Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Arab Cinderella: A Life Poem

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013   No comments
By Laila Alawa*

I always felt
as though my life, my being, my very self
were forevermore saddled with the
very expectations of
generations before me,
dusty individuals, their fervent whispers carrying,
moving, traveling,
across centuries of near-still air,
air rippled only with the occasional revolution,
scented softly with rosewater and hot Arabic coffee,
that their unfulfilled wishes, needs and every desire,
were now mine,
like a sort of modern-day Cinderella wish,
upon turning sixteen years of age, a welcome to the
world of
a dissatisfied life,

Exhibition showcasing over 1000 years of Islamic art and architecture opens at the Asian Civilisations Museum

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013   No comments
The Asian Civilisations Museum presents an exhibition of works of art from the Aga Khan Museum. Featuring masterpieces of Islamic art and architecture spanning many centuries and from regions around the world, Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Architecture in Islamic Arts are on display at the ACM from 19 July to 28 October 2012. Architecture, with tiled and gilt domes, shaded courtyards, and inscribed gates, became a natural expression of Islam. The exhibition reveals how Muslim artists perceived the Islamic built environment. Over 100 objects, ranging from manuscript illumination, paintings, and architectural elements to hajj certificates and tiles decorated with passages from the Qur‟an, illustrate ideas of space and decoration in both religious and secular environments. The exhibition offers insights into some of the great Islamic dynasties: the al-Andalus of the Iberian Peninsula; Ilkhanid, Timurid, and Safavid Iran; Ottoman Turkey; and Mughal India. “Islamic architecture is one of the most visible aspects of Islamic culture,” says Dr Alan Chong, director of the Asian Civilisations Museum. “This exhibition approaches architecture from several points of view. Intricately painted illuminations capture the world in miniature, and invite the viewer into splendid palaces and intimate gardens. At the same time, visitors can inspect carved wooden beams and brilliantly coloured glazed tiles that once decorated mosques and other buildings. We hope that visitors will gain new insights into the history and creativity of the Islamic world.”

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Former Malian prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's campaign team said on Monday its results put Keita in a strong lead and in reach of outright victory in Mali's election, but rivals said they were sure a run-off vote would have to be held

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013   No comments
The statements came ahead of official tallies from Sunday's vote and are the first signs of tension after a robust turnout and the lack of violence showed how eager Malians were to turn the page on more than a year of turmoil, war and an army coup.

The first official figures were not due until Tuesday. Full provisional results are expected by Friday, the country's director-general for territorial administration told state television late on Monday.

"We have information coming from our own teams ... that show we are well ahead and a first round victory is in reach," said Mahamadou Camara, a spokesman for Keita, who is universally known by his initials, IBK.

A run-off would take place on August 11 if no candidate secures over 50 percent of the vote.

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a presidential spokesman: Eight Tunisian soldiers were killed when gunmen ambushed an army unit near the border with Algeria. The attack took place on Jebel Chaambi, a suspected hideout of al Qaeda-linked militants

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013   No comments
Tunisia’s presidential spokesman says gunmen ambushed an army unit patrolling in a mountainous region near the border with Algeria, killing eight soldiers.

Adnan Mancer told The Associated Press that the attack took place Monday on Jebel Chaambi, Tunisia’s tallest mountain and a suspected hideout of al-Qaida-linked militants.

The army has been searching the mountainous region near the Algerian frontier since a patrol was hit by a roadside bomb in April.

On June 24, the army declared the mountain cleared of extremists in a campaign that cost three lives and left 27 soldiers injured.

In the course of its operation, the army discovered evidence suggesting an al-Qaida-linked movement supported by the local population had set up training camps in the area.


Azeri maqami musician Alim Qasimov will be joining an Iranian band to perform a concert at the 49th International Festival of Carthage in Tunis

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013   No comments
Vocalist Mohammad Motamedi will lead the group, which also features Sina Jahanabadi on kamancheh, Azad Mirzapur on tar, Pasha Hanjani on ney, and Hossein Rezaeinia and Milad Abassi on daf.

The concert has been scheduled for August 3 at the festival, which is currently underway in Tunisia. The festival will run until August 17.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has called on the Kurdish groups in Syria not to side with the al-Assad regime and urged them to support the opposition

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013   No comments
Arınç said the Syrian regime intended to exploit the Kurds and other groups in the northern region, and use them as a trump card against Turkey. “When al-Assad goes, and a democratic regime is established with a Parliament and elections, then everyone will be represented equally,” Arınç told state-run broadcaster TRT on July 29.

“All we ask of the formation there [Kurds in the north] is that they do not cooperate with al-Assad. Become a part of the opposition and do not attempt to take control by fait accompli,” he added. 


Monday, July 29, 2013

CIVIL SOCIETY AND FOREIGN DONORS IN LIBYA

    Monday, July 29, 2013   No comments
In Libya, political civil society is a novelty. Mostly banned under Muammar Gaddafi, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have mushroomed in post-2011 Libya thanks to newly acquired freedoms. The influx of foreign donors to the previously isolated country, providing technical and financial assistance, has contributed to building up the capacities of the Libyan NGO sector. Having been subjected to propaganda about foreign ‘conspiracies’ for decades, Libyan society is slowly adapting to the idea of development assistance from abroad as a friendly means to help the country’s democratic transition. A highly politicised issue in Egypt and Tunisia, the topic of ‘foreign funding’ and how it is addressed in Libyan public debate differs from its neighbouring countries in several ways. Libya’s economic wealth, while not yet mobilised to build up civil society capacities as such, sets the stage for popular attitudes regarding external support to building Libya’s new order. Unlike in Egypt (where the Muslim Brotherhood has suffered a major reversal with the removal of President Morsi by the army following massive street protests, but remains a strong political movement and contender for power) and Tunisia, Libya’s Islamist parties are relatively weak. It follows that the anti-Gulf sentiments on the rise in several North African countries – motivated mainly by the Gulf’s alleged backing of Islamic forces – are less widespread in Libya. The great importance that tribal structures and decentralised governing models could have in the future is already  affecting the impact potential of donors based in Tripoli. At the same time, the country’s fragile security situation significantly limits the scope for both domestic and external actors to venture beyond the big cities. Based on a series of interviews carried out in Libya in early 2013, this paper examines how the issue of foreign funding is perceived by donors and local stakeholders, focusing on how local attitudes have changed in the post-Gaddafi era.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Syrian state media accused insurgents on Saturday of killing 123 people, the majority of them civilians, during a rebel offensive this week to take the northern town of Khan al-Assal

    Saturday, July 27, 2013   No comments
 (Reuters) - Syrian state media accused insurgents on Saturday of killing 123 people, the majority of them civilians, during a rebel offensive this week to take the northern town of Khan al-Assad.

A two-year revolt-turned-civil war has left more than 100,000 people dead and both forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels are accused by rights groups of war crimes.

State news agency SANA said that "armed terrorist groups" committed a "massacre ... mutilating the bodies of the martyrs and throwing them in a big hole on the outskirts of the town, in addition to incinerating a number of (their) bodies."

The accusations come a day after a rebel group, calling itself the Supporters of the Islamic Caliphate, posted a video on YouTube of around 30 bodies of young men piled up against a wall who they said were pro-Assad militiamen.

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Turkish PM, Erdoğan: The Egyptian people are showing dignity against the military coup for weeks. They didn’t have Molotov cocktails or weapons in their hands, they had patience. They didn't allow vandalism. Nothing that happened in our country has been happening in Cairo or in Alexandria

    Saturday, July 27, 2013   No comments
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed in the strongest terms the security forces crackdown against supporters of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi in the early hours of July 27 that killed dozens of people and injured over a thousand.

Quoting the Anatolia Agency’s report which puts the death toll well over 200, Erdoğan described as a “massacre” the killings of protesters refusing to leave Rabaa al-Adawiya Square since the military takeover on July 3.

“We see that hearts are not softening in the Muslim world despite the Ramadan. While Muslims were preparing for their Sahur meal, a massacre took place in Egypt. 200 people were martyred. After the people's will, those who overthrew the government are now massacring the people,” Erdoğan said during a fast-breaking dinner organized by the All Industrialist and Businessmen Association (TÜMSİAD) in Istanbul July 27.

Creating parallels with the nationwide protests sparked after an attempt to cut down trees in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, Erdoğan argued that Morsi supporters did not participate in violent acts unlike the Turkish demonstrators.

“The Egyptian people are showing dignity against the military coup for weeks. They didn’t have Molotov cocktails or weapons in their hands, they had patience. They didn't allow vandalism. Nothing that happened in our country has been happening in Cairo or in Alexandria,” Erdoğan said.

“People were calling on their rulers to desist from the coup and give them back their president. But instead of listening to their people, the coup-stagers in Egypt have responded by sending their gangs with guns and bullets,” he added while he criticized the Egyptians who filled Tahrir Square following a call from the Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to demonstrate in support of the interim government.

“You know what saddens me? While more than 200 of my brothers were being killed and five thousand injured, there were people having fun with fireworks in Tahrir Square. Who were these people? We should be vigilant against this sort of plots,” he said.

‘Where are you Europe, US, UN, BBC, CNN and Muslim World?’

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Kufic Ancient and Modern: from calligraphy to typography

    Friday, July 26, 2013   No comments
The Kuficpedia project is developing through an international group of scholars and designers with a shared interest in the Kufic script. The project came together around the historical research and achievements of calligrapher and typeface designer, Seyed Mohammad Vahid Mousavi Jazayeri. Vahid’s study of Thulth and Naskh scripts began in 1982 and after nearly ten years of training he began teaching students in Tehran since 1991. Within a year, he was developing two complementary fields: historical calligraphy research in a range of media (ceramics, coins, plaster and stone, as well as manuscripts) and contemporary type design.

Not even a year ago, German intelligence predicted Syrian autocrat Bashar Assad's regime would soon collapse. Now, the agency instead believes the rebels are in trouble. Government troops are set to make significant advances, it predicts

    Friday, July 26, 2013   No comments
Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), has fundamentally changed its view of the ongoing civil war in Syria. SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned that the BND now believes the Syrian military of autocrat Bashar Assad is more stable than it has been in a long time and is capable of undertaking successful operations against rebel units at will. BND head Gerhard Schindler informed select politicians of the agency's new assessment in a secret meeting.

It is a notable about-face. As recently as last summer, Schindler reported to government officials and parliamentarians that he felt the Assad regime would collapse early in 2013. He repeated the view in interviews with the media.
At the time, the BND pointed to the Syrian military's precarious supply situation and large numbers of desertions that included members of the officer core. German intelligence spoke of the "end phase of the regime."

Turkey has fallen down the ranks of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, dropping to 154th on the annual list

    Friday, July 26, 2013   No comments
Turkey has fallen in the ranks of Reporters Without Borders’ annual World Press Freedom Index, dropping to 154th on the list. The Paris-based group also noted that Turkey currently imprisons more journalists than any other country in the world.

RSF stated that Turkey, a country of “political importance” amid the Syrian conflict, was “currently the world’s biggest prison for journalists”. The country plummeted from 148th to 154th on this year's list.

The report also targeted Turkey for failing to live up to its aspirations of being a regional model “despite a varied and lively media” presence in the country. The Turkish state was criticised for exhibiting “paranoia about security, which has a tendency to see every criticism as a plot hatched by a variety of illegal organisations”.

The paranoia has intensified during the past year, which was “marked by rising tension over the Kurdish question”, the media advocacy group said.

Syria, meanwhile, has become “the deadliest country for journalists” as reporters suffered both from the civil war and from government attempts to crack down on media coverage.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

ISDA: Iran’s major foreign policy challenge is to improve its relations with the West and its neighbours and overcome its isolation; from this point of view, Rohani provides a ray of hope

    Thursday, July 25, 2013   No comments
The victory of moderate cleric Hassan Rohani as the President of Iran in many ways is a clear indication of continuity with some change in Iran’s foreign policy in future. In the light of new developments in the region, Iran’s major foreign policy challenge is to improve its relations with the West and its neighbours and overcome its isolation. From this point of view, Rohani provides a ray of hope in terms of some departure in Iran’s foreign policy. This was well articulated by President Rohani in his first press conference as well. The Issue Brief is divided into two parts. The first part looks at the internal political dynamics leading to the victory of Rohani and the second part examines implications change in Iranian leadership post Ahmedinejad for the region and India. The Issue Brief argues that Iran’s foreign policy is likely to witness some remodelling but no major departure from the past.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Following mass anti-government protests in Turkey, Ankara is now taking revenge on its critics. Activists and demonstrators are being investigated and intimidated, while journalists are getting fired and insubordinate civil servants transferred far afield

    Wednesday, July 24, 2013   No comments
Tayfun Kahraman met the prime minister five weeks ago, but now he is sitting in a hotel in Gaziantep in southeast Turkey, feeling distraught. The city is 1,150 kilometers (715 miles) from Istanbul, but less than 100 kilometers from the Syrian border. Kahraman is an urban planner and an official with the historic preservation division of the Turkish Ministry of Culture. Until recently, the 32-year-old was in Istanbul, where he led the protests against a development project in Gezi Park, which grew into mass demonstrations against the government in early June. Now he has been transferred to this provincial city as a punishment, he says. The official explanation is that there is a personnel shortage in the southeast.

"In Istanbul, my friends are being arrested and chased through the narrow streets with tear gas," says Kahraman. "And I'm stuck here." But he risks losing his job if he objects to the transfer. He is also receiving death threats, probably from supporters of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He scrolls through the emails on his Blackberry, which include hate-filled Twitter messages. One person wrote: "We want to see you hanging on Taksim Square." In Istanbul, he didn't go home for weeks. He changed hotels four times, or slept in offices and friends' apartments -- when he could sleep at all.
Until recently, Kahraman headed the conferences of a group called Taksim Solidarity, wrote press releases and was part of a group of protest leaders invited to speak with Prime Minister Erdogan in June. He also did the preparatory work for an expert report on which an Istanbul court based its decision to declare the construction project in Gezi Park illegal three weeks ago.

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PM Erdoğan likens Gezi protesters to ‘piteous rodents

    Wednesday, July 24, 2013   No comments
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has likened Gezi Park protesters to “piteous rodents” aiming to put a hole in the “ship that 76 million Turkish citizens are in.”
 
Following the tense riots during the Gezi protests in June, Prime Minister Erdoğan had earlier portrayed the protesters negatively, calling them “thugs.”

Speaking at an iftar (fast-breaking) dinner hosted by the Turkish Tradesmen and Artisans' Confederation (TESK) in Kastamonu on Tuesday, Erdoğan said there were some circles among the Gezi protesters who “tried to solve their problems with the government by targeting the country's economy, stability and safety.”

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While important government figures were playing “brotherhood” at five star hotels, the groups have decided to share the table with the Anti-Capitalist Muslims, who share Alevis’ sorrow and recognize the community as it is, rather than attempting to define the group

    Wednesday, July 24, 2013   No comments
An Alevi association has announced plans to reject an offer from President Abdullah Gül to attend an iftar at Istanbul’s five-star Polat Renaissance Hotel in favor of breaking the fast with the Anti-Capitalist Muslims group.

The Central Office of Alevi Cultural Associations and the Hubyar Sultan Association said brotherhood between Alevis and the government could not be secured only at iftar tables, noting that Alevi citizens’ problems and requests have been ignored by the government for years.

While important government figures were playing “brotherhood” at five star hotels, the groups have decided to share the table with the Anti-Capitalist Muslims, who share Alevis’ sorrow and recognize the community as it is, rather than attempting to define the group.

“We believe brotherhood cannot be secured merely by eating and drinking at a table in an environment where cemevis are still not counted as houses of worship, compulsory Sunni education is continued for Alevi children, children are forced to choose elective Sunni religion classes, Alevi houses of worship, especially the Hacı Bektaş Dervish lodge, which was extorted by the government, have not been given back to Alevis and the Madımak Hotel has been converted into a memorial house where the murderers’ names are also found instead of [being converted into] an exemplary museum condemning the [1993 Sivas] massacre,” the foundation said in a statement yesterday.

“Alevis don’t have equal rights in all fields as should be in a democratic country, and the government does not cease defining and describing faiths, their prayers and houses of worship,” the statement said.

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The Telegraph: Hundreds of men who took up arms against President Bashar al-Assad are defecting back to the government side

    Wednesday, July 24, 2013   No comments
Disillusioned by the Islamist twist that the "revolution" in Syria has taken, exhausted after more than two years of conflict and feeling that they are losing, growing numbers of rebels are signing up to a negotiated amnesty offered by the Assad regime.

At the same time, the families of retreating fighters have begun quietly moving back to government-controlled territory, seen as a safer place to live as the regime continues its intense military push against rebel-held areas.
The move is a sign of the growing confidence of the regime, which has established a so-called "ministry of reconciliation" with the task of easing the way for former opponents to return to the government side.

Ali Haider, the minister in charge, said: "Our message is, 'if you really want to defend the Syrian people, put down your weapons and come and defend Syria in the right way, through dialogue'."
Mr Haider, who has a reputation as a moderate within the regime, has established a system in which opposition fighters give up their weapons in exchange for safe passage to government-held areas.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Egyptian politicians and Western diplomats: Mohamed Mursi might still be president of Egypt today if he had grasped a political deal brokered by the European Union with opposition parties in April

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013   No comments
Convinced that election victories gave them a sufficient basis to rule, Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood spurned the offer to bridge the most populous Arab nation's deep political divide. Less than three months later, the army overthrew him after mass anti-government protests.

Under a compromise crafted in months of shuttle diplomacy by EU envoy Bernardino Leon, six secular opposition parties allied in the National Salvation Front would have recognised Mursi's legitimacy and agreed to participate in parliamentary elections they had threatened to boycott.

In return, Mursi would have agreed to replace Prime Minister Hisham Kandil and five key ministers to form a technocratic national unity cabinet, sack a disputed prosecutor general and amend the election law to satisfy Egypt's constitutional court.

The failure to clinch a deal shows the challenge facing the EU as it seeks to raise its profile in an area where the United States was long the sole power broker. But given deep antipathy to Washington on both sides of Egyptian politics, the EU may be the only "honest broker" and it is not giving up.

Its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, returns to Cairo on Wednesday in a fresh effort to forge consensus - though there was little sign of that on Tuesday when an interim government was sworn in and the Brotherhood denounced it as "illegitimate".

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Kurdish-islamist infighting: fighting has spread from Hasakeh in northeastern Syria to several hotspots in Raqa province in the north

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013   No comments
Syrian Kurds made rapid advances in the north of the country Tuesday, expelling jihadists from several villages, as a gulf of mistrust between Arabs and Kurds grew, activists said.

Tuesday's fighting hit several villages including Yabseh, Kandal and Jalbeh, which lie in the northern province of Raqa on Syria's border with Turkey and are home to a mixture of ethnic and religious communities, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It also reported that the Kurds expelled the jihadists from Kur Hassu, Atwan, Sarej and Khirbet Alu villages in the same area, which lies near the majority Kurdish town of Cobany.

In Hasake to the east, Kurdish-jihadist fighting went into the seventh consecutive day in the Jal Agha area and other villages in the majority Kurdish province, the Observatory added.

The latest battles come a week after fighters loyal to the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) expelled the jihadist Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) from the strategic Kurdish town of Ras al-Ain in Hasake province.



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EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to put the military wing of Lebanese group Hezbollah on the bloc's list of terrorist groups. But sanctions will have little impact

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013   No comments
It's a mistake that many make when they first arrive in Lebanon. Along the highway between the airport and city center, they see portraits of a plump man hanging on buildings, billboards and street lamps. He wears a black turban and glasses, his mouth usually turned up in a smile under his bushy, gray beard. Visitors often wonder if this is Lebanon's president.

But Hassan Nasrallah holds neither the office of president, nor any other political post in the country. Nevertheless, he is a powerful man in his homeland -- perhaps even its most powerful -- as the leader of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group and political party that heads the strongest coalition in the country's parliament. Nasrallah also directs thousands of elite fighters who are searching for like-minded recruits in the region. Thanks to Nasrallah's private army, which is fighting on the side of the Syrian regime, President Bashar Assad has the upper hand against rebels there once again.
On Monday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to put this armed wing of Hezbollah on the bloc's list of terrorist groups. The move marks a striking about-face in European policy regarding the Shiite militants. Previously, European leaders had argued that Lebanon, already in a vulnerable state, would be further destabilized if the influential group were declared outcasts.

Sanctions Won't Be Felt...

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

A senior US intelligence official has warned that Syria's civil war could rage for several years and that the conflict is reviving al-Qaeda in Iraq

    Sunday, July 21, 2013   No comments
David Shedd, deputy director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, delivered one of the grimmest US public assessments of the Syrian conflict as he described the increasing strength of Islamic radicals there.
His sobering analysis was echoed by David Cameron yesterday. Syria "is a very depressing picture and it is a picture which is on the wrong trajectory," the Prime Minister said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.
"There is too much extremism among the rebels. There is also still appalling behaviour from this dreadful regime using chemical weapons. There is an enormous overspill of problems into neighbouring countries.
"I think he [President Bashar al-Assad] may be stronger than he was a few months ago but I'd still describe the situation as a stalemate."
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Mr Shedd outlined equally bloody outcomes whether the Syrian dictator was toppled or not.

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Now we arrive in the Middle East as smiling supplicants, blessing any “people’s change” (unless it is any monarchical autocracy of the Gulf)

    Sunday, July 21, 2013   No comments
...
Middle East and NA
But never before has America joined in our European submission. Take the Obama policy, constructed on the colossal wreck of Bush’s New American Century. Barack Obama held out his hand to Iran. They bit his hand. He supported Mubarak. Then he no longer supported Mubarak. He supported the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt after he won the elections. And he – and the repulsive Tony Blair – now support the Egyptian army. Blair was bad enough. Egypt was in danger of “sliding into total chaos”, he has now told us, and we have to help the country “go back [sic] to democracy” after the “virtually unique situation” in which “either the army intervened or the country collapsed”.

But now listen to William Burns, the US Under-Secretary of State and allegedly the most powerful diplomat in America – and thus the world – as he arrived in Cairo last week. “I did not come with American solutions, nor did I come to lecture anyone. We will not try to impose our model on Egypt.” Just what that “model” is was a mystery to Egyptians, but Burns’ inevitable visit to the lads in khaki who staged the latest coup suggests that, once again, Washington prefers generals to democrats in hot places.

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Syrian Kurdish forces freed a local leader linked to al Qaeda as part of an agreed ceasefire to end fierce fighting with Islamist rebels in the northern Syrian town of Tel Abyad on Sunday

    Sunday, July 21, 2013   No comments
In return, Islamist rebels have promised to release hundreds of Kurds taken hostage as collateral from the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), known as Abu Musaab.

The sporadic fighting in the northern Syrian border region over the past five days has signaled a growing power struggle as Islamists work to cement control of rebel zones while Kurds assert their autonomy in mostly Kurdish parts of the region.

The tensions highlight how the two-year insurgency against 43 years of Assad family rule is spinning off into strife within his opponents' ranks, running the risk of creating regionalized conflicts that could destabilize neighboring countries.

Pro-opposition activists said that Turkish military forces had been reinforced on Turkey's side of the frontier near Tel Abyad on Sunday, but the Turkish army could not be reached for comment. Turkish forces exchanged fire with Syrian Kurdish fighters in another border region earlier this week.

 

David Cameron: The Assad government may have got "stronger" in recent months, but more can be done to help Syria's opposition forces

    Sunday, July 21, 2013   No comments
The UK prime minister told the BBC there was a "stalemate" on the ground, but work must continue internationally to try to find a solution.

UK military chiefs have warned of the risks of arming rebel groups.

Mr Cameron said there was "too much extremism" among the opposition, but moderate groups still deserved support.

Syrian government forces have taken the initiative in recent months, and have been bolstered by the capture of the strategically important town of Qusair in the west of the country in June.

Most of the much bigger city of Homs has been recaptured by government troops backed by Lebanon's Hezbollah.
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Killing in Cairo: the full story of the Republican Guards' club shootings

    Sunday, July 21, 2013   No comments
In the early hours of 8 July 2013, 51 Muslim Brotherhood supporters camped outside the Republican Guards' club in Cairo were killed by security forces. The Egyptian military claimed the demonstrators had attempted to break into the building with the aid of armed motorcyclists.

After examining video evidence and interviewing eyewitnesses, medics and demonstrators Patrick Kingsley finds a different story – a coordinated assault on largely peaceful civilians. 'If they'd just wanted to break the sit-in, they could have done it in other ways. But they wanted to kill us,' a survivor says...

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Momentum Shifts in Syria, Bolstering Assad’s Position: “If the revolution continues like this, the people will revolt against us,” said a rebel commander from the central city of Homs

    Thursday, July 18, 2013   No comments
In recent weeks, rebel groups have been killing one another with increasing ferocity, losing ground on the battlefield and alienating the very citizens they say they want to liberate. At the same time, the United States and other Western powers that have called for Mr. Assad to step down have shown new reluctance to provide the rebels with badly needed weapons.

Although few expect that Mr. Assad can reassert his authority over the whole of Syria, even some of his staunchest enemies acknowledge that his position is stronger than it has been in months. His resilience suggests that he has carved out what amounts to a rump state in central Syria that is firmly backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah and that Mr. Assad and his supporters will probably continue to chip away at the splintered rebel movement.

 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Although Iran deems the recent popular-backed military ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi “unacceptable”, analysts believe the move is unlikely to affect future relations between Egypt and Iran

    Monday, July 15, 2013   No comments
The first official Iranian reaction came five days after Morsi’s removal earlier this month, when Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi said on July 8 that “the intervention of the Egyptian armed forces in political affairs is unacceptable and disturbing.”

Two days later, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry labeled the Iranian reaction as “unacceptable interference,” adding it was based on Iranian misunderstanding of the Egyptian domestic developments.

Analysts say Iran seems to have reconsidered its position and thought it might not want to base its ties with Egypt on Morsi’s issue, which is shown by the recent statement of Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi in which he urged Egyptian political groups to consolidate national unity.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Mohammed Morsi to be the president of Egypt... some foreign countries did not financially support the Morsi government during his one-year presidency; however, the same countries have pledged to provide $16 billion to the coup regime in Egypt

    Sunday, July 14, 2013   No comments
“Currently, my president in Egypt is Morsi because he was elected by the people. Therefore, if we don't consider the situation like this, we would disregard the people of Egypt. Disregarding the will of the Egyptian people means disregarding yourself because in Turkey we respect the will of the people. We would respect the coup regime if they had won at the ballot box,” said Erdoğan at a fast-breaking dinner.

Stating that it is not the duty of the army to govern the country, Erdoğan underlined that the sole role of an army is to protect a country's borders.

“Why is there a ballot box? From the results of the box, a government would emerge through the will of the people and that government would govern the country. That government may be successful or not. If the government stops being successful, then the ballot box will come to the fore. When it comes to the fore, then you can say that the government has failed,” said Erdoğan.

Erdoğan underlined that some foreign countries did not financially support the Morsi government during his one-year presidency; however, the same countries have pledged to provide $16 billion to the coup regime in Egypt.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait have provided a total amount of $12 billion to Egypt following the recent struggles in the country.


Egypt's energy crisis sparks conspiracy theories

    Sunday, July 14, 2013   No comments
It is one of the first concrete changes observed since Mohammed Morsi’s ousting: power outages and queues at petrol stations seem to have miraculously disappeared. Speculation as to why is running rampant.
...

Shortages in the past, shortages in the future?

On the other hand, Halime does not trust the explanation offered by the Muslim Brotherhood. “Intentionally planning shortages would have required a lot of effort,” she said. “If that theory proves to be true, it’s very worrying. That means that a whole group of people is responsible for the difficulties the country has been facing.”

Whatever the likeliest explanation may be, Egyptians may be celebrating too soon. Less than ten days after Morsi’s arrest, queues at petrol stations have already been reported at Beni Suef, in central Egypt, and certain neighbourhoods in Cairo have had temporary power outages.

According to experts, Egypt’s energy crisis is indeed far from being resolved. The sector is plagued by aging infrastructure and is supported by costly government subsidies (accounting for 6% of the GDP and 70% of all government subsidies).

“Egypt pays a lot for its energy and re-sells it very cheaply,” Halime noted. “The system more or less worked before the revolution in 2011, but it’s no longer sustainable. There were shortages in the past, and there will be shortages in the future.”

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Turkish police have cleared Istiklal Avenue, firing water cannon and tear gas at hundreds of protesters as they gathered to march to Gezi Park

    Saturday, July 13, 2013   No comments




Turkish police have cleared Istiklal Avenue, firing water cannon and tear gas at hundreds of protesters as they gathered to march to Gezi Park. The park has been a cradle of anti-government unrest for weeks.

Experts: Turkey should stop taking sides and refrain from using bitter political language while making demands for democratization in Egypt

    Saturday, July 13, 2013   No comments
Turkey, unlike other countries in its harsh criticism of the coup in Egypt, should stop taking sides and refrain from using bitter political language while making demands for democratization in Egypt, according to experts.
“Turkey shouldn't take a hard-liner position against any country in the Middle East. Countries cannot democratize with these kinds of measures. Democratization doesn't seem to be possible in Egypt for up to one, five or 10 years. That's why Turkey can't contribute to Egypt's democratization with flare-ups,” Professor Sedat Laçiner, the rector of Çanakkale 18 Mart University (ÇOMU), told Today's Zaman.

...

“Turkey took a firm stance on the Syria issue, more strongly than it was supposed to. Ankara shouldn't be at the center of any fight in the Middle East. Turkey is a figure of reconciliation in the region and it should use its power on behalf of peace in the region. It shouldn't lose Egypt in the long term and should have a word in its future. If it takes a firm stand on Egypt, it won't have a seat at the table then,” said Laçiner, urging that further actions against Egypt may take Turkey to a point of no return in the Middle East.

Turkish analysts believe Ankara will not take such a firm stance towards Egypt; rather, it will stay engaged with the interim government in Cairo while refraining from measures that might harm bilateral ties.

Mehmet Şahin, a lecturer at Gazi University in Ankara, said that Turkey should not impose any sanctions on Egypt because of its economic relations with the country.

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Ankara goes back to the drawing board in an effort to better calibrate its Mideast policies following the shock of the Egyptian military coup

    Saturday, July 13, 2013   No comments
Disappointed with the Egyptian coup that ousted its best regional ally, Mohamed Morsi, Turkish diplomacy is seeking to fine-tune its overall Mideast policies with particular emphasis on how the Arab Spring will evolve amid ongoing turmoil in Egypt and Syria.

Although Ankara has hinted at keeping up its current “principle-based stance” on developments in the region, such as objecting to the military coup in Egypt, the Foreign Ministry is pursuing adjustments in order to narrow the gap in opinions with regional administrations and better inform those countries about the keys to Turkey’s policies.

Ankara reviewed its Middle Eastern policy earlier this month at a meeting of Turkish ambassadors under the direction of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu with particular emphasis on the coup in Egypt and the civil war in Syria.

In a 14-hour presentation and brainstorming session, Turkish ambassadors in the Mideast and in prominent capitals discussed how Turkey’s policies regarding the region, particularly toward Cairo and Damascus, are being perceived.

Davutoğlu asked the envoys to outline Turkey’s policies in a better and more frequent way, a participant told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that those policies were “non-sectarian.”

“Turkey does not take sides with either Sunnis or Shiites. Ankara’s foreign policy is impartial, inclusive,” the minister asked envoys to stress when they return to their postings.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Although they pretend to be neutral, the powerful Egyptian Army played a role in planning the ouster of President Morsi

    Friday, July 12, 2013   No comments
On June 30 millions of Egyptians protested against their president, Mohamed Morsi, in the largest demonstrations the country has ever seen. Three days later Egypt’s top general removed Morsi from office, saying the scale of the protests left him no choice.
But some leaders behind these landmark protests say they were in regular contact with the Army, via intermediaries, as they planned the demonstrations—and that it was clear their movement had the Army’s support.

In the days and weeks before the protests, Waleed al-Masry, a central organizer, was in regular contact with a group of retired military officers. These retired officers, Masry says, promised to protect the protesters who turned out on June 30. They said they were reaching out on behalf of the Army’s current commanders. “We didn’t ask them for help. They just offered it,” Masry says. “And we welcomed that.”

Masry was a key figure in Tamarod, or “Rebel,” the youth-led group whose campaign to collect signatures against Morsi snowballed into the protests that sparked his ouster. Tamarod’s leaders say they gathered 22 million signatures in just two months. While that figure is unlikely—and dismissed even by some of the group’s own organizers—signs of Tamarod’s grassroots success abounded as its campaign gained steam.

Teams of volunteers knocked on doors across the country. Many Egyptians downloaded Tamarod’s signature form online and passed it around. One organizer, Maha Saad, recounts working 16-hour days overseeing more than 400 volunteers tasked with entering all the names and ID numbers into a database. “It was crazy, really,” she says.

Even as the signature count grew and the protest plans intensified, however, many organizers knew Morsi would never step down on his own. Some admit that the more realistic aim of the protests was to inspire the military to step in—paving the way, they hope, for a smooth transition to fresh elections.

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The Perils of a ‘People’s Coup’

    Friday, July 12, 2013   No comments
By KHALED M. ABOU EL FADL

THE Egyptian Army claims that it had no choice but to overthrow the country’s first legitimately elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and that last week’s coup reflected the will of the Egyptian people. It’s true that most Egyptians hated Mr. Morsi’s inept government and rejoiced at his downfall.

But Mr. Morsi’s fall does not bode well for the future of Egypt and democracy in the region. The army is following in the footsteps of Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Hafez al-Assad of Syria, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran, who shared a common trait. They all pointed to their supporters in the streets as the source of their legitimacy and perpetuated autocratic rule in the name of the people’s will. By stepping in to remove an unpopular president, the Egyptian Army reaffirmed a despotic tradition in the Middle East: Army officers decide what the country needs, and they always know best.

Traditionally, there have been two institutions in Egypt that have considered themselves above accountability: the military and the judiciary. Both have refused to answer to any civilian power.

Both are firmly rooted in the regime of the deposed president Hosni Mubarak; they are staunchly secular, authoritarian and corrupt. The army has assured the United States and the world that it won’t intervene in politics again after this coup. It has called upon all Egyptians to come together, to forget their differences, and not to seek vengeance.


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Woman’s work: The twisted reality of an Italian freelancer in Syria

    Friday, July 12, 2013   No comments
Yet we pretend to be here so that nobody will be able to say, “But I didn’t know what was happening in Syria.” When really we are here just to get an award, to gain visibility. We are here thwarting one another as if there were a Pulitzer within our grasp, when there’s absolutely nothing. We are squeezed between a regime that grants you a visa only if you are against the rebels, and rebels who, if you are with them, allow you to see only what they want you to see. The truth is, we are failures. Two years on, our readers barely remember where Damascus is, and the world instinctively describes what’s happening in Syria as “that mayhem,” because nobody understands anything about Syria—only blood, blood, blood. And that’s why the Syrians cannot stand us now. Because we show the world photos like that 7-year-old child with a cigarette and a Kalashnikov. It’s clear that it’s a contrived photo, but it appeared in newspapers and websites around the world in March, and everyone was screaming: “These Syrians, these Arabs, what barbarians!” When I first got here, the Syrians stopped me and said, “Thank you for showing the world the regime’s crimes.” Today, a man stopped me; he told me, “Shame on you.”

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The beginning of internal wars among Syrian rebels: When Islamists killed A Free Syrian Army leader

    Friday, July 12, 2013   No comments
Syrian rebels said on Friday the assassination of one of their top commanders by al Qaeda-linked militants was tantamount to a declaration of war, opening a new front for the Western-backed fighters struggling against President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Rivalries have been growing between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamists, whose smaller but more effective forces control most of the rebel-held parts of northern Syria more than two years after pro-democracy protests became an uprising.

"We will not let them get away with it because they want to target us," a senior FSA commander said on condition of anonymity after members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant killed Kamal Hamami on Thursday.

"We are going to wipe the floor with them," he said.

Hamami, also known by his nom de guerre, Abu Bassir al-Ladkani, is one of the top 30 figures on the FSA's Supreme Military Command.

His killing highlights how the West's vision of a future, democratic Syria is unraveling.

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Mubarak's Old Guard Allies with Salafists

    Friday, July 12, 2013   No comments
Egypt's transitional government is moving forward rapidly with its plans to restore stability and hold new elections. On Tuesday evening, Hazem el-Beblawi, a liberal economist and former finance minister, was named temporary prime minister, while Nobel laureate pro-democracy politician Mohamed ElBaradei was named vice president. The latter was nearly named prime minister just days ago, but that move was hastily blocked by an Islamist party.

The announcement came less than a full day after the government had announced far-reaching decisions as to how the country would proceed following last week's removal of Mohammed Morsi, its first democratically elected president. The rules of the transition were defined by constitutional decree, and for the first time, a timetable was laid out. The Al-Ahram newspaper has even published a scanned version on their website.
The transitional government plans to keep things moving at a rapid pace, probably to outpace critics and quickly set new precedents. Morsi was overthrown just over a week ago, and has since been detained at an undisclosed location without contact with the outside world. Meanwhile, his supporters continue to demand that he be returned to his post, and have planned their latest protest for Tuesday evening. Leading members of the now-weakened Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that backs Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, have rejected the timetable, which would be used until new elections could be held.

The tight schedule is also meant to assuage concerns from abroad, where leaders are asking whether Egypt has strayed from its path toward democratization. The latest reaction from Washington was cautious -- the White House said it was taking time to review the situation.

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The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recognized as legal the ruling of a court in the Stavropol region that banned the wearing of headscarves in schools

    Friday, July 12, 2013   No comments
School is not a place for religion and religious attributes

The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recognized as legal the ruling of a court in the Stavropol region that banned the wearing of headscarves in schools. Pravda.Ru asked Olga Timofeeva, a member of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technology and Communications, to share her views about the problem.

"It's about time the Supreme Court should put an end to the controversial and scandalous process when we started using school and children for selfish gains of adults. Let's go back to what happened in a small village of the Stavropol region. The girls began to wear Muslim hijab scarves at school. Teachers said that it was not the way students should look. The next day, a lawsuit was filed to the regional court. Moreover, those people found an opportunity and money to resort to lawyer's assistance. Clearly, it was a provocation, in which children had been involved.

"My fundamental position as a deputy from the Stavropol region is as follows. One has to leave schools alone - this is not a place for religion, not a place for social stratification. Schools are for knowledge. Our children need to understand that there are educational institutions and there are other types of schools: evening and religious schools, where one can follow special dress code rules.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and UAE compete for influence in Egypt

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013   No comments
 Two of the Persian Gulf’s richest monarchies pledged $8 billion in cash and loans to Egypt on Tuesday, a decision that was aimed not only at shoring up a shaky transitional government, but also at undermining their Islamist rivals and strengthening their allies across a newly turbulent Middle East.

...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Après l'Égypte, des appels à la "rébellion" lancés en Libye

    Monday, July 08, 2013   No comments
Des appels à la "rébellion" en Libye inspirés par le soulèvement en Égypte font craindre la contagion, poussant les deux partis rivaux dominant l'Assemblée nationale à reléguer au second plan leur rôle législatif pour ne pas être la cible des protestataires.

Plusieurs pages Facebook ont été créées, telles que "Mouvement refus" qui comptait dimanche plus de 9.000 membres, ou "Mouvement Tamarrod de la nouvelle Libye pour faire tomber les partis" (5.600 membres). Ces groupes réclament notamment la dissolution des partis et des milices armées.

Ils tentent d'imiter le mouvement Tamarrod (rébellion) en Egypte qui a abouti à la destitution du président islamiste Mohamed Morsi.

Les militants derrière ces groupes estiment que la lutte pour le pouvoir entre les deux partis rivaux, l'Alliance des forces nationales (AFN, libérale) et le Parti pour la Justice et la Construction (PJC), bras politique des Frères musulmans en Libye, paralyse les travaux de l'Assemblée nationale et retarde la rédaction d'une Constitution.

L'AFN et le PJC s'accusent mutuellement de s'appuyer sur des milices pour accaparer le pouvoir.

Le Congrès général national (CGN), la plus haute autorité du pays, issu des élections du 7 juillet 2012, a pour mission de conduire le pays, en 18 mois, à des élections générales après la rédaction d'une Constitution établissant la nature du régime politique.


Lire l'article sur Jeune afrique...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The final moments of Mohammed Morsi's one-year Presidency before he was ousted by his Egyptian military have been dramatically recounted by army, security and Muslim Brotherhood officials

    Sunday, July 07, 2013   No comments
Speaking anonymously to the Associated Press, allies of the President said they had foreseen the end of Morsi's leadership up to a week before the opposition planned its first major protests and painted a bleak picture of the Brotherhoods decline.

In recent months, the former President had reportedly been at loggerheads with a series of the country's most powerful institutions, including religious clerics, the police and intelligence agencies.

The effect was isolating, officials said. According to some, there was such pervasive distrust between the political leadership and the civil service that the latter began withholding information from Morsi.

The police also refused to protect Muslim Brotherhood offices when they came under attack in the latest wave of protests.

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Egyptian Lessons to Assad and His Opponents

    Sunday, July 07, 2013   No comments
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s first reaction to the protests that broke out in his country two and

Within a few months, as the opposition became militarized, Damascus could only see a conspiracy in the making, as the descent into violence opened up a big wound across the nation.

The regime’s initial response was either guided by security concerns or took the form of a series of political concessions that had no real impact on people’s lives. As a result, the opposition, which was still not completely in the grip of foreign forces, registered a surge in its popularity.
But rather than using this to its advantage at the negotiating table, the Syrian opposition believed al-Jazeera’s propaganda campaign that the regime’s days were numbered, so they chose to up the ante and escalate their armed insurgency against the regime to finish it off.

Today, Syrians find themselves before an opportunity to reassess their situation and possibly bring the bloody confrontations to a stop. They should use the developments in Egypt to reflect on the course of their actions and where they are taking their country. This would require a series of steps by both sides along the following lines.

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half years ago was to dismiss any relation between them and events in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.

Friday, July 5, 2013

When is a military coup not a military coup? When it happens in Egypt, apparently

    Friday, July 05, 2013   No comments
For the first time in the history of the world, a coup is not a coup. The army take over, depose and imprison the democratically elected president, suspend the constitution, arrest the usual suspects, close down television stations and mass their armour in the streets of the capital. But the word ‘coup’ does not – and cannot – cross the lips of the Blessed Barack Obama. Nor does the hopeless UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon dare to utter such an offensive word. It’s not as if Obama doesn’t know what’s going on. Snipers in Cairo killed 15 Egyptians this week from a rooftop of the very university in which Obama made his ‘reach-out’ speech to the Muslim world in 2009. Is this reticence because millions of Egyptians demanded just such a coup – they didn’t call it that, of course – and thus became the first massed people in the world to demand a coup prior to the actual coup taking place? Is it because Obama fears that to acknowledge it’s a coup would force the US to impose sanctions on the most important Arab nation at peace with Israel? Or because the men who staged the coup might forever lose their 1.5 billion subvention from the US – rather than suffer a mere delay -- if they were told they’d actually carried out a coup.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Turkey calls for immediate release of Egyptian leaders

    Thursday, July 04, 2013   No comments
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has criticized the military intervention in Egypt, saying Turkey does not accept the removal and detention of elected leaders from power through “illegitimate means,” adding that he hoped the military’s move would not overshadow the original Jan. 25, 2011 revolution.

“Whatever the reason is, it is unacceptable that a democratically elected government was overthrown by illegitimate means, even more, with a military coup. A national consensus politics is possible only with the participation and support of democratic institutions, actors, opposition and civil society,” Davutoğlu told reporters in Istanbul. “Leaders who come to power with open and transparent elections reflecting the will of the people can only be removed by elections, that is, the will of the nation.”

Egypt’s army held the country’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in detention, hours after abruptly forcing him out of office following days of deadly protests against his turbulent rule. Morsi’s defense minister, armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, announced Morsi’s overthrow on state television on Wednesday. Warrants have been issued for the arrest of a total of 300 Muslim Brotherhood officials.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Crisis in Egypt: Morsi at Precipice after Disastrous Year

    Tuesday, July 02, 2013   No comments
On Monday, the Egyptian Army issued President Mohammed Morsi an ultimatum: He has 48 hours to come up with a plan for the country or it will intervene with one of its own. The tens of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters who had been demonstrating since Sunday in Tahrir Square broke out into cheers when the ultimatum was announced.

Yet Morsi has shown no indication that he is prepared to back down. On Tuesday, despite widespread dissatisfaction with his rule and a crumbling cabinet, he released a statement of his own, saying that he will continue on the course he has charted. As if to underline Morsi's increasing isolation, his foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, threw in the towel on Tuesday morning. He is the sixth member of Morsi's government to quit over the escalating crisis.

Disillusionment with Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's first democratically elected president, is widespread following the past year of his rule. Results, after all, have been disastrous. Instead of freeing his country from an ongoing political and economic crisis, Morsi has deepened the suffering. Instead of bringing reconciliation to Egypt, he has sown discord. Mass protests have repeatedly shown how polarized the most populous country in the Arab world has become. Indeed, just on Sunday, several people lost their lives in violent anti-Morsi protests in the heart of Cairo.

"My country has never been as divided, frustrated and radicalized as it is today," says German-Egyptian author Hamed Abdel-Samad.

President Mohamed Morsi rejects Egypt army's ultimatum, as ministers resign

    Tuesday, July 02, 2013   No comments
President Mohamed Morsi rejected an army ultimatum to force a resolution to Egypt's political crisis, saying that he would keep to his path even as his foreign minister added to the resignations from his cabinet.
The Islamist leader described as potentially confusing the 48-hour deadline set by the head of the armed forces on Monday for him to agree on a common platform with liberal rivals who have drawn millions into the streets demanding Morsi's resignation.
Members of his Muslim Brotherhood have used the word "coup" to describe the military manoeuvre, which carries the threat of the generals imposing their own road map for the nation.
On Tuesday morning Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr became the latest and most profile member of Mr Morsi's cabinet to desert him over the turmoil. He joined four ministers - of environment, legal affairs, communication and legal affairs, who stepped down on Monday.

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Turkey: recent unrest is Foreign powers and the Jewish diaspora conspiracy

    Tuesday, July 02, 2013   No comments
Foreign powers and the Jewish diaspora have triggered the recent unrest in Turkey, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said Monday, adding that the international media had also played a key role in "the conspiracy".

Foreign powers and the Jewish diaspora have triggered and fomented the unrest in Turkey, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said Monday in the Central Anatolian province of Kırıkkale.

Atalay also said the international media had played a key role in "the conspiracy". “The ones trying to block the way of Great Turkey will not succeed,” he said.

“There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey’s growth,” Atalay said. "They are all uniting, on one side the Jewish diaspora. You saw the foreign media’s attitude during the Gezi Park incidents; they bought it and started broadcasting immediately, without doing an evaluation of the [case]."

The Gezi protests began on May 31, triggered by Istanbul's plans to remove Gezi Park, which lies next to the iconic Taksim Square, to build a replica of Ottoman artillery barracks and a mall.

A sit-in by peaceful protesters soon turned into mass protests across the country with nearly two million people taking part and 79 of Turkey's 81 cities seeing unrest, according to interior ministry estimates.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Tunisia Tiring of Transition

    Monday, July 01, 2013   No comments
Tunisia
In the third year after the revolution that toppled former dictator Ben Ali, true democracy is still work in progress in Tunisia.

“Freedom is a decision but democracy is a transformational process,” Amine Ghali, programme director of the Kawakibi Democracy Transition Centre in Tunisia tells IPS. “So far our expectations about life after the revolution have not been met.

“We went through a major transformation immediately after the revolution which led to the elections in October 2011. However, since then there has been a lack of delivery of democratic processes including transitional justice, the independence of the judiciary, improvement of the economy, and the fight against corruption. We need milestones with dates. We cannot stay in transition indefinitely.”

The democratic struggle is set against the backdrop of Tunisia’s economic problems. “We are facing inflation, devaluation of the dinar and a drop in consumer purchasing power,” says Ghali. “People cannot eat the constitution, drink elections or buy freedom of the press. They need food for their children, education and affordable transportation.”

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China claims that "Xinjiang terrorists finding training, support in Syria, Turkey"

    Monday, July 01, 2013   No comments
From a foreign student studying in Istanbul to a soldier receiving training in Syria's Aleppo, to a terrorist plotting attacks in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, 23-year-old Memeti Aili said he felt like his dream was turned into a nightmare.

Memeti Aili was recently caught by the police when returning to Xinjiang to complete his mission to "carry out violent attack and improve fighting skills" assigned by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). ETIM is a terrorist group that aims to create an Islamist state in Xinjiang, which works alongside the East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA), an Istanbul-based exile group.

Foreign media portrayals of the conflict in Syria are dangerously inaccurate

    Monday, July 01, 2013   No comments
Every time I come to Syria I am struck by how different the situation is on the ground from the way it is pictured in the outside world. The foreign media reporting of the Syrian conflict is surely as inaccurate and misleading as anything we have seen since the start of the First World War. I can't think of any other war or crisis I have covered in which propagandistic, biased or second-hand sources have been so readily accepted by journalists as providers of objective facts.
A result of these distortions is that politicians and casual newspaper or television viewers alike have never had a clear idea over the last two years of what is happening inside Syria. Worse, long-term plans are based on these misconceptions. A report on Syria published last week by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group says that "once confident of swift victory, the opposition's foreign allies shifted to a paradigm dangerously divorced from reality".

Slogans replace policies: the rebels are pictured as white hats and the government supporters as black hats; given more weapons, the opposition can supposedly win a decisive victory; put under enough military pressure, President Bashar al-Assad will agree to negotiations for which a pre-condition is capitulation by his side in the conflict. One of the many drawbacks of the demonising rhetoric indulged in by the incoming US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and William Hague, is that it rules out serious negotiations and compromise with the powers-that-be in Damascus. And since Assad controls most of Syria, Rice and Hague have devised a recipe for endless war while pretending humanitarian concern for the Syrian people.

It is difficult to prove the truth or falsehood of any generalisation about Syria. But, going by my experience this month travelling in central Syria between Damascus, Homs and the Mediterranean coast, it is possible to show how far media reports differ markedly what is really happening. Only by understanding and dealing with the actual balance of forces on the ground can any progress be made towards a cessation of violence.

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