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,

one in which you try your very hardest but
never get anywhere,
where you put your very best in,
but only the worst comes out,
a tired life.
It was one bestowed upon me,
an one I tried to shake off,
a cloak of heavy, dull satin,
pinned tight about my neck,
stranglehold.
Countless attempts. So much of my
being put in to making that cloak
shine, making it glow,
failed efforts heavy with the
stench of misintention,
a slew of sins.
Dissatisfaction. I began to
feel uncomfortable,
tears springing to my eyes as I contemplated
the heavy, deep fastenings of the cloak, only
unfastened through true lawlessness or truthful
intention.
I stumbled about with the heavy cloak
until one day
one morning,
fresh, calm and cool, the birds alight with their trills,
I faced towards the Kaabah and
felt the true cool of the deen
surrounding me and
transforming the cloak of dull expectations into
one of shining possibilities,
open and airy and effervescent
a garb of intentions, open worlds
a refuge of Islam.


______________

You can usually find Laila engaged in a deep conversation with a stranger, or nursing a cup of Earl Grey tea with three teaspoons of sugar. She graduated from Wellesley College in 2012 and currently works at Princeton University, conducting a study on Muslim American perceptions of belonging and community within the greater American diaspora. Laila funnels her love for jewelry making into her own business and works to bettering the Muslim American experience for both Muslims and America at large. She heads a faith anthology project for Muslim American women called Coming of Faith.

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.

Maqams or maqamat are sets of musical scales and characteristic melodic elements, or motives, and traditional patterns for their use, forming a system for the melodic and tonal development of performances in Islamic music.

Maqami music is connected to the traditions and perspective of an ethnic group living in a particular region.


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.


He took a major step forward in 1993 when he rediscovered the lost technique of cutting a qalam (pen, writing implement) for the Primary Kufic script. Surviving Primary Kufic pens have been recut several times to refresh the tip and this has left characteristic scars that may also be seen on Vahid’s pens. Noting these scars, Professor Kalhornia, graphic designer and historian of calligraphy, concludes that Vahid has indeed recovered the lost technique. But, more than this, Vahid’s continuing research into the history and development of the script has led him also to recover the authentic calligraphic technique, and this means that Primary Kufic can not only be revived knowledgeably and relevantly but can also pave the way for – or even inspire – contemporary new scripts that correspond to its stateliness and range.

Vahid’s developing professional interest in type design continued alongside his historic researches, thus putting him in a uniquely authoritative position to revive the Kufic script and guide its contemporary development. He has designed over 3,000 logotypes as well as creating unusually rich and nuanced fonts whose expressive range is comparable with Primary Kufic.

An important core of his work was published in the Kufic Encyclopedia, which not only provides superlative, fully identified, historic exemplars but also gives technical training for the script. Kufic has, of course, already inspired other scripts such as Thulth and Naskh, and initial surveys of these are found in the Script and Calligraphy set, and in Stone Inscriptions: Kufic and Thulth.

In addition to research, Vahid has also published numerous calligraphic posters, including Divine Love (a set of 12 works in two sizes), Breeze of East, Messiah of Souls and Seventh Heaven.

Kuficpedia’s members and contributors are active in a variety of disciplines (including art history, philosophy, calligraphy, graphic and typeface design) and one of our core activities is conducting workshops in different countries. Kuficpedia is a non-profit group.



Seyed Mohammad Vahid Mousavi Jazayeri

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."


Since then, however, the situation has changed dramatically, the BND believes. Schindler used graphics and maps to demonstrate that Assad's troops once again possess effective supply lines to ensure sufficient quantities of weapons and other materiel. Fuel supplies for tanks and military aircraft, which had proved troublesome, are once again available, Schindler reported. The new situation allows Assad's troops to combat spontaneous rebel attacks and even retake positions that were previously lost. The BND does not believe that Assad's military is strong enough to defeat the rebels, but it can do enough to improve its position in the current stalemate.


____________________

David Shedd, No. 2 in the Defense Intelligence Agency, said yesterday that the Syrian civil war is now likely to continue for years, whatever Assad’s fate. The country faces the prospect of “unfathomable violence” and growing power there by Islamic radicals, including those allied with al-Qaeda, he said.
“My concern is that it can go on for a long time, as in many, many months to multiple years,” he said, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado. “And the civilian casualties, the enormous flow of refugees and the dislocation and so forth and the human suffering associated with it will only increase in time.’‘
The United Nations estimates that more than 93,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war, which began with peaceful protests in March 2011. The fighting has sent hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing into neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan.

_____________

It was a only a few weeks ago, at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, that David Cameron was demanding the removal of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, claiming that he had “blood on his hands” and that it was “unthinkable” that he could play any part in Syria’s future. Yet it now seems increasingly likely that, far from being forced from office, President Assad will retain control of much of the country. Certainly the recent successes recorded by pro-Assad forces appear to have had a disastrous impact on the morale of rebel fighters, with hundreds deciding to take advantage of an amnesty offered by Damascus to surrender their weapons and give up the fight.
This remarkable turnaround is in part due to the unstinting backing Damascus has received from its allies, Russia and Iran, both in terms of military support and diplomatic cover – especially Moscow’s refusal to sanction any UN resolution authorising intervention. The rebels’ cause, meanwhile, has been undermined by constant infighting and attempts by Islamist militants to hijack the opposition agenda; the presence of fighters with links to al-Qaeda has been one of the main reasons why those who wanted to arm the rebels have grown more cautious.
Faced with the awful complexities of the Syrian insurrection, the West collectively decided that the costs of intervention were too high. That may well have been the right decision. But inaction has its costs, too. With President Assad and his backers in Moscow and Tehran looking increasingly confident, those powers that demanded his overthrow – such as Britain, France and the US – look impotent and weak. Rather than convening international conferences to consider Syria’s future, they must now start thinking about how to deal with a regime clinging tenaciously to power.

read article 3 >>

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.

Rohani’s Victory and Internal Dynamics
After eight years of hardliners’ rule, moderate cleric and reformist candidate Hassan Rohani was elected as Iran’s 11th President on June 14, 2013. The election results came as a surprise not only for the world but also for the Iranians. Rohani secured 50.7 percent (18,613,329) votes and defeated the principlist candidate Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who secured only 16 percent (6,077,292) votes. Nearly 50.5 million Iranians were eligible to participate in the elections, and Iran’s Interior Ministry announced that the voter turnout was 72.7 percent.1

There are some internal electoral factors which went in favour of Rohani. First, the reformist candidate Mohammad Reza Aref withdrew his candidature and extended his support to Rohani. Second, the endorsement by former Iranian presidents and powerful reformist politicians like Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami and their appeal to the people to vote for Rohani strengthened his position. Third, there was division of votes among the principlist candidates like Qalibaf, Jalili and Velayati. Despite appeal by the powerful cleric Ayatollah Khatami, principlists did not unite and agree for a single candidate to avoid the division of votes. Fourth, more than 1.6 million first-time voters who are young, modern in their outlook and seek changes in their society have chosen to vote in favour of Rohani. Lastly, all the candidates promised for economic reforms but no one made statements regarding easing of tensions with the West and allowing for greater freedom of the press and avoiding unnecessary interference in public life of the he people except Rohani. In addition, Rohani made commitments to to improve relations with the neighbouring countries, end international sanctions and, most importantly, improve Iran’s economic condition. Iran’s currency, the rial, has dropped by more than 50 percent since last year due to sanctions and the inflation rate has also gone up by more than 32 percent.2

Rohani is an experienced cleric and politician who presently represents the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei in the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), and is a member of the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts. He is also the director of the Expediency Council's Centre for Strategic Research. In his first press conference on June 17, 2013, Rohani expressed “constructive interaction” with the world through a moderate policy and his administration of “Prudence and Hope” in serving the national objectives. He also said his administration will take steps to ease the “brutal sanctions imposed against Iran over its nuclear programme...”3

Rohani was the head of SNSC and chief negotiator of Iran nuclear programme during 2003 and 2005 under the presidency of Mohammad Khatami. It was during this time that Iran’s covert nuclear programme was discovered in 2003 and the subsequent negotiations led to the famous “Tehran Declaration”4 signed between Iran and the E-3 (UK, France and Germany) leading to Iran freezing its nuclear enrichment programme and offering additional protocols to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Rohani was the architect from the Iranian side.

In the present context, nuclear issue and its resolution holds the key to Iran’s most acute problem; the economic crisis. Crippling sanctions have had an adverse effect on the economy which is slowly emerging as a serious issue of public discontent. The Supreme leader and the President would be hoping that fresh talks under the new leadership could ensure movement forward on the nuclear issue and easing of some economic pressures on Iran.

Rohani, in his first televised speech on June 17, 2013 said, "The sanctions are unfair, the Iranian people are suffering, and our (nuclear) activities are legal. These sanctions are illegal and only benefit Israel", adding that the period of international demands for an end to the nuclear enrichment is over and that the idea is to engage in more active negotiations with the 5+1, as the nuclear issue cannot be resolved without negotiations.5 Rohani with his experience and deliverance on nuclear issue in the past offers hope for some flexibility. Thus, there is strong likelihood on renewed engagement on nuclear talks in the near future. While it may not result in closing down of Iran’s nuclear programme, it might result in some additional concessions from Iran in return for some economic sanction ease by the West – a ‘face saving exit’ for all parties.

Constitutionally, Iran's president does not have the authority to set major policies such as the direction of the nuclear programme or Iran’s relations with the West. All such decisions are taken by the Supreme Leader. Under the current constitutional system, the President can, at best, use his office and his proximity to Khamenei, Rafsanjani and Khatami to influence policies. Rohani will serve as Iran’s main international representative and is likely to present a different tone than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rohani can take inspirations from the reformist president Khatami who despite certain disagreements with Khamenei still managed to carry out his policies particularly towards Saudi Arabia and the European countries. The only policy area where Khatami could not impress Khamenei was in his approach to the US. Khamenei remained rigid and cynical about any diplomatic relations with the US but understood that Iranian national interests require furthering relationship with its neighbours as well as its European trading partners. However, during that time Iran supported the US indirectly by helping the former in Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Rohani can take cue from the past and follow the reformist policy of 1997-2005.

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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.

“Egypt’s fate should be determined by its own nation and any decision made by the Egyptian people should be respected by all,” Salehi told his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr in a phone call Thursday, adding that “the Islamic republic has always sought and will seek the best relations with Egypt.”

Ambassador Mahmoud Farag, Egypt’s former charge d’affaires in Tehran, told Xinhua that he does not expect the ouster of Morsi to negatively affect the gradual normalization of the Egyptian-Iranian ties that suffered a three-decade rift.

“I do not think Morsi’s removal will affect ties with Iran, which are already stagnant for other reasons including the positions on the Syrian crisis and the ideological differences between Egyptian Sunnis and Iranian Shiites,” the ex-diplomat explained.

Ties between Egypt and Iran were cut off after Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. But after Egyptians in early 2011 ousted Hosni Mubarak, “a breakthrough” in the tense Egyptian-Iranian ties emerged.

The icy bilateral relations started to thaw after ousted Morsi paid his first visit to Tehran last August to attend the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, which was followed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Cairo in February to attend an Islamic conference.

Farag said that the relations between the two did not witness a great development except for exchanging diplomatic visits.

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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.

Demonstrators have been protesting against a recently imposed law which blocked the authority of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) from approving urban planning projects. They gathered at Istiklal Avenue to march to Gezi Park, which is located a short walking distance away. 
The crowd was chanting anti-government slogans and screaming, “This is just the beginning. The fight is continuing.” 
As police approached the crowd and asked them to exit the area, some of the protesters refused to leave the street. Riot police then responded by using tear gas and water cannon. 

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.

...

Qatar, in alliance with Turkey, has given strong financial and diplomatic support to the Muslim Brotherhood, but also to other Islamists operating on the battlefields of Syria and, before that, Libya. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, by comparison, have sought to restore the old, authoritarian order, fearful that Islamist movements and calls for democracy would destabilize their own nations.

...
The Qataris suffered two other, lesser setbacks in recent days: on Monday, 22 journalists at Al Jazeera resigned en masse, citing what they said was the station’s biased coverage of the Brotherhood. Al Jazeera’s bias in favor of the Islamist group has often been cited as a grievance against Qatar’s rulers, who are accused of using the station as an arm of their activist foreign policy.

Also on Tuesday, Ghassan Hitto, the prime minister of the main Syrian exile opposition group — who was seen as favorable to Qatar — resigned. Although the reasons for his resignation were not clear, it was generally viewed as a concession to Saudi Arabia, which had signaled its discontent with him.

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Monday, July 08, 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 07, 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.

read more >>

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