Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Life sentences for Bahraini reformists in unfair military process

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja: life sentence.
Police and protesters have clashed in Bahrain on Wednesday after a court sentenced nine several people to life in prison and convicted 12 others to prison terms between two and 15 years. The draconian punishments - considering that the Bahraini protests had been completely peaceful and aimed at no more than political reforms - were based on accusations that the defendants had been plotting a coup to overthrow the state's monarchy.
The life sentences were issued against a prominent Shia political leader, Hassan Mushaima; human rights activist Abdulhady al-Khawaja, political activist Abduljalil al-Singace,who was just released in February after six months in jail, and five others. Nine of the defendants had, like Singace,  been in custody on similar charges in the past before being set free under a royal pardon in February aimed at calming protests in Bahrain.
Ibrahim Sharif, the Sunni leader of the secular leftist group Waad, was sentenced to five years. Waad had joined the Shiite Wefaq in calling for political reforms. Said Abdulnabi Shihab was sentenced to life in absentia. Six other defendants who are abroad and being tried in absentia were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Authorities claimed the activists had not only sought to overthrow Bahrain's Sunni monarchy, but had also had links to "a terrorist organisation abroad".
Update: Amnesty International called the trail unfair. Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme said:“These sentences are extremely harsh, and they appear to be politically motivated, since we have not seen any evidence that the activists used or advocated violence.”
“Civilians should not have been tried in a military court, and these trials have been patently unfair. In particular, the court failed to adequately investigate allegations that some of the defendants were tortured and made to sign false 'confessions' which seem to have been used as evidence against them.”

Al Azhar calls for secular state and wants to become independent

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb
Cairo's Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's top centre of religious learning, called on Monday for a "modern, democratic" and secular state in Egypt.
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, in a news conference broadcast live, revealed a document formulated by Al-Azhar and Egyptian intellectuals that aims to define "the relationship between Islam and the state in this difficult phase."
The document supports "the establishment of a modern, democratic, constitutional state" based upon the separation of powers and guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens.However, Al-Tayyeb said that the principles of sharia, or Islamic law, should remain "the essential source of legislation" and that Christians and Jews should have their own tribunals to which they can have recourse.
The document urges "the protection of places of worship for the followers of the three monotheistic religions" and considers "incitement of confessional discord and racist speech as crimes against the nation."
The move came amid widespread debate about the future of institutions after the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak. Secular Egyptians and the Coptic Christian community fear marginalisation if Islamists take power in September's planned parliamentary elections, after which a new constitution will be drafted.
Remakable was that sheikh Al-Tayyeb also called for "the independence of Al-Azhar." The grand imam of Al-Azhar should no longer be appointed by the president. he said, but elected by a college of Azhar scholars.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Saturday, June 18, 2011

King of Morocco anounces only limited reforms

King Mohammed VI of Morocco has read out a spech on television on Friday night, in which he announced the contents of a new draft constitution. The Moroccans can vote for it in a referendum on 1 July.
In the new constitution the king maintains broad religious, political and military powers. Only a small part  goes to the Prime Minister, who will be named "head of Government" . But the king retains absolute powers in defense. He remains "the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces" and he is not giving up the powers to appoint ambassadors and diplomats in the new constitution. Also he will choose the prime minister of the winning party in parliamentary elections. The prime minister has, acording to the new constitution, the right to  appoint senior public servants like provincial governors. Also he has the right to disband the parliament. But the king retains this power as well, though only after consultations with a new body, a constitutional court that will be 50% appointed by him.
New is that the Constitution provides for "the independence of the judiciary from the executive and legislative branches". It means that the king gives up his position as head of the committee that appointed the judges.
As far as religion is concerned: Islam remains the state religion, and freedom of religion is supposed to be "guaranteed under the Constitution". The king remains the highest religious authority in the country.
The Amazigh (Berber) language is listed as an official language alongside Arabic, however the wording makes clear that Arabic remains more important.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Syrian troops kill 16

Syrian forces shot dead 16 people on Friday when they fired on protesters demanding the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, activists said. The worst bloodshed was in Homs, where activists said eight protesters were killed and state television said a policeman was killed by gunmen. One person was also reported killed in the northern commercial city of Aleppo, the first protester to die there since unrest erupted in the south of the country in March. Tens of thousands of people protested in the southern province of Deraa where the revolt against Assad's rule began, as well as in the Kurdish east, the city of Hama north of Damascus, and suburbs of the capital itself.

Syrian rights groups say 1,300 civilians and more than 300 soldiers and police have been killed since the protests broke out in March, 10,000 people have been detained.
On Thursday state media said Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of president Assad, was quitting business and handing proceeds to charity. Makhlouf controls a string of businesses including Syria's largest mobile phone operator, duty free shops, an oil concession, an airline company and hotel, construction concerns, and shares in at least one bank. President  Assad himself was expected to address the country soon.Assad has only spoken twice since the uprising began.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Helping Libya? By hitting military targets only? And with what kinds of ammunition?

One can have lots of reasons for having doubts about the wisdom of NATO's intervention in Libya. Till now Western  interventions in the Middle East were not always that beneficial, after all. At least one could ask questions about the limits of military involvement, even if one wishes to leave out questions about the consequences for a future governmenet if it has been brought about with the help of active military involvement from outside,
But here's another angle. Former U.S. Congress woman and presidential candidate (for the greens) Cynthia McKinney talking fron Tripoli. About the targets NATO is hitting. And about the kind of weapons used.
(thx José)  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Aoun big winner in new Lebanese cabinet

 Lebanon present two 'strongmen' Miqati (l) and Aoun.

fter some four and a half months of wrangling Lebanon finally got his new government under prime minister Najib Miqati. A new goverment had to be formed after Hezbollah and its allies sent the coalition of Saad Hariri packing at the beginning of this year.
The 30 strong cabinet is mainly composed of the ''8 March coalition,  Hezbollah, the other Shiite movement Amal, the Free Patriottic Movement (FPM) of general Michel Aoun, and a few splinters. It also includes a number of  “independents” from Walid Jumblatt’s PSP, and a few ministers allied with President Suleiman and Prime Minister Miqati.
The newspaper Daily Star reports that in the new cabinet, (president) Sleiman was alloted three ministers, (Prime Minister) Mikati seven and Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt three, leaving the March 8 coalition per se with 18 seats. Hezbollah and Amal got two seats each. The biggest chunk of the seats went to Free Patriotic Movement leader (general) Michel Aoun and his Christian allies - the Marada Movement and Tashnag. Aoun and his allies took 10 seats, while the Syrian Social Nationalist Party as well as Talal Arslan and Nicolas Fattoush were given one each.
Blogger and Lebanon expert Qifa Nabki writes:
As anticipated, the biggest winner today is Michel Aoun. Having spent 15 years in the political wilderness, he returned to Lebanon in 2005 from his Parisian exile to find Saad al-Hariri and Walid Jumblatt rebuffing his demands for a seat at the big kids’ table. Aoun sat out Saniora’s government and then endured the disappointment of the 2009 elections, which failed to deliver the parliamentary majority he seemed intent on getting. Two years later, he finally gets to play the role of the political heavyweight in a Lebanese cabinet.
 Qifa Nabki has also a list 0of the new cabinet members.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

News from the frontlines of the Arab Spring

Dead rebel fighters in Misrata are prepared for burial.

Heavy fighting between pro-Gaddafi troops and rebels broke out in the Libyan city of Zlitan, 160 kilometres  east of Tripoli. Ahmed Bani, a military spokesman in Benghazi, told Reuters clashes had broken out in Zlitan on Thursday and resumed on Friday with Gaddafi forces killing 22 rebels.
Zlitan, one of three towns that are under government control between the rebel-held Misrata and the capital, is surrounded from directions by large numbers of troops loyal to Gaddafi, rebel-sokesman Bani said, adding the rebels controlled parts of the city.
Rebel fighters in Misrata
Rebels also said the oasis town of Gadamis, 600 kilometer southwest of Tripoli, with a population of about 7,000 people, mainly Berber, was under attack after an anti-government protest in the old Roman city on Wednesday.
 Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday he had offered a "guarantee" to Gaddafi if he left Libya, but received no reply.


 Video of Sana'a, where Friday a huge prayer service was held on Taghir (Change) Square. The service was meant also as a funeral service for about 40 people who died in the fighting with the Republican Guard and other troops loyal to president Saleh in the past week. On the video is seen that the dead are carried onto the square. Apart from Sana'a ther were huge anti-Saleh demonstrations in Taiz, Ibb, Al-Baydah, Dhamar and Hodeidah.
News from the political front is that the ruling party, the General Congress Party, refuses to negotiate with the oppostion about an interim-deal as long as president Saleh is not back in the country. The latest new about Saleh himself is that his health situation is bad. He ssems to have respiratory problesm among other things. In the south, in Aden and in Zinjibar, fightig is still going on. Details are sketchy.   


'Security' forces are firing at protesters in Diraz, Bahrain. It's not only Syria, Yemen or Libya where the struggle continues.  

Syrian refugges flock at the border with Turkey (pcture Daily Hürriyet). More than 4000 Syrians have sought refuge sofar in Tureky in order to escape the onlsuaght on the town Jisr al-Sughour and surrounding villages in North-Syria.

Syrian army not only uses tanks but also helicopter gunships

 Syria remains in the news and terrible videos testifying of it are all over the internet. This is a video of the torturing of  prisoners. It says this sece was filmed in Homs. 

At least 28 people have been killed in fresh clashes in Syria between security forces and protesters, activists say. They say tanks and helicopter gunships opened fire on crowds in the northern town of Maarat al-Numan, leaving several protesters dead.
The violence came as government forces moved on the nearby town of Jisr al-Shughour where the government said 120 security personnel had been killed. Hundreds of civilians have fled north into Turkey to escape the assault. Jisr al-Shughour seemed a ghost town.
Opposition activists told the BBC that the army was adopting a "scorched earth policy" around Jisr al-Shughour, with helicopter gunships and tanks firing into the town as advancing troops bulldozed homes and torched crops and fields. Correspondents say it is the first reported use of air power to quell protests in Syria's three-month uprising.
Friday saw again many big demonstrations in places from Al-Qamishli in the north, to coastal towns like Baniyas or the capital Damascus and Deraa in the south. In Hama at least 100.000 people took part in a huge demonstration.

Amnesty reacts to increase in executions in Saudi Arabia

 Executions in Saudi Arabia are mostly done by beheading with the help of a sword

The Saudi Arabian authorities must halt the use of the death penalty, Amnesty International said on Friday, following a significant increase in executions in the country in the last six weeks. At least 27 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia in 2011, the same as the total number of people executed in the whole of 2010. Fifteen people were executed in May alone.
Philip Luther, Amnesty's Deputy Director for the Middles East and North Africa said that Amnesty International is aware of over 100 prisoners, many of them foreign nationals, who are currently on death row.
Two brothers, Muhammad Jaber Shahbah al-Ja’id, 54, and Sa’ud Jaber Shahbah al-Ja’id, 47, are at imminent risk of execution. They were sentenced to death in 1998 by a court in Mekkah, for the murder of another Saudi Arabian man. Their sentences were said to have been ratified by the King and it is feared that they could be executed any time. It appears that Sa’ud Jaber Shahbah al-Ja’id confessed under duress as the authorities reportedly arrested his elderly father in order to place pressure on him. Also it appears that Muhammad and Sa’ud al-Ja’id were sentenced to death after a trial in which they received no legal assistance.
A high number of those on death row are foreigners, This also happened in the past. At least 158 people, including 76 foreign nationals, were executed by the Saudi Arabian authorities in 2007. In 2008 some 102 people, including almost 40 foreign nationals. 

Thousands flee as Sudanese armies clash in Southern Kordofan

 Inhabitants of Kadugli assemble in front of the UN compound

A humanitarian emergency is unfolding in the Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan, as forces from the North and South continue to launch attacks in civilian areas, Amnesty International warned  on Friday.
Tens of thousands of people are fleeing their homes as fighting continues between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) of South Sudan, which broke out last Sunday (June 5) across the state.
 Amnesty has received reports from residents of the besieged towns of Kadugli and Dilling that the SAF, as well as Sudanese security forces in plain clothes, have been searching streets and houses, arresting and killing people suspected of supporting the SPLA.
 “[Soldiers] were rushing out of everywhere onto the main road, asking ‘are you SPLA?’ They checked our things to see if they could find any documents which they consider link us to the SPLA. [If they do] they will capture you,” said a Kadugli resident.
A number of the attacks are indiscriminate, including aerial bombardments and artillery fire by the SAF. Bombings have been reported in five villages south of the state capital Kadugli, and in Talodi, Heiban, Kaudo, and other towns.
The United Nations estimated on Friday.that between 30,000 and 40,000 people have fled fighting in Kadugli, the capital of Sudan's oil-producing border state of South Kordofan. The UN had said that recent fighting  was currently most fierce in the state capital, home to about 60,000 inhabitants.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Syrian refugees talk of mutiny and revenge

Syrian refugee kids playing among tents just over the Turkish border. ( Today's Zaman)

AP reporting about the refugees from Jisr al-Shughour in North Syria who fled to Turkey. They confirm what I wrote ytersday (the story below this one), that the killings started after police and army units refused to shoot on  the protesting crowd.

(Below this article an Al-Jazeera video about the funeral of another young boy killed by the Syrian security forces, whose mutlated body was only returned to his parnets six weeks after he disappeared. The 15-year old Thamed Mohammd Sahri happened to be a friend of 13-year old Hamza al-Khatib, whose equally mutilated body was returned last week. Both boys disapperad on the same day). 
GUVECCI, Turkey (AP) -- Syrian policemen turned their guns on each other, soldiers shed their uniforms rather than obey orders to fire on protesters, and three young men who tried to escape were beheaded by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
As more than 2,400 Syrians streamed across the open Turkish borders on Thursday ahead of tanks and troops who surrounded their hometown, they brought with them the first accounts of a week of revolt, mutiny and mayhem in Jisra al-Shughour. The streets were deserted, leaving no resistance against a regime equipped for all-out battle.
Even safe in Turkish camps 12 miles (20 kilometers) away, the Syrians said they feared the authoritarian government's reach and refused to allow their full names to be used.
A young man who identified himself as Rami said the Syrian reinforcements were mobilized in response to a mutiny among police and soldiers, sharply divided over how to disperse the protesters.
"It all started with the killing of two protesters a week ago, then policemen who refused orders from the Alawite police chief to fire on civilians clashed at the Emin Asqari police station," Rami said through an interpreter. Other Syrians nodded or interrupted with more details. Syria's ruling elite, including the Assads, belong to the minority Alawite sect.
"Then, some soldiers deserted also after refusing to fire on the protesters, some took off their uniforms, left their weapons and ran away with their families," added Rami, a skinny 22-year-old who was studying at a university in Jisr al-Shughour to become a math teacher. "Two helicopters also fired randomly on civilians as well as houses that triggered the exodus."
Rami said he can't reach many of his friends.
"I fear for their lives," said Rami. "Assad's forces beheaded three young men from Latakia when they said they were going to Turkey. We buried them yesterday in a village across the border."
Bodies of military men (Sana)
The struggle over Jisr al-Shughour and the surrounding Idlib province is a critical test for the 40-year Assad regime, which has said "armed groups" killed 120 security forces in the area this week.
Syrian activists say more than 1,300 people have died in the crackdown on the 11-week uprising, most of them unarmed civilians; a government spokeswoman countered that 500 security forces had died in the uprising, including 120 who died in the Jisr al-Shughour area this week.
"The only instance where security forces have fired is when they have been fired at," Reem Haddad told Britain's Sky News. "How have these people been killed for goodness sake if no one is firing at them?"
Jisr al-Shughour emptied as its residents crossed olive groves and traveled gravel roads, trying to get away from the tanks and elite forces believed to be led by Assad's younger brother, Maher, residents and an activist said. Turkey's foreign minister said 2,400 Syrians had crossed the border.

Syrian policemen carry coffins of comrades (Sana)

"It is virtually a ghost town now," said Rami. "Almost everyone fled mostly toward nearby villages, but many more are prepared to cross into Turkey if Assad's forces start hunting them."
A man who stayed behind in Jisr al-Shughour confirmed that the town was all but empty, and people in a nearby village warned that hundreds of soldiers were massing, along with 27 tanks and 50 armored personnel carriers. (...)

"I don't want to die. I want Bashar Assad to go," said one Syrian teenager, who identified himself as Ahmad. Activists say more than 10,000 people have been detained since the uprising began in mid-March.
Turkey and Syria once nearly went to war, but the two countries have cultivated warm relations in recent years, lifting travel visa requirements for their citizens and promoting business ties. By allowing Syrian refugees, the Turkish government is playing the role of a humanitarian provider even as it urges the Assad regime to stop its crackdown and implement democratic reforms. (...)
The Turkish province of Hatay has a sizable Arabic-speaking population. It gained independence from Syria in 1938 and joined Turkey in a plebiscite a year later. Families in some villages were split when the borders were finalized in 1948.

"We will keep our doors open to all Syrians seeking refuge in our country. It would be out of the question for us to close our doors at a time when deaths have intensified and our brothers are seeking the possibility of refuge," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.

Funeral of another young boy killed and tortured by Syrian security:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reports about fighting in N-Syria seems to be related to army defections

Reuters reports on conflicting version of fights in the Syrina town if Jisr al-Shughour:
More then 120 Syrian security officers were killed in battles with gunmen, state television said, in the first report of large-scale clashes in a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. However, Wissam Tarif, director of human rights organization Insan, disputed the official report, saying the clashes were between loyalist troops and army members who had defected.
The tv report said on Monday armed groups set government buildings ablaze in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour, stole five tonnes of dynamite and were firing at civilians and security forces with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Funeral of one of the victims of Saturday's 'security operation'

But Wissam Tarif said that an army unit or division arrived to the area in the morning. It seems then another unit (in the afternoon) arrived to contain the defection. Tarif told Reuters that several people in Jisr al-Shoghour had confirmed that version of events.
Opposition activists said earlier that forces had launched a security operation in the town on Saturday and at least 37 residents and 10 police had been killed. It was impossible to verify the conflicting accounts as authorities have prevented most international media from operating in Syria.

Also in Morocco the demonstrations are not over yet

Less well covered than events elsewhere also protests and demands for more freedom continue in Morocco as well. Below videos of demonstations in Casablanca, Rabat and Tanger on Sunday 5 June. Meanwhile Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation into the death of a Moroccan protester, Kamal Ammari who has died after being beaten by security forces in the western town of Safi. Ammari, 30, was severely injured in clashes with security forces during a protest in the western town of Safi on 30 May. He died at the Mohamed V hospital on Thursday.




Sunday, June 5, 2011

Israeli's kill 23 during protest at Golan border, 350 wounded

Updated.  Israeli troops fired Sunday at demonstrators in Syria who rushed toward the border fence in a protest against Israeli occupation, and Syrian state television said 23 were killed. There were 350 wounded, some of them critically, sources in the hospital in Qunietra said.
Sunday was calld the 'Naksa commemoration. It marked the 44th anniversary of the 1967 Middle East war, in which Israel occupied Syria’s Golan Heights, as well as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The protests began around 11 a.m. with what appeared to be several dozen youths, brought in on buses. It gained strength through the day. By evening, the crowd had swelled to more than 1,000 people, who milled about, prayed and chanted slogans in an uneasy standoff with Israeli troops in the distance. The army bolstered its positions, posting a dozen armored vehicles and jeeps along the border road.
Israeli soldiers warned the approaching proteststers. 'Anyone who tries to cross the border will be killed,” Israeli soldiers shouted at the crowd of several hundred through loudspeakers on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

A small group of youths managed to cut through a recently fortified coil of barbed-wire and took up positions in a trench inside a buffer zone about 20 yards (meters) from a final border fence. Israeli troops periodically opened fire at young activists jumping into the ditch, sending puffs of soil flying into the air.
Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, said troops had opened fire but he could not confirm any casualties. On Isarel Radio he described Israel’s response as “measured, focused and proper.” However, Fuad al-Sha’ar, an apple grower who lives in Majdal Shams. 
said it was 'like a turkey shoot'.

As the standoff stretched into the evening, Israeli forces fired heavy barrages of tear gas to break up the crowds. Hundreds of people fled the area in panic, while some 20 people laying on the ground received treatment. It was not immediately clear whether the crowd would return to the front lines.
At nightfall, crowds of people fell to the ground in Muslim prayer, and several small groups lit bonfires, indicating the standoff would continue.
Israel had promised a tough response after being caught off guard in last month's demonstrations, when troops killed more than a dozen people during a similar protestat the occasion of Nakba day, the commemoration of the war of 1948 and the expulsion of the Palestinians.

This what Al-Jazeera English showed, including a reaction from the official Israeli spokesman:

The Israeli army said that the the prpotesres in part were responsible for their bown desaths, because they threw firebombs and cause mines to explodem which would have killed some of them. YNet writes 
that sources from the Syrian Opposition claim that President Bashar Assad's regime, under fire from civilians vying for overhauling reform recently, offered to pay demonstrators who join in the border protests $1,000 for participating, or give their families $10,000 in the event of their deaths. This is just nonsense.The opposition party which claims this is what happened is the Syrian Reform party, a completely phony party which relies mainly on the most rightist and pro-Israel commentators that can be found in the U.S.. It has, as far as I know, no following at all in Syria itself. I wouldn't even be surprised if it appeared to be sponsored by Israel. But the hasbarists will believe this crap, that's for sure.  

The not so open border crossing at Rafah

This speaks for itself. Palestinians from Gaza testify how 'open' the Rafah crossing into Egypt really is, just one week after Egypt 'lifted the restrictions' and opened the gates under the eyes of the world press.

(I have to add - since it is not mentioned in the video - that men in the age 18 - 40 need a visa before they are allowed into Egypt, which they have to get from Ramallah (where they cannot get of course as it means that they have to travel entals travelling through Israel) and that goods in general still have to be deliverd through the border crossing at the Israeli side).
(thx Trees)    

Update: On Saturday the gate was closed altogether. On Sunday the Egyptians announced that 350 people would be let through, whereupon Gaza closed the gate in protest..

Saleh in Saudi Arabia, Yemen calm, future uncertain

The palace mosque after the attack. (AFP)

President Ali Abdullah Saleh flew toSaudi Arabia on Sunday for medical treatment, pitching Yemen deeper into turmoil after months of protests against his three-decade rule.
Saudi sources said Riyadh had brokered a ceasefire between rival clans and political elites. The streets of Sanaa, which had rung with gun and rocket fire in recent days, were mostly quiet early on Sunday except for a few small gatherings celebrating Saleh's departure.
On Sanaa's University Square, dubbed "Change Square", which has been the epicentre of anti-government protests that have raged against Saleh's rule, protesters were celebrating that the president had left Saleh and many thought that this was the beginning of the end of his 33 year rule.
Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi
ice-president Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi has taken over as acting president. He is also acting supreme commander of the armed forces. What is going to happen next in Yemen is anybody's guess. Many seems to thik that it's 'game over' for Salreh, but the prevailing mood is one of great uncertainty.
Saleh arrived at King Khalid Air Base in Riyadh and was transferred to a military hospital. The extent of Saleh's injuries has been a matter of speculation. When the rocket struck the mosque in his presidential compound and splintered the pulpit, he was surrounded by senior government officials and bodyguards. Eleven guards died, and five officials standing nearby were seriously wounded and taken to Saudi Arabia.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Opposition victorious in second Yemeni city of Taiz

Tribes that shield the protesters in Yemen's second city Taiz, clash with troops of Ali Abdallah Saleh.

Fighting was very heavy on Saturday in Taiz., but the news at the end of that day was that the government troops withdrew and that the opposition took over several buildings.There is as yet  no news about causalties  The protesters together with the tribes that protected then ar now in the process of frming a committee that is going to rule the governorate. Details and names are not yet known.

Hadda, the area in San'a where the presidential palace is and where several Al-Ahmar bothers have residences, is bombarded from the surrounding hills  

Ten people were killed and 35 others injured in southern Sanaa on Friday as Yemeni troops shelled the home of Hamid al-Ahmar, the brother of Sadiq al-Ahmar, Hamid's office said on Saturday.
Hamid, a prominent businessman, is a leader of Yemen's biggest opposition party, Al-Islah (reform).
The shelling in Hada neighbourhood also targeted the homes of two of Sadiq's other brothers, Hemyar and Mizhij, and that of general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the dissident commander of the 1st armourd divison of the army. .
On Saturday, sources said the powerful Yemeni tribal federation battling Saleh's security forces and forces loyal to him agreed to abide to a Saudi-brokered one-week truce.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Yenemi president wounded, and other stories from the Arab Spring

Yemen tv showed Saleh's portrait when his audio message was played. Some sources say the president was more seriousley wounded than the world was made to believe.

 Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, says he is "well and in good health" after suffering injuries in an attack on his presidential palace in the capital, Sanaa. In an audio address delivered on state television on Friday night, Saleh said the strike, where "seven officers were martyred", was by an "outlaw gang" - by which he menat the opposition Hashed tribe led by Sadeq al-Ahmar.
Saleh was wounded when shells hit the mosque in the presidential palace compound where he and others officials were praying. At least three guards and Sheikh Ali Mohsen al-Matari, an imam at the presidential compound's mosque, died. 'Several other officials and officers'" were wounded. Saleh was taken to the defence ministry hospital to be treated for his injuries, which according to officials weere minor. Some sources - reliable sources according to blogster Jane Novak - said that his injuries are not that light at all.

Friday's attack came soon after Yemeni troops, who have deployed heavy weaponry in their battle against the tribesmen, sent a shell crashing into the home of Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, a leader of the biggest opposition party and brother of Sheikh Sadeq. A-Ahmar's office denied responsibility. It blamed Saleh himself for the attack, calling it part of his effort to help justify a government escalation of street fighting in the capital. Some say that the attack did not come from outside the compound, but that shells were fired from inside it

Tens of protesters shot dead during potests on Friday 3 June in 
Blood drips from the name 'Syria' on this placard carried during a demonstration.

Syrian security forces have opened fire on one of the largest anti-government protests in the 10-week uprising so far. In the central city of Hama at least 67 people were killed. The toll is likely to rise as many weree wounded. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the victims were killed as security forces dispersed a rally of more than 50,000.  Irony of history: In the same city of Hama some 10.000 - 25.000 people were killed in 1982 during an uprising against president Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad.
Syrian troops also pounded the central town of Rastan with artillery and gunfire for a seventh day on Friday, killing at least two people. The Local Co-ordination Committees, which helps organise and document Syria's protests, said troops also opened fire on residents fleeing the town.
Friday's protests reached nearly throughout the country, from a village in the south to a city in the northeast. Protesters even gathered in several Damascus suburbs, though the capital has not seen the kind of disruption as many other cities. Friday's deaths bring the toll in Rastan and nearby Talbiseh to 74 killed since last Saturday. The government cut internet service across most of the country, a potentially dire blow for a movement that motivates people with graphic YouTube videos of the crackdown and loosely organises protests on Facebook pages.
In the southern city of Daraa, where the uprising began 10 weeks ago, scores of people rallied in the city's old quarter, chanting "No dialogue with the killers of children," an activist said. The protesters were referring to a decree by Assad to set up a committee tasked with leading a national dialogue. The regime also released hundreds of political prisoners this week after Assad issued a pardon. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said leading Kurdish politician Mashaal Tammo and Muhannad al-Hassani, who heads the Syrian Organization for Human Rights, were released Thursday.

Bahrain: again teargas and bullets

Bahraini police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters marching against the government near the capital Manama, eyewitnesses say. The crackdown on Friday came just two days after the tiny Gulf kingdom's authorities lifted emergency rule. Clashes took place also earler this week around Manama.
The protesters in Manama were marching adjacent to the city's Pearl Roundabout, which was the epicentre of weeks of protests against the kingdom's Sunni rulers, with demonstrators in particular demanding more rights for the island nation's majority Shia population. There were no immediate reports of injuries during the protests, the eyewitnesses said. They spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.

Saleh's forces open fire at encampments on Change Square in Sana'a amid heavy fighting elsewhere

The building of Yemenia, the Yemeni national airline, caught fire on Thursday evening.

Various Yemeni sources report that on Thursday forces of president Ali Abdallah Saleh opened fire on the protesters who camp in Change Square in Sana'a. Snipers fired at the square from the roof of the Justice ministry at the east, others opened fore from other sides. An as yet unknown number of people has been wounded. In order to get an idea what they are fring on, look at the video under this posting, which starts with images from the encampments on the square by day. Here now a video from how it looked during the night, with the sounds of shots fired from nearby: 

The attacks started during a night when unusual heavy fighting broke out, heavier than the days before. A huge fire started in the Yemenia building in the Hasaba area. The Yemen Post wrote earlier that huge explosions are shaking Yemen's capital Sana'a, the battlefield for fierce clashes between the army and tribal fighters loyal to Sadeq Al-Ahmer, the sheikh of the Hashed tribes. According to the paper they are the biggest sofar since the clashes between both sides erupted early last week. Cannons and tanks were shelling positions of the tribal fighters in Al-Hasaba and nearby areas and that military vehicles are heading to the house of Al-Ahmar, whose office denied on Thursday the army had retaken public offices.
Earlier Thursday an official at the Interior Ministry said the army retook public offices that were seized by Al-Ahmer's loyalists including ministries.
" We already recovered the ministries of Local Administration and Trade and Industry, the permanent committee of the ruling party and other offices," the official said, as he pointed to continuous battles at the Interior Ministry.
Families have fled the district, and today Sana'a International Airport suspended flights due to the intensifying battles that triggered countries to urge their citizens to leave the country.
During the past two days, the republican guard shelled the first armoured division, whose commander,general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar once a close ally of President Saleh, announced his support to the popular uprising in March.
Video from Change Square:

Note that horrifying pictures of the butchery in Taiz, earlier this week, are included in the video. These are really beyond imagination. For more about this  look  down at my earlier posting about Taiz. 
It is incomprehensible that the world remains completely inactive vis a vis crimes of a magnitude as committed in Taiz. Let's hope that the story is not going to be repezted by Saleh in Sana'a...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sana'a airport closes as fighting intensifies

Fighting in Yemen continues unabated according to various sources, but details are very difficult to get by because of the powercuts and the interruption of communication lines. Reuters confirmed on Thursday that air traffic was halted and Sana'a airport was closed, apparently as a consequence of continued fighting in the north of the capital, where government forces were bombarding the residence of sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, the leader of the Hashed tribes. Wednesday night very heavy explosions were heard in Sana'a and some sources said that goverment troops who have their bases in the hills overlooking Sana'a were targeting Al-Ahmar's house with artillerie and rockets.
The Yemen Post meanwhile reported that the fighting had also spread out to the south of Sana'a, where the residence is located of Hussein al-Ahmar, the wealthiest brother of Sadeq al-Ahmar. The Yemen Post reported that units of the Republican Guard had gathered in the area, where also other Al-Ahmar familiy members have residences.
Some reports, which could not be verified, mentioned that the government troops shelled the headquarters of the 1st armoured brigade of the army, which is led by general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who went over to the opposition in March and whose troops are protecting the protesting crowds on Taghir (Change) Square in Sana'a. It is not the first time that was reported that president Saleh tried to draw Ali Mohsen's brigade into the fighting. Other reports aslo mentioned aerial bombardments in Amran, the home base of the Al-Ahmar.
Battlefield Sana'a:

Syrian regime continues killings, Bahraini's go back to the streets

Syrian opposition got symbol
Syrian forces again killed scores of people in attampts to stop the protests against the rule of president Bashar al-Assad. Lawyer Razan Zaitouna told Reuters by telephone from Damascus that 41 people were killed when troops shelled the centre of the town of Rastan. The dead included a four-year-old girl. Five people were buried in Rastan on Wednesday, she said.
Syrian forces also killed nine civilians on Tuesday in the town of Hirak, rights campaigner Ammar Qurabi said on Wednesday. The nine, among them three doctors, one dentist and an 11-year-old girl, were killed by snipers and during the storming of houses in Hirak, where tanks had deployed this week, Qurabi, who heads the Syrian Human Rights Organization, told Reuters. So far more than 1100 people have been killed during the uprising.

President Assad has issued decrees aimed at appeasing public grievances.State news agency SANA said on Wednesday Assad ordered the formation of a committee tasked with setting the framework for a national dialogue. On Tuesday he announced an amnesty for political prisoners. Rights campaigners said that the decree had numerous exceptions, specifying reduced sentences for many cases rather than release.
In the Turkish resort Antalya a meeting started of Syrina oppostion groups. The gathering is the first official meeting of activists and opposition figures in exile since protests erupted 10 weeks ago in Deraa.The meeting brought together a broad spectrum of opposition figures driven abroad over the last 30 years, from Islamists crushed in the 1980s, to fleeing Christians.

The Syrian resistance meanwhile got its symbol, like the Tunisians had Mohammed Bouazizi and the Egyptians Khaled Said. It is the 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib from the village of Jiza al-Deraa, near the city of Deraa. Pictures of him are carried al over Syria. Hamza disappeared a few weeks ago during a march and his family was not able to locate him until his body was returned a few days ago. On the internet a video circulates of his bruised and mutilated corpse (his penis was cut). It seems to be clear that he was tortured to death. Syrian authorities deny he was tortured and say he was killed when armed gangs shot at government forces. Under a video of Hamza's funeral.


 New unrest in Bahrain
 Bahraini troops have attacked anti-government protesters in several villages near the capital Manama, Al-Jazeera English reports. Despite the lifting of martial law on Wednesday, regime forces fired teargas, rubber- and live ammunition protesters who had poured into the streets to stage protest rallies in villages around Manama, including Diraz, Bani Jamrah and Karzakan, according to witnesses.
With the end of martial law, tanks and soldiers withdrew from the centre of Manama, the capital, but numerous police checkpoints remained around the city. A day earlier King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa offered a national dialogue with opposition figures on reforms.

However, opposition activists in Bahrain called for a "fresh wave" of anti-government protest rallies across the country on Wednesday, as a state of emergency imposed during a March crackdown on protesters has ended. "Protests are to be in main streets and squares ... the movement must return to important places ahead of the imminent return, God willing, to Martyr's Square," said a post on "February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition" Facebook page.
Nabeel Rajab, the vice president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera the government was not sincere in its lifting of the emergency law. "I think we are going to see more protests in the coming days. The lifting [of the] state [of] emergency it was more to attract the Formula One  ... which was going to act as an indicator if Bahrain has come to normal or not," he said. "The Bahraini government is desperately trying to send out the message that everything is back to normal, but it is not. Today Bahrainis are gathered again, protesting on the streets of all the villages, more than 40 different protests all around Bahrain  ...  all of them were attacked from the moment they started and many people were injured by live ammunition, rubber bullets or tear gas."
Two examples of police action:

PS The global campaign organisation Avaaz has started an action to call on Red Bull to withdraw its (winning) team from the Formule I Grand Prix that might be held in Bahrain. Here's a petition to sign: 
If Red Bull withdraws the GP might be held elswhere, which is the right signal to the Bahraini king, considering his repression of the opposition.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CO2 emissions hit new alarming peak in 2010

 One of the most frightening news items of the past few days was that CO2 emissions, which went down during the global crisis in 2009, went up again when the world economy started to recover in 2010. A rise of 5%, no less.
 AFP reported on Monday:

"Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history," the Paris-based IEA said in a statement posted on its website.
After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions climbed to a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt), a five-percent jump from the previous record year in 2008, the agency said.
Extra frightening is the observation that
... 80 percent of projected greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 from energy sources are "locked in" as they will come from power plants already operating or under construction.
"This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2.0 C (3.6 F)," said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol.
Climate scientists had hoped that international protocols and government efforts would hold the increase to 2.0 Celsius. Breaching that threshold sharply increases the risk of severe climate impacts, including flooding, storms, rising sea levels and species extinction, scientists have warned.
Another frightening detail is that the increase results mostly from rapidly developing economies like Chian and India:
The IEA estimated 40 percent of global emissions in 2010 came from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) club of advanced countries.

But these only accounted for a quarter of the annual emissions growth. The rest came came from rapidly developing countries, led by China and India.

On a per-capita basis, OECD countries emit on average 10 tonnes, compared with 5.8 tonnes for China, a voracious burner of coal, and 1.5 tonnes in India.
While the OECD countries are able to control the growth of their emission, countries like China, India and other emerging economies would reason that they cannot afford to limit the CO2 emission to the same extend, as this would have a severe impact on the possibilities to expand their economies.

The new CO2 peak comes as 189 countries prepare to resume the UN climate talks in Bonn. The Guardian writes that at these talks no final agreement is expected this year, because of continuing disagreements between rich and poor countries. But progress is expected to be made on reducing emissions from forestry and securing cash to enable the poorest countries to adapt their economies to increasingly severe climatic events. Climate change is not the only result of heightened CO2 emissions, also marine life will be endagered globally. 
"Some of the billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide we emit each year lingers in the atmosphere and causes it to heat up, driving global warming. But about 30% of that gas is absorbed by the oceans where it turns to carbonic acid. It is beginning to kill off coral reefs and shellfish beds and threaten stocks of fish. Very little can live in water that gets too acidic."

At least 41 more killed in Sana'a as battles continue

Woman protester in Sana'a wrote 'Kulena Taiz' (We are all Taiz) on her palms in a reaction to the massacre that took place in Taiz on Sunday and Monday.   

Heavy figfhting continued on Wednesday in the Yemeni capital Sana'a between forces loyal to president Ali Abdallah Saleh and forces of the Hashed tribes led by sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar. Explosions were heard and smoke billowed over the city. Details of the fights are scarce, however, due to power cuts, a news black-out and a shut down of the telephone exchanges. 
According to various sources and the press agency AP, at least 41 people have been killed in overnight shelling and street battles. The Hashed have recaptured most of the government buildings they earlier evacuated under a truce that collapsed on Monday. According to AP Presidential Guard units also shelled the headquarters of a brigade responsible for guarding sensitive government institutions. Army officers who have defected to the opposition say the government suspected the brigade commander was about to join the movement to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
In Taiz, where some 60 people are believed to have been killed when Saleh's forces and thugs opened fire on thousands of protesters on Freedom Square on Sunday, the situation remains very tense. At least 12 people were killed on Tuesday when protesters tried to hold a march onto the square and troops again fired into the crowd. 
Also in the southern town of Zinjibar, which was overrun by islamists on Saturday, the fighting seems to continue. At least 27 soldiers have been killed in the town since Friday. The number of dead civilians and militants remains unclear. A great number of inhabitans have fled the town. There is no new from battles that broke out on Tuesday in Aden and other cities in the south.