Monday, December 26, 2016

New Media Law curbs Egyptian press even further

 Three and a half years into power after the toppling of President Mohammed Morsi and taking charge of the country, Sisi’s Egypt is witnessing the harshest crackdown in the 200-year history of Egyptian media. Repression, destruction of equipment, imprisonment and even death surround the profession.
Last week, the parliament passed a law on the “Institutional Regulation of the Press and the Media,” which indicates creating three regulatory bodies to oversee all of Egypt’s media outlets. Sisi himself is to select the heads of these boards, according to Article 32.
One body is to supervise state-owned press organizations and select their board chairmen and editors, another would oversee state-owned audio-visual media, radio and digital media institutions, and last and most crucial, the Higher Council for Media Regulation will regulate all media outlets, audio-visual, digital or print — whether public or private — in coordination with the other two bodies.
The law ignores Article 72 of the Egyptian Constitution that indicates “the State shall ensure the independence of all state-owned press institutions and media outlets, in a manner ensuring their neutrality and presentation of all political and intellectual opinions,” Yehia Kallash, the head of the Egyptian press syndicate, told Al-Monitor.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Syrian army has retaken complete control of Aleppo

By Ellen Francis | BEIRUT
The Syrian army said it had retaken complete control of Aleppo on Thursday after the last rebel fighters were evacuated from the city, handing President Bashar al-Assad his biggest victory of the war. The military said it had brought "the return of safety and security to the city of Aleppo", ending four years of rebel resistance in the northern Syrian city.
"This victory constitutes an important turning point," an army statement said. The recapture of Aleppo is Assad's most important gain so far in a nearly six-year-old war that claimed the lives of 300.000 people, but the fighting is not over with large parts of the country still controlled by insurgent and Islamist groups.
The last group of rebels and their families holed up in a small eastern enclave of Aleppo were evacuated under a deal that gives the army and its allies full control of the city, Syrian state television said.

Monday, December 19, 2016

After a new president Lebanon now also got a new government

Saad Hariri, the new Prime Minister, with president Michel Aoun (right).  (Foto Al Jazeera)

Lebanon on Sunday acquired a new 30-minister government led by Saad al-Hariri, bringing together the entire political spectrum except for the Christian Phalangist party that rejected the portfolio it was offered.
The new cabinet, which was announced on state television, will keep Gebran Bassil as foreign minister, Ali Hassan Khalil as finance minister and Nouhad Machnouk as interior minister.
New portfolios include an anti-corruption post and, for the first time, a minister of state for women's affairs. Hariri said the Phalangist Party had been offered a minister of state post but had turned it down.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Turkey, China and Egypt have the most journalists in jail

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 2016 has seen a record number of journalists jailed worldwide, marking the worst year on record with an unprecedented 259 behind bars. Egypt is listed as the third worst offender with 25 journalists in jail, preceded by China with 38 and Turkey with 81.
In its latest report, published on Tuesday, the New York-based group writes that: “More journalists are jailed around the world than at any time since the CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1990, with Turkey accounting for nearly a third of the global total.”
The five countries at the top of the list account for 68 percent of all journalists imprisoned worldwide since December 1, 2016. This includes Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
This year’s statistics are a significant increase from the 199 journalists who were behind bars in 2015, and surpass the previous record of 232 imprisoned in 2012.
Turkey’s high ranking this year is a result of an “ongoing crackdown that accelerated after a failed coup attempt in July,” according to the report. The government has increasingly imprisoned journalists seen as sympathetic to exiled opposition cleric Fethullah Gülen or the attempted coup.
Eight of Egypt’s 25 jailed journalists have been locked up for more than three years, since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013. The remaining 17 have been imprisoned for periods ranging from several weeks to years. This is an increase from the 23 imprisoned in 2015, when Egypt was ranked the second worst jailer of journalists after China.
Some are linked to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated newspapers like Rassd, while several others are TV correspondents, freelance reporters and photojournalists. Most are being detained in Cairo’s Tora Prison, although some are being held in Alexandria, Port Said, Arish, Fayoum and Gamasa, among others.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bombs kill 38 people in Istanbul, most of them policemen

 (Foto AFP)
Turkey said on Sunday that Kurdish militants may be responsible for the two bombs that killed 38 people and wounded 155 in what looked to be a coordinated attack on police outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul after a match between two top teams.
The blasts on Saturday night - a car bomb outside the Vodafone Arena, home to Istanbul's Besiktas soccer team, followed by a suicide bomb attack in an adjacent park less than a minute later - shook a nation still trying to recover from a series of deadly bombings this year in cities including Istanbul and the capital Ankara.
There was no claim of responsibility, but Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said early indications pointed to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a three-decade insurgency, mainly in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast. Ten people have been detained so far, he said.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Death sentences against Morsi and 21 other member of the Muslim Brotherhood revoked

Prisoner Morsi
Egypt’s Court of Cassation revoked on Tuesday 14 november death sentences and ordered retrials for ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders over the 2011 Wadi El-Natrun prison break case.
The court also revoked the death penalties against Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, and other MB figures including Brotherhood deputy leader Rashad Bayoumy, and 2012's parliament speaker and MB figure Saad El-Katatni. The court also cancelled life sentences for 21 others in the same case.
The defendants had been charged with "damaging and setting fire to prison buildings," "murder," "attempted murder," "looting prison weapons depots" and "releasing prisoners" while escaping from the prison outside Cairo during the January 2011 uprising.
This was the only death sentence issued against Morsi to date.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

HRW: Iraqi Kurds destroy Arab homes and even villages in areas retaken from IS

 Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes that Iraqi Kurdisch peshmerga forces destroyed houses belonging to Arabs in areas the retook from IS in North Iraq / Kurdistan. It ought not to surprise anybody, after Iraq under Saddam for so many years sent Arabs northward with the intention to ''arabize'' Kurdish regions. But it still is disappointing. And of course totally illegal.  
The 80-page HRW report, “Marked With An ‘X’: Iraqi Kurdish Forces’ Destruction of Villages, Homes in Conflict with ISIS,”looked at destruction of homes between September 2014 and May 2016 in disputed areas of Kirkuk and Nineveh governorates, areas nominally under Iraqi government jurisdiction but under Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) control. The destruction, which took place after KRG Peshmerga forces routed Islamic State (also known as ISIS) fighters, targeted Arab homes while leaving Kurdish homes intact. KRG leaders have maintained that these are historically Kurdish areas that they intend to incorporate into the Kurdistan region.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Syrian rebels retake Dabiq from IS

The first issue of the IS-Magazine Dabiq
Syrian rebels said they captured the village of Dabiq from Islamic State on Sunday, forcing the jihadist group from a stronghold where it had promised to fight a final, apocalyptic battle wi
th the West.Its defeat at Dabiq, long a mainstay of Islamic State's propaganda, underscores the group's declining fortunes this year as it suffered battlefield defeats in Syria and Iraq and lost a string of senior leaders in targeted air strikes.
The group, whose lightning advance through swathes of the two countries and declaration that it had established a new caliphate stunned world leaders in 2014, is now girding for an offensive against Iraq's Mosul, its most prized possession.
The rebels, backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes, took Dabiq and neighboring Soran after clashes on Sunday morning, said Ahmed Osman, head of the Sultan Murad group, one of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions involved in the fighting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Iraqi Shi'a militias abused and killed more Sunni civilians than previously acknowledged

Shi’ite militias in Iraq detained, tortured and abused far more Sunni civilians during the American-backed capture of the town of Falluja in June than U.S. officials have publicly acknowledged, Reuters has found.
More than 700 Sunni men and boys are still missing more than two months after the Islamic State stronghold fell. The abuses occurred despite U.S. efforts to restrict the militias' role in the operation, including threatening to withdraw American air support, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.
The U.S. efforts had little effect. Shi’ite militias did not pull back from Falluja, participated in looting there and now vow to defy any American effort to limit their role in coming operations against Islamic State.
All told, militia fighters killed at least 66 Sunni males and abused at least 1,500 others fleeing the Falluja area, according to interviews with more than 20 survivors, tribal leaders, Iraqi politicians and Western diplomats.
They said men were shot, beaten with rubber hoses and in several cases beheaded. Their accounts were supported by a Reuters review of an investigation by local Iraqi authorities and video testimony and photographs of survivors taken immediately after their release.

Friday, August 19, 2016

S.Sudanese opposition leader Machar fled to Congo

South Sudan's former vice president and opposition leader Riek Machar "is in the care" of the authorities in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the United Nations has said, several weeks after he withdrew from the capital Juba during fierce fighting with government troops.
The news on Thursday came after a statement by the leadership of the SPLA In Opposition party said Machar had left South Sudan on Wednesday to a "safe country within the region", without giving any further details on his exact whereabouts.
"We were aware yesterday of the presence of Riek Machar in DRC," UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Thursday. Machar led a two-year rebellion against forces loyal to his longtime rival President Salva Kiir before the two sides reached a peace deal in August 2015. Under the deal, Machar returned to Juba in April to resume his role as vice president. But fighting flared last month, leading Machar to withdraw with his forces from Juba around mid-July.
Since the outbreak of fighting in July, Kiir has sacked Machar from his post and appointed Taban Deng Gai, a former opposition negotiator who broke ranks with Machar, as vice president.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Syrian town of Manbij liberated, inhabitans return

Female SDF fighters embrace each other after Manbij is liberated.

Thousands of displaced residents streamed back into the northern Syrian town of Manbij on Saturday after U.S.-backed fighters ousted the last Islamic State militants from their former stronghold, residents and U.S. allies said.The U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Friday they had seized full control of the city near the Turkish border.
Hundreds of cars and vehicles carrying families and their belongings flocked into the city from makeshift camps and villages in the countryside, where many of the city's residents took shelter during the two-month campaign en shops reopened. The militants were finally ousted after a deal was reached on Friday that secured their departure together with some 2,000 civilians, believed to have been their relatives, toward their stronghold of Jarablus near the border with Turkey. It was not clear whether those leaving were hostages or had left voluntarily, a Kurdish source said.
The SDF, formed last year by recruiting Arabs to join forces with the powerful YPG Kurdish militia, launched an offensive with the support of U.S.-led strikes at the end of May to remove Islamic State from areas it controls along the Turkish border.

Houthis stage ''reopening'' of Yemen's parliament

Members of Yemen's parliament convened in the capital Sanaa on Saturday for the first time since a civil war began almost two years ago, in a move aimed at bolstering the rebel Houthi movement and challenging the Saudi-backed exiled government.
The armed Houthis and their allies in the General People's Congress (GPC) party headed by powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh control Sanaa and have withstood thousands of air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition.
After UN-backed peace talks to end the war collapsed last week, the Houthis and the GPC set up a governing council to rule the country despite UN and government opposition. All of the present  members of parliament voted for the new council.
The Saudi backed presidnet Abed Rabbo al Mansour Hadi  denounced the parliamentary session as a "violation" of the constitution and a "crime punishable by law", in remarks carried by the official Yemeni Saba news website. "Whatever takes place at this meeting has no legal effects and cannot be implemented," he said.
According to the constitution, more than half of the 301-member national assembly have to attend the session for voting to take place.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Threats against Palestinian actvist working for JCC in The Hague

Nada Kiswanson
Dutch authorities are investigating death threats against a Palestinian rights activist in The Hague targeted because she has made submissions to the International Criminal Court's inquiry into the 2014 Gaza conflict. Nada Kiswanson, a legal researcher at Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, said the threats began early this year and have continued on a regular basis since. "My channels of communication have been totally compromised," Kiswanson told Reuters, adding that she had received death threats by e-mail, via family members and in the form of flower deliveries to her home with accompanying messages.
When she purchased an anonymous pre-paid mobile phone number, she received a threat on it a day later. Messages had come in Dutch, English and "broken Arabic", she said.
The Jordanian-Swedish citizen had also been called on a family member's pre-paid Jordanian number while staying in the country, while a relative in Sweden had been called and told that Kiswanson would be "eliminated".
Human rights organization Amnesty International said it was forced to temporarily close its office in The Hague for security reasons after an employee's personal e-mail was hacked and used to send Kiswanson a death threat.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Iran executed 20 members of Kurdish groups

Attorney General Montazeri
 In an exclusive interview with Iranian state run media IRIB, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the Attorney General of Iran, said 20 Sunni prisoners were executed at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison (west of Tehran) on Tuesday August 2, but he did not mention their identities. Earlier, the Judiciary in the Kurdistan province had issued a statement about the execution of a "group of convicts" for membership in "Sunni militant groups". The statement did not mention the number of executions or the identities of the prisoners. Iran Human Rights is further investigating these executions and will be publishing an updated report.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Syrian Nusra Front splits from al Qaeda and rebrands itself

Mohammed al Golani, the leader of the Nusra Front, now called Jabhat Fath al Sham.  

Al Qaeda's powerful Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, announced on Thursday it was ending its relationship with the global jihadist network founded by Osama bin Laden, to remove a pretext used by world powers to attack Syrians.
The announcement came as Russia and President Bashar al-Assad's government declared a "humanitarian operation" in the besieged rebel-held sector of Aleppo, opening "safe corridors" so people can flee Syria's most important opposition stronghold.
Washington said that appeared to be an attempt to depopulate the city and make fighters surrender. The opposition called it a euphemism for forced displacement.
In the first known video statement ever to show his face, the leader of the Nusra Front, Mohamad al-Golani, announced that the group would re-form under a new name, with "no ties with any foreign party".
The move was being made "to remove the excuse used by the international community -- spearheaded by America and Russia -- to bombard and displace Muslims in the Levant: that they are targeting the Nusra Front which is associated with al Qaeda," he said. The group would now be called Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Front for the Liberation of al Sham/Syria).

Sunday, July 24, 2016

IS attacks Shi'ite demonstration in Kabul, 80 dead, more than 230 wounded

 (Photo Al Jazeera)

Twin explosions tore through a demonstration by members of Afghanistan's mainly Shi'ite Hazara minority in Kabul on Saturday, killing at least 80 people and wounding more than 230 in suicide attacks claimed by Islamic State.
Graphic television footage from the site of the attack showed many dead bodies lying on the bloodied road, close to where thousands of Hazara had been demonstrating against the route of a planned multi-million-dollar power line.
"Two fighters from Islamic State detonated explosive belts at a gathering of Shi'ites in the city of Kabul in Afghanistan," said a brief statement on the group's Amaq news agency.
The explicit reference to the Hazara's (from the eastern province of Nangarhar) Shi'ite religious affiliation marked a menacing departure for Afghanistan, where the bloody sectarian rivalry between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims typical of Iraq has been relatively rare, despite decades of war. Islamic State is an ultra hardline Sunni group.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Shooting in South Sudan continues, about 300 killed

Tank in Juba. (Photo Sudan Tribune)

Heavy fighting erupted again in South Sudan's capital on Monday a day after the U.N. Security Council told rivals President Salva Kiir andVice-President Riek Machar to rein in their forces and end days of violence that have left scores dead.
The capital has been mired in fighting almost every day since Thursday when troops loyal to Kiir and soldiers backing former rebel leader Machar first clashed.There has been no official death toll but at least five soldiers died on Thursday and a Health Ministry source said 272 people, including 33 civilians, were killed on Friday. After a brief lull on Saturday, Sunday's fighting appeared even more fierce.
Shantal Persaud, spokeswoman for the U.N. mission UNMISS, told Reuters by telephone that gunfire had erupted on Monday around the U.N. headquarters in the Jebel area of Juba and also around a base near the airport. U.N. bases were hit by small arms and heavy weapons on Sunday.
The Sudan Tribune adds that  also sustained shooting have been heard in the areas of Gudele, Tongping near Juba airport. Shootings have also resumed at the airport area and sounds of heavy machine guns could be heard.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Chilcot report is damning verdict on Blair's decesion to join Bush and go to war in Iraq

Blair during his press conference. (AP)
Prime Minister Tony Blair led Britain into an unsuccessful war in Iraq through a mix of flawed intelligence, "wholly inadequate" planning and an exaggerated sense of the U.K.'s ability to influence the United States, according to a damning official report on the conflict that was published Wednesday.
The government-commissioned inquiry fell short of delivering what many bereaved families sought — a declaration that the 2003 war was illegal. But its 2.6 million words give the most comprehensive verdict to date on the mistakes of a conflict whose violent aftershocks still rattle the world.
Blair, however, stood by his decision to join U.S. President George W. Bush in toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"I believe I made the right decision and that the world is better and safer as a result of it," he said.
The decision to go to war was the most contentions act of Blair's decade as prime minister between 1997 and 2007. By the time British combat forces left Iraq in 2009, the conflict had killed 179 U.K. troops, almost 4,500 U.S. personnel and more than 100,000 Iraqis.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Happy Eid

This was the way children celebrated Eid al Fitr in an amusement park in  Baghdad, last year. (The Photo is from Reuters). I wish every body a happy feast.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Amnesty: Abductions, torture and killings around Aleppo and Idlib

Armed groups operating in Aleppo, Idlib and surrounding areas in the north of Syria have carried out a chilling wave of abductions, torture and summary killings, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.
The briefing Torture was my punishment’: Abductions, torture and summary killings under armed group rule in Aleppo and Idleb, Syria offers a rare glimpse of what life is really like in areas under the control of armed opposition groups. Some of them are believed to have the support of governments such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the USA despite evidence that they are committing violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war). It also sheds light on the administrative and quasi-judicial institutions set up by armed groups to govern in these areas.
“This briefing exposes the distressing reality for civilians living under the control of some of the armed opposition groups in Aleppo, Idlib and surrounding areas. Many civilians live in constant fear of being abducted if they criticize the conduct of armed groups in power or fail to abide by the strict rules that some have imposed,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

Four killed by bomb attacks in Medina and elsewhere in Saudi Arabia

Lets Not be Provoked by Medina Bomb Incident
Four security officers have been killed and five others injured in a suicide attack outside the Prophet's Mosque in Saudi Arabia's Medina, Islam's second holiest city, the Saudi interior ministry said. Photos on social media show smoke billowing from a fire outside the mosque. The blast occurred just before the Maghreb (sunset) prayers on Monday when people were breaking their fast inside the mosque. 
Saudi Arabia's state-run news channel, Al-Ekhbariya, aired live video of thousands of worshippers praying inside the mosque hours after the explosion. Around the same time as the Medina blast, two other explosions struck near a mosque in the eastern city of Qatif on the Gulf coast, residents said. Witnesses said a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Shia mosque without causing any other injuries.

Monday, July 4, 2016

IS kills at least 250 with truck bomb in Baghdad

Update: The death toll has reached 250 on Wednesday. It is the deadliest attack since the Americn invasion of 2003. the minister of the Interior has offred to resign.
 Anger is growing in Baghdad over the government's failure to protect civilians, after a devastating bombing in a crowded commercial area in the Iraqi capital killed more than 200 people, including many children.
The powerful explosion early on Sunday came near the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when the streets were filled with young people and families out after sunset. The death toll from the blast in Karada, a predominantly Shia neighbourhood in central Baghdad, rose to over 200 on Monday morning, as the bodies of more victims were pulled from the rubble.Hundreds were wounded when a lorry packed with explosives blew up in a busy shopping street filled with people after they had broken their fast.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS or ISIL)group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement circulated by its supporters online. The group, which has claimed numerous deadly bombings in mainly Shia areas of Baghdad, alleged that a suicide bomber targeted a crowd of Shia Muslims.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Egypt deports critical tv-presenter the day she ends contract with new rightist owner of the station

Popular Lebanese TV host Liliane Daoud was arrested from her home in Cairo on Monday night, taken to an undisclosed location and then put aboard an EgyptAir flight to Beirut, said Daoud’s lawyer Zyad Elelaimy. Eight members of the security forces stormed her home earlier that evening. It was the same day she ended her contract with ONtv.
The security forces refused to allow Daoud to make a phone call or to take her phone with her when they apprehended her, Elelaimy said. Her Egyptian ex-husband, Khaled El-Berry, was coincidentally present at her home during the arrest while picking up their ten-year-old daughter for dinner. "They gave [Daoud] exactly five minutes. They refused to allow her to take anything with her except her wallet. They also refused to let her call a lawyer or the [Lebanese] embassy," El-Berry wrote on his Facebook account.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Egyptian court nullifies deal with Saudis about two islands near the Gulf of Aqaba

After the verdict lawyer Khaled Ali reads out the names of the people who are in prison because they demonstrated against the sale of the islands. (Photo Ahdaf Soueif/via Twitter)

Egypt's Administrative Court ruled on Tuesday that the 8 April agreement which placed the two Egyptian Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir in Saudi waters is void. The two islands should remain under Egyptian sovereignty. 
State Council Vice President Yehia El-Dakroury, reasoned that "the islands should remain part of Egyptian territory and within Egyptian borders; Egyptian sovereignty over the islands holds, and it forbidden to change their status for the benefit of any other state." The Egyptian state is going to appeal the conclusion of the court.
The agreement, which was signed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia during a five-day visit by Saudi King Salman to Cairo, stipulated that the two islands at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba fall within Saudi waters thus paving the way for a transfer of sovereignty to Riyadh.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Iraq retakes most of Falluja

Iraqi government vehicles in the centre of Falluja. (AP). 

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Friday that Iraqi forces have retaken most of Fallujah from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS, Daesh). However operations are still under way to flush out the armed group's remaining fighters in the city.
The government lost control of Fallujah in 2014, months before Daesh took Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, and other large parts of the country. "We promised you the liberation of Fallujah and we retook it. Our security forces control the city except for small pockets that need to be cleared within the coming hours," Abadi said in a brief address on state TV. "Fallujah has returned to the nation and Mosul is the next battle," Abadi also said on Twitter. "Daesh will be defeated," he added.
Earlier on Friday, Iraqi forces said they had entered the centre of Fallujah, nearly four weeks after the start of a US-backed offensive to retake the city 50km west of the capital, Baghdad. They took the government compound and the Iraqi flag is now raised on top of the building, symbolising government control

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Libyan government forces retake port and airport of Sirte

Government forces on the outskirts of Sirte. (Reuters)

Forces loyal to Libya's internationally backed government say they have recaptured both the port and airport of Sirte from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), forcing the armed group to retreat. The Libyan forces also retook residential areas in the east of Sirte, which for the past year has been the main ISIL base in the North African country, a spokesman for the forces, Rida Issa, told the AFP news agency on Saturday.
ISIL fighters are now surrounded in a densely populated area of around five square kilometres inside the city, where they are laying booby traps, he said. Most of the city's residents have fled but about 30,000 remain, Issa added.
The fall of Sirte, the hometown of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi, would be a major setback for ISIL, who have also lost territory in Syria and Iraq, where they have declared a "caliphate".

At least 12 dead in double bomb attack at Shi'a site in Damascus


A double bomb attack outside a Shia shrine near Syria's capital Damascus has killed at least 12 people, according to Syrian state media.The official SANA news agency said on Saturday that a suicide bomber and a car bomb struck at the entrance to the Sayeda Zeinab shrine, which is revered by Shias around the world.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks via an online post. It said two of its suicide bombers had blown themselves up and operatives had detonated an explosives-laden car, according to the IS-affiliated Amaq news agency.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a British-based monitoring group, reported a higher toll of at least 20 people killed and 30 wounded.
Syrian state television showed debris, mangled cars and wrecked shops in a main commercial thoroughfare near the Sayeda Zeinab shrine, in an area where at least three bomb attacks claimed by Islamic State have killed and wounded scores of people this year.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Eight years for human rights defender in S-Arabia

In a hearing which took place on 29 May 2016, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh sentenced the Saudi  human rights defender Abdulaziz Al-Shubaili to eight years in prison followed by another eight years of a travel ban to start after he serves his sentence. The court also decided that he is not allowed to write any more.
Abdulaziz Shubaili
l-Shubaili is a principal member of the Association for Civil and Political Rights in Saudi Arabia ACPRA, who participated in the defence team on behalf of many of his fellow members of ACPRA. He also used social media networks to call for reform and defend people’s rights.
Al Shubaili was accused of many charges including publishing a statement calling for demonstrations; accusing judges of dishonesty and human rights violations; and preparing, storing and sending data affecting public order. On top of that  he was sentenced for participating in ACPRA, which is an unauthorised association in Saudi Arabia, and his contribution to the drafting of its statements, as well as failing to comply with the judicial decision to dissolve ACPRA.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Bahrain: appeals court more than doubles jail sentence of opposition leader

Manama: Bahrain’s Court of Appeals on Monday toughened a sentence against Ali Salman, the secretary general of Al Wefaq Society, the most important opposition force in the country. It did this by including a charge dropped last year by a lower court.Under the new ruling, Ali Salman will have to spend a total of nine years in jail after he was also convicted of the more serious charge of “promoting the overthrow of the political system through the use of force and threats.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

String of explosions in government hold provinces in Syria kill more than 100

Scene of one of the explosions in Tartous (Photo SANA).

More than 100 people have been killed in multiple attacks claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group in strongholds of President Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria, a monitoring group said.
Syrian state TV also reported the attacks, putting the death toll at 65.
Simultaneous car bombs and suicide bombers in bus stations, hospitals and elsewhere in the coastal cities of Tartus and Jableh in Latakia province on Monday appeared to severely breach Assad government defences, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Footage broadcast by the state-run Ikhbariya news channel of what it said were scenes of the blasts in Jableh showed several twisted and incinerated cars and minivans.
Pictures circulated by pro-Damascus social media users showed dead bodies in the back of pick-up vans and charred body parts on the ground.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Turkish parliament lifts immunity of HDP-members

The Turkish Parliament has approved a controversial constitutional amendment to lift the immunity of 139 MPs. Deputies from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are now expected to be arrested on terror-related charges and an anticipated wave of social unrest.
Some 376 out of 550 deputies voted in favor of the motion in the second and final vote on May 20, comfortably passing the required 367 majority to have it approved without the need to go to a referendum. The first and second clauses of the amendment were accepted in the second round of voting, with 373 and 374 votes respectively.
Proposed by the 316-seat ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and heavily backed by the 40-seat Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the draft received 357 votes in the first round of vote as the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the HDP deputies did not vote in favor.
However, it is believed that around 20 lawmakers from the CHP voted in favor of the motion in the second round in order not to cause a referendum that would jeopardize the societal order.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hezbollah commander Badreddine blown up in Syria

Hezbollah's top military commander Mustafa Badreddine has been killed in a blast at a base near Damascus airport, the Lebanese Shi'ite group said on Friday, one of the biggest blows to its leadership the Iranian-backed organization has ever sustained.
Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said there were clear indications of who was behind it, and the group would announce the outcome of its investigation within hours. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. At least one Hezbollah figure blamed the group's age-old enemy Israel, which has struck Hezbollah targets in Syria several times in the past. Israel declined to comment. Hezbollah also has many other foes in Syria, where it fights in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Thousands of Hezbollah fighters and leaders gathered at a mosque in Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Beirut and gave Badreddine a military funeral, waving Hezbollah flags. They chanted Shi'ite religious slogans, as well as "Death to America" and "Death to Israel". Speaking at the funeral, Qassem also vowed that the group would continue on the "path" of Badreddine.
In a letter, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif extended condolences "for the martyrdom of this great jihadist.
Badreddine, 55, is believed to have been in charge of Hezbollah's military operations in Syria.
He is the most senior Hezbollah official killed since 2008 when his brother-in-law, long-serving military commander Imad Mughniyeh, was blown up by a bomb planted in his car in Damascus that Hezbollah blamed on Israel.

At least four prominent figures in Hezbollah have been killed since January 2015. A number of high-ranking Iranian officers have also been killed, either fighting Syrian insurgents or in Israeli attacks.

Hezbollah said it was investigating whether the explosion at the base was caused by an air strike, a
missile attack or artillery bombardment. It did not say when he was killed.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Heavy sentences for two Turkish journalists who reported weapons transport

Erdem Gül (left) and Can Dündar. (Foto Milliyet)
Two prominent Turkish journalists were sentenced to at least five years in jail for revealing state secrets on Friday, just hours after a gunman tried to shoot one of them outside the courthouse in Istanbul. Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, who was unscathed in the shooting, was given five years and 10 months. Erdem Gül, the newspaper's Ankara bureau chief, was sentenced to five years. They were acquitted of some other charges, including trying to topple the government.The case, in which President Tayyip Erdogan was named as a complainant, has brought widespread condemnation from global rights groups.
Hours before the verdict was handed down, an assailant attempted to shoot Dündar. In full public view, before a courthouse.The man shouted "traitor" before firing at least two shots in quick succession. A reporter covering the trial appeared to have been wounded. The assailant was detained by police. "We experienced two assassination attempts in two hours: one by firearms, the other by law," Dündar told reporters following the trial."

Friday, May 6, 2016

Syrian refugee camp bombarded, village near Aleppo taken

An air strike on a camp for internally displaced Syrians near the country's border with Turkey has killed at least 30 people, activists said. The attack on the camp in Idlib province on Thursday also left dozens injured. A number of those killed were children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatoryfor Human Rights.
The Observatory said the dead included women and children and the death toll from the air strikes was likely to rise. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, said activists were split on whether Russian or Syrian planes were behind the attack.
"Many in the opposition believe that with strikes like this there's proof the government is not serious about the cessation of hostilities,"Khodr said.
In the night of Thursday to Friday rebels meanwhile seized a village from government forces near Aleppo overnight.

Turkey's Davutoglu quits because of rift with Erdogan

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's prime minister and leader of the ruling AK Party, has said he will not seek a new term after last-ditch talks aimed at easing tensions between him and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Davutoglu held a news conference on Thursday after a gathering of the party's central executive committee. "I came to the conclusion [a change in] leader of the party and the Prime Ministerial position would serve a better purpose," he said. "This must be carried out in a peaceful way, keeping with the integrity of the party."
After a 90-minute crisis meeting on Wednesday that local media described as critical for Davutoglu's future, domestic news organisations CNN-Turk and NTV reported that an extraordinary congress would likely signal his exit. The congress will be held on May 22. Reports from Turkey suggest that Erdogan had demanded Davutoglu's resignation following yesterday's meeting. According to AKP convention, the posts of party boss and head of government always go to the same person.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Heavy prison sentences for 11 Egyptian homosexuals

The Agouza Criminal Court has sentenced 11 people to prison terms ranging between three and 12 years for “practicing, inciting and publicizing immoral practices,” reported the privately owned al-Watan newspaper.
The defendants were arrested from an apartment in Giza’s Agouza neighborhood in September 2015. Following the court’s ruling, six of them will spend nine years or more in prison. The court sentenced three of those accused to 12 years, while another three were sentenced to 9 years. One defendant received a six-year term and the remaining four have been sentenced to three years.
Head of the gender program at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Dalia Abdel Hameed said the case was indicative of the state’s practices in its ongoing crackdown on LGBT individuals.
Abdel Hameed says that moral police targeted one of the accused using a dating application, reportedly entrapping the individual by posing as someone interested in a relationship. Through the app’s messaging feature, they acquired the accused’s address and then were granted permission by the public prosecutor to raid the apartment.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Palestinian writer Madhoun wins Arabic ''Booker Prize'' 2016

 Madhoun and his book.

Palestinian writer, Rabai Al-Madhoun (70), is the winner of the International prize for Arabic Fiction (the Arabic Booker Prize) for his novel Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba.
The announcement took place in an Abu Dhabi Hotel. In addition to winning $50,000, Rabai al-Madhoun is guaranteed an English translation of his novel, as well as an increase in sales and international recognition. The book is published by Maktabat Kul Shee (Haifa, Israel).
Al-Madhoun’s family came from Ashkelon, Palestine – now occupied by Israel – but went to the Gaza strip after the 1948 nakba exodus. Leaving Gaza to attend Alexandria University, he later became involved with the Palestinian liberation struggle as a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.He left activism in 1980 to focus on writing and has written a number of works of fiction and non-fiction. This is the 70-year-old author’s third novel.
His 2010 novel, The Lady from Tel Aviv, was shortlisted for the 2010 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. It was also published in English in 2013 (Telegram Books) and won the English PEN Writers in Translation award that year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Saudi Arabia plans to become less dependent on oil

Saudi Arabia's cabinet has agreed on a broad-based economic reform plan, known as Vision 2030, revealing how the oil-reliant state plans to diversify its economy over the next 14 years.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince, said on Monday that the country was building up its public investment fund to become a major player in global markets.
He said Saudi Arabia was restructuring its housing ministry to increase the supply of affordable housing, and creating a "green card" system within five years to give expatriates long-term residence.
Salman al-Ansari, founder and president of the Washington DC-based Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), told Al Jazeera the green card system gives more rights to expatriates to invest in the country.
Saudi Arabia will also sell shares in state oil giant Aramco and set up the world's largest wealth fund in line with the plan, Mohamed bin Salman said separately in an interview with the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel.

Large majority of U.S. Senate pushes Obama to boost Israel aid

More than four-fifths of the U.S. Senate have signed a letter urging President Barack Obama to quickly reach an agreement on a new defense aid package for Israel worth more than the current $3 billion per year.Eighty-three of the 100 senators signed the letter, led by Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chris Coons. Senator Ted Cruz, a 2016 presidential candidate, was one of the 51 Republicans on board. The Senate's Democratic White House hopeful, Bernie Sanders, was not among the 32 Democrats.
"In light of Israel's dramatically rising defense challenges, we stand ready to support a substantially enhanced new long-term agreement to help provide Israel the resources it requires to defend itself and preserve its qualitative military edge," said the letter, which was first reported by Reuters.
It did not provide a figure for the suggested aid. Israel wants $4 billion to $4.5 billion in aid in a new agreement to replace the current memorandum of understanding, or MOU, which expires in 2018. U.S. officials have given lower target figures of about $3.7 billion. They hope for a new agreement before Obama leaves office in January.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Yemeni troops enter Mukalla after al-Qaeda left


Yemeni government troops and allies from a Saudi-led coalition have entered a city held by al-Qaeda for a year. Local Yemeni officials and residents told the Reuters new s agency on Sunday that some 2,000 Yemeni and Emirati troops advanced into Mukalla, taking control of its port and airport and setting up checkpoints throughout the southern city.
The coalition said in a statement,carried by the official Saudi news agency SPA, that "more than 800 al-Qaeda elements" had been killed and that the rest of the fighters had fled the city, the provincial capital of Hadramout.
The death toll could not be independently verified.And Iona Craig, a journalist who was in Mukalla last month and who said she regularly communicates with residents there, described the coalition's claim as "ridiculous". "There weren't even 800 fighters left there," she told Al Jazeera by phone from the UK. "There was no fighting inside the city because al-Qaeda had already left."

Jerusalem police prohibit offering of baby goats at Haram al-Sharif

Federman and wife
Jewish activists pushing for a third temple in Jerusalem attempted to ascend the Temple Mount carrying baby goats intended to be used as Passover sacrifices on Friday afternoon, as they do every year. Jerusalem police detained ten suspects in the Old City for interrogation, and seized four sacrificial goat kids.
Among those arrested were Kach activist Noam Federman from Hebron (who, as I Abu Pessoptimist, saw on the internet, is arrested every year for this reason the last couple of years), who attempts make the sacrifice every year, and Rafael Morris, an activist in the Temple Mount Faithful movement. The two were banned from entering Jerusalem before the holiday and will be questioned about breaching the ban.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Brawl in New Cairo: policeman shoots three, one of them died

Photo on social media of an overturned police car following the shooting of three people by a policeman, killing one and injuring two others.(Ahram Online).
A low-ranking Egyptian policeman shot three people in Egypt's New Cairo on Tuesday following a quarrel, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported, killing one man and injuring two others.
Pictures and videos circulating on social media, apparently taken from the scene in the Rehab neighbourhood, showed an overturned police van with shattered windows.
Pictures of the corpse of the unidentified man killed were also circulated by social media users.

The interior ministry was not available for comment on the incident.
In February, a low-ranking policeman killed a driver in the working-class Cairo district of El-Darb El-Ahmar, following a dispute over a fare. In April a court sentenced the policeman to life in prison, one of the harshest sentences issued to policemen convicted of similar violent crimes. The sentence can still be appealed.

World Bank: Palestine loses $ 285 million a year due to agreement with Israel

The Palestinian Authority is losing up to $285 million a year under its current economic arrangements with Israel, the World Bank said on Monday.
According to Ma’an News Agency, the global financial institution announced the finding a day before it presents its full report to the Ad Hoc Liaison committee, which decides on development assistance to the Palestinian territories, in Brussels. It found that the current revenue sharing arrangements as outlined by the Paris Protocol — through which Israel collects VAT, import taxes and other revenues on behalf of the PA — “have not been systematically implemented.”
The World Bank estimated that “tax leakages on bilateral trade with Israel and undervaluation of Palestinian imports from third countries” amounted to up to $285 million in revenues lost annually by the PA. It added that the amount could be higher, as it was unable to make estimates for Area C — the 61 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control — “due to data constraints.”

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Crisis continues in Baghdad

Moqtada al-Sadr during hiss ''sit in''. (Reuters)

Hundreds rallied in central Baghdad on Sunday in support of powerful Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who has threatened to call mass protests if the prime minister fails to name a new cabinet to fight corruption by Tuesday. People in Tahrir Square on Sunday said many more would join them if Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi did not select a government mainly made up of technical experts to tackle what they see as widespread graft and mismanagement.
"Yes, yes to Iraq; no, no to corruption," they chanted, carrying Iraqi flags.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's presented on 31 March a list of new ministers in keeping with a deadline set by the legislature earlier in the week, which was underscored by a ''sit in'' in the Green Zone by Moqtada al-Sadr personally. The list was made up of independent professionals who he hoped could free their ministries from the grip of dominant political groups that have built their influence and wealth on a system of patronage put in place since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Egyptians protest transfer of two islands to Saudiyya

Egypt's announcement during a five-day visit by King Salman that it would transfer two Red Sea islands to its Saudi ally has outraged Egyptians, who took to social media to criticize the move, which now faces a legal challenge.The Egyptian government said in a statement on Saturday that the two countries had signed maritime demarcation accords that put the islands of Tiran and Sanafir in Saudi waters, a process it said had taken six years.
Earlier, on Friday, after a meeting with Egyptian presidnt Abdel fattah al-Sisi, King Salman announced that a bridge connecting Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be built across the Red Sea. No details were given. Also Saudi Arabia is expected to sign a $20 billion deal to finance Egypt's oil needs for the next five years and a $1.5 billion deal to develop its Sinai region, two Egyptian government sources told Reuters.
 Saudi and Egyptian officials said about the the islands thatb they belong to the kingdom and were only under Egyptian control because Saudi Arabia's founder, Abdulaziz Al Saud, asked Egypt in 1950 to protect them.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Italy recalls ambassador from Cairo, deepening row over murder of student

Guilio Regeni
Giulio Regeni. 

Italy recalled its ambassador to Egypt for consultations on Friday after Egyptian investigators in Rome failed to provide evidence needed to solve the mystery of the murder of an Italian student in Cairo. Ambassador Maurizio Massari was called to the capital for "an urgent evaluation" of what steps to take to "ascertain the truth about the barbaric murder of Giulio Regeni", the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Egyptian authorities met with Rome prosecutors on Thursday and Friday, handing over some, but not all, of the evidence Italy had requested. The prosecutors said in a statement Egyptian investigators had still not handed over such evidence as details from Cairo cell towers that had connected to Regeni's mobile phone. Regeni, 28, vanished from the streets of Cairo on Jan. 25. His body was discovered in a ditch on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital on Feb. 3, showing signs of extensive torture. Regeni's mother said last week that her son's body had been so disfigured that she had only been able to recognize him by the tip of his nose. Human rights groups have said the torture indicates he was killed by Egyptian security forces, an allegation Cairo has repeatedly denied.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sons of Mubarak and other M-Eastern figures mentioned in ''Panama papers''

Alaa Mubarak and his brother Gamal.

Alaa Mubarak, the son of former President Hosni Mubarak, is among the global political figures whose financial dealings were exposed in the “Panama Papers,” a document leak said to be the largest in the history of journalism.
More than 11 million documents were leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which sells offshore companies to customers around the globe. The leaked documents show how the firm helped clients dodge taxes, launder money and evade sanctions. German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which originally received the documents, shared them with a team of journalists from around the world in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Israel kills 10-year and six year old in Gaza

A ten-year-old Palestinian was killed and his sister seriously injured in an Israeli airstrike launched early Saturday in the northern Gaza Strip after rockets were fired from the besieged enclave.
Spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra confirmed the death of Yasin Suleiman Abu Khusah,10, and told Ma’an his six-year-old sister Israa had sustained serious head injuries during the strike. Israa later died.
A Ma’an reporter based in Gaza said the children were in their house at the time of the strike, located in northwestern Beit Lahiya, adding that the family was still living in their home that was partially destroyed during the most recent Israeli offensive on the strip in 2014. Israa was transferred to Shifa Medical Center in Gaza City from Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahiya due to critical injuries, al-Qidra said.
The Israeli army said the Israeli air force targeted four Hamas sites in the northern Gaza Strip after four rockets were fired from the strip Friday evening.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday: three young Palestinians killed in two attacks, Israel wants to complete Wall in Jerusalem

 The car in which two Palestinians were shot. (Ma'an)

Israeli forces shot dead a 16-year-old Palestinian boy after he allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing attack at a military checkpoint outside the blockaded village of al-Zawiya in Salfit district on Wednesday morning.
 The incident in al-Zawiya occurred shortly after the Israeli police shot dead two Palestinians outside Jerusalem's Old City after they opened fire in the area -- continuing a string of deadly encounters that shook Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories a day earlier.
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said the two Palestinians initially opened fire on an Israeli bus in the settlement of Ramot in occupied East Jerusalem, before fleeing the scene without causing any injuries.The shooting sparked a massive manhunt across Jerusalem, with Israeli police later spotting the car outside the Old City's New Gate. Rosenfeld said that a gun battle erupted between Israeli police and the two Palestinians, with both gunmen shot dead. They were later identified as Abdul-Malak Saleh Abu Kharoub,19, and Muhammad Jamal al-Kalouti, 21. A Palestinian bystander was also shot in the head in the crossfire.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tuesday: Four Palestinians, one US tourist dead, 12 wounded after four Palestinian attacks

Ambulances and police vehicles arrive at the scene of a shooting attack on Salah a-Din street in Jerusalem on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 (Magen David Adom)
Ambulances after the shooting in Jerusalem.

Four Palestinians were shot dead after they allegedly carried out separate attacks in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, killing one tourist from the U.S. and wounding at least 12 others, on Tuesday morning, afternoon and evening.
In the first deadly encounter, shortly before 5 p.m., Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said a Palestinian man was shot dead after he allegedly stabbed and wounded an Israeli man near Petah Tikva, around seven miles east of Tel Aviv.Al-Samri said that an "Arab terrorist" stabbed a Jewish Israeli in his mid-30s "in the upper part of his body," leaving him with light to moderate injuries.Israeli police forces arrived on the scene and shot dead the Palestinian, she said, adding that Israeli forces closed the area for investigation.
Minutes later, another Palestinian was shot dead after allegedly firing gunshots at Israeli police forces near Salah al-Din Street in occupied East Jerusalem, injuring two Israeli officers.Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said two Israeli policemen were wounded when a Palestinian shot them with an automatic weapon.

Israeli Arab parliamentarians again under fire after they criticize GCC decision to label Hezbollah ''terrorist organization''

Israel Katz
Israeli members of parliament (the Knesset) renewed their cries that Arab representatives have to be removed after the parties Balad and Hadash, who are part of the Joint Arab List,  Monday criticized the decision of the Gulf Cooperation Council to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization. 
"Hezbollah fights against Israeli attacks on Lebanon, and this decision only serves the interests of Israel and the US," a Balad spokesperson said. 
The GCC officially decided to label Hezbollah as a terrorist organization last Wednesday. Balad officials explained that they view the decision by the interior ministers of the GCC as dangerous because they are fueling the Sunni-Shia conflict, and adding fuel to the fire of this bloody conflict. Furthermore, the Balad officials claimed, the decision serves to widen the sectarian divisions in Lebanon, Syria, and the wider Arab world.
They also said that "the party doesn't believe that it is correct to tag Hezbollah - an organization which represents a large part of the Lebanese nation - as a terrorist organization, despite criticism over its participation in the fighting in Syria."

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi 1932-2016

Turabi in 2012 (Reuters)
Prominent Sudanese politician Hassan al-Turabi, a veteran Islamist and leader of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP), has died at the age of 84, medical sources said on Saturday.
Turabi, one of the country's most influential political figures, formed the PCP in 1999 to challenge long-serving President Omar al-Bashir and his ruling National Congress Party, with which Turabi had previously been aligned.
He was rushed to hospital earlier on Saturday after suffering a heart attack, the sources said.
Turabi was elected speaker of parliament in 1996 and was close to Bashir before a bitter power struggle and split in 1999.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The media keep saying that the West isn't involved in Syria. This is not true


By Ian Sinclair, Open democracy

“The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary”, George Orwell noted in his censored preface to his 1945 book Animal Farm. “Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban”. Orwell went onto explain that “at any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it”.
The corporate media’s ‘coverage’ of Syria adds a twist to Orwell’s dictum – inconvenient reports and facts do occasionally appear in respected newspapers and on popular news programmes but they are invariably ignored, decontextualised or not followed up on. Rather than informing the historical record, public opinion and government policy these snippets of essential information are effectively thrown down the memory hole.
Instead the public is fed a steady diet of simplistic, Western-friendly propaganda, a key strand of which is that the US has, as Channel 4 News’s Paul Mason blindly asserted in January 2016, “stood aloof from the Syrian conflict”. This deeply ingrained ignorance was taken to comical lengths when Mason’s Channel 4 News colleague Cathy Newman interviewed the former senior US State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter, with both women agreeing the US had not armed the insurgency in Syria.
In the real world the US has been helping to arm the insurgency since 2012, with US officials telling the Washington Post in last year that the CIA’s $1bn programme had trained and equipped 10,000 rebel fighters. “From the moment the CIA operation was started, Saudi money supported it”, notes the New York Times. According to the former American Ambassador to Syria, the US "has looked the other way" while fighters it has backed have "coordinated in military operations" with the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria. The UK, of course, has obediently followed its master into the gates of hell, with the former UK Ambassador to Syria recently explaining the UK has made things worse by fuelling the conflict in Syria.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mohammed Hassanein Heikal 1923-2016

President Gamal Abdel Nasser with his close confident Heikal

One of the most famous Egyptian journalists, authors and political commentators, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, died this Wednesday aged 92. According to sources around him three weeks ago his health started to deteriorate as a result of kidney failure. 
Heikal was born in 1923 and started his career as a journalist in the fall of 1942 at the Egyptian 
Gazette. His breakthrough came with his coverage of the WWII Battle of Al-Alamein. He later moved on to join the most established editor of the time, Mohamed El-Tabei, in the then most widely-circulated paper Akhr Saa. Lateron he joined Akhbar Al-Youm of the Amin-brothers.
His real fame came under president Gamal Abdel Nasser, whom he helped to to coin his pan-Arabic ideology and whom he served as a close adviser. Heikal became editor-in-chief of the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper for 14 years starting in the year 1957. Also served four years starting in 1970  as Information Minister before returning to journalism.