Middle East and North Africa (MENA): News from Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria
Turkey plans legal reform to prevent coups
The Turkish government has plans to make a slight change to its laws to prevent coups. The contentious point in the constitution - Article 35 - has been used as justification by instigators of past coups.
Since 1960, there have been four military coups in Turkey that threw out elected governments. The last time a coup threatened the government in Turkey was 2007, when the military had a stand-off with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Now, the government is considering a historic step: changing Article 35 of the Turkish military's internal laws. This would be an attempt to avoid future military coups by passing an amendment that would remove the possibility of the military getting involved in domestic affairs. The change in Article 35 would make the military only responsible for "threats from abroad."
Protectors of the Turkish Republic
It's been the task of the Turkish military since 1934 to "protect the Turkish Republic." Up until now, the military has considered itself responsible for external security but also for internal security as protectors of the founding principals laid down by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey's first president. These principals include, among other things, a strict separation of religion and state.
In 1980, it was the defense of these principles that was the justification when the then-Chief of Staff Menan Evren carried out a military coup to stop clashes between groups from the left and the right that bordered on civil war. The military's engagement was initially welcomed by many, but then it expanded significantly: there were 650,000 arrests, 50 executions, and 171 deaths by torture. Tens of thousands of citizens were stripped of their citizenship and forced to flee abroad.
"When there's been a military coup, there always been a hate campaign against the elected government. They were not just carried out by the military, but with other coalition partners, with the elite," says Adem Sözüer, dean of the law faculty at the University of Istanbul.
He told Deutsche Welle that many of the conflicts between political groups or ethnic communities are provoked and programmed by Turkey's "deep state," a shadowy world that exists between the state, the police and the criminal underworld.
"The majority of the people are supposed to think that the country is in danger, and the military should save us," Sözüer said.
The agonizing article
From a legal perspective, Article 35 in its current form does not provide justification for military intervention in Turkey because it is based on the constitution, says Lami Bertan Tokuzlu, a lecturer in constitutional law at Bigli University in Istanbul.
"A military seizure of power is something which is beyond the law. It means that the existing constitution has been annulled. All power to make laws and judicial decisions is then assumed. That can't be based on a law. It's not a legal process," Tokuzlu told DW.
But Sözüer explains that Article 35 still serves to justify coup instigators.
"Article 35 doesn't indicate that someone can or should carry out a coup. But you need some kind of legal justification," he says, adding that the article "is a kind of cosmetic cover" for coup instigators.
There could be coups even without this article, and changing it would only have symbolic meaning, "but for democratization and for dealing with the past, you need to take these kind of symbolic steps."
He thinks the country will need to take further steps toward democratization as well, starting with its own military, which is based upon conscription.
"A lot should be changed in military training. Young people begin their military service, and they swear to defend the republic against foreign and domestic enemies," Sözüer said. "If you've been trained like that for years and then you get to a political situation like this, you feel responsible."
From park protest to reform?
Tokuzlu thinks there is a connection between the nation-wide protest movement and the change to Article 35.
"There have been cases where military officials helped the demonstrators by, for example, handing out gas masks on the streets," he said, adding if that kind of cooperation continues, it will be a nightmare for the government.
"There are protests and the government is really taking a hard line against the demonstrators. This situation would be ripe for a military intervention," he said.
But the military doesn't have that intention, he says: "The military is under absolute control of the government."
Cengiz Aktar, a Turkish journalist, also believes that the protests are behind the amendment.
"It may be that the government wants to show the whole world that they are seeking to be more democratic, especially in light of events in the last few months regarding the Gezi protests," Aktar told DW.
Article 35 has been the overriding argument for instigators of military coups. "This legal stipulation should have always been banned," says Aktar.
Thousands march in Istanbul in solidarity with Kurds
Protesters chant anti-government slogans in wake of killing of Kurdish demonstrator in south-east Turkey on Friday
Reuters in Istanbul
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 29 June 2013 22.32 BST
Thousands of protesters marched to Istanbul's Taksim Square on Saturday chanting slogans against the government and police after security forces killed a Kurdish demonstrator in south-east Turkey.
The protest had been planned as part of larger unrelated anti-government demonstrations that have swept through the country since the end of May, but became a voice of solidarity with the Kurds after Friday's killing.
"Murderer police, get out of Kurdistan!" some protesters chanted. "This is only the beginning, the struggle continues. The murderer state will pay!"
Turkish forces killed the man and wounded 10 others when they fired on a group protesting against the construction of a gendarmerie outpost in the Kurdish-dominated region.
The incident, in the Lice district of Diyarbakır province, appeared to be the most violent in the region since a ceasefire declaration in March by jailed Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan in a decades-old conflict between his fighters and the Turkish state, and it risks derailing the nascent peace process.
About 10,000 protesters descended on Taksim Square, which has been the centre of weeks of anti-government demonstrations, but were prevented from entering the square by riot police.
Many in the crowd sat in the roads leading to the square after being denied entry. "Long live the brotherhood of the people!" people shouted in both Turkish and Kurdish.
Most of the protesters dispersed after a couple of hours, with a group of about 1,000 remaining near the square. Riot police pushed them away from the square with shields and slow moving water cannon trucks although no water was fired. Announcements were made for protesters to return to their homes.
The Kurdish tensions come at a time of increased vigilance among Turkish security forces after the anti-government protests in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities in which four people have died and thousands have been injured.
The protests, which had largely died down over the past week, have emerged as the biggest public challenge to prime minister Tayyip Erdoğan's 10-year rule. He has dismissed the protesters as pawns of Turkey's enemies and has called supporters to back his party in municipal elections next year.
Black Egyptians decry daily racism
Non-Arab Africans say they are routine victims of discrimination by officials and on the street.
Max Siegelbaum Last Modified: 19 Jul 2013 16:05
Cairo, Egypt - When Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed first started receiving calls on his mobile phone from an unknown number telling him to leave Egypt, he ignored them.
But when the threats against the Sudanese asylum-seeker increased and he began to receive emails and Facebook posts with the same message - "Get out of the country" - he grew nervous.
A member of one of Sudan's multitude of opposition groups, Mohamed tracked the messages back to a Sudanese embassy official - and took his concerns to the police. But he says the duty officer's response was terse - "Why should I believe you?". Other police stations also dismissed his fears.
"No one helps us. They never do," Mohamed said.
Black, non-Arab Africans say the case reveals long-standing racism that threatens the security and livelihoods of Egypt's sizeable sub-Saharan population. While refugees in the country face an overburdened and highly bureaucratic asylum system and aid organisations are underfunded and ill equipped to help them, non-Arab refugees face much more serious problems.
"You can be here 15 years as a recognised refugee and not for a moment of that will you ever be recognised legally or have a home," said Christopher Eades, director of legal programming at AMERA, a British NGO for refugees.
Aid workers believe sub-Saharan refugees are treated by different informal rules than those of Arab origin - excluded from schools, facing hurdles opening businesses and finding work, and hampered in legal cases.
Lengthy UNHCR registration processes mean most refugees in Egypt must remain in the country without identification or any means of subsistence for at least three years.
They are forced into the dark economy, working illegally at cafes, on construction sites, and in other manual jobs where abuse is routine and they have little protection in law.
"Even if you're a recognised refugee, and you have a blue card, you have no right to medical treatment, no right to education, no right to work," Eades said.
As far as the state is concerned, the refugees fall into a legal grey area where the government has no obligation to provide for them.
"Egypt is part of the Arab world, and any place in the Arab world is your home," said Reda Sada El-Hafnawy, a member of the Shura Council's Human Rights Committee and the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. "They are welcomed but we can't put them under the protection of Egyptian law."
El-Hafnawy insists: "There is no racism in Egypt, so if there's abuse, it's from the absence of the law."
But aid workers and community organisers say otherwise - and believe not all refugees are created equal.
"When there was an influx of African refugees, there was no attention from the NGOs," said Yagoub Hamdan a Sudanese refugee and community outreach leader at AMERA.
However, when Syrians began pouring into the country in late 2012, the UN set up mobile stations throughout Cairo and the rest of the country, Hamdan pointed out.
"Why did they do that for Syrians when we had the same problem?"
Hamdan and other community organisers say Islamic aid organisations provide ample support to Syrians and Libyans, but rarely to non-Arab Africans.
Egypt's deadly political stalemate drags on
Thousands rally in support of ousted President Morsi in Cairo and elsewhere, while opponents also hold demonstrations.
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2013 09:20
At least three people have died after clashes between loyalists and opponents of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, as tens of thousands of people have demonstrated in cities across Egypt.
The three people were killed during clashes between rival demonstrators in the Nile Delta town of Mansoura, Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reported from Cairo, the capital. At least six others were injured in those clashes.
The country's military, meanwhile, has warned that it may crack down violently on any future mass protests against the overthrow of the president that it carried out on July 3.
A vast pro-Morsi crowd gathered at Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque on Friday, where the former president's supporters have camped out since the military overthrew him.
About 10,000 protesters then set off in the direction of an elite military compound, scene of the deadliest violence since Morsi's overthrow, carrying pictures of the deposed president and chanting slogans.
They were blocked by soldiers and armoured vehicles.
"Islamic, Islamic," they shouted, of their hopes for an Islamic state, as formations of fighter jets flew overhead and military helicopters whirled in the sky.
Nadim Baba, reporting from Nasr City, said that at the pro-Morsi rally behind him, "some are members of the Muslim Brotherhood and some are not....There are rallies in 11 of the governates of Egypt."
Regarding security, our correspondent said: "We heard there were skirmishes near Al Azhar Mosque where people threw stones at supporters of Mohamad Morsi," but the situation had since calmed down.
"The rallies have been largely peaceful, which is what the rally organisers have been asking for."
"[We have] the power of the people," Essam el-Arian, the acting chief of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, told Al Jazeera, adding that those at the protest were not just supporters of his party, but "normal citizens of this country".
Late on Friday afternoonm Egypt's armed forces fired teargas at some of the pro-Morsi protestors who were heading towards the presidential palace on a road previously sealed off by the army. Following the teargas the crowd stopped moving forward, but have maintained their position.
Smaller rallies also took off elsewhere in Cairo, in Egypt's second city of Alexandria, and other parts of Egypt after Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood had called for a day of protests dubbed "Breaking the Coup".
Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston, reporting from the pro-Morsi rally in Alexandria, said that "the numbers have really swelled after people broke their fast for Ramadan."
"We haven't seen a strong security presence here, but earlier in the day, we did have military jets fly over Alexandria."
Killing in Cairo: the full story of the Republican Guards' club shootings
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
Patrick Kingsley in Cairo with video editing by Leah Green
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 18 July 2013 16.07 BST
At 3.17am on Monday 8 July, Dr Yehia Moussa prepared to kneel outside the Republican Guards' club in east Cairo for dawn prayers. For a few more short hours, Moussa would remain the official spokesman for the Egyptian health ministry. But he was outside the club that day in a personal capacity. Along with about 2,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Moussa had camped outside the gated compound in protest at the removal of ex-president Mohamed Morsi, who they then believed was imprisoned inside.
Like everyone else, Moussa knelt with his back to the barbed wire fence protecting the entrance to the club. A few feet away were Dr Reda Mohamedi, an education lecturer at al-Azhar University, and beyond him Dr Yasser Taha, an al-Azhar biochemistry professor. All three were friends from university days, and had shared a tent that night.
Within the hour, Taha would be dead with a bullet in his neck and Mohamedi would be unconscious, a bullet through his thigh. Moussa would have gunshot wounds in both legs and be missing most of his right index finger.
All three were victims of Egypt's bloodiest state-led massacre since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, in which, according to official figures, at least 51 people were killed by Egyptian security forces and at least 435 injured. Two policemen and one soldier were also killed with 42 injured. The military has said that the assault on the protesters was provoked by a terrorist attack. At about 4am, according to the army's account, 15 armed motorcyclists approached the Republican Guards' club compound. The army said that the motorcyclists fired shots, that people attempted to break into the compound, and that the soldiers then had no choice but to defend their property.
However, a week-long investigation – including interviews with 31 witnesses, local people and medics, as well as analysis of video evidence – found no evidence of the motorcyclist attack and points to a very different narrative, in which the security forces launched a co-ordinated assault on a group of largely peaceful and unarmed civilians.
The army turned down four requests to interview soldiers present at the scene.
A spokesman did provide footage of at least three pro-Morsi supporters using some form of firearm some time after the start of the massacre. But the earliest act of provocation the army has been able to prove – a protester throwing stones – comes at 4.05am, more than half-an-hour after most witnesses agree the camp came under attack.
Pro-Morsi supporters find home in 'Tent City'
Many Egyptians who fail to recognise new leadership take to living with fellow protesters.
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2013 03:08
Police fire tear gas at protesters in Cairo
At least 24 reported injured in clashes as top US diplomat becomes first from Washington to visit since Morsi's removal.
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2013 09:05
Egyptian security forces fired tear gas in central Cairo after scuffles broke out between supporters of the deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and locals, eye witnesses said.
Ambulance authorities and officials said at least 24 people had been injured in the clashes, which were also between police and protesters, on Monday.
Police fired tear gas at the protesters on and around Ramses Square, who retaliated by throwing rocks back at them.
Many of them received treatment at a makeshift ward set up to deal with casualties resulting from the clashes.
Others were treated in ambulances on-site, some for inhalation and contact with tear gas and others for superficial wounds.
The clashes marked the first violent confrontation involving pro-Morsi protesters for a week.
Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston, reporting from Cairo, said that riot police were involved in the clashes, while the military stood on the sidelines.
"It is difficult to find out why it happened, but the Muslim Brotherhood had been planning a very large rally. They had brought in people from other governates on Monday," she said.
"Some people had said that they plan to try and paralyze parts of the city to block roads."
"But anytime you try to block the October 6 bridge then you are going to get a reaction and thats exactly what happened".
Last Monday, 53 pro-Morsi demonstrators were killed outside the Republican Guard compound in Cairo. Four soldiers also died in the clash.
Earlier on Monday, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns made the first senior level visit to Egypt since Morsi was overthrown by the military on July 3 following days of mass protests.
Burns held talks with Egypt's interim leaders and the head of the military.
Washington has been sharply criticised by both Morsi's supporters and opponents for what each side perceives as support for their rival's position.
"Only Egyptians can determine their future. I did not come with American solutions, nor did I come to lecture anyone. We know that Egyptians must forge their own path to democracy. We know that this will not mirror our own and we will not try to impose our model on Egypt," Burns said.
However, Burns added that the US would "stand behind certain basic principles, not any particular personalities or parties."
He said that the US backs those siding with the aspirations of Egyptians who went out during the 2011 uprising against longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak.
Burns said that despite concerns about developments of the last two weeks, the US believed that the ongoing transition was an opportunity, following the 2011 revolution, to create a democratic state that "protects human rights and the rule of law and that enables the economic prosperity of its citizens".
"We support the adoption of reforms that can lead to an early IMF agreement while sustaining funding for social safety net programmes," he said.
The US deputy secretary went on to condemn violence at demonstrations in the Sinai and sectarian violence, calling on maximum restraint by security forces.
Burns was speaking after holding talks with army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, military-appointed president Adly Mansour and caretaker prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi.
Tamarod, the movement that spearheaded the grassroots campaign against Morsi, said it rejected an invitation to meet the US envoy on Monday, citing Washington's "interference" in Egypt and its failure to support their cause from the outset.
"We rejected the invitation... because the United States did not stand with the Egyptian people from the beginning," Islam Hammam, one of the group's organisers, told AFP news agency.
Burns maintained previous US statements and refrained from saying Morsi was the victim of a coup. If the US terms the deposing of Morsi a coup, it would legally be required to freeze some $1.5bn in US military and economic assistance to Cairo.
On Sunday, two influential US Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, urged the administration to cut American aid to Egypt in response to the army's ouster of Morsi.
By evening, thousands of pro-Morsi protesters staged a sit in at Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, where many have been rallying for the past two weeks.
Police fired tear gas at the protesters on and around Ramses Square, who retaliated by throwing rocks back at them.
After a week of relative calm, scenes of running street battles close to the Egyptian Museum, one of the country's main tourist attractions ignited further concerns about stability.
"I've had enough of this chaos," said Ashraf Mohamed, who watched the clashes from a distance.
Young men, their mouths covered to protect them from tear gas, threw stones at police and shouted pro-Mursi and anti military slogans, as well as "Allahu Akbar!" (God is greatest).
Military helicopters hovered overhead and police vans were brought in to quell the trouble, but when that didn't work, dozens of riot police moved in. Medics treated men with deep gashes to their eyes and faces nearby.
During his single year of turbulent rule, Morsi was accused of concentrating power in Brotherhood hands, sending the economy into freefall and failing to protect minorities.
But his supporters say his overthrow was an affront to democracy.
Egypt: Coup d’État, Act II
By Tariq Ramadan
Swiss Muslim Thinker
Thursday, 11 July 2013 00:00
For two years now I have often been asked why I have not visited Egypt, where I had been forbidden entry for 18 years. Just as often I repeated that on the basis of the information I was able to obtain — confirmed by Swiss and European officials — the Egyptian army remained firmly in control and had never left the political arena.
I never shared the widespread “revolutionary” enthusiasm. Nor did I believe that events in Egypt, any more than in Tunisia, were the result of a sudden historical upheaval. The peoples of these two countries suffered from dictatorship, from economic and social crisis; they rose up in the name of dignity, social justice, and freedom.
Their awakening, their “intellectual revolution,” and their courage must be saluted. But to accept or justify a simple-minded, linear explanation of the political, geostrategic, and economic issues would have been totally unconscionable.
Nearly three years ago, in a book and then in a series of articles, I alerted my readers to a body of troubling evidences, and to the underlying geopolitical and economic considerations that were often missing from mainstream political and media analyses, and that insisted on submitting the euphoria that accompanied the “Arab spring” to critical analysis.
The Army Never Left
The Egyptian army has not returned to politics for the simple reason that it has never left. The fall of Hosni Mubarak was a military coup d’état that allowed a new generation of officers to enter the political scene in a new way, from behind the curtain of a civilian government. In an article published on June 29, 2012 I noted an Army high command declaration that the presidential election was temporary, for a six-month to one-year period (its title made the premonition explicit: “An election for nothing?”).
The American administration had monitored the entire process: its objective ally in Egypt over the past fifty years has been the army, not the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The latest revelations (see the International Herald Tribune, July 5, and Le Monde, July 6) confirm what was already clear: the decision to overthrow President Mohamed Mursi had been made well before June 30. A conversation between President Mursi and General al-Sisi indicated that the head of the country’s military had planned the overthrow and imprisonment of the president weeks before the popular upheaval that would justify the military coup “in the name of the people’s will.” A clever strategy! Orchestrate demonstrations involving millions of people in order to make believe that the army truly cares about the people! Coup d’état, second act.
How then to analyze the immediate reaction of the American administration, which avoided using the term “coup d’état” (which, if accepted, would mean it could not provide financial support to the new regime)? A curious position for a government that in its “surprise” uses exactly the right words to exert full political, economic, and legal leverage over the coup makers. European governments will follow suit, of course: the army has responded “democratically” to the call of the people.
It’s all too good to be true! Magically, chronic blackouts, gasoline, and natural gas shortages came to an abrupt end after the fall of the president. It was as though people had been deprived of the basic necessities in order to drive them into the streets.
Amnesty International observed the strange attitude of the armed forces, which did not intervene in certain demonstrations (even though it was closely monitoring them), allowing the violence to spiral out of control, as though by design. The armed forces then accompanied its intervention with a saturation public relations campaign, providing the international media with photographs taken from its helicopters, depicting the Egyptian population as it cheered and celebrated their military saviors, as confirmed in Le Monde.
Nothing, then, has really changed: the “Arab spring” and the Egyptian “revolution” continue under the guiding hand of General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi. Trained by the United States Army, the general has kept close contact with his American counterparts. The New International Herald Tribune (July 6-7) informs us that General al-Sisi is well known to the Americans, as well as to the government of Israel, with which he “and his office,” we are told, continued to “communicate and to coordinate” even while Mohamed Mursi occupied the presidential palace. Al-Sisi had earlier served in the Military Intelligence Services in the North Sinai, acting as go-between for the American and Israeli authorities. It would hardly be an understatement to say that Israel, like the US, could only look favorably upon developments in Egypt.
What, after the fact, is surprising is the simple-mindedness, the lack of experience, and the nature of the mistakes made by Mohamed Mursi, by his allies, and by the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization. For the last three years, I have been sharply critical of the thinking, action and strategies of the “Liberty and Justice” party, as well as of the MB leadership (over the last twenty-five years, my analyses and commentary have been and remain sharply critical). The trap seemed glaringly obvious; my writings on the subject (book, and articles written between March and December 2012) pointed to grave shortcomings.
President Mursi cannot be fairly criticized for not doing all he could to establish relations with the opposition, either by inviting it to join the government or to take part in a broad national dialogue. But his approaches were rejected out of hand, with the opposition bitterly opposing his every initiative. The fact remains, however, that his management of the business of state, his failure to listen to the voice of the people and even to some of his trusted advisors, his exclusivist relationship with the highest echelons of the MB leadership, his hasty and ill-considered decisions (some of which he later acknowledged as errors) must be unsparingly criticized.
But on a more fundamental level, his greatest fault has been the utter absence of a political vision and the lack of clearly established political and economic priorities, his failure to struggle against corruption and poverty, and his egregious mismanagement of social and educational affairs. The demands of the International Monetary Fund (and its deliberate procrastination) placed the state in an untenable position: the Mursi government believed that the international institution would support it. It is only today, now that President Mursi has fallen, that the IMF appears prepared to remove what were previously insurmountable obstacles. This comes after mere three days of the overthrow of a democratically elected government.
The naivety of the president, of his government and of the Muslim Brotherhood has been stunning. After sixty years of opposition and military repression (with the direct and indirect benediction of the US Administration and the West), how could they possibly have imagined that their former adversaries would support their rise to power, invoking democracy all the while? Did they learn nothing from their own history, from Algeria in 1992, and, more recently, from Palestine?
I have been and remain critical, both of the (superficial) content of their program and the ambiguous strategy of President Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood (compromise with the armed forces and the US, surrender on the economy and the Palestinian cause, etc.) but their lack of political awareness has been quite simply stupefying. To hear President Mursi tell General al-Sisi, a mere ten days before his overthrow, that he might well demote him (after all, he had appointed him) and that the Americans would “never permit a coup d’état” was as mind-boggling as it was surrealistic.
Salafis, al-Baradie, and Foreign Ties
Some observers were startled to see the Salafis, in particular the Nour party, join forces with the military alongside the “democratic” faction opposed to President Mursi. Were the outcome not so tragic, it would be tempting to label it farce. The Western media were quick to label the “Islamist” Salafis as allies of the Muslim Brotherhood while, in point of fact, they were and are allies of the regimes of the Gulf States, who are in turn the regional allies of the US. The idea was to undermine the religious credibility of the Muslim Brotherhood, and to force it into extreme positions. At the moment of President Mursi’s overthrow, they not only betrayed him but revealed their strategy and their strategic alliances for the entire world to see.
It is hardly surprising to note that the first countries to recognize the new coup d’état regime were the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, whose powerful organizations provided, and still provide, direct and indirect financial support to the Egyptian Salafis (as well as to their Tunisian counterparts). A superficial reading might lead one to believe that Saudi Arabia and Qatar support the Muslim Brotherhood; in reality they are the mainstays of American power in the region. The strategy is to sow division among the various political Islamic trends, to foment confrontation and to destabilize. This same strategy focuses on contradictions between Sunni political organizations and exacerbates divisions between Shia and Sunni.
The United States and Europe have no quarrel with the political Islam of the Salafi literalists of the Gulf States (and their denial of democracy, their non-respect of minorities, their discrimination against women, and the application of a strict “Islamic” penal code described as “shari’ah”); they protect their geostrategic and regional economic interests while their repressive and retrograde domestic policies, as long as they are applied domestically, could not matter less to the West.
It’s all about keeping up appearances. Millions of Egyptians rallied in support of the “second revolution” and appealed to the armed forces, which were quick to respond. They now promise to turn over power to the civilians. The leader of the opposition, Mohamed al-Baradei, has played a central role in the process, and his prominence has been growing apace. He has been in close touch with the youthful cyber-dissidents and the April 6 Movement since 2008; documents of the US State Department, which I quote in my book, point to his close connection with the American administration. His visibility has been promoted by a clever strategy, and even though he has declined the position of Prime Minister (and announced that he will not be a candidate for president, which has yet to be seen), he has emerged as an important player on the Egyptian political scene.
He has notoriously — and democratically — defended the arrest of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the closing of their television stations and the entire range of repressive measures imposed on citizens who continue to support President Mursi, even though they may not be MB members (some are supporting democratic legitimacy). The weeks to come will provide us with more details about plans for fleshing out the civilian character of this particular military state. It must be remembered that for decades the Egyptian army has managed close to 40 percent of the national economy as well as being the leading recipient of an annual American aid package of $1.5 billion.
An elected president has been toppled by a military coup d’état. There is no other word for it. The people, in their legitimate desire for a better life and for survival, for justice and dignity, have been unwitting participants in a media-military operation of the highest order. The situation is grave; the silence of Western governments tells us all we need to know. There has been no “Arab spring;” the perfume of its revolutions burns the eyes like tear gas.
In our day, it is not unusual for writer who does not accept the official consensus to be dismissed as a “conspiracy theorist,” for his analysis to be rejected before studying the facts upon which it is based. Are we to conclude that in our globalizing age, with its networks of national security policies and structures and its new means of communication, political scheming, malicious stratagems, and manipulation of information and of peoples are a thing of the past?
“Conspiracy theorist” is a new insult devised for those who think the wrong thoughts, who don’t fit in; paranoids, people who ascribe occult powers to certain states (the US, the European countries, Israel, the Arab and African dictatorships, etc.) that they really do not possess.
We must forget what we learned about the conspiracies that have left their mark on the history of Latin America and Africa (from the assassination of Salvador Allende to the elimination of Thomas Sankara); we must overlook the lies that led to the invasion of Iraq and to the massacres in Gaza (both presented as legitimate defense); we must say nothing about the West’s alliance with and support for the literalist Salafis of the Gulf sheikhdoms; close our eyes to the benefit for Israel of regional instability and of the most recent coup d’état in Egypt. We must remain naïve and credulous if we are not to notice that the US and Europe on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other, have agreed to disagree on Syria, and that the 170 Syrians who die each day count for nothing against the strategic and economic interests of the Great Powers.
Our obligation is to stick to the facts, to avoid oversimplification. The polar opposite of an over-simplified reading of events is not “conspiracy theorizing” but that of intelligence informed by history, by hard facts and by a detailed analysis of conflicting interests. The interpretation presented here may well be wrong or inexact, but substantial and verifiable evidence has repeatedly confirmed it.
From those who have criticized or challenged our analysis, we look forward to a fact-based counter-analysis far from denigrations and facile slogans. When people refuse to call a military coup d’état by its real name, and when most media avert their eyes, the hour for critical conscience has struck.
Egypt wheat figures appear half baked
Former minister's claim the country will be out of wheat in two months is denied by supply official.
Dahlia Kholaif Last Modified: 14 Jul 2013 11:17
Exclusive: US bankrolled anti-Morsi activists
Documents reveal US money trail to Egyptian groups that pressed for president's removal.
Emad Mekay Last Modified: 10 Jul 2013 13:29
Video: Shocking footage appears to capture moment Egyptian filmed his own death through his lens
Ahmed Samir Assem, a 26-year-old photojournalist, was one of 51 killed on Monday as he took photos outside the Republican Guard building in Cairo
WEDNESDAY 10 JULY 2013
Warning: You may find the footage above disturbing.
Footage has emerged which suggests a journalist captured his own death at the hands of Egyptian army snipers on camera.
Ahmed Samir Assem, a 26-year-old photojournalist, was working for an Egyptian newspaper on Monday when he was killed along with at least 51 others. He was taking pictures of the Republican Guard building in Cairo, where ousted president Mohamed Morsi is believed to be being held.
In the grainy footage, the sniper can clearly be seen shooting at targets, before pointing the gun directly at the camera.
His colleagues at the Al-Horia Wa Al-Adala newspaper said news of his death filtered through when Mr Assem's bloodied camera and mobile phone were found at the scene.
The culture editor of Mr Assem’s newspaper Ahmed Abu Zeid, told The Telegraph: "I received news that Ahmed had been shot by a sniper in the forehead while filming or taking pictures on top of the buildings around the incident.
"Ahmed’s camera was the only one which filmed the entire incident from the first moment.
"He had started filming from the beginning of the prayers so he captured the very beginnings and in the video, you can see tens of victims. Ahmed’s camera will remain a piece of evidence in the violations that have been committed."
The video said to have been recorded by Mr Assem is now being touted as evidence of the massacre in Cairo.
Massacre in Cairo deepens Egypt crisis
At least 42 dead after gunmen open fire at Muslim Brotherhood protest against military coup in Egyptian capital.
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2013 02:58
80 sexual assaults in one day – the other story of Tahrir Square
Egypt's women increasingly at risk of rape and sexual assault as rights groups warn of a step up in attacks
Patrick Kingsley in Cairo
guardian.co.uk, Friday 5 July 2013 12.57 BST
New Muslim on Holiday in Tunisia
(A British Revert Sister’s Experience)
By Diva Allott
Monday, 01 July 2013 00:00
I have just returned from the most amazing holiday in Tunisia.
My husband and I travelled to the Yasmine Hammamet area of Tunisia.
Although the area was commercialized to some extend for tourism, I still found that it kept many of its traditional roots of Islam.
On our arrival at the hotel, we went to the reception to book in, fortunately I speak fluent French Alhamdulilah, so this was very helpful in terms of navigating our way around and asking for any advice we needed whilst on holiday.
I found straight away that the staff were incredibly intrigued by my husband and I, my husband is of Pakistani origin and in comparison I look very white! They couldn't accept that I was from England, they would say "yes but originally you are Algerian."
This was rather funny for my husband and I as they couldn't quite comprehend that I had chosen Islam as my religion. However after much persuasion that I wasn't Algerian they finally understood!
Before going on holiday I bought a burkini (Islamic swimming costume) which consists of trousers with a dress over the top with an attached hood to cover my head, somewhat like a scuba diving wet suit but much thinner.
I was very anxious about asking the staff if it was ok for me to swim in the pool wearing my costume. So after hovering around reception for a while I eventually asked them, their response shocked me:
“Of course madam”
“You are here on your holiday as a Muslim please enjoy yourself”.
The relief was absolutely immense! To me a holiday isn't a holiday without the pool, so to hear that I was welcomed and encouraged to swim in the hotel pool was such great news.
Enjoying My Holidays
After unpacking, we went downstairs to the pool, I was so scared of what people would say or the looks I would get, but I kept telling myself it’s ok, I have paid for this holiday just as much as the other guests and I have just as much right as them to use the pool.
My husband was also very supportive alhamdulilah encouraging me to let go of my inhibitions and to enjoy myself on our holiday. At the end of the day I am remaining covered for Allah and I shouldn't be embarrassed by that!
Whilst I was getting into the pool, I cannot lie a few non Muslim guests were glancing in my direction and whispering amongst themselves but as my husband said they will see you a couple of times then get used to it. In all honesty he was right, after day 2 of the holiday nobody even blinked an eye in my direction. More importantly other sisters that were holidaying there felt encouraged and also started to come into the pool with their special costumes on.
That evening we went out of the hotel and I was completely amazed; every shop we walked past had burkinis in the window in every color and style you could imagine, Mashallah they were so pretty and easily available for Muslims. Incredibly they were so much cheaper than the UK too, but as is everything in Tunisia.
That evening we went for dinner in the hotel as we had booked an all inclusive package. I was slightly apprehensive about the food being halal as I had heard some horror stories from friends who had gone and the hotel served pork etc... I did notice that some salads and breakfast meals looked like they had bacon in them. So I immediately asked the chef in French so he could understand me properly:
"Is all the food halal, and is this real pork?"
He replied with certainty that the all food was halal and the pork was made out of turkey breast. He was a Muslim brother so I took his word on it.
However, my husband was a little apprehensive so we asked 2 other members of staff from different departments within the hotel and they all said the same that the food was halal and the pork was turkey. Alhamdulilah, we could enjoy all of the food in our hotel now that we knew that it was halal. In all honesty I couldn't have been more relieved, although I absolutely love fish, my husband however is less keen, so having to listen to him complain about eating fish all week could have just tipped me over the edge, so alhamdulilah for that!
As the holiday progressed we soon realized that Yasmine Hammamet wasn't only a place for non Muslim travelers but in fact Muslim brothers and sister traveled from far and wide to holiday here and I felt comforted to know that we were surrounded by people from the Ummah!
Time for Camel Excursion
Whilst in the hotel we booked many excursions to get the full experience in Tunisia. The funniest by far was the camel excursion. On purchasing the trip we were told you have time with the camels and all your food and drink is included in the price.
We were taken by mini bus to a very remote village, we mounted the camels and started walking through small trails and big open plains which were similar to a desert. Then after about an hour or so we arrived at this house in the middle of nowhere where we were gestured inside by our guide who only spoke Arabic, not one of my strongest points.
Eventually after sitting down, his grandma emerged with a pancake to share between four people with a glass of coke each! She then gestured us into her home and gave us some of her traditional Arabic Tunisian clothes and we had to dress up to have our pictures with the camels, who might I add were named Shakira, Fatima and Halima.
After having our picture taken we were led to her back garden where my husband was grabbed abruptly by her grandson and forced to dance which absolutely tickled me and made my holiday.
To finish the trip we went outside to get back on the camels to base camp and they had walked off and got tired of waiting for us! Although this trip wasn't what we expected it was fun, it was traditional and it made us laugh!
Fun on Pirate Ship
We also went on an excursion that was advertised to see the dolphins.
However after boarding the pirate ship it was just a massive party boat with dancing, music and magic shows. Although the magic shows were good and entertaining, my husband and I and other Muslim couples on the boat felt slightly awkward and out of place as it wasn't really our kind of thing and I would be fair to say we had been misled by what activities would be happening on the pirate ship.
Quad Biking Adventure
Our final excursion was quad biking, this was absolutely amazing.
We were given our own quad and had to follow the tour guide through mountains, desert landscapes and dirt tracks. I would recommend this excursion for any Muslim couple travelling to Tunisia. You have the opportunity to see some of the greatest views of all time to see what Allah has created for us.
Our evenings consisted in visiting the local medina where we able to do all sorts of shopping. I found that the men in the market place were very respectful to Muslim women and couples always offering Salam. Again this did surprise me as I had been told some horror stories about learning, inappropriate behavior from some men whilst travelling overseas.
Overall the whole holiday experience was amazing and an ideal location for Muslim couples, the cafés and restaurants outside of hotel often did not sell alcohol which is a great halal environment to relax in and have food.
The country is a very beautiful place with such warm welcoming people alhamdulilah and it is somewhere we would definitely return insha’Allah.
Bridge to nowhere: Syrian refugees in Greece
Abuse and a cash-strapped government make it a difficult destination for those fleeing the war.
John Psaropoulos Last Modified: 17 Jul 2013 14:27
Athens, Greece - Passage to Greece was probably easier for Daoud Abdo and his family than for most Syrian refugees. It took the family of five just two weeks to travel by bus to Istanbul and cross the Evros river, which forms Europe's southeastern-most land border. But the journey was still fraught with danger.
Daoud said he and his wife fell off a platform over the river that they were walking across and into the marshes. It was raining and the swamp surrounding the Evros was deep. Daoud is convinced they would have drowned that day, were it not for a group of refugees from Bangladesh.
A Turkish human trafficker who led them across with 70 others, barked, "Leave them! Leave them!” But Daoud says "the Bangladeshis ignored him and helped us out”.
That was only the beginning of the family's ordeal after paying €18,000 (US$24,000) to the traffickers to take them to Western Europe. Once in Athens, they spent a full year sleeping in city parks and on the street, only intermittently offered shelter by those they had paid.
Sometimes shelter was offered on condition that they prostitute their eldest daughter, Suzin, a girl with intelligent eyes and a coy smile, who was then 14. It was an offer they never accepted. They soon discovered the deal they had struck in Syria's city of Aleppo would not be honoured without more money. Penniless and jobless, they were stranded in Greece.
For 48-year-old Abdo, once a well-to-do lawyer who used to undertake government work and owned property in Aleppo, it was a severe blow. At times, he sounds almost suicidal.
"I wish I had died there. It would have been better and easier for me,” he says. "The most difficult day for me in Greece was when we were homeless and all my children were crying because they were hungry and I couldn't feed them.”
Abdo says his property has been mostly destroyed by the war in Syria, and he would never risk going back.
"There is no peaceful place left in Syria. Because we are Alevi, people hate us,” he says, referring to the minority tribe that, since President Bashar al-Assad's father became president in 1971, has held sway over the nation of 22 million.
"Before the hate was hidden,” he says. "Now there is constant pressure from all the villages to leave.” His wife's family has scattered to other countries. "I will not send my children to their death,” she says when asked if the family would ever return.
Six months ago they were picked up off the street by Coptic Church members and put up in an apartment owned by the church, which also feeds them on a daily basis.
Yet life in Greece remains difficult. While the war rages, Greek authorities will not deport Syrian refugees, but nor will they support them in any way. Without residence permits, it is next to impossible for them to work legally. Many are reduced to begging. Others live off the charity of the Greek Orthodox Church and community organisations.
It is easy to be picked up during police stop-and-search operations targeting undocumented migrants. Syrians can end up jailed for months while their nationality is verified. Once inside a detention centre, police brutality is all too frequent, as Juan Akash, a 35-year-old journalist, discovered.
Police picked him up with a group of Syrians trying to cross over to Italy from Greece's west coast at the beginning of the year. He was crammed into a cell with 56 others.
"We didn't sleep for three days,” Akash says. When police bused the inmates to other precincts, "the senior officers took me out and started to slap me on the face. Then police took out sticks and started to beat me. On the way down the stairs, they beat me behind the knees.”
Akash was taken to Korinth detention centre, one of six facilities police have created to house those awaiting deportation. "It is not a human place,” Akash says of the former army camp where he spent close to 50 days before being released.
During that time, he says he witnessed frequent beatings of Syrians and other nationals. He says an Afghan prisoner who refused food was beaten in full view of the others as an example.
"He was on the floor, not moving, completely full of blood. I was watching from the window. I could not see his face, only the blood,” Akash said.
"Police brutality is a fact,” says Vasilis Kerasiotis, a human rights lawyer who works with the Greek Council for Refugees, a refugee-advocacy group. "There is no eye, no non-governmental organisation constantly inside the detention centres.”
Greece has suffered a severe backlash against migrants, legal and illegal, as a six-year recession has driven unemployment to 27 percent. Coupled with this, Greece has over the past two decades become Europe's frontline immigration state.
According to Francois Crepeau, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants, 85-90 percent of "irregular migration” into Europe passes through Greece. The UN often decries conditions in these detention centres. Crepeau called them "shocking” and the detention of children and families "utterly unacceptable”.
The financial burden of policing external European borders and the legal task of separating refugees and legitimate asylum seekers from economic migrants has come as a shock to Greek authorities, which estimate the total cost at some $650m a year - an enormous sum in light of the fact that the Greek government can barely pay pensions or finance public hospitals.
"The European contribution is €230m. We are grateful but … I am afraid that it is not enough,” Greece's public order minister, Nikos Dendias, told European officials last month.
Meet the Hiluhs
The war in Syria has exacerbated the problem enormously because it has produced close to two million refugees in just a year. Thousands have elected to go to Europe, but end up living in Greece.
The Hiluh family are a case in point. They applied for political asylum, a notoriously difficult process in Greece, where applicants must pass muster through two committees. Until now, the process has taken up to three years.
"Average approval rates are 0.25 percent in the first committee and about nine percent in the second committee,” human rights lawyer Alexandros Konstantinou says.
Last month, Greece finally overhauled its asylum process, taking it out of the hands of the police and assigning it to a dedicated Asylum Service in the interior ministry. In its first month of operation, the service received 878 applications, 51 of them from Syrians, and made initial rulings on 46, suggesting it may live up to its ambition of processing applications in less than five months.
The service is also slated to open three border offices, making the application process more accessible for many. Maria Stavropoulou, the director of the new Asylum Service, says her office will also recognise the right of applicants to work legally. "Our law says that anyone with international protection has the right to work. The real problem is the level of unemployment in our country.”
However, the Asylum Service won't be processing the backlog of at least 25,000 valid applications that are still languishing. Those will remain in the hands of the police.
‘That's your problem'
To maintain asylum applicant status, Idriss and Roshan Hiluh had to show up for an interview once a month, despite Roshan's advanced pregnancy.
"Two weeks ago, we missed the interview because my wife was inducted into hospital for anaemia,” says Idriss Hiluh, a cabinetmaker from Aleppo. "When we returned to immigration police we were given deportation papers and lost our asylum status. We said, ‘what shall we do?' They said, ‘That's your problem.'”
During their harrowing trip to Greece, the Hiluhs saw just how reluctant Greek authorities were to admit or help them. As they crossed the Aegean Sea at 2am in an overfilled rubber dinghy, a Greek coastguard vessel approached.
"The coastguard told us to go back,” Hiluh says, "but we had a group of Algerians among us who said, ‘this is our fifth crossing and we are not turning around.'”
To make the point, the Algerians began to knife the dinghy one compartment at a time until the Hiluhs and their four children, including an infant, were in the water. "Only then did the coastguard pick us up,” says Hiluh.
Like the Abdo family and thousands of others, they were stuck in Greece without the money to go deeper into Europe or feed themselves.
But days after an Al Jazeera interview, Roshan Hiluh managed to leave Greece for Switzerland. She had her baby there and now plans to file for family reunification. But Idriss Hiluh articulated the alternative in Greece. "What shall we do? Await a slow death?”
Syria's refugee crisis 'is worst since Rwanda Genocide in 1994'
United Nations officials say war crimes and crimes against humanity are 'the rule' in Syria today
ALISTAIR DAWBER Author Biography WEDNESDAY 17 JULY 2013
The Syrian civil war has created the world’s worst refugee crisis for 20 years, according to the United Nations, which says that 6,000 people are fleeing the conflict every day.
The head UN’s refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, speaking to a rare public session of the Security Council in New York, laid bare the misery facing ordinary Syrians, saying that the consequent displacement of people had not risen “at such a frightening rate” since the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.
The UN estimates that 5,000 people are being killed in the country every month, which it describes as “a drastic deterioration of the conflict”. The latest figures put the total killed in the conflict at 93,000. According to Mr Guterres, two-thirds of the nearly 1.8 million Syrian refugees known to the agency have fled since the beginning of 2013 – an average of over 6,000 each day. In reality the official figures are likely to be dwarfed by the actual number of refugees.
Despite the horrifying numbers, the international community has been hopelessly paralysed in its efforts to end the fighting. Attempts to resolve the conflict at the UN have been stymied by disagreements between Western powers, which have called for the end of President Bashar al-Assad’s tenure, and Russia, which has supported the regime in Damascus.
Such are the scale of differences that it has so far proven impossible to even hold a peace conference on Syria, despite all sides agreeing that only a diplomatic solution will end the nearly two and half year civil war.
Warning that the “Syrian conflict could ignite the whole region,” Mr Guterres nonetheless praised Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, which have taken in hundreds of thousands, if not more than a million, Syrian refugees.
Fierce fight for Damascus ‘traps 200 civilians inside mosque’
Opposition warns that unless the UN intervenes, thousands could be massacred
FERNANDE VAN TETS SUNDAY 14 JULY 2013
Displaced Syrians distrust armed groups
Civilians displaced by war say they have been betrayed by those who took up arms against the state.
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2013 09:11
Syria rebels in weak position, says SNC chief
Ahmad Jarba says Saudi arms will arrive soon, and rules out talks with regime before balance of power changes.
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2013 01:03
Ramadan fasting tough for Syrian refugees
Civilians who have fled to camps in neighbouring countries face difficulties of fasting during Ramadan.
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2013 12:05
Syria's al-Nusra Front – ruthless, organised and taking control
Special report: The main jihadi group is marshalling its resources shrewdly, and the 'emir of gas' is impressed
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in Shadadi, eastern Syria
The Guardian, Wednesday 10 July 2013 15.14 BST
The al-Qaida-affiliated commander in charge of the oil company in Shadadi, eastern Syria – a lean, broad-shouldered man who is followed everywhere by a machete-wielding bodyguard – was explaining the appeal of jihadi rule to the people of the newly captured town.
"Go and ask the people in the streets whether there a liberated town or city anywhere in Syria that is ruled as efficiently as this one," he boasted. "There is electricity, water and bread and security. Inshallah, this will be the nucleus of a new Syrian Islamic caliphate!"
The al-Nusra Front, the principle jihadi rebel group in Syria, defies the cliche of Islamist fighters around the Middle East plotting to establish Islamic caliphates from impoverished mountain hideaways. In north-eastern Syria, al-Nusra finds itself in command of massive silos of wheat, factories, oil and gas fields, fleets of looted government cars and a huge weapons arsenal.
The commander talked about the services al-Nusra is providing to Shadadi's residents. First, there is food: 225 sacks of wheat, baked into bread and delivered to the people every day through special teams in each neighbourhood. Then there is free electricity and water, which run all day throughout the town. There is also al-Nusra healthcare, provided from a small clinic that treats all comers, regardless of whether they have sworn allegiance to the emirate or not. Finally, there is order and the promise of swift justice, delivered according to sharia law by a handful of newly appointed judges.
"God has chosen us to provide security to the people, and we do it for nothing," he said. "We have vowed to sacrifice ourselves to serve the people. If we leave, the tribes will start killing each other for the oil and the loot. We had to show force in dealing with the tribes. Even now, one to three people are killed every day because of feuding over the oil. We also protect the silos of wheat. All the silos are under our protection.
"All this wealth," he said, "is for the Muslims."
The emir of gas
A few miles from Shadadi, travelling through hills dotted with oil pumps that resemble giant, long-legged birds dipping their beaks into the earth, we came to al-Nusra's most valuable asset in the region, a gas refinery run by a young commander known to his followers simply as the "emir of gas".
The emir sat on a green mattress on the floor of his office, conspicuously eschewing the computer and desk in favour of the simple way of the Islamist warrior. He was almost skeletally thin, his handsome face framed by long black hair that wrapped lazily around his ears, giving him the air of a mischievous playboy.
When the rebels first captured the refinery, it was run by a joint committee that represented all the battalions in the area. But the emir decided to kick them out, for their "petty theft".
"The Free Syrian Army [FSA] have no funding so they steal stupid things," he said contemptuously. "They steal anything."
The secret to al-Nusra's power in the east, he said, was organisation: all their captured loot went to a central committee, which he called the "Muslim treasury". From there, it was directed to the various battle fronts.
"When we bring in cars or weapons, we don't keep them," said the emir: "the money is sent to the treasury, which distributes these resources."
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