Saturday, November 30, 2013

Video: وحشية الاحتلال باعتقال متظاهر فلسطيني ضد برافر قرب مستوطنة بيت إيل شمال رام الله

Guardian Video: Egypt: protest leader Ahmad Maher turns himself in for arrest

Ahmad Maher, leader of Egypt's popular anti-government April 6 youth movement, turns himself in to police after a warrant for his arrest was issued. Maher flouted a new law which placed restrictions on anti-government protests. After he entered Abdeen court in Cairo, violent scuffles broke out between his supporters and police.

The Exorcist

Christo Komarnitski, Cagle Cartoons, Bulgaria


By Eric Margolis

November 30, 2013
"After all the gnashing of teeth, beating of breasts and tearing of hair coming from Israel and its American supporters, you’d think last week’s nuclear deal in Geneva has opened the way for Iran to become a mighty nuclear weapons power.
Nonsense. Coolly examined, Tehran came off with the short end of the stick at the so-called P5 + 1 big power talks in Geneva. Here’s why:
Bowing to intolerable sanctions and economic warfare from the US, Tehran agreed to limit uranium enrichment to only 5% (over 80% is needed to make a nuclear weapon). This low level is sufficiently only for power generation. Iran is to stop enriching to 20%, the level needed for medical isotopes.
Iran further agreed to halt construction of its Arak heavy water reactor that could eventually produce plutonium, a key nuclear weapons fuel. Tehran agreed not to build any new nuclear facilities, including next generation centrifuges, and grant daily access to UN nuclear inspectors at its top-secret Nantaz and Fordow plants. It will provide design plans for its Arak reactor.
In short, Iran freezes its modest nuclear program to the point where it can only be used for civilian energy purposes.
For these major concessions, Iran will be paid $7 billion – of its own money, which has been frozen abroad by US-led sanctions. Some sanctions will be slightly eased. Iran will regain access to some of its gold and cash held abroad. But most of its $ 100 billion in assets frozen abroad will remain blocked. Tehran will be able to sell modest amounts of oil at current restricted levels, and fund some Iranian students abroad. Big deal.
Iran will be finally allowed to buy some parts for its dilapidated civilian airliners that have become flying coffins because of sanctions. But, apparently, not new western aircraft.
The Geneva accord will last for 6 months, then be reviewed.
Given all the American and Israeli talk of war against Iran, it represents something of a triumph for US, Russian, EU and Chinese diplomacy. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry deserve kudos for engineering the deal – both the open one in Geneva, and the backroom talks run out of Oman.
Russia’s deft Foreign Mininster Sergei Lavrov also deserves applause, having contributed much diplomatic skill and intelligent policy to the negotiations.
There appears no way Iran could even come close to making a few nuclear weapons – or, for that matter, delivered them at medium range. But that has not quieted the wailing and threats coming from Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who has some 200 nuclear weapons tucked away in his basement. Or from America’s pro-Israel lobby and its captive Republican Party.
As the great Israeli writer Uri Avnery observed, the US Congress would jump to repeal the Ten Commandments if so ordered by Israel.
We have been watching the ugly spectacle of Congressmen and Senators backing the harsh criticism of their president by Israel’s Netanyahu. The US media has also been very biased against the Geneva deal. Yet in spite of this, a recent Pew poll found 44% of Americans supported the Geneva accords while only a small number opposed them.
While Iran has not benefited from this deal, it has at least lessened the threat of attack. The Geneva accord may pave the way to a warming of relations with the west and America’s final acceptance of the Islamic Republic as a legitimate Mideast presence. This prospect that has driven the Israelis and the Saudis into a towering rage.
The campaign to block the Geneva accords has thrust into the daylight the long-covert alliance between Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates on one hand, and Israel. Egypt and Jordan are also members of this anti-Iranian camp. The possible emergence of Iran from US-imposed isolation is already throwing the Mideast into convulsions.
We also witnessed at Geneva another example of the consummate, unblushing hypocrisy that makes France often less than loved. France, which has been selling arms to the Gulf Emirates and has a base in Abu Dhabi, held up the Iran deal claiming it would promote “nuclear proliferation.” This is the same France that originally sold nuclear technology, weapons and missiles to Israel in the mid-1950’s. Quel nerve!
Back in the US, having seen the full might of the pro-Israel lobby attacking their president and making Congress clap like circus seals, many Americans must be wondering if they have lost control of their nation’s Mideast policy.
Polls show Americans certainly don’t want to fight yet another war for Israel’s benefit. PM Netanyahu has gone too far in trying to throw his weight around in America and in humiliated President Barack Obama.
His heavy-handed actions will remind many that the US Congress has been totally corrupted by big money and big media – and needs to be reformed.
As Ben Franklin said, “there is no bad peace; and no good war.” So Geneva, however imperfect, is a step forward. Now, we will watch its foes move heaven and earth to sabotage these accords."

Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة.. انعكاسات تطبيق قانون التظاهر بمصر


Look to Egypt in freedom’s battle

November 30, 2013 12:17 AM
By Rami G. Khouri
"We will know in the coming months whether the current “second chance” road map to constitutional reform in Egypt achieves that transition to democratic legitimacy that was mismanaged in the two years after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Equally significant in the short term is the current tension in Egypt revolving around the growing resistance to the transitional government’s new laws restricting public demonstrations and allowing civilians to be tried in military courts.
Will we see popular forces that brought down the Mubarak regime mobilize yet again to oppose the current government’s draconian laws that aim to control and stifle political protests? It is not yet clear if those demonstrators who have taken to the streets in half a dozen Egyptian cities in the past few days represent a wide cross section of the Egyptian population, or only a small stratum of activist progressives. Will Egypt now see its fourth popular revolt against autocracy in the past three years?
The current opposition to the transitional government’s harsh laws and rough behavior was boosted Thursday night when Interior Ministry police forces stormed the home of Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent Egyptian blogger and democracy activist who had been arrested several times since 2006 under each of the last few Egyptian regimes. The police did not even bother to obtain a search warrant, and even though Abdel Fattah had publicly declared that he would turn himself in on Saturday, and confirmed this with a telegram and registered letter to the public prosecutor. The police nevertheless attacked his home, beat him and his wife Manal, took both their computers and telephones, and now hold him in detention.
He and the April 6th Movement founder Ahmad Maher, who was also arrested, have received the most publicity and have triggered growing protests in the past few days, but their cases are symptomatic of a much deeper problem in Egypt that pertains to the persistent curtailment of citizen rights by the government. All governments seem to do this, from Mubarak to the first transitional government led by the armed forces, to the Muslim Brotherhood government and now back to the second military-led transitional government. Yet Egyptians continue to fight back against such shows of autocratic rule, which in the last week has included arresting dozens of demonstrators, subjecting them to beatings and sexual harassment, torture, firing into peaceful demonstrations in universities and killing students, and sentencing girls and young women to jail terms of up to 11 years for demonstrating in public.
One can only be heartened by the determination of Egyptian citizens and activists to resist the chronic desire of Egypt’s rulers to maintain their citizens in a state of political and personal docility. The twin legacies of the rule of Arab countries by unelected and unaccountable military men and the insistence by Arab citizens on enjoying their full human and civil rights have been continuously confronting each other in Egypt in recent years, especially since 2010.
This struggle between the rule of old men with guns and citizens with constitutional rights remains the central battle across the entire Arab world. Alaa Abdel Fattah’s statement on his intent to turn himself into the police is a powerful testament to why activists and ordinary citizens continue to struggle and even die for their rights. Speaking for several hundred million Arabs, in my view, he has noted (with thanks to novelist Ahdaf Soueif for her translation):
I do not recognize the anti-protest law that the people have brought down as promptly as they brought down the monument to the military’s massacres;
“The legitimacy of the current regime collapsed with the first drop of blood shed in front of the Republican Guard Club;
“Any possibility of saving this legitimacy vanished when the ruling four [interim Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, interim President Adly Mansour, interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi, and interim Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim] committed war crimes during the breakup of the Rabaa [al-Adawiyah mosque] sit-in;
“The public prosecutor’s office displayed crass subservience when it provided legal cover for the widest campaign of indiscriminate administrative detention in our modern history, locking up young women, injured people, old people and children, and holding in evidence against them balloons and T-shirts;
“The clear corruption in the judiciary is to be seen in the overly harsh sentences against students whose crime was their anger at the murder of their comrades, set against light sentences and acquittals for the uniformed murderers of those same young people.”
These are the battle lines of modern Arab statehood and citizenship that have defined our region for over half a century. In the continuing struggle between old men with guns and citizen activists brandishing their constitutional rights, there is no question that constitutionalism must triumph, and the suffocating, humiliating modern Arab legacy of military rule must end. Once again, we look to Egypt to shape and resolve this battle."

Friday, November 29, 2013

Al-Jazeera Video: تحذيرات مقتدى الصدر حول تفكك العراق

Britons protest over Israel plan to remove 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins

Bedouin children walk to school in the Negev desert
Bedouin children walk to school in the Negev desert. Photograph: Karen Robinson

More than 50 public figures including Antony Gormley and Brian Eno put names to letter opposing expulsion from historic land
"More than 50 public figures in Britain, including high-profile artists, musicians and writers, have put their names to a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land – an act condemned by critics as ethnic cleansing.
The letter, published in the Guardian, is part of a day of protest on Saturday in Israel, Palestine and two dozen other countries over an Israeli parliamentary bill that is expected to get final approval by the end of this year.
The eviction and destruction of about 35 "unrecognised" villages in the Negev desert will, the letter says, "mean the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination and separation".
The signatories – who include the artist Antony Gormley, the actor Julie Christie, the film director Mike Leigh and the musician Brian Eno – are demanding that the British government holds Israel to account over its human rights record and obligations under international law.
According to Israel, the aims of the Prawer Plan – named after the head of a government commission, Ehud Prawer – are economic development of the Negev desert and the regulation of Palestinian Bedouins living in villages not recognised by the state.
The population of these villages will be removed to designated towns, while plans for new Jewish settlements in the area are enacted.
But Adalah, a human rights and legal centre for Arabs in Israel, says: "The real purpose of the legislation [is] the complete and final severance of the Bedouin's historical ties to their land."
The "unrecognised" villages in the Negev, whose populations range from a few hundred to 2,000, lack basic services such as running water, electricity, landline telephones, roads, high schools and health clinics. Some consist of a few shacks and animal pens made from corrugated iron; others include concrete houses and mosques built without necessary but unobtainable permission.
The Bedouin comprise about 30% of the Negev's population but their villages take up only 2.5% of the land. Before the state of Israel was created in 1948 they roamed widely across the desert; now, two-thirds of the region has been designated as military training grounds and firing ranges.
Under the Prawer Plan, between 40,000 and 70,000 of the remaining Bedouin – who became Israeli citizens in the 1950s – will be moved into seven over-crowded, impoverished, crime-ridden state-planned towns. The Israeli government says it is an opportunity for Bedouins to live in modern homes, take regular jobs and send their children to mainstream schools. They will be offered compensation to move, it adds.
Miranda Pennell, a film-maker and one of the letter's signatories, said: "Citizenship counts for nothing in Israel if you happen to be an Arab. Tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouin are being forcibly displaced from their homes and lands. At the same time, there are Israeli government advertisements on the web that promise you funding as a British immigrant to come and live in 'vibrant communities' in the Negev – if you are Jewish. This is ethnic cleansing."
The actor David Calder said: "The Israeli state not only practices apartheid against the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, but it seems they have no hesitation in practicing apartheid on their own citizens – in this instance, the Bedouins. When is the west going to find these actions intolerable?"

حوار مُطوّل وخاص: عزمي بشارة يلتقي الحركة الطلابية التجمعية

تاريخ النشر: 29/11/2013 - آخر تحديث: 16:21
فصل المقال وعــ48ـرب
من اليمين: مراد حداد، عزمي بشارة وربيع عيد
اختتم مؤخرًا في عمان لقاء جمع بين سبعين مشاركًا ومشاركة من الحركة الطلابية التجمعية من طلاب وخريجين مع المفكر العربي الدكتور عزمي بشارة، والذي استمر لمدة يومين شمل عدة محاضرات قدمها بشارة.

شملت المحاضرات عدة محاور تقسمت الى عدد من الجلسات أدارها الصحافي ربيع عيد، كان أولها محاضرة فكرية حول القومية والديمقراطية شدد فيها بشارة على أن القومية غير منفصلة عن الديمقراطية وإلا ينشأ الخطر بأن تتحول إلى فاشية، مشيرا إلى بعض التجارب العربية في ذلك، خصوصًا في أيامنا هذه في ظل الثورات العربية التي كانت المحور الثاني في المحاضرات، إذ تطرق بشارة الى المخاض الذي تمر به الثورات العربية وتحديات التحول الديمقراطي في الوطن العربي، تحديدا مصر وسوريا.
سوريا ومصر
وأشار بشارة في معرض حديثه عن مصر، إلى أن ما تمر به الساحة المصرية أسوأ من الوضع الذي كان ما قبل ثورة 25 يناير على صعيد العمل السياسي والحريات بعد انقلاب السيسي العسكري على الحكم، وأكد بشارة على أن الانقلاب الذي حصل لم يكن على الإسلاميين بقدر ما كان على مسار التحول الديمقراطي في مصر.

وفي حديثه عن سوريا، قال إن ما نشاهده اليوم من مشاهد حرب ودمار وممارسات تُرتكب باسم الثورة يتحمل مسؤوليتها النظام السوري الذي قام بالقضاء على الوجه المدني للثورة، وتدميره للمجتمع السوري من خلال إصراره على استعمال الخيار الأمني في وجه شعبه لقمع الاحتجاجات السلمية للثورة، مؤكدًا أن التدخل الخارجي الحقيقي الحاصل اليوم في سوريا على الأرض هو تدخل القوى الداعمة للنظام.

أما فلسطين، فكانت المحور الثالث الذي ناقشه المشاركون مع بشارة، متطرقا الى مأزق المفاوضات الجارية ومسار هذا الخيار الذي بدأ بعد اتفاقية أوسلو بين منظمة التحرير وإسرائيل، الذي حرف المشروع الوطني الفلسطيني عن مساره، لتصبح المفاوضات الخيار الوحيد لتحقيق دولة فلسطينية في الضفة والقطاع (دون قضية اللاجئين) تحت مظلة الولايات المتحدة المنحازة كل الوقت لإسرائيل.

وعن خيار المقاومة، قال بشارة أنه لا يمارس اليوم كاستراتيجية كفاح مسلح إلا في حالة الدفاع عن النفس، كما نرى في شواهد السنوات الماضية منذ عام 2001 عمليا، وأضاف أن الشعب الفلسطيني يقاوم يوميا وبأشكال مختلفة ضد الاحتلال الإسرائيلي، مشيرًا إلى أهمية الحملة المتصاعدة في عدد من دول العالم لمقاطعة إسرائيل وفرض العقوبات عليها. واختتم حديثه عن فلسطين بالقول إنه لا أحد يعرف متى تنفجر الانتفاضة القادمة، إلا أن الأحداث الجارية بسبب ممارسات الاحتلال وفشل ما يُسمى عملية السلام، بالإضافة للعمليات الفردية مؤخرًا ضد الإحتلال تُنذر بأنها قد تكون قريبة.

فلسطينيو الداخل والحركة الوطنية
وتمحورت الجلسة الأخيرة حول الفلسطينيين في الداخل والحركة الوطنية، تطرقت إلى عدة قضايا أهمها تنظيم عرب الداخل وبناء المؤسسات، ودور الشباب وضرورة إطلاق المبادرات المجتمعية لمواجهة الأسرلة والعنف الاجتماعي ومظاهر الطائفية وتعزيز الثقافة الوطنية، وأشاد بشارة بالحراك الشبابي ضد مخطط برافر.

وفي نهاية اللقاء، شكر مراد حداد عضو المكتب السياسي للتجمع الوطني الديمقراطي، الدكتور عزمي بشارة لاستقباله الحركة الطلابية، مشيدا بأهمية اللقاء وضرورة التواصل المستمر مع جيل الشباب، خصوصا أن قسما كبيرًا منهم يلتقي ببشارة لأول مرة وذلك بسبب خروجه القسري من فلسطين إلى المنفى.

وفيما عدا الحوار الجاد والعقلاني والشيق سادت في اللقاء أجواء احتفالية وعاطفية رائعة.
أسئلة مختارة من الحوار الطويل مع د عزمي بشارة، والذي دام ما مجموعه عشر ساعات موزعة على يومين. وليس بالإمكان إلا نشر جزء صغير منه، وكان لا بد أن نختار من الأسئلة والأجوبة ما يعكس روح هذا اللقاء مع الطلاب والخريجين، والأسئلة متعلقة بعدة موضوعات طرحها د عزمي خلال اللقاء.
(Many Good Questions and Answers
Click on Title to Access Full Article)"

Egypt must immediately and unconditionally release women protesters

"The conviction and imprisonment of 21 female protesters, including seven girls, after they participated in a peaceful pro-Morsi demonstration in Alexandria shows the Egyptian authorities’ determination to punish dissent, Amnesty International said.
These harsh prison sentences against young women and girls come after the adoption of a draconian protest law and the violent dispersal of an activists’ protest in Cairo. It is a strong signal that there will be no limit to the authorities’ efforts to crush opposition and that no one is immune to their iron fist,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“These women and girls should have never been arrested. They are now prisoners of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
The Sidi-Gaber Misdemeanour court in Alexandria yesterday sentenced 14 women to 11 years and one month in prison. An Alexandria juvenile court sentenced seven girls to be placed in a juvenile detention facility until they turn 21.
The protesters were charged with hampering traffic, destroying the entrance of a building, attacking officials on duty, belonging to a banned group engaged in terrorist activities and disturbing public order after participating in a peaceful pro-Morsi demonstration in Alexandria on 31 October.
According to their lawyers, the only evidence the prosecutor presented to court were two banners with the words “anti-coup” written, some stones, and 25 signs bearing the image of a hand holding up four fingers. The image is used by by pro-Morsi protesters to commemorate the dispersal in August of the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in in which security forces killed hundreds of protesters.
Eye witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International described how on 31 October security forces attacked protesters on Stanely Bridge and chased protesters escaping into side streets arresting at least 22 women and one man.
Protesters were reportedly beaten with gun butts, batons and were slapped on their faces during their arrests. While the protest included a roughly equal number of men, the majority of those arrested were women and girls.
A 19 year old woman who escaped arrest told Amnesty International: “We were leaving [the protest] when we found an ambulance stopping .Army and police got out and started to shoot in the air, we ran into side streets and the security forces followed us. While I was running, I heard other girls who were arrested screaming because of the beatings, I looked behind and saw at least four girls caught by the security forces, they were beaten by gun butts….I kept running but a man in civilian clothes pulled me by my backpack…then three other police personnel surrounded me and started to beat me with their fists and gun butts all over my body, they also slapped me on the face, I could not bear the beatings so I fell and they dragged me towards the main street, but they could not continue as I was almost unconscious and my arm was broken, they left me on the street … the security forces were only running after girls.”
“Instead of imprisoning peaceful protesters, authorities should be ensuring prompt, independent and impartial investigations into police abuse of protesters, reining in security forces, and upholding the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
Once detained, some of them were held at al-Abadeya Prison. They  complained of poor hygiene in the cells and of being forced to sleep on the floor.
Ramadan Abdelhamid, whose 15-year-old daughter and wife are currently in detention, said: “I told them that my daughter is too young and my wife is suffering from heart disease and showed them the medical reports. The police response was ‘everybody is sick here’. I asked them to give my wife access to doctor but they refused. My daughter complained about the treatment inside the prison. The bathroom is outside the cell and security closes it from 8 pm until 10 am leaving them for 10 hours without access to the bathroom.”
Background information
Thousands of pro-Morsi supporters have been arrested in Cairo and across the country since former president Mohamed Morsi was ousted on 3 July 2013, amid concerns over the lack of respect of due process.
Earlier this month, a Cairo misdemeanour court sentenced 12 Azhar University students to 17 years in prison and 65,000 EGP fine (USD 8,600) on charges of committing violent acts during a protest at the University.
In September, the Muslim Brotherhood was banned by court order and its assets frozen. Suspected supporters of the group have been facing charges of belonging to a “banned organization” even before the court judgement.
The protest, organised by a new pro-morsi movement called “seven in the morning”, was the first in Alexandria. Some 350 protesters marched in the morning of 31 October 2013 from Sidi Gaber area to Stanely Bridge on the corniche holding Rabaa signs and banners claiming the return of deposed president Mohamed Morsi and condemning his overthrow.
The police and army arrested 22 women and one man and took them to the Alexandria Security Directorate. The investigations by the prosecutor were conducted there. A lawyer who attended the investigations told Amnesty International that the prosecutor asked the girls “why do you belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and its better for you to avoid it given it will involve you in many problems.” Although one of the charges was destroying a building entrance, the prosecutor never went to check the entrance of the building to prove the alleged damage.
The prosecutor then ordered their preventive detention for 15 days and released the man and a 13 year old girl. The seven girls were transferred to the juvenile detention center in Alexandria and the 14 remaining women were transferred to al-Abaadeya Prison in Damanhour, Behiera. The lawyers unsuccessfully appealed the preventive detention order on 3 November.
Lawyers told Amnesty International that it took them at least two hours before they were able to visit the detainees in al-Abadeya Prison. The visit lasted only 30 minutes and was in the presence of security personnel, in breach of the right of defence. 

Egyptian activist arrested amid government crackdown on dissent

Detention of Alaa Abd El Fattah and wife follows new protest law, jailing of women and girls, and shooting of student

Alaa Abd El Fattah 25/12/11
Alaa Abd El Fattah, pictured in 2011 with his mother and baby son, was taken and beaten in a violent raid, his wife said. Photograph: Amr Hafez/AP
"A week in Egypt that campaigners said confirmed a return to Mubarak-era repression ended with the arrest of high-profile activist Alaa Abd El Fattah in a violent raid in which his wife said she was also assaulted.
Abd El Fattah has been targeted by every government since Hosni Mubarak's, and his incarceration has come to be seen as a bellwether for human rights in Egypt.
His arrest followed the sentencing of 14 women and girls to 11 years in jail for taking part in an early-morning pro-Mohamed Morsi protest in October, and the enactment of a draconian new protest law that rights groups say severely curtails the right to protest, and which has beencalled "seriously flawed" by the UN.
It also followed Thursday's on-campus shooting by police of a student protesting against the government at Cairo University, and the 15-day detention of a schoolboy for carrying a ruler bearing a pro-Morsi symbol,according to state-owned media.
The arrest of Abd El Fattah, a secular activist also targeted by the administration of ex-president Morsi, confirmed fears that Egypt's new government has widened its crackdown on pro-Morsi dissent to the non-Islamist activists who joined calls for Morsi's overthrow earlier this year. Until the past fortnight, when non-Islamist activists finally returned to Cairo's streets in significant numbers, the crackdown had largely centred on Morsi supporters and striking workers outside of the capital.
Abd El Fattah was arrested on suspicion of encouraging a demonstration on Tuesday outside the Egyptian parliament that condemned how Egypt's new constitution is set to allow the army to try civilians in military courts. Under the new protest law, the protesters should have sought permission from the police – so police arrested 79 of them within minutes. Twenty-four remain in custody, while 22 female protesters said they were beaten and harassed – before being abandoned in the desert several miles south of Cairo.
Following the issue of a warrant for his arrest, Abd El Fattah announced publicly that he intended to turn himself in on Saturday. In a statement translated by his aunt, the novelist Ahdaf Soueif, Abd El Fattah also argued that his arrest was political, and said "the legitimacy of the current regime collapsed" just five days after Morsi's overthrow, when soldiers and police killed 51 pro-Morsi supporters at a protest.
Abd El Fattah also noted that he had been at a police station for eight hours on Tuesday night to lobby for other arrested activists, and concluded that the police had not detained him at the time because they wanted to make a spectacle of his arrest. That warning came to pass on Thursday night – when, his wife Manal said, several armed policeman stormed their home shortly after 10am, beating them both and taking their phones and laptops.
An arrest warrant was also issued for Ahmed Maher, the founder of the 6 April youth movement that spearheaded Mubarak's ousting. On Friday, he could not be reached by phone and his whereabouts were unknown. Earlier in the week, Maher had told the Guardian he was considering going into hiding, and compared Egypt's current climate of repression to the height of a campaign against him in 2008 "when I was hiding and trying to escape the police, and trying to make my wife and family safe".
While Egypt's police were a major target of the 2011 uprising, and their brutality continued unabated under Morsi, they returned to public favour after supporting Morsi's overthrow in July. It was a development that may explain why the security establishment felt free to harden their stance against all forms of dissent this week.
"The security sector feels it has the backing of large swaths of the public, who are exhausted by three years of upheaval, and who are now prepared to trade freedoms for stability," said HA Hellyer, an Egypt analyst for the Royal United Services Institute, a foreign affairs thinktank. "But I'm not so sure this kind of policy will be sustainable in the long term. The wider public expects the state to deliver on the economy and living standards, which the state is unlikely to be able to do – and if it feels the security sector is given a free hand without any observable benefits, the wider public could just as easily turn against that same apparatus.""

"The near future of Iraq is dark"

Warning from Muqtada al-Sadr - the Shia cleric whose word is law to millions of his countrymen

By Patrick Cockburn

"In a rare interview at his headquarters in Najaf, he tells Patrick Cockburn of his fears for a nation growing ever more divided on sectarian lines.
The future of Iraq as a united and independent country is endangered by sectarian Shia-Sunni hostility says Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia religious leader whose Mehdi Army militia fought the US and British armies and who remains a powerful figure in Iraqi politics. He warns of the danger that “the Iraqi people will disintegrate, its government will disintegrate, and it will be easy for external powers to control the country”.
In an interview with The Independent in the holy city of Najaf, 100 miles south-west of Baghdad – the first interview Mr Sadr has given face-to-face with a Western journalist for almost 10 years – he expressed pessimism about the immediate prospects for Iraq, saying: “The near future is dark.”
Mr Sadr said he is most worried about sectarianism affecting Iraqis at street level, believing that “if it spreads among the people it will be difficult to fight”. He says he believes that standing against sectarianism has made him lose support among his followers.
Mr Sadr’s moderate stance is key at a moment when sectarian strife has been increasing in Iraq – some 200 Shia were killed in the past week alone. For 40 years, Mr Sadr and religious leaders from his family have set the political trend within the Shia community in Iraq. Their long-term resistance to Saddam Hussein and, later, their opposition to the US-led occupation had a crucial impact.
Mr Sadr has remained a leading influence in Iraq after an extraordinary career in which he has often come close to being killed. Several times, it appeared that the political movement he leads, the Sadrist Movement, would be crushed.
He was 25 in 1999 when his father, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, a revered Shia leader, and Mr Sadr’s two brothers were assassinated by Saddam Hussein’s gunmen in Najaf. He just survived sharing a similar fate, remaining under house arrest in Najaf until 2003 when Saddam was overthrown by the US invasion. He and his followers became the most powerful force in many Shia parts of Iraq as enemies of the old regime, but also opposing the occupation. In 2004, his Mehdi Army fought two savage battles against American troops in Najaf, and in Basra it engaged in a prolonged guerrilla war against the British Army which saw the Mehdi Army take control of the city.
The Mehdi Army was seen by the Sunni community as playing a central role in the sectarian murder campaign that reached its height in 2006-7. Mr Sadr says that “people infiltrated the Mehdi Army and carried out these killings”, adding that if his militiamen were involved in the murder of Sunnis he would be the first person to denounce them.
For much of this period, Mr Sadr did not appear to have had full control of forces acting in his name; ultimately he stood them down. At the same time, the Mehdi Army was being driven from its old strongholds in Basra and Sadr City by the US Army and resurgent Iraqi government armed forces. Asked about the status of the Mehdi Army today, Mr Sadr says: “It is still there but it is frozen because the occupation is apparently over. If it comes back, they [the Mehdi Army militiamen] will come back.”
In the past five years, Mr Sadr has rebuilt his movement as one of the main players in Iraqi politics with a programme that is a mixture of Shia religion, populism and Iraqi nationalism. After a strong showing in the general election in 2010, it became part of the present government, with six seats in the cabinet. But Mr Sadr is highly critical of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s performance during his two terms in office, accusing his administration of being sectarian, corrupt and incompetent.
Speaking of Mr Maliki, with whom his relations are increasingly sour, Mr Sadr said that “maybe he is not the only person responsible for what is happening in Iraq, but he is the person in charge”. Asked if he expected Mr Maliki to continue as Prime Minister, he said: “I expect he is going to run for a third term, but I don’t want him to.”
Mr Sadr said he and other Iraqi leaders had tried to replace him in the past, but Mr Maliki had survived in office because of his support from foreign powers, notably the US and Iran. “What is really surprising is that America and Iran should decide on one person,” he said. “Maliki is strong because he is supported by the United States, Britain and Iran.”

Mr Sadr is particularly critical of the government’s handling of the Sunni minority, which lost power in 2003, implying they had been marginalised and their demands ignored. He thinks that the Iraqi government lost its chance to conciliate Sunni protesters in Iraq who started demonstrating last December, asking for greater civil rights and an end to persecution.
“My personal opinion is that it is too late now to address these [Sunni] demands when the government, which is seen as a Shia government by the demonstrators, failed to meet their demands,” he said. Asked how ordinary Shia, who make up the great majority of the thousand people a month being killed by al-Qa’ida bombs, should react, Mr Sadr said: “They should understand that they are not being attacked by Sunnis. They are being attacked by extremists, they are being attacked by external powers.”
As Mr Sadr sees it, the problem in Iraq is that Iraqis as a whole are traumatised by almost half a century in which there has been a “constant cycle of violence: Saddam, occupation, war after war, first Gulf war, then second Gulf war, then the occupation war, then the resistance – this would lead to a change in the psychology of Iraqis”. He explained that Iraqis make the mistake of trying to solve one problem by creating a worse one, such as getting the Americans to topple Saddam Hussein but then having the problem of the US occupation. He compared Iraqis to “somebody who found a mouse in his house, then he kept a cat, then he wanted to get the cat out of the house so he kept a dog, then to get the dog out of his house he bought an elephant, so he bought a mouse again”.
Asked about the best way for Iraqis to deal with the mouse, Mr Sadr said: “By using neither the cat nor the dog, but instead national unity, rejection of sectarianism, open-mindedness, having open ideas, rejection of extremism.”
A main theme of Mr Sadr’s approach is to bolster Iraq as an independent nation state, able to make decisions in its own interests. Hence his abiding hostility to the American and British occupation, holding this responsible for many of Iraq’s present ills. To this day, neither he nor anybody from his movement will meet American or British officials. But he is equally hostile to intervention by Iran in Iraqi affairs saying: “We refuse all kinds of interventions from external forces, whether such an intervention was in the interests of Iraqis or against their interests. The destiny of Iraqis should be decided by Iraqis themselves.”
This is a change of stance for a man who was once demonised by the US and Britain as a pawn of Iran. The strength of the Sadrist movement under Mr Sadr and his father – and its ability to withstand powerful enemies and shattering defeats – owes much to the fact it that it blends Shia revivalism with social activism and Iraqi nationalism.
Why are Iraqi government members so ineffective and corrupt? Mr Sadr believes that “they compete to take a share of the cake, rather than competing to serve their people”
Asked why the Kurdistan Regional Government had been more successful in terms of security and economic development than the rest of Iraq, Mr Sadr thought there was less stealing and corruption among the Kurds and maybe because “they love their ethnicity and their region”. If the government tried to marginalise them, they might ask for independence: “Mr Massoud Barzani [the KRG President] told me that ‘if Maliki pushes on me harder, we are going to ask for independence’.”
At the end of the interview Mr Sadr asked me if I was not frightened of interviewing him and would not this make the British Government consider me a terrorist? Secondly, he wondered if the British Government still considered that it had liberated the Iraqi people, and wondered if he should sue the Government on behalf of the casualties caused by the British occupation."

Syrian refugee children face 'catastrophic' life in exile, UN says

More than a million Syrian children could miss out on education, and child labour is a big problem, warns refugee agency

Syrian children in a refugee camp in Lebanon
Syrian children play with plastic weapons at a refugee camp in southern Lebanon. More than a million Syrian children are refugees. Photograph: Nabil Mounzer/EPA
"Hundreds of thousands of Syrian children already traumatised by war are facing a life of "catastrophe" in exile, without education or normal childhood freedoms, the UN refugee agency has warned.
Child labour is a huge problem across the refugee communities ofJordan and Lebanon, with children as young as seven taking on the role of breadwinner for their fractured families.
More than a million Syrian children are refugees, most of them in neighbouring countries. The report, the Future of Syria: refugee children in crisis, published by the UNHCR on Friday, involved four months of research across Jordan and Lebanon, speaking to children and the international workers supporting them.
Registration workers at refugee camps are used to recognising the signs of acute distress or depression in the children and families they register each day. Sheeraz Mukhaimer, a case manager with the International Medical Corps, described children telling her about seeing family members killed and then having to bury the bodies. Parents report children suffering sleep problems, flashbacks to the war, bedwetting and speech difficulties. Constant crying is common.
Volker Türk, director of international protection at UNHCR, says the scale of the unravelling crisis is what sets it apart from other refugee situations. "In terms of numbers, we are talking about a crisis of major proportions. Over 1 million children, it's the sheer magnitude of it. One striking feature is the impact on the psychosocial wellbeing of children. They are severely traumatised children coping with things adults would find difficult to cope with."
As families fall apart, tens of thousands of Syrian children are living without their fathers. In a female-headed household, a male child is likely to be sent out to work. Child labour is illegal in Lebanon and Jordan, but children are commonly taking menial work for low pay. Their meagre wages are sometimes the family's only source of income.
previous report by the UN children's agency, Unicef, published in March, estimated that one in 10 Syrian refugee children in the region is engaged in child labour. In Jordan Valley, the agency found that 1,700 out of 3,500 school-aged children (nearly 49%) were working.
An inspector at the Jordanian ministry of labour, Maysoon Al Remawi, told the Guardian that refugee children were directly competing with Jordanian adults.
"Syrian children work in larger numbers than Jordanians due to their culture - 60-70% of child labour in Jordan is made up of Syrians, according to our estimates," he said. "They have higher skills than Jordanians and therefore compete with Jordanians on the same market segment... Syrian children work in sectors Jordanians would want to work in and are as much of a competition as adult Syrians."
The Guardian spoke to a number of young people who are forced to work in Irbid, near Jordan's border.
Samir works all night, six nights a week, cleaning and making tea in a pool hall. He is 13 and was at school in Syria, but now the family has no option but to send him to work.
For his 12-hour shift he earns about $4, but even this tiny income is desperately needed. His father was killed when a bomb hit their house in Homs, leaving his mother paralysed. His 15-year-old sister has been married off to a 50-year-old Syrian man, because his mother thinks this is the best chance she has of a normal life.
Samir works hard for his money. "I offer coffee, tea and clean the tables between six in the evening and five in the morning. I don't get a break, but if it's quiet I will sit down," he told the Guardian.
Hassan, 14, is the eldest of four children, who now live in an apartment in Irbid with their father. They are from Daraa in Syria. Hassan sells books on the street, because his father can't work. "He was shot in the leg, sometimes he tries to work one or two days," he says.
Hassan works a 14-hour day to provide for his family, running a book stall for a man he says is good to him. He earns $5 a day.
"When it's quiet I rest, but he doesn't give me a break. The man is nice to me, he brings me two meals a day … Sometimes I get half a dinar extra, which I keep myself. We pay JD250 ($350) for rent, we cannot pay every month. The landlord tells us, if you don't pay I will kick you out."
While boys are sent to work, many girls described startling levels of isolation and loneliness. Almost a third (29%) of children said they left their homes only once a week. One father in Zaatari refugee camp was so worried about the safety of his daughters he made them stay in their tent for the entire month they lived in the camp. Noor, 13, and her sister passed the time playing with rocks.
Despite a massive effort by international NGOs and the governments in Lebanon and Jordan to support the children and provide them with education, more youngsters are out of school than in it. The number of Syrian school-aged children in Lebanon is soon likely to exceed the number of Lebanese children who were enrolled in the public system last year.
Türk says the infrastructure in the host countries cannot expand indefinitely. "Lebanon and Jordan have been extremely generous about this," he says. "The problem is of course that we need different shifts – children going at different times of the day. There are very overcrowded classes and a need for double the number of teachers."
The UNHCR is calling for more support for Jordan and Lebanon as they struggle to provide for Syrian children. One fear among humanitarian agencies is that countries will begin to close their borders if this support does not materialise.
Türk says there needs to be more visible solidarity for Syria's neighbours from the international community, including offers of resettlement in Europe for the most vulnerable refugees. "I was very taken by the incredible amount of generosity I saw on the part of both Lebanese and Jordanian families … but the longer the crisis lasts, the more it is a burden. We have to support the host communities.
"The longer it goes on, the less people envision their future in Syria itself – there is a tipping point. We need to constantly reinvigorate the hope that there is as solution in sight, and that people will … when the conflict is over, be able to go back.""