Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Not only the Muslim Brothers, but also Salafists big winners of the Egyptian elections

 Ballot counting at a polling station in Cairo (Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)

The preliminary results of the Egyptian elections show, as expected, that the Muslim Brotherhood is going to  win. The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Brotherhood, said in a statement that it is the biggest winner so far, followed by (the salafist) Al-Nour party and then the Egyptian Bloc. A spokesman of the Egyptian Bloc confirmed this.
It is believed that the FJP has won about 40% of the party lists and that te Egyptian Bloc, a coalition of several left-liberal parties, among them the Free Eyptians Party of the millionair Naguib Sawiris and the Social Democratic Party, got between 20 and 30%. The Muslim Brotherhood did also well with the individuel lists of workers/farmers and of professionals.
The FJP got most of its votes in Cairo's and Alexandria's popular disrtricts, in Fayoum and in Upper-Egypt, it seems. No surprises there. But the fact that Al-Nour scored as high as it did (particularly in the Delta) gave more reason for astonishment. Other islamist parties, be it moderates like Al-Wasat or radicals like the Jama'a al Islamiyya, also did relatively well. Al-Ahram Online quoted Diaa Rashwan, an expert on Islamic movements and head of the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, who said to expect Islamists, including the FJP, Salafists and Al-Jamaat Al-Islamyia, to win at least 65% of seats in the first round. 

Of course these are preliminary results. And this is also only the first of a series of three election dates on which different parts of Egyt go to the polls. But it's certainly indicative for a trend. It can be expected that the future Egyptian political landscape will be quite interesting, as it wil be dominated by a variety of islamist trends, ranging from the well known, old fashioned politics the old foxes of the Brotherhood use to practise,  to the Wasat-liberals  who bear a striking resemblance to the Turkish AK Party on the left, and the deeply conservative salafists on the right, who will stress the importance of traditional values above all other things. What is quite interesting as well, though, is that the Qutla, the Egyptian Bloc, did so extremely well. Who had thought that these brand new parties (except for the small leftist Unionist (Tagammu) party that is, which is one of the old ones), in some six months would gain some 20 or even 30%. From scratch. It is almost unbelievable.
An interesting development was that the head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Mohamed Morsi, Wednesday said that the parliament’s majority will appoint the new government and that it will be a coalition government. This is not what the military are saying and does not follow the existing scenario. The SCAF is appointing its own governement under Kamal al-Ganzouri irrespective of what the outcome of the elections will be. In fact the new parliament, that will convene not earlier than 17 March 2012,  will only serve to write a new constitution. But it is possible that Morsi's remark point to a new challenge for SCAF. Already the military have to deal with the Tahrir-youth who want a government of National salvation with ElBaradei at its head. The Muslim Brotherhood kept its distance from this controversy and also kept away from the last protests at Tahrir. Morsi's remark could mean that the Brotherhood intentionally saved its energy in order to start a campaign for a goverment of its own making only after the elections which it was sure to win anyway.

What was the other news fom Cairo? Yesterday evening a fight broke out between thugs and the protesters of Tahrir who are still there. Shots were fired, knives used and even molotov cocktails were thrown. The thugs, who seemed to have been organized (sent by the military? the ministry of the Interior?) were beaten back after heavy fighting on Adbdel Moneim Riad Square and Mahmoud Bassiouny Street near Tahrir. The paper Al Masry al-Youm mentioned that 108 people got wounded, some 20 of them seriously.
Other news - ven mor bizarre: Egypt is importing no less than 21 tons of  teargas from the US. The news came into the open after the port authorities in Suez initially refused to accept a first load of 7,5 tons, for fear that it was destined to use against protesters at Tahrir. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Egypt goes to the polls

In Alexandria, with bad weather. (Al-Masry al-Youm/Tarek Alfamarawy)

In Cairo, in the Manial district. (Mahmoud Hams/AFP/Getty)

Sometimes the army secured the order (Al-Masry al-Youm/Mohammed Rashed ).

Polling station in Damietta (Al-Masry al-Youm/ Al-Sayed al-Baz)

Women in the well to do district of Zamalek await their turn (Odd Andersen/AFP)

Tahrir on election day. The hard core people of the protest movement do not vote and stay at their tents. (Karim Hakiki/France24)

 Queuing in Assiut. (Lauren Bohn)

UN panel: orders to shoot to kill came from highest Syrian echelons

Investigators of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva have released a new report accusing Syrian government officials and leaders of the country's military and security forces of ordering mass atrocities in efforts to crush anti-government protests.
The Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria said on Monday that Syrian government forces committed crimes against humanity, including the killing and torturing of children, and held state officials responsible for murder, rape and torture. The panel interviewed 223 victims and witnesses, including defectors from President Bashar al-Assad's security forces who told of shoot-to-kill orders against  demonstrators and cases of children being tortured to death. At least 256 children had been killed by government forces as of early November, with some boys sexually tortured, the panel said.
"The commission believes that orders to shoot and otherwise mistreat civilians originated from policies and directives issued at the highest levels of the armed forces and the government," the panel said in its report.
Amnesty International has called on the Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court, order an arms embargo and freeze the assets of Assad and his associates. Human Rights Watch said the UN Human Rights Council must refer the Syria case to the Security Council and call for it "to impose targeted sanctions and refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court".Because of the internal divisions, the Security Council has so far only agreed to a statement, with less moral weight, against the violence in Syria. The 193 member UN General Assembly passed a resolution last week deploring the violence.

Government in Kuwait resigns

Sheikh Nasser
The government of Kuwait has resigned after its Prime Minister, Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, had been increasingly under pressure over allegations that 15 MPs were paid bribes to support the government.
Opposition lawmakers and protesters stormed parliament earlier this month to demand sheikh Nasser's resignation.At least 45 people were later arrested.
  The government will remain in charge until a new government is formed. Opposition MPs have welcomed Sheikh Nasser's resignation and have called for the formation of a transitional government.

"We are waiting for the appointment of a new prime minister before parliament is dissolved in order to be assured of fair elections," opposition MP Khaled al-Sultan told the AFP news agency.

Sheikh Nasser has been in office for five years and has presided over seven different governments during that period

Monday, November 28, 2011

Human Rights NGO: Egyptian security forces fired deliberately at eyes of protesters

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a human rights group in Egypt, has issued a report claiming that many injuries resulting of the last few days of demonstrations in Cairo, were the result of deliberate attempts by the security forces to harm the protesters. The EIPR reports that there were 60 eye injuries at one hospital alone.

A large number of video recordings made by demonstrators and eyewitnesses proved that the targeting of the eyes was intentional. Perhaps the most notorious clip is one circulating on the internet which clearly shows an officer firing on demonstrators in Mohamed Mahmoud Street. A soldier then congratulates him on hitting a demonstrator's eye, saying: 'Nice one, you hit the guy's eye.'

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights' (EIPR) preliminary investigations into the attacks on demonstrators in Tahrir confirmed that security forces deliberately fired birdshot pellets and rubber bullets in the direction of demonstrators' bodies. This use of force was intended to injure demonstrators rather than to disperse them, which led to several of them losing the use of their eyes. The EIPR underlined the need to charge elements of the Interior Ministry with assault causing permanent disability, in the ongoing public prosecutor's investigations into attacks on demonstrators in Mohamed Mahmoud Street and Tahrir Square.

The high rate of eye injuries leaves no doubt as to a pattern of intentionally aiming birdshot pellets and rubber bullets at the eyes of demonstrators", said Magda Boutros, Criminal Justice Reform Director at EIPR. "We will not let this atrocious crime go unpunished." Kasr el-Aini hospital alone received 60 cases of eye injuries between the 19th November and the morning of the 27th November. According to the records of those injured and held in Kasr el-Aini hospital, eye injuries varied between burst corneas, burst eye sockets and foreign bodies in different parts of the eye.

For the rest of the report, click here

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sanctions against Syria, and other news from Yemen, Morocco and Saudi Arabia

Nabil Al-Arabi and Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jasim
SYRIA - Sanctions - Arab foreign ministers on Sunday agreed sweeping sanctions against Damascus to punish President Bashar al-Assad's regime for failing to halt a deadly crackdown on protests, as the death toll in Syria kept on climbing, AFP reported from Cairo.
As another 23 civilians were reported dead in Syria, the 22-member Arab League announced an immediate ban on transactions with the Syrian government and central bank and a freeze on Syrian government assets in Arab countries.
Further measures including a ban on Syrian officials visiting any Arab country and the suspension of flights are to be implemented at a date fixed at a meeting next week.
Syrian state television reacted with a terse statement saying the Arab League's action against a member state was "an unprecedented measure" as hundreds of people gathered in Damascus to protest against the measures.

Nineteen Arab League members voted for the sanctions, but Iraq abstained and said it would refuse to implement them, while Lebanon "disassociated itself," Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Hamad said. Syria is a suspended member. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zeybari, whose country thrives on trade with Syria, said ahead of Sunday's vote it was "not possible" to impose sanctions on Assad's regime.
According to Syria's bureau of statistics, 52.5 percent of all Syrian exports went to Arab countries in 2009 while 16.4 percent of imports came from Arab nations.
Iraq tops the list of importers, buying up 31.4 percent of outgoing Syrian goods.
Nasser Judeh, the foreign minister of Jordan whose imports travel by land across Syrian territory, also expressed concerns after the vote which his country endorsed.
"The impact of such decisions on Arab countries, particularly neighbours (of Syria)... must be taken into consideration," he said.

Mohamed Basindwah
YEMEN - Government - Vice President Abdu Rabu Hadi  has charged Mohammed Salem Basindwah with forming the national reconciliation council. Also he fixed the date for presidential elections at 21 February.  Basindwah was the candidate of the opposition National Council. He is is a former Foreign Minister and served under President Saleh for more than 20 years. According to the power transfer deal, both the opposition and ruling party will each get 50 percent of cabinet seats in the new government.
Local sources in Dammaj, Sa’ada told the Yemen Post meanwhile that at least 24 civilians were killed in the ongoing Houthi attacks in Dammaj Sa’ada against Sunni Muslims. The injury toll over the last 24 hours is more than 65. Houthis, a Shia movement in Yemen that is expanding quickly with the use of arms, has been able to grow in territory during the 10 months struggle to oust President Saleh from power. Senior members in the movement said that more than 100,000 fighters listen to commands from their spiritual leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi. Houthis control now control strategic border areas with Saudi Arabia.
Humn Rights Watch reported that Yemeni troops appear to have unlawfully killed as many as 35 civilians in the city of Taizz since a United Nations Security Council resolution demanded on October 21, 2011 that Yemen stop attacks on civilians. Most of these civilians were killed in artillery shelling by the Yemeni army that indiscriminately struck homes, a hospital, and a public square filled with protesters, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.

Abdelilah Benkiran
MOROCCO- Elections - The moderate islamist Parti Justice et Development (PJD) has won the Moroccan parliamentary elections of 25 November, the interior Ministry in Rabat has announced. The party got 107 out of 395 seats (was 47 in a parliament of 325 seats). Second came the Istiqlal (Independence) party of the outgoing Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi (60 seats), and third the Rassemblement national des indépendants (RNI) of  minister of Finances and Economy, Salaheddine Mezouar, (52 seats). It is expected that king Mohamed VI will ask Abdelilah Benkirane, the secretary general of the PJD, to form a new government. 
 The elections took place against the background of a referendum in July about reforms of the constitution that gave some more powers to the parties, but that most people did not take very seriously.  The pro democracy 20 February Movement for that reasons had issued calls to boycot the elections. AP reports that there was only a 45 percent turnout on Friday, and that many of those who went to vote turned in blank ballots or crossed out every party listed to show their dissatisfaction with the system.Election observers from the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute estimated that up to a fifth of the ballots they saw counted had been defaced in such a way.

SAUDI ARABIA - Unrest. Qush Qatif in the Easter province of Saudi Arabia, where the population is mainly Shiite, has seen riots several times since March of this year. Eralier this week security forces shot dead a 19-year old in te city, which led to new riots. An official statement by the Interior Ministry Thursday (24 November) reported that a number of security check points, vehicles, and personnel had come under fire in Al-Qatif by riot makers in several areas of Ash-Sharqiyah region and in an accelerating manner since Monday.

The shootings left two citizens dead, and six others were injured including a woman and two security officers. There was also an exchange of fire at the funeral procession of one of the victims, according to the statement. Under is a video which circulated on the internet, in which can be seen that a vehicle of the security forces tries to run over some citizens.

ElBaradei willing to lead government of national salvation

El Masry el Youm reports that presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei issued a statement Saturday night declaring his willingness to head a 'national salvation government' if he was asked officially to do so and was given full powers. ElBaradei’s statement came after revolutionary groups and Tahrir protesters had named a national salvation government to replace the military council in ruling the transitional period with ElBaradei at its head. Others to take part in the government include two other presidential candidates: Abdel Moneim Abdoul Fotouh (moderate Islamist), Hamdeen Sabbahi (Nasserist Karameh Party). Also proposed as canddates for this government are Al-Ahram economics journalist Ahmed El-Naggar, and Judge Ashraf Baroudy.
ElBaradei says in the statement that, if assigned officially to form the government, he will withdraw from the presidential race "to ensure confidence and total neutrality in his leadership of the transitional period."
ElBaradei's statement highlights the divisions between the revolutionaries at Tahrir and the military who have named Kamal al-Ganzouri (78) as the new prime minister with the task to form a new government. Al-Ganzouri started to consult with candidates in the National Planning Institute, as the entrance to the government offices is still being blocked by a sit in. This sit in was started Friday evening, immediately after the SCAF appointed Al-Ganzouri. On Saturday a 19-old protesrter was illed by a heavy CSF-truck that overrran him. The ministry of the Interior issued a statement that it was an accident.
Ganzouri was willing to include some of the young revolutionairies in his government, but the 6 April Movement and the Revolution Youth Coalition said in separate statements that none of them have attended El-Ganzouri’s meeting with some youth, by the end of which his suggestion was made. El-Ganzouri also said that he was willing to form a consultancy council that includes presidential hopefuls Mohamed ElBaradei, Hazem Salah Abou-Ismail and others proposed by Tahrir Square protesters for a national salvation government, according to Al Ahram Online. But both Youth Movements also reiterated their demand to appoint a national salvation government and said that there was no alternative. It is expected that this demand will be accompanied by another mass demonstration at Tahrir Square on Sunday.
AFP reported that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi warned on Sunday that no one will be allowed to pressure the armed forces. He also asked Mohamed ElBaradei and another Presindetial canidadate, Amr Moussa, to support newly appointed prime minister Kamal El-Ganzouri, after he had had a breief meeting with already on Saturday. Tantawi, who is expetected to give a press conference later,  also confirmed that parliamentary elections will take place as scheduled. Tomorrow sees polls open in the first round of six, covering both upper and lower houses of parliament.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Big demonstration on Tahrir, Egypte gets 'two governments'

Tahrir on Friday 25 November. The square does not need the Muslim Brotherhood to make its point vis à vis the military. The main demand is for the SCAF to go and the  picture speaks for itself. Al-Ahram Online which gives live updates (here) says that also demonstrations take place in Alexandria, Mansoura and Damanhour in the delta, as well as in Miniya, Assiut, Sohaq and Luxor in Upper Egypt and in Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai.
In the meantime there's also a big demonstration being held in the Abassiya district of pro-SCAF people who want the military to stay and who shout anti-Tahrir slogans ( the picture was tweeted by CNN's Ben Wedemann).  

AP reports that Kamal al-Ganzoury, the man who was appointed by the SCAF to be Egypt's new prime minister, in spite of demands by the opposition for an immediate transfer of power,  gave a press conference Friday afternoon, in which he said that the military had given him greater powers than his predecessor Al- Sharaf. Ganzouri said Friday that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi has no intention of staying in power and he would not have accepted the job if that was the case. In the televised news conference, the 78-year-old prime minister looked uncomfortable, grasping for words and repeatedly pausing. He sayd he won't be able to form a government before parliamentary elections start on Monday, and asked for time. Some 2000 protesters assembled in front of the offices of the cabinet near Tahrir, and tried to prevent that Al-Ganzoury entered the building.

The appointment of Ganzoury by the SCAF was, as expected, immediately rejected by the protesters on Tahrir as an extremely provocative move in view of the demand that the military relinquish power immediately.  Representatives of several oppositional and youth movements named their own government of 'national salvation', later that  Friday afternoon. Their  government is led by  former IAEA head Mohamed El-Baradei, with two other presidential hopefulls, Hamdeen Sabahi, leader of the Nasserist Karama Party, and Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Futtouh of the islamist Wasat party as Deputy Prime Ministers. Two other members of the proposed Baradei cabinet which were name by consensus were Ahram economic journalist, Ahmed El-Naggar, and Judge Ashraf Baroudy. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tahrir expects new million man protest on Friday in ongoing confrontation with the SCAF

Barbed wire in Mohamed Mahmoud Street at the corner of the old building of the American University in Cairo. The picture of this army barricade was made by Karim Hakiki of France24.   

Update: Al-Jazeera tv reported that  Egypt's ruling military council asked former prime minister Kamal Ganzouri to form a new government. It gave no sources. Ganzouri was Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999 under Mubarak. He ratined a relatively good reputation, but the fact that he served under Mubarak inevitably will draw criticism.

Tahrir Square and surrounding streets are relatively quiet on Tursday after a truce has been reached that became affective as from midnight on Wednesday. Military police has cordoned off the area around the ministry of the Interior, which results in somewhat surrealistic scenery, like the above picture.
The army gave a press conference in which it apologized for the dead - the number stands at 39 at the moment all but four of them in Cairo - and promised compensation for them and for the more than 2000 wounded. Also the army made clear that the parliamentary elections will be held as scheduled, on Monday. (Several political parties and public figures had suggested to postpone them two weeks). Also the SCAF said that it will appoint a new Prime Minister and not a whole new cabinet, as it will be the Prime Minister's task to find the other ministers. And last but not least it made known that SCAF will transfer its power to a civilian authority not earlier than after the presidential elections in the summer of 2012, as otherwise 'it would be a betrayal the trust of the people'.  
 The confrontation between the protesters and the army is therefore far from over. The activists have called for a new million man protest on Friday, which many think, may turn out to be decisive. The protest is dubbed the “Friday of Justice for the Martyrs” and according to the Revolutionary Youth Coalition the main demands are:
- The speedy prosecution of security officers responsible for the death of protesters, regardless of their respective rank and position;
- The appointment of a government of  “national salvation” to manage the country until presidential elections are held;
- The radical reformation of the Egyptian Ministry of Interior, including the dismantling of the infamous Central Security Forces (amn al-merkazi) division.

U.N. report: Illegal prisoners and torture in NATO-liberated Libya

The Independent has a scoop:
Thousands of people, including women and children, are being illegally detained by rebel militias in Libya, according to a report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Many of the prisoners are suffering torture and systematic mistreatment while being held in private jails outside the control of the country's new government.

The document, seen by The Independent, states that while political prisoners being held by the Gaddafi regime have been released, their places have been taken by up to 7,000 new “enemies of the state”, "disappeared" in a dysfunctional system, with no recourse to the law.

The report also stresses that it is a matter of great praise that the country has been liberated after 42 years of totalitarian rule. The victorious opposition - which formed a new interim government this week - fully intends to follow a democratic path and introduce a functioning legal system, he says. The report is due to be circulated among members of the UN Security Council, and discussed next week.

However, Ban Ki-moon also presents a grim scenario of the growing power of the armed militias that control of the streets of many towns, including those of the capital, Tripoli, and the settling of internecine feuds through gun battles resulting in deaths and injuries.
Meanwhile the lawlessness has resulted in the vast majority of the police force not being able to return to work. In the few places where they have been back on duty under experienced officers, such as Tripoli, their role has been restricted largely to directing traffic.
(For the whole article click here)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Report: Bahrain used 'excessive force' to suppress pro democracy demonstrations

Video of Bahraini security  forces deliberately shooting with live ammunition at protesters, 18 February 2011.

The security forces in Bahrain used excessive force to suppress demonstrations for reform earlier this.year and used torture among other things to obtain confessions. That is the conclusion of a panel of inquiry that published its report today, Wednesday. The panel was led by the Egyptian-American law expert Cherif Bassiouni and formed and funded by Bahrain's government five months ago in an attempt to address charges of human rights abuses during the crackdown.

Inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrainis took to the streets in February to protest against the government, triggering a crackdown in March that included mass unrests and the use of force. In Bahrain the majority is Shiite, while the governing elite is Sunni. The ruling family accused Iran of instigating the unrising.  It was the worst unrest in Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based, since sectarian-tinged political violence shook the kingdom in the mid-1990s. Bahrain called in Saudi and UAE troops to help crush the protests. The panel said 35 people were killed, including five security personnel. It urged a review of sentences handed down to those held responsible for the turmoil.
 The United States has said a $53 million arms deal depends on what the report says. Bahrain has already admitted security forces used excessive force in some cases, while denying any coordinated policy of torture. In a statement issued on Monday it said that 'the government had carried out its own assessments and conducted its own investigations. These investigations have revealed things to praise as well as things to deplore. Regrettably, there have been instances of excessive force and mistreatment of detainees. This was in violation of government policy. Twenty prosecutions against the officers involved have been initiated," the statement said.

It remains questionable whether the conclusions of the report could not have been reached without this inquiry. Also it remains to be seen whether the ruling family of Al-Khalifah is going to do anything to pimprove gthe sitaution. The complete report (almost 500 pages) can be found here.

Yemeni president Saleh finally put signature to deal about transfer of power

  Ali Abdallah Saleh finally signs the agreement about the transfer of power. 

Reuters reports that President Ali Abdallah Saleh of Yemen on Wednesday finally signed a deal with the Yemeni oppostion about the transfer of power. Yemeni state television showed live coverage of the ceremony in the Saudi capital Riyad. The opposition already agreed to the deal in March, after it had been brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council. But Saleh broke no less than three times his promises to go along. This fourth time, however, he finally put his signature under an agreement, the final details of which had been worked out on Monday evening, as the Yemen Post wrote.
The deal will see him leave office in 30 days, making way for Vice President Abedrabbo Mansur Hadi to negotiate a power transfer with the opposition. Saleh will now seek medical treatment in New York, UN leader Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday. "If he comes to New York I will be happy to meet him," the secretary general added, saying he was "encouraged by the positive development of the situation in Yemen."
Vice-President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi
 According to the Yemen Post Saleh will remain the country's official president under the agreement, although without any real powers. As for the famous "military dossier" upon which Saleh had serious reservations since it meant for his nephews and sons to abandon their leading positions, a compromise was reached, according to the paper. From now on a Military Committee headed by Vice President Hadi will oversee all operations. Moreover, the ruling party announced that Saleh as President of the Republic of Yemen would retain the following powers:  The implementation of the GCC initiative, the nomination of a new government, the calling for presidential election. 'He will remain the constitutional president and will also be the head of the (leading party) the General People's Congress," said a president loyalist. It remains to be seen whether revolutionaries will welcome the agreement or reject it. One provision of it is that Saleh is granted immunity from prosecution, which is unacceptable to many. In Sana'a the tension is very high, Wednesday sporadic clashes broke out again between government troops at one side and the troops of general Ali Mohsen who  and tribal forces of Sadq al-Ahmar at the other.
Saleh as a young officer. 
It is clear, however, that Saleh's rule now, whatever may happen, after 33 years will come to an end. Saleh was when he came to power a rather unkwnown 36-year old officer, who many thought would not stay on for long. He was seen as a possible interim figure after president Ahmed al-Ghashmi had been killed by a bomb in the briefcase of an envoy from the leaders of  (the then still communist) South-Yemen with whom the north had a conflict. Saleh, however, quickly established his power and put many of his relatives in key positions, something that still is the case today. His son Ahmed, for instance, leads the Republican Guard which is in the forefront of the respression of protesters and the fight with opposition forces, like the forces of the Hashed confederation of tribes, under Sadeq al-Ahmar.
 A US diplomatic cable in 2009 released by WikiLeaks spoke of a leader who had grown increasingly autocratic. It quoted Saleh's cousin Mohammed al-Qadhi as saying that "since 1994, he decided that he was the only man capable of making decisions in this country."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Brookings' yearly Arab survey: Turkey gave the best example

 NATO intervention in libya, 46% thought it was the wrong thing to do.

Jim Lobe of IPS reviews the annual "Arab Public Opinion Survey" conducted by Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution, which, as he reports,  concludes that Turkey is viewed as having played the "most constructive" role in the past year's events. Its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, emerged as the most admired leader by far in the region. 
The 2011 edition of this annual annual survey, which was conducted during the last half of October, was based on detailed interviews of some 3,000 respondents from urban centres in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It also included Saudi Arabia, the results from which, however, arrived too late to be weighted with the other five countries. 
Most Arabs, according to the new poll, continue to believe that Washington's policies in the Middle East are mainly driven by its desire to control oil and protect Israel from its Arab neighbours. Only five percent said they believe the U.S. is driven by the desire to spread human rights or democracy.
As in previous surveys, Israel and the United States are also seen as posing by far the greatest foreign threats to Arabs – at least several times greater than Iran despite the fact that a majority believe Tehran is trying to develop nuclear weapons and that its success in that effort would have a "negative" impact on the region.
The poll also found overwhelming support for opposition forces battling autocratic governments in Syria (86 percent) and Yemen (89 percent), as well as strong support in the region for the opposition in Bahrain (64 percent), although majorities in the two Gulf countries – the UAE and Saudi Arabia – said their sympathies lay more with the Al-Khalifa monarchy, according to Telhami.
It also showed a striking ambivalence about the foreign intervention in Libya that contributed to the eventual ouster – and killing – of Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Asked to assess, in retrospect, the intervention, 35 percent of respondents said it was the "right thing to do", while 46 percent said it was the "wrong thing to do". 

Of the Egyptians, when asked about their perceptions of the intention of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), 21 percent said it was to "advance the gains of the revolution", while more than twice that number (43 percent) said it was to "slow or reverse" the revolution's gains. Fourteen percent said the SCAF was "indifferent". And when Egyptians were asked what foreign country they wanted their political system to most closely resemble, 44 percent chose Turkey, followed by France at 10 percent, and Saudi Arabia, China, and Germany at eight percent each.
(Click here for IPS's complete article, and here for the complete Brookings survey)

Egypt's revolution enters second stage

The Egyptian revolution has really reached a second stage today with at least a million people present at Tahrir Square, while also in many other places in Egypt mass demonstrations were taking place. In Alexandria, thousands of protesters reached the Northern District military command. In Cairo battles continued between protesters and CSF troops in Mohamed Mahmoud Street off Tahrir Square. All day victims have been ferried from the front to the field hospitals in and around the square, adding to the growing number of casualties from these four days.
Protesters in Suez flock to Arbaeen Square as the pressure mounts on the military council to recognise this week for what it is: a mass uprising against its rule. According to the April 6 Youth Movement, mass protests are also being held in the cities of Qena,Beni-Soueif, Al-Sharqiya, and Al-Wadi Al-Gadid.
Tahrir Square this afternoon. (Photo AP)

Meanwhile political figures and representatives had a meeting with General Sami Anan, Army chief of Staff and member of the SCAF in the afternoon. The chairman of Al-Wasat Party, Abu El-Ela Mady, told Al Hayat TV channel after the meeting that the following was agreed: 
- Holding presidential elections on 30 June 2012 while parliamentary elections will stay on schedule.
- Allowing freedom of protest and sit-ins.
- An immediate release of the detainees arrested since last Saturday.
- Forming a new 'national salvation' unity government.
- The SCAF has no problem in having a referendum on whether the Army should return to their baracks or not.
The meeting with general Anan took place after activists from several political currents in Tahrir Square in the morning had proposed a national salvation government consisting of presidential candidates Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi, Abdel Moneim Abou El-Fotouh and Hazem Salah Abou-Ismail, in order to represent different political factions and make unified political decisions.
The proposal also includes selecting a judge to serve in the government from Zakaria Abdul Aziz, Mahmoud El-Khodeiry and Ahmed Mekki, who are well respected and known for their integrity.
The April 6 Movement, one of Egypt's most popular movements with political clout, has made similar proposals, calling for a presidential council composed of Mohamed ElBaradei, Abdel Moneim Abou El-Fotouh, Hazem Salah Abou-Ismail,  and judge Zakaria Abdul Aziz. The movement also left a seat open for a military representative selected by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The government of Essam Sharaf tendred its rsignation on Monaday evening.

 It was expected that Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi would confirm the agreement that had been reached with general Anan, in een tv-speech at the beginning of the evening. However the marshall gave a less than convincing performance. Tantawi confirmed that the SCAF had accepted the resignation of the Sharaf-government, but he said no more than that a new government will be formed. Also he confirmed that elections will be held on scheme , 28 November for the parliament, and the presidential elections no later than June 1012. The SCAF, he said moreover,  was willing to hold a referendum whether the army should return to its baracks.
But for the rest his speech was one lengthy apology for the role of the army - which, as he said, always consulted with the people, which had no wish to stay in power, which wanted to protects the will of the Egyptian people, which had not shot one bullet at an Egyptian citizen, which stopped to refer accused to military trials after it had been asked to do so, and so on. He also said that the army had been patient in dealing with multiple attempts to smear its reputation and patriotism over the last few months, that still some people continued to doubt the honest intentions of the SCAF, and that many continued to instigate divisions between the army and the people.
Tantawi's speech was greeted on Tahrir with loud shouts of 'The people want the removal of the marshall' and 'Down, down with military rule'.   

Egypt politically adrift after violent clashes of the last days

Midan Tahrir on Monday night. (Reuters)

 Egypt seems is adrift after the events of the past few days. The protesters are demanding the formation of a  temporary government of national salvation and a clear timetable for the presidential elections. They hope that at least a million people will come to Tahrir today, Tuesday, in order to stress these demands. 

Al Ahram Online:  The Revolutionary Youth Coalition (RYC), has  issued a statement – along with 37 other political parties and groups – calling for a million-man protest in Tahrir Square on Tuesday to demand the dismissal of the Essam Sharaf government; the formation of a national salvation government; presidential elections by April 2012; and total reform of the interior ministry, including the dismantling of the Central Security Forces and accountability for those guilty of violence against protesters.

Meanwhile the Sharaf-governement itself already tendered its resignation following the violence against the protesters. Al Ahram Online reports: Following a meeting of the Crisis Management group of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, and a later meeting between Sharaf and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a government spokesman announced that Sharaf had submitted his government's resignation to SCAF on Monday evening.
The government spokesman, Mohamed Hegazi, said that "in appreciation of the critical situation in which the country is passing through, the government will continue to perform its duties until such a time as the SCAF decides upon the resignation."

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) "invited all the political and national forces for an emergency dialogue to look into the reasons behind the aggravation of the current crisis and ways to resolve it as quickly as possible," it said in a statement carried by the MENA news agency.

The SCAF expressed its "deep sorrow over the deaths and injuries during the recent painful events, and offered its deepest condolences to the families of the victims."
It said it ordered security forces "to take all necessary measures to secure the demonstrators and to exercise the utmost restraint."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Political situation in Egypt unclear after fresh rounds of heavy fighting leave 35 dead and 1000+ wounded

Update Monday afternoon, 14.00
 AP reports that an Egyptian morgue official says the death toll has climbed to 35 during the third straight day of violence that has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military. Most of the deaths were in the area around Cairo's central Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak in February.
Absurd number! End of Update.

Makeshift tents are burning after the police on Sunday evacuated the protesters. (Photo EPA)
 Fresh waves of protests started throughout Egypt after clashes between police and protesters refusing to leave Tahrir Square on Saturday left two dead and 676 injured as police violence escalated a few days before parliamentary elections. The police’s decision to evacuate Tahrir Square early Saturday morning backfired, as their heavy-handed tactics against the small overnight protesters enraged activists and prompted tens of thousands to flock to the epicentre of January’s revolution to insist on their right to protest. Waves of the notorious Central Security Forces (CSF) were being rushed to the scene in ever greater numbers in attempts to disperse demonstrators.
 The clashes were the beginning of new protests and heavy fighting in Cairo and in other places in Egypt that killed at least 22 people (one of them in Alexandria) and according to firgures released by the Egyptian ministry of Health, left more than 1000 wounded. Early Monday morning the protesters again succeeded in beating back an attack by the police.  
 Following the clashes in Tahrir Square on Saturday, 18 political forces announced an open-ended sit-in early Sunday and have urged all national forces and movements to stage sit-ins across the country. In a statement, the forces said they have decided to stage the sit-in because they believe remnants of the old regime are still running the country, and given the lack of a clear timetable for a transition of power to an elected civilian government.
The forces said that the political movements and forces of the revolution are the only source of authority in the country and have decided to revive the January 25 Revolution. They added that they will continue their sit-in until Essam Sharaf's government is immediately dissolved, a national salvation government, which will oversee the transitional period along with parliamentary and presidential elections, is formed, and the ruling military junta is stripped of its political cout.
The groups are also demanding that parliamentary elections are held on their scheduled date, that presidential elections are held on 1 April 2012, and that the Interior Ministry be reformed.
Among the 18 forces that released the statement are the Revolution Youth Coalition, the 6 April Movement (Democratic Front), the Revolution's Protectors Council, the Revolution Youth Alliance, the Free Movement for Peaceful Change, and the Egyptian Current.
Wounded protester is evacuated (Photo AP)

 The security forces on Sunday afternoon again tried to evacuate the protesters from Tahrir. But the protesters came back in the early hours of the evening and succeeded to expell the military police and soldiers – dressed in riot gear and wielding bludgeons and electroshock weapons – who stood before rows of Central Security Forces (CSF) firing barrage after barrage of tear gas, runbber bullets and also birdshot  The streets of downtown Cairo looked like battle zones, filled with toxic gas, fleeing protesters and fires  burning. Heavy fighting continued in side streets off the central plaza, particularly around the area of the interior ministry where a large contingent of riot troops has been stationed to ward off protesters. Elswhere in Egypt, in Alexandria, Port Said, Tanta, Mansoura and Sohag also fights took place. In Suez, a large urban centre on the Suez canal, protesters clashed with armed police who fired teargas in an attempt to disperse crowds.

 Presidential candidate Amr Moussa said in an tv-interview: “We are in a very dangerous situation. We have to end the use of force, which was not justified. We should engage in dialogue.'' Moussa said that dealing with peaceful sit-ins and demonstrations in such a violent way would only worsen the situation.”
Fellow presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei echoed Moussa’s sentiment, describing the excessive force used by the police as “barbaric.”"It's yet another indication that Scaf and the current government are failing to govern and I fully sympathise with the increasing calls coming from different quarters, including Tahrir, for a new government of national salvation that represents all shades of Egyptian society, one with full power.

Many activists lost eyes , as the police aimed at at head level.

The April 6 youth movement said the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) was now “wearing the mask” of ousted president Hosni Mubarak following the clashes in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other governorates. “All the masks are falling off, one after another. The mask of Mubarak, who is now ruling the country, has been unveiled,” the movement stated on its Facebook page. “After the Egyptian people taught him a lesson, Mubarak has maintained his arrogant attitude, expanded his tyranny and continued to brutally repress the people who were injured during the January revolution.”

Two killed, 676 wounded in clashes with police in Egypt

Clashes erupted between protesters and police in Cairo and two other Egyptian cities, killing two people and wounding hundreds in the biggest security challenge yet for the country's ruling generals days before scheduled elections.
Hundreds of youths chanted "The people want to topple the regime" in central Cairo on Saturday as they rushed toward riot police, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas.Witnesses said the clashes appeared to have subsided early on Sunday.
During Saturday's clashes, protesters broke chunks of cement from pavements and hurled them at police, who lost control of Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square twice in the day.
A blaze broke out around midnight at the huge Mogamma state administration building overlooking Tahrir.
As police fired round after round of tear gas at protesters near the interior ministry, closer to Tahrir demonstrators laid sheets of metal to block roads into the square.
"I tell you do not leave the square. This square will lead the way from now on," presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a hardline Islamist, told a group of protesters early on Sunday. "Tomorrow the whole of Egypt will follow your lead."
State news agency MENA quoted the health ministry's spokesman as saying 676 people had been hurt in Cairo and that Ahmed Mahmoud, a 23-year-old demonstrator, died in hospital. MENA reported another death in Egypt's second city Alexandria.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Large demonstration in Bahrain

Thousands of Shiite-led protesters calling for greater rights have streamed into an area outside the capital Manama. Friday's rally was one of the largest demonstrations in weeks against the Gulf kingdom's Sunni rulers.
Some of the protesters carried tents, suggesting an attempt to occupy the site in A'ali, about three kilometers southeast of Manama.
Others waved flags from nations where Arab uprisings have toppled regimes, such as Libya and Tunisia. Security forces did not make an immediate attempt to intervene.
Bahrain's majority Shiites began protests in February calling for a stronger voice in the nation's affairs. Sunni leaders have offered reforms, but refuse to give up control of top government posts.

Power sharing agreement in Tunisia



Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda party and its two coalition partners have reached agreement in principle to share out the top three government posts between them, senior sources from two coalition parties told Reuters on Friday.
Under the deal, the most powerful post, of prime minister, will go to Hamadi Jbeli, secretary-general of the Islamist Ennahda party which won last month's election, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Moncef Marzouki, leader of the secularist Congress for the Republic, a junior coalition partner, is to be named Tunisian president, and Mustafa Ben Jaafar, leader of third coalition partner Ettakatol, will be speaker of the constitutional assembly, the sources said.
 The three parties have "an agreement in principle but it is not official yet," said one of the sources. The other source said an announcement would be made in the next few days.

Ben Jaafar
Last month's election was for an assembly which will sit for a year to draft a new constitution.
Once that is done, it will be dissolved and new elections will be called for a legislature and possibly a president, depending on what new system of government the assembly chooses.
There is no formal role for Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi. Some observers say he may have his eye on the president's job when new elections come around.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Islamists versus the army, a new phenomenon in Egypt

Impression by Al Ahram Online of the demonstration.

Hundreds of thousand of people all over Egypt have demonstrated on Friday, according to Al Ahram, against  the way the military is handling the expected handover of the power to civilian institutions. The main ire of the protesters was directed towards a document about the make-up of a constituent Assembly that has to be formed after the parliamentary elections of 28 November and that has the task of drawing up a new constitution. The disputed document, called the Selmy-document after deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmi who oversaw the process of drawing it up, gives the army an important say in the formation of this assemble and the process of writing the new constitution.
Of the participating Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), were the most visible, outnumbering their counterparts. The group has notably boycotted most of the million-man marches that took place following the popular 18-day uprising. Apart from flags, shirts and green caps emblazoned with the groups logo, two criss-crossed swords, the Islamist group came readied with their banners bearing emblems of the FJP and the Brotherhood’s student groups. Several banners indicated the various members’ governorate of origin in a show of their mobilisation power. Salafists were also heavily represented in Tahrir, particularly by Al-Nour (Light)and Al-Asala (Authenticity) parties, believed to be the two largest Salafist parties in Egypt.Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya also participated in the demonstration, stating that the proposed principles “do not reflect the will of the people”. Al-Jamaa spokesperson Assem Abdel Maged said stressed that “the will of the people is the most important thing, and the ‘El-Selmi document’ goes against this will.”
The Selmi-document earlier raised objections from almost all political parties since it granted the Egyptian armed forces political powers far greater than those given parliament or the president. Among the communiqué’s most controversial points were Article 9, stipulating that the military budget remain confidential; Article 2 (second section), giving the military the right to “object” to certain articles of the new constitution; and Article 3, which notes that, in the event that the constituent assembly fails to draw up a new constitution within a six-month period, the SCAF – in its capacity as acting president – would have the authority to draw up a brand-new assembly.
Since then discussion have taken place between the government and the parties. Some points were dropped or amended in such a way that several parties dropped most of their objections. And the discussions still continue, writes Al-Ahram-  However, a provision that the Assembly will be constituted from inside and outside the new parliament, and will be chosen from among a broad spectre of public figures, seems to be still standing.  This is blocking the way for the islamists who are pretty sure of obtaining a strong position, if not a majority in the new parliament, and who therefore  had counted on having also a majority in the new Assembly.
It is ironic that it is now the islamists that are on a confrontation course with the military, where it just some weeks ago still looked as if islamist and military were had in glove. However, the islamists are far from being the only ones with objections. The April 6 Youth movement already called for a  new  Demonstration, next Friday. After last Friday´s  "Friday of One Demand" protest, they want to have a ``Guarding Friday" to demand free parliamentary elections. The group also wants to demand the expulsion of candidates from the now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP), who are seeking to get back into the parliament.
The Administrative Court of Dakahliya governorate returned a verdict that could prevent anyone from the former ruling NDP from running in elections. The ruling, nonetheless, was later reversed and now the remnants of the former regime seemed poised to be involved in the ballot.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Arab ministers give Syria ultimatum

 Arab foreign ministers meeting in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, on Wednesday followed up on their earlier threat and formally agreed to suspend Syria's membership of the Arab League. The League said Syria had three days to stop the bloody repression and allow in a team of international monitors to check if the violence stopped.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said that the Arab states had "almost reached the end of the line" with Damascus. Qatar is the acting head of the 22 member Arab League.
The vote in the Arab League opened up possibilities for a new attempt to push through a resolution in the U.N Security Council after Russia and China earlier blocked such a move. France, Britain, Germany and a number of Arab states are to submit a draft resolution to the calling for a vote in the UN General Assembly condemning the violence. The French Foreign minister Alain Juppé went to Ankara to discuss measures with this neighbour of Syria on how to increas pressure on the government in Damascus.
The plan drawn up by the Arab League earlier this month calls on Syria to withdraw tanks from restive cities, cease its attacks on protesters and engage in dialogue with the opposition within two weeks. Mr Assad had agreed to the plan, but has failed to honour it and the violence has continued. More than 370 people have been killed since the announcement of the plan on 2 November, say rights groups.
As the Arab League meeting was underway in Morocco, angry crowds in Damascus attacked the embassies of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. Morocco responded by recalling its ambassador to Syria, AFP news agency reported. Hours earlier, France also said it was withdrawing its ambassador. Some other states followed.

Free Syrian Army

Meanwhile, a group of defected soldiers - the Free Syrian Army - says it has carried out a number of attacks on government troops in recent days, including an assault on the notorious Air Force Intelligence building in the Damascus suburb of Harasta.The groups commander, Riad al-Asad, told the BBC on Wednesday that while he did not want people to take up arms against the regime, "It is our right to defend our people because the international community does nothing".
The rebel Free Syrian Army announced on Wednesday the creation of a temporary military council with the aim of ousting the regime of President Bashar Assad and protecting civilians from his forces.
"Based on the requirements of this phase and the demands of the Syrian revolution, the Free Syrian Army is establishing a temporary military council," a statement said.
The council aims to "bring down the current regime, protect Syrian civilians from its oppression, protect private and public property, and prevent chaos and acts of revenge when it falls."
Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad, who defected from the regular army to form the Syrian Free Army in July, will chair the council. The council's leadership also includes four colonels and three majors.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Angry Kuwaitis storm parliament

 (Photo AP)

Anti-government protesters forced their way into Kuwait's parliament during a debate over efforts to question the prime minister about corruption allegations yesterday, sang the national anthem and aftter that left, while housands protested outside the building. Oppostion surces warn that the country is threatened by a growing political crisis.
The intrusion took place after pro-government members of parliament succeeded in voting down a motion by the opposition in which it requested to summon Prime Minister Sheik Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah in order to question him over claims that government officials illegally transferred money to accounts outside the country. Last month, Kuwait's foreign minister resigned over the same scandal.
Kuwait's affairas are run by the ruling Al-Sabah family, but it has a much more powerful parliament than any of the other Gulf states. So far the country  not been hit by major pro-reform demonstrations inspired by Arab uprisings, but last months, it was hit by a wave of strikes that grounded the state airline and threatened to disrupt oil  shipments. 
In January, its emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, ordered 1,000 dinar ($3,559) grants and free food coupons for every Kuwaiti in order to buy off unrest. Those handouts have been since dwarfed by other Gulf rulers trying to use their riches to dampen calls for political reform, AP reports. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has pledged about $93 billion for more government sector jobs and services. Last month, Qatar announced pay and benefit hikes of 60 percent for public employees and up to 120 percent for some military officers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Death toll resulting from clashes between deserters and army in Syria on the rise

 More than 70 people were killed in violence across Syria on Monday, one of the bloodiest days since an anti-regime uprising began eight months ago, according to a new toll by activists on Tuesday. It seems that particularly the toll of clashes between army deserters and the security forces is on the rise.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 27 civilians were shot dead by security forces while 34 soldiers and 12 suspected army deserters were killed in clashes.
Most of the victims were killed in the southern flashpoint province of Daraa, the Observatory said in a statement received in Nicosia.
"Twenty-three people were shot dead by security forces posted along the road between the towns of Kherbet Ghazale and Hirak," the statement said.
In the same area, "34 soldiers died in clashes with armed men, apparently army defectors, 12 of whom also died."
Four other civilians were killed by security force fire in the city of Homs, a protest hub in central Syria, the Observatory said.
According to UN estimates more than 3,500 people have been killed in the violence that has swept Syria since March 15, when protests against the regime first erupted in Daraa.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Saudi Arabia executes 68th convict 'by the sword'

Saudi beheading. Date and place unknown.

The medieval kindom of Saudi Arabia has again beheaded a man convicted of murder. That raises the number of executions in the kingdom this year to at least 68. The execution was in Najran in the south. The Saudi interior ministry said that the convicted Mohammed al-Jawad had shot dead a fellow Saudi. 
The list of executions seems almost endless:
On 9 October eight Bangladeshis were beheaded in the capital Riyad after having being condemned for robbery and murder. On the same day also two Saudis were beheaded. The Banghadeshi men were part of a group of 11 Bangladeshis who had stolen goods from a warehouse after tying up its Egyptian guard, who was left behind to die, according to the Sauedi interiro mninistry. The other three Bangladeshis were sentenced to an unspecified number of years in jails and a lashing.

 On 7 October two Saudi men convicted of murder were executed by the sword in the northern city of Tabuk, the Saudi interior ministry said. One was found guilty of stabbing to death two brothers, the other of killing an Afghan man with a machine gun.
On 19 September the Sudanese Abdul Hamid al-Fakki was beheaded in Medina, because he had been found guilty of  "practicing witchcraft and sorcery," which are illegal under Saudi Arabia's Islamic sharia law.
On 30 July three Saudis were beheaded on Saturday in the western city of Taef after being convicted of killing fellow citizens in two separate incidents, state news agency SPA reported.
On 20 June Indonesia recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia amid anger over the beheading of an Indonesian maid convicted of murdering her Saudi employer. Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.Riyadh carried out the execution by sword without giving Indonesia prior notice. "We cannot accept it and will file a strong protest to the Saudi government," he said, adding that Jakarta's ambassador had been recalled for consultations.
The woman, Ruyati binti Sapubi, was found guilty of murdering Saudi woman Khairiya bint Hamid Mijlid by striking her repeatedly on the head with a meat cleaver and stabbing her in the neck.
The migrant worker had been subjected to constant verbal abuse and refused permission to leave the kingdom, according to Indonesia's National Agency for Placement and Protection of Migrant Workers.
"In court, Ruyati confessed she killed her employer's wife after a quarrel because her request to be allowed to go home was turned down," agency chief Jumhur Hidayat told Antara news agency.

Press tv's report of the beheading of the Indonesian maid.
In September, Amnesty International called on the kingdom where 140 people were on death row to establish an "immediate moratorium on executions." Amnesty said Saudi Arabia was one of a minority of states which voted against a UN General Assembly resolution last December calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions. Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
Amnesty says Saudi Arabia executed 27 convicts in 2010, compared to 68 executions announced the year.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Arab League suspend Syria till it ends its violence against protesters

The Arab League has finally taken action and surprised the many people (including the writer of this blog) who thought that it was too indecisive to move against Damascus. In a meeting on Saturday in Cairo it  temporarily suspended Syria and called upon the Syrian army to stop the killing of civilians. Also it asked the Syrian oppostion to attend a meeting at the headquarters of the League in Cairo to formulate a unified stand for a transitional period.

On the same day the oppostion reported that at at least 16 people were killed in new violence. Six people died in Homs, four in Idlib; four in Dera'a, one in Latakiya and one in Rif Dimashq.

The decision by the League was clearly intended to send a strong signal to the government of Bashar al-Assad that more can follow if Syria does not fullfil the promises it made two weeks ago in its agreement with the League. So far the decision does not affect Syria's membership in the League, but it suspends temporarily its participation in ministerial meetings and appeals on member states to recall their representatitives in Damascus. The resolution, to which Lebanon and Yemen objected, and on which Iraq expressed reservations, promises to lift the suspension once Syria ends the use of violence against protesters.
The suspension starts 16 November. An Arab League ministerial meeting is scheduled in Morocco on that day to review developments. "If the Syrian regime has ended the use of violence by then, as it had promised two weeks ago when it agreed to the Arab initiative to end the crisis in Syria, then the suspension would not go into effect," said Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad Ben Jassim whose country is chairing the Arab League ministerial council.
"If no agreement is reachable between the regime and the opposition then we have to come back to the Arab League as foreign ministers to decide our next step," Ben Jassem said.
For his part, Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Araby said that the resolution does not open the door to foreign intervention in Syria. "We are working within the Arab framework and this what we have been working with the Syrian government on for the past four months, and today we are expecting the Syrian government to fully honour its commitments to end the violence in Syria."
 Syria's representative to the Arab League said suspending Damascus violated the organization's charter and showed it was "serving a Western and American agenda." Youssef Ahmed told Syrian state television the move to suspend Syria could only be taken by consensus at a summit meeting of Arab leaders.

Blast at Revolutionary Guards base near Tehran, reports about Israeli involvement

 Smoke rises up from the explosion at a Revolutionary Guard ammunition depot and storage facility for long range missiles outside Bidganeh, some 40 kilometers west of Tehran.  (AP)

While Iranian officials insist the explosion at the Bidganeh base was accidental, caused by the movement of ammunition, claims from anonymous western and Israeli officials that Saturday's blast was a covert Israeli operation have gained momentum.
Leading Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot picked up a post by US blogger Richard Silverstein claiming the Mossad had teamed up with Iranian militant group Mujahideen e-Khalq (MEK) to execute the alleged attack. MEK denies involvement in the attack.
Leftwing broadsheet Ha'aretz also led with reports that a western intelligence source quoted in Time magazine had claimed the Mossad carried out the attack in an attempt to stall Iran's development of a nuclear weapon. The official is said to have warned: "There are more bullets in the magazine."
The blast at the base, which is reported to have been a storage facility for long-range missiles, was so powerful that it was said to have been felt 30 miles away in the capital, Tehran.
Among those killed was Major General Hassan Moghaddam, the Revolutionary Guard Commander charged with "ensuring self-sufficiency" in armaments, and described by Iranian media as a pioneer in Iranian missile development. (end of update)
Seventeen soldiers have been killed in an explosion at a military base near Iran's capital Tehran, officials say. The blast occurred when weapons were being moved inside a Revolutionary Guards depot, a spokesman for the elite unit told state TV. Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif did not say what had caused the "accident" in the village of Bidganeh, near the city of Karaj.

The death toll was revised down from an earlier figure released by the Revolutionary Guards of 27. An emergency worker said that 12 people had been taken to hospital. "Some of the casualties are reported to be in a critical condition," he said.
Local MP Hossein Garousi said "a large part of an ammunition depot exploded," parliament's website reported. Windows in nearby buildings were shattered and the blast was heard in central Tehran, 40 km  away. Two hours after the explosion a fire still raged and there were traffic jams on nearby roads, a local reporter said. Karaj resident Kaveer told the BBC's News Hour programme that the sound was "deafening".
"We were kind of shocked. I just ran out of the house and looked around," he said.

There have been occasional unexplained explosions in Iran before.
Eighteen people were killed in a blast at a Revolutionary Guards base in Khorramabad in the north-western Lorestan province in October 2010. The latest blast comes at a time of heightened tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions.