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Thursday:  November 20, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Egypt (45)

Wednesday
Sep192012

Globalization and its Discontents (PERSPECTIVE) 

(Video: WissensWerte)

By Abdulaziz H. Al-Fahad

The recent eruption of violence in various Muslim capitals directed at the U.S. (and other Western) embassies, with tragic losses in life and property, is a predictable, if sad, consequence of globalization. The world is increasingly pulled together by the relentless push of modern technology and integrated economic systems on the one hand, and simmering conflicts periodically manifested on the cultural realm, on the other. The occasion for the latest uproar, the anti-Muslim "movie" denigrating the Prophet of Islam, is the latest chapter in an ongoing conflict that appears to become more aggravated over time, in no small measure due to growing Islamophobia in the West. The conflict is also helped now by the weakening security apparatus in the various Arab states experiencing mass uprisings, and the ability of various groups to exploit this vacuum to further their own political goals.

A few decades ago, this movie, or a preacher threatening to burn the Quran in Florida, or a cartoon published in a Danish newspaper would have passed, in all likelihood, unnoticed (at least by the offended parties), let alone cause major violent protests spanning continents. But in our globalized present, with the various tools of instant communication and social networking available to large swathes of humanity, what happens in a faraway place is immediately splashed everywhere, often with deadly results as we are witnessing today. Within this diverse yet networked humanity, where marginal figures are empowered, someone invariably takes offense at perceived insults emanating from distant lands. Despite all the energetic and well-meaning condemnations by sensible parties on both sides, it is unlikely that we will see an end to this cycle anytime soon.

(PHOTO: BSR) With its rich tradition of freedom of expression and secularization, denigration of religious figures, even when controversial, is protected speech in America. For many Muslims, in contrast, any transgressions on the cherished symbols of their beliefs have nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with a hegemonic West intent on willful and reckless disregard of Muslim sensibilities. For some in the Islamic world, this is the latest manifestation of the longstanding hostility of western Christianity reaching back to the early days of Islam, the Crusades, the colonial legacy, and the establishment of Israel in the heart of the Arab world, not to mention more recent American armed forays in various Muslim territories. This vicious circle of mutual miscomprehension is further compounded by the fixed, if inaccurate, belief within Muslim societies, that whatever happens within the western media must be at least tacitly approved by the relevant governments. In many Muslim countries, freedom of expression within the media barely exists.

Thus the conflict is viewed in starkly different, clashing perspectives. The West appears to frame the issue as a conflict between freedom of expression and censorship, whereas for many in the Islamic world it is a willful insult by a powerful West intent on maintaining its dominance in Muslim lands. If these differences continue to be viewed through these conflicting prisms, there is little hope for an accommodation to ameliorate, let alone stop, these periodic, violent flare-ups.

But Western insistence on framing the issue in terms of freedom of speech versus censorship risks missing a larger point, and borders on disingenuous. Western societies had to grapple with their own sense of balance between permissible and impermissible speech, and not all strike the same balance. While the United States maintains a robust and expansive view of such freedom through its First Amendment jurisprudence, some European societies (and Canada) have opted to carve out a "hate speech" exception criminalizing certain categories of expression. This divergence between the two approaches could be seen, for example, in the treatment of the Holocaust in their respective legal systems. While several countries would view denial of the Holocaust as a crime not protected by freedom of expression and would sanction the perpetrators, U.S. legal tradition would not allow the outright criminalization of such expression but would deal with it essentially by extralegal means, through marginalization and condemnation of transgressors and ensuring that certain matters are taboo and not acceptable in general discourse. 

(PHOTO: File/Foreign Policy) Americans remain faithful to the requirements of the First Amendment while simultaneously banishing offensive language, as determined by domestic American sensibilities, from the public sphere, and by severely delegitimizing those who resort to them and relegating them to the margins of society. In addition to Holocaust denial, the "N" word is perhaps the clearest example of the practical accommodation between free speech and curtailment of the same through non-legal means in the U.S. for the sake of social peace. No one denies anyone's right to use the racist word, but effective social mechanisms ensure that those inclined towards deployment of this offensive language are consigned to the fringe, invariably described as "lunatic."

As admirable as this western tradition of freedom of expression might be in the eyes of many Muslims, they remain unimpressed by a West that finds mocking God, Jesus, Moses or Muhammad to be protected speech but worthy at best of muted condemnation, while denigration of the Holocaust or uttering an offensive racist epithet are either criminalized or rendered into untouchable taboos. From that perspective, the West is not truly wedded to an absolute notion of freedom of expression but instead accommodates its own prejudices with regards to what is "offensive" through both legal and extralegal means. The underlying logic, of course, is grounded in specific cultures and histories, as opposed to universalist ideas, and deference to Muslim sensibilities has certainly not been part of that heritage.

Western societies have come a long way from its early days of crude prejudice and racism - except towards Muslims, one of the last frontiers of acceptable bigotry. The incessant rise in Islamophobia, not just as a fringe phenomenon but within the mainstream, belies Western claims to universalist values. The West has achieved remarkable success in combating its own demons of (anti-black) racism and anti-Semitism, to mention only two salient examples. While many in the West, like the rest of humanity, are not innocent of harboring such hateful sentiments, those who choose to display them are quickly condemned and banished from respectable circles or jailed. But when prejudice and hate is directed against Muslims, the guardians of the boundaries of acceptable speech are either absent or complicit.

Thus the outlawing of minarets in Switzerland is stamped with popular approval; the full veil is rendered into a crime in some European countries (although acknowledged to be a fringe practice, hardly deserving of any attention, let alone the full weight of the law); and opportunistic U.S. politicians hold anti-Muslim hearings and shamelessly peddle the phantom dangers of sharia, calculating that there is only an upside to the matter: classic solutions in search of actual problems. Equally disheartening, well-known Islamophobes are ensconced in mainstream institutions with influence over decision-makers, instead of being treated as outcasts. And Hollywood is still busy doing its best demonizing Muslims typically (with rare exceptions) cast as villains, stereotyping in ways it would not dare do with other groups.

(PHOTO: Tower)The permissive public atmosphere towards Islamophobia has allowed haters to spew their vitriol far and wide without paying any discernible price as would be the case if other communities were involved. A recent advertisement in an American city dubbed Muslims as savages; Muslims very well know if the identity of the target were to be changed to another community (e.g., blacks) the resulting uproar would have been substantial and free speech would have been an irrelevant argument. Inversely, until recently Aljazeera English failed to find cable distributors in the U.S. who had reportedly deferred to the wishes of the State Department.

Rightly or wrongly, there is strong suspicion in many Muslim countries that US bombings of Aljazeera's offices in Afghanistan and Baghdad were more intentional than inadvertent mistakes. It is within this overall unhealthy atmosphere that Muslims' perceptions of the West are formed and informed. The movie is not an isolated incident but a particularly vile version of what is acceptable (as opposed to free) speech in the West.

This is not to absolve Muslims who share the same sin of allowing a permissive atmosphere of intolerance towards others. The West, particularly the U.S., has been vociferously expressing views, especially since 9/11, about anti-western sentiments in the Muslim world. School curricula in many Islamic countries have been revised both in deference to a powerful West making its wishes known, and also in recognition that in an integrated world, such an atmosphere is not only wrong as a matter of principle, but decidedly dangerous. The same applies to intolerant preachers, many of whom had to go through "re-education" and many of whom were purged. No one can claim the Islamic countries work of combating such hate is done, but the trend so far has been in the positive direction, something that cannot be said about many societies in the West.

Yet notwithstanding this move in the right direction within some Islamic societies, the ethos of civil protest is still wanting, despite encouraging signs during the Arab Spring. To express outrage at actions or sayings that are offensive is one thing; to cause death and destruction has to be a red line that Muslim societies have to rigorously impose, a task that is now even more urgent with the removal of authoritarian enforcers and the advent of representative government. The unqualified reaction of condemnation by Libyan citizens (joined by the majority of political, social, and religious leaders throughout the Arab world) against those involved in the murder of personnel in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi is one encouraging sign that violence has become unacceptable as a mode of expression. In contrast, Mitt Romney got it exactly wrong in his hasty denunciation of the condemnation of the "film" by the staff of the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Traditions of free expression preclude banning of speech but provocative bile should be labeled as such.

What is clear in these times is that Muslim sensibilities have not been incorporated by Western societies, and vice versa, and perhaps at this stage in history it is ambitious to expect otherwise. But in this shrinking world, indifference to the sensibilities of others comes with a price. Unfortunately, the comparison of the attacks against the Prophet, seen as deeply offensive by many Muslims, to criticisms of his Biblical counterparts, which is accepted speech in western societies, is a misdiagnosis. Most non-westerners would probably fail to understand why the Holocaust and the "N" word are more sacred and protected than God in the West and why transgressing against them is not tolerated, free speech notwithstanding. Perhaps the West could view some Muslim sensibilities as product of their own specific histories deserving of the same respect accorded to others.

The scenes we are witnessing today are horrifying. People of goodwill must draw the right lessons and work to help bring about an atmosphere of mutual tolerance and respect for matters that may not be readily understandable by everyone. For the West, that means the permissiveness (indeed tolerance) of Islamophobia within respectable circles should no longer be accepted. For Muslim societies, a better appreciation of free speech and the adoption of peaceful protests (including economic boycotts if need be) must replace the mob mentality characteristic of many of the responses over the last several years. The mob mentality is exploited by the more odious elements within Islamic countries who are espousing clearly dangerous and unacceptable notions of permanent war with the rest of the world, which in turn provide fodder for the Islamophobes the world over.

Alas, there is no magic wand to transform ours into a world of sufficient mutual tolerance and respect. But all people of goodwill must do what they can to bring it about where Islamophobia and unbridled anti-western sentiments, if not totally banished, are at least consigned to the margins of civilized discourse and conduct.

--This article, written by Abdulaziz H. Al-Fahad is the Principal in the Law Office of Abdulaziz H. Fahad, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and first appeared in Foreign Policy.

Sunday
Jun032012

Current Revolutions Will Unleash Enormous Energy (PERSPECTIVE) 

(Video: The Arab Spring, Documentary, RT)

By Khalifa Rashid Al Shaali

Youth in the Arab world inherited false values from older generation but refused to accept them. Despite the lapse of a year-and-a-half since the eruption of the popular revolutions in many Arab countries - including Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Syria among others - some still cast doubts that these revolutions are driven by foreign forces and are not spontaneous reactions by Arab masses, who revolted against tyrannical regimes.

These doubts are baseless and amount to conspiracy theories. They reflect disbelief in the ability of Arab masses to revolt against their autocratic regimes. Not only ordinary people but also some highly educated people believe in conspiracy theories that the Arabs’ enemy is behind these revolutions, trying to wreak havoc in the region. This theory undoubtedly belittles the Arab masses and limits their role to being mere tools in the hands of western powers, which seek to destabilize the Arab region.

(PHOTO: Flags of the Arab World/CARNEGIE)Those who cast doubts can’t believe that the young people are the ones behind mass demonstrations that have swept the Arab world, and that they are still demanding change.

But it is not surprising that the youth, who have the modern tools of communication and networking with the outside world, have managed to achieve what the older generations failed to.  

They succeeded in leading masses in many Arab countries and, moreover, they have gone beyond all our expectations.

They made the use of technology to organize street protests and address the outside world in the language it understands.

We must acknowledge the superiority of today’s generation, which inherited our false values but refused to accept them after realizing they would only lead to more humiliations.

The Arab youth sought to realize their dreams of dignity, freedom and social justice. They went further by demanding the end of their ruling regimes and a comprehensive restructuring of the old system. Most revolutions began peacefully, with the young protestors adopting a peaceful revolutionary approach and only demanding reforms. Yet, the stubbornness of ruling regimes, which denied their demands, prompted the revolutionaries to ask for more.

(PHOTO: Arab Youth make their voice heard/DAILYSTAR)There were many reasons behind the outbreak of the revolutions. The youth have been suffering from unemployment, injustice, oppression, and this led many of them to immigrate from their countries in “coffin boats”, sailing across the Mediterranean Sea to an unknown world, risking their lives in the course of the journey.

Those who were not able to immigrate tried to bring about change under the banner of reform. But their demands were denied and the prevailing political and social culture across most Arab countries prohibited them from expressing themselves in public, and engaging meaningfully in civic and political activity.

Young Arab talent has been wasted for the most part in recent history. But this is now starting to change, after people took the initiative to change their status.

The explosion of youth anger and determination to change their world were the impetus for the revolutions across the Arab world.

(PHOTO: Arab youth unemployment is some of highest in the world/BikyaMasr)The current revolutions will undoubtedly unleash enormous energy and talent that have been bottled up in the minds, bodies and spirits of the youth across the region.

Arab youth initiated this historic transformation across the Middle East because they had always carried within them the determination to break free of the constraints that their societies and their governments had imposed on them for so many decades.

(PHOTO: Young people learning technology/ASHOKAARAB)The young people are the ones who lead today’s battle and will definitely win it since they have the will and determination, while the older generations must acknowledge the superiority of the young and accept their leadership in this battle for change.

We, the older generation, should admit our mistakes and give way to the youth before it is too late and give the younger generation their right to lead Arab societies towards a better future and catch up with the modern world.

It is true that the senior generation do not have the tools and the will for change that can help advance the Arab nation. History reminds us that they earlier failed, and do not have the ability to do it now.

Hence, the older generation must pass the torch on to the youth.

--- Dr Khalifa Rashid Al Sha’ali is an Emirati writer who specialises in legal affairs. This commentary originally appeared in GulfNews.

Tuesday
May222012

Egypt's Historic Presidential Election Is Taking Place (FACTBOX)

 

(Video: VOA reports on Egypt's youth vote)

CAIRO – Egypt is going to polling stations on Wednesday, May 23, in the first free election to pick a replacement for former president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular revolution last year.

Here are some details of the election:

When will the vote take place?

The first round takes place on Wednesday and Thursday, with about 50 million of Egypt's 82 million people eligible to vote.

According to the official schedule, counting will be completed on Saturday, followed by a period for appeals. The first-round result will be formally announced on May 29. If any candidate gains more than 50% of the votes in the first leg, he wins outright. That seems unlikely, so a run-off between the top two vote-getters is expected to go ahead on June 16 and 17, with the result due on June 21.

Turnout was about 60% in the parliamentary election. Some analysts expect that figure to be exceeded in this vote.

Who are the candidates?

(PHOTO: Campaign posters in Cairo/OnIslam)Thirteen candidates entered the race after the election committee disqualified 10 for failing to meet requirements. Among those ejected was Mubarak's former spy chief - and briefly his vice president - Omar Suleiman, as well as a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now fielding reserve candidate Mohamed Mursi. There are now 12 in the race after one withdrew.

The other main contenders are the liberal former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who is one of the best-known names in the race, Islamist candidate Abdel Moneim Abul-Futuh who has appealed to voters ranging from liberals to Salafis; and Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander, aviation minister and, in the final days of Mubarak's rule, prime minister. Most other candidates are viewed as well down the field, although leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahy has been gaining popularity with his down-to-earth style.

There was one woman in the race - Bothaina Kamel - an Egyptian television anchor, activist, and politician. She is a long time pro-democracy advocate whose professional career has been marked by repeated conflict with authorities. In June 2011 she announced her candidacy for the Egyptian presidency, although she did not receive enough signatures to make the ballot.

Who will win?

Opinion polling is a novelty in Egypt where votes in Mubarak's era were widely rigged and the outcome a foregone conclusion. So the reliability of the widely varying polls published in newspapers is untested. Moussa, Abul-Futuh, Mursi, Shafiq and Sabahy all appear to have a chance of getting into the second round, but the contest is wide open.

How did Egypt choose a president in the past?

(PHOTO: Women clap & chant as presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh enters the conference hall in Cairo, 5/15/2012-VOA)Mubarak, then vice-president, came to power when President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981. Sadat, previously vice-president, had also taken over from Gamal Abdel Nasser when he died in 1970. For most of his three decades in power, Mubarak was confirmed in office by single-candidate referendums. Turnout was usually very low.

In 2005, under US pressure to open up, Egypt staged a multi-candidate election but the rules made it impossible for anyone to stage a realistic challenge. The result, to no one's surprise, was a sweeping victory for Mubarak. He would have faced another election in 2011, when many wondered if he would step down in favor of his son Gamal. But a mass uprising ended Mubarak's rule in February last year and the former president and his two sons are now on trial.

Who will monitor the race?

Some of the pro-democracy groups that witnessed Egypt's parliamentary election have ceased to function because of a judicial crackdown linked to allegations of illegal foreign funding.

Three international groups received licenses to monitor the presidential vote, fewer than in the legislative election. They are the US-based Carter Center, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and an Arab network for election monitoring, alongside several local bodies such as the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Alam Gdeed (New World) and Lessa Shayfenkum (We Are Still Watching You). International monitors said they cannot give a full assessment of the vote when it happens, because they were blocked from witnessing most of the campaign.

-- A version of this article originally appeared at OnIslam.

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Sunday
Mar252012

No Nukes? Or More Nukes? As the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit Begins (REPORT)  

(PHOTO: Activists attend a rally opposing nuclear power in Seoul March 19, 2012/ChinaDaily)(HN, 3/25/2012) - World leaders including US President Barack Obama Monday will launch the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit a meeting on the threat from nuclear-armed terrorists, but the atomic ambitions of North Korea and Iran are set to feature heavily.

Leaders or senior officials from 53 nations will attend the Nuclear Security Summit, with Interpol, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Union and the UN also taking part.

Participating countries, which also gathered at the 1st Washington Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 include:  South Korea, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, UK, Ukraine, USA and Vietnam.

Though not at the summit, next -door, North Korea’s upcoming rocket launch has overshadowed the run-up to the two-day meeting in Seoul, which seeks agreement on locking down fissile material that could be used to build thousands of terrorist bombs.

The nuclear-armed North says its rocket will merely put a peaceful satellite into orbit. The United States and others believe next month’s launch will test a long-range missile which could one day deliver an atomic warhead.

Gary Samore, coordinator for arms control at the US National Security Council, warned that North Korea would face a “strong response” from Washington and its allies if it goes ahead with the launch. “We will be working with other countries, when President Obama is in Seoul, to try to discourage North Korea from going ahead with the proposed satellite launch,” he told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Friday.

Obama will hold talks on the launch plan and other issues with leaders of China, Russia and host South Korea during his visit.

The IAEA, while worried about nuclear proliferation by North Korea, also suspects that Iran is bent on making nuclear weapons. Iran says its uranium enrichment activities are peaceful.  Neither Iran nor North Korea are on the formal agenda in Seoul. (Source: Wikipedia)

   NPT Nuclear Weapon States (China, France, Russia, UK, US)
   Non-NPT Nuclear Weapon States (India, North Korea, Pakistan)
   Undeclared Nuclear Weapon States (Israel)
   States suspected of having nuclear weapon programs (Iran, Syria)
   NATO weapons sharing weapons recipients
   States formerly possessing nuclear weapons

 

But leaders of five nations involved in stalled nuclear negotiations with the North — the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan — will all be present, offering an opportunity for consultations.

 Pyongyang sees the summit as a chance for Washington and Seoul to gang up on it. Any South Korean move to address the North’s nuclear program at the summit would be seen as a "declaration of war", it said.  

Seoul says the formal event is not about nations but “non-state actors” such as al-Qaeda, Nigeria's Boko-Haram terrorist group, and others groups which it fears could lay their hands on loose nukes as proliferation continues.

(via PressTV)

Obama in a 2009 speech described nuclear terrorism as “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security”, and announced a drive to secure all vulnerable nuclear material worldwide within four years, a process which led to the first nuclear security summit in Washington in April 2010.

Since then, according to a joint report by the Washington-based Arms Control Association (ACA) and the Partnership for Global Security (PGS), which campaign against nuclear proliferation, acknowledged major progress since then.

Former Soviet republic Kazakhstan secured over 13 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, while Chile eliminated its entire HEU stockpile, the report said.

The United States and Russia signed a protocol under which each will dispose of 34 tons of plutonium — enough for 17,000 nuclear weapons.

Russia ended plutonium production. Ukraine eliminated two-thirds of its HEU and was expected to dispose of the rest by the Seoul summit.

But experts say much more must be done to end an apocalyptic threat.

“The commitments on the books will not get the job done,” said Michelle Cann of PGS, the report co-author.  “To prevent nuclear terrorism in the years ahead, the global nuclear security system must grow and adapt to new threats,” she said.

“There is a danger that early successes of the summit process will lead to complacency.”

The ACA says there have been 16 confirmed cases of unauthorized possession of HEU or plutonium documented by the IAEA since 1993, mainly in the former Soviet Union.   Alexandra Toma of the Connect US Fund, which promotes nuclear non-proliferation, said a sophisticated extremist group could plausibly take advantage of such lapses.

“It takes only 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of highly enriched uranium to make a crude nuclear bomb” the size of a grapefruit, she told a Seoul forum Thursday.

The summit agenda has been expanded to cover the securing of radioactive material, freely available from hospitals and other sources, which Stanford University expert Siegfried Hecker told the forum Thursday would be the most likely nuclear threat as a “dirty bomb... a weapon of mass disruption” since radiation sources were everywhere.

The meeting will also discuss the link between nuclear security and nuclear safety after Japan’s March 2011 Fukushima disaster.   Experts say the accident showed terrorists could create the same conditions as a tsunami did, by damaging cooling systems and cutting off power.

 -- HUMNEWS. An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared in The Arab Times

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Sunday
Jan292012

A Look Back at Last Year's Uprising and the Latest Headlines from Egypt 

Saturday
Jan142012

One year on, Tunisia and the Arab Spring (Perspective) 

Interview with Gilbert Achcar, professor of political science at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

One year after the start of a revolutionary process in Tunisia which swept through the Arab region and continues today, International Viewpoint asked Gilbert Achcar to look at the current state of play throughout the region. This interview was conducted on December 14, 2011.

We are approaching the first anniversary of the outbreak of the "Arab Spring", in Tunisia. The overthrow of Ben Ali opened the way to the mass mobilisations in Egypt and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya, the mobilisations in Yemen and the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the mobilisations in the Gulf States and in Syria in favour of democracy. How can we characterise these movements?

These are effectively movements which have as their common point the demand for democracy: they take place in countries with despotic regimes and they demand a change of regime, a change in the form of government and the democratisation of political life. This dimension is common to the movements cited, and it also gives them their strength because the democratic demand allows unification of a broad mass of people of different views, when it combines with a potential for social revolt that is very strong in the region. It should not be forgotten that in Tunisia the movement began with a social explosion. Young Mohamed Bouazizi, who set fire to himself, protested against his conditions of existence and did not advance political demands. His case highlighted the problem of endemic unemployment in the countries of the region, notably youth unemployment, the economic crisis, the absence of social perspectives. These are the basic ingredients. But when they combine with the opposition to a despotic regime, it takes on considerable proportions, as we can see in the countries mentioned. In contrast, in the countries where the despotic question has not been posed with the same acuteness, or the regime is more liberal and more tolerant of political diversity — Morocco for example — we find a movement built on social questions, but which has not yet acquired the breadth rapidly attained in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.

How do you see the evolution of US policy and that of the European countries in the region? Do the elections in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, or the military intervention in Libya, constitute a recovery of the initiative on the part of imperialism or the comprador national bourgeoisies?

In your question, there are two actors: the bourgeoisies and imperialism. These are not exactly the same thing. Moreover, this is a part of the world where those who now work in concert with the Western powers, with the US in particular, are not all governments that one could characterise as bourgeois — I am talking about the Gulf oil monarchies, which have a pre-capitalist dimension, which are rentier castes, exploiting the oil rent. In these countries, it is not the local bourgeoisie — whether comprador or not — which is in command. One should make the necessary distinctions.

As for the United States — the main imperialist force in the region — one could say that they have restored the balance a little after the very difficult situation in which the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings had put them, but to speak of a “recovery of the initiative” seems exaggerated to me. They have been able to regain a little credit by intervening in Libya, at relatively little cost for them, and by presenting themselves as being “on the side of the uprisings”. They combine this with a general discourse on democracy and — contrary to what some claim — this hypocritical discourse extends also to the Gulf monarchies, although they do not in their case combine it with any action. The US is trying to present itself as the repository of the values of liberty which they brandished as an ideological weapon for several decades, notably during the Cold War. In Syria, they do this with a certain ease, because it is a regime allied to Iran, for which they have no particular affection, any more than they had for the Libyan regime. But to say that they have recovered their hegemonic position in the region would be extremely exaggerated. In fact the events underway signal a significant decline in US hegemony. We see this in particular in the cases of Syria and of Libya.

In Libya the Western intervention was essentially an intervention from a distance, without troops on the ground. The influence that the US can have on the process underway is very limited. In fact, nobody controls the situation in this country where there are increasingly developments which are not at all to the taste of the United States, including a growing protest against the Transitional National Council and against its attempts — very timid, incidentally — to undertake a reconstruction of the state.

In Egypt, we see that Washington’s military allies still have a grip on the situation, but their rule is very much contested by the street, by a popular movement which continues — notably at the social level, where it is reflected by tough ongoing struggles. The emergence in force at the electoral level of the Islamic currents attests to a new regional factor: even if these currents do not represent a threat to US imperialism, they are not an instrument or ally as docile as the military for it. There are tensions in the alliance, in the cooperation, between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is not comparable to what the Mubarak regime was for the US.

This also explains why the US has had very extensively to redefine their policy in the region since their traditional allies have very little popular legitimacy — something on which they did not have too many illusions as the Wikileaks revelations show. Now that the affirmation of popular sovereignty is in the street, the US must find allies with a real social base. That is why they are turning to the Muslim Brotherhood, who, after having been demonised in recent years, are now presented as “moderate Muslims” in contrast to the Salafists. The Muslim Brotherhood is present in the whole region. The US needs them, as in the good old days of the alliance with them against Nasser, against Arab nationalism, against the Soviet Union and its influence in the region from the 1950s to 1980s.

The Gulf monarchies — in particular two among them who play a very significant role in the Arab world today, the Saudi kingdom and the emirate of Qatar — are also trying to retake the initiative. These two monarchies do not necessarily have the same policy, they have a tradition of rivalry with sometimes even tensions between them, but they have made common cause alongside the US in the effort to orient the events in a direction which does not threaten their own interests and which allows them to stabilise the region in the short term. Qatar, in particular has seen its influence increase considerably with the uprisings, unlike the Saudi kingdom which like the US is experiencing a decline and ebbing of its influence. The emirate of Qatar has betted for several years on its relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, becoming its main financial backer, creating the satellite television channel Al-Jazeera — a political tool of considerable power, which is at the same time at the disposal of the Muslim Brotherhood, who have a significant presence among its staff. Qatar has played these cards for a long time now and the events have turned them into strategic advantages. The emirate has thus become a very valuable and significant ally for the US, with whom it has had very close relations for a long time, sheltering on its soil the main US military base in the region. But it has also for a time cultivated relations with Iran, with the Lebanese Hezbollah, and so on, to “spread the risks” — this is the mentality of the rentier consolidating their investment portfolio. Today, Qatar can fully play upon its regional influence in the eyes of the US.

All this combines also with Turkey’s regional role. There, we can speak truly of the bourgeoisie being in power, of a country where the government is certainly the expression of local capitalism above all. The Turkish government is the ally of the US — Turkey is a member of NATO — but it also intervenes with the perspective of the specific interests of Turkish capitalism, whose trade and investment offensive in the region has in the course of the years taken on a growing importance.

There are some of the big players at the state level in the region. But the biggest player today is the mass movement. Even in the countries where semi-victories have been achieved, like Tunisia or Egypt, the mass movement continues.

How do you analyse the electoral success of the Islamist parties in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt? Can these successes be interpreted as a repetition of the bringing to heel of the Iranian revolution of 1979-1981 or do they amount to another phenomenon?

It’s different according to the country. In Morocco it isn’t the same thing as in Egypt or in Tunisia. In Morocco, the success of the Islamic party is very relative, first because the elections were massively boycotted. According to the official figures, participation was less than the half of registered voters, the number of which had, moreover, curiously fallen since the previous election. This happened on the background of an energetic campaign in favour of the boycott from the forces of the real opposition grouped in the February 20th Movement. I should say, to correct the impression, that these opposition forces also include a significant Islamic component, radically opposed to the regime. The success of the Islamic party of the "loyal opposition" in Morocco is then very relative. It has probably been much welcomed, if not supported, by the monarchy with the aim of giving the impression that Morocco has thus experienced, under peaceful and constitutional forms, the same process as elsewhere. The party in question has links with the Muslim Brotherhood.

In Tunisia and in Egypt, the electoral victories of the Islamic parties are more impressive, but there is nothing surprising about them. In the case of Egypt — here again we should highlight the differences between countries — these elections came after decades during which the Muslim Brotherhood were the sole mass opposition that existed, whereas the Salafists enjoyed a freedom of manœuvre because Mubarak considered them as useful to his regime, since they preached apoliticism. These two components of the Islamic movement were able to develop themselves over the years, despite the repression that the Muslim Brotherhood has had to suffer. Although they did not initiate the mass movement (they rallied to it en route), when this movement succeeded in imposing a relative democratisation of the institutions, these forces were better placed than anyone to benefit from it. It should not be forgotten that Mubarak only resigned last February, and that there were only a few months to prepare for the elections. This is not a lot of time to build an alternative force of credible opposition capable of triumphing at the electoral level. The mass movement broke the party of the regime — which was the main electoral machine in the country — but this was a broadly decentralised uprising in its form of organisation, multiple networks rather than a “leading party”. The Muslim Brotherhood was then the only organised force with material resources in the movement.

The case of Tunisia is different, because Ennahda — the Islamic party — was persecuted and banned under Ben Ali. But the repressive regime of Ben Ali also prevented the emergence of left or even democratic forces. These forces did not have the breadth that Ennahda acquired in the early 1990s before its repression, and which has allowed it to appear in the course of the years as the strongest and most radical force of opposition to Ben Ali, with the aid of Al-Jazeera notably. Ennahda again did not initiate the uprising in its country, but given the short period for the preparation of the elections, it was in a much better position than the other political forces.

The Islamic parties in Egypt and Tunisia had money, which is essential for an electoral campaign. If in the past left forces in the Arab world could benefit from the material support of the Soviet Union or of this or that nationalist regime, all that ended a long time ago. On the contrary, for the Islamic parties, we even observe a competition between their backers: Qatar, Iran, and the Saudi kingdom. The role of Qatar is very important in this respect. Rached Ghannouchi, Ennahda’s leader, went to Qatar before returning to Tunisia. The new Ennahda headquarter in Tunis, several stories high, is not within the normal means of an organisation emerging from decades of repression. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has not stopped opening new offices in every corner of the country, with a profusion of resources, since last February when they were legalised. We have seen the considerable funds that they have deployed during the electoral campaign. The money factor then operates fully, it adds to their symbolic capital as main force of opposition, and, in the case of Egypt, to their implantation as a religious political force which knew how to draw together a significant network by carrying out social and charity works. It is not surprising that these forces emerged as the principal winners of the elections.

In the longer term, could the Islamic parties be replaced by other forces which will build themselves?

The main problem for the moment is the absence of a credible alternative. There it is not only time which matters, but also the capacity, the existence of a credible political and organisational project. The sole force which, in my view, could counterbalance the Islamic parties in the region, is not the liberals of all stripes who have by their nature a limited social base, but the workers’ movement. In countries like Tunisia and Egypt it represents a considerable force — a force which has popular roots, unlike the liberals. The workers’ movement is the sole force capable of building an alternative to the religious fundamentalists in the countries concerned. Indeed the crucial problem is the absence of political representation of the workers’ movement.

A strong workers’ movement exists both in Tunisia and Egypt: the UGTT in Tunisia, which has been a decisive factor in the overthrow of Ben Ali, and the new Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Egypt. The latter is not a marginal force; it already claims a million and a half members. The EFITU was set up after the overthrow of Mubarak on the basis of the strike movement which preceded it and followed it. This strike movement played a decisive role in the overthrow of Mubarak. In a sense the EFITU resembles the opposition trade unions created against the dictatorships in Korea, Poland or Brazil.

The problem is that that there is no political representation of the workers’ movement in Tunisia and Egypt, and unhappily I must say also that the radical left in the countries concerned has not given priority to such an orientation. It thinks that by self proclamation and building itself politically it can play a major role in the events, whereas their rhythm demands a politics oriented much more directly to the promotion of the social movement itself. One can give priority to the construction of political organisations during slow periods, in the periods of crossing the desert, but when one is in situation of upheaval self-construction is not enough — I do not say that it is not necessary, but it is not sufficient. We need initiatives seeking to create a broad movement. In my opinion, in countries like Tunisia and Egypt, the classic idea of the mass workers’ party based on the trade union movement should be central, but it is unfortunately not prominent in the political thinking of the radical left in these countries.

Why do the monarchies (Morocco, Jordan, and the Arabian Peninsula) seem to be “holding”? For Morocco, you mentioned the elements of “tolerance” of the current regime, but this is not really the case for the monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula.

Here again we need to make distinctions. I should say first that Jordan is more like Morocco than certain Gulf monarchies. It also presents a façade of “liberal despotism”, “liberal absolutism”. These are absolute monarchies where there is no popular sovereignty, but they have granted constitutions and a certain measure of political liberalism, with a political pluralism which is not illusory. There is also a social base for the monarchy, a retrograde base, rural or of rural origin that the monarchies cultivate. This is combined of course with a selective repression.

But the current social situation differs between Morocco and Jordan. In Morocco, there is a strong social movement. The February 20th Movement has succeeded in organising significant mobilisations and until now, it has shown a remarkable perseverance. This movement made a mistake, in my view, in starting on the constitutional question, on the democratic question which, in Morocco, has no great acuity, whereas the social question is very much sharper. But there has been an evolution over the months and today the social is emphasised much more. Nonetheless, in the present conditions, there could be a popular uprising in Morocco of the type of those in Tunisia or Egypt only on social questions, and not on the democratic question, because the regime is intelligent enough not to show its teeth on the latter. There has been very little repression in Morocco compared with other countries of the uprising, Ben Ali’s Tunisia or Mubarak’s Egypt, not to speak of Libya or Syria.

There are common elements between Morocco and Jordan, where the regime allows a controlled freedom, it opens the safety valve and lets the steam out. At the same time it plays on the ethnic factor. In Jordan too, there are mobilisations which are not negligible and which continue. Thus in these two countries — Morocco and Jordan — there is a real movement, even if it does not have the impressive scope of what we have seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, or Syria. But the highly artificial ethnic cleavage in Jordan between “native Jordanians” and Palestinians (that is people originating from the exodus from the other bank of the river Jordan) is exploited by the regime. Knowing that the Palestinians originating from the West Bank are in the majority in the country, the Jordanian monarchy cultivates a fear of “native Jordanians”, of being in the minority. It’s the classic “divide and rule” recipe.

If we turn to the Gulf monarchies, the situation is different. There have also been popular movements where it is possible. In Oman, there has been a social movement, we now see the development of a political movement in Kuwait, there have been protest movements and riots — harshly repressed — in the Saudi kingdom. And there is of course Bahrain, the only Gulf monarchy to have been confronted with an uprising of great breadth.

The exceptions have been the eminently artificial micro-states — Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — where 80 to 90% of the inhabitants are "foreigners", that is have no rights and can be deported at any time. These then are states that do not fear too much the social movements and that benefit from the direct protection of Western powers — the US, Britain or France (which has important link with the UAE in particular, notably at the military level). Everywhere else, there have been movements — even in Kuwait, where the native population is a little more significant, although here again limited.

And above all there has been the uprising in Bahrain, which the local monarchy and the Saudis have tried to present as a strictly sectarian Shiite movement — the Shiites constitute the great majority of the island’s population — against the Sunni monarchy. The sectarian dimension exists, certainly, and it is strong in the region: the Shiites are persecuted in Bahrain as well as in the Saudi kingdom (where they are a minority). The regimes in power use the most abject sectarianism to prevent the coming together of a mass movement, and cultivate in their own social base hostility against the Shiites. Of course, they also use their financial resources to buy off those who they can. In Bahrain, we have seen a considerable democratic movement, given the relationship of forces. Without external intervention, this movement would have been able to — and could still — overthrow the monarchy. The external intervention took the form of troops from the Gulf countries, above all Saudi, hurried to the island to supplement the local forces so that they could devote themselves to the repression of the movement. But the movement continues in Bahrain, and it is not ready to collapse.

Finally there is Yemen, which is not among the Gulf monarchies, but belongs to the same region. It is — with Sudan and Mauritania — one of the poorest Arab countries. Two thirds of the population there live below the poverty threshold. Yemen has experienced an absolutely extraordinary mobilisation for months. There it is the tribal factor which is exploited fully by the regime, as well as the regional factor, in such a way that the events have taken on aspects of what we could call “cold civil war” between two fractions of the population with imposing mobilisations on both sides. It is the only one of the countries concerned where the regime has succeeded in organising considerable authentic mobilisations, contrary to those which Gaddafi organised in Tripoli or which Assad organises in Syria, which are partly artificial. Yemen is a country whose situation directly affects the Saudi kingdom, and this explains why the Saudis are so directly involved there: they support Saleh, they are behind his “resignation” — which is a masquerade which fools nobody, above all not the radical opposition which continues the struggle.

The Algerian regime has not up to now been shaken by popular mobilisations, how do you explain this?

We can say the same of Iraq or Sudan, as well as Lebanon. These are countries which have known prolonged phases of civil war. In such conditions, it is understandable and natural that the people are not very inclined to destabilise the situation. There is a fear of the unknown, a fear of the resurgence of the most extremist fundamentalist forces, a fear of renewal, including by manipulation of the regime, of the dirty war that Algeria has known and for which the people have paid the price. This background is very important. It should not be forgotten that Algeria is a country which has already experienced a popular uprising in 1988, which certainly did not have the same breadth, or the same forms of organisation as what we have seen this year, but which nonetheless led to political liberalisation. The electoral rise of the Front islamique du salut (FIS - Islamic Salvation Front), which followed, was ended by the coup d’état as we know, and the civil war. It is natural and normal that the people do not wish a repetition of this scenario. This is a stumbling block in Algeria, in the absence of forces capable of organising a horizontal social convergence on a class basis, which could be the base of a new uprising. There have been attempts at mobilisation in Algeria, but they have had little resonance. The perspectives seem rather blocked for the moment. That could change if the regional movement, which began in December 2010 in Tunisia, continues to broaden. We should also take account of the fact that neighbouring Tunisia and Libya are experiencing democratisations which benefit in both cases Islamic forces resembling the former FIS, repressed in Algeria. Ultimately that can have direct consequences on the Algerian situation and that worries the ruling military.

Do you think the revolutionaries can win in Syria? And who are these revolutionaries?

The mass uprising in Syria is above all an uprising of the popular base, of which the youth are the spearhead. It is the expression of exasperation faced with a family dictatorship which has ruled for 41 years. Hafez el-Assad took power in 1970 and died in 2000, after thirty years in power and since then, for eleven years, his son Bashar, promoted to this post when he was only 34, has ruled. There is then a very understandable exasperation, all the more in that the social dimension, ever-present in the background and as part of the infrastructure of the uprisings, is very present in Syria. It is a country which has been subjected for decades to economic liberalization reforms, which have accelerated in recent years and which are reflected in a dizzying rise in the cost of living, a very difficult social situation and considerable poverty (with 30% of the population living below the poverty level). This combines with the minority, confessional character of the regime, the ruling clique belonging mainly to the Alawite minority. All this explains why, when the inspiration came from the Tunisian example, then Egypt and finally Libya — including the international intervention in the latter country, which encouraged the Syrians to enter into action, hoping that it would dissuade their regime from repressing violently — we have seen the explosion of this movement that no political force can claim to control and still less to have initiated. Youth networks in particular — as we have seen everywhere from Morocco to Syria, using the new technologies of communication (like Facebook, of which much has been said) — have initiated and organised these uprisings under the form of “local coordination committees” now federated, which continue to propel the movement. They have no political affiliation.

But there are also political forces which are coalescing so as to “represent” the movement. We have seen two forces emerge, two competing groupings. One basically includes left forces, some of whom were not in the radical opposition to the regime and have ambiguous attitudes with respect to it, after having called for dialogue with it, believing they could act as mediators between the popular uprising and the regime and convince the latter to make reforms. They have quickly seen that this would not work and since then most have rallied around the objective of overthrowing the regime.

The other includes parties which are more radical in their opposition to the regime, a variety of forces going from the Muslim Brotherhood (who, here also, play a central role) to the Democratic Peoples’ Party (originating from a split in the Syrian Communist Party), which has evolved ideologically in an “Italian” manner, but remains a left opposition to the regime, as well as the Kurdish parties. These forces have formed the Syrian National Council, which has been accepted by a good part of the rank and file of the Syrian popular movement as their representative, although this doesn’t mean that the movement is controlled by political networks. It is then a peculiar situation which is reflected in the fact that they have chosen to entrust the presidency of the SNC to Burhan Ghalioun, an independent who is rather to the left. We see him now participate increasingly in a diplomatic game led by the Muslim Brotherhood in agreement with Turkey and the USA. This is a dangerous dynamic.

Finally, there are the army dissidents. After several months of repression, what should have happened did happen. Even in the absence of an organisation capable of organising the passage of soldiers to the side of the popular revolt, the discontent of the soldiers has led to defections, initially completely unorganised. Since August they have set up a Free Syrian Army, against a backdrop of the beginnings of a civil war, with confrontations between army dissidents and the Praetorian guard of the regime.

There is then in Syria a spectrum of forces. Because the country has not known any political life for decades — although the regime here is less totalitarian than was the case in Libya — it is impossible to know what the relative weight is of one or the other. We need to await the overthrow of the regime, if it happens, and free elections to see the relative force of the organised political currents.

To return to Libya, does the fall of Gaddafi mean the end of the civil war or could we see the re-emergence of armed confrontations and if so, who are the protagonists?

First, it should be stressed that in Libya, more than forty years of totalitarian regime had suppressed any form of political life. Libya appears then an uncharted land in political terms, and nobody knows what political landscape will emerge there, or what will emerge from the elections in this country, if they take place.

If by civil war, you mean the war which culminated in the arrest and liquidation of Gaddafi, then the arrest of his son, this is essentially over for the moment. What there is currently is rather a chaotic situation, a little like Lebanon in the first years of the civil war after 1975, or, to take an extreme case, as in Somalia. There is a government, but there is no state. If we define the state first and foremost by its armed spinal column, there is no longer an army in Libya (even if there are attempts to reconstitute one): there is a plurality of militias, structured on various bases, regional, tribal, political-ideological and so on. The regional factor, in the narrowest sense — Misrata or Zintan, for example — is determinant. Each region has its own armed militias.

That testifies to the popular character of the war that brought the regime down. What we have seen in Libya is without a shadow of a doubt a popular insurrection and even a popular war, in the most classic form: civilians of all professions metamorphosised into combatants, who threw themselves into the battle against the regime.

Those who believed that the NATO intervention meant the end of the popular character of the rebellion and transformed the rebels into NATO puppets made a serious error. Besides, most of those who said this sought to justify their support for Gaddafi’s regime against the Libyan revolution. We have seen attitudes of every kind and an indescribable confusion in the international left. To believe that NATO would have control over the situation in Libya after the overthrow of Gaddafi was to entertain great illusions. The US has not succeeded in controlling Iraq with a massive deployment of troops in this country, so how could anyone believe that they can control Libya without even having troops on the ground.

The potential of popular protest liberated by the uprising against Gaddafi is still present in Libya. Witness for example the demonstrations which took place on December 12th in Benghazi against the Transitional National Council and against the fact that it seeks to co-opt personalities linked to the old regime. NATO has not ceased to advice the TNC to integrate members of the Gaddafi regime, saying that these are the lessons learned from the Iraqi fiasco. Well, that is rejected by the people; there are popular movements which oppose it. Witness also the organisation of women — for the first time in Libya, an autonomous movement of women has emerged and is mobilising whether it is on the question of rape or around the issue of political representation. There are also protests by civilians who wish to get rid of the militias. Libya is a country where the situation is exploding in all directions, where the potential awakened by the uprising is being strongly expressed.

To be sure, the perspectives there are handicapped by the absence of a left, given what the regime has been and what it has done to any form of political opposition. But there has been some small progress nonetheless — for example, the constitution of a Federation of Independent Trade Unions which has established links with its Egyptian equivalent. We shall see what will happen.

For the moment in any case, from the very fact of the uprising and the armed overthrow of the regime, and in spite of the imperialist intervention in the conflict, Libya is, of all the countries in the region, the one that has experienced the most radical change up until now. The Gaddafi regime has been radically destroyed, even if there are remnants of it which provoke popular mobilisations. But the fundamental structures of the regime have fallen — which is very different from Tunisia, Egypt, not to mention Yemen. In Egypt, still more than in Tunisia, the basic structures of the regime are still in place, and a military junta is even in power in Cairo.

Of all Arab countries, Tunisia is the one where the organisations of the workers’ movement — trades unionism — have the longest tradition and strongest organisation. But the workers’ movement was marginalised in the electoral process for the Constituent Assembly. Do you think that we are witnessing the beginning of a stabilisation, or simply an electoral interlude?

Tunisia is a country where there is a real bourgeoisie, which tolerated or profited from the regime of Ben Ali. This bourgeoisie has had recourse to the remnants of the Bourguiba regime — that is, the regime which preceded Ben Ali’s seizure of power — represented by Béji Caïd Essebsi, who was prime minister until the elections. Today, the Tunisian bourgeoisie tries to co-opt the new majority — the Ennahda party, the Congress for the Republic led by the new president Moncef Marzouki and so on. These forces are assimilable by the bourgeoisie because they do not have an anti-capitalist social or economic programme. On the contrary, they are either more or less progressive liberal democrats, like Marzouki, or an Islamic current of fundamentalist origin, Ennahda, to which the new prime minister, Hamadi Jabali, belongs, and which claims to have transcended its fundamentalist character and to have become a Tunisian equivalent of the ruling AKP party in Turkey. Just as Turkish big capital has perfectly well accommodated to the AKP party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has today even become its best representative, the Tunisian bourgeoisie seeks to co-opt Ennahda.

At the same time, the movement continues at the grassroots level. Hardly were the elections over than we saw an uprising in the Gafsa mining basin — whose struggles, in 2008 in particular, preceded the revolution which broke out in December 2010. The protest this time, as in 2008, concerned the social question, the demand for the right to work and for jobs. And this will continue, because the movement in Tunisia began around the social question and the coalition now in power has no response to this question.

So in Tunisia there is a favourable terrain for the construction of a political force based on the workers’ movement, provided that the left forces take the initiative in this direction.

How are the mobilisations in Yemen developing after the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh?

The movement continues in Yemen also. A significant part of the opposition understands perfectly that the resignation of Saleh is only an attempt to change the façade, without modifying the base.

Separatist demands are also gathering momentum in South Yemen, faced with this unconvincing compromise. It should not be forgotten that Yemen was only unified in 1994, after a long division into two states. The southern state had the only regime identifying with Marxism in the region, with a social experience which is little known, but remarkable. After a bureaucratic degeneration that was facilitated by its dependency on the Soviet Union, the regime collapsed in the wake of the collapse of its tutelary power. But we are now seeing once again a separatist movement in the South which sees itself as socially more advanced than the North where pre-capitalist, tribal and other structures are more decisive.

There is also in Yemen a sectarian war with a minority that has been the subject of attacks from the Saleh regime, and there is also Al-Qaida — Yemen is today the Arab country where the Al-Qaida network is the strongest at the military level. Yemen then is a considerable powder keg.

What do you think of the difficulty in Europe in leading solidarity campaigns with the revolutions in the Arab region?

Contrary to the implication of the question, I believe that there has been a very strong sympathy, even in the USA, with the uprising in Tunisia and still more with the uprising in Egypt.

The fact that it did not lead to mobilisations, it seems to me, is because people have not seen a particular reason to mobilise. I am not going to engage in counterfactual history, but I think that if there had been any attempt at a repressive intervention by Western governments against the revolution in Tunisia or in Egypt, a significant solidarity movement would have emerged. In the case of Libya, the Western governments intervened on the right side, in appearance at least, in the eyes of public opinion. In the Libyan case, it is generally the opposite question that is posed: why was there no mobilisation against this Western military intervention? In the case of Syria, people hear contradictory assessments, and they see that the attitude of their governments is “cautious”, a fact that does not incite them to mobilise.

I see things otherwise. The echo of the Arab uprisings is very strong among the peoples of the world. We have already seen the mobilisations of February 2011 in Wisconsin, in the US, which took Egypt as a reference point, and we have seen the big trade union demonstration in March in London, where many placards referred to Egypt, or again the movements of the indignant in Spain and Greece, then more recently the Occupy movement which has spread through the US and elsewhere. Everywhere we find references to what happened in the Arab world, and in particular to the Egyptian uprising — because there was much more significant media focus on the events in Egypt than on all the rest. People say “We will do the same as them”, “They dared to do it, we will do it”! Of course, there should be no exaggeration in the other direction. In saying that, I am perfectly aware of the limits of all this, even where the movements have taken on a considerable breadth, as in Spain. In no European country is there currently a situation similar to that in the Arab world; that is, a combination of sharp social crisis and of illegitimate despotic government. In Europe, with bourgeois democratic regimes, things do not have this sharpness, and recurrent resort to the ballot box helps dampen the level of explosiveness.

It is not so much about organising solidarity, in my view, since for the moment there is no Western intervention against the uprisings in the region — if that should take place, it would of course be necessary to mobilise against it. But for now, what is more important is to take inspiration from the regional example, which shows that a mass movement can bring about radical changes in the situation of a country. This is the lesson that is snowballing today, and what seems to me the most important

Don’t you think that in the historic, traditional left, which is quite decayed now, there is a loss of bearings which holds back mobilisations? You mentioned the movement of the indignant, but it is also a movement which says “no party, no union represents us”, which means that it does not feel itself linked to this traditional left, or at least not in the same way as in the past...

I believe, more fundamentally, that we have for some years been confronted with a historic transformation of the political forms of the left, the forms of the workers’ movement, the forms of class struggle. It seems to me that this transformation is very unevenly understood in what remains of the left. There are still too many people who continue to think within the frame of thought inherited from the 20th century. And yet the experience of the 20th century left, which has tragically ended in bankruptcy, is today completely obsolete. It is necessary to renew with conceptions of class struggle which are much more horizontal, much less vertical and centralised than the model that imposed itself within the left since the Bolshevik victory in 1917. Today the technological revolution allows much more democratic forms of organisation, more horizontal, in networks… This is what young people are doing; it is what we see at work in the movements underway in the Arab world. Without entertaining illusions though: to believe that Facebook will be the equivalent for the 21st century of the Leninist party would be to entertain big illusions. But between the two, there is room for an inventive combination of much more democratic political organisation, using these technologies, capable of linking to social and citizen networks, capable of appealing to the new generations. The new generations are practically born in these technologies, we see how they use them, how they insert them into their lives. That sketches a future, which necessitates a political, ideological, organisational rearmament of the left at the world scale. That is the challenge which is posed, as shown also by what is happening in the Arab world. This challenge had already been illustrated by the Zapatista revolt, which was a strong attempt at reinventing the forms of expression of the radical left; then with the movement for global justice and in the thinking of components of this movement; and today between the uprisings in the Arab world, the indignant, Occupy, and so on, we see an explosion of mobilisations, in particular of the youth, but not only them, who use these methods of action. The radical left needs to recharge its batteries; it is essential to try to combine the radical left’s programmatic and theoretical legacy, the Marxist legacy, with these modern forms, this radical renewal of the forms of organisation and expression, in order to build a revolutionary left of the 21st century.

----Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon and teaches political science at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. His best-selling book ’The Clash of Barbarisms’ came out in a second expanded edition in 2006, alongside a book of his dialogues with Noam Chomsky on the Middle East, “Perilous Power“. He is co-author of “The 33-Day War: Israel’s War on Hezbollah in Lebanon and Its Consequences“. His most recent book is “The Arabs and the Holocaust: the Arab-Israeli War of Narratives“, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2010. (REPRINTED FROM INTERNATIONAL VIEWPOINT MAGAZINE, January 2012)

Friday
Jan132012

THE HUM - WORLD HEADLINES - JANUARY 13/14, 2012

(PHOTO: Poppy field in Afghanistan/UN NEWS CENTRE)Afghanistan 

UN-backed survey shows sharp rise in opium production and prices

Albania 

Energy shortages mean a difficult winter for Albanians

Albania Condemns Call for Blockade of Serbia

Albania to Sell Nine Obsolete Chinese-Made Military Aircraft

World Bank will provide a fund worth USD 40 mln to the Albanian government

Tirana Airport – an unlikely East European success story

Algeria 

Algeria chairs G-77, vows group "will be heard" in 2012 

Algeria’s Leader Tells Turkey to Stop Making Political Capital Out of Massacre History

Desertec Nation Algeria to Host Huge Solar Trade Fair in Algerica

Angola 

Over 200 Tried for Helping Illegal Immigration

Minister admits development of culture industry

Media organs must promote morally uplifting songs

(PHOTO: Runner Ray Miller recently returned fr/Antarctica, where he ran in the Antarctica Ice Marathon. For Miller, it completed a goal of running a marathon on every continent/Post Crescent)

American Samoa 

American Samoa lawmaker says 14 too young for marriage

American Samoa census puts population at 55,500

Antarctica 

Runner braves Antarctica during trek across globe

Beleaguered Antarctica Mission Cut Short

Mawson commemoration in Antarctica

Helen Skelton’s a Blue Peter World Beater

Warming helps albatross speed - for now

Antigua & Barbuda 

Antigua Power Plant - No Straight Answers

Policy on agriculture complete

Customs Officers Worried About Overtime

Argentina 

Argentina and IMF moving closer, admit holding regular bilateral contact

Argentina faces a continuous drought

Argentina Heat Stresses Summer Crops

Armenia 

OSCE chair concerned about Armenian-Azerbaijani contact line

Armenia ranked 39th in annual Index of Economic Freedom

Armenian Urban Development Minister to lead ruling coalition party headquarters - newspaper

Iran, Armenians and Armenia‎ (Perspective)

Australia 

Three whaling activists transferred to customs boat

New global seed bank where deposits are guaranteed to grow

Australian man sentenced to lashings in Saudi Arabia for blasphemy conviction returns home

Australia fumes over smoking kangaroos

Dwarf left wheelchair-bound after being dropped on night out celebrating his birthday

Miranda Kerr named new Qantas ambassador

Australia ranked highest on nuclear security (Press release)

Austria 

(PHOTO: Youth Olympics Opening Ceremony firworks at the Bergisel Stadium in Innsbruck/Tom Degun)Innsbruck 2012 winter Youth Olympic Games get off the ground

Aruba 

Missing American teen Natalee Holloway declared legally dead

Azerbaijan 

Turkish FM to visit Azerbaijan to attend a trilateral meeting of Azerbaijani, Iranian and Turkish ministers 

Azerbaijani FM says African challenges should be addressed diplomatically

Azerbaijan’s non-oil sector provided 52.5% of budget tax revenue in 2011

(PHOTO: Mehriban Aliyeva is the First Lady of Azerbaijan) First lady of AZ to open exhibition of Azerbaijani art and culture in Davos

Bahamas 

Marathon Bahamas ready for the off

The Bahamas to launch wage and productivity survey with IDB support

New Fast Ferry Links Grand Bahama Island & Ft. Lauderdale, US

Bahrain 

Bahrain tries police for beating detainees to death

Bahrain: Rights Activist Attacked says Human Rights Watch

Major road projects planned in Bahrain

Ashrafs to build $10.6m tower 

Bangladesh 

(PHOTO: Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari confers the honorary Doctor of Literature on Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Agartala on Thursday. Also seen in the picture is HRD Minister Kapil Sibal./THE HINDU) Connectivity will generate economic vibrancy: Hasina

India, Bangladesh to cooperate in power sector

Biswa Ijtema begins, 6 devotees die

Barbados 

300 km natural gas line to Barbados coming

Belarus 

Belarusian Presidential Candidate Gets Three Years In 'Closed Regime'

Belarus Ranks 26th from End in Economic Freedom Rating

Have Belarusians Always Used the Cyrillic Alphabet?

World Ice Hockey Championship as leverage over Belarusian regime (Perspective)

Belgium 

Agreement reached in Belgium on Google Street View privacy concerns

Belgium Grocery Chain Food Lion to Cut 5,000 Jobs in U.S., EU

Belgian minister wants anti-gay Primate replaced

Belize 

Belize Maintenance Workers Rage Against City Hall

Belize's Minister of Education at a Georgia US college on BC Monday

PM's Wife Donates Wheelchairs

Belizean Studies Focus On Culture

Benin 

IMF co-hosts civil service reform conference in Benin

(PHOTO: Congolese rapper Baloji put behind him the life of an illegal migrant who survived for years through petty crime/TELEGRAPH)Water sectors of Benin and the Netherlands join forces

Bermuda 

Bermuda Marathon this weekend

Bermuda registers 54 new insurance companies in 2011

Soldiers are in line to get new uniforms

'Leaving Bermuda saved my life' (Perspective)

Bhutan 

Bird Flu back in Bhutan

Consumer protection bill passed

A new village takes shape in the woods after water source dries up

Bolivia 

Bolivia's Morales set for another showdown

Bolivian Parliament to Prioritize 70 Bills from Social Summit

Urban Growth Contaminating Lake Titicaca

McDonald’s Left Bolivia in 2002; Fast Food Still Abundant on City Streets

Bosnia-Herzegovinia 

Illegal weapons worry BH law enforcement

Botswana 

Botswana Diamonds beefs up efforts to find new deposits

Botswana bans South Africa imports of cloven animal products after new outbreak of foot and mouth disease

Prolonged blackouts in Botswana go unresolved

Alcohol consumers contribute positively to economy says official

Botswana metal head rock subculture on show in San Francisco, USA  

(PHOTO: The Pacific Island Nation of Kiribati votes for its President today/FILE) Brazil 

Brazilian orange juice in chemical scare

Brazilian security director for 2016 Olympics faces fraud charges

Heavy rain disrupts operations at Brazil's major iron ore miners

Floods, mudslides kill 39 in Brazil

Overtime pay for Brazil employees who answer work emails after shift

British Virgin Islands 

British Virgin Islands to grant Taiwan visa-free entry 

Brunei Darussalam 

Brunei Minister attends tourism meetings in Asia

Brunei hotels expect brisk business on Chinese New Year

Tainted ‘symbiotic partnership’ between Brunei regime and Shell (Perspective)

Bulgaria 

Bulgaria launches anti-mafia tribunal

Burundi 

Burundi opposition leader arrested in Tanzania 

Government officials cleared of embezzling debt repayment funds

Cameroon 

Teenage Mum Raped By Uncle Dares to Speak Out

Banana Production - Cameroon Targets 500,000 Tons Annually by 2013

(PHOTO: An Irrawaddy dolphin emerges from the Mekong River in Cambodia/ABC]Cambodia

Cambodian govt working to save Mekong dolphins

Canada

Canada PM to visit China in bid to secure higher oil sales

Billionaire jailed for failure to complete US-Canada Ambassador Bridge project

Conservatives to change civil marriage law

Cape Verde

Water Resources Group capital raising supports lead up to maiden contract

Cayman Islands

Mayo Clinic takes on Cayman’s overseas patient car

(PHOTO: Hydrothermal ‘black smoker’ vents near the Cayman Islands may offer new clues to the dispersal of deep sea organisms/NOAA)Caribbean yields deepest-ever ‘black smoker’ vents

Central African Republic

UN highlights "security vacuum" as northern clashes continue

Can you make a film about corruption in Africa and not be corrupted?

Chad

Work to begin on Chad rail network

Chile

Chile needs to boost hydroelectric output - govt

Syrah tops Wines of Chile Awards

Coma reclaims Dakar lead 

China

China's food prices increase as inflation drops in December

Beijing Reports Air Quality in Real Time

China vows to advance people-to-people links with Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova

China to build "maritime highway"

(PHOTO: A Hello Kitty themed restaurant opens in Beijing/SCMP)Chinese vice premier calls for advancing poverty alleviation, reconstruction

A New Approach to Solving Climate Change, Part 4: China

Beijing Apple store egged after iPhone delay

Hello Kitty themed restaurant opens in Beijing

China cannot stop buying Iranian oil (Perspective)

Christmas Island

Shipwreck a disaster that keeps on taking from Christmas Island

Cocos Islands

How TVShack blazed a trail for illegal downloaders

Colombia

Former Head of Colombian Army Denies Links to Paramilitaries

4 survive as Colombia plane make emergency landing

(PHOTO: The clove market in Comoros & other countries is on the rise/GK Nair) Comoros

Cloves market revives on upcountry buying

Congo

Baloji: the sorcerer of African rap

Congo (DRC)

Smugglers bleed DRC dry

Cook Islands

Cook Islands police confirm amount stolen in Aitutaki bank robbery

Costa Rica

Trade visit boosts Costa Rica ties with Germany

Costa Rica: Low Temperatures Cause Pineapples To Fruit Early

Costa Rica Measles And Rubella Free: First In The Americas

Costa Rica: Rolling Back of Speeding Fines Generates Frustration 

Croatia 

Zagreb-Belgrade flights to take off this summer

Cuba 

French Mayor Demands Release of Cuban Five 

Cyprus

Hundreds delayed at Larnaca airport after unannounced strike

`Supercomputer’ unveiled at Cyprus Institute

Group of experts continues meetings in Cyprus on natural gas issue

Postal services go online

Euronews secures DTT in Greece and Cyprus

(PHOTO: German Minister of Economic Cooperation Dirk Niebel talks with a worker during a visit Wednesday to the Valle Central Wind Project in Santa Ana, Costa Rica southwest of San José/TICO TIMES)Czech Republic

Czech Facebook campaign calls for Klaus to be renamed Havel

Denmark

Danish presidency seeks a greener, safer Europe

Kurdish TV in Denmark to Appeal ‘Terrorism’ Ruling

Half a million more join Denmark’s e-Boks digital mail service

Dominica

Dominica Social Security to invest in millionaire club resort in Barbados

IMF approves funds for Dominica

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Repatriates 1st Group Deported from U.S. in 2012, 132 Ex-Convicts

East Timor

East Timor to hold presidential elections in March

Ecuador

Ecuadorian Military Contingent to Travel to Haiti on Saturday

Egypt

Jimmy Carter disappointed with women's meager representation in Egypt's parliament

Carter: Egypt's Military Should Be 'Subservient' to Elected Officials

El Salvador

El Salvador to Declassify Reports from Commission on Truth 

Life in San Salvador (Video)

(PHOTO: On the streets of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea/SKYCRAPER CITY)Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea agrees to sell crude oil to Swaziland

Equatorial Guinea’s Malabo II, a metaphor of Africa’s rejuvenation (Perspective)

Eritrea

Youth Olympics bring ancestry into focus for Eritrean Alpine Skier

Estonia

Ex-Estonian spy chief charged with piracy

Ethiopia

Africa’s largest dam to lift Ethiopia out of poverty

Wars At Home And Abroad

Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands dispute gets heated

William Hague warns against Falklands intimidation

Argentina says no change in Mercosur decision to bar Falklands’ flagged vessels

Chile ratifies its position and denies existence of a Malvinas blockade

Fiji

Fiji TV investigated over belated text poll win for Bainimarama

Fiji Attorney General says New Zealand media "obtuse"

(PHOTO: Indonesian Fitria Nahdi left a job working for an international company to start a career as a collector & maker of jewelry. She has shown off her collection around the world, in countries as diverse as Singapore, Algeria, Germany, France & Japan/JG Photos)France

France to Lose AAA Rating From S&P, Finance Minister Says

France wants independent probe into death of journalist in Syria

French Polynesia

Suspected Tahiti bank robber identified as known musician

Gambia

Gambian president-elect Jammeh to be sworn in

Gaza and West Bank

'Gaza hackers' target Israel fire service website

Controversial Makeover for Gaza’s Beachfront

Georgia

President: Georgia is a small country and must fight for its citizens

Germany

Forced marriage in Germany: Turkey, Serbia, Kosovo leading the list

Ghana

Ghana’s oil find to affect women negatively – Research

Women Still Sidelined Politically As 2012 Election Approaches (Perspective)

(PHOTO: Gangs of San Salvador/ALJAZEERA)Greece

Price hikes making Greeks put out their cigarettes

Guatemala

Guatemala Overwhelmed by Seizures of Drug Chemicals

Guatemala ratifies UN-backed treaty banning nuclear tests

Guinea-Bissau

Angola donates US$16.5 million to rehabilitate Guinea Bissau armed forces

Death of West African leader leaves nation in disarray (Perspective)

Guyana

Guyana government calls out US mining company

Haiti

Haitian Diaspora Tests Brazil's International Solidarity

Haiti to Host Music Festivals Network Africa-Caribbean-Pacific 

Red Cross movement helping empower affected Haitians

Honduras

Hugo Chávez: "We Need Honduras"

Iceland

Iceland placing “great emphasis” on mackerel peace deal 

Iceland Unemployment Rate At 7-month High

Danish unions in action against Icelandic-owned airline

Northern Lights tour in Iceland holds 80 percent sighting rate

(PHOTO: Jeremy Clarkson of the BBC's `Top Gear' program & the controversial 'muffins' banner in the India special/BBC)India

Top Gear special prompts complaint from Indian high commission

Sagar fish found to have uranium

Yoko Ono on India’s ‘fertile ground’

Indonesia

Putting Sabah, Sarawak on the global map

Indonesian Culture, Illustrated in Jewels

Iran

EU to delay oil embargo on Iran for sx months

Ahmadinejad visits Ecuador

Iranian speaker visits Turkey

Tehran supports idea of holding nuclear talks in Turkey

Iraq

Iraqi PM cancels Czech visit, talks on L-159s to go ahead

Israel

Iran paper calls for retaliation against Israel for assassination

Was Israel behind Iran nuclear scientist's assassination? (Analysis)

Ivory Coast

Clinton to visit Ivory Coast, other W. African countries

Former finance minister Bohoun Bouabré dies

Jamaica

Give PM space to paint her legacy (Perspective)

(PHOTO: After 21 years, Croatia Airlines restarts the Zagrb-Belgrade route between Croatia & Serbia/CROATIAN AIR)Japan

Japan PM shuffles cabinet to rescue tax hike plan 

Jordan

Jordan authorities deny people injured in demonstration

Kazakhstan

Four Belarus’ MPs to monitor parliamentary election in Kazakhstan

Kenya

New crop varieties can cut poverty, study finds

UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bündchen Backs ‘Small is Beautiful’ Energy Solutions on First Official Fact-finding Mission to Africa / International Year of Sustainable Energy for All

Kenyan Security Forces Accused of Abuses Against Somalis

Kiribati

Kiribati heads to the polls to pick President

Kosovo

Analysts urge greater emphasis on Kosovo's agriculture sector

(PHOTO: Head of the Asian & Kuwaiti Olympic bodies Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah/GOVT) Kuwait

Kuwait ranks 71 on ‘economic freedom’ 

Kyrgyzstan 

Kyrgyzstan intends to take an active part in Afghanistan’s restoration – Ruslan Kazakbaev

Laos 

Nine more Cambodian ‘loggers’ nabbed in Laos

Latvia

Latvian PM promises foreign investors to continue improving judicial system

Secretariat for Latvia’s EU presidency likely to start work in February

Lebanon

UN chief to start trip to Lebanon, United Arab Emirates

Luxembourg

Luxemburg Speedway loses its promoters

Macedonia

Subsidies give boost to housing sector

Luxurious suburbs spring up in Macedonia

E-democracy: making government closer to the people in Macedonia

Orthodox Macedonians celebrate faith, family

Malawi

Malawians paying highly for tolerating bad governance

Malaysia

Malaysia ranked as No. 1 halal-friendly OIC nation

Maldives

Maldives faces tides of change

(PHOTO: The affluent Zlokukjani suburb in Macedonia reflects the new living arrangements in the country's capital/SETimes]Mali

Mali boosts security as desert festival starts in Qaeda zone

India loans $100 million to Mali for power project 

Marshall Islands

Dengue fever declines in Majuro but on increase on Ebeye

Mauritius

Mauritius tops African household lighting survey

Mexico

Mexico expects millions to visit for 2012 solstice

US GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mexican roots unearthed

Calderon Adviser Falls Short in Defending Boss' Security Policy (Perspective)

Moldova

Fowl cholera spreading actively in Moldova and Ukraine

Mongolia

China, Mongolia to boost ties

Montenegro

Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro sign free travel agreement

Morocco

Senior Libyan official denies imposition of visa restriction on Moroccans

Mozambique

Seed management improving food security in Mozambique

(PHOTO: Burmese negotiators & opposition work to ink peace deall/KUENSEL)Myanmar

End in sight for Burma's 63-year old insurgency

Myanmar frees more political prisoners

Namibia 

Fitch Maintains Our BBB - Rating but the Outlook Slips From Positive to Stable

Nepal 

Nepal detains 90 illegal Tibetan immigrants - police

Nicaragua

Maquilas Shift to El Salvador and Nicaragua

Nigeria

Negotiations Fail to End Strike in Nigerian Fuel Subsidy Showdown

Nigerian oil shutdown to begin Sunday: union

Protests: 4,000 displaced in Benin, 300 injured nationwide —Red Cross

North Korea

Kim Jong-il to be embalmed and put on display

North Korea Launches English Version Of Party Newspaper

Northern Mariana Islands

New Northern Mariana Islands cargo airline on Guam leg

Pakistan

President Zardari’s exit fuels Pakistan coup fears

Papua New Guinea

PNG watchdog warns of govt’s growing irrelevance

Philippines

Women killed, found in bag at Philippines airport

Qatar

Doha 2020 using the YOG to fine tune their bid / GOALS event in Doha

Russia

Users pour cold water on Putin's Internet foray

Rwanda

Man accused in Rwandan genocide wins temporary reprieve

Some Truth and Justice for Rwanda at Last (Perspective)

Saint Kitts & Nevis

St. Kitts crowned in regional teen pageant 

(PHOTO: St. Lucia/GOVT) Saint Lucia

St Lucia Ranks Highest in Caribbean for Economic Freedom: Report

Sao Tome and Principe

President of Sao Tome and Principe to visit Angola

Saudi Arabia

Saudi forces shoot dead Shiite protester 

Senegal

Senegal, Burkina Faso regulators sign co-operation agreement

Serbia

Plugged in: Serbians embrace social media

Media war crimes under investigation in Serbia

Policies on Kosovo ignite Serbian bloggers

In Serbia, an effort to encourage organ donation

Solomon Islands

Former Solomon Islands prime minister says re-arming is a positive sign

Somalia

ICRC Suspends Food Aid to 1.1 Million Somalis

AU Asks UN Security Council to Expand Somalia Mission

South Africa

Durban listed as South Africa's most costly city: study

South Korea

South Korea’s National Assembly arrives in Azerbaijan  

Spain

Spanish Navy Thwarts Pirate Attack in Indian Ocean

Gays in Spain get retirement home

Tanzania

Tanzania Leads in Region On Well-Being

(PHOTO: Flooding in Thailand/New Strait Times)Thailand

Possible terrorist attacks in Bangkok, warns US

More flood victims evacuated in Pahang

Tokelau

Below average rainfall predicted for Tokelau and Tuvalu this wet season

Tonga 

Tonga’s parliamentary speaker yet to return despite impending court appearance

Tonga’s public servants threaten industrial action over retirement fund

Tunisia

Several Arab leaders invited to Tunisian celebrations 

Turkey

Gul can’t serve second term - parliamentary commission

Turkish FM set to visit Russia and US for nuke, Syria talks 

Turkish court charges Britain’s Fergie over orphan TV show

Uganda

Country Improves in Democratic Rankings

Ukraine

Tymoshenko is granted asylum in Czech Republic

United Kingdom

Bahrain visit loses sparkle as Arab jewels cause controversy for Crown

United States

Wealth conflict trumps racial hostility: Pew study

US President, Israeli Premier discuss Iran

I will pay if you will, Buffett tells Republicans

US first lady wins thousands of followers as @michelleobama

US FDA tests Brazilian orange juice at Port Newark after fungicide scare

Coca-Cola Warns FDA of Fungicide

Global Challenge: Springfield students test their knowledge of world geography

(PHOTO: The image of Che Guevara appeared briefly during a presentation by Dieter Zetsche, head of Daimler AG's Mercedes unit, at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas/The Miami Herald/Daimler)Venezuela

Use of Che Guevara image by Mercedes-Benz outrages South Florida's Cuban exiles

Vietnam

Vietnam to launch earth-monitoring satellites

Wallis and Futuna Islands

Wallis and Futuna pulls out of Pacific Arts Festival citing financial concerns

Wallis senator says cost of living concerns remain

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's Swav gaining in African handset market

World

The State of Global Ultra-Wealth

Despite end-of-year decline, 2011 food prices highest on record – UN

Development: Ban, Al-Nasser task G-77 on development agenda

Africa begins to rise above aid as the domestic private sector becomes the engine of growth

New cables to Africa bring hope for telecom sector

South American weather dominates market news

Addicted! Scientists show how internet dependency alters the human brain

IRENA meeting heralds new Regional Energy Era

GLOBAL: Branch campus growth has moved to Asia

Container and Bulk Freight Handling Company Sees a Century Milestone

(PHOTO: Sizing up exoplanets: this chart compares artists' concepts of the smallest known exoplanets, or planets orbiting outside the solar system, to our own planets Mars & Earth/NASA/JPL-Caltech)Brics look nothing like a solid investment (Perspective)

Destabilizing the world (Perspective)

Space

Space station avoids orbiting junk

Astronomers discover three alien planets smaller than Earth

(PHOTO: Youth Olympic Rings, Innsbruck, Austria/EPA)SPECIAL FOCUS:

Winter Youth Olympics open at Innsbruck, Austria for the first time ever Friday, 1/13/12.  

Innsbruck ready to host record third Olympic event

Olympics: Youth Olympics get winter world premiere in Innsbruck

Youth Olympic Games get underway

Heavy snowfall will not stop us hosting great Games, says Innsbruck 2012 chief

There will be no gigantism at our Opening Ceremony, reveals Innsbruck 2012

Youth Olympics: Great rehearsal for Sochi 2014

Asian, Kuwaiti Olympic chief heads to Innsbruck for Winter Youth Games

Doha, Baku, Promote 2020 Summer Games Bids

Innsbruck 2012 will prove truly inspirational just as Singapore 2010 did, says IOC President (Perspective)  

Curlers gear up for Winter Youth Olympics

Taekwondo kicks in for youth at Team Trials

 

Athletes:

Austria hockey goalkeeper dedicates Winter Youth Olympic Games to his friend

Highly touted forward to play in inaugural Winter Games in Austria, Kemptville hockey player skates to Youth Olympics

Nicholson set to take on world at Winter Youth Olympic Games

(PHOTO: Thomas Scoffin from Whitehorse, Canada will head to Austria to compete in the Winter Youth Olympic Games. He is the skip for the Canadian Youth Olympic Curling team/CBC)Whitehorse teen to compete in winter youth Olympics  

Local skier headed to Youth Olympics

Cayman’s teen skier to make Olympic youth debut

Travers injury may halt Olympic quest

Kim Yu Na encourages young athletes to enjoy first-ever winter YOG

Youth Olympics bring ancestry into focus for Eritrean Alpine Skier

Iranian teenage girl competes in Winter Youth Olympics

Ireland’s Florence Bell at Youth Winter Olympics

Winter Youth Olympics: Woodward leads Team GB in Innsbruck

(PHOTO: Skiier Sive Speelman flying the South African flag at the Winter Youth Olympics/Gap 2011)McNeill sets her sights on Olympic success

Small to carry flag at Winter Youth Games

Menzies targeting Olympic glory after schools success

Summerhayes to Carry Flag for Team GB at Youth Winter Olympics

Brakeman Sawyers ready to go full throttle for bobsleigh medal

South Africa teen off to Winter Youth Olympics

Gordon honoured by refereeing role at first Youth Winter Olympics

Sackville woman to represent Canada at 1st Youth Olympic Winter Games

Jake Peterson chosen as Team USA flag bearer for inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck

(PHOTO: Skiier Katie Summerhayes for Great Britain) NZ flag bearer for Winter Youth Olympic Games named

Russian Youth Olympics Team leaves for Innsbruck

Holy Ghost’s Kerr to Play in Winter Youth Olympics

Park City snowboarder excited about Youth Olympics invite

Three locals ready for Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck

Edwin Minney of Wind Gap to play in Winter Youth Olympic Games

Willowbrook speed skater competing at inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games

Eau Claire teen soars to Youth Olympics (updated)

Monday
Nov282011

Egypt's Bitter Taste of Change (BLOG/REPORT)

By Alan Fisher

Celebrations in Tahrir Square after Omar Soliman's statement that concerns Mubarak's resignation. February 11, 2011/ photo credit: Jonathan Rashad/Wikimedia CommonsWhen the wind whips up the dust around Cairo's Tahrir Square it's still possible to taste the tear gas in the air.

The acrid smell and the bitter taste catches in the nose and the back of the throat making people sneeze and cough.

On the edge of Tahrir, the heartbeat of February's uprising in Egypt, the ropes are back. These are the temporary checkpoints, manned by self-appointed stewards, blocking the way to the latest protest. Everyone coming in is patted down. A young man with the dirty sweatshirt and crooked teeth motions me forward.  He holds his hands up and repeats the same phrase in Arabic. "He says he's sorry" says my friend "but says it's for everyone's safety".

The check is cursory and quick and I'm waved on with a smile.

In Tahrir, small groups gather listening to the debates which are loud, but to the untrained ear, sound angry and dangerous. The discussion is what should happen with the election, now just days away. Some argue that there is no point as the military will never step down; others insist the only way to make the change is to vote.

The revolution returned to Tahrir just over a week ago. Thousands gathered, angry as the military failed to keep its promise to hand over power to a civilian government within 6 months of February's uprising. Police tried to break it up with tear gas and rubber bullets. People in the square said they also fired real bullets. The injuries of some of those from the square suggest they may be telling the truth.

As news of the trouble spread through Cairo's suburbs, thousands more turned up to support the people in the square. The battles went on for days, and not just in Cairo but in Suez and Alexandria and elsewhere. Across the country, more than forty people have died. Thousands have been injured.

The ruling military council facing a re-run of the scenes which dragged down Mubarak had to act. It promised it would hold presidential elections by June. It has also backed away from the idea that it would exercise "political guardianship" over any new government which would give generals a final say on major policies and allow it to dominate the writing of a new constitution. At the same time it wanted immunity from public oversight even when a new president was put in place. It made Kamal el-Ganzouri the new prime minister. He served in the same role under Mubarak so it's an appointment not widely welcomed

The crisis has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge to Egypt's new rulers and overshadowed the start of the country's first parliamentary elections since Mubarak was replaced.

In the square there are mixed feelings about the elections going ahead. Sameer Hassan says he's been to Tahrir many times. When he speaks his voice booms and he waves his hands to emphasis each and every point. He tells me: "We will have no elections. We will have no government except one that is chosen from Tahrir Square."

People around him nod and a few applaud. But just a few steps away Hanan Abdullah has a different view. She believes people have to vote to get the chance they want: "It's been the bloodiest time in Egypt. The past nine months have been chaotic and full of thugs. We want to move forward, and we want the youth to the fore. If people stand their ground they'll get what they want which is a new government."

In the streets around Tahrir, living in Cairo for millions of residents goes on as normal. The shops are open, traffic is moving. And the military is keen to draw attention to that; insisting that while the people in Tahrir have a voice, they do not speak for the majority of people in Egypt.

Shadi Hamid is an analyst with the Brookings Institute think tank based in Doha. He's aware of the importance of the next day days for Egypt, but says it's important the results are conducted in the right way: "Are the elections going to be peaceful and orderly, or is there going to be considerable violence and chaos and uncertainty? Because if that happens, if there is violence, that will cast doubt on the legitimacy of the results."

The military will, of course, monitor the results of the voting very closely, and the people will closely monitor the military for its reaction. The latter was widely regarded as the saviour of the revolution, the guarantors of change from a despised and discredited regime. Now many people see them as the biggest obstacle on the road to a new democratic Egypt.

Follow Alan Fisher on Twitter @alanfisher 

Originally published on AlJazeera under Creative Commons License 

Tuesday
Nov222011

'We back the people, not dictators' (BLOG/REPORT) 

By Teymoor Nabili in the Middle East 

On the day the White House announced yet another blow in its 30-year campaign against Iran, former State Department official and Middle East expert Martin Indyk was in Doha to argue that US policy in the region has undergone something of a transformation.

(On the same day, veteran CBS correspondent Bob Simon was visiting the Al Jazeera newsroom. “I’ve known Martin for 20 years “ he told me, adding with a wry smile “Ask him if he still uses the phrase “peace process.”  I did. He doesn’t.)

Indyk says he plays no real part in policymaking these days, or even advising anyone in the Obama administration, but the thesis he confidently expounded at the Brookings Doha HQ was that the entire calculation of US interests and values has been fundamentally recalibrated as a consequence of the uprisings across the Middle East.

An Obama administration was always likely to step away from President Bush’s focus on democracy promotion to a certain extent, he said, but it was the Arab awakening that really made the difference.

 “It’s very clear the US is on the side of the people now, and not the dictators.”

It was an interesting proposition, and one that was tested by members of the audience.

One mentioned Saudi Arabia. That, it seems, is an exception. The strategic interests are paramount in the case of Saudi, but the US is applying pressure for "values" reform behind the scenes.

What about Bahrain? Well, the problem there was that President Obama was so diverted by the events of Libya that he momentarily took his eye off Bahrain, and so he missed the narrow window of opportunity to make a difference.

And yes, perhaps the response to events in Tunisia was a little behind the curve; but certainly we can expect the new policy to be demonstrated soon with regards to Egypt, and President Obama will surely stand behind the latest uprising against the military coup leaders that are now once again killing people on the streets. America had been naive in thinking the military would be custodians of a transition to real democracy.

And the reason why the Israel/Palestine issue is now off the Obama agenda is because of the polls in Israel.

Bibi eats poll numbers for breakfast, Indyk said, and as soon as he realised that Obama was polling badly in Israel, he knew he could challenge the US president with impunity.

It was all interesting stuff, delivered in the moderate and calming tones of the seasoned diplomat; but I’m not sure the audience went home believing that there has indeed been a fundamental change in the way Washington conducts its relationship with the Middle East.

A short while before his presentation, I sat down with Indyk in the Al Jazeera studio to talk about how this new approach might translate into action now, in Syria, Egypt and Iran.

He told me he thinks military action in Syria is a strong possibility, with Turkey best   placed to intervene. Obama, he says, is in “constant contact” with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and that’s the best way the US can “exercise leadership” over Syria.

As for Iran, well, there’s no doubt in his mind that the IAEA report is a “smoking gun”. Obama’s done what he can, Iran has been utterly intransigent, and it was even Tehran that scuppered the Turkey/Brazil swap deal, not Washington.

Here’s the full thing.

Originally published by Al Jazeera under Creative Commons Licensing

Thursday
Sep082011

Will Gadaffi's Overseas Land Grabs Hold? (NEWS BRIEF)

A man in Bujumbura holds up a map of Africa. Several African countries have been victimized by lopsided land grabs by countries such as Libya. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS(HN, September 8, 2011) - Millions of dollars worth of Libyan land purchases from Ukraine to Mali are up in the air now that the Government of Colonel Gadaffi has crumbled.

Importing food is essential for Libya - almost all its food needs, including wheat and flour, is brought in to feed its 5.3 million people.

In May 2008, during a state visit to Kyiv, Gadaffi gave Ukraine an oil and gas contract in exchange for 247.000 ha of Ukrainian land to produce its own food.

A few years ago, according to Michael Muleba, Executive Director, Farmer Organisation Support Programme, Libya acquired control of 100.000 ha in the office du Niger, Mali’s main rice producing area. As part of the deal, Libya agreed to improve local infrastructure including enlarging canal and improving a road. But when it came to awarding these contracts and to finding a supplier of rice seeds, local firms were snubbed in favor of Chinese and Libyan ones.

Aside from Libya, Saudi Arabia, China and South Korea that have sought farmland abroad to guarantee food supplies and cut dependence on imports.

Africa is a prime target for foreign land grabs. Muleda describes various ways including: land purchases, long term leases, and large investments in existing farms as well as barter-type principles. The collective GRAIN argues that while African governments proclaim their commitments to food self-sufficiency, behind the backs of their people they are signing an alarming number of deals with foreign investors that give these investors control over their countries’ most important agricultural lands, including rice lands.

However, now that Gadaffi is gone, there is speculation that some of the deals may not stand up.

Even the Ukraine deal ran into trouble shortly after it was negotiated by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is now being prosecuted for alleged corruption. After a visit to Tripoli in 2009 she defended the deal, saying "Libya is a bridge to African countries. Africa can be a great consumer of Ukrainian grain and food. We worked out a draft agreement which is to be signed."

- HUMNEWS staff

Monday
Jul042011

Unrest Simmers as Egypt Awaits Change (REPORT)

by Nejeed Kassam and Alesha Porisky

(Cairo, Egypt - HN, July 4, 2011) -- The sound of rocks hitting the pavement reverberated off the walls of the Egyptian museum.  Voices were loud and horns blaring, even more than usual for Cairo’s busy streets. The change in the usual Cairo drone brought us to the balcony, overlooking Merit Basha Street, mere meters from the square.

PHOTO CREDIT: Alesha Porisky 7/3/2011

The street had mysteriously emptied of cars, and those on the far side towards the bridge were making u-turns as fast as possible.  Young revolutionaries surged forward from the square, carrying rocks, sharpened sticks and crates; the Egyptian flag tied around many a neck.  Their targets, we later learned, were Mubarak supporters, who tried to stand their ground.  Rocks were being tossed by both sides; chunks of concrete breaking on the pavement.  Crates were being used as shields; words were another weapon of choice. 

After a brief skirmish, the two sides separated.  The Mubarak supporters disappearing, as the revolutionaries made their way back to Tahrir Square, supporting a man who was bleeding heavily from the head and limping.  It was clear, even from five stories up, that neither side had gotten away without injuries. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Alesha Porisky 7/3/2011

Since Friday various political activist groups have been staging a sit-in in Tahrir Square; waiting.  This afternoon violence erupted when Mubarak supporters reportedly set fire to protestors’ tents.  When we ventured down to Tahrir Square, the smell of smoke hung thickly in the air.  The number of protestors had grown substantially since the morning, and tensions were high.  People lined the traffic barricades surrounding the square, watching with anticipation as protestors chanted in demonstration.

PHOTO CREDIT: Alesha Porisky 7/3/2011

When we interviewed a local student and self-proclaimed revolutionary he speculated that tensions would remain high over the next few hours, as both Mubarak supporters and the revolutionaries remained in the surrounding areas.  He estimated that close to a million people would show up on July 8th, for the planned citywide protest.  

Saturday
Jul022011

Even With Mubarak Gone in Egypt, Cairo Remains a City of Protests (Report) 

Protesters carry Egypt flag on Friday in Tahrir Sq, Cairo, Egypt (CREDIT Alesha Porisky)(Cairo, Egypt. HN, July 2, 2011)  - On Saturday around 200 protestors were still in Cairo’s Tahrir Square following demonstrations on Friday in this city and others, such as Alexandria and Suez, which called for swift justice for the perpetrators of police brutality in clashes on June 28 and 29th.

More than 1,000 people were injured this week when police in and around Tahrir Square tangled with protestors from families of those killed in the January 25 Revolution, and the situation turned violent.  Many criticized the police for using “excessive force” in dealing with the activists.

According to official records forty-nine protesters were arrested on June 28-29 and were detained for 15 days pending investigations by Egypt’s military authority – now in charge of running the day to day operations of the country.  

Protesters called for reforming all state media outlets, the resignation of Egypt’s Minister of Interior Mansour El-Essawy and the reform of the Central Security Forces (CSF).

The military tried to quell opposition by saying it has every intention of following through on parliamentary elections scheduled for September.

Protest organizers speak in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. 7.1.11 (CREDIT Nejeed Kassam)Egypt's former President, Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted on February 11 by an 18-day popular uprising, has been hospitalized since April in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh with heart troubles; and some reports say he is also suffering from stomach cancer.  He is scheduled to stand trial on August 3rd on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of citizens during February’s protests.  If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.

In recent protests, citizens who first took to the streets to demand the overthrow of Mubarak have begun shifting their anger towards the ruling military council, accusing it of using violent tactics to stifle dissent.

Tents continue to be pitched in the middle of Tahrir Square – and a major mass protest planned more than a month ago, is called for July 8. 

"No to the return of police terror," read one sign left over from Friday's protest, when 5,000 converged on the square.

Protest barricades in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Friday 7.1.11 (CREDIT Nejeed Kassam)Among the key demands are the trial of officials and police officers in abuse cases before and after the January 25 revolt, an end to military trials of civilians, an inclusive political process and freedom of expression and media.

The biggest public debate in Egypt now, is whether to postpone September's elections, and a new constitution be drawn up first. A number of human rights groups, including the Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services, recently put out a statement calling for Egypt to follow the example of Tunisia, and ‘put the horse before the cart’, creating a new constitution first.

---HUMNEWS staff

Wednesday
Jun292011

Protests Erupt in Tahrir Square (NEWS BRIEF)  

A group of protesters making their way towards Tahrir Square PHOTO: Nejeed Kassam

By Alesha Porisky and Nejeed Kassam Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt

For the past three days, according to local residents, there have been small demonstrations and marches in the late evenings in and around Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.

Wednesday evening, however, the protest grew significantly in size and scope, described by a hotel worker as “chaos in the streets.” While this may be an exaggeration, there is definitely life to the protest; what was maybe one hundred for the past few nights has grown to a lot more, maybe over a thousand, but it’s hard to estimate exact numbers.

From Tahrir Square, the birthplace of Egypt’s January 25th Revolution, drums could be heard beating and there were people marching and chanting. Just a few hours before, life was as it always is in Cairo and after-work traffic was normal: bumper-to-bumper. But the street came alive with protesters as the evening unfolded. What started, around 10.30pm, as a small march, had grown.

By 11:00pm, there was tear gas pouring through the street by Tahrir Square, which did little to silence protesters, many of whom continued their chants with fervour.  While people buried their faces in sleeves and tissues, workers at nearby restaurants quickly pulled down their riot barriers and retreated inside with their customers.

There seemed to be conflicting reasons as to the reason for the protest.

One source, a worker at Pizza Hut in Tahrir Square, said that the march was a response to an event that happened this morning. He alleged that yesterday, a number of women, especially the mothers of those who died in the Revolution, marched around Tahrir, as a way to remember those who lost their lives. Apparently, some of these women were attacked. Wednesday evening’s protests were, according to him, a response to these beatings.

However, an employee of a local hotel in the Square cited a different reason: the postponement of the investigation into Habib al-Adly, the former Minster of the Interior.  The announcement was made June 26, to the obvious displeasure of hundreds of demonstrators in Cairo.  No reason was given for the trial’s delay.

Sunday
May222011

Egypt: Mother of the Revolution (REPORT/BLOG)

By Alan Fisher

On a sun baked hill in a quiet corner of noisy Alexandria, Khaled Said's grave is unremarkable.

Perhaps the flowers on top are more watered than the others, but the tombstone simply states his name next to a short verse from the Koran. It also has the date of his death, the 6th of June, 2010, the day many here say marked the beginning of Egypt's revolution.

Khaled was 28.  He'd gone out to use an internet cafe in the coastal city.  It was a Sunday night.

According to one man who says he was there, two policemen walked in and there was some sort of row with them and Khalid. The police started to beat him.  Khalid tried to fight back or escape. In the confusion, it was hard to tell. In the scuffle, the young man's head hit a marble table with a sickening thud and blood began to pour from his head.

The police then pulled him out of the cafe.

A few hours later, Khalid Said was dead. The police say he tried to swallow a bag of drugs he was carrying and choked. The pictures of his body show a face that was bashed and bruised. It is difficult to look at.

News of the death spread quickly through the internet. Facebook pages in his honour were created and protests called in his name.

For many in Egypt, the incident on a warm summer's night summed up all that was wrong with Egypt.

The protests that started in Alexandria spread and soon the anonymous young man's name became known around the country, and the Middle East and then the world. His death became the spark that lit the fires of indignation and anger which erupted into revolution.

It was a death that changed a country, and pained a family.

Leyla Qasim comes regularly to speak with her son at his grave in Alexandria. She wears black in his memory. A pendant with a picture hangs from her neck and she constantly plays with her worry beads.

She comes to tell her son about the changes in the country and the role he played.

She shares the latest developments in the court case of the two policemen charged with killing him.

They've been in court eight times now.  

As she sits by the grave Leyla Qasim tells me: "I will get my justice when Khaled gets his, and when Khaled gets his justice then so will Egypt.'

She is in no doubt of the verdict she wants, no sympathy for those who robbed her of her son. "Those who killed Khaled must also die.  The policemen who killed him are not human, they are wild animals. They want to put my son on trial, fine – put him on trial. Put him on trial, and then release him. But they shouldn't have killed him – they don't have that right – so these policemen are animals."

The authorities know how charged this whole case is, how much the people across Egypt are invested in the verdict. The courthouse in Alexandria looks out over the Mediterranean. It's tired and worn, but on the day the police officers appear in court again, it is ringed by armoured personnel carriers. There are dozens of soldiers and military policemen. They stand idly chatting but are dressed for trouble.

Throughout the day, a crowd gathers, some with banners, some just to stand and watch. Most are young – like Khaled. One woman tells us: "This is a human being. Two men ganged up on him and beat him up and it is obvious from the pictures before and after what happened to him."  While a man is animated and passionate: "We've lived under oppression for the last 30 years and now we won't let any wrongdoing or the death of Kahlid Said pass easily. We now have nothing to be afraid of."

The judges handed the case have heard enough. The arguments, the evidence have been presented, and now they will deliver their verdict on June 30th. The crowds will be back, the world will watch. And Lelya Qasim will go once more to her son's grave and tell him what the court has decided and how much he's missed.

Originally published by Al Jazeera on May 22, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing 

Wednesday
Apr202011

As IOM Rescue Operation for Migrants Stranded in Misrata Continue, Many Thousands More Migrants Need Urgent Help Elsewhere (NEWS BRIEF)

(April 20,2011) A third IOM-chartered boat bringing more humanitarian aid into the besieged city of Misrata is due to arrive in the port later today with the aim of rescuing more stranded migrants.

The boat, the Ionian Spirit, left Benghazi on Tuesday night carrying 500 tons of food, medical supplies, hygiene kits and non-food items donated mainly by the Libyan private sector with some aid provided by Qatar and the U.A.E. Red Crescent. 

A Libyan non-governmental organization Libaid has donated the hygiene kits, medical supplies, hospital wheelchairs and four generators for hospital use.

Also on board are a team of 13 doctors with differing specializations. Two of the doctors who will relieve colleagues working in the hospital in Misrata will also refer critical but stable cases to IOM for evacuation to Benghazi.

"The presence of a large group of doctors with different specializations means greater capacity and more flexibility to assist those critically wounded or sick on board for the return journey to Benghazi," said IOM operational leader Jeremy Haslam as the boat departed.

However, the main focus of this third IOM operation to rescue stranded migrants in Misrata is to bring as many migrants as possible to safety.

In particular, the Organization is hoping to target a large number of migrants from Niger. Of the estimated 5,000 migrants around the port area, more than 3,200 are believed to be Nigeriens. 

"We don't know whether we will be able to reach them, however. If they are not close to the port, then it will be extremely hard to access them given the security conditions in the city," Haslam added. 

In two previous missions funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office (ECHO), IOM has rescued more than 2,100 people from Misrata, nearly 100 of them Libyans. 

New funding of one million Euros from the German government and £1.5 million (US$2.4m) from Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) will allow IOM to continue its rescue operations from Misrata where about 5,000 migrants are still believed to be stranded, to the eastern port city of Benghazi.

However, a critical shortage of funds means that while the migrants are brought to relative safety in Benghazi, they will remain stranded there without additional means.

"Taking the migrants out of the line of fire is life-saving, but by not being able to take them out of Libya and safely home means their plight has simply been transplanted to another location," says IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies, Mohammed Abdiker. 

"This is true for all the migrants who we need to help inside Libya and for those who have managed to cross Libya's borders with its neighbours."

More than 5,000 migrants on the Egyptian, Tunisian and Nigerien borders with Libya are still in need of evacuation to their home countries.

Among the many identified groups of migrants needing urgent evacuation from inside Libya are a group of nearly 30,000 Chadians, including women and children, marooned in Gatroun. IOM is in discussions with the Libyan and Chadian authorities on accessing the group.

It comes as the number of Chadians crossing into Chad from Libya has dramatically increased with a growing number of the migrants stranded in northern towns such as Faya and Kaliyit. The migrants are all dehydrated, extremely tired and in need of food.

An IOM transit centre at Faya, where UNHCR has provided tents to accommodate arrivals, which has a capacity of 750 people is now overflowing.  

"An airlift to Ndjamena is the only option. But again this is a costly operation," Abdiker states. "We are in a position where we have beefed up our operational presence at the Chadian border points to cope with the number of arrivals but we have no money to evacuate the migrants from these isolated desert areas to the Chadian capital."

Working with various Embassies, an IOM operation begun some weeks ago to evacuate stranded migrants in Tripoli by bus to the Tunisian border will be difficult to continue.

Only yesterday, 19 April, IOM evacuated a group of 100 Beninois migrants from the Libyan capital, including women and infants. 

IOM appealed for about US$160 million dollars for its response to the Libyan crisis with much of the funding to provide evacuation assistance from both inside and outside Libya. The Organization has received to date US$65 million, all of it except the new funding spent on operations that have helped return more than 115,000 migrants return to their home countries and evacuate many thousands from inside Libya to Egypt and Tunisia.

- Source:  International Organization for Migration