Saturday, August 24, 2013

Did Syria gas its own people? The evidence is mounting...

World View: Attacks make it hard for Barack Obama to avoid a military reaction. But that's not what Assad wants

By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent

"The priority for Syrian foreign policy for the past two-and-a-half years has been to avoid foreign military intervention on behalf of the rebels. By the same token, the opposition has tried by every means to secure armed intervention by the US and its allies sufficient to win the war.

The action by the Syrian government most likely to push an unwilling White House into military involvement has been the open use of chemical weapons against civilians. Damascus has furiously denied in the past that it had done so and proof has been lacking. Rebel accusations might have been fabricated and claims by Western governments were tainted by propaganda.
Experts specialising in chemical weapons had hitherto expressed scepticism, even derision, at supposed proofs of chemical weapons use in the media. CBRNe World, a journal specialising in chemical and biological weapons, asked of one alleged sarin gas attack: "Could it be real – possibly. Could it be misdiagnosed and something other than sarin – possibly. Could it be fake – possibly." Considering the question two months ago of whether chemical weapons had been used in Syria, Professor Julian Perry Robinson of Sussex University, a renowned expert, concluded: "Onlookers can as yet believe the reporting only if they are willing to trust unsubstantiated assertion or incomplete evidence."
So it is difficult to think of any action by the Damascus government more self-destructive than the Syrian army launching a massive chemical-weapons attack on rebel-held districts in its own capital. Yet the evidence is piling up that this is exactly what happened last Wednesday and that the Syrian army fired rockets or shells containing poison gas which killed hundreds of people in the east of the city. The opposition may be capable of manufacturing evidence of government atrocities, but it is highly unlikely it could do so on such a large scale as this.
President Obama's security advisers were meeting yesterday in the White House with the strong possibility that there will be a US military response, such as missile strikes from outside Syrian airspace on Syrian military units or bases from which the chemical weapons may have been launched. No doubt Obama would like to keep out of a full-scale intervention, as he made clear last week, saying of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that people who "call for immediate action, jumping into stuff that does not turn out well, gets us mired in very difficult situations, can result in us being drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region". Nevertheless, the blatancy of the poison-gas attacks will make it difficult and damaging for him not to react militarily.
If the Syrian leadership knew that chemical weapons were going to be used, what could be their motive? They may be so convinced of American weakness and so confident of the backing of Russia and Iran that they feel they can ignore international condemnation. They may have seen Egypt's security forces shoot down hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters on 14 August and thought, "If they can get away with it, so can we." Even so, the benefits of such an operation were always going to be outweighed by political costs abroad.
Other factors, too, may have been at work. The Middle East has been bubbling, this past year, with exaggerated talk of US political and military decline, pumped up by visits from US politicians such as Senator John McCain denouncing White House "cowardice". No doubt the US has a weaker position in the Middle East because of the Iraq and Afghan wars, when its army failed to defeat limited guerrilla forces. But US and Nato intervention in Kosovo in 1999 was cited last week as an example of interventions that succeeded.
Still, the Balkans are different from the wider Middle East where American interventions have usually brought disaster. There was bloody failure in Lebanon in 1982-83 and in Somalia in 1993; and even the one exception, the First Gulf War in 1991, did not turn out so well for the US in the long term. Moreover, the failure of the Iraq war of 2003 and the ongoing Afghan conflict have soured American voters' enthusiasm for other Middle East ventures.
Syria's conflict differs from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya in another respect: Moscow is back as a world power and cannot be ignored or intimidated. One of the reasons Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 was the calculation that the fall of the Soviet Union would leave the US as sole superpower and cramp independent action by Iraq or other regional powers. Russia is back for the first time in more than 20 years as a powerful player, embittered by what it understandably sees as a double-cross over Nato intervention in Libya and determined not to let that happen again.
Russia's re-emergence is not the only factor restraining America. For all the wringing of hands in Washington and Western Europe about the human tragedy, the present situation is not entirely against their interests. Syria, so long the heart of opposition to the West and Israel in the Arab world, is, for now, fragmented and weak. Any decisive outcome ending the war carries with it clear risks for Western interests. If President Bashar al-Assad wins then this is a defeat for them and a success for Iran and Hezbollah. If he is defeated then al-Qa'ida-linked organisations, such the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – increasingly the most effective military component of the opposition – will be among those who replace him. The US, Britain and France may want the war to end but only on their own terms – probably involving the decapitation of the government, but stopping well short of revolutionary change.
What will be the impact of the chemical-weapons attack within Syria? It will frighten people further in rebel areas and will show the utter ruthlessness of the government, something scarcely in doubt. But the action is also a sign of weakness, suggesting the Syrian army cannot capture with conventional arms districts such as Jobar close to the centre of Damascus. Plenty of Syrian officials can see the criminal stupidity of using chemical weapons, so experts are asking if some state faction might want to sabotage possible peace talks by deploying them. A problem with this scenario is nobody else has noticed peace talks getting anywhere.
The Syrian government denies it had anything to do with the gas attack, but it has not given a credible account of what did happen. Initially, there was disbelief that it would do something so patently against its own interests, but all the evidence so far is that it has done just that."

Syria: has Assad crossed the red line?

Chris Riddell on the alleged gas attacks in Damascus,

Choosing between bad options in Syria becomes ever more complex

The west needs to address the detail, not unleash rhetoric

The Observer,

Today, the world appears to be at a crossroads. The stark and compelling evidence of large-scale atrocities, including the strongly suspected use of chemical weapons outside Damascus last week, killing perhaps hundreds of people, comes amid a growing perception that a weak and divided international community is powerless and unwilling to act on crimes against humanity. A sense of impunity feeds boldness and escalation. In Damascus, Cairo and elsewhere, actors today are making dangerous decisions based on the calculation that they will not be called to account.

In these circumstances, it is the easiest thing to say that, in the case of Syria in particular, there are only bad options. That may be true. But increasingly it may be that there is a worse option: doing nothing....."

Al-Jazeera Video: ما وراء الخبر.. خيارات واشنطن بصدد سوريا

"مدى جدية الإدارة الأميركية في التدخل بسوريا في ضوء مناقشة واشنطن خيارات في هذا الصدد.
تقديم: إلسي أبي عاصي
الضيوف: لاري كورب, مروان بشارة

بعد غد الاثنين مع د عزمي بشارة، عن الثورة والثورة المضادة والديمقراطية .. وتجيب الحلقة عن بعض التساؤلات الرئيسية حول ما يلي :

علي الظفيري @AliAldafiri 2h
٢- ما الثورة وما الانقلاب، وماهي الثورة المضادة؟ ما الليبرالية، وهل كل علماني ليبرالي؟ ما أثر فشل أو إفشال تجربة الإسلاميين مع الديمقراطية؟

Independent Video

Syrian hospitals treated thousands for poison gas symptoms, says charity

Médecins sans Frontières says symptoms indicate mass exposure to neurotoxic agent, as Syrian state TV claims chemical weapons found in rebel tunnels,

"Médecins sans Frontières has said hospitals it supports in Damascus treated thousands of patients for neurotoxicity, the first independent indication of the use of poison gas in a deadly incident on Wednesday in the Syrian capital.The medical charity said the hospitals received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on Wednesday morning, of which 355 reportedly died.
Dr Bart Janssens, director of operations at the charity, said: "Medical staff working in these facilities provided detailed information to MSF doctors regarding large numbers of patients arriving with symptoms including convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress."
He said he could not confirm the cause of symptoms or the culprits. "However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events – characterised by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent.
"This would constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, which absolutely prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons," he said.
The news will increase pressure on the international community to take action after Wednesday's attack, which may have killed as many as 1,300 people. William Hague, the foreign secretary, said this week that the attack was probably carried out by forces loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad......"

Al-Jazeera Cartoon

كاريكاتير: كيماوي
The UN Inspection Team in Syria

Video: U S preps for possible cruise missile attack on Syrian gov't forces

Mideast Traffic Cop

Steve Sack, Cagle Cartoons, The Minneapolis Star Tribune


Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة- التصعيد بين السلطة ومعارضي الانقلاب بمصر

تقصي الحقائق كأرضية لإعادة الثقة../ حنين زعبي

By Haneen Zou'bi

تاريخ النشر: 23/08/2013 - آخر تحديث: 17:23

من الطبيعي أن نكون متابعين لتفاصيل ما يجري في مصر، ومن الطبيعي أن نكون قلقين وحريصين أن تعود الثورة لمسارها  ومهامها الأساسية: التخلص من دولة مبارك، بناء الديمقراطية وأسس العدالة الاجتماعية، ومحاكمة كل من قتل أو اعتدى على المتظاهرين والمواطنين المصريين بما فيهم القوات الأمنية. لكن ذلك لن يكون في وضع ينقسم فيه المجتمع المصري ويخوّن فيه كل قسم القسم الآخر.
ليس فقط أن بعض القوى الثورية حادت عن مهامها الطبيعية، واستكانت لخطاب وتدخل الجيش في الحياة السياسية، وسيطرته على المشهد السياسي، واستعماله لخطاب تعبوي عدائي وتصفوي، وبعضها  الآخر انسحب من الميدان أو صمت ويصمت على ما يجري، بل إننا خسرنا الوحدة الوطنية وهي أساس كل ثورة، وأهم عنصر من عناصر قوة الثورة المصرية، ومصدر نجاحها وسلميتها وإبداعها.
وبعد أسبوعين من مئات القتلى، التي ترفض قوات الأمن المصرية والداخلية وحتى وزارة الصحة إحصاء عددها الرسمي، بدأت مبادرات –بالذات من قبل قوى مدنية- تطالب أو لنقل تصرح بضرورة الحوار الوطني، لكنها مبادرات تتعامى عن استمرار الخروقات الأمنية والسياسية بحق المصريين المؤيدين للإخوان أو المؤيدين لاستمرار حكم محمد مرسي ، أو حتى أولئك الذين تجروأ بنقد عزله عن الحكم، وتتعامى عن خطاب تعبوي تحريضي تجاه أولئك الذين من المفروض أن يتم الحوار معهم، وتتعامى عن حقيقة أن القائد العام للقوات المسلحة هو من يدير الدفة في مصر، معلنا حالة الطوارئ التي تجيز له صلاحيات واسعة.
وفقا للمعلومات المتداولة إعلاميا، فإنه من الصعب أن نحكم فيما إذا خطط السيسي لتدخل الجيش، وهو الذي صرح قبل ثمانية أشهر أن "استمرار الصراع السياسي قد يؤدى إلى إنهيار الدولة"، مؤشرا بذلك على عدم استبعاد سيناريو التدخل العسكري، لكن مما لا شك فيه، أن الجيش المصري لم يكن ليتدخل لولا أنه قرأ ما لم يقرأه نظام مرسي، وهو رفض قوى واسعة مما شاركت في الثورة، لحكم مرسي، واستعداد القوى السياسية الأخرى  لتقديم الولاء للجيش لاسترداد فرصة أخرى للحكم، وعدم استغلال قوى الثورة الشبابية لسنتي الثورة باتجاه تنظيم نفسها، وفرض نفسها على المشهد السياسي.
كما أن الجيش قرأ أمرا آخر، يعرفه نظام مرسي،  وهو  أن مرسي نفسه أعفى الجيش والقوات الأمنية من عملية الاقتصاص منها، بل إن الرئيس المعزول أظهر في تصريحاته دعمًا غير محدود للجيش، وقام بترقية عدة جنرالات، رغم إدانة تقرير لجنة تقصي الحقائق للمؤسسة العسكرية، وكشفه لتورط الجيش في قتل وتعذيب وإخفاء المتظاهرين.
كما أعفى مرسي نفسه من مطالب شعبية تتعلق فيما سمي ب"العدالة الانتقالية" التي كان من شأنها أن تحاسب قوات الأمن وأجهزة الدولة سياسيا وجنائيا على اعتداءاتها وقتلها للثوار منذ اندلاع الثورة. بالإضافة لذلك، اختار نظام مرسي عدم الصدام مع دولة مبارك القوية، وذلك بهدف ترسيخ نظام حكمهم، فيما اختارت المعارضة أيضا عدم الصدام مع الدولة القديمة-المستمرة وذلك بهدف زعزعة نظام الأخوان.
ووقع مرسي، كما شعبه، ضحية مهادنته لانتهاكات قوى الأمن، وقد تكون محاولة إخفائه لتقرير تقصي الحقائق، فيما يتعلق بقتل الثوار، والناتج عن لجنة شكلها بنفسه في أيار 2012، والذي كشف عن "تواطؤ بين قوات الأمن، والجيش، والبلطجية"  خلال ملاحقة الثوار والمتظاهرين عام  2012، دليلا على إصراره على عدم إثارة حفيظة الجيش وقوى الأمن ضده، وعلى إعفاء النظام القديم من جرائمه، بل وحتى على استخدام أدوات النظام القديم.
وقد نتج عن إخفاء التحقيق، وعدم متابعة التحقيقات التي أوصى التقرير باستكمالها، ليس فقط ما وصف ببراءات بالجملة لكبار قادة الشرطة وقوى الأمن والداخلية، بل إنه قطع الطريق أمام إعادة بناء تلك الأجهزة بروح وقيم مطالب الثورة، بما فيها وزارة الداخلية التي لم تنفذ أحكاما بالسجن ضد بعض المسؤولين الأمنيين رغم صدور أحكام قضائية بذلك، وبما فيها الجهاز القضائي والنيابة العامة.
أهمية العودة إلى تقرير لجنة تقصي الحقائق لأحداث 2011، كالوثيقة الوحيدة التي تتحدث عن جرائم الدولة تجاه الثوار، والإصرار على تشكيل لحنة حقائق نزيهة ومهنية للتحقيق في جرائم 2013، والتحقيق مع القيادات العليا للقوات المسلحة، هي ليست أهمية تقنية، فبالإضافة إلى الأهمية الثورية لإعادة تنظيف أجهزة القمع، التي ما زالت تنكر جرائم قتل الثوار، يصلح الالتفاف على هذا المطلب المتفق عليه، لإعادة الاصطفاف الثوري الطبيعي، ما بين القوى السياسية وما بين أجهزة النظام القديم، ولا يمكن الحديث عن حوار وطني، في ظل أزمة الثقة الحالية، التي تخون الإخوان وتعاملهم كخلايا إرهابية، دون تقديم الدلائل وإجراء التحقيقات اللازمة لتهم خطيرة مثل هذه.
ومن شأن إلقاء الضوء على أدلة وجود البلطجية المأجورين من قبل الجيش أو بقايا النظام القديم، وعلى حقيقة تعامل قوى الأمن المتواطئ معها، أن يهز الخطاب الحالي لقوات الجيش، التي أسست عنفها في فض اعتصامي رابعة والنهضة على خطاب وهمي مفاده أنها بصدد تجمع إرهابي يتضمن خلايا إرهابية مزودة بالأسلحة الثقيلة وهدفها تدمير الدولة المصرية!
ومن شأن إصرار قوى الشباب على التحقيق فيما جرى بعد 30 يوليو على فضح الدور التحريضي الذي قامت به القوى الأمنية ضد حركة سياسية شرعية، تم عزل رئيسها من قبل الجيش وبدعم من قوى شعبية واسعة، لم تذوت في جزء عريض منها أهداف وقيم الثورة.
يبقى أن نقول أن المعلومات والتحقيقات ستأخذ وقتا طويلا، وأنه ليس بمقدورها لوحدها أن تواجه مشاعر الشيطنة والكره العميقة في الشارع المصري ضد الإخوان المسلمين، ولا أدري حقيقة مدى انتشار خطاب الكراهية هذا، لكن المعلومات وحدها لن تستطيع محاربته، وعلى القوى الثورية الشابة أن تعرف أن قبولها بهامشيتها في الظرف الحالي، أو تبني خطاب الغرائز السياسية سيستأصل الثورة، ولن يستأصل قوى سياسية بعينها. 

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

After the release of Hosni Mubarak, how do you describe what happened on June 30, a new revolution or a counter-revolution to the January 2011 revolution?

With about 1,200 responding so far, 96% described it as a counter-revolution.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Egypt: Security forces must show restraint after reckless policing of violent protest

"The killing of at least 1,089 people over the past week underscores the urgent need for Egypt’s security forces to comply with international standards on the use of force and firearms, Amnesty International said.
In the bloodiest incident since the dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins last week, 97 were killed in Cairo on 16 August when protests by supporters of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi culminating around Ramsis Square quickly plunged into violence. A child as young as seven and a number of teenagers were among those killed or wounded.

“Security forces failed to take control of the situation or respond to violence used against them in a measured and responsible way to minimize loss of life. Many bystanders also lost their lives,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa for Amnesty International.

“The presence of armed individuals among protesters does not allow security forces to shoot randomly. The Egyptian authorities must make clear that a reckless use of force and firearms will not be tolerated. The security forces must protect all Egyptians from violence regardless of their political affiliation....

“Security forces must implement a strategy in line with international standards that enables them to take control of the situation without causing a bloodbath,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“Unlawful killings and the use of excessive force by the security forces must be investigated as an immediate priority. Without accountability the bloodshed in Egypt will only continue.”........." 

Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة.. كيمياوي سوريا والإفراج عن مبارك

Aid to Egypt

Mike Keefe, Cagle Cartoons

Syrian victims of alleged gas attack smuggled to Jordan for blood tests

Samples could help inform international response to incident, as UN inspectors denied access to affected areas of Damascus

The Guardian,

Syrian Activist on Ghouta Attack: "I Haven’t Seen Such Death in My Whole Life"

Democracy Now!

"The Syrian government is facing growing pressure to allow an international probe of an alleged chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrian opposition says government forces fired poisonous gas into rebel-held neighborhoods of Ghouta, killing hundreds of people.  Video posted on YouTube this week shows frantic scenes of overwhelmed hospitals, dead children and countless bodies. If confirmed, it would stand to be the most violent incident in Syria since the rebel uprising began two years ago and one of the worst toxic attacks in decades. The alleged attack occurred just days after U.N. inspectors arrived in the country to investigate previous attacks. We’re joined from Syria by Razan Zaitouneh, a lawyer and human rights activist who works with the Human Rights Violation Documentation Center. "We couldn’t believe our eyes," Zaitouneh says of witnessing the attack’s aftermath. "I haven’t seen such death in my whole life." We also speak with Patrick Cockburn, a longtime Middle East correspondent for the London Independent who recently returned from reporting in Syria. His latest article is "The evidence of chemical attack seems compelling — but remember — there’s a propaganda war on."....."

Exclusive: UK’s secret Mid-East internet surveillance base is revealed in Edward Snowden leaks

Data-gathering operation is part of a £1bn web project still being assembled by GCHQ

The Independent

"Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies, The Independent has learnt.

The station is able to tap into and extract data from the underwater fibre-optic cables passing through the region.
The information is then processed for intelligence and passed to GCHQ in Cheltenham and shared with the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. The Government claims the station is a key element in the West’s “war on terror” and provides a vital “early warning” system for potential attacks around the world.
The Independent is not revealing the precise location of the station but information on its activities was contained in the leaked documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden. The Guardian newspaper’s reporting on these documents in recent months has sparked a dispute with the Government, with GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives containing the data.
The Middle East installation is regarded as particularly valuable by the British and Americans because it can access submarine cables passing through the region. All of the messages and data passed back and forth on the cables is copied into giant computer storage “buffers” and then sifted for data of special interest....."

Ode to a Revolution

The Bleeding of Egypt



This is how you force a genuine revolution to self-destruct; all it takes is for one gulf despot to start throwing petrodollars around and voila… a civil war erupts, this is a very familiar tale; Libya, Syria, post-Occupation Iraq and now in Egypt, the Saudis must be smiling a happily contented smile now as the sea of innocent blood overflows in Cairo.
So who’s running Egypt now? The answer is glaringly obvious; it’s Mubarak’s security men… on steroids. You might call the ghastly massacres of Rabaa Al Adawiah and Al Nahda squares ‘Exhibit A’, and Mubarak himself was acquitted, he walked out of Tora prison today… and soon into the presidential palace perhaps? The Egyptian revolution coming full circle. Of course the Americans don’t give two hoots if the new ruler of Egypt is elected or not, if he wears a suite or a military uniform, or if he prays five times a day or not, it all comes down to his willingness to fulfill his role as the omnipotent master and guardian of the Camp David agreement, other than that it’s all just smoke and double-talk, although it would be nice for them to get a Mubarkite (or Mubarak himself) to rule the country; only on the grounds that he’s already been tried and tested.
Egyptians call their country “the Mother of the World”, well this mother could have left her children all squabbling over power and slashed her wrists and no-one would have cared, nor even noticed when she decided to bleed herself out on her own pavements.
And she knows… because that’s exactly what happened."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ben Jennings on the west's reaction to the Syrian crisis – cartoon

The Guardian,

Syria: chemical weapons with impunity

The options for response are all bad, and it is doubtful whether airstrikes would establish deterrence

The Guardian,

"There is next to no doubt that chemical weapons were used in Ghouta in eastern Damascus, and that, unlike previous alleged attacks, they produced mass casualties. Whether the death toll is in the hundreds or over a thousand, as the rebels claim, this is one of the most significant chemical weapons attacks since Saddam Hussein's on the Kurds in Halabja 25 years ago, and an unmistakable challenge to the vow Barack Obama made a year ago that, if proved, the use of chemical or biological weapons would "change my calculus".
Nor is there much doubt about who committed the atrocity. The Syrian government acknowledged it had launched a major offensive in the area and they are the only combatant with the capability to use chemical weapons on this scale. Western intelligence officials have calculated it would need an invasion force of 60,000 troops to secure the 12 chemical weapons depots at Bashar al-Assad's disposal. A lot of sarin, if indeed that was the agent used, is needed to kill that number of people. The sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway killed 13 people.
That leaves the question why. In defending their client state from the accusation, Russia called the attack a pre-planned provocation, occurring as it did within only five miles of the hotel where UN inspectors had arrived to investigate previous alleged incidents. There are four possible causes: a Syrian commander acting on his own, which is unlikely; an order from Mr Assad in the knowledge that Mr Obama would not respond; or a decision to up the firepower against the rebels who, despite losses in Qusair or Homs, still control about half of the country. The fourth possible cause is that this was an attack which went wrong, killing many more than intended.
The options for response are all bad. France and Turkey are pushing for military action, and Britain will not rule it out – possibly airstrikes against missile depots and aircraft that Mr Assad would not like to lose. There is no chance that he will allow the UN inspection team to expand the area of their investigation to anything more than three limited sites. And nor, with Russia and China's protection, is there much chance of the security council mandating them to do so. The task of the Syrian government is straightforward – to play for time, pen the UN inspection team in, and let the physical evidence itself degrade, which is swiftly done in an active combat zone.
It is doubtful whether airstrikes would establish deterrence. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has told Congress that while the US could intervene in the war, no moderate rebel group was ready to fill the vacuum. That leaves a regional war in freefall. This chemical attack may not be the last."

Coming Full Circle? An interview with Egyptian Journalist Ahmad Shokr


AN EXCELLENT INTERVIEW! "Since June 30, Egypt has seen one of its worst turmoil in the country’s modern history, with hundreds killed, dozens of police stations and churches burned, and a divided population. The Muslim Brothers, who were in government two months ago, are now on the run and the military are fully back in charge. From Cairo, independent journalist and political analyst, Ahmad Shokr dissects the current situation in his country and explains some of the more surprising developments of the past few weeks..."

Al-Jazeera Video:إرتفاع وتيرة التحريض علـى الصحافييـن والناشطيـن وتخوفات من عودة القبضة الأمنية الى ما قبل


Al-Jazeera Video: ارتـفاع عدد ضحايـا مجزرة غوطـة دمشـق

Only Assad can prove the 'toxic gas' claims are false

If the alleged chemical weapon use in Syria is true, it would defy all logic. But the burden of proof now lies with Syria's president

The Guardian,

"Although we do not have independent information as to whether Bashar al-Assad's regime fired chemical weapons on the eastern suburbs of Damascus and killed hundreds of civilians, as the opposition claims, the burden of proof, morally and legally, lies squarely on the shoulders of the Syrian president.
If the regime's counter-claims of denial are to be believed, Assad must convince the Syrian people and the world. He can do this by allowing the United Nations inspectors access to the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta, where this apparent massacre occurred. A 20-strong UN team is already in Damascus, investigating three other incidents of alleged chemical weapons attacks said to have taken place six months ago.
The UN, together with scores of nations, has called on Assad to grant permission to its inspectors and allow them to conduct a "thorough, impartial and prompt investigation". Assad's prompt agreement would not only show his sincerity about addressing the serious and urgent concerns of the international community, but could also forestall western military strikes. His refusal could prompt such a strike.
If proven, and given the scale of the atrocity, the "red line" established by US president Barack Obama about the use of chemical weapons has surely been crossed. Pressure is mounting on Obama at home. Some US lawmakers immediately renewed calls for the administration to intervene more decisively in the Syrian conflict.....

Regional and international powers wage wars-by-proxy on Syria's killing fields while pretending to support the aspirations of its people. No wonder the international community is paralysed. The watered-down final statement by the UN security council on the apparent use of chemical weapons in Ghouta is just one case in point. In the meantime, the body count has exceeded 130,000."

Syria deaths: powerful asphyxiant in strike was probably sarin, say experts

Specialists say symptoms observed in footage of victims offer strong evidence that nerve agent was used near Damascus

, , and
The Guardian,

Mubarak to face hardships in home detention, by Carlos Latuff

Mubarak home detention

Syria: Witnesses Describe Alleged Chemical Attacks

Government Should Give UN Investigators Immediate Access

"(New York) – Witnesses in Eastern and Western Ghouta, outside Damascus, described symptoms and delivery methods consistent with the use of chemical nerve agents during attacks by government forces on August 21, 2013. The attacks killed several hundred people and injured hundreds more.

Seven residents and two doctors who were first responders told Human Rights Watch that hundreds of people, including many children, appeared to have been asphyxiated in the attacks that began in the early hours of August 21. The killing of civilians on a large scale in a single incident raises concerns that serious crimes were committed. The government denied on its state TV channel that it had used chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta, an area largely controlled by the opposition.

A huge number of people in Ghouta are dead, doctors and witnesses are describing horrific details that look like a chemical weapons attack, and the government claims it didn’t do it,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.” The only way to find out what really happened in Ghouta is to let UN inspectors in.”...."

Meet the Hatchet Men of Cairo

A goon squad is used by Egyptian authorities to threaten anyone they think is anti-Egypt. But who exactly are they?

By Dan Williams
(Dan Williams is a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.)

"One of the prime dangers and obstacles to journalists and human rights observers trying to monitor and report on the violence in Egypt is the resurgence of vigilante groups threatening and harassing anyone they think is anti-Egypt. These days that means anyone who speaks critically about the bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood or is somehow viewed as a supporter of the ousted president, Mohammed Morsi, who ruled for a year.

Hardly a day passes without reports of a journalist being beaten or detained, or a rights activist being marched off to a police station by “honest citizens,” as the state media calls them. While carrying out their “civic duties,” these vigilantes somehow find time to steal mobile phones, cameras and money from their victims.

So who is doing this informal work of protecting Egypt from its supposed enemies? In some cases, it appears that the chore is carried out by “popular committees,” especially aggressive neighborhood watch-type groups formed ostensibly to protect homes and buildings from what they claim are marauding Morsi supporters. Yet, from appearances and descriptions of the vigilante beatings and detentions, actions of some supposed popular committees resemble activities of what Egyptians call baltageya (often translated as “thugs”) – people who for decades have served as a kind of auxiliary goon squad for Egyptian authorities....."

Back to Mubarak, And Worse

Analysis by Cam McGrath
Egypt's military rulers have set security solutions over political ones. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.
Egypt's military rulers have set security solutions over political ones. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.
"CAIRO, Aug 22 2013 (IPS) - Egyptian military leader General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said ousting the country’s first elected president was necessary “to preserve democracy” and resolve the political deadlock that had dangerously polarised the country. But six weeks after the coup he led, the notion that toppling Islamist president Mohamed Morsi would restore stability to Egypt has proven false.
Instead, the confrontations between the army and supporters of the ousted president have led to violent chaos and given the military a free hand to restrict freedoms and rebuild the apparatus of Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime. A court ordered the release of Mubarak himself on bail.

The biggest threat facing Egypt remains the return of the police state. More specifically, the threat concerns not only the reconstitution of a police state, which never really left since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, but also the return of the implicit, if not overt, acceptance of the repressive practices of the coercive apparatus,” said political analyst Wael Eskander writing in the independent Jadaliyya.....

Security solutions “will only reinforce the Brotherhood’s rigidity… [and] further empower the coercive apparatus,” warns Eskander. “As extremist groups are pushed into hiding, the security leaders will find excuses to employ intrusive surveillance measures, interrogate, torture, and abuse, all with zero transparency and accountability.

There are signs this is already happening. In short order, Egyptian security officials have restored Mubarak-era emergency laws, imposed a curfew, and issued a standing order to use live ammunition.
The interior ministry has also formally reinstated a number of state security departments dismantled following the country’s 2011 uprising. Among these are the notorious police units that were responsible for the investigation, forced disappearance and torture of thousands of Islamists and political dissidents during Mubarak’s rule.
Tarek Radwan, associate research director at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Centre, has not declared Egypt’s revolution dead, but sees alarming parallels emerging.
“If this picture sounds familiar, it is,” he wrote. “A Muslim Brotherhood driven underground, a leading military figure, an assertive police force, and submissive liberal bloc is perhaps the most apt description of pre-2011 Egypt.”"

Assad’s game-changer

UN gives Syrian regime the go-ahead for chemical attacks

By Brian Whitaker

"At an emergency meeting last night the UN Security Council in effect gave the Syrian regime a green light for chemical attacks on its citizens.
The council issued a feeble call for “clarity” in response to the deaths of hundreds of people near Damascus yesterday – deaths that appear to have been caused by some kind of toxic gas.

Most importantly, the statement did not specifically demand a UN investigation, even though UN weapons inspectors are currently in Damascus to investigate earlier reports of chemical weapons use. Reuters adds:

“An earlier western-drafted statement submitted to the council, seen by Reuters, was not approved. The final version of the statement was watered down to accommodate objections from Russia and China, diplomats said. Moscow and Beijing have vetoed previous Western efforts to impose UN penalties on Assad.”.....
Thus Obama may actually be quite relieved that the UN isn’t pressing harder to discover the truth about yesterday’s events in Syria. So long as the charges against Assad to remain unproven, Obama can avoid difficult decisions over how to respond while blaming Russia and China for their obstruction in the Security Council.

But this has implications which go far beyond Syria. It’s worth noting that number of the deaths in Damascus yesterday (apparently running into the hundreds) may turn out to be smaller than the number of recent deaths in Egypt as a result of the military takeover there – though in Egypt people were killed mainly by guns.

Does this make a difference? For a long time, the international consensus has been that it does. Chemicals, along with nuclear and biological weapons, are treated as a special class of weaponry that needs to be controlled.

If Assad is allowed to use chemical weapons in Syria with impunity it will be a major step on the slope towards normalising them."

Method in Assad's madness?

Method in Assad's madness?

Syrian regime has little to fear now from using chemical weapons

By Brian Whitaker

As I suggested in a previous blog post, whatever the suspicions about Syrian use of chemical weapons, Obama would probably prefer the charges to remain unproven – in order to avoid difficult decisions over how to respond.

Internationally, the Syrian regime sees itself as part of the "resistance" bloc, constantly giving the finger to the US and other western countries, as well as to its Arab foes. Assad's strategy from the beginning of the uprising has been to ratchet up the violence step by step, to see what he can get away with, before taking it up another notch.

Given this background, Assad may now be calculating that the time is ripe to cross Obama's red line with impunity. It's a risk, but if he succeeds he will have demonstrated once and for all that where Syria is concerned the "international community" is impotent and in total disarray.

Of course, there are expressions of alarm from many capitals, and calls for the UN security council to meet. But it is difficult to see what they can actually do, considering that the public have so far been in no mood for military action. 

There is also, of course, the parallel question of Egypt. If Sisi can massacre people in Egypt with guns while the US dithers over what to do about aid, is it really very different if Assad massacres them with chemicals? Either way, the people are dead.

So a short alternative answer to the question "why?" is that Assad has little to lose now from using chemical weapons and potentially a lot to gain on the political front. He may well be thinking: "If I can get away with this I can get away with anything." And he could be right."

Al-Jazeera Video: دلالات استخدام الأسلحة الكيمياوية بسوريا

Sarin Gas for Syrians! By Emad Hajjaj

Click on the Cartoon to send it to a friend!

The Assad Regime Kills Hundreds in Damascus Countryside Using Chemical Weapons.

"Freshening the Air to Receive International Inspection Teams?"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chemical weapons experts say strike near Damascus fits with lethal toxin use

Analysts say videos of attacked rebel-held areas show asphyxiations and emergency staff overwhelmed with victims

The Guardian,
"The video footage and pictures this time are of a far better quality," said Jean Pascal Zanders, a former analyst with the chemical and biological warfare project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who has worked in the field of chemical, biological and nuclear proliferation since the mid-1980s and has questioned some previous claims.
Zanders said: "You can clearly see the typical signs of asphyxiation, including a pinkish blueish tinge to the skin colour. There is one image of an adult woman where you can see the tell-tale blackish mark around her mouth, all of which suggests death from asphyxiation.
"What is also different in this footage is that we are seeing the chaos of the first response to what occurred. We are seeing the emergency services being overwhelmed by the innocent victims. It feels very authentic."....."

مجزرة الغوطة يتحمل مسؤوليتها المجتمع الدولي

رأي القدس

صور ومشاهد جثامين الاطفال والنساء اثر مجزرة في ريف دمشق راح ضحيتها المئات كانت مروعة.
فقد ارتكبت قوات النظام السوري فجر امس مجزرة مرعبة وغير مسبوقة بقصفها الغوطة الشرقية والغربية، واظهرت اشرطة الفيديو عبر الفضائيات او ‘اليوتيوب’ جثامين اطفال ورضع، وصورا لاطفال في حالات اغماء او اختناق، ولم تظهر اي اثار للدماء، وتحدثت طواقم طبية عن اعراض على الضحايا، منها اطراف باردة ورغوة تخرج من الافواه او اتساع في بؤبؤ العين، وكلها تدل على تعرضهم لغاز الاعصاب وبالتحديد غاز السارين.
وما يثير الدهشة ان يتم ارتكاب هذه المجزرة بوجود فريق التفتيش الدولي على بعد كيلومترات معدودة، وكان من الواجب ان يتحرك فورا لتأمين زيارته لموقع المجزرة للتحقيق، ومن المفترض ان تسهل حكومة دمشق هذه الخطوة، على الاقل للتأكيد على مزاعم براءتها من استخدام الاسلحة الكيماوية.
ويمكن الاشارة الى ثلاث نقاط ادت لاستهداف ريف دمشق بهذا الشكل الوحشي، فيبدو اولا ان النظام ارتكب هذه المجزرة انتقاما من توسيع قوات المعارضة للعمليات العسكرية في مناطق الساحل السوري، وقرى العلويين والتي يعتبرها النظام خطا احمر.
والنقطة الثانية هي تعمد النظام استهداف غوطة دمشق بسبب تحسن وضع المعارضة وجودا وتسليحا فيها، كما يبدو ان المعارضة تجد ترحيبا شعبيا اكبر من السكان في غوطة دمشق. والنقطة الثالثة ان نظام الرئيس بشار الاسد يبعث بهذه المجزرة رسالة للمجتمع الدولي للتعبير عن عدم ارتياحه من تحضيرات مؤتمر جنيف، ويبدو انه يحاول استعجاله لفرض شروطه وهو بوضع عسكري افضل على الارض.
نظام الاسد بارتكابه هذه المجزرة يستفز المجتمع الدولي، ويتحدى الادارة الامريكية التي اعتبرت استخدام الاسلحة الكيماوية خطا احمر، وهو يرد ليقول للعالم انه هو الذي يحدد الخطوط والوانها، وهو الذي يحدد ماذا يريد.
بعد ساعات من ارتكاب المجزرة عقد مجلس الامن الدولي اجتماعا طارئا مساء امس، تلبية لدعوات عدة اطراف. لكن وامام هول المشاهد من غوطة دمشق، هل يهم ان انعقد مجلس الامن ام لم ينعقد؟ وهل يهم ان اعرب عن استغرابه او ندد او استنكر او اعرب عن قله البالغ او الشديد، لن يؤثر ذلك شيئا طالما انه اكتفى بالبيانات الرنانة، وطالما بقي بعيدا عن استخدام البند السابع.
وكما توقعنا ستشكك
روسيا وربما الصين ايضا بالتقارير عن المجازر، وربما تتهمان المعارضة بارتكابها.
هذه المجزرة المروعة، التي راح ضحيتها اكثر من الف شخص، نصفهم من الاطفال والنساء الذين قتلوا وهم نيام، ارتكبها المجتمع الدولي، بأيدي نظام بشار الاسد. فسكوته واكتفاؤه بالبيانات طوال العامين الماضيين اديا لهذه النتيجة.

U.S. Influence in Egypt

Patrick Chappatte, Cagle Cartoons, The International Herald Tribune

ONE MASSACRE AFTER ANOTHER: Syria-Egypt-Syria....DAMN ALL THE ARAB LEADERS! Syria conflict: chemical weapons blamed as hundreds reported killed

 Death toll claimed to be as high as 1,400 as Syrian government admits launching offensive but denies using chemical weapons
  • The Guardian,

  • A man holds the body of a dead child among bodies of people activists say were killed by nerve gas
    A man holds the body of a dead child among bodies of people activists say were killed by nerve gas. Photograph: Stringer/REUTERS
    "Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed in an apparent gas attack on rebel-held parts of eastern Damascus that is thought to be the most significant use of chemical weapons since thousands of Kurds were gassed by Saddam Hussein in Halabja 25 years ago.

    Medics, as well as opposition fighters and political leaders, said the death toll had reached 1,400 and was likely to rise further with hundreds more critically wounded in districts besieged by the Syrian military. Other estimates put the current toll at between 200 and 500. None of the figures could be independently verified....."

    A freed Mubarak should feel at home in today’s topsy turvy Egypt

    The lads from state security are behaving with Mubarak-era ruthlessness

    By Robert Fisk

    "Mubarak to be freed? Crazy as it may seem, his freedom would be in keeping with the mad tragedy through which Egypt is living. What would seem impossible in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution – hundreds massacred by state security, police cadets slaughtered by desert gunmen, Mubarak out of jail – has acquired a kind of normality.....

    On the streets of Cairo there have now appeared thousands of large coloured photographs of Barack Obama with Bin Laden’s beard attached to his chin and a Muslim prayer sign on his forehead. And to the right of Obama is that most handsome of all generals, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Minister of Defence, Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Egyptian army.

    So there’s no doubt who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are. State television’s three channels now run a 24-hour banner in English on the top left of the screen: “Egypt fighting terrorism”. And it seems viewers are inclined to believe it

    That is putting it mildly. The lads from state security are back in all their Mubarak-like ruthlessness, assisted – as in 2011 – by the hired thugs and ex-prisoners who are used to club protesters with iron bars. So if Mubarak does emerge from the grim confines of the Tora prison complex – wherein his Brotherhood enemies are also being held – he will find the new Egypt of his freedom faintly familiar."

    Video: Coup government in Egypt kill political prisoners in Abu Zaabal

    Syria chemical attack: something horrific and large-scale has taken place

    The Assad regime's likely use of nerve gas in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta reveals the west as ever more reluctant to become entangled in the regional crisis,

    Journalists under threat in Egypt

    After a spate of attacks and detentions, the Committee to Protect Journalists has highlighted the targeting of media staff in Egypt

    The Guardian

    "Press freedom groups have warned that an "unprecedented" number of journalists are being targeted by Egyptian forces during the violent crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters.The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was "deeply disturbed" after several reporters for international media groups, including the Guardian, were assaulted or briefly detained in Cairo over the weekend.
    A French television crew were held for about 10 hours on Saturday after they covered a siege by security forces on Fateh mosque, in Ramses Square, in the Egyptian capital. The Guardian's Egypt correspondent, Patrick Kingsley, was detained twice on Saturday while reporting from the square.
    The incidents followed the fatal shootings of a Sky News cameraman and a reporter for a Gulf newspaper last week as part of days of widespread bloodshed across Egypt.

    Sherif Mansour, the CPJ's Middle East and North Africa orogramme co-ordinator, raised the alarm about the apparent crackdown on journalists in the politically-torn country. "The unprecedented number of killings and harassment of journalists in Egypt last week are ominous signs for the Egyptian press," he said.
    "A free press is fundamental to the restoration of democracy and to the inclusion of disparate voices in public discourse. Safeguarding press freedom, as promised by the Egyptian interim government, is a key step in that direction and direly needed right now."......."

    The Revenge of the Police State

    by Wael Eskandar

    As we confront the question of whether or not Egypt will witness the “return” of the police of the Mubarak era, a number of critical questions arise, such as: Is there any revolutionary fervor left to resist this route? Or have revolutionary commitments been drained through all the blood and the failed attempts at establishing a democratic political order?

    Whether or not a new wave of revolutionary mobilization will emerge to push back against the growing power of the security state is an open question. But it is clear that the persistence of the confrontation between the state and the Muslim Brotherhood will only deepen the securitization of politics by reinforcing demands for security solutions. What it will take to reverse the return of the police state, which revolutionary activists have worked hard to resist, is uncertain. One could argue that the brutal injustices that the police are bent on committing will always make resistance structurally inevitable. But that suggests that reviving resistance will come at a high price, one that Khalid Said, Jika, Mohamed al-Guindy, and many others have paid."

    Storm on the Nile

    By Eric Margolis

    "Egypt’s US-financed armed forces have gone to war against Egypt’s people. Arab spring has become Arab winter.
    So far, army and security police have scored brilliant battlefield victories against unarmed men, women and children, killing and wounding thousands who were demanding a return to democratic government.
    The latest Cairo protests by supporters of the elected Morsi government have been scattered by gunfire and huge armored bulldozers resembling the giant vehicles used by Israel to smash Palestinian barricades and protesters.MOHAMMED ABDEL MONEIM/AFP/Getty Images All Egyptians opposing the Sisi dictatorship are now officially, “terrorists.”
    Egypt’s generals and hard right Mubarakist supporters have ditched any pretense of civilian government and now rely on the bayonet and tank. The men with the guns make the rules.

    This is the third fairly elected Arab government to be overthrown or besieged, like Gaza, by Western-backed military regimes. Unlike Algeria, where the first elected government was crushed, Egypt’s Islamists have no arms and are unlikely to be able to mount serious domestic resistance aside from some pinprick attacks in Upper Egypt and Sinai.
    The bloody Mubarakist counter-revolution, financed by Saudi Arabia and some Gulf monarchies, has put the United States, Egypt’s patron, into a serious jam. Washington was forced to denounce the coup and ongoing state repression as “deplorable,” in the words of US State Secretary John Kerry.

    However, weeks earlier the clearly confused Kerry had praised the coup that overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected government as “restoring democracy.” He refused to brand the military putsch a coup, for that would have meant cutting off annual $1.3 billion in US payments to Egypt’s armed forces, a key US ally. President Obama has simply ducked the whole issue.
    Since Washington preaches democracy, civilian rule, and human rights, it can’t be seen to be openly backing Egypt’s brutal military and security forces. So the Obama administration has been pussyfooting around events in Egypt, pleased to see Egypt’s generals in charge and the Islamists out of power, but unwilling to say so.
    US Mideast policy is run from five different power centers: the White House, State Department, Pentagon, CIA and Congress. America’s powerful pro-Israel lobby gives Congress its marching orders over Egypt, controlling financial aid, food supplies and weapons deliveries. In effect, Israel is a sixth player in this game.....

    Egypt’s 440,000-man armed forces is joined at the hip with the Pentagon which controls its arms, funding, training, high tech equipment, promotion lists, spare parts and munitions supply, the latter two always kept in short supply.
    So Egypt’s generals will soon have to sheathe their swords, withdraw tanks, and fabricate a figurehead civilian government that at least looks somewhat real, instead of the army-installed cigar-store Indians now supposedly running the government.
    This will mollify Washington. After all, the US happily backed and financed the brutal Mubarak military regimes for three decades, turning a blind eye to its torture, executions and massive human rights violations. Western media obediently lauded the Mubarak dictatorship as a pillar of Mideast stability (US code talk for status quo).

    Expect a rapid return to Mubarakism once the bloodshed dies down, and likely his release from jail. The prisons will fill again, the torturers will work overtime and Egypt will return to full-blown military-police state led, most likely, by General al-Sisi, who looks every inch a modern dictator in his dark sunglasses and medals.

    For once, leading Republican senator John McCain got it right: Washington should cut off all military aid to Egypt he urged, as US law mandates. America’s image in the entire Muslim world is at risk. Remember when President Obama called for full democracy across the Mideast?
    But Obama is reluctant to move because Israel, its friends in Congress, and the Pentagon brass are squarely behind Egypt’s military regime, as they were behind Mubarak. Egypt, and its US guided armed force, are a pillar of the American Mideast Raj."

    Al-Jazeera Video: مئات القتلى بهجوم كيمياوي بسوريا

    Real News Video:Mubarak Eyes Release As Egyptian Military Continues To Kill Protestors

    Little has changed since 2011 revolution as police and military continue to massacre nonviolent opposition 

    More at The Real News

    Real News Video: Pressure Mounts for US to Cut Aid to Egyptian Military

    Robert Naiman: Legally the Obama administration is obligated to cut aid to Egypt after the military coup, and the longer the US waits to take a stand the less influence it yields to stop the Egyptian security forces brutal repression 

    More at The Real News

    Real News Video: Israel, Anti-Semitism, and Negotiations Without End

    In Pt 4 of 4 of Reality Asserts Itself, Paul Jay and Max Blumenthal discuss whether some criticism of Israel is racist and analyze the recent peace talks to nowhere 
    More at The Real News

    Hosni Mubarak Release: Court Orders Former Egyptian President To Be Freed


    "CAIRO — Officials say an Egyptian court has ordered the release of ex-President Hosni Mubarak, but it's not immediately clear whether the prosecutors will appeal the order.
    The Wednesday decision comes in a hearing on charges against Mubarak of accepting gifts from a state-owned newspaper, the last case that has kept the ailing leader in detention.
    It raises the possibility that Mubarak will walk free, a move that is likely to fuel the unrest roiling the country after the autocratic leader's successor was removed in a military coup last month. The officials spoke anonymously because they are not authorized to speak to the media....."

    Poll: Americans criticize Obama on Egypt, want aid cut off

    The Washington Post
    Better Approach for the US toward Egypt
    "A majority of Americans — 51 percent — now want foreign aid to Egypt to be cut off, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center.

    The poll also finds significant unhappiness with President Obama’s response to the increasing unrest and violence in Egypt — a reflection of the tough path forward for the administration as the Egyptian government and protesters continue to clash.

    The poll asked respondents whether the United States should cut off funding to apply pressure to the Egyptian government or continue military aid to have an influence on what happens there. Fifty-one percent chose cutting off aid, 26 percent chose continuing aid, and 23 percent said they didn’t know......"

    Rabias of the world unite in Egypt

    By Ramzy Baroud
    Asia Times

    ""Lord! You know well that my keen desire is to carry out Your commandments and to serve Thee with all my heart, O light of my eyes. If I were free I would pass the whole day and night in prayers. But what should I do when you have made me a slave of a human being?"

    These were the words of the female Muslim mystic and poet, Rabia al-Adawiya. Her journey from slavery to freedom served as a generational testament of the resolve of the individual who was armed with faith and nothing else.

    Rabia's story is multifarious, and despite the fact that the Muslim saint died over 12 centuries ago, few Egyptians fail to see the centrality of her narrative to their own. In the north of the Nasr City
    district, tens of thousands of Egyptians chose the iconic mosque named after her to stage their sit-in and demanded the return to shar'iya (legitimacy) after it was seized in a brazen military coup which ousted elected President Mohamed Morsi on July 3.

    Rabia's narrative is essential because it was about freedom. She was born into a very poor family in Basra, Iraq. According to Farid ud-Din Attar who related her story, she was so poor that when she was born the family had nothing to wrap around her, not even oil to light their only lamp. Years later when Rabia was a youth, she was kidnapped and sold into Egyptian slavery as she tried to escape a deadly famine in Iraq.

    Rabia didn't exactly challenge her master through organizing strikes and defiant sit-ins. She was alone and dominated by too many powerful forces. So she spent most of the day as a slave, but late at night she would stay up and pray. It was more than praying, but an attempt at reclaiming her humanity, at comprehending the multitude of forces that chained her to earthly relations of slave and master, and in a sense, she tried to discover a level of freedom that could not be granted by a master's wish.

    In fact, her true "miracle" was the strength of her faith despite the harshest possible conditions, and her ability to strive for freedom while practically speaking, she remained a slave. It is as if this female poet, a heroin and a saint by the standards of many poor, downtrodden people, managed to redefine the relationship of the ongoing class struggle, and found freedom within herself. It is believed that her inconceivable faith was so strong that her master could not deal with the guilt of holding a saint a slave. So, she was freed.

    Regardless of the details, Rabia al-Adawiya's legacy has passed on from one generation of Egyptians to the next. Like her, many of these Egyptians are mostly poor, immensely patient, and are hostage to the same century-old class struggle by which Rabia was defined.

    The January 25, 2011 revolution included millions of Rabias fed up with oppression and servitude. But the class division that was highlighted after millions of Egyptians rose against the military coup became clearer than ever. These were the poorest of the poor, long alienated and dehumanized by both the ruling class and the conceited, intellectual groupings of self-described liberals and socialists.

    The unprecedented union between Egypt's ruling class and anti-Muslim intellectual elite succeeded, to an extent, in blocking our view from the substantial class struggle underway in Egypt, where the poorest communities - yes, workers and peasants - were leading a historic struggle to reclaim democracy from the upper and middle class intellectuals......"