Monday, September 1, 2014

Libyan government admits having lost control of Tripoli

Militiamen from ´´Fajr Libya´´ enjoy their stay at the compound of the American embassy in Tripoli. They plunge from the balcony into the swimming pool. (Still from YouTube video)

Libya's powerless outgoing government admitted Monday from its safe refuge in the east of the country that it has in effect lost control of Tripoli to armed militias. The interim government led by prime minister Abdullah al-Thani, which resigned last week, said armed groups, mostly Islamist militias, were in control of ministries and blocking access to government workers.
"Ministry and state offices in Tripoli have been occupied by armed militias who are preventing government workers from entering and are threatening their superiors," the government said in a statement.
It said the interim government was in contact with officials and "trying to ensure the continuity of services from afar."

Iraqi Kurds retake another town form IS a day after Amerli was freed

'It is a humanitarian disaster': Nearly 20,000 Shi'ite Muslim Iraqis face starvation in the town of Amerli after two months of living under siege by ISIS militants. The shaded zone shows ISIS-controlled areas 
The shaded area is territory held by IS. (Map Daily Mail)

Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shiite militiamen retook the town of Sulaiman Bek from militants on Monday, removing a key stronghold they have held for over 11 weeks, officials said. Fighting to retake the village of Yankaja, also located in Salaheddin province, northeast of Baghdad, is ongoing.  Sulaiman Bek is located near Amerli, where thousands of mainly Shiite Turkmen civilians were trapped by a jihadist. Iraqi forces backed by thousands of volunteers on Sunday broke this siege the Islamic State.
Thousands of Kurdish Peshmerga forces also took part in the operation on Saturday to lift the IS-imposed blockade of the town, which is located about 180 km north of Baghdad. Iraqi planes have been targeting the militants positions since the forces started mobilizing against the extremists there.The residents of the town are facing a shortage of food and water and the humanitarian condition has been described as dire. UN had earlier warned that Shia Turkmen residents of the volatile town who are besieged by the IS could be massacred if urgent action was not taken to rescue them.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bahrain detains human rights activist at the airport

Maryam al-Khawaja

Bahraini authorities detained prominent human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja on Saturday on her arrival at the Gulf state's airport, her mother told Reuters.
Maryam is the daughter of Shi'ite Muslim activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, who has been detained in the Sunni monarchy since 2011 and is on hunger strike.
"Maryam told me that she will be transferred to the court tomorrow," her mother, Khadija al-Musawi, told Reuters, adding that her daughter, who holds dual Bahraini and Danish citizenship, was coming back from Denmark.
Charges against al-Khawaja include insulting Bahrain's king, and assaulting a policewoman at the airport, her mother said.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif el-Islam dies

Seif al-Islam

Prominent Egyptian activist and human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif El-Islam has died Wednesday at 63 years old, after a long struggle with heart problems. He had been in coma for nearly two weeks after an open heart operation.
Seif was involved in political activism since his student days, but studied law and became a human rights defender following his detention in 1983, during which time he was reportedly tortured.
After being released, he was involved in important human rights-related cases. In 1999 he founded, with other rights advocates, the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre to challenge human rights violations in Egypt and to offer support to victims through legal assistance in and outside courts.

Monday, August 25, 2014

IS captures airbase in Raqqa, the last remaining government outpost in this province

 An Islamic State militant uses a loud-hailer to announce that Tabqa air base has fallen, in Raqqa city August 24
IS uses loudhailers to announce to the population Raqqa the capture of the airbase. (Photo Reuters)

ISIS fighters captured Sunday a major military air base in Syria’s northeast, eliminating the last regime-held outpost in a province otherwise dominated by the jihadist group. Tabqa airfield – home to several warplane squadrons, helicopters, tanks, artillery and ammunition bunkers – is the third military base in the area to fall to the militants since last month.
The jihadists launched their long-anticipated offensive last week to seize the sprawling Tabqa facility, located some 45 kms from the extremists’ stronghold in the city of Raqqa along the Euphrates River. After several failed efforts to breach the walls in recent days, fighters managed to punch through and storm the air base Sunday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-regime group. Government warplanes carried out waves of airstrikes to try to beat back the attack, but those ultimately proved unable to stem the assault. “Some of the Syrian regime troops pulled out, and now [ISIS] is in full control of Tabqa,” Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman said. “This makes Raqqa province the first to fully fall out of government hands.”

Two governements in Libya, after islamist rebels capture Tripoli

 A damaged aircraft is pictured after shelling at Tripoli International Airport August 24, 2014. REUTERS/Aimen Elsahli
 Damaged aircraft at Tripoli aiport. Fighting has been raging since July at the airport,  fuel reserves have been burning for weeks an several aircraft have been destroyed. But on Sunday the aiport terminal has burnt down as well. (Photo Reuters).
The former Libyan parliament replaced in national elections in June reconvened on Monday to elect an Islamist-backed deputy as prime minister, challenging the authority of the turbulent country's new legislature.
The old General National Congress (GNC), where Islamists had a strong voice, has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of its successor assembly, the House of Representatives, which is dominated by liberals and federalists.

The GNC reconvened after armed factions from the western city of Misrata forced a rival faction from Zintan out of Tripoli's main airport on Saturday after a month of fighting. The Islamist-led militias seized the airport in the capital, Tripoli, proclaimed their own government, and presented the world with yet another crisis.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Saudi Arabia beheaded 19 since 4 August

Saudi Arabia’s judicial authorities have beheaded at least 19 convicted criminals since Aug. 4, nearly half of them for nonviolent offenses, including one for sorcery, Human Rights Watch said Thursday, calling the spate of executions “particularly egregious.” In a report on its website drawn from Saudi government news dispatches, Human Rights Watch said seven convicts were beheaded for drug smuggling, including four in the southeast city of Najran this week. Amnesty International, which also reported on the Najran beheadings, said the four had been forced to confess under torture. Saudi Arabia has executed at least 34 people this year, Amnesty International, said, and it executed at least 79 in 2013. The country has historically rejected international standards for offenses deemed insufficient for capital punishment, applying it to crimes that include adultery, armed robbery, apostasy, drug trafficking, rape and witchcraft.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Houthis increase pressure on Yemeni president, want a share in the government

Tens of thousands Houthis marched through Sanaa in a protest demonstration on Friday 22 August 2014. 

The leader of the North Yemeni Houthi's, Abdel Malik Al-Houthi, said Thursday that his followers will continue their peaceful protests until their clear demands are met. "I call on President, the Defense Minister and the authorities to avoid attacks on and aggressive looks at peaceful protesters," he said in a speech on the Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV. Al-Houthi spoke on the eve of the last day of a deadline he gave to the government earlier this week to meet their demands.
Thousands of armed Shiite rebels in Yemen have strengthened their positions in the capital Sanaa since  Wednesday as they pressed their campaign to force the government to resign, AFP correspondents witnessed.The rebels have been fighting an off-conflict with government troops in the northern mountains for the past decade, but analysts warned their bid for a greater share of power in a promised new federal Yemen was creating a potentially explosive situation.

Davutoğlu designated as AKP leader and Turkey 's new prime minister

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) and Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) shake hands at the AKP headquarters in Ankara on Aug. 21, 2014
Davutoğlu en Erdoğan (r) shake hands at the AKP meeting in Ankara (Photo HürriyetDailyNews, 21 August 2014) 

 Turkey’s ruling party has formally designated Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to be the successor of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as both prime minister and chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), marking the start of a new era in Turkish political life.
The AKP’s Central Executive Board (MYK), which was convened under Erdoğan’s leadership, decided to propose Davutoğlu’s name for the chairmanship of the party, which will be elected during the AKP’s extraordinary congress in Ankara on Aug. 27.
The decision was announced by Erdoğan after a three-hour meeting at the party headquarters. ''Our nominee is our foreign minister, our Konya deputy, our brother Ahmet Davutoğlu," Erdoğan told the crowd, which included government ministers and journalists, at the AKP headquarters in Ankara.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Samih al-Qassim 1939-2014

The Palestinian poet Samih al-Qasim died Tuesday in a hospital in Safed hospital in northern Israel. He had been suffering from cancer of the liver for the past three years, Issam Khuri, a novelist and close family friend, told the press agency AFP. Al-Qassim who was of Druze descent, was best known for his nationalist poetry in which he passionately defended the rights and identity of Israel's Arab minority.

Here a short poem by him (in the translation of A.Z. Foreman) about the infamous killing of 48 inhabitants of the Arab town Kafr Qassim in 1956 by the Israeli border police.

Kafr Qasim
No monument raised, no memorial, and no rose.
Not one line of verse to ease the slain
Not one curtain, not one blood-stained
Shred of our blameless brothers clothes.
Not one stone to engrave their names.
Not one thing. Only the shame.

Their ghosts are gyring even now, their groaning shades
Digging through Kafr Qasim's wreckage for graves.

Here the Arabic  original: 
كَفرْ قاسم
لا نُصْبَ... لا زهرة... لا تذكار
لا بيت شعر يؤنّس القتلى ولا أستار
لا خِرقة مخضوبة بالدم من قميص
كان على اخوتنا الأبرار
لا حجرٌ خُطّت به أسماؤهم
لا شيء ... يا للعار!
اشباحهم ما بَرَحَت تدور

Monday, August 18, 2014

Iraqi tv: Pershmerga's retook Mosul dam

Kurdish fighters at the town of Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul. (AFP)

Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iraqi counter-terrorism forces have pushed Islamic State militants out of Mosul dam, Iraqi state television reported on Monday. The television station quoted Lieutenant-General Qasim Atta, a military spokesman, as saying the forces were backed by a joint air patrol. He did not give details. An independent verification was not immediately possible.
A Twitter account belonging to a media organization that supports the Islamic State said the dam was still under the group's full control. The Peshmergas started an offensive on Saturday to take control of the country’s largest dam at Mosul, which has been in IS hands for over a week. The peshmerga's were helped bu U.S. airstrikes. US Central Command in Washington said the air strikes targeted Islamist militants near the dam and the Kurdish capital Arbil. “The nine air strikes conducted thus far destroyed or damaged four armoured personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armoured vehicle,” it said in a statement, adding: “All aircraft exited the strike areas safely.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Human Rights Watch publishes damning report about Raba'a al-Adawiya killings in Egypt

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One of the improvised mortuaries for victims of the Raba'a al-Adawiya killings. (Photo Matthew Cassel) 

Human Rights Watch onm Tuesday published a report on the way the Egyptian authorities in July and August 2013 dispersed demonstrations against the removal of the elected president Mohammed Morsi, thereby killing at least 1.150 people. According to HRW the killings probably amount to crimes against humanity.
HRW documented that the operation was executed following a detailed plan. In the 188-page report, “All According to Plan: The Rab’a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt" it describes the way the Egyptian police and army methodically opened fire with live ammunition on crowds of demonstrators opposed to the July 3 ouster of Mohamed Morsy, Egypt’s first elected civilian president, at six demonstrations between July 5 and August 17, 2013.
“In Rab'a Square, Egyptian security forces carried out one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This wasn’t merely a case of excessive force or poor training. It was a violent crackdown planned at the highest levels of the Egyptian government. Many of the same officials are still in power in Egypt, and have a lot to answer for.”
The authorities have failed to hold even a single low-level police or army officer accountable for any of the killings, much less any official responsible for ordering them, and continue to brutally suppress dissent. In light of the continued impunity, an international investigation and prosecutions of those implicated are needed, Human Rights Watch said. States should further suspend military and law enforcement aid to Egypt until it adopts measures to end its serious rights violations.