN

Report into children and armed conflict says children have been tortured and used as human shields by forces loyal to Assad

Haroon Siddique and agencies, Tuesday 12 June 2012

"Syrian government forces and militia loyal to the Assad regime are killing and sexually abusing children and using them as human shields, the UN says, amid fears that the conflict is intensifying.

Kofi Annan said he was "gravely concerned" about the escalation of fighting in Syria, citing the shelling of opposition areas in central Homs province and reports of mortar, helicopter and tank attacks in the town of Haffa and its surrounding villages in Latakia province on the Mediterranean coast. The US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland voiced fears about reports that the regime "may be organising another massacre" in Latakia, where UN monitors have been impeded.

The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's annual report on children and armed conflict during 2011 included Syrian government forces and the allied shabiha for the first time on a list of 52 governments and armed groups that recruit, kill or sexually attack children in armed conflicts.

"In almost all recorded cases, children were among the victims of military operations by government forces, including the Syrian armed forces, the intelligence forces and the shabiha militia, in their ongoing conflict with the opposition, including the Free Syrian Army," the report says.

The report quotes a witness to an attack on the village of Ayn l'Arouz in Idlib province on 9 March 2012 in which several dozen boys and girls between the ages of eight and 13 were forcibly taken from their homes and "used by soldiers and militia members as human shields, placing them in front of the windows of buses carrying military personnel into the raid on the village". The UN said it had collected dozens of witness accounts from children as young as 14 who were tortured in detention, as well as from former members of the Syrian military who were forced to witness or carry out acts of torture, the report says......."

Syria: Stop Grave Abuses of Children

Secretary General’s Report Should Prompt Security Council Sanctions

June 11, 2012

"(New York) – The United Nations Security Council should impose an arms embargo and other targeted sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, on the Syrian leadership in response to widespread killings and other grave violations against children. A report from the secretary-general to the Security Council on June 11, 2012, on children and armed conflict highlights violations against children by Syrian Armed Forces, intelligence forces, and pro-government militias. The violations, in a climate of total impunity, include targeted killings, torture of children in detention, the use of children as human shields, and attacks on schools and their use for military operations.

The report also cites credible allegations that armed opposition groups, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), are recruiting children as soldiers. Human Rights Watch called on the leaders of Syrian opposition groups, including the FSA, to immediately stop any recruitment or use of child soldiers, to discipline all those responsible, including commanders, and to cooperate fully with any investigation into the use of child soldiers........"

Egypt: Investigate attacks on women protesters

"The Egyptian authorities must immediately launch an investigation into reports of sexual harassment and assaults against women protesters during a demonstration in Cairo, Amnesty International said today.

A group of activists calling for an end to sexual harassment of women protesters were reportedly groped and punched by a mob of men as they marched across Tahrir Square on Friday.

The assault comes amid increasing reports of sexual harassment against women protesters in Egypt.

“These women stood up to demand an end to sexual harassment. What they got was intimidation and sexual assault,” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

In last year's protests, Tahrir Square was a place where women stood on an equal footing with men to demand their freedom. Now it has become a place where women are singled out for sexual harassment.

“These attacks need to be investigated immediately and those found responsible held to account. An investigation would serve as a deterrent against sexual harassment and will help protect women protesters who are exercising their right to peacefully express their views.”......"

Ilan Pappé: the boycott will work

By Ilan Pappe

Ilan Pappe (Photo: Paula Geraghty)

Even before one begins to define more specifically what such outside pressure entails, it is essential not to confuse the means (pressure) with the objective (finding a formula for joint living). In other words, it is important to emphasize that pressure is meant to trigger meaningful negotiations, not take their place. So while I still believe that change from within is key to bringing about a lasting solution to the question of the refugees, the predicament of the Palestinian minority in Israel, and the future of Jerusalem, other steps must first be taken for this to be achieved.

What kind a pressure is necessary? South Africa has provided the most illuminating and inspiring historical example for those leading this debate, while, on the ground, activists and NGOs under occupation have sought nonviolent means both to resist the occupation and to expand the forms of resistance beyond suicide bombing and the %ring of Qassam missiles from Gaza. These two impulses produced the BDS campaign against Israel. It is not a coordinated campaign operated by some secret cabal. It began as a call from within the civil society under occupation, endorsed by other Palestinian groups, and translated into individual and collective actions worldwide.

Monday, June 11, 2012

UN observers confirm Syria aerial attacks

Monitors and joint envoy Annan cite increasing use of helicopter gunships, mortars and tanks against opposition areas


"United Nations monitors have said Syrian helicopters fired on rebel strongholds north of Homs and that many women and children are trapped in the city.

The observers called on Monday for "immediate and unfettered access" to the conflict zones, while in Haffeh, a mainly Sunni town near the Mediterranean coast, the US State Department said it feared a "potential massacre".

It was the first time the UN has verified repeated allegations by activists that Assad's forces have fired from helicopters in the military crackdown on rebels.

"UN observers reported heavy fighting in Rastan and Talbiseh, north of [Homs], with artillery and mortar shelling, as well as firing from helicopters, machine guns and smaller arms," UN spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh said in a statement......"

The Myth of the Drone War “Successes”

Assassination Campaigns Do Not Win Wars, and They Create as Many Enemies as They Destroy


"As the US and its allies ponder what to do about Syria, one suggestion advanced by the protagonists of armed intervention is to use unmanned drones to attack Syrian government targets. The proposal is a measure of the extraordinary success of the White House, CIA and Defense Department in selling the drone as a wonder weapon despite all the evidence to the contrary......

Unmanned drone strikes are all about American domestic politics rather than about the countries where they are used. They cater to illusions of power, giving Americans a sense that their technical prowess is unparalleled, despite the Pentagon’s inability to counter improvised explosive devices, which are no more than old-fashioned mines laid in or beside roads. The drones have even been presented as being more humanitarian than other forms of warfare, simply by claiming that any dead males of military age killed in a strike must have been enemy combatants.

The downside to these exaggerated successes is that the White House and the US security agencies believe more of their own propaganda than is good for them. Ramshackle insurgent movements in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen are not like regular armies, in which the elimination of officers or senior cadres might be a crippling blow to the organization. Just as important, in the long term, assassination campaigns do not win wars, and they create as many enemies as they destroy."