Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Syrian Rebels Describe U.S.-Backed Training in Qatar

    Wednesday, May 28, 2014   No comments

With reports indicating that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad are gaining ground in that country’s brutal civil war, moderate Syrian rebels have told a visiting journalist that the United States is arranging their training in Qatar (watch video).


In a documentary to be aired Tuesday night, the rebels describe their clandestine journey from the Syrian battlefield to meet with their American handlers in Turkey and then travel on to Qatar, where they say they received training in the use of sophisticated weapons and fighting techniques, including, one rebel said, “how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush.”

Echoing Syria's brutal civil war, dozens dead, morgues overflowing after siege turns one of Ukraine’s largest airports into a war zone

    Wednesday, May 28, 2014   No comments
DONETSK, Ukraine — High-calibre weapons fire echoed sporadically Tuesday through the eastern city of Donetsk and the mayor urged residents to stay home a day after fighting between Ukrainian troops and separatist rebels reportedly killed dozens.

Donetsk mayor Oleksandr Lukyanchenko said 40 people, including two civilians, were killed after troops repelled a rebel attempt Monday to seize control of the airport, Ukraine’s second-largest.

Local morgues were overflowing with bodies Tuesday and rebel leaders said the death toll could rise up to 100.

The city of about 1 million was mostly quiet in the afternoon after an arson attack in the morning that torched a local hockey rink. Occasional gunfire was heard in the morning outside Donetsk airport.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Assad's staying power leaves Turkey frustrated and exposed

    Tuesday, May 27, 2014   No comments
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's certain victory in an election next month, derided internationally as a charade, leaves Turkey facing a bitter truth - its assumption of his quick demise was a costly miscalculation.

With al-Qaeda-linked armed groups controlling patches of territory across Turkey's southern border and a registered refugee influx set to top a million within months, Syria's three-year old war presents Ankara with an increasing financial burden and a growing security threat.

A gun battle in March when special forces raided the suspected İstanbul hide-out of a militant group active in Syria highlighted the potential threat to Turkey from the thousands of foreign jihadis who have been drawn into the conflict, a portion of them entering Syria over the Turkish border.

The torching of a building housing Syrian refugees in Ankara this month meanwhile pointed to anger at the growing social and economic costs of a humanitarian response which has already cost Turkey close to $3 billion.

With Assad facing no serious challenger in a June 3 election which his Western and Arab foes, as well as the Syrian opposition, have dismissed as a parody of democracy, such tensions are unlikely to dissipate any time soon.

"We may describe Turkish Syria policy as a mess. We've committed too much, we've talked too big," said Osman Bahadır Dinçer, Syria expert at the Turkish non-partisan thinktank USAK.

"At the very beginning Turkey underestimated the humanitarian problem. Turkey was not prepared and I think the same can be applied to border security."


Monday, May 26, 2014

House leaders nix bill that would give Obama power to kill Benghazi terrorists

    Monday, May 26, 2014   No comments
The House Republican leadership has abolished an amendment that would have given President Obama the authority to kill the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, according to a legislative aide.

Some Republicans are wary of granting the president more power and, together with Democrats, could have defeated the measure on the House floor, the aide said on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.


Such a setback on the Benghazi issue would have been embarrassing, the congressional source said, just as Republicans are set to open the first special committee investigation into the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department aide Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Who’s Killing Pakistan’s Shia and Why?

    Monday, May 26, 2014   No comments
C. Christine Fair

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in 2013 nearly 700 Shia were killed and more than 1,000 were injured in more than 200 sectarian terrorist attacks. Over 90 percent of those attacks occurred in Quetta, Karachi, Kangu, Parachinar, Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Since the beginning of 2000, nearly 4,000 persons have been killed and 6,800 injured (see figure below).  Who is hunting Pakistan’s Shia and, most importantly, why?


The explanation for Pakistan’s deadly sectarian present lies in the communal politics of Pakistan’s pre-history and the subsequent decisions that Pakistani elites made in the early years about nation building in the new state.  The current path of violence and intolerance may have been paved well before Pakistan became independent in 1947.

Pakistan: Born to Other

As the British appetite for maintaining the Raj declined after World Wars I and II, it became increasingly clear that the declining imperial power would accede to mounting Indian nationalist demands to quit the subcontinent. However, it was not clear what political order would rise from the detritus of the erstwhile Raj.  Some Muslims associated with the All India Muslim League feared that, in a Hindu-majority state, Muslims would be subjected to separate and unequal status.  The Congress Party, which claimed to represent all groups in India and which enjoyed a pan-Indian presence, challenged these claims. However, some within the Congress Party increasingly began to evidence communal sentiments which further discomfited some Muslims in India.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who is...

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Libyan Coup General Welcomes Protesters' Backing

    Sunday, May 25, 2014   No comments
Khalifa Belqasim Haftar
Libya's embattled parliament has approved an Islamist-backed government despite boycotts from non-Islamists and threats from a renegade general who considers the chamber illegitimate.

The Islamist-dominated parliament convened Sunday under heavy security and protection in a palace east of the capital. It was hours before quorum was achieved. Lawmaker Mohammed Samud said 83 out of 93 parliamentarians present voted in favor of Ahmed Maiteg, an Islamist-backed businessman from Libya's third city, Misrata.

Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who has led an offensive against Islamists and their allied militias, says the parliament has lost its legitimacy. His spokesmen had previously warned Islamist lawmakers against convening Sunday for this reason.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

The EU special envoy to Libya has appeared to distance himself from a renegade general leading an offensive against Islamists, stressing that his group seeks a solution in the North African country that respects and bolsters state institutions.

Bernardino Leon told reporters Sunday that the EU has not been in touch with Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who last week launched a military campaign in Benghazi against Islamist militias and the Islamist-dominated parliament, calling it a war on terrorism.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Leaders of the countries affiliated with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, gather in China, discuss security and economy issues

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014   No comments
Chinese President Xi Jinping met his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmon here on Monday, and the two leaders vowed to push ahead with bilateral cooperation in a variety of areas.

Rakhmon is in Shanghai to attend the fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia slated for Tuesday and Wednesday (see Shanghai Cooperation Organisation).

Hailing Tajikistan as a good neighbor, a good friend and a good partner, Xi said China supports the Central Asian country's efforts to safeguard its stability, boost its economic growth and better its people's lives.

Bilateral ties have developed to a new stage, with cooperation in various areas gaining good momentum, since the two countries established a strategic partnership in 2013, Xi noted.

The Chinese leader called on the two sides to press on with mapping out a cooperation plan for the 2015-2020 period to further develop their strategic partnership.

Xi expressed his hope that the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline project and other cooperation schemes with Tajikistan on electricity, transport and infrastructure construction at border ports could all be advanced.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

    Sunday, May 18, 2014   No comments
 The self-declared Libyan National Army led by a renegade general told civilians on Saturday to leave parts of Benghazi before it launched a fresh attack on Islamist militants, a day after dozens were killed in the worst clashes in the city for months.

Families could be seen packing up and driving away from western districts of the port city where Islamist militants and LNA forces led by retired General Khalifa Haftar fought for hours on Friday.


Dressed in military uniform, Hafter - whom the speaker of parliament accused of plotting a coup - said his troops had temporarily withdrawn from Benghazi for tactical reasons.

"We'll come back with force," he told reporters at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi.

"We've started this battle and will continue it until we have reached our goals," he said.

He said government and parliament had no legitimacy as they had failed to achieve security. "The street and the Libyan people are with us," he said, adding that his troops were spread out in several parts of eastern Libya.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Erdoğan allegedly punches a protester in Soma, his aide kicks a mourner

    Thursday, May 15, 2014   No comments


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan allegedly punched a young man several times in Soma on Wednesday, after a large crowd angrily protested the recent mining disaster in which an explosion and fire killed at least 282 mineworkers.

Yusuf Yerkel, advisor to Tayyip Erdogan,
kicking mourner. Photo: MEHMET ERMIN

Many people in the crowd protested Erdoğan's presence, shouting that he is a “murderer” and a “thief,” reportedly forcing the prime minister to take shelter in a grocery store. However, some reports claim that Erdoğan entered the store not to avoid the protests but rather to follow -- and subsequently punch -- a young man who had shouted at him outside the store.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Lütfü Türkkan has claimed that he has spoken to the man who Erdoğan punched, saying that the young man's name is Taner Kuruca.
Sharing the details of the conversation via micro blogging site Twitter, Türkkan wrote: “I spoke to Kuruca. The man said that he was shopping at the store when Erdoğan attacked him, thinking that he was a protester. He said that he was also beaten by Erdoğan's bodyguards.. Kuruca told me that only thing that he clearly remembers was that Erdoğan assaulted him."

Reports allege that the young man, wearing a blue t-shirt, chanted slogans critical of Erdoğan and then entered the store. Erdoğan then followed the protester inside, grabbed the man and then punched him two or three times, according to eyewitness reports.

The owner of the store corroborated the reports, saying that he saw surveillance camera footage showing that Erdoğan was punching a man, adding, "The bodyguards took away the footage and suggested that I not mention the issue."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tunisie : arrestation du cyberactiviste Azyz Amami

    Wednesday, May 14, 2014   No comments
Le cyberactiviste, Azyz Amami, 31 ans, a été arrêté avec un ami, Sabri Mlouka, dans la nuit du lundi 12 mai à la Goulette, en banlieue de Tunis, sans aucun motif officiel. De nombreux proches du blogueur, dont son père, affirment qu’il a été agressé physiquement par les agents de police lors de son interrogatoire.
Azyz Amami
Ils font également le lien entre cette arrestation et des propos tenus par le dissident, le 24 avril sur les plateaux de la chaîne Ettounoussya TV. Ce défenseur des martyrs de la révolution qui revendique en leur nom le droit à la vérité, y faisait remarquer que les forces de l’ordre, à défaut de pouvoir poursuivre pour vandalisme de nombreux jeunes ayant participé au soulèvement de décembre 2010 et janvier 2011, les inculpaient d’usage de stupéfiants, ce qui en Tunisie est passible d’un an de prison ferme. Aujourd’hui, Azyz Amami pourrait être au cœur de ce scénario qu’il décriait. "La police ne devrait pas interroger mon fils qui n’a eu de cesse de critiquer le système sécuritaire car ils sont juges et partie.", s'insurge son père, Khaled.
 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Inside the Arabic Islamic Institute in Tokyo

    Monday, May 12, 2014   No comments
Inside the Arabic Islamic Institute in Tokyo, 15 students of calligraphy raptly practice writing verses from the Qur’an. Yet when the call to prayer is heard, few stir. The instructors and students are Japanese, and only two are Muslims. Here, their calligrapher’s pens (qalam in Arabic) are not made of reeds, as is traditional in much of the Islamic world. Nor do they use the brushes (fude) favored by Japanese calligraphers. Their pens are made of bamboo, which is plentiful in Japan.


For centuries, educated Japanese have been taught the traditions of calligraphy beginning in grade school. At the Nitten, the annual arts exhibition in Osaka, calligraphy is important enough to merit its own section. An appreciation of calligraphy is a lifelong interest for many Japanese, and for some, acquiring proficiency at it is a lifelong study. Yet, over the past two decades, a few have quietly put down their fude and picked up a bamboo qalam to try their hand at calligraphy in Arabic, which, they often find, is not as alien as they had thought.

Yukari Takahashi, who owns an elegant Tokyo nightclub, holds up a sheet of Japanese rice paper with embossed floral patterns framing immaculate calligraphy. I ask her why she studies Arabic calligraphy, and, in her limited English, she answers, “Very beautiful.” Other practitioners—a retired consul-general, a choreographer and dancer, the head of the Tokyo City Retirement Fund—also mention beauty first when describing their attraction to Arabic calligraphy.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

New videos show more rebel groups in Syria have U.S.-made anti-tank missiles

    Wednesday, May 07, 2014   No comments
Advanced American-made anti-tank missiles can be seen in numerous videos posted by Syrian rebel groups over the weekend, an indication that what experts thought was a limited trial program to arm moderate pro-Western units recently has been expanded.


The trial program was revealed early last month when videos posted by the Hazem Movement, a rebel group with ties to the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army, showed a small number of TOW anti-tank missiles being fired at Syrian government targets. Experts who examined the videos concluded that the missiles likely had been supplied by Saudi Arabia after the United States approved transfer of the advanced weapons.

...
American officials have expressed concern for years that any weapons given to rebel allies not fall into the hands of Syria’s increasingly powerful Islamist rebel groups, many of which have significant ties to al Qaida and subscribe to its ideology. In January, the U.S. stopped deliveries of nonlethal aid and equipment to the Free Syrian Army after units affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an al Qaida-inspired group noted for its brutality, seized control of an FSA base that held American equipment.

Adding to the concerns is the close working relationship that so-called moderate rebels have developed with the Islamists. For example, Jamal Marouf, who commands the Syrian Revolutionary Front, which received a TOW system, told the British newspaper The Independent that he had no problem coordinating with the Nusra Front, al Qaida’s official Syrian franchise, and had even sent weapons to the group in the past.

“It’s clear that I’m not fighting against al Qaida,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. “This is a problem outside of Syria’s border, so it’s not our problem. I don’t have a problem with anyone who fights against the regime inside Syria.”

Marouf told the paper that he had dispatched “a lot of weapons” to rebels fighting in Yabroud, where Nusra battled government troops before abandoning the city in March

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Death Stalks Muslims as Myanmar Cuts Off Aid

    Tuesday, May 06, 2014   No comments
SITTWE, Myanmar — By the time the baby girl was brought to the makeshift pharmacy, her chest was heaving, her temperature soaring. The supply of oxygen that might have helped was now off limits, in a Doctors Without Borders clinic shut down by the government in February.


A hospital visit was out of the question; admission for Rohingya Muslims, a long-persecuted minority, always requires a lengthy approval process — time that the baby, named Parmin, did not have. In desperation, the pharmacy owner sent the family to the rarely staffed Dapaing clinic, the only government emergency health center for the tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims herded into displaced people’s camps. Although it was just 4 p.m., the doors were shuttered.

“We became like crazy people, running everywhere,” the child’s grandmother, Daw Mu Mu Lwin, said. With no good choices left, the family returned to the pharmacy, where Parmin died, untreated, three and a half hours later, cradled in her grandmother’s arms.

The baby’s death was part of a rapidly expanding death toll and humanitarian crisis among the Rohingya, a Muslim minority that Myanmar’s Buddhist-led government has increasingly deprived of the most basic liberties and aid even as it trumpets its latest democratic reforms.


Monday, May 05, 2014

al-Qaeda infighting shows that even if Assad is removed, Sunnis will countinue to suffer: 60,000 civilians forced to leave Islamist controlled areas

    Monday, May 05, 2014   No comments
The British-based Observatory said the Nusra Front had taken over control of the town of Abreeha from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a former al Qaeda affiliate formally disowned by the group this year.

At least 62 fighters had been killed in around four days of clashes in the area, which have emptied Abreeha and the towns of al-Busayrah and al-Zir, whose populations total over 60,000, the Observatory said.


The Observatory, an anti-Assad group which monitors violence in Syria through a network of sources, said Islamist fighters had burned houses and a young girl had been killed by mortar fire during the fighting.

ISIL and the Nusra Front have clashed repeatedly over oilfields and strategic positions in Deir al-Zor, a desert province bordering Iraq.

Al Qaeda's global leader Ayman al-Zawhri has called ISIL's entry into Syria's civil war a "political disaster" for Islamist militants there and urged the group to redouble its efforts in Iraq instead.

In the southern Deraa province, the Nusra Front arrested rebel commander Ahmed al-Neamah late on Saturday, accusing him of delivering the town of Kherbat Ghazalah to government forces, the Observatory said.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Tunisian National Constituent Assembly approves new electoral law

    Saturday, May 03, 2014   No comments
Tunisian members members of the Constituency Assembly  have adopted a sweeping new electoral law that paves the way for general elections later this year and is a milestone in this country's new democracy.

The law requires party lists for legislative elections to be half women and half men. It also allows members of the authoritarian regime ousted in 2011 to run for office.

The elections are now expected no later than Nov. 23.


The members of the National Constituent Assembly approved the law Thursday after weeks of heated debate over its 270 articles. The overall law was approved 132-11 with nine abstentions.

Tunisia's path to democracy has been rocky but is seen as a model for other countries, after street protests overthrew a dictator and unleashed uprisings across the region known as the Arab Spring

Friday, May 02, 2014

Breakthrough law strives to bring gender equality to Senegal’s government

    Friday, May 02, 2014   No comments


The women of Senegal are entering an unprecedented age of political empowerment. A breakthrough law doubled the number of women in the country’s parliament, far surpassing the United States’ female representation in Congress. Women all over the country are mobilizing to meet the new opportunity head on. But how is the traditional, patriarchal West African nation responding to the sudden change?

Syrian forces poised to recapture Homs after truce agreed with rebels

    Friday, May 02, 2014   No comments
48-hour ceasefire will allow hundreds of rebel fighters blockaded in old quarters of city to flee north, activists say

Syria's government and rebels have agreed to a ceasefire in Homs to allow hundreds of fighters holed up in the old quarters of the city to leave – a deal that will bring the country's third-largest city under the control of forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad.

If the agreement holds, the capture of the city will be a significant victory for Assad weeks before presidential elections set for 3 June.

Homs, in the central western plains of Syria, was one of the first cities to rise up against Assad's rule three years ago, earning it the nickname of the "capital of the revolution". After waves of protests, it was the first city to be largely taken over by armed rebels as the uprising evolved into outright civil war.

Assad's forces have been engaged in gruelling urban warfare trying to wrest Homs back. For the past months, rebels were isolated and blockaded in neighbourhoods centred on the historic old quarters, battered by heavy government air strikes and artillery.

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Thursday, May 01, 2014

Iraq’s Kurds Keep One Eye on Iraqi Elections, Another on Local Polls

    Thursday, May 01, 2014   No comments
For the second time in seven months Iraqi Kurds head to the polls on Wednesday, this time to elect new representatives for the Iraqi parliament and provincial councils for their own autonomous Kurdistan Region.


Five major Kurdish parties are vying for voters, with rivalries divided into geographical areas where each party feels it has strongest support.


The largest Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) enjoys a strong popular base in the Kurdish capital of Erbil, where it sits in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and in Duhok. The Partriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), meanwhile, is most confident in Sulaimani province and the Garmiyan region.

The reformist Change Movement (Gorran), born after breaking away from the PUK in 2009 and newly powerful after beating the PUK in Kurdish legislative elections in September, has supporters across Kurdistan. But its strength also lies in Sulaimani, where it once held the governorship.


The Islamic Union (Yekgirtu) and the Islamic League (Komal) have also entered the election campaign full scale. Yekgirtu has historically fared well in Sulaimani, and to some degree in Duhok. Komal’s voters are seen scattered in Erbil and some of the smaller towns in Sulaimani province.

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