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Een democratische omwenteling in de Arabische Wereld? Deel 5 – 5 ثورة ديمقراطية في العالم العربي؟ جزء

 

Van http://doaa910.maktoobblog.com/ . Zo laat je dus tegenwoordig een dictator struikelen. Geeft vrij goed weer wat er in Tunesië en Egypte gebeurd is. Cartoon afkomstig van een van de befaamde blogs, die een sleutelrol vervulden in de Egyptische opstand

nieuws en artikelenoverzicht van de actuele gebeurtenissen in de Arabische wereld deel 5 (zie ook deel 1, deel 2, deel 3 en deel 4)

 

Chronologisch overzicht van dag tot dag (op de site van de NOS): http://nos.nl/artikel/215322-chronologie-onrust-arabische-wereld.html

Voor de nieuwste ontwikkelingen, bekijk hieronder: 

Al-Jazeera English live

 

Palestinian Authority closes Al-Jazeera office

klik op bovenstaand logo

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/2011210172519776830.html

 

Hier nog een kleine update van de laatste dagen van de NOS (http://nos.nl/artikel/215322-chronologie-onrust-arabische-wereld.html):

Chronologie onrust Arabische wereld

Het leger helpt met het verwijderen van tenten op het Tahrirplein in Caïro» Het leger helpt met het verwijderen van tenten op het Tahrirplein in Caïro AFP

Toegevoegd: zondag 30 jan 2011, 15:31

Update: zondag 13 feb 2011, 14:36

Dat zijn zelfverbranding zoveel gevolgen zou hebben, had de Tunesiër Mohammed Bouazizi waarschijnlijk niet kunnen bedenken. Zijn actie leidde niet alleen tot protesten tegen de regering in zijn eigen land, maar ook tegen die in andere landen, zoals Egypte, Jemen, Jordanië en Algerije.

Een chronologisch overzicht van de gebeurtenissen.

2011

13 februari

Twee dagen na het vertrek van Mubarak zijn er nog steeds demonstranten op het plein. Het nieuwe militaire regime wil dat iedereen voor de avond het plein verlaten heeft. Leger en vrijwilligers ruimen samen de rotzooi en barricades op en er rijden voor het eerst sinds de massale protesten weer auto’s op het Tahrirplein.

In Caïro zijn tijdens de betogingen toch belangrijke kunstvoorwerpen uit het Egyptisch Museum gestolen. Het gaat om acht stukken, waaronder een verguld houten beeld van farao Toetanchamon.

In Jemen zijn er voor de derde opeenvolgende dag demonstraties tegen het regime van president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Dat leidde tot een confrontatie tussen de politie en de anti-regeringsdemonstranten.

12 februari
In Egypte is de hele nacht gefeest na het vertrek van Mubarak. Ook overdag blijft het druk op het Tahrirplein in Caïro en op andere plaatsen. Mubarak zou zijn vertrokken naar Saudi-Arabië.
In de Algerijnse hoofdstad Algiers houden duizenden mensen een protestmars, hoewel dat door de overheid is verboden. De betogers eisen meer democratie en hervormingen en sommigen eisen het vertrek van de 73-jarige president Bouteflika, die al twaalf jaar aan de macht is.`
Duizenden jongeren gaan in Sanaa, de hoofdstad van Jemen, de straat op om het aftreden van president Ali Abdallah Saleh te eisen. “Na Mubarak is Ali aan de beurt”, roepen de betogers.
 
 
 
 
 

 

11 februari
Vicepresident Suleiman verklaart op de staatstelevisie dat president Mubarak toch vertrekt. Hij draagt de macht over aan het leger. Op het Tahrirplein in Caïro wordt gejuicht.
De Amerikaanse president Obama zegt in een toespraak dat Egypte geschiedenis heeft geschreven en nooit meer hetzelfde zal zijn. “Het is niet het eind van de ontwikkeling, maar het begin.” Ook in andere landen wordt positief gereageerd op het vertrek van Mubarak.
10 februari
President Mubarak van Egypte houdt een toespraak. Vooraf is de verwachting dat hij zijn aftreden zal aankondigen, maar dat doet hij niet. Hij draagt zijn regeringsverantwoordelijkheid over aan vicepresident Suleiman, maar zegt pas weg te gaan “als hij dood en begraven is”. De betogers op het Tahrirplein zijn zwaar teleurgesteld en de sfeer is gespannen.
Mensenrechtenorganisaties beschuldigen het Egyptische leger van martelingen van betogers. Op de 17de dag weer demonstraties, voor de tweede achtereenvolgende dag zijn er stakingen.
De minister van Oudheden van Egypte, Zahi Hawass, zegt dat de kunstschatten in het land de onrust goed zijn doorgekomen. Volgens hem waren sommige plunderaars op zoek naar het mythische rood kwikzilver.
 
 

 

9 februari
Honderden antiregeringsbetogers blokkeren de ingang van het parlementsgebouw in Caïro. Ze willen voorkomen dat leden van de partij van president Mubarak, de Nationaal Democratische Partij, naar binnen gaan. Het gebouw wordt ontruimd. Ook op het Tahrirplein wordt weer gedemonsteerd.
In de woestijnstad El Kharga, in het zuiden van Egypte, komt bij rellen een betoger om. Meer dan honderd mensen raken gewond.
Touroperator Skytours is voornemens om Nederlanders weer naar Egypte te vliegen.
Koning Abdullah van Jordanië beëdigt een nieuwe ministersploeg die moet werken aan politieke en economische hervormingen.
8 februari
 
 
 

 

 
De Egyptische regering komt met een plan voor een geleidelijke machtsoverdracht, maar de demonstranten vertrouwen dat niet en eisen dat Mubarak nu opstapt. Het protest tegen de president neemt weer toe. Honderdduizenden mensen verzamelen zich op het Tahrirplein in Caïro. De BBC spreekt van de grootste demonstratie sinds het begin van het protest op 25 januari.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

7 februari
In de Egyptische hoofdstad Caïro staan nog altijd tienduizenden mensen op het Tahrirplein. De demonstranten willen later deze week weer grote demonstraties houden en ze zijn niet van plan met de protesten op te houden voordat president Mubarak vertrekt. De onrust is wel afgenomen en het openbare leven komt weer gedeeltelijk op gang.
Het nieuwe kabinet in Egypte kondigt een salarisverhoging voor ambtenaren aan van 15 procent. Ook de pensioenen gaan omhoog.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

6 februari
In Tunesië worden alle activiteiten van de partij van de verdreven president Ben Ali opgeschort. De kantoren blijven dicht totdat justitie zich uitgesproken heeft over een verbod. De autoriteiten zeggen dat de maatregelen nodig zijn in het belang van de staatsveiligheid. Ze volgen op gewelddadige incidenten die volgens de autoriteiten veroorzaakt zijn door aanhangers van Ben Ali. Die zouden daarmee chaos in het land willen veroorzaken.
De dertiende protestdag in Caïro wordt uitgeroepen tot de ‘Dag van de martelaren’ ter ere van de demonstranten die zijn omgekomen. Het openbare leven komt weer op gang. De beurs en de banken zijn voor het eerst in een week weer open en op veel plekken wordt ook de troep op straat opgeruimd.
De Egyptische regering doet in een rondetafelgesprek toezeggingen aan de oppositie. Voor het eerst in de geschiedenis is ook de Moslim Broederschap betrokken bij het overleg. Vicepresident Suleiman belooft persvrijheid en de vrijlating van iedereen die bij de betogingen van de afgelopen twee weken is opgepakt.
 
 
 
 
 

 

5 februari
Berichten dat Mubarak aftreedt als leider van de regeringspartij NDP, worden even later weer tegengesproken. Wel vervangt hij het bestuur van de partij, onder wie zijn zoon Gamal. Hossam Badrawi wordt de nieuwe secretaris-generaal. Hij wordt gerekend tot de gematigde vleugel van de partij.
De VS willen dat president Mubarak aanblijft totdat er een overgangsregering is. Dat zegt een speciale afgezant van president Obama.
Op het Tahrirplein in Caïro blijft het rustig. President Mubarak overlegt al vroeg met enkele ministers over de staat van de economie in zijn land.
In El Kef, in het noordwesten van Tunesië, worden zeker twee mensen gedood wanneer de politie het vuur opent op demonstranten, die zich hebben verzameld bij het politiebureau. Ze eisen het aftreden van het hoofd van de politie die volgens hen schuldig is aan machtsmisbruik.
 
 
 
 

 

4 februari
De betogers roepen deze dag uit tot ‘Dag van Vertrek’ voor Mubarak. Minister van Defensie Tantawi spreekt op het Tahrirplein met militairen en demonstranten. Hij is de eerste vertegenwoordiger van het regime die zich in het hol van de leeuw waagt.
In Israël maakt men zich grote zorgen over wat er in het buurland gebeurt. De regering vreest voor een nieuwe vijandige moslimstaat.
Leiders van de Europese Unie roepen Egypte op om snel een brede overgangsregering in te stellen. President Obama roept Mubarak op te luisteren naar het Egyptische volk voor een orderlijke overdracht van de macht.
De Egyptische president Mubarak overleeft de ‘Dag van Vertrek’. Hij zit nog steeds in zijn paleis.
 
 
 

 

The false anxiety of influence

 

The revolution in Egypt is a unique historical event, seperate from Iran in 1979 or France in 1789, author says.

Hamid Dabashi Last Modified: 12 Feb 2011 17:29 GMT
 
  
Egypt’s revolution could have affects across the whole global south [Reuters]  

Comparisons between Egypt’s current uprising and Iran’s 1979 revolution have become something of a cliché.

The mass demonstrations in Egypt against a US-backed dictator have reminded many observers of similar scenes from the Iranian Revolution of 1979, leading some to believe that another “Islamic Revolution” is in the making.   

This is a false reading of the Iranian Revolution of 1977-1979; and an even more flawed reading of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. 

This, above all, is a logically flawed assimilation of a unique historical event that was ignited in Tunisia, has now spread to Egypt and perhaps will expand even farther in the Arab and Muslim world, to the point of even casting aside cliché terms, including and the most colonially pernicious of them all: “the Middle East”. 

Meydan al-Tahrir in Egypt today, like its counterpart Meydan-e Azadi in Tehran two years ago (the two Arabic and Persian terms mean exactly the same: “Freedom Square”), is the epicenter of a planetary reconfiguration of world politics.

Watershed moment

Irreducible to no other event, Egyptians gathering at Tahrir Square have staged a global spectacle of the democratic will of a people. The storming of the Bastille and the French Revolution of 1789 is the closest European event that comes near to what is happening in Egypt and its open-ended consequences for the global south. And, when the Bastille was happening, no one knew exactly what a new watershed had been marked in European history. 

Allowing for its own metaphors gradually to emerge, the Egypt of 2011 is neither Iran of 1979 nor  France of 1789 nor any other country of any other time. It is what it is: It is Egypt; and it is 2011.

What has happened in Tunisia and now in Egypt and perhaps even beyond is not tantamount to the fall of the Berlin Wall, or by extension what happened in Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the collapse of Soviet Union. 

The Tahrir Square of 2011 is not the Tiananmen Square of 1989. Such lazy clichés, phony metaphors, and easy allegories send people after a useless goose chase preventing them from properly seeing the events in Tunisia and Egypt.

The emerging facts in Tunisia, Egypt, and Iran demand and will exact their own concepts and metaphors, leading to fresh insights, perspectives, and theories. 

We are all blessed to be present at the historic moment of a massive epistemic shift, not merely in the geopolitics of the region, or the planetary configuration of power, but even more crucially, in the moral and political imagination that we must muster to come to terms with it. 

False constructions

To reach for those fresh insights we must first clear the air of false assimilations and misbegotten metaphors and above all of the whole false anxiety of “influence”. The falsifying trend of comparing the Egyptian revolution of 2011 to the Iranian revolution of 1979 is usually predicated on an ulterior ideological motive. 

The pro-Isreali neocons in the United States and their Zionist counterparts in Israel compare the Egyptian and Iranian revolutions because they are frightened out of their wits by a massive revolutionary uprising in a major Arab country that may no longer allow the abuse of the democratic will of a people for the cozy continuation of a colonial settlement called “Israel”. 

Echoing the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Iranian neocon contingencies like Abbas Milani of the Hoover Institute think tank in California fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will take over the Egyptian revolution and create an Islamic Republic—habitually turning a blind eye to the fact that a fanatical “Jewish Brotherhood” has already created a Jewish Republic for more than sixty years in the same neighborhood.

Soon after Binyamin Netanyahu and Abbas Milani, and from precisely the opposite ideological direction, Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic and the vast petrodollar propaganda machinery at his disposal, celebrated what is happening in Egypt as a reflection of Khomeini’s will and legacy and the commencement of an “Islamic awakening”.  Not so fast, interjected an almost instant announcement from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. This was not an Islamic Revolution, they explained, but an Egyptian revolution that belonged to all Egyptians—Muslims, Christians, people from other ideological persuasions. 

Fighting theocracy

In between the frightful Zionist propaganda and Islamist wishful thinking myriads of other opinions have been aired over the last two weeks in one way or another measuring the influence of the Islamic Revolution in Iran over the revolutionary uprising in Egypt. 

This is a false and falsifying presumption first and foremost because what happened in Iran during the 1977-1979 revolutionary uprising was not an “Islamic Revolution” but a violently and viciously “Islamised revolution”.

A brutal and sustained course of repression—perpetrated under the successive smoke screens of the American Hostage Crisis of 1979-1981 and the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, and the Salman Rushdi Affair of 1989-1999—is the crucial difference between an “Islamic” and “Islamised” revolution. 

A cruel crescendo of university purges, cultural revolutions, mass executions of oppositional forces, and forced exile, took full advantage of domestic and regional crisisis over the last three decades to turn a multifaceted, modern, and cosmopolitan revolution into a banal and vicious theocracy. 

The CIA-sponsored coup of 1953, the massive arming of Saddam Hossein to wage war against Iran, and the creation of the Taliban as a bulwark against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, all engineered by the United States, and the continued armed robbery of Palestine by Israel have been the regional contexts in which the Islamic Republic destroyed all its ideological and political alternatives and created a malicious theocracy, consistently and systematically abusing regional crisis to keep itself in power.     

That historical fact ought to be remembered today so no false analogy or anxiety of influence is allowed to mar the joyous and magnificent uprising of Tunisians and Egyptians to assert and reclaim their dignity in a free and democratic homeland. 

There is no reason whatsoever to believe that Tunisians or Egyptians will allow such a treacherous kidnapping of their dreams and aspirations by one fanatical ideological absolutism or another. 

Ideological links

What we are witnessing in Tunisia and in Egypt today, as we in fact have been over the last two years in Iran, is a people’s democratic will to retrieve their cosmopolitan political culture, wresting it from colonial (Tunisia), imperial (Egypt), or tyrannical (Iran) distortion, deception, and corruption. 

Even if we are to indulge in the false anxiety of influence, it is crucial to remember the historical fact that Egypt has had far more enduring influence on Iran than the other way around. 

The entire Islamic ideology that prefigured the Islamist take over of the Iranian Revolution of 1977-1979, was predicated on the ideas of Egyptian thinkers ranging from Muhammad Abduh to Mahmud Shaltut to Sayyid Qutb. That Muhammad Abduh himself was a disciple of Seyyed Jamal al-Din al-Afghani points to the transnational disposition of our political cultures in the region that cannot be colonially fragmented and falsified. 

But under no circumstances should we be limited in our understanding of the rich and effervescent political cultures of the region to Islamism of one sort or another, for this particular revolutionary politics has never been the only dimension of interaction among ideas and movements in our region. 

Global hopes

Anticolonial nationalism extending from Jawaharlal Nehru’s India to Mohammad Mossadegh’s Iran to Gamal Abd al-Nasser’s Egypt to Ahmed Ben Bella and Houari Boumediène’s Algeria (extending all the way to the Cuban revolution) has had catalytic consequences for and on each other beyond any colonially manufactured national boundary. 

The same is true about revolutionary socialist movements where the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), for example, has had a far-reaching impact on Marxist movements in the region from Nepal to Morocco, from Afghanistan to Yemen. All these cross-metaphorisation of a defiant politics of hope and struggle point to the regional solidarities that have existed and informed these revolutionary uprisings far beyond the colonially manufactured and racialized nationalism of one sort or another. 

All of this is only if we were to remain limited, and we must not, within the banal sphere of “influence”. Who influenced whom and under what circumstances, is an exercise in colonial futility that constantly pits one group of Arabs or Muslims or Asians or Africans or Latin Americans against each other.

These divisions can be exacerbated by a mindless nationalism that prevents the clear sight of emerging geopolitics. Until it is realised we as a people will never be liberated from the nasty snare of trying to explain ourselves to “the West”, a figment of an arrested colonial imagination that racialised nationalism keeps perpetuating. 

We must, once and for all, change our interlocutor, and begin to talk to ourselves. From Tehran to Tunis to Cairo and beyond, our innate cosmopolitan cultures are being retrieved, our hidden worlds discovered, above and beyond any anxiety of influence. 

Egyptians are now achieving our collective future—for all of us.  It was not destined for Iranians to do this in 2009–but the victory of Tunisians and the triumphant will of the Egyptians in 2011 will have unequivocal consequences for all other democratic and national liberation movements in the region. 

Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

 
Source:
Al Jazeera

 

http://www.thenation.com/article/158498/how-cyber-pragmatism-brought-down-mubarak

How Cyber-Pragmatism Brought Down Mubarak

Sam Graham-Felsen
February 11, 2011  

What caused the uprising in Egypt that swiftly brought down Mubarak’s thirty-year-old regime? Depending on whom you’re listening to, the Internet had either everything or nothing to do with it.

On one extreme are the so-called “Cyber-Utopians,” who hail Egypt’s revolt as the “Facebook Revolution” and emphasize the role Internet tools played in sparking it over offline organizing by activists. On the other extreme are Malcolm Gladwell, Jon Stewart, Frank Rich and other media figures, whose eagerness to dismiss the Internet’s role has been equally unsubtle. Focusing almost entirely on social conditions in Egypt, these critics have treated the uprising as the inevitable consequence of poverty and human rights abuses.

Rich has a point: some Western media outlets dwelled on the novelty of social media while under-reporting the longer-term social forces that precipitated protests in Egypt. But others, criticized for having credited the Internet with ushering in the wave of protests in Iran, have downplayed social media’s role in bringing down Mubarak.

Oppressive social conditions do stoke a common hunger for change; however, a movement isn’t born until a core group of extraordinarily brave activists take that extra step, translating their outrage into public action. The reality is that social movements arise from a combination of conditions and courage.

What’s been missing in these arguments is a consideration of those early movers. How did they summon the courage to first step into Tahrir Square—and did the Internet embolden them?

In recent days, a young Google employee from Cairo named Wael Ghonim has emerged as the hero of the protest movement. Ghonim—who was arrested on January 28 and secretly detained until February 7—was the then-anonymous founder of the “We Are All Khaled Said” Facebook page that initially called for and organized the January 25 protest. The page, which honors a 28-year-old from Alexandria who was pulled out of an Internet café and beaten to death by police who suspected him of releasing videos of police corruption online, was launched over six months ago. What started as a campaign against police brutality grew into an online hub for young Egyptians to share their frustrations over the abuses of the Mubarak regime. Among the active early participants in the “We Are All Khaled Said” community were human rights activists and dissident bloggers, many of whom knew one another and had been organizing against Mubarak’s policies for years, and some of whom had endured jail time for their activities.

Dalia Ziada, a long-time human rights activist and blogger, was one of these core activists. A few years ago, she came across an American comic book from the 1950s that told Martin Luther King’s story. Inspired by the success of King’s nonviolent tactics, she translated the book into Arabic and published it in print and online.

“MLK was only 29 years old when he launched his campaign and motivated the whole Afro-American community,” Dalia told me. “When people learned about MLK and Gandhi success stories they realized they can do it here too. We have the power to turn our dreams into real tangible facts.” Ziada distributed thousands of print and digital copies of the comic book to her fellow organizers, who took not only inspiration but instruction from the persistence and tactical sophistication of the civil rights movement.

Over time, hundreds of thousands joined the “We Are All Khaled Said” page, sharing stories of police abuse and posting inspirational YouTube videos and photos, while core organizers pushed them to attend a series of nonviolent “silent stand” protests in public. None of these protests, which took place in June and August of 2010, drew more than a few thousand people.

But in the wake of the Tunisia uprising—when activists saw that the nonviolent tactics of King and Gandhi had succeeded in a nearby country—Ghonim and his fellow organizers seized on the collective hope. Calling a protest on January 25, activists quickly began distributing downloadable flyers and detailed instruction manuals that included advice on how to counteract tear gas. To ensure greater numbers, organizers promised one another that they would each bring at least ten non-connected people they knew to the protests. They even agreed on messaging tactics in advance. In order to better succeed at recruiting poorer, less-educated Egyptians to join them, they focused on economic issues as a rallying cry, not torture. “We spoke their language,” said Dalia, “not our language as Internet users.”

“The fact that everything was very organized from the beginning made people feel safe and more willing to participate. For example there were maps to the protest locations and how groups should move and who should be in the front row,” says Dalia. “This gave some sense of safety for the participants. In other words, it was not a random or spontaneous upheaval. No, it was well planned and organized.” This web-based planning was critical, given that the vast majority of people on the “We Are All Khaled Said” page—and those who entered the streets on the 25th—were not veteran human rights activists and bloggers.

Call it “Cyber-Pragmatism.” The Internet has helped activists like Ziada weave history into the present, to promote examples of nonviolent movements that have succeeded elsewhere, learn from those that failed and rapidly evolve their nonviolent tactics as their own movement progresses.

When I asked Kamal Sedra, another Egyptian activist and blogger who has been active in the protests, what he and fellow activists have learned since the movement began, he replied, “There are many, many points we learned… this movement will add a lot to nonviolence civil resistance science.”

Ultimately, activists are developing a kind of movement wiki—one that is being continually re-edited and improved upon by an increasingly expanding web of contributors. In doing so, they have given each other the sense that they just might bend history towards justice.

It’s worth taking a step back to consider that for most ordinary people living under repressive regimes, nonviolent public protest is an absurd, laughable notion. The risk of being beaten, jailed, tortured or killed—as many Egyptian human rights activists have been over the past three decades—is terrifying. The only way a street protest becomes a remotely tenable proposition is if you know that you’re not alone—that many, many people not only share your anger but share your desire to do something about it. And when you see that your fellow protesters have a plan—that they are knowledgeable, organized and prepared—it gives you the confidence that your participation won’t be in vain. This is why the “We Are All Khaled Said” page—and the online organizing through private Facebook messages, e-mail list serves and Google Docs that sprung out of it—was so important for first-time activists.

When these young activists took their collective confidence into the streets—in numbers that hadn’t been seen for decades in Egypt—they showed that nonviolent mass mobilization was possible. Only then did the hundreds of thousands of older and non-connected Egyptians, who silently shared their grievances all along, feel compelled to act, too.

A veteran opposition leader told Sedra, “The youth have done in six days what we’ve been trying to do for thirty years.”

Egypt’s military rulers dissolve parliament

AP Photo/Ben Curtis
Young Egyptians take photographs of themselves standing in front of newly-painted murals on a street leading off from Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt. More photos »

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press – 2 hrs 42 mins ago

CAIRO – Egypt’s military leaders dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution Sunday, meeting two key demands of protesters who have been keeping up pressure for immediate steps to transition to democratic, civilian rule after forcing Hosni Mubarak out of power.

The military rulers who took over when Mubarak stepped down Friday and the caretaker government set as a top priority the restoration of security, which collapsed during the 18 days of protests that toppled the regime. The caretaker government held its first meeting since the president was ousted and before it began, workers removed a giant picture of Mubarak from the meeting room.

The protesters had been pressing the ruling military council, led by Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, to immediately move forward with the transition by appointing a presidential council, dissolving the parliament and releasing political prisoners.

“They have definitely started to offer us what we wanted,” said activist Sally Touma, reflecting a mix of caution and optimism among the protesters. Thousands have remained in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square to demand immediate steps by the council such as the repeal of repressive emergency laws that give police broad power.

The suspension of the constitution effectively puts Egypt under martial law — where the military makes the laws and enforces them in military tribunals. The ruling council is expected to clarify the issue in upcoming statements and the role of civilian courts remains unclear.

Judge Hisham Bastawisi, a reformist judge, said the latest measures “should open the door for free formation of political parties and open the way for any Egyptian to run for presidential elections” which the constitutional amendments are expected to do.

Hossam Bahgat, director of the non-governmental Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the military’s steps were positive but warned that Egypt was on uncharted legal ground.

“In the absence of a constitution, we have entered a sort of ‘twilight zone’ in terms of rules, so we are concerned,” he said. “We are clearly monitoring the situation and will attempt to influence the transitional phase so as to respect human rights.”

The ruling council said it will run the country for six months, or until presidential and parliament elections can be held. It said it was forming a committee to amend the constitution and set the rules for a popular referendum to endorse the amendments.

Both the lower and upper houses of parliament are being dissolved. The last parliamentary elections in November and December were heavily rigged by the ruling party, virtually shutting out opposition representation.

The caretaker Cabinet, which was appointed by Mubarak shortly after the pro-democracy protests began on Jan. 25, will remain in place until a new Cabinet is formed — a step that is not expected to happen until after elections. The ruling council reiterated that it would abide by all of Egypt’s international treaties agreed in the Mubarak era, most importantly the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

“Our concern now in the Cabinet is security, to bring security back to the Egyptian citizen,” Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq told a news conference after the Cabinet meeting.

Shafiq said the military would decide whether Omar Suleiman, who was appointed vice president by Mubarak in a failed attempt to appease protesters, would play some role in Egypt’s transition.

“He might fill an important position in the coming era,” the prime minister said.

He also denied rumors that Mubarak had fled to the United Arab Emirates, saying the former president remained in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. He went there just hours after stepping down.

“In a country like Egypt, with a pharaonic legacy, having no president and no head of state is not easy,” said Amr el-Shobaky, a member of the Committee of Wise Men — a self-appointed group of prominent figures who are allied with the protesters.

The police, hated for their brutality and corruption under decades-old emergency laws, marched Sunday through Tahrir Square to the Interior Ministry, which oversees them. They demanded better pay and conditions, but also sought to absolve themselves of responsibility for the police’s attempted crackdown at the start of the protests that killed many demonstrators.

“You have done this inhuman act,” one of the Tahrir protesters said to the police. “We no longer trust you.”

Hearing the accusations, Said Abdul-Rahim, a low-ranking officer, broke down in tears.

“I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it,” he implored. “All these orders were coming from senior leaders. This is not our fault. ”

About 2,000 police demonstrated, at times scuffling with soldiers who tried to disperse them. Some troops fired gunshots in the air, but later withdrew to avoid antagonizing the protesters. A few tanks remained outside the ministry.

“This is our ministry,” the police shouted. “The people and the police are one hand,” they chanted, borrowing an expression for unity.

The interior minister, Mahmoud Wagdy, emerged from the building to talk to the police through a megaphone. He said they had a right to be angry.

“Give me a chance,” he said.

Separately, Egyptian troops scuffled with holdout protesters in Tahrir Square as the caretaker government sought to impose order, but outbreaks of labor unrest, including the police protest, underscored the challenges of steering Egypt toward stability and democratic rule.

There were also protests by workers at a ceramic factory, a textile factory and at least two banks as Egyptians emboldened by the autocrat’s fall sought to improve their lot in a country where poverty and other challenges will take years or decades to address.

Troops took down makeshift tents and made some headway in dispersing protesters who didn’t want to abandon their encampment in Tahrir Square, fearful that the generals entrusted with a transition to democratic rule will not fulfill all their pledges.

Still, the crowds of protesters were thinning out and traffic moved through the area for the first time. Many local residents shouted at the protesters that it was time to go.

The crowd on the square, the center of protests during the 18-day uprising, was down from a peak of a quarter-million at the height of the demonstrations to about 10,000 on Sunday.

The Armed Forces Supreme Council is now the official ruler of Egypt after Mubarak handed it power. It consists of the commanders of each military branch, the chief of staff and Defense Minister Tantawi, who is now the top leader of Egypt.

The military took power after pleas from protesters, and it has promised to ensure democratic change. The institution, however, was tightly bound to Mubarak’s ruling system, and it has substantial economic interests that it will likely seek to preserve.

Egypt’s state news agency said banks will be closed Monday due to strikes and Tuesday for a public holiday.

___

Associated Press writer Maggie Michael contributed to this report.

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7 Feb 12 2011 by Linda Herrera
[Image by Carlos Lattuf] [Image by Carlos Lattuf]

The call for a Day of Rage on January 25, 2011 that ignited the Egyptian revolution originated from a Facebook page. Many have since asked: Is this a “Facebook Revolution?”  It is high time to put this question to rest and insist that political and social movements belong to people and not to communication tools and technologies. Facebook, like cell phones, the internet, and twitter, do not have agency, a moral universe, and are not predisposed to any particular ideological or political orientation. They are what people make of them. Facebook is no more responsible for Egypt’s revolution than Gutenberg’s printing press with movable type was responsible for the Protestant Reformation in the fifteenth century. But it is valid to say that neither the Reformation nor the pro-democracy rights’ movements sweeping Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, and much of the region would have come about at this juncture without these new tools. Digital communications media have revolutionized learning, cognition, and sociability and facilitated the development of a new generational behavior and consciousness.  And the old guard simply do not get it. 

Around the globe, far beyond Egypt and Tunisia, we are witnessing a monumental generational rupture taking place around digital literacy, and the coming of age of Generation 2.0. They take for granted interaction, collaboration, and community building on-line. The digital “non-literate” or “semi-literate” tend to be either the very poor lacking means, access to, or time for digital media, or the older generation, the pre-digitals, who do not see the value in changing their communication habits. Many from the pre-digital generation are quick to deride innovations such as Facebook and Twitter as being tools that indulge the egoistic tendencies of the young or which are colossal time wasters. While these critiques hold some validity, they capture only one side, and a small side, of a complex and epic generational sea change that is underway and that is being facilitated—not driven in some inevitable process—by the availability of new communication technologies and social tools.

A youthful global digital generation is growing in leaps and bounds, and social media, of which Facebook is just one platform, is a decisively important factor in it. Youth use social media for a range of social, academic, political, leisure, personal, creative, sexual, cultural, commercial, and other activities. Some characteristics of this global generation are excessive communication, involving many people in decision making, multitasking, group work, blurring of public and private, sharing, individual expression, and collective identification. Another important distinction between the generations is that the digital generation take what media theorist Clay Shirky calls “symmetrical participation” for granted. In other words, they are not passive recipients of media and messages, as in the days when television and print media ruled, but take for granted that they can play a role in the simultaneous production, consumption, interaction with, and dissemination of on-line content. Youth in the Middle East and North Africa share the features of their global generational counterparts but with some important additions and differences. 

In politically authoritarian states like Egypt, Tunisia and Iran, youth have been fashioning Facebook into a vibrant and inclusive public square. They also use it to maintain their psychological well being as a space to metaphorically breath when the controls and constrains of the social world become too stifling. A 22 year old blogger and avid  Facebook user explains, “It’s such a release to go on Facebook. I feel so liberated knowing there’s a place I can send my thoughts.”

The Rise of the “El-Face” Generation

In October and November 2010 I was in Egypt conducting research with university students in Alexandria and Cairo from diverse social class backgrounds on their media use. Many of them were using a new colloquial term, “El-Face” when talking about Facebook. These Facebook users carry traits of being politically savvy, bold, creative, outward looking, group regulating, and ethical. And their numbers are fast growing. In March 2008 there were some 822,560 users.  After the Arabic version of Facebook was launched in March of 2009 usership jumped. By July 1, 2010 there were some 3,581,460 Facebook members, making for an increase of 357.2% in a two year period. The site has become increasingly Arabized, though many users show dexterity in using both English and Arabic.

In the months running up to the parliamentary elections in November 2010 there was much speculation about a possible shut down of Facebook. Adult pundits in the more mainstream media (semi-governmental newspapers, popular Arabic television talk shows) took up the cause of Facebook. They expressed their paternalistic concern about the potentially corrupting force of Facebook on the youth in a familiar moral panic mode. On her popular television talk show, for instance, Hala Sarhan lamented the lawlessness of Facebook, asserting it to be a dangerously free zone in need of restrictions. Others argued that without adult supervision, youth could be lured and tricked by dangerous elements into sedition (fitna). They worried Facebook was fueling sectarian tensions between Christians and Muslims that could lead to violence.

These public Facebook experts are mainly sexagenarian and septuagenarian educators, policy makers, government officials, and academics of a pre-digital age. They are using a pre-digital political cognition and institutional understanding to discuss new media today, and they are direly off the mark. Drawing on older understandings of the media they view Facebook as the new space of ideological control, the place to capture the minds and hearts of the citizens; like state television but accessible through the internet. Some of them are sincere in their worry that dangerous elements, like radicals and criminals, will try to befriend youth on Facebook and lure them in subversive activities. Others are clearly more interested in maintaining raw power and want to find effective ways to keep youth in their fold and under their thumbs. The ones vying to maintain control of the youth reason that if youth are spending time on Facebook, then all the government needs to do is go in and set up its propaganda machinery there, capture and control the hearts and minds of youth on Facebook, it’s that simple. The government has established a presence on Facebook, though a somewhat pitiful one, setting up pages for the National Democratic Party (158 people “like” it), Gamal Mubarak (the page has been removed since the uprising), Hosni Mubarak, and other government figures and causes. But these are not picking up traction. The youth are not buying it, and the more the regime people interlope into Facebook the more they lose legitimacy.

The community of “El-Face” is developing a cultural, political, and ethical universe of its own. It has its own codes and is a regulated space to some degree. There are certain red lines, as Hoda and Amir, both 21 year old university students at Alexandria University, that should not be crossed: you should not use the space to insult each other’s religion, for pornography or sexual harassment, for advertising or selling things, for spreading false rumors, or for spying. When a Facebook friend crosses these lines others intervene by way of posting a corrective comment on their wall, starting a conversation on the post in question, or by defriending them. 

Last October many youth were worried that the government would close down Facebook.  In discussions with a group of students from the Political Science department at Cairo University, they explained that the government feared the flurry of critical political activity that would invariably precede an election. Though many expressed that turning off Facebook would be akin to suffocating them, as one young man put it, it would be like  “blocking the air to my lungs”, they insisted they would not ease up on their pre-election Facebook activities. These included  mocking the president, his son, the system, and the whole electoral process. They stood defiant. A 21 year old female student proclaimed, “We don’t care! We’re not afraid of them. What are they going to do, arrest millions of us?” 

Their Facebook activities also included a commitment to demanding justice for the brutal killing of one of their own, Khaled Said. It was striking last October how every youth I encountered in and out of the university was talking about Khaled Said. His story, which came out of Facebook, not Al-Jazeera, the newspaper, or any other media, has by now received much international coverage. The events leading to Khaled’s killing originated when he supposedly posted a video of two police officers allegedly dividing the spoils of a drug bust. This manner of citizen journalism has become commonplace and youth are getting more emboldened to expose the festering corruption of a police force that acts with impunity. On June 6, 2010, as Khaled Said was sitting in an internet café in Alexandria, two police officers entered and asked him for his I.D.. He refused to produce it and they proceeded to drag him away and allegedly sadistically beat him to his death as he pleaded for his life in the view of witnesses. The officers claimed that Khaled died of suffocation after swallowing a packet of drugs. His family released a photograph to an activist of the broken, bloodied, and disfigured face from Khaled’s corpse. This photo, and a portrait of the gentle soft skinned face of the living Khaled, went viral. The power of photographic evidence combined with eyewitness accounts and popular knowledge of police brutality left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was senselessly and brutally murdered by police officers, the very people who are supposed to act in the interest of public safety.

A Facebook page, “We are all Khaled Said” was set up and we now know that activists from the Facebook group 6 of April Youth Movement, and Google executive Wael Ghoneim who is becoming a national hero as instigator of the Day of Rage (see below), were involved in this. The page led to a movement, first for justice to bring the killers to court to pay for their crime, and then, something much bigger. On the heels of the Tunisian revolution and fleeing of the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the “We are all Khaled Said” group called for a Day of Rage, a march against “Torture, Corruption, Poverty and Unemployment” for January 25,  2011, the date the Regime designated to “celebrate” the police. Scores of Facebook users changed their profile pages to show their support for this march. Below are some of the samples of their profiles pictures.

 

The uprising took off in a way that no one anticipated. On January 27, Facebook, along with telephones and internet, went off. Nevertheless the revolution grew and persisted. When the internet came back up on February 2 there was a conspicuous fluttering of pro-Mubarak profile pictures scattered around college students’ friends’ lists that had the uncanny look of iron curtain style propaganda posters.  Though this is pure speculation, it is highly likely that a committee from the Ministry of Information got together to try to decipher how to infiltrate and conquer Facebook. Operating on a pre-digital mindset, they designed and released a poster about 25 January to appropriate the Day of Rage and rewrite history. That poster (Image #4) reads: “Day of Allegiance to the Leader and Commander. We are all with you and our hearts are with you. The campaign for Mubarak, Security for Egypt.”

 
 

Another profile photo which showed up among university students after the blackout was one that reads:  “With all my heart I love you Egypt, and I love you oh President.”

 
 

These posters lacked the spontaneity, show of emotion, creativity of the other profile posters, and smelled of infiltrators, something not well tolerated in the Facebook public square. This pitiable attempt to turn back history and try to capture the allegiance of youth through manipulating Facebook was a sign of how desperately out of touch the regime has become. It is also indicative that it has lost its grip on the ideological state apparatuses, and once that occurs there is nothing left at its disposal but the use of force; or surrender.

Within three days these images of 25 of January as a day of loyalty to the President disappeared from Facebook. On Feburary 8, a new profile photo among Egyptian youth began spreading spontaneously. It was the image of one of their own, Wael Ghoneim, on the day of his release after twelve days disappearance (he was detained by police). The image is from a game-changing interview conducted with him on February 7, 2011 on a satellite channel. This interview, where he admits to organizing the initial protest, set to rest doubts that the revolution was the plot of enemy foreign agents. His display of emotion for the martyrs of the revolution touched the nation, and beyond. That may very well have been the nail in the coffin of the state’s media wars.

What is happening in Egypt is not a Facebook Revolution. But it could not have come about without the Facebook generation, generation 2.0, who are taking, and with their fellow citizens, making history

Een overzichtje van de NOS:
  • Dag 20: Tahrirplein langzaam leeg
  • Dag 19: De day-after
  • Dag 18: Vaarwel Vrijdag
  • Dag 17: Mubarak toch niet weg
  • Dag 12: Rustige dag
  • Dag 11: Dag van vertrek
  • Dag 10: Geweld tegen buitenlandse journalisten
  • Dag 9: Geweld
  • Dag 8: Miljoenen demonstranten op straat
  • Dag 7: Protest in Egypte
  • Dag 6: Protest in Egypte
  • Dag 5: Opnieuw protesten in Egypte
  • Dag 4: Dag van de woede
  • Een samenvattende documentaire van Al-Jazeera English

    Published on The Nation (http://www.thenation.com)


    Saudi Arabia’s Fear of Egypt

    Robert Dreyfuss | February 13, 2011

    Not surprisingly, many American media reports have focused on the impact of the  revolution in Egypt on Israel, whose security policy is centered on the three-decade-old peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. But the country that really ought to be worried is Saudi Arabia

    Throughout the entire period of Egypt’s uprising, Saudi Arabia disparaged the rebels, backed ex-President Mubarak, and called for “stability.” No wonder. For Saudi Arabia, a reborn Egypt is their worst nightmare. Think of it like this: imagine Saudi Arabia as a wealthy, gated community, whose lavish homes are built behind stone walls, with swimming pools and tennis courts. But next door—right next door, just outside the gates—is Egypt, a vast and sprawling slum, whose residents jealously catch glimpses of the kleptocrats next door as they board jets for Dubai and the French Riviera. Now you understand why Saudi Arabia might be worried.

    But Egypt, the new Egypt, might turn out to be angry at Saudi Arabia, because of the kingdom’s unabashed support for the fallen Mubarak. And an angry Egypt might help—overtly, covertly or just by example—to undermine the stability of the Saudi royal family. Consider some history.

    For decades, Saudi Arabia has invested billions of dollars to neuter and neutralize Egypt. In the 1950s and 1960s, President Gamal Abel Nasser and his all-powerful Voice of the Arabs radio station thundered against Saudi corruption and greed. Back then, Egypt supported a group called the Free Princes who rebelled against the royal family’s grip on power. And from 1962–69 Egypt fought a proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, with Egypt backing republican rebels and the Saudis, naturally, backing the reactionaries. So when Nasser died in 1970 and Anwar Sadat succeeded him, the Saudis moved in strongly behind Sadat, helping the upstart leader crush Egypt’s Nasserists, socialists and communists. Helping Sadat was the right-wing Muslim Brotherhood, which had been suppressed by Nasser but unleashed by Sadat. Kamal Adham, the head of Saudi intelligence, who was also a business partner with Sadat’s corrupt wife, brought the leaders of the Brotherhood back to Egypt in 1971, and the Saudis bankrolled Sadat as he kicked out 20,000 Soviet troops, launch the 1973 Ramadan War and used the Brotherhood to smash the left on campuses and in Egypt’s professional societies.

    But now that Egypt is flexing its muscles, the Saudis are panicking.

    For Arab nationalists, the story is always the same: Arab countries with populations, but no oil—such as Egypt, Syria and Jordan—must join with Arab countries with oil but no people, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE. Coupling the gulf states’ resources with the intellectual capital of Cairo, Damascus and the Palestinians is the quickest way to progress for the Arabs. But then United States, and earlier, for the UK, helping the gated

    communities of the gulf stave off the demands of their poorer cousins has been a central plank of Western foreign policy since the cold war.

    Things may be changing.

    As the New York Times reported last week [1], “It was no coincidence that the most outspoken proponents of Mr. Mubarak’s rule were Israel and Saudi Arabia who, with Egypt, formed the spine of American dominance in the region.” During the crisis, US officials received [2] “daily calls from Israel, Saudi Arabia and others who feared an Egypt without Mr. Mubarak would destabilize the entire region.” Whenever they got the chance, the Saudis told the United States to avoid undermining Mubarak [3].

    The Saudis fumed and raged and protested. When rumors surfaced that the United States might cut off its military aid to Egypt, amounting to about $1.3 billion a year, Saudi Arabia told President Obama that it would step in [4] and replace US cash [5] without blinking, and the ailing king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, reportedly [6] told Obama so directly in a “testy” January 29 phone call.

    The Saudis didn’t hide their anger at the United States. Prince Saud, the foreign minister, openly blasted [7] the “flagrant interference of some countries,” meaning the United States, in Egypt’s crisis, in what the Wall Street Journal said [8] “was interpreted as a rare attack on US policy.” King Abdullah, mad as hell, vilified the protesters [7], saying “some infiltrators, in the name of freedom of expression, have infiltrated into the brotherly people of Egypt, to destabilize its security and stability.” And Prince Saud elaborated [8] with another direct attack on Obama’s support for the revolution: “We are astonished at what we see as interference in the internal affairs of Egypt by some countries. We are shocked to see that there are countries pre-empting even the will of the Egyptian people.” By “countries,” of course, Saud meant the United States.

    There are early signs of unrest in Saudi Arabia, too, though it is far from clear that conditions in the kingdom are conducive to a revolt along the lines of Tunisia’s or Egypt’s. Still, as Steven Stills might say [9], “Somethin’s happenin’ here.” On January 28, about 50 Saudis held a brief protest [10] in Jeddah, and on February 7, some fifty women demonstrated [10] outside the ministry of the interior to protest detentions of male relatives, while ten “professors, businessmen and religious scholars” petitioned [10] to create a moderate Islamist political party. According to Reuters, the founders of the proto-political party said, in a letter to King Abdullah: “You know well what big political development and improvement of freedom and human rights is currently happening in the Islamic world. It’s time to bring this development to the kingdom.” One of the signers of the letter, lawyer Abdul-Aziz al-Wahhabi, said: “You cannot just have the royal party governing the country. We want to raise this issue with government officials and persuade them.”

    Social networking sites are buzzing [8] in Saudi Arabia. Anwar Eshki, the director of the Middle East Institute for Strategic Studies in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, said [11]: “The Arab leaders are in a race against time: either they quickly adopt liberal changes, or they suffer the same fate as [the leaders] of Tunisia and Egypt.”

    Time will tell.

    On Friday, at a conference sponsored by the New America Foundation, I asked Shibly Telhami if Saudi Arabia ought to be worried about an angry Egypt. “Every single government in the Arab world is nervous,” he said. He suggested that Saudi Arabia will try to manage the Egyptian revolt. “Their first attempt will be to coopt it. That’s how they deal with uncertainties. They’re shocked, and surprised, and they’re reassessing.”

    It remains to be seen, of course, if the Egyptians want to be coopted.

    Like this Blog Post? Read it on the Nation’s free iPhone App, NationNow. [12]


    Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/blog/158523/saudi-arabias-fear-egypt

    Links:

    [1] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/world/middleeast/12revolution.html?scp=3&sq=saudi egypt&st=cse

    [2] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/world/middleeast/13diplomacy.html?scp=7&sq=saudi egypt&st=cse

    [3] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/world/middleeast/09diplomacy.html?_r=1&ref=saudiarabia

    [4] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/7469098.cms

    [5] http:// http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/09/saudi-arabia-considers-matching-u-s-military-aid-to-egypt/

    [6] http://nation.foxnews.com/barack-obama/2011/02/09/saudis-told-obama-not-humiliate-mubarak

    [7] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-12/saudi-arabia-hopes-egyptian-army-restores-stability-to-country.html

    [8] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703786804576138321598498188.html

    [9] http://www.lyrics007.com/Stephen Stills Lyrics/For What It’s Worth Lyrics.html

    [10] http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/937967–will-the-house-of-saud-adapt-enough-to-survive-again?bn=1

    [11] http:// http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international-business/arab-regimes-must-change-or-face-revolt-analysts/articleshow/7488701.cms

    [12] http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nationnow/id399704758?mt=8

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/2011214925802473.html

     

    Bahrain activists hold Day of Rage

     

    Reports of violence from parts of the kingdom as security forces remain on alert during day of protests.

    Last Modified: 14 Feb 2011 09:53 GMT
     
    Activists are demanding reforms, better human rights and an end to discrimination [Sara Hassan] 

    Small-scale clashes have been reported from parts of Bahrain amid heightened security over planned protests by the kingdom’s Shia Muslim majority.

    Protesters had called for a Day of Rage to be observed on Monday, inspired by anti-government uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

    Helicopters circled over the capital Manama, where protesters were expected to gather in the afternoon, and there was greater police presence in Shia villages.

    At least 14 people were injured in clashes overnight and on Monday, news agencies reported.

    Khalid Al-Marzook, a Bahraini member of parliament, told Al Jazeera that one person was killed and three others in critical condition in hospital following the clashes.

    News agency reports said police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse marchers in the mostly Shia village of Newidrat in the southwest region of the island kingdom – a key Western ally. The marchers were demanding the release of those detained during earlier protests.

    Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for human rights told Al Jazeera: “We are only asking for political reforms, right of political participation, respect for human rights, stopping of systematic discrimination against Shias.

    “All the demands are to do with human rights and nothing to do with the ruling family and their regime.”

    However, he warned that if the government resorted to violence then the people might be forced to even demand for a regime change.

    “We call on all Bahraini people – men, women, boys and girls – to share in our rallies in a peaceful and civilised way to guarantee a stable and promising future for ourselves and our children,” activists said in a statement issued on Twitter.

    Marginalised Shias

    The Bahraini ruling family had offered cash payouts in the run-up to the protest to prevent Shia discontent from bubbling over as popular revolts spread in the Arab world.

    Diplomats say Bahrain’s demonstrations, organised on the social media websites Facebook and Twitter, will be a gauge of whether a larger base of Shias can be drawn on to the streets. The big test will be if demonstrations take hold in Manama, where demonstrations are rare.

    Shias account for 70 per cent of the population but they allege discrimination at the hands of Bahrain’s Sunni rulers.

    Big protests in the Gulf Arab island state could embolden other marginalised Shias in nearby Saudi Arabia, political analysts say.

    There was no immediate comment from Bahraini authorities.

    Police clashed late on Sunday with residents in Karzakan village, where security forces regularly skirmish with Shia youths, and one protester was injured, witnesses said. Police said three officers were hurt.

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/201121484520923682.html

    Palestinian cabinet resigns

     

    President Mahmoud Abbas re-assigns Salam Fayyad, who also resigned, to form new government.

    Last Modified: 14 Feb 2011 08:59 GMT
    The PA, led by Mahmoud Abbas, has announced it wants legislative and presidential elections by September [EPA] 

    The cabinet of the Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Salam Fayyad, the prime minister, has resigned and President Mahmoud Abbas has accepted the resignations, officials have said.

    Following the resignations on Monday, Abbas re-assigned Fayyad to form the new government.

    Abbas directed Fayyad to consult with different Palestinian factions, institutions and members of the civil society. He thanked Fayyad and the members of his ex-cabinet for their efforts.

    The resignations came amid calls for reform in the Arab world, triggered by the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, after a popular revolt.

    The shake-up was long demanded by Fayyad and some in Abbas’ Fatah faction. 

    “The cabinet resigned today and the formation of a new cabinet will take place as soon as possible,” Ali Jarbawi, minister of planning, told Reuters news agency.

    An analyst told Al Jazeera: “For the past 50 years, people have been living in fear of their leaders but now the leaders are living in fear of the people, this is incredibly telling of the situation across the region.”

    ‘Backroom bargaining’

    Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry, reporting from Ramallah, said: “The new government will take shape over the next two weeks, it will be interesting to see which Fatah members take which portfolio.

    “Some of the most powerful portfolios include, the foreign ministry, the justice ministry, the interior ministry…these are the ones that we will see some backroom bargaining for.”

    Monday’s development follows the resignation of Saeb Erekat, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s chief negotiator, on Saturday, after it emerged that the source of the Palestine Papers, a set of leaked documents that was released by Al Jazeera, was in his own office.

    The leaks showed the concessions that Palestinian negotiators were willing to grant to Israel, contrary to their public posture.

    Bankrolled by international donors and engaged in security co-ordination with Israel, the Palestinian Authority has a limited mandate in the occupied West Bank. It lost control of the Gaza Strip to rival group, Hamas, in a 2007 civil war.

    Abbas’ credibility has been further sapped by long-stalled negotiations with Israel on an accord founding a Palestinian state. Hamas spurns permanent co-existence with the Jewish state.

    Of the 24 posts in Fayyad’s outgoing cabinet, only 16 were staffed. Two ministers resigned and six are marooned in Gaza. Of those present in the cabinet, some face allegations of incompetence.

    The PA announced on Saturday it would seek new legislative and presidential elections by September.

    Hamas has rejected the call and said it would not take part in the poll, nor recognise the results. 

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera and agencies

    Clashes reported in Iran protests

     

    Pro-reformist marches under way in Tehran despite heavy security presence and police crackdown.

    Last Modified: 14 Feb 2011 19:36 GMT
    Tear gas was used to scatter protesters at various points during Monday’s banned protests in Tehran [AFP] 

    A day of protest in Tehran, the the Iranian capital, have been marked by clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

    Thousands protesters marched on Monday on Enghelab and Azadi streets [which connect and create a straight path through the city centre], with a heavy presence in Enghelab Square and Vali-Asr Street.

    Quoting witnesses, the AP news wire reported that least three protesters injured by bullets were taken to a hospital in central Tehran, while dozens more were hospitalised because of severe wounds as a result of being beaten.

     Protesters burn a picture of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hoseyni Khamenei. The demonstrators can be heard to chant “Mubarak, Ben Ali, now it’s Seyyed Ali’s turn.”  
     
     
     
     
     

     

    Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, confirmed reports that security forces used tear gas, pepper spray and batons against the protesters.

    As with other foreign media, she was prohibited by government order to witness the demonstrations.

    Jabbari said that she had received reports that up to 10,000 security personnel had been deployed to prevent protesters from gathering at Azadi Square, where the marches, originating from various points in Tehran, were expected to converge.

    The AFP news agency reported that police fired paintball bullets on protesters.

    One video, posted on Youtube (claiming to be from Monday’s protests) shows people chanting, “political prisoners must be freed.” A woman then cries that tear gas has been deployed, dispersing the crowd.

    On the Facebook page used to organise the marches, there were also reports of shooting in or around Enghelab Square, as well as demonstrations in the cities of Mashhad, Shiraz and Kermanshah.

    Cashes between police and demonstrators – resulting in dozens of arrests – took place in Isfahan, the country’s third largest city.

    Twitter and Facebook posts said Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader and former presidential candidate, and his wife, Zahrah Rahnavard, had joined one of the marches.

    Mehdi Karroubi, the other prominent opposition leader, is still under house arrest.

    Al Jazeera was unable to confirm whether Mousavi and Rahnavard had joined the protest, and at last report, Kaleme.com, a pro-reformist website, said that security forces had prevented the couple from leaving their home.

    Next move

    As night fell in Iran, the BBC reported that city lights were being turned off and that security forces were attacking protesters in the dark.

    While many of the protesters reflected on the day’s marches on Twitter and Facebook, Youtube videos show that hundreds were still on the streets after dark, setting fire to rubbish bins and barricades, chanting anti-government slogans.

    Monday’s marches were organised as a one-day event and it is unclear if further protests will take place overnight or tomorrow.

    A message on posted by the organisers of the demonstrations posted on the 25 Bahman Facebook site – the site’s title reflecting today’s date on the Iranian calendar – seemed to indicate that there might be more protests.

    “The 25 Bahman group will try to announce the programme for of protests for tonight and tomorrow shortly,” it read.

    “Please stand by via any means of communication you have. We are victorious.” 

    Government response

    The current security clampdown is reminiscent of the one that crushed a wave of protests after the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, in June 2009.

    Opposition supporters revived a tactic from the 2009 protests, shouting “Allahu Akbar” or God is Great, and “Death to the dictator”, from rooftops and balconies on Monday in a sign of defiance towards Iran’s leadership.

    Several opposition activists and aides to Mousavi and Karroubi have been arrested in recent days.

    Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, hailed the “courage” of the protesters, and pressed Tehran to follow Egypt’s example and “open up” its political system.

    Our correspondent in the capital said that as far as Iran’s leaders are concerned, Monday’s protests “are not a reflection of what people actually want”.

    They believe these are small groups of individuals who have ulterior motives, they are a threat to national security and therefore the security forces are necessary to prevent them from becoming a threat inside the country,” said Jabbari.

    Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, criticised Iranian authorities for opposing Monday’s protests and making dozens of arrests, saying the crackdown was aimed at blocking the work of activists and stifling dissent.

    “Iranians have a right to gather to peacefully express their support for the people of Egypt and Tunisia,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director.

    “While the authorities have a responsibility to maintain public order, this should be no excuse to ban and disperse protests by those who choose to exercise that right.”

    There was no mention of Monday’s demonstrations on state-run television stations or websites.

    Instead, one station replayed interviews it did with those who attended the march celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic revolution on Friday.

    Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites.

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera and Agenices

     

    En ontluisterend protret van Hosni Mubarak (via de site van Stan van Houcke ):

    Hosni Mubarak’s Final Tragedy

    by Christopher Dickey Info

     Christopher Dickey is Newsweek magazine’s Paris bureau chief and Middle East editor. He is the author of six books, including Summer of Deliverance, and most recently Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force—the NYPD.

    Christopher Dickey

    Hosni Mubarak and his family were convinced everything they did was for the good of Egypt and never understood that it was time for them to leave, writes Christopher Dickey in this week’s Newsweek.

    The night before he finally stepped down as Egypt’s president, the protesters in Tahrir Square heard Hosni Mubarak deliver his final address as their head of state. “A speech from a father to his sons and daughters,” he called it, and like many of his orations in the past, it was filled with lies, although he may have believed some of these himself. He would stay as president until September, he promised, because the country needed him for a transition to democracy. This, after three decades of autocracy. The hundreds of thousands gathered in the square wanted to hear him say only one word: “Goodbye.” Amid their screams of fury, one woman could be heard shouting into a phone, “People are sick of the soap opera!”

    The protesters had reason to be weary of the president’s final, delusional public performance. But there was another long drama coming to an end that night, mostly out of public view—a personal story that helps to explain the president whose stubborn incomprehension of his “sons and daughters” dragged Egypt so close to ruin. Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Daniel Kurtzer has called it the “tragedy” of the Mubaraks. As Kurtzer says of the Egyptian president, “He really did feel he was the only one holding the dike”—as if beyond Mubarak lay the deluge.

    Mubarak’s fall is not a story like the one that unfolded in Tunisia, of a dictator and his kin trying to take their country for all it was worth. Although there have been widely reported but poorly substantiated allegations of a $40 billion to $70 billion fortune amassed by the Mubarak family, few diplomats in Egypt find those tales even remotely credible. “Compared to other kleptocracies, I don’t think the Mubaraks rank all that high,” says one Western envoy in Cairo, asking not to be named on a subject that remains highly sensitive. “There has been corruption, [but] as far as I know it’s never been personally attached to the president and Mrs. Mubarak. They don’t live an elaborate lifestyle.”

    On the contrary, vanity more than venality was the problem at the top in Egypt. Despite the uprising of millions of people in Egypt’s streets, despite their ringing condemnations of secret-police tactics and torture, the Mubarak family remained convinced that everything the president had done was for the country’s own good. “We’re gone. We’re leaving,” the deeply depressed first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, told one of her confidantes as the crisis worsened last week. “We’ve done our best.”

    When Mubarak’s beloved grandson died, he no longer enjoyed his work or his position or his future, but he held on anyway. He had come to believe that no one could replace him.

    Article - Dickey Mubarak Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

    The man at the heart of the story, the patriarch, had never imagined he would hold the presidency—and when that came true, he couldn’t imagine it ending. As commander of the Egyptian air force, he had been a hero of the 1973 war against Israel, so when President Anwar Sadat summoned him to the palace in 1975, he thought maybe he was going to be rewarded with a diplomatic post, but no more than that. (Friends say Suzanne told him to try to get a nice one in Europe.) Instead, Sadat named him vice president. And on Oct. 6, 1981, as Sadat and Mubarak sat side by side watching a military parade, radical Islamists opened fire, killing Sadat and making Mubarak the most powerful man in the land. Egypt was a different country in those days, one where the government’s lies to the people went unquestioned and the police routinely intimidated the public into submission. The only television was state television, and the primary contact with the outside world was via sketchy phone lines. Some international calls had to be booked days in advance. As Mubarak’s reaction to the protests made clear, he failed to understand how the country had changed in 30 years.

    Peter Beinart: America’s Proud Egypt Moment

    Niall Ferguson Blasts Obama’s Egypt DebacleHis partner in the family tragedy was Suzanne Mubarak, the daughter of a Welsh nurse and an Egyptian doctor, who married Hosni when he was a young air force flight instructor and she was only 17. By the time she was in her late thirties, when her boys were teenagers and her husband was vice president, she set about reinventing herself as a social activist in Egypt and on the international stage. “Suzanne is 10 times smarter than her husband,” says Barbara Ibrahim of the Civic Engagement Center at the American University of Cairo. “She’s got nuance, she’s got sophistication.” As Egypt’s first lady, she helped to bring dozens of nongovernmental organizations to the country to try to improve Egyptian life. More than her husband and more than his inner circle of intelligence officers and military men, Suzanne had a sense of the world outside the palace.

    But she also had ambitions within it. None too secretly, Suzanne guided the fortunes of her children and grandchildren, looking to establish a political dynasty that might endure for generations. The older son, Alaa, is a businessman who prefers soccer to the game of politics—a fact that has brought him occasional surges of popularity over the years as a big-name, big-mouthed fan of Egypt’s national team. The younger son, the handsome, aloof Gamal, was for years the apparently anointed but undeclared heir to the presidential palace. When writing about his rise, British tabloids never failed to mention the pharaohs’ ancient dynasties. Gamal himself, half-joking with friends and acquaintances even as he ritualistically denied presidential aspirations, preferred to speak of the Kennedys, the Bushes, and the Clintons.

    But in the spring of 2009, the family’s plans and strategies unraveled. The turning point came with the death of a child.

    As the year opened, the 80-year-old Mubarak appeared firmly in control. America had a new president, Barack Obama, but Mubarak knew about U.S. presidents. He had seen four of them come and go, every one convinced that Mubarak was the only man in Egypt who could keep the biggest population in the Arab world quiet, extremists at bay, and his army at peace with Israel. Even after the Bush administration’s brief push to democratize the Arab world, Egypt’s seemingly eternal president looked as solid as the Sphinx. The old man’s great joy in life—what put a smile on that stony face and kept him going—was his 12-year-old grandson, Mohamed, the first-born son of Alaa. A dark-haired, dark-eyed charmer, Mohamed often appeared with the president in official palace photographs. The cover of Hosni Mubarak’s official biography showed him seated with toddling Mohamed, about 2, standing in front of him. Another palace picture showed the well-groomed little Mohamed a few years later talking on the phone as if playing president. At soccer matches he sat at his grandfather’s side. In mid-May of 2009, the boy spent the weekend with gidu Hosni (grandfather Hosni) and grandmama Suzanne, as he had done many times before. But when Mohamed went home to his parents the next day, he started to complain of a pain in his head. And then he slipped into a coma.

    Mohamed died a few days later in a Paris hospital, reportedly from a cerebral hemorrhage. The devastated Egyptian president canceled a planned trip to visit Obama in Washington and could not even bring himself to attend Mohamed’s funeral. When Obama flew to Cairo a few days later to deliver a landmark speech to the Arab and Muslim world, Mubarak did not attend. And the Egyptian people, as sentimental as any on earth, regarded their president’s heartbreak with deep sympathy. Israeli journalist Smadar Peri remembers people in Egypt’s streets clamoring to speak with reporters, wishing only to express their condolences. “We are one family, and Mubarak is everyone’s father,” they told her.

    “That was a moment of glory,” a close friend of the Mubarak family recalls. “If the president had stepped down, people would have begged him to stay.” But Mubarak did not step down. Amid speculation that he was losing his grip, that he was literally dying of a broken heart, he stayed. Peri, who interviewed Mubarak a few weeks later, told me afterward that he had lost none of his mental capacity, but that the spark behind his eyes was gone. He no longer enjoyed his work or his position or his future, but he held on anyway. It was then, as much as last week, that he first failed to see a way out. He had come to believe that no one could replace him, not even Gamal.

    The president’s younger son had spent nearly a decade studying the art of politics in his father’s ruling National Democratic Party ever since returning from London, where he had worked for Bank of America and then run his own company, Medinvest. He imported organizational ideas and administrative techniques from abroad, especially from Britain’s Labour Party. (“Tony Blair has taken more vacations in Egypt than God,” a friend of the family notes in passing.)

    The scheme might have worked except for one thing: Gamal was not a politician. “Gamal is a nerd,” says Ziad Aly, a mobile-communications entrepreneur and an old schoolmate of the Mubarak boys from the American University in Cairo. “He was a very clever type of 4.0 student. And he continued to be clever all his life. He reads a lot. He learns a lot. And Gamal was a good investment banker. He was always at it.”

    Hier verder lezen

     

  • Van Zolder
  • Cor Galis over radio
  • Zeldzaam en zonderling
  • Instituut Idzerda
  • Interview met de Egyptische schrijfster Nawal El Saadawi

    Geplaatst op 11 februari 2011 door Nienke Feis onder Zonder categorie

    nawal-al-saadawi-foto-opzij

    Bij de demonstraties op het Tahrirplein in Cairo tegen het bewind van de Egyptische president Mubarak bevond zich ook de inmiddels bijna 80-jarige Egyptische schrijfster Nawal El Saadawi. Al in de zomer van 2010 voorspelde ze al dat een breed volksverzet tegen Mubarak op  gang zou komen.

    Villa VPRO van 20 augustus 1980 zond een interview uit met Saadawi: arts, gyneacologe, psychiater, politiek activiste en schrijfster. Haar boeken waren in de meeste Arabische landen verboden, maar werden overal gelezen. Aanleiding voor dit interview was het verschijnen van haar nieuwste boek ‘De gesluierde Eva’, over de positie van de vrouw in islamitische landen.

    Het interview met haar vindt plaats op de Vrouwenconferentie in Kopenhagen, waar ze workshops leidt over cliterodectomi (vrouwenbesnijdenis).

    Beluister het interview met Saadawi, gemaakt door Kiki Amsberg:

    Interview terugluisteren op de site  Grote aanrader!

    Hier twee artikelen uit het feministische tijdschrift Ozij over Nawal al-Saadawi (http://www.opzij.nl/Nieuws-Opinie/Nieuws-Opinie-Artikel/Egyptisch-feministe-Nawal-Al-Saadawivoorspelde-revolutie-via-twitter-en-internet.htm):

    Egyptisch feministe Nawal Al Saadawi

    voorspelde revolutie via twitter en internet

    Vorige zomer deed de Egyptische feministe Nawal Al Saadawi al een oproep aan jongeren uit de hogere en middenklasse om hun sociale netwerken en internet in te schakelen om democratische veranderingen in Egypte door te zetten.

    Al Saadawi is een activiste die met vooruitziende blik een half jaar geleden al wist dat de werkelijke veranderingen onder het volk zouden plaats vinden. In de opmars naar de verkiezingen in september liepen de gemoederen toen al hoog op. ‘Jongeren die handig met internet zijn zullen eerder liberale veranderingen bewerkstelligen dan de huidige machthebbers,’ zei Al Saadawi. Zij denkt niet dat de veranderingen zullen komen van de huidige regeringspartij, het Moslim Broederschap of zelfs maar van voormalig nucleaire waakhond Mohammed El Baradei. ‘De veranderingen zullen komen van jongeren die met hun netwerken campagne gaan voeren.’

    Daar lijkt zij nu gelijk in te krijgen.

    Na de onafgebroken demonstraties en protesten van de afgelopen dagen verwacht de oppositie dinsdag 1 februari een demonstratie van meer dan een miljoen mensen op de been te krijgen. Wat er dan met Moebarak zal gebeuren blijft onzeker. Gevreesd wordt dat de 82-jarige president de macht zal overdragen aan zijn zoon Gamal, die nu al een vooraanstaande positie heeft in de regeringspartij. Dankzij het internet en de sociale netwerken kunnen alle mensen die zich tegen de regering keren organiseren. ‘Zij kunnen het land veranderen,’ aldus Nawal Al Saadawi, die zelf in de jaren zeventig gevangen werd gezet onder het bewind van Moebarak omdat zij zich uitsprak tegen vrouwenbesnijdenis.

    Egyptisch Feministe:

    ‘Gebruik internet voor democratische verandering’

    De verkiezingen voor een nieuwe president zijn pas volgend jaar september in Egypte. Maar nu al lopen de gemoederen hoog op als het gaat om de opvolger van de huidige president Hosni Moebarak. Moebarak is inmiddels 82 jaar en als sinds 1981 aan de macht in het dichtst bevolkte land van de Arabische wereld.

    Volgens activiste Nawal Al Saadawi is het ‘time for a change’. En die verandering zal komen van hoogopgeleide jongeren die hun sociale netwerken op internet inzetten om mensen te mobiliseren. ‘Jongeren die handig met internet zijn zullen eerder liberale veranderingen bewerkstelligen dan de huidige machthebbers,’ meent Saadawi. Volgens haar zullen de veranderingen niet van de huidige regeringspartij komen, niet van het conservatieve Moslim Broederschap en zelfs niet van de voormalige UN nucleaire waakhond Mohamed El Baradei, die ook een campagne begonnen is voor constitutionele verandering.

    El Baradei is volgens haar te lang weg uit het land om ook maar iets te bewerkstelligen. ‘Ik begrijp niet dat iemand die zijn hele leven in het buitenland heeft gewoond denkt dat hij hier terug kan komen om president te worden. Bovendien heeft El Baradei geen politiekprogramma, hij heeft helemaal geen programma,’ zei Nawal dinsdag in een interview.

    Onderwijs schuld van opkomst radicale moslims

    De 79-jarige doctor, feministe en schrijfster werd in de jaren zeventig in de gevangenis gezet vanwege haar uitgesproken mening tegen vrouwenbesnijdenis en voor scheiding van kerk en staat.

    De academica is van mening dat vooral het onderwijs de schuld is van de opkomst van radicale moslims. ‘Als het onderwijs zelfstandig denken, lezen en onderzoeken blijft ontmoedigen en in sommige gevallen zelfs verbiedt is dit een voedingsbodem voor extreem radicale religiositeit. De staat heeft de Egyptenaren opgesloten in een gevangenis van onwetendheid en creëert slaafse werknemers. Educatie is hier gebaseerd op uit het hoofd geleerde feiten en het herhalen van wat al voorgekauwd is.’

    Al Saadawi die zichzelf sociaal feministe noemt, gelooft dat democratische veranderingen voornamelijk uit de middenklasse zal komen. ‘Jongeren die met hun netwerken campagne gaan voeren.’

    Als Moebarak zich niet verkiesbaar stelt, zal hij waarschijnlijk de macht overdragen aan zijn zoon Gamal die nu al een vooraanstaande positie heeft in de huidige regeringspartij. Tegengeluiden worden door de Egyptische regering nauwelijks geduld. En hard optreden van de politie tijdens demonstraties op straat, heeft er nu al voor gezorgd dat veel jongeren hun toevlucht tot het internet hebben genomen. ‘Als al die mensen zich zouden organiseren, dan kunnen zij het land veranderen,’ aldus Nawal Al Saadawi

    Door  / 19 augustus 2010 / (0)

    C L O S E R

     

    Verantwoordelijkheid en Schuldgevoel – Volksprotesten in het Midden-OostenPosted: 14 Feb 2011 06:21 AM PST

    Guest Author: Evert van der Zweerde

    Volksprotest in Tunis, Egypte, Amman en Jemen. Hoe lang hebben zij gewacht totdat ze in opstand kwamen tegen de gehate regimes die er enkel zitten omdat “het Westen” denkt dat dat het eigen belang dient? Wiens belang? Niet het mijne.

    Twee jaar geleden was ik in Caïro. Ik at kip nuggets in de Kentucky Fried Chicken aan midan tahrir en keek mijn ogen uit naar de prachtige jonge Egyptische meiden, met kleurige hoofddoeken als ze moslima waren, zonder als ze kopt waren, in niqab als ze streng-gelovig waren. Arm-in-arm ondanks die verschillen, zoals ze nu zij-aan-zij staan. Zoals kopten nu tijdens het middaggebed een cordon vormen rond de moslims op het plein om te voorkomen dat het gespuis van Mubarak dat moment van kwetsbaarheid uitbuit.

    Twee jaar geleden sprak ik met de hoofdredacteur van al-misri al-yawm, toen een in de marge getolereerd dagblad, nu de spreekbuis van het nieuwe Egypte. Ik sprak met de voorzitter van de oppositiepartij al-wasat, “het midden”, wiens grote voorbeelden de Duitse CDU en de Turkse AKP waren. Ik sprak met de hoogstbejaarde Gamal al-banna, wiens broer Hassan de Moslim-Broederschap oprichtte. Hij droomde van een liberale socialistische islamitische democratische republiek. Van zo’n soort republiek droom ik ook weleens. Hopelijk leeft hij nog en droomt hij verder. De gebeurtenissen hebben hem ingehaald.

    De Egyptenaren die nu vrijheid en democratie willen zijn mensen zoals u en ik die afwillen van dictator en geheime politie, die corruptie en nepotisme beu zijn, die werk, betaalbare gezondheidszorg en goed onderwijs willen. Ja, de Moslim Broederschap levert dat al en ontleent daaraan haar populariteit. Ja, veel Egyptenaren vinden politieke inspiratie in islamitische idealen van rechtvaardigheid en gelijkheid. Ja, velen in het Midden Oosten zijn boos op de Westerse regeringen die, geplaagd door post-Holocaust schuldgevoel, al decennia lang met twee maten meten wanneer het om Israël en Palestina gaat. Ze zijn niet tegen Joden, ze zijn tegen zionisme en tegen de wijze waarop “wij” de compensatie van ons schuldgevoel op hen afwentelen. Dat schuldgevoel moeten wij, Hannah Arendt indachtig, omzetten in het nemen van verantwoordelijkheid voor een andere loop van de geschiedenis, voor zover dat in onze macht ligt.

    Om te begrijpen wat de mensen in Caïro willen, en vooral: niet willen, hoef ik niet te weten of ze moslim zijn of iets anders en het maakt mij niet uit of een deel van hen gelooft in het ideaal van een hersteld kalifaat. De helft van de Franse résistance tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog geloofde in een door de Sovjet-Unie geleide wereldrevolutie en de komst van een communistische samenleving. Wat ze deden was het bestrijden van de Nazi’s en van het gehate Vichy-regime van maarschalk Pétain. Mij hoeft het niet uit te maken of een demonstrant een T-shirt met Che Guevara draagt of “Allahu akbar” roept. Wat zij of hij wil snap ik ook zonder die heilige grootheden.

    De eerste versie van deze column schreef ik op een schrijfblok van een demokratski seminar dat ik 10 jaar geleden met mijn collega Machiel Karskens in Belgrado bezocht. Daar gingen toen, zoals ook nu, mensen de straat op om een einde te maken aan corruptie en nepotisme -daar heet dat “mafia”-, om werk en om een fatsoenlijk bestaan. Sommigen riepen en roepen daarbij dat het Orthodox-christelijke Servische volk al eeuwenlang slachtoffer is en dat dat afgelopen moet zijn. Dat klinkt eng, maar om te begrijpen wat de mensen in Belgrado willen, en vooral: niet willen, hoef ik niet te weten of ze Servisch-orthodox zijn of iets anders en het maakt mij niet uit of een deel van hen gelooft in een rechtvaardige theocratische heilsstaat. Wat ik wèl moet weten is dat “het Westen” mede schuld is aan de ontstane situatie door tijdens de burgeroorlog in voormalig Joegoslavië met twee maten te meten, het rooms-katholieke Kroatië klakkeloos te erkennen, Belgrado te bombarderen en de Bosnische moslims op een verschrikkelijke manier in de steek te laten.

    Historische schuld leidt tot schuldgevoel, maar schuldgevoel is nooit een constructieve politieke passie. Waar het om gaat is verantwoordelijkheid nemen en versnelde opname van Servië en van Bosnië-Herzegovina in de EU na te streven. Waar het om gaat is de neerbuigende postkoloniale houding ten opzichte van regeringen en bevolkingen in Tunis, Caïro en elders te vervangen door principiële gelijkwaardigheid. Het gaat niet aan om te roepen dat democratie een recht van ieder volk is en vervolgens op de rem te gaan staan wanneer een groepering de verkiezingen dreigt te gaan winnen die “ons” om welke reden dan ook niet bevalt. Waar het ook om gaat, ten slotte, hier en daar en overal, is op te houden religie te misbruiken om af te leiden van werkelijke problemen.

    Prof. dr. Evert van der Zweerde is hoogleraar Politieke filosofie aan de Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. Deze tekst sprak hij afgelopen donderdag uit als column tijdens het actualiteitencollege over de crisis in het Midden-Oosten. Afgelopen vrijdag hieldt Evert van der Zweerde zijn oratie, getiteld “Het is ook nooit goed…” Democratie vanuit politiek-filosofisch perspectief

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/2011213201140768988.html

    Opinion

     

    The toxic residue of colonialism

     

    The overt age of grand empires gave way to the age of covert imperial hegemony, but now the edifice is crumbling.

    Richard Falk Last Modified: 14 Feb 2011 15:44 GMT
    As traffic returns to Tahrir Square, Egyptians are left to wonder if they’ve been sold out – like so many revolutionaries before them – and if the demands of the revolution will survive the perils of governance [GALLO/GETTY]  

    At least, overtly, there has been no talk from either Washington or Tel Aviv – the governments with most to lose as the Egyptian revolution unfolds – of military intervention. Such restraint is more expressive of geopolitical sanity than postcolonial morality, but still it enables some measure of change to take place that unsettles, temporarily at least, the established political order.

    And yet, by means seen and unseen, external actors, especially the United States, with a distinct American blend of presumed imperial and paternal prerogatives are seeking to shape and limit the outcome of this extraordinary uprising of the Egyptian people, long held in subsidised bondage by the cruel and corrupt Mubarak dictatorship. What is the most defining feature of this American-led diplomacy-from-without is the seeming propriety of managing the turmoil, so that the regime survives and the demonstrators return to what is perversely being called “normalcy”.

    I find most astonishing that President Obama so openly claimed the authority to instruct the Mubarak regime about how it was supposed to respond to the revolutionary uprising. I am not surprised at the effort, and would be surprised by its absence – but merely by the lack of any sign of imperial shyness in a world order that is supposedly built around the legitimacy of self-determination, national sovereignty, and democracy.

    And almost as surprising, is the failure of Mubarak to pretend in public that such interference in the guise of guidance is unacceptable – even if, behind closed doors, he listens submissively and acts accordingly. This geopolitical theatre performance of master and servant suggests the persistence of the colonial mentality on the part of both coloniser – and their national collaborators.

    The only genuine post-colonial message would be one of deference: “Stand aside, and applaud.” The great transformative struggles of the past century involved a series of challenges throughout the global south to get rid of the European colonial empires. But political independence did not bring an end to the more indirect, but still insidious, methods of control designed to protect economic and strategic interests. Such a dynamic meant reliance on political leaders that would sacrifice the wellbeing of their own people to serve the wishes of their unacknowledged former colonial masters, or their Western successors – the United States largely displacing France and the United Kingdom in the Middle East after the Suez crisis of 1956.

    And these post-colonial servants of the West would be well-paid autocrats vested with virtual ownership rights in relation to the indigenous wealth of their country, provided they remained receptive to foreign capital. In this regard, the Mubarak regime was a poster child of post-colonial success.

    Western liberal eyes were long accustomed not to notice the internal patterns of abuse that were integral to this foreign policy success – and if occasionally noticed by some intrepid journalist, who would then be ignored, or if necessary discredited as some sort of “leftist”. And if this failed to deflect criticism, they would point out, usually with an accompanying condescending smile, that torture and the like came with Arab cultural territory – a reality that savvy outsiders adapted to without any discomfort.

    Actually, in this instance, such practices were quite convenient, Egypt serving as one of the interrogation sites for the insidious practice of “extreme rendition”, by which the CIA transports “terrorist suspects” to accommodating foreign countries that willingly provide torture tools and facilities. Is this what is meant by “a human rights presidency”? The irony should not be overlooked that President Obama’s special envoy to the Mubarak government in the crisis was none other than Frank Wisner, an American with a most notable CIA lineage.

    There should be clarity about the relationship between this kind of post-colonial state, serving US regional interests – oil, Israel, containment of Islam, avoidance of unwanted proliferation of nuclear weapons – in exchange for power, privilege, and wealth vested in a tiny corrupt national elite that sacrifices the wellbeing and dignity of the national populace in the process.

    Such a structure in the post-colonial era, where national sovereignty and human rights infuse popular consciousness can only be maintained by erecting high barriers of fear, reinforced by state terror, designed to intimidate the populace from pursuing their goals and values. When these barriers are breached, as recently in Tunisia and Egypt, then the fragility of the oppressive regime glows in the dark.

    The dictator either runs for the nearest exit, as did Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, or is dumped by his entourage and foreign friends so that the revolutionary challenge can be tricked into a premature accommodation. This latter process seemed to represent the one of latest maneuverings of the palace elite in Cairo and their backers in the White House. Only time will tell whether the furies of counterrevolution will win the day, possibly by gunfire and whip – and possibly through mollifying gestures of reform that become unfulfillable promises in due course if the old regime is not totally reconstructed.

    Unfulfillable – because corruption and gross disparities of wealth amid mass impoverishment can only be sustained, post-Tahrir Square, through the reimposition of oppressive rule. And if it is not oppressive, then it will not be able for very long to withstand demands for rights, for social and economic justice, and due cause for solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.

    Here is the crux of the ethical irony. Washington is respectful of the logic of self-determination, so long as it converges with the US grand strategy, and is oblivious to the will of the people whenever its expression is seen as posing a threat to the neoliberal overlords of the globalised world economy, or to strategic alignments that seem so dear to State Department or Pentagon planners.

    As a result there is an inevitable to-ing and fro-ing as the United States tries to bob and weave, celebrating the advent of democracy in Egypt,complaining about the violence and torture of the tottering regime – while doing what it can to manage the process from outside, which means preventing genuine change, much less a democratic transformation of the Egyptian state. Anointing the main CIA contact and Mubarak loyalist, Omar Suleiman, to preside over the transition process on behalf of Egypt seems a thinly disguised plan to throw Mubarak to the crowd, while stabilising the regime he presided over for more than 30 years.  

    I would have expected more subtlety on the part of the geopolitical managers, but perhaps its absence is one more sign of imperial myopia that so often accompanies the decline of great empires.

    It is notable that most protesters, when asked by the media about their reasons for risking death and violence by being in the Egyptian streets, responded with variations on the phrases: “We want our rights” or: “We want freedom and dignity”. Of course, joblessness, poverty, food security – and anger at the corruption, abuses, and dynastic pretensions of the Mubarak regime offer an understandable infrastructure of rage that undoubtedly fuels the revolutionary fires. But it is “rights” and “dignity” that seem to float on the surface of this awakened political consciousness.

    These ideas, to a large extent nurtured in the hothouse of Western consciousness and then innocently exported as a sign of good will, like “nationalism” a century earlier, might originally be intended only as public relations move, but over time, such ideas gave rise to the dreams of the oppressed and victimised – and when the unexpected historical moment finally arrived, burst into flame. I remember talking a decade or so ago to Indonesian radicals in Jakarta who talked of the extent to which their initial involvement in anti-colonial struggle was stimulated by what they had learned from their Dutch colonial teachers about the rise of nationalism as a political ideology in the West.

    Ideas may be disseminated with conservative intent, but if they later become appropriated on behalf of the struggles of oppressed peoples, such ideas are reborn – and serve as the underpinnings of a new emancipatory politics. Nothing better illustrates this Hegelian journey than the idea of “self-determination”, initially proclaimed by Woodrow Wilson after World War I. Wilson was a leader who sought above all to maintain order, believed in satisfying the aims of foreign investors and corporations, and had no complaints about the European colonial empires. For him, self-determination was merely a convenient means to arrange the permanent breakup of the Ottoman Empire through the formation of a series of ethnic states.

    Little did Wilson imagine, despite warnings from his secretary of state, that self-determination could serve other gods – and become a powerful mobilising tool to overthrow colonial rule. In our time, human rights has followed a similarly winding path, sometimes being no more than a propaganda banner used to taunt enemies during the Cold War, sometimes as a convenient hedge against imperial identity – and sometimes as the foundation of revolutionary zeal, as seems to be the case in the unfinished and ongoing struggles for rights and dignity taking place throughout the Arab world in a variety of forms.

    It is impossible to predict how this future will play out. There are too many forces at play in circumstances of radical uncertainty. In Egypt, for instance, it is widely believed that the army holds most of the cards, and that where it finally decides to put its weight will determine the outcome. But is such conventional wisdom not just one more sign that hard power realism dominates our imagination, and that historical agency belongs in the end to the generals and their weapons, and not to the people in the streets?

    Of course, there is a blurring of pressures as the army could have been merely trying to go with the flow, siding with the winner once the outcome was clear. Is there any reason to rely on the wisdom, judgment, and good will of armies – not just in Egypt whose commanders owe their positions to Mubarak – but throughout the world?

    In Iran the army did stand aside, and a revolutionary process transformed the Shah’s edifice of corrupt and brutal governance. The people momentarily prevailed, only to have their extraordinary nonviolent victory snatched away in a subsequent counter-revolutionary move that substituted theocracy for democracy.

    There are few instances of revolutionary victory, and in those few instances, it is rarer still to carry forward the revolutionary mission without disruption. The challenge is to sustain the revolution in the face of almost inevitable counter-revolutionary projects, some launched by those who were part of the earlier movement unified against the old order, but now determined to hijack the victory for its own ends. The complexities of the revolutionary moment require utmost vigilance on the part of those who view emancipation, justice, and democracy as their animating ideals, because there will be enemies who seek to seize power at the expense of humane politics.

    One of the most impressive features of the Egyptian revolution up to this point has been the extraordinary ethos of nonviolence and solidarity exhibited by the massed demonstrators, even in the face of repeated bloody provocations of the baltagiyya dispatched by the regime. This ethos refused to be diverted by these provocations, and we can only hope against hope that the provocations will cease, and that counter-revolutionary tides will subside, sensing either the futility of assaulting history or imploding at long last from the build up of corrosive effects from a long embrace of an encompassing illegitimacy.

    Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

    He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. 

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera
     

    http://www.eutopiainstitute.org/2010/11/bloggers-in-the-arab-world/

    Bloggers in the Arab World

    Playing with Fire

    Redactie | Monday 22 November 2010

    Bookmark and Share

     

    By: Amira al-Ahl

    In the Arab world, as elsewhere, the Internet opens up new freedoms and opportunities for democracy. However, as in China and Iran, it also gives rise to opposition from the authorities. Anyone active on the Internet lives dangerously; blogging involves playing with fire.

    “Power is founded on Justice” proclaim large golden letters in the foyer of the court building at Hadayeq al-Qobba in the north of Cairo. For the group of young people assembled here this morning, this sounds like pure mockery. Some laugh bitterly when they catch sight of the inscription.

    However, on this early Thursday morning, they still hope that perhaps this promise might be fulfilled – that justice, rather than arbitrariness and tyranny, is the foundation of power.

    Police harassment

    One member of the group in particular is hoping for justice: Wael Abbas. The 35-year-old is charged with having cut off his neighbour’s Internet connection, which would entail six months in prison.

    In November, a twenty-man squad of security police in six vehicles turned up in front of Abbas’ house to arrest him. They threatened his mother and forced their way into the flat without a warrant for his arrest or authorisation to search the place. “This was extremely tough action,” says attorney Gamal Eid of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

    The only reason Abbas wasn’t arrested was because he was sitting in Beirut Airport at the time. “I still don’t know whether the charge was an act of personal revenge or whether it has a political dimension,” he says. Gamal Eid, however, is sure that the government is behind it. “They want to arrest him, but they’re waiting for the right moment.”

    Since 2005, Wael Abbas has been one of Egypt’s most active bloggers. His name and his blog are known throughout the Arab world. It was he who published on his website photos of sexual assaults on women in Cairo and videos showing torture in Egyptian police stations, which led to a scandal and made him famous.

    Abbas reports regularly on abuses in his country. He is one of the most vocal activists in Egypt, denouncing, accusing and demanding change, and in doing so he has made himself a thorn in the side of the government.

     
    Democratic development
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     

    Over the past ten years, the Egyptian government and Arab states in general have invested a great deal in Internet infrastructure. However, it was probably not clear to most regimes that this would open a door to democratic development.

    “One Social Network – With a Rebellious Message”, the most recent publication by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, quotes from a study by the American RAND Institute: “The basis for an information revolution is free expression of opinion with exchange of and general access to information.”

    ANHRI then writes: “Not even the greatest hypocrite would maintain that Arab governments respect, let alone support, free expression of opinion, or that they uphold the right to access to and circulation of information.” It is thus self-evident that the rift between governments and Internet activists grows daily with the latter struggling for democracy by way of the Internet.

    According to ANHRI, there are around 58 million Internet users in the Arab world, 15 million of them in Egypt alone. The total number of blogs is estimated at 600,000, but only around 150,000 are actively used.

    Most Arab blogs (around one-third) come from Egypt, followed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Morocco. The bloggers are usually aged between 25 and 35 and write about political and religious topics as well as personal matters.

    “Egyptian bloggers try to use their blogs to break through political constraints and are known for their bitter criticism of the government despite its attempts to suppress them.” (ANHRI)

    Enemies of the Internet

    Internet activists in all Arab countries must expect repression. There is scarcely any other part of the world where the Internet is subject to such tight surveillance as here, where bloggers are so intimidated and persecuted, or anywhere where they are so frequently arrested and even tortured. Every year, Reporters without Frontiers publishes a list of “Enemies of the Internet”; in 2009, there were four Arab countries on the list of twelve: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Syria.

    ANHRI lawyers also represent, among others, Kareem Amer, probably the best-known imprisoned blogger in the Arab world. Amer was arrested in November 2006 and condemned the following February to four years in prison: three years because he supposedly defamed Islam in his online articles and one year for allegedly insulting President Mubarak in what he wrote.

    His lawyers have not managed to get his sentence reduced and now they are not even allowed to visit him any more. “The authorities have been refusing us access to him,” says Gamad Eid.

    Nevertheless, constant government threats, controls and intimidation have not stopped most bloggers from continuing to struggle against corruption, tyranny and autocracy and for free expression of opinion. “I have a voice and I want this voice to be heard,” is how Wael Abbas explains his commitment.

    Autocratic regimes can only win their battle against people like Abbas if they ban the Internet completely, but that has become virtually impossible.

    Ethan Zuckermann, a leading online activist, promotes a “Cute Cats Theory”. In a Princeton lecture entitled “Internet Censorship: How Cute Cats Can Help”, he explains how Web 2.0, which allows everyone to publish on the net and to communicate with others, helps political activism.

    To simplify somewhat, the millions of “naïve” Internet users who publish photos of their cats and babies on Facebook, YouTube and Flickr constitute a virtual protective shield for politically-active users. Zuckermann argues that very few governments can afford to block Facebook or YouTube just because they want to prevent political activism, as they would then arouse the hostility of millions of citizens who utilise these social networks for personal activities.

    Social networks

    In the Arab world, Facebook is used by at least twelve million people, with more joining every day. The Web 2.0 social networks have become among the most important means of communication for young Arabs – and not just the politically active. However, they also, of course, serve as a significant means of mobilisation for activists.

    Many bloggers, particularly the pioneers, increasingly employ micro-blogging for communication. Instead of spending a great deal of time in front of their computer writing blog entries, they now send Twitter news from mobile phones, reaching their entire network within seconds as a text message or on their computers.

    The best example of the utilisation of social networks for political activism is the “6 April” Facebook group. The movement originally came into existence when a young Egyptian woman, Israa Abdel-Fattah, expressed solidarity with the workers’ strike on 6 April 2008 by calling for others to take similar strike action on that day. Within a very short time the group had over 70,000 members.

    Through Facebook and Twitter, the call for a general strike, which adopted the slogan “Stay at Home”, spread like wildfire and was a huge success in the eyes of many observers. On 6 April 2008, Cairo’s streets were absolutely empty, and the initiator of the campaign was arrested for a while – a sure sign that the Egyptian government would prefer to put a stop to such actions in the future.

    The Internet and Web 2.0′s social networks have irreversibly broken open the old structures of Arab society. The Internet is an open space, giving a voice to people who previously had none, a place for communication and the exchange of knowledge that empowers all its users: the power to know, to find out and to change. The Internet does away with hierarchies and breaches taboos, particularly in autocratic societal structures.

    Opportunity for women

    It is primarily women who benefit from the Internet, having opened a hitherto closed door in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most autocratic regimes. Excluded from all political life, women have conquered a place on the Internet that allows them the possibility to express freely their views on all topics.

    It is therefore scarcely surprising that almost 50% of Saudi bloggers are female. Very few use their real name. Najla Barasain is a great exception. This 24-year-old mostly writes about women’s themes and is one of the most prominent female bloggers in the country. Her family supports her in this hobby, which is rare in the conservative kingdom.

    “To begin with, I had problems with a male cousin because I use my real name, but now they’ve all got used to it,” says Najla Barasain, grinning. “I’m simply the intellectual in the family and a bit controversial.”

    Up to now, online activism in Saudi Arabia has mainly limited itself to Internet campaigns intended to draw attention to existing abuses. In Egypt, however, activists have already taken campaigns out of the virtual world onto the streets.

    That is the real challenge for online activists. Their striving for more democracy and a pluralistic society will only have a chance if they succeed in turning a digital democratic campaign, initiated by just a few people, into a broad-based democratic movement that also takes in the many millions without Internet access.

    But that is the greatest of all dangers for the existing regimes in the Arab world, which will obviously do everything possible to block such a development. Particularly in Egypt, where presidential elections are scheduled for 2011, advocates of human rights anticipate that the Mubarak regime will take even tougher action against activists than they have to date.

    “The months ahead will be hard,” fears Gamal Eid. In the republic of the Nile, which has been governed under a state of emergency for almost thirty years now, it is very easy to resort to arbitrary means to get rid of unwelcome opponents.

    That is why the young lawyers, journalists and activists who have gathered in the Abbaseyya court building this hot February morning in support of their friend and colleague Wael Abbas, do not believe that justice is the foundation of all action in Egypt.

    When Wael Abbas appears before the judge with his three lawyers just before midday, the possibility of six months in prison floats over him like the sword of Damocles. However, the exonerating evidence his lawyer presents to the judge is absolutely irrefutable. After a short time the judge waves away the defence team and writes a single word on the file: “Innocent”.

    “The charge was fabricated in order to intimidate me and get me out of the way,” says Wael Abbas. Nonetheless, his experience did have one positive note: “The judgement has restored my faith in the Egyptian legal system.”

    Amira al-Ahl

    eutopia©Qantara.de

    Amira al-Ahl is a German journalist in Cairo.

    This entry was posted in Islam, Midden-Oosten and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

    Redactie | Monday 22 November 2010

    (via facebook 🙂 )

      
     

    Deaths stoke Bahrain tension

     

    Offering apology, king says incidents will be investigated, but opposition group suspends parliamentary participation

    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 21:59 GMT
     
    Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Manama reports on the ongoing unrest in the Bahraini capital
     

            At least one person has been killed and several others injured after riot police in Bahrain opened fire at protesters holding a funeral service for a man killed during protests in the kingdom a day earlier.

     

    The victim, Fadhel Ali Almatrook, was hit with bird-shotgun in the Gulf state’s capital, Manama, on Tuesday morning, Maryam Alkhawaja, head of foreign relations at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.

    “This morning the protesters were walking from the hospital to the cemetery and they got attacked by the riot police,” Alkhawaja said.

    “Thousands of people are marching in the streets, demanding the removal of the regime – police fired tear gas and bird shot, using excessive force – that is why people got hurt.”

    Meanwhile on Tuesday, the US said it was “very concerned” by recent violence in protests in Bahrain and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

    “The United States is very concerned by recent violence surrounding protests in Bahrain,” state department spokesman PJ Crowley said in a statement. “We also call on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from violence.”

    At least 25 people were reported to have been treated for injuries in hospital.

    The crowds chanted “The people demand the fall of the regime!” as they poured into Manama’s Pearl Roundabout after marching from the funeral on the city’s outskirts.

    An Al Jazeera correspondent in Bahrain, who cannot be named for his own safety, said that police took a very heavy-handed approach towards the protesters.

    “Police fired on the protesters this morning, but they showed very strong resistance,” our correspondent said.

    “It seems like the funeral procession was allowed to continue, but police were playing a cat-and-mouse game with the protesters.”

    Royal apology
     
    Later in on Tuesday, the king of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, made a rare television appearance in which he offered condolences on the protesters’ deaths.
    He expressed his condolences for “the deaths of two of our dear sons” in a televised speech and said a committee would investigate the killings.
    “We will ask legislators to look into this issue and suggest needed laws to resolve it,” he said, adding that peaceful protests were legal.
    US spokesman Crowley said the country welcomed Bahrain’s promise to investigate, and urged the government to quickly follow up on its pledge.
     
     
     

     

    Police reportedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the funeral procession [Mahmood Nasser Al-Yousif] 

    Angered by the two deaths, al-Wefaq, Bahrain’s main Shia Muslim opposition group, announced it was suspending its participation in the parliament.

    “This is the first step. We want to see dialogue,” Ibrahim Mattar, an al-Wefaq parliamentarian, said. “In the coming days, we are either going to resign from the council or continue.”

    Al-Wefaq has a strong presence inside the parliament and within the Shia community.

    The protesters say their main demand is the resignation of Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the prime minister, who has governed Bahrain since its independence in 1971.

    An uncle of the king, he is seen as a symbol of the wealth of the ruling family.

    The protesters say they are also demanding the release of political prisoners, which the government has promised, and the creation of a new constitution.

    Tuesday’s violence came a day after demonstrators observed a Day of Rage, apparently inspired by the recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

    Thousands came out on the streets on Monday to protest, sparking clashes with riot police.

    Video from YouTube showing riot police firing on largely peaceful protesters during that demonstration.

    Poverty, high unemployment and alleged attempts by the state to grant citizenship to Sunni foreigners to change the demographic balance have intensified discontent among Bahrain’s Shias.

    Around half of the tiny island kingdom’s 1.3 million people are Bahraini, with the rest being foreign workers. The majority of citizens are Shia.

    Online reaction
     
    Amira Al Hussaini, a Bahraini blogger who monitors citizen media for Global Voices Online, told Al Jazeera that there has been a huge outpouring of anger online in Bahrain.
    “What we’ve seen yesterday and today, is a break from the normal routine – people like me, that are not necessarily in favour of the protests that are happening in Bahrain at this time, are now speaking out,” she said.
    “I am trying to remain objective but I can’t – people are being shot at close range.”
    Hussaini said that people in Bahrain were very afraid.
    “We are afraid of going out in the streets and demanding our rights. Tunisia and Egypt have given people in Arab countries hope – even if you believe that something is impossible.
    “I personally have no respect for the police – they lie, they manipulate the story,” she said.
    “This is being pitted as a sectarian issue – the Shia wanting to overthrow the regime. But it is not a Shia uprising.”

    She said that people from all backgrounds and religions were behind the ongoing protests.

     

       
    Source:
    Al Jazeera and agencies

    Opinion

     

    US vs UN on Israeli settlements

     

    Vetoing UN resolutions condemning Israeli settlements violates broader US interests.

    MJ Rosenberg Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 16:54 GMT
    Israel has been evicting Palestinians from their East Jerusalem homes to make way for settlers [AFP]

    Anyone who thought that the United States has learned anything from the various revolutions upturning the Arab world has another think coming. We didn’t.

    On Thursday, as the Egyptian revolution was culminating with the collapse of the Mubarak regime, the Obama administration announced that it intends to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by 122 nations, condemning Israeli settlement expansion.

    This is from AFP’s report on what Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

    “We have made very clear that we do not think the Security Council is the right place to engage on these issues,” Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee.

    “We have had some success, at least for the moment, in not having that arise there. And we will continue to employ the tools that we have to make sure that continues to not happen,” said Steinberg.

    There is so much wrong with Steinberg’s statement that it is hard to know where to start.

    First is the obvious. Opposition to Israeli settlements is perhaps the only issue on which the entire Arab and Muslim world is united. Iraqis and Afghanis, Syrians and Egyptians, Indonesians and Pakistanis don’t agree on much, but they do agree on that. They also agree that the US policy on settlements demonstrates flagrant disregard for human rights in the Muslim world (at least when Israel is the human rights violator).

    Accordingly, a US decision to support the condemnation of settlements would send a clear message to the Arab and Muslim world that we understand what is happening in the Middle East and that we share at least some of its peoples’ concerns.

    The settlement issue should be an easy one for the United States. Our official policy is the same as that of the Arab world. We oppose settlements. We consider them illegal.  We have repeatedly demanded that the Israelis stop expanding them (although the Israeli government repeatedly ignores us). The administration feels so strongly about settlements that it recently offered Israel an extra $3.5bn in US aid to freeze settlements for 90 days.

    It is impossible, then, for the United States to pretend that we do not agree with the resolution (especially when its language was carefully drafted to comport with the administration’s official position). So why will we veto a resolution that expresses our own views?

    Steinberg says that “We do not think the Security Council is the right place to engage on these issues.”

    Why not? It is the Security Council that passed all the major international resolutions (with US support) governing Israel’s role in the occupied territories since the first one, UN Resolution 242 in 1967.

    He then adds, with clear pride that:

    “We have had some success, at least for the moment, in not having that [the settlements issue] arise there.”

    Very impressive. The United States has had no success whatsoever in getting the Netanyahu government to stop expanding settlements — to stop evicting Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem to make way for ultra-Orthodox settlers — and no success in getting Israel to crack down on settler violence, but we have had “some success” in keeping the issue out of the United Nations.

    The only way to resolve the settlements issue, according to Steinberg, “is through engagement through the parties, and that is our clear and consistent position”. Clear and consistent it may be. But it hasn’t worked. The bulldozers never stop.

    Of course, it is not hard to explain the Obama administration’s decision to veto a resolution embodying positions that we support. It is the power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is lobbying furiously for a US veto (actually not so furiously; AIPAC doesn’t waste energy when it knows that its congressional acolytes — and Dennis Ross in the White House itself — will do its work for them).

    The power of the lobby is the only reason we will veto the resolution. Try to come up with another one. After all, voting for the resolution (or, at least, abstaining on it) serves US interests in the Middle East at a critical moment and is consistent with US policy.

    But it would enrage the lobby and its friends who will threaten retribution in the 2012 election.

    Simply put, our Middle East policy is all about domestic politics. And not even the incredible events of the past month will change that.

    That is why US standing in the Middle East will continue to deteriorate. We simply cannot deliver. After all, there is always another election on the horizon and that means that it is donors, not diplomats, who determine US policy.

    MJ Rosenberg is a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.
     
    Follow MJ’s work on Facebook or on Twitter.
    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
     
     
     
     
     

     

     

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/02/20112167051422444.html

     
     

    Violent protests break out in Libya

     

    Clashes reported in eastern city of Benghazi as security forces and government supporters confront demonstrators.

    Last Modified: 16 Feb 2011 09:06 GMT
     
    Activists demanded an end to Gaddafi’s 41-year rule [Outside photo: Quryna newspaper]

    Protesters have clashed with police and government supporters in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, reports say.

    Demonstrators gathered in the early hours of Wednesday morning in front of police headquarters and chanted slogans against the “corrupt rulers of the country”, Al Jazeera’s sources said.

    Police fired tear gas and violently dispersed protesters, the sources said without providing further details.

    The online edition of Libya’s privately-owned Quryna newspaper, which is based in Benghazi, said the protesters were armed with petrol bombs and threw stones.

    According to the newspaper, 14 people were injured in the clashes, including three demonstrators and 10 security officials.

    In a telephone interview with Al Jazeera, Idris Al-Mesmari, a Libyan novelist and writer, said that security officials in civilian clothes came and dispersed protesters by using tear gas, batons and hot water.

    Al-Mesmari was arrested hours after the interview, unconfirmed reports say.

    ‘Day of rage’ called

    Anti-government protesters have also called on citizens to observe Thursday as a “Day of Rage”. They are hoping to emulate recent popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia to end Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year-old rule.

    The rare protests reportedly began after relatives of those killed in a prison massacre about 15 years ago took to streets. They were joined by scores of other supporters.

    Benghazi residents have a history of distrust of Gaddafi 

    The relatives were said to have been angered by the detention of Fathi Terbil, human rights lawyer and official spokesman of the victims’ families, who was arrested by the Libyan security forces, for no apparent reason.

    However, Terbil was later released, according to reports.

    Twelve-hundred prisoners were killed in the Abu Slim prison massacre on June 29, 1996, after they had objected to their inhumane conditions inside the prison.

    Those killed were buried in the prison’s courtyard and in mass graves in Tripoli. The families of the victims have been demanding that the culprits be punished.

    Mohammed Maree, an Egyptian blogger, said “Gaddafi’s regime has not listened to such pleas and continues to treat the Libyan people with lead and fire.”

    “This is why we announce our solidarity with the Libyan people and the families of the martyrs until the criminals are punished, starting with Muammer and his family.”

    Libyan state television reported that rallies were taking place all over the country early this morning “in support of the rule of the people by the people”.

    Signed statement

    A group of prominent Libyans and members of human rights organisations have also demanded the resignation of Gaddafi.

    They said that the Libyans have the right to express themselves through peaceful demonstrations without any threat of harassment from the regime.

    The demands came in a statement signed by 213 personalities from different segments of the Libyan society, including  political activists, lawyers, students, and government officials. 

    Meanwhile, a local human rights activist told Reuters news agency that the authorities have decided to release 110 prisoners jailed for membership of banned organisation, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

    The prisoners to be freed on Wednesday, are the last members of the group still being held and will be set free from Tripoli’s Abu Salim jail, Mohamed Ternish, chairman of the Libya Human Rights Association said.

    Hundreds of alleged members of the group have been freed from jail after it renounced violence last year.

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera and agencies

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/2011212122746819907.html#

    Opinion
     

    Unblocking Syria’s social media

     

    Some wonder if Syria’s decision to allow access to facebook and blog sites is just a new way to track activists.

    Jillian York Last Modified: 12 Feb 2011 13:09 GMT

    Free access to social networking sites is different from free expression, says Jillian York [Reuters] 

    Until recently, Tunisia held the worst record for Internet filtering in the Arab world, blocking everything from political opposition to video-sharing sites. 

    But along with Tunisia’s revolt came increased Internet freedom: The interim government now blocks far fewer sites, mainly those considered “obscene”, and Internet users attempting to access such sites now encounter a block page rather than a blank one, demonstrating an increased degree of transparency.

    Syria, formerly the runner-up to Tunisia, appears to be taking a similar turn. On Wednesday, Syrian authorities granted access to Facebook, Blogspot, and YouTube, and for the first time since 2007, users of those sites could get to the social networking sites freely, without use of a proxy.

    The Internet in Syria has long been censored. Frequently named an “enemy of the Internet” by watchdog group Reporters Sans Frontières, the country blocks not only social media sites but political opposition, sites with human rights information, Kurdish sites, anonymisers, and the website of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

    Tech-savvy Syrian Internet users utilize VPN services, web-based proxies and other tools to circumvent the blocks, though the export of those tools from the United States is also prohibited without a license from Treasury and Commerce departments, due to long-standing sanctions.

    Western sanctions

    The sanctions on the country also affect Syrian censorship, as US companies like Google are prohibited from marketing their products within the country. Syrians cannot download tools like Google Chrome and Google Earth, nor can they buy licensed versions of Microsoft and other software. 

    Though the unblocking is only a small step–Syrians have reported that the keywords “facebook” and “proxy” are still blocked on some Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as are Amazon.com and the Arabic version of Wikipedia–it may be a step in the right direction for a regime that is trying to garner further popular support in light of the recent events in the region.

    The move could also curry favor for Syria in Washington. In 2010, the State Department sent a delegation of executives from major US tech firms–most of which are constrained by US export control policy from doing business in Syria–to meet with the Syrian president and his cabinet.

    The meeting was focused on a number of issues, including intellectual property, but undoubtedly also involved talk of Internet freedom.

    Of course, free access to these networks is not without danger: Though the average Syrian user may have little cause for concern, the newfound freedom could pose risks to activists.

    Despite promised reforms from President Bashar al-Assad, Syria remains a repressive political climate.  Though the Syrian constitution guarantees freedom of expression, the country’s emergency law–in place since 1962–strips citizens of most constitutional protections.

    While the ban on Blogspot was still in place, no fewer than four bloggers using the service were arrested for content published on Blogspot blogs, including 19-year-old Tal al Mallouhi, charged with espionage in December 2010 for her writings on Palestine and local affairs. 

    Access versus expression

    Activists should remember that free access does not mean freedom of expression. Social media tools have been used for surveillance in a number of countries, and are easily exploited.

    In Tunisia, reports that the government had phished user passwords for Facebook and Gmail emerged in December, while in the United States, Facebook has been used by creditors to track down people with outstanding debt. 

    Though phishing may be uncommon, and can be prevented by using HTTPS to connect to Facebook (a feature just rolled out to all users), activists who accept friend requests from people they don’t know personally are taking a risk. Creating a profile is an easy process, and Facebook’s platform allows anyone to add any individual as a friend, unless they’ve adjusted their security settings to avoid it.

    Some Syrian Facebook users have speculated that the move could make it easier for the government to monitor their usage of the site.  For its part, the State Department has commented on the concern as well, with Secretary of State Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation Alec Ross tweeting: “Welcome positive move on Facebook & YouTube in #Syria but concerned that freedom puts users at risk absent freedom of expression&association.”

    Others, such as Mazen Darwish, from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, see the move as a positive step. Speaking to the Guardian, Darwish stated that: “After what happened on the 4th and the 5th, the authorities now know that the Syrian people are not the enemy.”

    Jillian York is a writer, blogger, and activist based in Boston. She works at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Centre for Internet & Society and is involved with Global Voices Online.

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera
      

    What makes a revolution succeed?

     

    While the aspirations are different, Egyptians could take five lessons from Iran’s 1979 revolt.

    Roxane Farmanfarmaian Last Modified: 14 Feb 2011 13:14 GMT
    While Egypt’s army is popular, trusting military forces is not always the best plan for revolutionaries [GALLO/GETTY] 

    On February 12, 32 years this week, Iran proclaimed its revolution a success: the Shah was gone, the military had been decimated, and a new era could dawn.

    Although what followed turned out very differently than what the Egyptians are hoping for, Iran’s was one of the great revolutions of the 20th century, and Egyptians might well look to it for inspiration in their effort to oust an entrenched regime and gain new rights.

    Today, the Egyptian military has assumed command, with promises of free and fair elections. Does this mean the demonstrators can go home and trust their army? Egypt and Iran are very different, their aspirations and media eons apart, and, one hopes, the future the Egyptians construct will be more democratic and safe for those reaching for popular victory.

    Nonetheless, for those along the Nile facing quickly changing events, the Iranian revolution offers some useful lessons.

    Lesson one: Revolutions take time

    From the day when the Iranian revolution is generally thought to have begun, sparked by the death of 400 people in a theatre fire in Abadan, Iran’s main oil city, to the pronouncement of victory on February 12, 1979, a year and a month had elapsed.

    Demonstrations took place both in winter snow and searing summer heat, people were shot, the uprisings after their initial newsworthiness was no longer featured by the international media. But the rallies continued and grew, the people hung on, the sacrifices they had already made driving them to over-turning a military regime.

    In Egypt, we are seeing the demands shift as the true purpose of the uprising becomes clear – to remove the regime, not just its many Gorgan-like heads. Mubarak’s resignation, and the shift into military hands, may mean little. Changing a regime is a lengthy process, requiring vision and organisation, and, as the Iranian demonstrators discovered, tenacity.

    Lesson two: Entrenched regimes don’t leave quietly

    After three weeks of upheaval, Mubarak may, or may not, be truly gone. Significantly, he is still in Egypt; ousted presidents, such as Tunisia’s Ben Ali, are usually not really ‘gone’ until they are in exile. The Shah hung on for a year despite the continuous chants  of “Death to the Shah”. In his last days, like Mubarak, the Shah attempted to create a transitional government drawn from the existing regime,  replacing his prime minister with a new though trusted face. 

    The Shah, in fact, went through three prime ministers – first one with a democratic reputation, then a general, finally a member of one of Iran’s great tribes and leader of the main opposition party – the National Front (though by then, it was but a shell).

    The people in the streets accepted none of them. Like Egypt’s vice president Omar Suleiman, the Shah’s hand-picked leaders made small concessions accompanied by threats: the people had to go home, the military was in control and running out of patience, democracy Western-style was not appropriate for Middle Easterners.

    For Iranians, like Egyptians, the important point was to rid themselves of an elitist, corrupt regime, whoever was at its helm. And so the demonstrations continued even after the Shah fled, ensuring the  existing edifice in its entirety was at last swept away.

    Lesson three: The army is not reliable

    Unlike in Egypt so far, the Iranian military – at the time considered the fifth most powerful in the world – did not refrain from turning on its people. 

    The Friday Massacre in October 1978 was only one of many instances when the army shot live ammunition into the crowds. And, although to date, the Egyptian military has refrained from such outright attacks, the risk of it turning violent hangs perpetually over the people in the streets.

    The army, which now commands the government, has made strong calls for stability, indicating the risk is chaos if rallies continue. Yet, despite similar statements from the army in Iran, the demonstrators continued. Though there had been bloodshed, demonstrators there refused to turn their ire on the army, and eventually, they wore the soldiers down.

    Flowers were hung from the barrels of their guns. Families, friends and neighbours hugged and chatted with the soldiers as they marched by them in the streets, draping banners across the tanks parked on the sidewalks, spraying slogans on their metal sides, and festooning them with posters.  

    For Egyptians, this is an important lesson. The military retains significant fire-power, and today is giving mixed signals – a possibly dangerous moment. There are reports of  younger members of the corps joining the demonstrators, even as the old guard has dug in. Staying peaceful in the face of military power is perhaps one of the greatest tools in the hands of the demonstrators, and one not to be squandered.

    Lesson four: Strikes are key to success

    In Egypt, one of the game-changing developments over the past week has been the wave of strikes in provincial towns by factory workers demanding better pay and benefits.

    In Iran, the strikes, which began in the oil fields and spread across the country, were critical in bringing the regime to its knees. The shortages of gas and kerosene (which many Iranian households depended on for heating during a winter far more inclement than Egypt’s) led to lines that snaked for blocks from the gas stations, many of them with waits lasting 48 hours.

    Through the night, drivers sat patiently in their cars, and under their motorbikes and hand-carts, despite the government insisting that Iranians had no stomach for such deprivation. Only the elite and military obtained petrol, and drove almost proudly through the nearly empty streets, a move that strengthened popular resolve against them.

    Strikes, though not always continuous, spread to factories, industrial complexes, and critically, to electrical plants, which cut power for four hours everyday. This coincided with the state television-controlled evening news hour, a strategic move;  Iranians ate dinner to candlelight and got their news instead through the radio, mainly the BBC.  

    The strikes gave backbone to the movement – while enabling the strikers to join the demonstrations. They carried economic as well as psychological power, and the Iranians, like the Egyptians, showed a willingness to live with  hardship to obtain the departure of the regime.

    Lesson five: State-controlled media drift is an important accomplishment

    In Egypt, the upheaval has reflected the times: the demonstrations began with blogging and tweeting, and gained momentum through live webcasts, Facebook and mobile phone.

    Even when Mubarak shut down the internet and cellular networks, the high-tech communications continued.

    Naturally, Iran benefited from none of this. However, the drift of the state-run media is a bell-weather of how events are proceeding. Iran’s Kayhan and Etela’at newspapers, much like Egypt’s al-Ahram, were government mouthpieces. When Kayhan and Etela’at first showed people in the streets burning the ubiquitous pictures of the Shah, which until then had hung on every office wall and family hallway, the grip of the state was viscerally understood to be slipping.

    The same has happened with al-Ahram, which, this past week, reported the news more even-handedly. For Egyptians, this is a milestone, and the wedge toward true media freedom. Of the many freedoms being sought, free speech, and the right of free assembly, are the first marks of real success.

    The Nile Wave may appear victorious – but so far, there are few guaranteed changes coming to Egyptian lives.  Despite the jubilation, the same old military faces remain in place. If the movement is to gain its just reward, Iran’s past may help to bring a dose of reality to the present, and with luck, brighten Egypt’s future, even as its own remains en-shadowed.

    Dr Roxane Farmanfarmaian is an affiliated lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University. She is also a Visiting Scholar at the Middle East Center of the University of Utah. She lived in Iran during the Revolution and Hostage Crisis.

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/20112169518348693.html

    Iran funeral triggers new clashes

     

    Government supporters and opposition activists clash at funeral procession for student killed in Tehran.

    Last Modified: 16 Feb 2011 13:12 GMT
    Government supporters and opposition groups both claim Sane’e Zhaleh was a member of their ranks [Reuters] 

    Clashes have broken out between supporters of the Iranian government and apparent members of the opposition at the funeral for a student killed in recent protests, state television has reported.

    “Students and people participating in the funeral of martyr Sane’e Zhale in Tehran Fine Arts University are clashing with a few apparently from the sedition movement,” the website of broadcaster Irib said on Wednesday.

    Zhaleh was shot dead during an opposition rally in Tehran, the capital, on Monday, a killing the government blamed on anti-government protesters. But opposition groups say it was carried out by security forces.

    The violence broke out during the funeral procession from the art faculty at Tehran’s university, where Zhaleh was a student, Irib said.

    The broadcaster added that government backers were chanting “Death to Monafeghin”, a reference to an outlawed opposition group, which “forced them [opposition supporters] out of the scene”.

    However, Iranian bloggers reported that loyalist forces were brought into the campus who then took over the faculty, while riot police were deployed across the city.

    Others have also written on social networking site Twitter that some roads in the city have been blocked and that thousands of people were out on the streets of Tehran, demonstrating both for and against the government.

    There are also reports that authorities have blocked foreign media from working.

    Government supporters have insisted that Zhaleh was a member of the Basij militia – a volunteer force connected to the elite Revolutionary Guards, while opposition groups say he came from their ranks.

    Rahesabz.net, an opposition website, said Zhaleh was “pro-Mousavi and a member of the Green Movement,” referring to the group led by Mir Hossein Mousavi, which refuses to acknowledge the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    “His family was under pressure to say he is Basiji and pro-government,” the website said.

    Calls for Friday rally

    Government supporters have called a rally in Tehran on Friday to express “hatred” against the opposition movement.

    “The noble people of Tehran will take to Enghelab Square after Friday prayers with their solid and informed presence,” the Islamic Propagation Co-ordination Council said on Wednesday.

    It said those joining the rally will “scream out their hatred, wrath and disgust against the savage crimes and evil movements of sedition leaders, their Monafeghin [hypocrites] and their monarchist allies.”

    “I am warning that before it is too late, take out the buds from your ears and listen to the voice of the people. Forcing violence and opposing peoples’ wishes will last only for a certain time”Mehdi Karroubi, opposition leader

    Iran’s prosecutor general Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie warned that action would be taken against Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, another opposition leader.

    “The heads of seditions are the people who should be punished for their criminal acts and God willing actions in this regard are being taken,” Mohseni Ejeie said, according to Fars news agency.

    Meanwhile Mousavi and Karroubi both made statements online on Wednesday criticising authorities and calling for further protests against the government.

    Karroubi, in a statement posted on his website Sahamnews.org, said he was “ready to pay any price” in his fight.

    “I am warning that before it is too late, take out the buds from your ears and listen to the voice of the people. Forcing violence and opposing peoples’ wishes will last only for a certain time,” he said.

    In a separate statement on his own website Kaleme.com, Mousavi praised protesters for turning out in Monday’s rally in Tehran.

    “The glorious rally on 25th Bahman [February 14] is a great achievement for the great people of a great nation and for the Green Movement,” he said.

    Execution threats

    The comments by Mousavi and Karroubi, who have been under house arrest for the last week, come a day after Iranian politicians called for their execution.

    “Mousavi and Karroubi should be executed! Death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami!” ministers shouted in parliament.

    They also accused the United States, Britain and Israel for orchestrating the protests through the opposition leaders.

    Two people, including Zhaleh, were killed in the capital on Monday and dozens wounded, after riot police fired tear gas and paintballs at demonstrators.

    Nine security forces were injured, state television said, while between 150 and 1,500 people were detained, according to official media and human rights groups.

    In a statement issued late on Tuesday, President Ahmadinejad said that the “enemies” who planned the anti-government protests in Tehran will fail to achieve their goals.

    “It is evident and clear that the Iranian nation has enemies because it is a country which wants to shine and achieve its peak and wants to change relations [between countries] in the world,” he said in a live  interview on state television.

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera and agencies
     http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/20112171917741164.html

    A tale of two protests

     

    The subdued US reaction to events in Egypt sits in sharp contrast to its previous support for Iranian protesters.

    Mohammed Khan Last Modified: 01 Feb 2011 09:39 GMT
    Is the US hearing the Egyptian call for freedom? [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Cast your minds back to June 2009 and the aftermath of Iran’s disputed presidential elections. Months of unrest following the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and severe crackdowns meted out by the state security apparatus captured the airwaves not only in the Middle East but across the globe.

    International news organisations devoted considerable time and energy to Iran’s supposed “Green Revolution”. Western governments, already ramping up pressure on the Iranian leadership over the latter’s controversial nuclear programme, piped in with further vitriol against the Islamic Republic, condemning the leadership for its suppression of protesters.

    Here is what the US president said back then: “I strongly condemn these unjust actions [by the Iranian state]” against the protesters. The US and the entire world are “appalled and outraged” by Iran’s efforts to crush the opposition. While denying that the US was seeking to interfere in Iran’s domestic affairs, Barack Obama added: “But we must also bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society.”

    The Iranian authorities responded by attempting to stop those channels of communication that best captured modern protests: Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter were targeted for closure.

    What did the American authorities do in return? They pressed Twitter to continue providing services in Iran by abandoning a scheduled maintenance shutdown in order to aid the demonstrators. According to a state department official at the time: “One of the areas where people are able to get out the word is through Twitter. They [Twitter] announced they were going to shut down their system for maintenance and we asked them not to.” So far so good.

    The US government relentlessly pursued the “rights” of Iranians to protest peacefully and without intimidation and continued to castigate the Iranian authorities for the mass round up and ill treatment of demonstrators.

    Such was the vehemence with which the US made its feelings known, that the Iranian leadership in turn accused the Americans of instigating the protests in an effort to topple the regime. With over 30 years of bad blood between the two countries, there was little surprise that the instability unleashed in post-election Iran provided a convenient opportunity for the US to unsettle Iran’s rulers.

    Selective hearing?

    Now fast-forward by less than two years to the present. On January 25, 2011 mass demonstrations broke out in Cairo against a despotic regime which has been politically suffocating a population of some 80 million people for almost 30 years.

    Having lived under emergency rule since 1981, the people of Egypt finally rallied for liberty, and in the process braved the worst excesses of a police state. On that day alone, around 860 protestors were hounded by the much-feared secret police, arrested and beaten. Another three were killed. A number of foreign journalists also felt the full force of Egyptian “law”.

    The popular revolution train which many “freedom-loving” nations across the world had so keenly anticipated had finally arrived in Egypt. So you would expect the “leader of the free world”, the US, to welcome the cry for freedom in Egypt, right? Well, not quite.

    After berating the Iranian government for its heavy-handedness against civilians, senior US officials entered the Egyptian fray with a completely different attitude.

    Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, offered a particular gem of advice to Egyptians, which inevitably had the effect of rubbing salt in the protesters’ wounds. While urging “all parties” to “exercise restraint” (why the actions of the demonstrators were equated to those of the security forces is anyone’s guess), Clinton added the following caveat: “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

    Two days later, as the demonstrations showed little sign of ebbing, Clinton’s kid-gloves handling of the Egyptian government similarly showed little signs of wavering. This time, she said, the Egyptian government was facing “an important opportunity to implement political, economic and social reforms that respond to legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people”. Many an Arab dictator must similarly be relishing the “important opportunities” ahead to implement change!

    As for the need to keep open all communications channels for protesters, reports quickly surfaced that the Egyptian authorities were blocking access to Facebook and Twitter. “We urge the Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications including on social media sites,” Clinton retorted. The generous “urge” was unlikely to be heeded.

    As the determination of the Egyptian protesters stiffened and the country witnessed an unprecedented bout of “people power” – despite the repression thrust upon them by Mubarak’s ill-disciplined police units – the US found itself increasingly walking a shaky tightrope. With phone conversations between US and Egyptian officials accelerating, Mubarak was now being “urged” to take “concrete steps” for reform.

    After five days of unrelenting protests, and sensing that the Egyptian masses were not buying into the US’ expression of concern, American officials finally dropped what to Mubarak would have sounded like a bombshell: “We want to see an orderly transition so that no-one fills a void, that there not be a void, that there be a well thought-out plan that will bring about a democratic participatory government,” Clinton announced.

    An “orderly transition” can mean a myriad of things but Clinton was careful to balance her words with a warning against moving to a new government where “oppression” could take root, a not too subtle attempt to taint Egypt’s most popular movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Policy by ideology

    US policy in the Middle East is naturally driven by ideology and self-interest. It is a policy built on defining allies and foes. Those that have traditionally demonstrated antipathy to US pursuits in the region have been deemed outcasts and vilified whilst those who have acquiesced, to the point of subservience, are flushed with cash and platitudes. The examples of Iran and Egypt are striking in this regard.

    Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, relations between the Islamic Republic and the US have been practically non-existent. Given that the revolution itself was fervently anti-American with Iran ridding itself of US influence, the bitterness that ensued is self-evident. Little in the way of compromise has been reached since the early days of the revolution and any rapprochement (however limited) has been met with suspicion and half-heartedness.

    That the US blames Iran for a plethora of the Middle East region’s problems and Iran continues to harbour deep distrust of the “Great Satan” is unlikely to change anytime soon. So despite Iran having a political system which arguably allows for real popular representation (the country’s presidency has changed hands six times since 1979, mostly through elections – and no that does not mean that it is liberal democratic) the US is transfixed on finding the smallest fault with Iran and badgering the country into submission.

    Some distance west of Iran sits the Arab world’s most populous nation, Egypt. Since the ascension of Hosni Mubarak as president in 1981, the country has been ruled by an iron fist. Not only does Mubarak not tolerate dissent but his regime has imprisoned opponents with such audacity that his antics make Iran look moderate.

    Having sat on the presidential throne for almost three decades, Mubarak is showing little inclination to renounce his position or to loosen his grip. Prior to the latest civil unrest, the Mubarak clan was gearing up to the potential elevation of the president’s son, Gamal, as the next ruler.

    The severe clampdown on street protesters has brought to the fore the depth of repression which the Mubarak regime has unleashed over many years. Given the disgust with which the president is held in the country, you would think that the global forces of “liberation” would be rallying to the Egyptian people’s cry for help. How wrong, again.

    Egypt is the second largest recipient of US military and economic aid (after Israel) in the world, to the tune of some $1.5bn annually. It is the standard-bearer of the “moderate” Middle East camp, as defined by the US. It is only one of two (Jordan being the other) major Arab countries to have signed a peace deal with Israel. It is enforcing the isolation of the Palestinian Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. It is vehemently opposed to Iran. It does not tolerate Islamic movements and the regime is seen as a bulwark against “Islamism,” notably by suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a haven for foreign investment and liberal economic policies. All in all, Egypt’s authoritarian leadership is befitting of US policy in the region and therefore Egypt’s interests are the US’ interests.

    That the regime can willy-nilly abuse and silence its population is of little concern. Now that the public have spoken, we are told this presents an “important opportunity” for Mubarak to implement reform; reform that has been lacking for decades.

    What will happen next in Egypt is uncertain. The street protesters are refusing to be silenced and their brazenness in the face of a well equipped security force is admirable.

    The people of Iran will most likely be following events as they unfold in Egypt with keen interest, whether on their satellite receivers or through Facebook and Twitter.

    As for the Egyptian people, time will tell whether they will break the shackles of despotism. One thing that is becoming clear to them, however, is this: The US government is proving to be no friend of theirs.

    Mohammed Khan is a political analyst based in the UAE.
    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
     
     
     
     
     
     

     

     http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/empire/2011/02/20112875931593543.html
     

    Pax Americana

     
    Empire looks at the dramatic changes taking place in the Arab world and their strategic implications.
    Empire Last Modified: 08 Feb 2011 09:42 GMT
     The fear factor has been broken, the genie is out of the bottle. Arabs have taken to the streets demanding freedom. As the winds of change blew across the Arab world, the US, the power that has long dominated the region, has been particularly absent.With all its allies crumbling one after another, what will the US do to maintain its influence in the region? And what can be expected of Israel, the country’s closest ally in the region?Will the spread of democracy lead to a peaceful end to decades of autocratic rule in the Middle East or will the fear of Islamist extremism galvinise Washington’s resolve to reinforce Pax Americana?Our guests today are: Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University; Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer-winning author; and Thomas Pickering, the former US under secretary of state.

    Our interviewees are: Clovis Maksoud, the director of the Center for the Global South; and Rob Malley, the Middle East director of International Crisis Group.

    This special episode of Empire aired from Monday, February 7, 2011.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-02-13/egypts-facebook-freedom-fighter/

    Egypt’s Facebook Freedom Fighter, Wael Ghonim

    by Mike Giglio

    Wael Ghonim worked a day job at Google, but at night he was organizing a revolution. In this week’s Newsweek, Mike Giglio on how the man once known only as El Shaheeed sparked an uprising.

    The telephone call from Cairo came late on Thursday, Jan. 27. “I think they’re following me,” the caller told the friend on the other end. “I’m going to destroy this phone.”

    And then the line went dead.

    Soon after, so did cellphones across Egypt, and then the Internet, as authorities cut communication in a last-ditch effort to halt the protests gripping the country.

    The only trace the caller left was in cyberspace, where he had delivered a haunting message via Twitter: “Pray for #Egypt.”

    Three days later in Washington, D.C., Nadine Wahab, an Egyptian émigré and media-relations professional, sat staring at her computer, hoping rumors of the caller’s disappearance weren’t true.

    Suddenly his screen name flashed to life. She stared at the message.

    “Admin 1 is missing,” it said. “This is Admin 2.”

    Admin 1 was the caller, the anonymous administrator of a Facebook page that had played a crucial role in inspiring the uprising in Cairo. He had left Wahab with a contingency plan. If he disappeared, Wahab should wait until Feb. 8, two weeks from the date of the first protest, before she revealed his identity and sounded the alarm. At all costs, she was to maintain the appearance of normalcy on the page.

    The contingency plan had made no mention of an Admin 2, and Wahab worried that the message might be a trap.

    For the next week, Wahab and her small cadre of online associates became immersed in what seemed like a shadowy cyberthriller. At its center was a bespectacled techie named Wael Ghonim, a 30-year-old father of two, and Google’s head of marketing in the Middle East.

    “My purpose,” wrote Wael Ghonim, “is to increase the bond between the people and the group through my unknown personality. This way we create an army of volunteers.”

    Article - Giglio Blogger Khaled Desouki / Getty Images

    Months of online correspondence between Ghonim and Wahab, parts of which were provided to Newsweek, as well as telephone and online conversations with the magazine, reveal a man who adopted a dead man’s identity to push for democracy, taking on a secret life that nearly consumed him.

    Ghonim had received a master’s degree in marketing and finance from American University in Cairo and began working for Google in late 2008. In little more than a year, he was promoted to head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, a position based in Dubai, where he and his family moved into a house in one of the city’s affluent suburbs.

    Ghonim and Wahab met electronically last spring, after Ghonim volunteered to run the Facebook fan page of Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian Nobel Prize winner who had emerged as a key opposition leader; Wahab offered to help with PR. Ghonim had a strong tech background, having already founded several successful Web ventures. But it was his marketing skills that would fuel his transformation into Egypt’s most important cyberactivist.

    Under Ghonim, ElBaradei’s page, which promoted democratic reform, grew rapidly. He surveyed its fans for input, pushing ideas like crowdsourced video Q&As. “Voting is the right way to represent people in a democratic way,” he wrote Wahab in May. “We use it even inside Google internally. Even when our CEO is live, if someone posts a tough question and others vote, he must answer it.”

    HIER verder lezen

     

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/02/201121755057219793.html

    ‘Day of rage’ kicks off in Libya

     

    Protesters have reportedly taken to the streets in four cities despite a crackdown, heeding to calls for mass protests.

    Last Modified: 17 Feb 2011 07:55 GMT
    The protesters blame Gaddafi’s government for unemployment, inequality and limits on political freedoms [EPA] 

    Protesters in Libya have defied a security crackdown and taken to the streets in four cities for a “day of rage,” inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, reports say.

    Several hundred supporters of Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s longtime leader, have also reportedly gathered in the capital on Thursday to counter online calls for anti-government protests.

    New York-based Human Rights Watch said that Libyan authorities had detained 14 activists, writers and protesters who had been preparing the anti-government protests.

    Libya has been tightly controlled for over 40 years by Gaddafi, who is now Africa’s longest-serving leader.

    According to reports on Twitter, the microblogging site, Libya’s regime had been sending text messages to people warning them that live bullets will be fired if they join today’s protests.

    Thursday is the anniversary of clashes that took place on February 17, 2006, in the country’s second largest city of Benghazi when security forces killed several protesters who were attacking the city’s Italian consulate.

    Ibrahim Jibreel, a Libyan opposition member based in Barcelona, told Al Jazeera, “I think the demonstrations are going to be rather serious.

    “Libyan people have been oppressed for more than 41 years and they see to the west and to the east of them, people have been able to rise and to change their fate.”

    At least two people were killed in clashes between Libyan security forces and demonstrators on Wednesday, in the town of al-Baida, east of Benghazi.

    The victims were identified as Khaled ElNaji Khanfar and Ahmad Shoushaniya.

    Angry chants

    Wednesday’s deaths come as hundreds of protesters reportedly torched police outposts while chanting: “People want the end of the regime.”

    At least 38 people were also injured in the clashes, including 10 security officials.

    “All the people of Baida are out on the streets,” a 25-year-old Rabie al-Messrati, who said he had been arrested after spreading a call for protests on Facebook, said.

    Violent protests were also reported earlier in the day in Benghazi.

    In a telephone interview with Al Jazeera, Idris Al-Mesmari, a Libyan novelist and writer, said that security officials in civilian clothes came and dispersed protesters in Benghazi using tear gas, batons and hot water.

    Al-Mesmari was arrested hours after the interview.

      

    Late on Wednesday evening, it was impossible to contact witnesses in Benghazi because telephone connections to the city appeared to be out of order.

    State media reported there were pro-Gaddafi protests too across the country, with people chanting “We sacrifice our blood and souls for you, our leader!” and “We are a generation built by Muammar and anyone who opposes it will be destroyed!”

    However, Jibreel said, “There are few who come out in support of the dictator in Libya and they are not going to succeed.

    “We are trying to get the voices out of Libya, we are trying to get media attention to the plight of the Libyan people, to get the media to focus on the injustices that are happening in Libya.

    “We are urging the governments and diplomatic missions that are in Libya to act as observers, to document the abuses that are going to happen and we know that they are going to happen because this is a totalitarian, brutal regime,” he added.

    As the wave of unrest spread south and westwards across the country, hundreds of people marched through the streets in the southern city of Zentan, 120km south of the capital Tripoli.

    They set fire to security headquarters and a police station, then set up tents in the heart of the town.

    Chants including “No God but Allah, Muammar is the enemy of Allah,” can be heard on videos of demonstrations uploaded to YouTube.

    Independent confirmation was not possible as Gaddafi’s government keeps tight control over the movements of media personnel.

    Online activism

    In a country where public dissent is rare, plans for Thursday’s protests were being circulated by anonymous activists on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

    One Facebook group urging a “Day of Anger” in Libya, which had 4,400 members on Monday, saw that number more than double to 9,600 by Wednesday.

    Social media sites were reportedly blocked for several hours through the afternoon, but access was restored in the evening.

    Al Jazeera is understood to have been taken off the state-owned cable TV network, but is still reportedly available on satellite networks.

    People posting messages on opposition site www.libya-watanona.com, which is based outside Libya, urged Libyans to protest.

    “From every square in our beloved country, people should all come together in one city and one square to make this regime and its supporters afraid, and force them to run away because they are cowards,” said a post on the website.

    Also calling for reforms are some of Libya’s eminent individuals. A group of prominent figures and members of human rights organisations have demanded the resignation of Gaddafi.

    The demands came in a statement signed by 213 prominent Libyans from different segments of the society, including  political activists, lawyers, students, and government officials.

    Oil factor

    Though some Libyans complain about unemployment, inequality and limits on political freedoms, analysts say that an Egypt-style revolt is unlikely because the government can use oil revenues to smooth over most social problems.

    Libya accounts for about 2 per cent of the world’s crude oil exports.

    Companies including Shell, BP and Eni have invested billions of dollars in tapping its oil fields, home to the largest proven reserves in Africa.

     
     

    Een sceptisch geluid van Maarten van Rossem (http://www.maartenonline.nl/00/mt/nl/0/weblog/432/Na_de_euforie.html):

    Maarten van Rossem

    Na de euforie

    Door Maarten van Rossem – Eergisteren – 7 reacties


    klik om een oordeel te geven!

    Het was ontroerend hoe de mensen in Egypte op het Tahrirplein en elders feest vierden na het vertrek van president Mubarak. We waren via de televisie steeds live getuige van de gebeurtenissen; wellicht hebben de kijkers ook nog een traantje weggepinkt.

    Maar wat is er nu eigenlijk structureel veranderd in Egypte? Afgezien van het vertrek van Mubarak weinig. De ware machthebber is het leger dat sinds 1952 aan de macht is en sindsdien steeds een sterke man naar voren schoof als Sadat en Mubarak. Ook nu de laatste weg is, is aan die basissituatie niets veranderd.

    Het leger bezit een sterke – in feite de enige – echte machtspositie in de samenleving. En er is nog geen enkele indicatie dat het nu afstand wil doen van de macht. De militairen hebben het dan ook slim gespeeld. Ze leken de afgelopen weken op de hand van het volk en onthielden zich van geweld tegen de burgers.

    De belangen van leger en volk lopen sterk uiteen. Egypte kent geen ontwikkeld systeem van politieke partijen, geen democratische traditie, geen rechtsstatelijke traditie en er bestaat niet zoiets als een georganiseerd maatschappelijk middenveld. Ook zijn de verschillen in inkomen tussen arm en rijk zeer groot.

    De vraag is wat democratie Egypte zou brengen. Ik denk vooral narigheid. De structurele problemen van het land zijn nauwelijks op te lossen. Er is een omvangrijke bevolking, met veel jongeren waarvoor geen werk is. Er is wel enige economische groei, maar die is onvoldoende om al deze jongeren aan werk te helpen. Het is een recept voor aanhoudende ontevredenheid. In een prille democratie zou het leger bij onrust en verwarring waarschijnlijk al snel weer naar de macht grijpen.

    Zo bezien was er geen revolutie in Egypte, want de structuur van de samenleving is niet veranderd. Het leger heeft de macht nog altijd stevig in handen, de regering die nota bene onder Mubarak is gevormd heeft het dagelijks bestuur op zich genomen en het parlement is ontbonden. Intussen is de energie van de betogers weggelekt en is het Tahrirplein weer open voor verkeer.

    Of andere regimes dan die in Tunesie en Egypte werkelijk ernstig in de problemen zullen komen, moeten we nog maar afwachten. Van de euforische verwachting dat – alles nu anders wordt – blijkt meestal niet veel te kloppen.

     

    http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/616/imperial-feminism-islamophobia-and-the-egyptian-revolution*

     

    « Back to Home

    12 Feb 11 2011 by Nadine Naber
    [Image from unknown archive] [Image from unknown archive]

    “. . . I’m making this video to give you one simply message: We want to go down to Tahrir Square on January 25. If we still have honor and want to live with dignity on this land, we have to go down on January 25. We’ll go down and demand our rights, our fundamental human rights…The entire government is corrupt—a corrupt president and a corrupt security force…If you stay home, you deserve what will happen to you…and you’ll be guilty, before your nation and your people…Go down to the street, send SMS’s, post it post it on the ‘net. Make people aware…you know your own social circle, your building, your family, your friends, tell them to come with us. Bring 5 people, or 10 people; if each of us manages to bring 5 or 10 people to Tahrir Square…talk to people and tell them, this is enough! It will make a difference, a big difference…never say there’s no hope…so long you come down with us, there will be hope…don’t think you can be safe any more! None of us are! Come down with us and demand your rights my rights, you family’ rights. I am going down on January 25th and I will say ‘no’ to corruption, ‘no’ to this regime.”


     

    These are the words of Asmaa Mahfouz, a 26 year old woman whose Jan. 18 vlog is said to have helped mobilize the million that turned up in Cairo and the thousands in other cities on Jan 25. Asmaa’s vlog, like the stories of many Egyptian women of this revolution offer up a challenge to two key questions framing U.S. discourse on the Jan. 25 Egyptian revolution:

    1) Where are the women?

    2) and…”but what if Islamic extremists take over?”  

    Often ignored in U.S. discussions on Egypt is how protests led by labor unions—many women-based labor unions in the manufacturing cities of Egypt—have catalyzed the Egyptian revolution (Paul Amar, 02-05-11). The women now holding down Tahrir Square as we speak—are of all ages and social groups and their struggle cannot be explained through Orientalist tropes that reduce Arab women to passive victims of culture or religion or Islam. They are active participants in a grassroots people-based struggle against poverty and state corruption, rigged elections, repression, torture, and police brutality. They are leading marches; attending the wounded, and participating in identity checks of state supported thugs. They have helped create human shields to protect Egyptian Antiquities Museum, the Arab League Headquarters, and one another. They have helped organize neighborhood watch groups and committees nationwide in order to protect private and public property. They are fighting against dictatorship among millions of people-not guided by any one sect or political party—united under one slogan: we want and end to this regime. Master Mimz—protest rapper in the UK best represents my point in the lyrics to her song: Back Down Mubarak…where she states:

    “First give me a job—then lets talk about my hijab

    For anyone wondering about the oppression of Arab women, the women of this revolution have indeed suffered—Professor Noha Radwan was attacked and beaten half to death by Mubarak thugs who ripped her shirt open and had stitches in her head. Several women—and men are now martyrs (they are now over 300).  Amira, killed by a police officer; Liza Mohamed Hasan, hit by a police car; Sally Zahran, hit by a Mubarak thug in the back of the head with a bat, went home to sleep and never woke up.

    Since the demonstrations pushed the police out of the center of Cairo, several women have made statements such as this: “It’s the first time that I have never been harassed in Cairo”—Egyptian police are notorious for sexual harassment and gender-based violence. 

    Some Egyptian women are also on the frontlines of the war over ideas—fighting the Egyptian state TV and exposing the contradictions between U.S. discourses on democracy and U.S. practices. As Mubarak’s regime pays thugs to run over peaceful demonstrators, stab them and kill them, many women have expressed outraged over Obama and Clinton’s advice that: “both sides need to refrain from violence.”

    Aida Seif Al Dawla is a leading human rights activist with Nadeem Center for psychological rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture. By extention, her work, like the work of many Egyptian feminists and human rights activists fighting against state violence, involves confronting U.S. imperial relations with the Mubarak regime. Today, the people of the revolution are outraged over the U.S.’ unanswered loyalty to Mubarak as well as Obama’s backing of vice president Omar Suleiman and the lack of discussion about Suleiman’s role in Egyptian torture and his important role in the US rendition-to-torture program. U.S. leaders have called Suleiman a distinguished and respected man. They use these words to describe the coordinator of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, an extrajudicial procedure in which suspected terrorists are transferred illegally to countries like Egypt that are known to use torture during interrogation. Consider, for instance, the case of the Pakistani man Habib—in which the CIA passed Habib to Omar Suleiman in Egypt. Habib was then repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks. After Suleiman’s men extracted Habib’s confession, he was transferred back to US custody, where his testimony became the basis of his eventual imprisonment at Guantanamo.U.S. policy helps sustain the structures of torture and violence in Egypt. As Egyptian American media pundit Mona Tehawy puts it: U.S.’ “stability” comes at the expense of freedom and dignity of the people of my or any country.” 

    Of course a democratic Egypt would benefit women. The government recently passed a law restricting the work of civil society organizations, many of them led by women. The current regime is responsible for widespread human rights violations, including intense forms of harassment and violence against women, which many organizations such as Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, and the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement

    , have well-documented.

    So rather than asking, “where are the women,” we might ask:

    Why does much of U.S. public discourse frame the revolution through Islamophobia logics and why has the corporate media focused mostly on images of Egyptian men? 

    Islamophobia fuels popular U.S. discourses on Egypt and drives the question: what if Islamic fundamentalists take over Egypt? And it this very discourse that legitimizes the U.S. administration’s complicity in Mubarak’s violent efforts to quell the revolution. This explains why my public expressions of hope for the success of the revolution and for democratization in Egypt are often been met with a sense of grave concern: “but what if Islamic fundamentalists take over?” These questions must be understood in terms of an imperial psyche, a state of consciousness that is driven by panic over Islamic fundamentalism and that works as a blocking operation, or a rationale against supporting the Egyptian revolution. These questions must be located in the historical trajectory of the post-Cold War era in which particular strands of U.S. liberal feminism and U.S. imperialism have worked in tandem. Both rely upon a humanitarian logic that justifies military intervention, occupation, and bloodshed as strategies for promoting “democracy and women’s rights.” This humanitarian logic disavows U.S.-state violence against people of the Arab and Muslim regions rendering it acceptable and even, liberatory, particularly for women. Islamophobic panic over the future of Egypt similarly de-centers the U.S.-backed Mubarak regime’s past and present repression. It denies historical conditions such as the demographic realities in Egypt, the complex, multidimensional place of the Muslim Brotherhood in the revolution, and the predominance of secular visions for the future of Egypt. Islamophobia thus legitimizes complicity with dictatorship and U.S. empire, producing this message for the Egyptian people: “Its best that you continue to live under tyranny.” Gender fuels Islamophobia, requiring “the Arab woman” to be nothing more than an abject being, an invisible sisters, wife, or mother of “the real revolutionaries.” Islamophobia legitimizes itself through the disappearance of Egyptian women as active agents in the revolution. 

    I do not intend to be overly celebratory. We have learned from history that following the revolution, women are often pushed back to the sidelines, away from center stage.

    We might also then ask, if Egypt enters a democratization period, will the voices of the women of Tahrir remain center stage? And what are the possibilities for a democratization of rights in Egypt– all civic rights—in which women’s participation, the rights of women, family law, and the right to organize, protest, and express freedom of speech remain central? And what are the possibilities for international solidarity with Egyptian women and Egyptian people—amidst a war of ideas that often obstructs the possibility to see Arab or Muslim women and as human– and as rightful agents of their own discourses, governments, and destinies? It has become increasingly clear that this revolution is much greater than a conflict between Egyptian state and non-state actors. Egyptian women’s rights, like the rights of all Egyptians are entangled in the global, imperial relation between the U.S., Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and other repressive regimes of the region and beyond. Only when we can take these local and imperial forces seriously can we begin to understand the oppression millions of Egyptian people are determined to end. The people of Tahrir and all the demonstrators of Egypt have spoken and said, we will not betray the blood of our martyrs–we will not give up until Mubarak steps down. It remains to be seen what the transitional period will look like but one thing is clear: it must be led by the people of Egypt. And as the Egyptian movement for freedom and democracy continues, will U.S. social movements—whether feminist, anti-war, or beyond—forget the imperial past and the blood of the Egyptian martyrs or commit to holding the U.S. and Israel accountable for complicity with dictatorship and thirty-plus years of repression in Egypt?  


    * I prepared this piece as a public speech for a public event at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Feb. 7, 2011.

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