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Tuesday:  October 27, 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 Gaza (5)

Sunday
Apr082012

No money no summer camps for Gaza kids (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: UNRWAThe United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees is cancelling its annual summer camps for children in the Gaza Strip, saying it has failed to raise enough money.

"It was decided to stop the Summer Games programme in the Gaza Strip for 2012 due to not having received sufficient funding from donors, that is $9.9 million (7.5 million euros)," said Adnan Abu Hasna, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Gaza.

He said that UNRWA had received pledges of $3.3 million, "but that's not enough to cover expenses. That's why we decided to allocate these funds to basic humanitarian services and resume the games in 2013 if we get the necessary financial support," he said.

UNRWA's "Summer Games" programme caters to around 250,000 children at 1,200 sites in the Gaza Strip during six weeks of summer holidays.

Last year and in 2010 campsites were vandalised by unknown attackers but activities still carried on.

The attacks were blamed on Muslim extremists who view the camps as a symbol of Western corruption because boys and girls mingle freely.

Abu Hasna said that the cancellation of this year's events was a blow to the children and to around 9,000 older Palestinian youths who would have had summer jobs helping to run the camps.

UNRWA cares for nearly five million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, including more than one million in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

- This article originally appeared in Middle East Online

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)

Thursday
Jan122012

THE HUM - WORLD HEADLINES - JANUARY 12, 2012

(PHOTO: In Armenia, drug manufacturers eye the Uzbek market/NEWS.AM)Afghanistan 

Karzai leads wave of condemnation over video of urination on corpses

Afghan life expectancy improves by 18 years since 2001

Albania

Worried Albanians in northern Greece prepare to go home

Algeria

Clinton, Algerian FM discuss Arab mission in Syria 

Andaman Islands

Andaman Islanders 'forced to dance' for tourists - video

Andaman & Nicovar islands: Government orders probe into Jarawa video as outrage grows

Fifteen people arrested for intruding into Jarawa areas

When neglect of a place is projected as an attraction (Perspective)

Andorra 

New snow parks will be opened in Andorra

Angola 

Angola warns Namibia farmer settlers

Antarctica 

Helen Skelton's Polar Challenge: the latest

(PHOTO: In Austalia, the seizure by federal police from captured Spaniards of $80 million in cocaine is the 5th largest ever/Australian Federal Police) Antigua & Barbuda 

Monaco Royal couple compliments Antigua

Argentina 

DirecTV builds its first 70K Argentinean STBs

Armenia 

Armenian drug manufacturers wish to conquer Uzbek market 

American Samoa 

Concern at over-crowding at American Samoa high school

Australia 

Spaniards to face court over cocaine seizure

Police worried shootings linked to turf war

Azerbaijan 

Baku Tightens Control over Mobile Phones

Bahrain 

Bahrain race circuit reinstates protest staff

Bahrain economy is on the mend

(PHOTO: Oily birds & fish are eginning to wash ashore on Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean after last weeks tanker sinking off New Zealand/THE AUSTRALIAN) Bangladesh 

Bangladesh to extend trade with Nepal, Bhutan

Barbados 

US companies to build gas pipeline to the Eastern Caribbean

Belgium

Belgian tax authorities investigate EU trade chief

Belize

Belize opens its border to Mexico for 72 hrs

Benin

West Africans would pay more for pesticide-free food

Bolivia

Bolivia to Increase Gas Shipments to Argentina in 2012 

Bosnia-Herzegovinia

Bosnian Parliament appoints a new prime minister, 15 months after election

Botswana

Power crisis to linger on 

Brazil

Brazil milk imports soar as its own farms struggle 

Brazil announces plan to rein in immigration from Haiti

(PHOTO: In Europe, Poland recently handed over teh EU Presidency to Denmark/EPA)Bulgaria

Bulgaria PM Scandalously Scolds Killed Girl Family, Lauds Police

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso to bust corruption

Burundi

Burundi's military lags behind in fight against HIV/AIDS: survey

Cameroon

Boko Haram infiltrates Cameroon-report

Cambodia

Khmer Rouge genocide trial continues

Medicines clash in Cambodia

Canada

Canada to spend $11 million updating diplomatic mission in Sri Lanka

Cape Verde

Cape Verdean government plans to invest in improving conditions at fishing port

Central African Republic

Central African rebel group quits peace process 

(PHOTO: The Straits of Hormuz from space/NASA) Chad

Senegal stops extradition of former Chad dictator Hissene Habre

Chile

Chilean grape importers expect stronger markets

China

China Internet users top half a billion, many more to go

China defends Iran oil trade despite U.S. push

China warns US against interfering after it expressed concerns about Tibetan self-immolations

Chinese Smartphone Maker ZTE Passes Apple Globally, Targets U.S.

Christmas Island

Oil-covered birds, red crabs in island clean-up

Colombia

Colombia begins historic process of land restitution

Costa Rica

Costa Rica drops in peace ranking

(PHOTO: Great Britain is getting read to rebrand itself & its manufacturing industry with the `Make it in Great Britain' campaign.) Croatia

Croatia, Slovenia discuss border dispute

Cuba

Iran, Cuba call for new world order 

'A new kind of torture' as Guantanamo detainees lose hope  (Perspective)

Cyprus

Cyprus stops Syria-bound Russian ammunition ship

Djibouti

Djibouti government refutes Al Shabaab's claims

Iraq’s Warka Bank enters Djibouti Market

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic, Haiti join hands to uproot cholera

East Timor

East Timor Settling Down A Bit: UN To Leave This Year

(PHOTO: Romanian president Traian Basescu wears an apron at a Chinese New Year celebration in Bucharest./Romania Business Insider)Ecuador

Iran's Ahmadinejad arrives in Ecuador

Eritrea

Eritrean refugees kidnapped, killed: UNHCR chief

Ethiopia

Two convicted journalists to seek pardon

Falkland Islands

'Mercosur members reconfirmed agreed policies over Malvinas,' Timerman

Fiji

Invasive weed alert

France

French journalist killed in Syria on official trip

Gaza and West Bank

Gaza Hamas leader to visit Iran, Qatar: report

Mahmoud Abbas Will Not Attend Tunisia’s Celebration of the Revolution

Palestinian Liberation Requires Unity (Perspective)

Georgia

Released Georgian sailors returning home

(PHOTO: Message in a bottle from Vanuatu. Rudie Langevelt with the message in a bottle he found on Grey Rocks Beach, Bingie in Australia on Friday morning./NaroomaNews.com)Ghana

Panelists advocate restructuring of educational system 

Guyana

Guyana Water Incorporated launches countrywide disconnection campaign

Haiti

Twitter exposed epidemic in Haiti before health officials

Hungary

Hungarians bank on Austria to secure savings

Hungary President Denies Plagiarizing Bulgarian Researcher

India

Over 40 Percent of India’s Children Malnourished - report

Central Asian sex workers reaching India: Missions told to scan women visitors from region

Indian bureaucracy rated the worst in Asia

India scores major victory in battle to eradicate polio

(PHOTO: The famous Nike `Swoosh'/NIKE)Indonesia

Nike agrees to just pay it in Indonesian workers' compensation deal

Iran

Pirate Attacks Target Iranian Vessels

Japan

Japan, Singapore Officials Discuss Key Maritime Issues

Japan proposes Saudi Arabia and UAE to increase oil export 

Jordan

Jordan activist charged after torching king's picture

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan faces grain storage problem

Kenya

Kenya military spokesman in Twitter war over graphic photos

Kenya on edge as terror attack threat looms

Kuwait

Sheikh Sabah Khalid meets Yemeni FM

Legal workers stage strike, call for rights

(PHOTO: In Dubai, UAE volunteers are trying to ckean up the beach from cigarette butts./SUPPLIED) Lithuania

Russia refuses Lithuanian request to interrogate Gorbachev

Mexico

Remittances to Mexico are rebounding

Myanmar

Myanmar in ceasefire with Karen rebels

New Zealand

Millions spent on travel for judges and spouses

Photo essay: Work's a bowl of cherries

North Korea

N. Korea reopens door to food-for-nukes deal with U.S.

Norway

Norwegian Prime Minister Slams Turkey Over Free Press

Oman

Omani-Dutch ties growing stronger

Muscat Festival: One month to showcase traditions of Oman 

Pakistan

Pakistan speeds pursuit of Iranian pipeline

Lead figure in MemoGate Mansour Ijaz to appear before the Memo Commission on January 16, 2012-source

PM urged to take notice of nine new Indian dams on Indus, Chenab rivers

(PHOTO: In South Korea, 9 sites have been temporarily added to the UNESCO World Heritage list including Dosan Seowon, built 1574/YONHAP)Papua New Guinea

World's tiniest frogs found in Papua New Guinea

PNG eligible for work program in the US

Paraguay

Paraguay culls 168 livestock in response to Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak

Peru

Peru, Phillippines among emerging-economy stars by 2050: HSBC

Philippines

Saudi Arabia to lift ban on Filipino maids

New strawberry varieties pop out of school lab

Poland

Poland hands over EU Presidency to Denmark

Portugal

Portugal posts highest inflation rate for 10 years

Puerto Rico

Famed astrologer Walter Mercado hospitalized in Puerto Rico

Qatar

Qatar, Unveiling Tensions, Suspends Sale of Alcohol

Qatar Investments in Sudan Reach US$2 Billion

Romania

Romanian president puts on apron and prepares traditional food at Chinese New Year reception

Romanian president Traian Basescu posed wearing an apron a

Russia

UN Slams Russia on Syria Monitor Vote

Russia calls for Asian-Pacific unity on environment-protection laws

Rwanda

French Probe Seemingly Clears Rwanda's Kagame in Genocide Events

US NGO Donates Computer Lab to Kigali School

Voices of the most vulnerable children heard at Rwanda’s annual National Children’s Summit by Unicef correspondent Suzanne Beukes

Saint Kitts & Nevis

Increase in local vegetable production projected

Female arrested for attempting to smuggle drugs into prison

Saint Lucia

Guyanese National Becomes St Lucia's New Attorney General

Saint Vincent & The Grenadines

Cyprus releases Russian Syria-bound 'ammunition' ship flying the Saint Vincent and Grenadines Flag 

(PHOTO: In Zimbabwe bungee jumping has been suspended while the government conducts an investigation as to why an Australian tourist plunged to the Zambezi river after snapping her rope/NEW ZIMBABWEAN) Saudi Arabia

Saudi oil output nearing capacity limit-report

Crown prince, Yemen premier hold key talks in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia to continue fuel donation to Yemen

Saudi-Israeli hacking scandal continues

Saudi Arabia restaurant offers free meals to the needy

26-day cold snap in Arabia as Shabt season begins

Senegal

Senegal 'to lose US aid unless it extradites Habre'

Senegal's President pardons jailed opponents

Global Greens Congress to be held in Dakar, Senegal, Mar. 29-Apr. 1 2012 (Press Release)

Singapore

Singapore, Japan should cooperate in anti-piracy acts (Perspective)

Slovakia

Slovak UN envoy elected new president of Economic and Social Council

Slovenia

Slovenian MPs reject candidate for PM

Solomon Islands

New Zealand FM McCully visits Solomon Islands to talk business

Solomon Islands Ratifies Anti-Corruption Convention

(PHOTO: In Yemen, aid workers who are coping with unrest are turning to the community for collaboration/IRIN)Somalia

Somalia: Wounded have difficulty reaching medical facilities

Somalia Militants Flogging Woman Over Christian Conversion

UNDP compound in Mogadishu attacked

South Africa

South Africa: Zuma in New York for UN session

World’s most expensive fuel arrives in Gauteng

South Korea

'S. Korea in great need of Iran's crude'  says official  

S. Korea puts 9 sites on UNESCO's temporary heritage list

Woman has Deceased Dog Cloned in S. Korea (Video)

South Sudan

US Military to Help Build South Sudan

Spain

Spain adopts austerity plan (Video)

Sri Lanka 

Sri Lanka's central bank leaves rates unchanged

Tamil refugees slowly return from India

New wave of student protests

Female unemployment rises with education

Sudan

Filipinos urged to leave Sudan as crisis worsens 

Sweden

Sweden Announces Plans for Massive 700 Megawatt Wind Farm in The Baltic Sea

Sweden's teachers free to ban Islamic veils

Swedish Companies Take Advantage of Cheap Labor in U.S.

Swaziland

‘Maintenance tax won’t change sexual behaviour’

100 jobs lost as water project funding dries up

(PHOTO: In Tunisia, an unprecedented multi-artist mural goes up in Kairouan as the country readies to mark 1 year since revolution/TUNISIA LIVE)Switzerland

Swiss may say no to European workers

Syria

Syria's Assad blames unrest on 'foreign conspiracy'

400 killed in Syria since late Dec: UN

Turkey seizes alleged Iranian arms shipment to Syria

Taiwan

Taiwan's top election issue: rich earn 6 times more than poor

Sewage system in Taiwan highly tainted with antibiotics

Paparazzi hounding of bereaved father spurs call for news boycott

Tajikistan

Tajik President congratulates Iranian counterpart

IMF approves US$20.1m disbursement for Tajikistan

Teenager confesses to committing Santa Claus murder in Dushanbe

Tanzania

Head of Iran's National Library to visit Tanzania 

More than 130,000 young people are HIV positive 

Women's climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro shouts for Freedom from trafficking

Thailand

Thailand To Host Two Global Conferences For The Blind In 2012

Water levels behind Thailand dams a worry

Shrimp outlook promising

Thai growers protest over low rubber prices

Thailand needs to reform its educational system for 2015

Thailand's Education Ministry Builds End-to-End IPTV Communications Network

UN rapporteur says Thais need freedom of expression

L'Oreal sitting pretty here

(PHOTO: In Dubai, UAE officials inaugurate a new 1-Gigawatt solar park/Khaleej Times)The Arctic

Vast methane ‘plumes’ seen in Arctic ocean as sea ice retreats

Britain set to probe impact of Arctic 'oil and gas gold rush'

Tokelau

Pacific island makes renewable a reality

Tonga

‘Terrors of Tonga’ arrested, guns seized 

Trinidad and Tobago

Emotions flow as Trinidad's 'daughter PM' visits Bihar village

India, Trinidad and Tobago ink key pacts to boost bilateral trade  

Police storm television station in Trinidad and Tobago to seize video of sexual assault

Dubai’s Next Top Stylist: Derek Khan

Tunisia

Tunisian woman kills herself by self-immolation, 4th case ahead of uprising anniversary

Tunisia forum to enhance economic cooperation between Turkey, N. Africa

Major Tunisian Secular Parties Announce Merger

Unprecedented Tunisian Mural Goes Up in Kairouan

Tunisian Mehdi Gharbi Awarded the 2012 Martin Luther King Prize

Qatar Telecom pledges investment in Tunisia

Revolution Through Arab Eyes - Tunisia: The Revolt Continues (Perspective/Video)

Turkey

Climate negotiator Rende: Turkey ready to do its part on climate change

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan to build rail for high-speed trains

Turkmenistan adopts new law on political parties in bid to boost competition

Turkmenistan, UN seek to boost cooperation

Uganda

Bank of Uganda issues new consumer protection rules

Uganda Faces Inflation Dilemma

Ugandan President Meets with Senior Chinese Official

Uganda: What to Consider When Investing in Land

Minister Urges Development in Information Technology

'International pay' promise for Ugandan scientists

Uganda plans to fence off national parks

Jailed Journalist Applies For Bail

Uganda's plantation workers' fate in limbo (Video)

Ukraine

Ukraine parliament votes down moonshine bill

Ukraine expects to resume cooperation with IMF after completion of talks with Russia on gas price, says social policy minister

Ukraine opposition demands parliament investigate Tymoshenko health

Restrictions of land use to result in shadow leasing

Ukraine's grain crop likely to fall-report

Ukraine introduces discount on transit cargo transshipment at commercial sea ports in 2012

90% of asylum seekers in Ukraine turned down-report

(PHOTO: Are Abu Dhabi's party days over? The Abu Dhabi headquarters of Aldar Properties, which received a $10 billion government bailout/National Journal) United Arab Emirates

UAE-Greece joint committee meeting begins

UAE Says Customers Responsible for Hormuz Security

Talent shortage threatens Gulf retail banking expansion

UAE corporate sector set for 23% growth

Bankruptcy no longer crime under draft law

UAE- Another 'The World' island for sale at USD28.6m

UAE’s Dubai Launches 1-Gigawatt Solar Power Project

513,554 butts on the beach in Dubai

UAE-126 women graduate in medicine, pharmacy

UAE to host third Crisis and Emergency Management Conference

After the Party in One of the World's Richest Cities (Perspective)

United Kingdom

U.K. Film Industry Gets Commercial Clarion Call From Prime Minister David Cameron

UK spy agency MI5 named as gay-friendly employer

UK to reintroduce computer science teaching in schools

High speed rail will be great for city - minister

U.K. Men on Trial For "Death Penalty" Antigay Fliers

Al Gore’s Current TV UK Accuses BSkyB of Forcing it to Shut Down

McDonald's To Offer Books Instead Of Happy Meal Toys In The UK

London 2012 Olympics: BOA nominate Great British Olympians for torch relay

Olympic Summit to give £1 b boost for British biz

Planting trees now will return England to forest cover of Domesday

Sledge hired for 'Make it in Great Britain' campaign

92 Percent of UK Dieters have Fallen Off Their Resolutions Already-Poll

Great Britain on the brink of break-up: Furious Scottish nationalists at war with London over independence referendum (Perspective)

(PHOTO: Zimbabwe’s mobile saturation raches 74.7% says the country's Post & Regulatory Authority/The Zimbabwe Mail)United States

US defense chief condemns Afghan corpse video

NY Judge Drops Binladen Group as 9/11 Defendant

United States EPA: Power Plants Main Global Warming Culprit

U.S. icebreaking technology lacking, as ships charge toward Nome, Alaska (Perspective)

Uruguay

Citrus exports are reduced

Alleged Haiti abuse victim 'ready to testify' (Video)  

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan in its determination for development always relies on China’s support - president

BRIEF: Uzbek banks' share capital reaches almost $1 billion 

Vanuatu

Message in a bottle all the way from Vanuatu

The charms of island obscurity

Venezuela

Iran asks Venezuela to repay debts exceeding USD 290 million

Venezuela mulls revival of neglected ports

Children's Mission Spreads Nationwide

Prison Standoffs Spiral Across Venezuela (Perspective)

Vietnam

Ties with India a priority for Viet Nam 

UNAIDS, Vietnam work to fight HIV/AIDS

Vietnam to use Japan model / Tokio Marine to help Hanoi make nuclear plant insurance plan

Vietnam fishermen accuse foreign ship of causing boat wreck 

Vietnam ex-cops receive suspended sentences for torturing woman

Vietnam’s sustainable forest target deemed unattainable

Andrew Yee for ELLE Vietnam, Fashion

(PHOTO: In Abu Dhabi at the World Future Energy summit, Un Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announces the UN Year of Sustainable Energy/UN) Yemen

Coping with unrest - aid workers turn to the community

Zambia

Zambia's tourism minister bungee jumps from Victoria Falls to reassure visitors after snapped rope sent backpacker plunging

Zambian minister offers to bungee-jump with Australian who plunged

Airtel Zambia blocks callers to its call center if they call more than 3 times in a day -ZICTA

AfriConnect picks Airspan for 4G network in Zambia

Region set to enjoy reliable power supply

Zambian government to review mining policy: minister

DFID provides UNICEF with new funding to help Zambia reach health and environment MDGs with Equity (Press release)

Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls bungee jumps suspended

India Pledges to Transform Zimbabwe Economy

Chinese Contractor Denies Abusing Local Workers

Zimbabwe Constitutional Draft Excludes Language Protecting Gay Rights

Teachers Report for Duty Despite Strike Threats

Zimbabwe’s tele-density rises to 74.7%

Exiled Zimbabwean newspaper to launch redesign Thursday

Brown Revolution Brings New Hope

Time to Use Drama, Film to Spread Gospel

10 fundamental reasons why I endorse Zimbabwe internet/facebook/social media politics, by Presidential Candidate Jones Musara (Perspective)

(PHOTO: Lebanon’s Jabbour Douaihy is one of 6 authors shortlisted for this year's International Prize for Arabic Fiction/THE NATIONAL) World

Financial crisis lays seeds of 'dystopian future' – WEF Analysis

Ban Ki-moon to Launch UN's International Year of Sustainable Energy for All at World Future Energy Summit 2012 in Abu Dhabi (Press release)

Shortlist for Arabic fiction prize released

What's in a gTLD?  And what does it mean for you and your business

Tuesday
Nov292011

Google & Mercy Corps Partner to Help Young Palestinian Entrepreneurs (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN, November 29, 2011) - Google and Mercy Corps have formed a partnership to spark technological entrepreneurship among young Palestinians.

In an innovative venture called the Arab Developer Network Initiative (ADNI), the global private sector entity and NGO have come together to tap the "brain trust" of the vast numbers of young people in Gaza and the West Bank.

Says Mercy Corps: "Through a combination of training in technical and business essentials, peer-to-peer learning, mentorship, and an initial seed fund for high potential startups, capitalized at $500,000, ADNI will help build a critical mass of Palestinian youth who are competent in multiple programming platforms and able to create and run successful web-based businesses."

As in much of the Middle East and North Africa, the Palestinian population is young, well-educated, and chronically unemployed. The World Bank reports that at the end of 2010, unemployment among those between the ages of 15-29 was an estimated 26 percent in the West Bank and 53 percent in Gaza - though some reputable sources cite much higher figures of unemployment.

The potential is not lost on Google, which has commited $2 million so far to the territory.

"Palestinians have such a unique position," Gisel Kordestani, Google's director of new business development, told Fast Company. "They're well educated. They have strong English-language skills. With 88 million people in the [Middle East and North African] region getting online, they have the opportunity to build something for the Arab world."

Says Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer: "One of the biggest challenges to economic growth in Gaza and the West Bank is that people can't move freely or easily cross borders. But there's an incredible brain trust of educated young people in the region. Unlike most other industries, web-based businesses are not limited by the physical movement of goods or people. Fuelled by young talent, the tech sector here is just waiting to take off."

The Source of Hope Foundation and Google.org are the main backers of the project.

- HUMNEWS staff, Mercy Corps

Wednesday
Mar162011

OPT: Blockade Frustrates Gaza Students (Report)

Undergraduate students on the green at Islamic University in Gaza City, photo courtesy Erica Silverman /IRIN(March 16, 2011) -- The next generation in the Gaza Strip may be less educated, less professional and perhaps more radical because an Israeli blockade has restricted educational and employment opportunities, say UN and other sources.
 
The four-year blockade has particularly affected youths aged 18-24, limiting access to higher education, academic exchanges and professional development, says Gaza’s education ministry. About 65 percent of Gaza’s 1.6 million people are under 25, according to UN estimates.
 
“Higher education in all its forms is absolutely critical to a functioning society and the creation of a future Palestinian state,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory Max Gaylard told IRIN, and “to maintain a necessary level of skills in professional sectors, like medicine and engineering.”
 
Gaza’s unemployment rate - nearly 50 percent according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) - indicates dire prospects for the rapidly growing and youthful population.
 
The economic blockade, imposed by Israel after the Islamist resistance movement Hamas took control of Gaza, has obstructed the import of books, science laboratory and other educational equipment to Gaza, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Israel allows in limited humanitarian supplies.
 
The lack of facilities, new information and experiences has caused a marked deterioration of Gaza’s whole educational system. Noor, an English education student at Al-Azhar University, ranked second in Gaza, said she lacked essential books for her coursework and even chairs were missing from lecture halls.
 
“Our universities are not ready for new generations,” she explained. “We only have one laboratory and two computer labs, and it is not enough.”
 
Enrolment levels at Gaza’s 14 public and private universities and colleges remain high, but conflict and the stringent blockade have seriously undermined access to, and the quality of, higher education, said UNESCO in a report.
 
According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, “Under the policy of complete closure imposed since June 2007, Palestinians from Gaza who once constituted some 35 percent of the student body at universities in the West Bank are virtually absent from West Bank education institutions.” 
The development of two separate systems due to the Israeli-imposed movement restrictions, meant fewer subjects and facilities for Gaza’s university students, said UNESCO.
 
Can't pay fees 

About 80 percent of the Gaza population is aid dependent, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and higher education institutions in Gaza are feeling the financial strain.
 
According to UNESCO, students are increasingly unable to pay tuition fees, resulting in drop-outs and postponement of studies.
The inability of students to cover fees has hit Gaza universities hard, since student fees provide about 60 percent of university running costs, according to Palestinian NGO Sharek Youth Forum.
 
“The level of education is being compromised and we have trouble hiring qualified professors and staff,” said Kamalain Shaath, president of the Islamic University, ranked top in Gaza and the West Bank. Half the students at the university, he added, were unable to meet tuition requirements this semester.
Damaged buildings still not rebuilt 

Islamic University’s first medical school class of about 50 promising young doctors will graduate this spring, and will be desperately needed in this conflict area, although the university science labs that were destroyed during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead - aimed at ending rocket attacks into Israel - were never rebuilt.
 
Seven universities and colleges were damaged during the offensive, which ended in January 2010, with six buildings fully destroyed and 16 partially, according to UNESCO. As of March 2011, rebuilding has not been possible owing to the embargo on building materials.
 
Overcrowding in schools is another problem. About 81 percent of Gaza’s public schools operate on double shifts, according Gaza’s education ministry director-general, Sharif Nouman. In 2010, only three new schools were built due to lack of building materials, yet another 100 need to be built, he said.
 
Meanwhile, the internal conflict between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas is putting pressure on the education system, due to the lack of communication between the Gaza and West Bank ministries, he added.
 
Rising unemployment 

The unemployment rate among those aged 15-19 is about 72 percent, while unemployment affects 66 percent of those aged 20-24, according to a January socio-economic report by the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO). West Bank unemployment rates were 29 percent and 34 percent for these age groups, respectively.
 
About 70 percent of industrial establishments in Gaza have closed under the blockade, according to OCHA, while 120,000 private sector jobs were lost in the first two years of closure. A recent easing has allowed the limited export of cut flowers and strawberries from Gaza to Europe.
 
“When young people graduate they have almost no opportunity to find a job in a company or association,” said Bassam, a multi-media student at Al-Azhar University. Some try to start their own businesses, but “this cannot succeed in Gaza now because of the blockade,” he added.
 
UN officials in the region have expressed concern that isolating youth in Gaza from broader values and opportunities will backfire. “A rapidly growing society, becoming poorer, that is subject to restrictions on education will encourage extremism in its worst forms,” warned Gaylard.
 
Deputy director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Public Diplomacy, Danny Seaman, however, said: “Hamas uses access to Israel to perpetrate terror attacks against our civilians and this immediate threat outweighs the concern over increased militancy amongst youth in Gaza.”
 
Some 71 percent of university students surveyed by UNESCO reported they were not hopeful about the future and almost the same number worried there will be another war.
 
“Most of my peers want to emigrate,” said Shadi, a 26-year-old physical therapist in Gaza City. “We are isolated and frustrated.”
 
- Report by IRIN humanitarian news and analysis