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Een democratische omwenteling in de Arabische Wereld? Deel 6– 6 ثورة ديمقراطية في العالم العربي؟ جزء

nieuws en artikelenoverzicht van de actuele gebeurtenissen in de Arabische wereld deel 6 (zie ook deel 1, deel 2, deel 3, deel 4 en deel 5)


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Deadly ‘day of rage’ in Libya


Reports of more than a dozen deaths as protesters heed calls for mass protests against government, despite a crackdown.

Last Modified: 17 Feb 2011 20:30 GMT
Libyan protesters seeking to oust longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi have defied a crackdown and taken to the streets on what activists have dubbed a “day of rage”.There are reports that more than a dozen demonstrators have been killed in clashes with pro-government groups.Opponents of Gaddafi, communicating anonymously online or working in exile, urged people to protest on Thursday to try to emulate popular uprisings which unseated long-serving rulers in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.”Today the Libyans broke the barrier or fear, it is a new dawn,” Faiz Jibril, an opposition leader in exile, said.

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Abdullah, an eyewitness in the country’s second largest city of Benghazi, who spoke to Al Jazeera, said that he saw six unarmed protesters shot dead by police on Thursday.

He also said that the government had released 30 people from jail, paying and arming them to fight people in the street.

Opposition website Libya Al-Youm said four protesters were killed by snipers from the Internal Security Forces in the eastern city of al-Baida, which had protests on Wednesday and Thursday, AP news agency reported.

“Libya is a free country, and people, they can say, can show their ideas, and the main thing is that it has to be in the frame of the law and it has to be peaceful, and that’s it, ” Libyan ambassador to the US, Ali Suleiman Aujali, told Al Jazeera on Thursday.

Sites monitored in Cyprus, and a Libyan human rights group based abroad, reported earlier that the protests in al-Baida had cost as many as 13 lives.

When asked about the people who had allegedly been killed, Aujali told Al Jazeera “I’m really very busy here … and I have some delegations, and I don’t have time to follow up with every piece of news.”

“I am confident that Libya will handle this issue with great respect for the people,” he said.

Increasing casualties

Mohammed Ali Abdellah, deputy leader of the exiled National Front for the Salvation of Libya, said that hospitals in al-Baida were experiencing a shortage of medical supplies, saying the government had refused to provide them to treat an increasing number of protesters.


Abdellah quoted hospital officials in the town as saying that about 70 people have been admitted since Wednesday night, about half of them critically injured by gunshot wounds.

The Quryna newspaper, which is close to Gaddafi’s son, cited official sources and put the death toll at two. It traced the unrest to a police shutdown of local shops that had soon escalated.

The interior ministry fired the head of security in Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar province in the aftermath of the violence, in which protesters had torched “several police cars and citizens,” the paper said on its website.

Several hundred supporters of Gaddafi also gathered in the capital, Tripoli, to counter calls for anti-government protests and they were joined by Gaddafi himself.

‘Down with Gaddafi’

Clashes also broke out in the city of Zentan, southwest of the capital, in which a number of government buildings were torched.

Fathi al-Warfali, a Swiss-based activist and head of the Libyan Committee for Truth and Justice, said two more people were killed in Zentan on Thursday ,while one protester was killed in Rijban, a town about 120km southwest of Tripoli.

He said protesters on Thursday in the coastal city of Darnah were chanting “`the people want the ouster of the regime” – a popular slogan from protests in Tunisia and Egypt – when thugs and police attacked them.

A video provided by al-Warfali of the scene in Zentan showed marchers chanting and holding a banner that read “Down with Gaddafi. Down with the regime.”

Another video showed protests by lawyers in Benghazi on Thursday demanding political and economic reform while a third depicted a demonstration in Shahat, a small town southwest of Benghazi.

Government warning

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

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

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.

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

Al-Warfali said 11 protesters were killed in al-Baida on Wednesday night, and scores were wounded. He said the government dispatched army commandos to quell the uprising.

In a telephone interview with Al Jazeera on Wednesday, 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.

Media blocked

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

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.

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 two 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.

If you are in Libya and have witnessed protests then send your pictures and videos to http://yourmedia.aljazeera.net



Winds of change in the Arab world

Inspired by protests in Egypt and Tunisia, rumblings of discontent are growing across the region.
Riz Khan Last Modified: 07 Feb 2011 09:49 GMT
Could the pro-democracy protests in Egypt generate an unstoppable momentum for political reform across the Arab world?The impact of those demonstrations is being felt in other Arab countries where people are also speaking out against the lack of political rights and freedoms.As the rumblings of discontent grow, leaders in countries such as Yemen, Jordan and Algeria have introduced new policies for political and economic change.


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But opposition supporters are calling those measures inadequate and are demanding a complete overhaul.

On Monday, we will be discussing the issues with Saadaldeen Talib, the former head of Yemen’s anti-corruption commission and now a critic of President Salah; Syrian human rights and anti-censorship activist Anas Qtiesh and writer and blogger Khalid Lum.



Here we go again: Egypt to Bahrain


US pledges for democracy may not extend to Bahrain, even if Obama finally supported Egypt’s rebellion.

Mark LeVine Last Modified: 18 Feb 2011 13:04 GMT
The US has been cautious in its statements on the repression of protesters in Bahrain, a key ally [GALLO/GETTY] 

It took until Hosni Mubarak was safely in Sharm El Sheikh and newly free Egyptians were celebrating in Tahrir square, but president Obama finally came out firmly for democracy in Egypt, no qualifiers attached.

Obama’s words were eloquent indeed; for my money even more so than his 2009 speech in Cairo. As he explained, what the world had witnessed the previous 18 days was truly “history taking place. The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard. And Egypt will never be the same… for Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.”

The president went on to detail a set of expectations: protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free.

Those expectations are entirely in line with the core demands of the organisers of the protests-turned-revolution. For that, Obama deserves credit, although at least some should be held in reserve until we see how much pressure his administration is willing to put on the military to ensure that it carries out a full transition to democracy.

What’s more, in changing themselves, Mr. Obama declared that “Egyptians have inspired us”. They did so in good measure, he rightly explained, through understanding their full worth, as equal members of the larger human history and community. “Most people have discovered in the last few days that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore. Ever.”

Putting inspiration to the test

Yet this inspiration is already being put to the test all across the region as the protests spread like a “freedom virus,” as one Cairene taxi driver put it to me the day before I left Cairo.

As I write this column the Bahraini government is in the process of brutally suppressing the protesters in its own version of Tahrir Square, Pearl Square.

If the US is Egypt’s primary patron, in Bahrain it is among the ruling family’s biggest tenants, as the country is home to the Fifth Fleet, one of the US military’s most important naval armadas, crucial to protecting Persian Gulf shipping and projecting US power against Iran.

But while Bahrain has long been depicted as relatively moderate compared with its Salafi neighbor, Saudi Arabia, the reality is that the country is repressive and far from free, as citizens have almost no ability to transform their government, which according to the State Department “restricts civil liberties, freedoms of press, speech, assembly, association, and some religious practices.”

In the wake of Egypt, where many people harbor resentment against the Administration for its lack of early support for the democracy movement what can Obama do now? Can he in good conscience acquiesce to the brutal suppression of pro-democracy protesters so soon after his eloquent words and late coming to supporting the Egyptian revolution?

The larger question is: What is more essential to American security today, convenient bases for its ships, planes and troops across the Middle East, or a full transition to democracy throughout the region?

Al-Qaeda ‘failure’

The answer is clearly the latter, as evidenced by the fact that America’s two primary antagonists in the Middle East, al-Qaeda and the Iranian government, have seen their standing sink in proportion to the rise of the pro-democracy movements.

In any war, cold or hot, propaganda is crucial, and here it is impossible to lose sight of the fact that al-Qaeda has had little if anything to say about the Egyptian revolution precisely because it was a massive non-violent jihad that succeeded miraculously where a decade of al-Qaeda blood and vitriol have miserably failed.

As for Iran, the government’s rhetorical support for the Egyptian revolution while it continues to suppress its own democracy movement is clearly emptying the Iranian regime of any remaining credibility as an alternative to the US-dominated order.

In this sense the success-so far-of the Egyptian revolution has presented Obama with a unique window of opportunity to forcefully advocate and press for the same kind of democratic transition across the Middle East and North Africa.

The signs on Tuesday were somewhat optimistic, as the President warned all regional leaders that they should “get ahead of the wave of protest” by moving towards democracy as quickly as possible. Yet Obama refused to mention Bahrain by name in his press conference, even as the government was cracking down on the protesters.

Instead, the US president argued that “each country is different, each country has its own traditions; America can’t dictate how they run their societies,” an utterly meaningless declaration since it contradicts the very advocacy of democracy that the President has made out of the other side of his mouth.

And now, once again, in the wake of government violence against peaceful citizens, the Obama administration stands silent, refusing to openly condemn the Bahraini government. Is the administration incapable of learning from mistakes in the immediate past ?

In fact, Bahrain isn’t even the most important country where the ambivalence of US democracy advocacy continues to frustrate real change.

From Egypt to Israel

Not a single Israeli flag was burned (as far as everyone I know from Tahrir can recall) during the 18 days of protest, but while the Israeli occupation remained tangential to the protests, one of the main sources of initial solidarity and coalition building among the young Egyptians who ultimately helped organise the revolution was the outbreak of the second intifada, which led to the formation of a very active branch in Cairo of the Palestine Solidarity Committee (it’s worth noting here that almost no mainstream media analysis of the roots of the youth movement mentions this fact).

Indeed, after I ran into organisers wearing “End the Occupation” t-shirts, it became clear how similar, and interlinked, were the Israeli occupation and the Mubarak “system’s” (as the protesters referred to them in their numerous chants to bring it down) the occupation of Egypt.

The reality remains that on its own terms, the Israeli occupation (or rather double occupation, as increasing numbers of Palestinians describe their lives under PA/Hamas and Israeli rule) remains among the most repressive and brutal in the contemporary world, and perhaps its most destabilising.

And, as with Mubarak, the United States is the most important supporter and enabler of the occupation’s continued presence against the wishes of the vast majority of the people forced to live under it.

And here, as the Palestine Papers released by Al Jazeera reveal, the words and deeds of the Obama administration have run roughshod over its rhetorical commitment to greater democracy and openness.

They reveal that senior members of the administration directly threatened Palestinians leaders with a cut-off in aid should they not follow American policies or even resign in response to continued Israeli settlement expansion and other violations of the Oslo agreements.

The Obama administration needs to tell us if that is still US policy, and if so why democracy is suddenly okay for Egyptians but not for Palestinians, or at least as of today, for Bahrainis.

We also need to know how Obama will respond if the Palestinians take up the mantle of Cairo and march en masse to dismantle sections of the West Bank wall or the Erez crossing in Gaza, in defiance of both Israeli and Palestinian political commands.

And the tests don’t get any easier. Bahrain is child’s play compared not merely to Yemen, which is a crucial base of Al-Qaeda (or so it is claimed) but even more so for Saudi Arabia, whose absolutely repressive regime is among the worst in almost every category possible, in direct proportion to its immense oil reserves and wealth.

Democracy without hypocrisy

One of the most fascinating and uplifting aspects of Tahrir square was the utter lack of hypocrisy within its confines. Authoritarian societies are by definition filled with double-talk, lies of various shades and a broader climate of hypocrisy which becomes the grease, however rancid, that allows the wheels of society to turn, even if they wind up spinning in their tracks for decades.

In finally supporting the Tahrir experiment, President Obama was, in effect, pledging to end decades of American hypocrisy in its policies towards the Middle East and larger Muslim world.

But in order to live up to this promise he will have to develop one set of policies for all the peoples and countries of the region. And doing that will demand an even more costly break with the past, putting old allies at arm’s length until they respect the rights of their peoples while embracing, however tentatively, groups that once seemed more easily characterised as, if not quite foes, then at least untrustworthy partners in securing American interests.

Obama concluded his remarks celebrating the emergence of a new Egypt by saying that the revolution “forever more will remind us of the Egyptian people, of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country and in doing so changed the world.”

Let’s hope in changing the world, Egyptians haven’t left the United States and other major powers too far behind.

Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. He has authored several books including Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine (University of California Press, 2005) and An Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books, 2009).

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


Nog een wat sceptischer commentaar van Thomas vond der Dunk (De Volkskrant, http://opinie.volkskrant.nl/artikel/show/id/7857/De_problemen_in_Egypte_beginnen_pas_nu ):

De problemen in Egypte beginnen pas nu

Thomas von der Dunk, 14-02-2011 18:20
De essentie van een succesvolle revolutie tegen een dictatuur is de overwinning van de eigen angst gebaseerd op hoop.

Dat was zo in 1989 in Oost-Europa, dat was zo in 1979 in Iran. Rampzalig verloren oorlogen willen bij het ten val brengen van autocratieën ook wel eens helpen – Duitsland in 1918, Rusland in 1917 (en al eerder in 1905), Frankrijk in 1871 – maar in vredestijd is het moeilijker massa’s te bewegen in opstand te komen tegen een bewind dat, omdat het aan de grenzen rustig is, al zijn onderdrukkende kracht kan richten op het binnenland.

Dan moet, omdat het alledaagse leven tenslotte minder dan tijdens een oorlog ontregeld wordt, de woede groter zijn, en tegelijk ook de verwachting dat verbetering haalbaar is – anders rest slechts berusting. Men moet veel meer te winnen (denken te) hebben dan te verliezen.

Dat zagen we in Boekarest twintig jaar terug: Ceaucescu was uit een heel ander hout gesneden dan de bange bureaucraten in Praag of Oost-Berlijn – Ceaucescu liet schieten – maar tegelijk waren de Roemenen zoveel slechter af dat hen dat, toen bij de buren de gevangenismuren bezweken, niet veel meer kon schelen. Sommigen riepen het tijdens de demonstraties letterlijk tegen de alomtegenwoordige Securitate: schiet maar, wij hebben toch niets meer te verliezen. Datzelfde gevoel bestond bij de opstandelingen in Caïro.

Boekarest 1989 – Caïro 2011: volgen er straks meer parallellen? In Roemenië werd de revolutie via een paleisrevolutie gekaapt, waarmee een deel van de oude machthebbers na opoffering van het boegbeeld – Ceaucescu reageerde even koppig als Mubarak – de macht hoopte te behouden. Het ontbreken van een georganiseerde oppositie droeg aan het aanvankelijke succes daarvan bij – en nog steeds is in Roemenië niet bepaald het corruptievrije democratische en rechtsstatelijke paradijs aangebroken.

In Egypte heeft nu een hoogbejaarde oud-militair voor een jongbejaarde oud-militair plaats gemaakt. Overgangsregeringschef of blijvertje? Heeft de vorige dictator slechts voor een volgende plaats gemaakt? Voorlopig heeft er in politiek-maatschappelijk opzicht immers nog geen echte omwenteling plaats gevonden.

Wat wil de legerleiding, die gezien haar enorme economische belangen alle baat heeft bij behoud van de maatschappelijke status quo, echt? Treedt zij in de voetsporen van de Anjerrevolutie in Portugal, waar sindsdien de democratie bloeit? Of in die van de Rozenrevolutie in Georgië, waar die bloem toch niet echt tot wasdom gekomen is?
Voor de seculiere demonstranten op het Tahrirplein is er, gezien de van nature geringe democratische neigingen van een hiërarchisch georganiseerd militair apparaat, alle reden om de vinger aan de pols te houden en dus nog even met een omvangrijke afvaardiging in hun basiskamp te blijven.

En wat zij vooral moeten doen, is zich snel ook politiek organiseren, om hun evidente achterstand op de Moslim Broederschap in te halen. Verovering van de staatkundige macht lukt en beklijft alleen door zelf ook een staatkundige macht te vormen. Er zijn in het verleden niet alleen door te veel doortastendheid revoluties ontspoord, zoals die van 1789 in Frankrijk, maar ook wel eens door een gebrek aan doortastendheid mislukt, zoals die van 1848 in Duitsland.

Dat voert tot de vraag, waaruit de overeenkomsten met de gang van zaken bij onze eigen West- en Oosteuropese revoluties van de laatste twee eeuwen bestaan, en waarin de nu nog maar halfvoltooide – dus straks ofwel geheel voltooide dan wel toch mislukte – Egyptische daarvan verschilt.

Het belangrijkste verschil met de negentiende eeuw bestaat ongetwijfeld uit de cruciale rol van de media, in tweeërlei opzicht: als bron van kennis over de opstand voor de opstandelingen zelf en voor de buitenwacht – een revolutie live op tv – én als bron van kennis voor de opstandelingen van de wereld van de buitenwacht.

Wat het eerste betreft: hun alomtegenwoordigheid heeft het, net als in 1989, zonder twijfel veel minder makkelijk gemaakt voor de machthebbers om tot grof geweld over te gaan – niet voor niets poogden zij ook nu het Tahrirplein op zwart te zetten. Wat niet weet, wat niet deert, maar wat men wel ziet, zorgt voor verontwaardiging. Daarvoor is een dictatuur die afhankelijk is van westerse steun, zoals de Egyptische, noodgedwongen ook gevoeliger dan een dictatuur die op eigen benen staat, zoals de Chinese.

En al laat zich, zoals Leni Riefenstahl ons heeft geleerd, met behulp van moderne media de macht ook zeker goed verheerlijken, waarbij een Leider goddelijke proporties aannemen kan, over het geheel bekeken is het risico van ongewilde debunking toch sterker. Het tv-scherm vergroot elke onhandige lichaamsbeweging of grimas van machthebbers genadeloos uit.

De koningen die in de negentiende eeuw in Europa omwille van de democrati-sering ten val gebracht moesten worden beschikten nog over een sacrosanct aura, waaraan weinig hedendaagse dictatoren kunnen tippen.

Dat zat hem enerzijds in het idee van een aangeboren hoge adellijke status in combinatie met de godssouvereiniteit, die hen in de ogen van de onderdanen letterlijk tot een aparte mensensoort maakte, waar nu ook de grootste tyran zich op ‘de wil van het volk’ beroept, en ideologisch ook beroepen moet.
Als in Mozarts Zauberflöte – Uuweet, Mozart is tegenwoordig erg populair bij sommige verdedigers van de these dat de joods-christelijke cultuur van nature democratisch haaks op de islamitische staat – de natuurjongen Papageno zich aan Tamino voorstelt “als een mens”, en vervolgens aan Tamino vraagt wie híj is, antwoordt deze: “ik ben een prins”. Dat is kennelijk iets heel anders.

Die laatste stelling viel, anderzijds, omdat fotografie en film nog niet waren uitgevonden, toen ook nog makkelijker vol te houden. U hoeft in de tweede helft van de negentiende eeuw alleen maar de officiële staatsie¬portretten naast de ook gemaakte familiaire foto’s te zetten. Zulke foto’s zijn in pre-fotoshoptijden onve¬biddelijk: daarop worden ook koningen meteen tot gewone burgermannetjes gereduceerd.

Alleen van Wilhelm II wist de hoffotograaf nog iets te maken – maar tegelijk druipt toch de potsierlijkheid ervan af. Dat gevoel krijgt niemand bij een blik op de Napoleons van David of Ingres, of op Rigauds Lodewijk XIV. Menig machtig monach zag er in werkelijkheid niet uit – keizer Leopold I werd in 1665 door een Turkse bezoeker in zijn reisdagboek met een kameel in de dierentuin van Wenen vergeleken – en als hun onderdanen dat hadden geweten, was dat voor hun imago dodelijk geweest.

Niet minder belangrijk dan in hun beïnvloeding van de revolutie door hun aanwezigheid, zijn de moderne media ook in een tweede opzicht, dat vrij weinig aandacht krijgt: als informatiebron voor de revolutionairen over de wereld om hen heen.

Die wereld om hen heen vormt zonder twijfel een belangrijke stimulans om in verzet te komen. Wat wist de potentiële opstandeling van 1848 van de rest van de wereld? Weinig, vergeleken met nu. En wat in die rest van de wereld vormde een reden om met de eigen wereld geen genoegen meer te nemen? Ook vrij weinig, vergeleken met nu.

Zowel dankzij de massamedia als dankzij de migratie weet men in de Arabische wereld van de vrijheid, de welvaart en de betrouwbaarheid van de overheid in het Westen. En ofschoon men tegelijk het Westen vanwege de steun aan de eigen dictatoren haat, vormen die vrijheid, welvaart en betrouwbaarheid, in het licht van de onderdrukking, armoede en corruptie thuis, een belangrijk ideologisch westers exportproduct.

Miljoenen Arabieren hebben familie in Europa – en bij alle Wildersiaanse hetzes waaraan zij daar bloot staan, weten zij: zo kan het dus ook. En anders weten ze het wel via tv en internet. Dat concrete wenkende alternatief in de vorm van het reëel bestaande democratisme ontbrak anno 1848 in Europa nog nagenoeg geheel: het moest daar toen immers nog op de eigen autocraten veroverd worden. Dat scheelt wezenlijk, omdat het daarom thans veel minder makkelijk meer door potentaten onder het motto ‘ik of de chaos’ als een compleet utopisch hersenspinsel kan worden afgedaan.

En tegelijk vormt juist deze grote stimulans nu ook het grote probleem voor de Arabische revoluties, omdat zij, net als al in Oost-Europa twintig jaar geleden het geval was, tot overspannen verwachtingen inzake de nabije toekomst leiden zal. Dat moet weer onvermijdelijk op een teleurstelling uitlopen, omdat die zo zichtbare achterstand weliswaar de revolutie teweeg heeft gebracht, maar tegelijk die achterstand – juist omdat die zo zichtbaar groot is – onmogelijk snel overbrugd zal kunnen worden.

Ook als het nieuwe bewind in Caïro zich aan zijn belofte van eerlijke verkiezingen houdt, zal de verhoopte sociaal-economische vooruitgang tijd vergen. Vrijheid op papier valt met een pennestreek te realiseren – maar de welvaart, die men zichzelf op grond van die vrijheid belooft, vereist meer.

De hamvraag is of de bevolking daarvoor het geduld zal hebben: een probleem dat ook bij de Duitse Eenwording speelde, toen veel Oostduitsers er min of meer op stonden dat de hen aangedane achterstand in één klap werd goedgemaakt. Hetzelfde zien wij in Zuid-Afrika, waar het gros van de zwarte bevolking ook na twintig jaar ANC-bewind nog steeds in armoede leeft: het einde van de Apartheid maakte geen einde aan de raciale ongelijkheid, maar schiep slechts de politieke voorwaarden om op termijn door economische ontwikkeling die raciale ongelijkheid uit te bannen.

Dat is de psychologische handicap in de Arabische wereld: men wil het, anders dan onze eigen westerse revolutionairen van 1848 kennis hebbend van het westerse democratische welvaartsparadijs, na de verjaging van de eigen tyran meteen allemaal, en ook allemaal nu. Dat is tenslotte de essentie van de democratische belofte: welvaart voor iedereen.

Wat vergeten wordt is dat het parlementaire systeem in Europa, daarin gelijke tred houdend met gestegen opleidingsniveau van de bevolking, slechts zeer geleidelijk is uitgebreid. Neem Nederland: uit angst voor de revolutie werd Willem II in 1848 in één nacht van conservatief wel liberaal – maar niet democraat. Het nieuwe parlementaire stelsel van Thorbecke bleef gebaseerd op censuskiesrecht – de democratie kwam pas in 1917.

Bataafse Omwenteling
Dat betekent dat, omdat de rechtsstaat zelf zelfs terugging tot de Bataafse Omwenteling van 1795, wij – en voor andere Europese landen geldt iets soortgelijks – een eeuw een soort verlichte parlementaire autocratie kenden, waarvan de historische rol in terugblik blijkt te zijn geweest om de huidige democratie voor te bereiden.

Vanaf de Franse Revolutie waren in West-Europa alle burgers gelijk voor de wet – alleen wat er dan in die wet kwam te staan werd nog door een bovenlaag bepaald. Voor zo’n parlementaire autocratie is in de Arabische wereld geen tijd meer: die kans heeft de zichzelfverrijkende elite ginds, door voor zichzelf meteen – en daarmee noodzakelijkerwijs via beroving van de eigen bevoling – het westers welvaartsniveau op te eisen, verspeeld.
Totale democratie was anno 1848 ook voor de meeste gewone Nederlanders ‘ondenkbaar’, en dus legden zij zich bij die bevoogding neer: algemeen kiesrecht lag voorbij hun geestelijke horizon. Dat is nu anders: de opstandelingen willen geen halve eeuw op politieke gelijkberechtiging wachten. Hun verwachtingen zijn inmiddels hoger dan de Toren van Babel, die, als bekend, door spraakverwarring en overmoed onvoltooid in elkaar is gestort.

Het nieuwe bewind kan die verlangens van de bevolking onmogelijk negeren, maar er ook onmogelijk aan voldoen. Daarom beginnen de échte regeerproblemen in Egypte pas nu.


Bahrain forces fire at protesters


Troops open live fire around Pearl roundabout in Manama after nightfall, at least 50 wounded.

Last Modified: 18 Feb 2011 18:37 GMT

[WARNING: This video contains images that some viewers may find disturbing] 

Shots were fired by soldiers around Pearl roundabout in Manama, the Bahraini capital, a day after police forcibly cleared a protest encampment from the traffic circle.

The circumstances of the shooting after nightfall on Friday were not clear. Officials at the main Salmaniya hospital said at least 50 people were injured, some with gunshot wounds.


Some doctors and medics on emergency medical teams were in tears as they tended to the wounded. X-rays showed bullets still lodged inside victims.

“This is a war,” said Dr. Bassem Deif, an orthopedic surgeon examining people with bullet-shattered bones.

Protesters described a chaotic scene of tear gas clouds, bullets coming from many directions and people slipping in pools of blood as they sought cover.

Bahrain’s crown prince, meanwhile, called for calm, saying it was “time for dialogue, not fighting”.

“The dialogue is always open and the reforms continue,” Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa said on Bahrain TV.

 “We need to call for self-restraint from all sides, the armed forces, security men and citizens,” he said. “I urge you, there should be calm. Now is time for calm.”

Jalal Firooz, of the Wefaq bloc that resigned from parliament on Thursday, said demonstrators had been elsewhere in the city, marking the death of a protester killed earlier this week. The demonstrators then made for the roundabout, where army troops are deployed.

A doctor of Salmaniya hospital told Al Jazeera that the hospital is full of severely injured people after the latest shootings.

“We need help! Our staff is entirely overwhelmed. They are shooting at people’s heads. Not at the legs. People are having their brains blown out,”  a distraught Dr Ghassan said, describing the chaos at the hospital as something close to a war zone.

Our online producer interviews a protester at a funeral in Sitra 

He said the hospital was running short of blood and appealed for help to get more supplies. Police had no immediate comment.

An Associated Press cameraman saw army units shooting anti-aircraft weapons, fitted on top of armored personnel carriers, above the protesters in apparent warning shots and attempts to drive them back from security cordons about 200 meters from the roundabout.

One marcher claimed live ammunition was used against protesters.

“People started running in all directions and bullets were flying,” said Ali al-Haji, a 27-year-old bank clerk. “I saw people getting shot in the legs, chest and one man was bleeding from his head.”

In the past, security forces had mostly used rubber bullets.

Witnesses said about 20 police cars had driven toward the roundabout after the initial shooting.

Earlier, troops backed by tanks had locked down Manama and announced a ban on public gatherings. Tanks and armoured personnel carriers were patrolling the streets of Manama and checkpoints set up.

Tents at Manama’s Pearl Roundabout were cleared of protesters by riot police in a raid on Thursday [Reuters]

Riot police using clubs and tear gas broke up a crowd of protesters in the city’s financial district in a pre-dawn swoop on Thursday, killing at least four people and injuring more than 200.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, reported from Manama on Friday that thousands of people observed the funerals of those killed in the police raid on the protesters’ tents in the city’s Pearl Roundabout area.

Many of those present chanted slogans against Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifa family. They said they were both grief-stricken and angry at the heavy-handedness of the police, and that they were demanding that the international community take notice of what they call the brutality of the security forces.

As Friday prayers commenced, Sheikh Issa Qassem, a prominent Bahraini Shia Muslim religious leader, delivering his sermon in a northwestern village, described Thursday’s violence as a “massacre”.

Our correspondent reported that Qassem said the government was attempting to create a “sectarian divide” between Sunnis and Shias. He advocated peaceful protests, saying “violence is the way of the government”, and that protesters should not espouse violent actions.

The crowd at the funerals in Sitra were not as large as those seen during previous funerals, our correspondent reported.

He said this was because of a heavy security presence on the streets, with police and army closing off roads across the country.

No security forces personnel were reported to be present at Sitra on Friday, though a helicopter was seen hovering over the funeral procession.

“Many of those who in the past came out [to protests] … are afraid. They’re frightened and they don’t want to turn up at a protest like this because they are fearful for their lives,” he said, citing an incident on February 15 in Manama, when at least one person was killed when police fired on a funeral procession.

Country profile: Bahrain 

Our correspondent further said that while it was “almost impossible” to confirm a figure for those who had gone missing during Thursdsay’s crackdown, one opposition politician put the number at 70.

Members of the opposition Al Wefaq party have withdrawn from the country’s parliament. The party says MPs will not rejoin if the government continues to disallow protests.

Meanwhile, Bahraini state television showed pictures of a pro-government rally, attended by hundreds, taking place in Manama, despite the ban on public gatherings.

Just hours after Thursday’s deadly police action, the military announced the ban, saying on state TV that it had “key parts” of Manama under its control.

Khalid Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, justified the Pearl roundabout raid as necessary because the demonstrators were “polarising the country” and pushing it to the “brink of the sectarian abyss”.

Speaking after meeting with his Gulf counterparts, he said the violence was “regrettable”.

Two people had died in police firing on protesters prior to Thursday’s deadly police raid. Al Jazeera’s correspondent said that hospitals had been full of injured people after police raid, with the injured including nurses and doctors who had rushed to attend to the wounded.

After several days of holding back, Bahrain’s Sunni Arab rulers unleashed a heavy crackdown, trying to stamp out the first anti-government upheaval to reach the Arab states of the Gulf since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

During the assault at the Pearl roundabout, police tore down the protesters’ tents, beating men and women inside and blasting some with shotgun sprays of bird-shot.

The interior ministry claims that protesters were carrying swords, knives and other bladed instruments.

The pre-dawn raid was a sign of how deeply the island’s Sunni monarchy  fears the repercussions of a prolonged wave of protests, led by members of the country’s Shia majority but also joined by growing numbers of discontented Sunnis.

UK to review arms sale

Bahrain is a pillar of US military framework in the region: it hosts the US navy’s Fifth Fleet, which the US sees as a critical counterbalance to Iran’s military power.

Bahrain’s rulers and their Sunni Arab allies depict any sign of unrest among their Shia Muslim populations as a move by neighbouring Shia-majority Iran to expand its clout in the region.

The army would take every measure necessary to preserve security, the interior ministry said.

Against this backdrop of continued unrest, Britain said on Thursday that it was reviewing decisions to export arms to Bahrain.

“In light of events we are today formally reviewing recent licencing decisions for exports to Bahrain,” Alistair Burt, a junior foreign minister with responsibility for the Middle East, said.

He cautioned that Britain would “urgently revoke licences if we judge that they are no longer in line with the criteria” used for the export of weapons.

In a statement, Burt said a range of licences had been approved for Bahrain in the last nine months, including two for 250 tear gas cartridges for the Bahrain Defence Force and National Security Agency “for trial/evaluation purposes”.

The protesters’ demands have two main objectives: force the Sunni monarchy to give up its control over high-level government posts and all critical decisions, and address deep grievances held by the country’s Shias, who make up 70 per cent of Bahrain’s 500,000 citizens.

But the community claims its faces systematic discrimination and poverty and is effectively blocked from key roles in public service and the military.


Ondertussen, het hete hangijzer Israël/Palestina. Zie het bericht hieronder. Voor wie zich nog steeds afvraagt waarom er in de Arabische wereld zoveel wrevel bestaat tegen de VS, al hebben ze hun officiële vriendschap vaak afgekocht bij de diverse Mubaraks (waardoor er ook weer ‘ergernis’ bij de gewone bevolking ontstaat): precies hierom. Zie hieronder:


US vetoes UN vote on settlements


Washington blocks resolution condemning Israeli buildings on Palestinian land as illegal and calling for quick halt.

Last Modified: 18 Feb 2011 22:19 GMT
Palestinians say building flouts an internationally-backed peace plan that allows them to create a state [GALLO/GETTY] 

The United States vetoed a UN resolution Friday that would have condemned Israeli settlements as “illegal” and called for an immediate halt to all settlement building.

All 14 other Security Council members voted in favour of the resolution.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, speaking on behalf of his country, France and Germany, condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “They are illegal under international law,” he said.

He added that the European Union’s three biggest nations hope that an independent state of Palestine will join the United Nations as a new member state by September 2011.

The Obama administration’s veto is certain to anger Arab countries and Palestinian supporters around the world. An abstention would have angered the Israelis, the closest US ally in the region, as well as Democratic and Republican supporters of Israel in the American Congress.

Washington says it opposes settlements in principal, but claims that the UN Security Council is not the appropriate venue for resolving the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told council members that the veto “should not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity.

“While we agree with our fellow council members and indeed with the wider world about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians,” she said.

Pressure to drop resolution

Earlier, the Obama administration has exerted pressure on the Palestinian Authority to drop the UN resolution in exchange for other measures.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has refused Washington’s request to withdraw a UN Security Council resolution demanding Israel to freeze settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian land.

The decision was made unanimously by the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive and the central committee of Abbas’s Fatah movement on Friday, at a meeting to discuss US President Barack Obama’s appeal to Abbas by telephone a day earlier.

“The Palestinian leadership has decided to proceed to the UN Security Council, to pressure Israel to halt settlement activities. The decision was taken despite American pressure,” said Wasel Abu Yousef, a PLO executive member.

Obama, who had said Israeli settlements in territories it captured in a 1967 war are illegal and unhelpful to the peace process, says the resolution could shatter hopes of reviving the stalled talks.

In a 50-minute phone call on Thursday, he asked Abbas to drop the resolution and settle for a non-binding statement condemning settlement expansion, Palestinian officials said. 

‘Goldstone 2’

“Caving in to American pressure and withdrawing the resolution will constitute Goldstone 2,” said a Palestinian official, speaking on terms of anonymity before the meeting.

He was referring to the wave of protest in October 2009 accusing Abbas of caving in to US pressure by agreeing not to submit for adoption a UN report that accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes during the invasion of Gaza two years ago.

Abbas maintains he insisted on submitting the report. A second Palestinian official, speaking before the decision was formalised, said it would be “a political catastrophe if we withdraw this resolution”.

“People would take to the streets and would topple the president,” he said, noting the wave of protest in the Arab world that swept out the Egyptian and Tunisian presidents.

The Palestinians say continued building flouts the internationally-backed peace plan that will permit them to create a viable, contiguous state on the 1967 land, after a treaty with Israel to end its occupation and 62 years of conflict.

Israel says this is an excuse for avoiding peace talks and a precondition never demanded before during 17 years of negotiations, which has so far produced no agreement.

The diplomatic standoff is complicated by the effects of Middle East turmoil on the Arab League, whose members backed the resolution. Egypt, a dominant member, and Tunisia are preoccupied with their transitions from deposed autocracies, and protests are flaring in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain.

Washington is trying to revive peace talks stalled since September over Israel’s refusal to extend a moratorium on settlement building and Abbas’s refusal to negotiate further until the Israelis freeze the illegal buildings.

‘Nothing to lose’

Obama initially pressured Israel to maintain the moratorium only to relent in the run-up to the 2010 US mid-term elections to avoid, some analysts said, alienating key voters.

Instead of the resolution, Obama told Abbas he would back a fact-finding visit by a delegation of the Security Council to the occupied territories.

One PLO official said the leadership was determined not to cave in “even if our decision leads to a diplomatic crisis with the Americans”, adding: “Now we have nothing to lose.”

Kristin Saloomey, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in New York, said that the US has been doing everything it can to stop this vote from happening, including incentives and threats.

“Apparently Obama threatened [on the phone to Abbas] that there would be repercussions if this vote actually came to the floor of the UN Security Council,” she said.

“Today secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, called president Abbas [to put on more pressure] but none of this is getting through to the Palestinians.

“Obama is facing intense domestic pressure not to support the vote. The US is in a tough position, they know that a veto is going to make them look very bad in the Arab world … and also the rest of the world is really in support of this resolution.

“All of the Security Council members are on the record saying they are going to vote for this resolution including US allies”.

Since 2000, 14 Security Council resolutions have been vetoed by one or more of the five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. Of those, 10 were US vetoes, nine of them related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Al Jazeera and agencies

Two-state solution: A postmortem

In the wake of the Palestine Papers and the Egyptian uprising the ‘peace process’ as we know it is dead.
Sandy Tolan Last Modified: 18 Feb 2011 14:10 GMT
The US’ tone-deaf approach to Palestinian realities is a key reason for the failure of the ‘peace process’ [GALLO/GETTY] 

Among the time-honoured myths in the long tragedy of Israel and Palestine is “the deal that almost was”. The latest entry, what we might call the “near deal of 2008,” comes from Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, chronicled in excerpts from his forthcoming memoir and feverishly promoted in The New York Times as “the Israel peace plan that almost was and still could be”.
Clearly, the dwindling number of promoters of the two-state solution are in a post-Cairo, post-Palestine Papers attempt to keep afloat what is, in the end, a sinking ship: A bad deal that even the weak Palestinian negotiating team would not accept. “Israel has an overwhelming interest in going the extra mile,” a nervous Thomas Friedman wrote as protestors filled Tahrir Square, warning: “There is a huge storm coming, Israel. Get out of the way.” 
At the heart of the effort to salvage the busted remnants of Oslo is the “near deal of 2008”.  “We were very close, more than ever before,” Olmert writes in his memoirs. 
But as they say in a famous TV ad in the US: “Not exactly.”

Old myths die hard
Like other such fictions – chief among them “Israel’s generous offer” at Camp David in 2000 – this one is not entirely without substance. As the Palestine Papers show, the two sides did agree on various security arrangements, land swaps and some principles of the right of return, much to the alarm of many Palestinians. Just as significantly, Palestinian negotiators agreed to allow Israel to annex major settlement blocs in East Jerusalem – a fact that, in the wake of the document dump, is eroding what is left of Abbas’ credibility among his own people. (As if to underscore that point, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat resigned last week in disgrace, after revelations that the Palestine Papers were leaked from his very own office.)
Yet despite the 2008 concessions, the documents also show that the negotiations did not bring the sides close to a deal. Rather, they revealed red lines that signal the end of the peace process as we know it, and – especially after Cairo – the death of the two-state solution. Nowhere is this more clear than in the discussions over two huge settlement blocs, where Israel, backed by an arm-twisting US, undermined its last chance for a two-state deal.
In 1993, at the beginning of the Oslo “peace process,” 109,000 Israeli settlers lived on West Bank Palestinian land, not including East Jerusalem. That number has now nearly tripled. One of the settlements, Ariel, juts well into the West Bank, nearly half the way to Jordan from the Mediterranean coast, and is protected by Israel’s separation barrier. Ariel, with nearly 20,000 people, promotes itself as the aspiring “capital of Samaria” with its own industrial park and even a university.

“There is no Israeli leader who will sign an agreement that does not include Ariel,” Tzipi Livni, Olmert’s foreign minister, told Palestinian negotiators in April 2008.

 “And there is no Palestinian leader who will sign an agreement that includes Ariel,” negotiator Ahmad Qurei replied. Qurei was not just posturing. Ariel bifurcates the Palestinian district of Salfit and helps make a mockery of US diplomats’ stated goal of a “viable and contiguous” Palestinian state.

Another red line is Ma’ale Adumim. Despite the significant concessions in East Jerusalem – which Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said amounted to “the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history” – the Palestinians see Ma’ale Adumim as a wedge between East Jerusalem and the West Bank. For them, the settlement is another barrier to a contiguous land base on which to build their state. For Israelis, Ma’ale Adumim, founded with the support of then defence minister Shimon Peres in 1975 and now a “city” of more than 34,000 settlers, is untouchable.
In theory, the self-described “honest broker,” the US, could have tried to bridge the differences. But that is not what Condoleezza Rice, the then US secretary of state, had in mind when she leaned on the weak Palestinian delegation in a July 2008 meeting in Jerusalem:
“I don’t think that any Israeli leader is going to cede Ma’ale Adumim,” she told Qurei.
“Or any Palestinian leader,” Qurei replied.
“Then you won’t have a state!” Rice declared.

On the wrong side of history
The US has long been hypersensitive to Israeli domestic political considerations while ignoring those of the Palestinians and the broader Arab and Muslim worlds. In 2000, Yasser Arafat turned down Israel’s “generous offer,” refusing to agree to a “sovereign presidential compound” in the Old City – essentially, a golden cage near the Muslim holy sites. Arafat understood that neither Palestinians nor Muslims worldwide would agree to such limited Palestinian sovereignty over the Haram Al Sharif, considered the third holiest site in Islam. “If anyone imagines that I might sign away Jerusalem, he is mistaken,” Arafat told Bill Clinton, the then US president, at Camp David. “You have lost many chances,” Clinton responded. “You won’t have a Palestinian state …. You will be alone in the region.”
The US’ tone-deaf approach to Palestinian realities is a central reason for the failure of the “peace process”. Rice suggested in a June 2008 meeting that one way to help solve the entrenched and emotional issue of right of return would be to ship refugees to South America. Barack Obama’s team has not fared much better. In 2009, the US pressured the Palestinians to stall the release of the UN’s Goldstone Report calling for an investigation into Israeli war crimes in Gaza. This was precisely the opposite of what the Palestinian public fervently wanted. The US carrot: More favourable negotiating terms for the Palestinian Authority (PA).
But the US, so accustomed to dealing with Arab strongmen like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, seems to have forgotten that the weak Palestinian negotiators were in no position to ignore, much less dictate to, their people. Any peace deal would have been put to a referendum among politically-aware Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A deal as unfavourable as that the US and Israel promoted in 2008 would have been far from a sure thing. Olmert recalls telling Abbas: “Take the pen and sign now. You’ll never get an offer that is more fair or more just.” But it was the Israelis, and the US, who missed their chance.
In the days just before Egyptians liberated themselves, Obama tried to shore up some of the US credibility squandered since his 2009 Cairo speech by supporting the calls for democracy. But for many Palestinians, US or PA credibility is no longer relevant. In the West Bank, people regard US pronouncements with sharply declining interest. And it was the PA, in the midst of the euphoric struggle of its neighbours, that placed itself firmly on the wrong side of history by banning demonstrations in solidarity with the Egyptian and Tunisian people. “The policy,” said a PA security spokesman “is non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab or foreign countries.”
You could not find a more apt symbol of a corroded and irrelevant Palestinian regime, shockingly out of touch with its people and the jubilation in Tahrir Square, and structurally unable to seize the moment. Now, with the PA’s negotiations team in disarray, it is hard to imagine Palestinians in the West Bank again putting their trust in the “authority,” or in the wreckage of an Oslo process tied to a Middle Eastern order that no longer exists.
Even in their last-ditch attempts to forge a two-state deal, beleaguered Palestinian negotiators seemed aware that it was slipping away. “In light of these circumstances and these unrealistic propositions,” Qurei told Livni in frustration in April 2008, “I see that the only solution is a bi-national state where Muslims, Christians and Jews live together”.

Sandy Tolan is an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC, and the author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy


US doubling down on Mideast horses


People in Palestine will trust US stewardship once again if Obama applies consistent political standards to PA leaders.

Fadi Elsalameen Last Modified: 07 Feb 2011 14:11 GMT
A Palestinian man burns the US flag during a protest in support for Egyptian demonstrators in Ramallah [Reuters] 

A wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East is sending a clear message to those in power − and those who aspire to be in power − in the Arab world. Together with the release of several sets of leaked secret documents, they are making it clear that one should never bet on America’s horse.

“America’s horse” is the Arab leader who is backed by the United States and given a license to rule however he deems appropriate, as long as he doesn’t threaten Israel’s security or other American interests in the region. In return, he is allowed to abuse human rights and deny his people economic and political rights. With America’s sanction, and under the banner of fighting Islamic fundamentalism, he can crush any opposition that arises.

All through the 10 years I spent as a student in the US, I dreamed of returning to Palestine and contributing to a future Palestinian state. Coming from a modest background in Hebron and having had the privilege of an education at some of the best universities in America, I felt an obligation to help my people, always mindful that I had been more fortunate than friends and siblings who stayed behind.

Yet, from the moment I returned last September, I found a wall higher than the Israeli separation barrier blocking me from helping my Palestinian brothers and sisters. That wall was made up of America’s Palestinian horses: Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas.

The moment I began publicly raising objections to the police state being formed in the West Bank, and the fear instilled in people who might dare to criticize the government, Fayyad’s intelligence services started harassing me, to the point where I no longer felt safe in the West Bank. Even now that I have returned to the US, I still receive threatening phone calls for my criticism of Fayyad and Abbas. Several friends back home were arrested or called in for questioning by Palestinian intelligence officials over Facebook and Twitter activities that criticize Fayyad and Abbas.

Disheartening reforms

What you read in newspapers about Fayyad’s technocracy based on interviews with him does not match what exists on the ground. I am guilty of being one of those who wrongly praised Fayyad’s work. In his office, Fayyad offers a very compelling theoretical approach to state-building, but implementation on the ground couldn’t be farther from the principles of democracy, transparency, freedom and accountability. America’s horses, Fayyad and Abbas, I am sorry to say, have created an authoritarian police state that is actively suppressing people’s dissatisfaction with them.

Many before me have faced this same reality. In fact, what you see today in Palestine and in the Arab world in general is a reaction to the repressive policies of American horses against educated populations yearning for reform.

The Al Jazeera-Guardian Palestine Papers leak did not come about because two disgruntled former employees of the PA were encouraged by alleged CIA and MI6 operatives, as was asserted by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. On the contrary, it was the consequence of years of dissatisfaction among smart, able, Western-educated Palestinians who gave up lucrative salaries in the US to return to their homeland and become involved in the Palestinian peace process and in building the institutions of the future state.

But their hard work and opinions were completely ignored by the PA’s leadership. As a result, many of them stopped working for the PA and, inspired by WikiLeaks, felt compelled to reach out to networks like Al Jazeera to shed light on the serious leadership flaws Abbas and his aides suffer.

Leadership discredited

There will be more leaks and further undermining of what remains of the PA’s credibility until there is a serious change in the decision-making process, so that it is more inclusive and representative of the people.

The US and Western countries must reconsider their approach toward the regimes of the Middle East. It will no longer suffice for America’s horse to use the banner of moderation and Western values, and the need to fight Islamists, to crush all opposition. After all, everyone in the Arab world knows that this is not how America chooses its own leaders and treats its own political opposition.

This is a crucial moment for the US, which needs to think long and hard about its interests in the region, through the prism of the wants and needs of the Arab masses, not by gambling and hedging bets on this or that American horse. The more time the US and Israel waste by not supporting the young Arab voices calling for political reform, the less likely they will be to find an ally in these revolutionaries once they take over their own destiny.

The lesson to be learned is that America’s horse can’t win the race. Has President Obama learned this lesson? We will know by the way he handles Egypt − and Palestine − and by what message he sends to the Arab masses yearning for political freedom. Until then, all bets are off.

This article originally appeared in Haaretz.

Fadi Elsalameen is a fellow with the New America Foundation’s American Strategy Program. He is also director general of the Palestine Note and Diwan Palestine, internet newspapers in English and Arabic.

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


Topics in this article



Jordan protest turns violent


Anti-government protests become routine on Fridays in Jordan since popular uprisings swept Egypt and Tunisia.

Last Modified: 18 Feb 2011 23:11 GMT
Jordan’s king rules by decree and has the power to appoint and dismiss Cabinets and parliament if he chooses [AFP]

At least eight people have been injured in clashes that broke out in Jordan’s capital between government supporters and opponents at a protest calling for more freedom and lower food prices.

The protest was the seventh straight Friday that Jordanians took to the streets demanding constitutional reform and more say in decision-making.

Jordan’s king enjoys absolute powers, ruling by decree: He can appoint and dismiss cabinet and parliament whenever at anytime.

Amani Ghoul, a teacher and member of the movement that organised the protests insisted the protests will continue until their demands are met.

“We want a complete overhaul of the political system, including the constitution, the parliament dissolved and new free and fair elections held,” she said.

Pro-government supporters

At least 200 government supporters trailed the anti-government protesters, chanting: “Our blood and souls, we sacrifice for you Abu Hussein” – a reference to Jordan’s King Abdullah II before clashing with the opposition march.

Tareq Kmeil, a student at the protest, said: “They beat us with batons, pipes and hurl rocks at us. We tried to defend ourselves, to beat them back.”

He said at least eight people suffered fractures to the skull, arms or legs.

“Police didn’t do anything to protect us. They just stood on the side watching us getting beaten,” Kmeil said.

Police spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.

Some pro-government supporters denounced Al-Jazeera, blaming it for fomenting unrest across the Arab world.

“Al-Jazeera is behind every sickness,” read some of their signs.

Walid al-Khatib, a Bedouin Sheikh, joined at least 300 pro-government supporters in the western town of Theiban, saying he had to come out to profess his support for the king and country.

“I love King Abdullah and the stability of Jordan. I don’t want this to ever change,” he said.

But not everyone is upbeat about the government.

Akhram Ismail, 50, a government employee of 17 years who earns a meagre $140 per month, said his salary was not enough to feed his six children and wants to see changes to aid the poor.

Ismail vowed that Jordan would not see an end to the protests anytime soon.

“The government recently promised civil servants a pay raise of $28, while politicians play with millions,” he said.






Gaddafi’s turbulent US relations


Libya has become a key player despite decades-long image of political pariah.

Rob Reynolds Last Modified: 03 Sep 2009 10:30 GMT

Libya marks on September 1 the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought Gaddafi to power [AFP]


A weedy, overgrown backyard in Englewood, New Jersey seemed likely for a time last week to become the scene of the latest flashpoint in Libyan-US relations.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, is planning his first visit to the US since he seized power in a military coup 40 years ago. He is set to address the yearly UN General Assembly in September.

Now, wherever the long-time Libyan leader goes, he likes to take a little bit of Libya with him – in the form of a huge, air-conditioned Bedouin-style tent. He pitched his pavilion in the Kremlin during a visit to Moscow. In Rome, the tent sat prominently in a public park.

Gaddafi initially planned to set up camp in Manhattan’s Central Park, but Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, said no dice.  So a squadron of gardeners and construction workers descended on the dilapidated estate of Libya’s UN ambassador in lovely Englewood, a suburb of 30,000 people with a large Orthodox Jewish community.

You can guess what happened next. Protests were organised. Petitions were passed around. Lawsuits flew hither and yon.

Perhaps unexpectedly, Gaddafi backed down. There will be no tent party in Englewood, and the Colonel will stick to Manhattan on his visit.

Intense mutual enmity

In depth

 Profile: Abdel Basset al-Megrahi
 Libyans hail al-Megrahi return
 Bomber’s homecoming slammed
 Release prompts anger and relief
  Video: Al-Megrahi’s release sparks row
  Video: Al-Megrahi speaks out
  Video: Opinions divided over Lockerbie appeal
 Video: Lockerbie remembered
 Al-Megrahi statement in full


If only all of the disputes between Libya and the US had ended so peacefully. It has been a relationship marked almost from the very start by intense mutual enmity, and both countries have committed many acts of violence toward one another over the decades. 

Only in very recent years, in a remarkable turnaround, have Libya and the US learnt to live with one another.

Shortly after seizing power, Gaddafi expelled foreign military forces from his country, forcing the US to shut down its Wheelus Air Force Base.

The Libyan leader quickly became a dabbler and financier in all sorts of radicalism, giving money, training and safe havens to a diverse array of revolutionaries including hard-line Palestinian revolutionary groups like George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP) and the Abu Nidal faction.

Gaddafi provided support to Colombia’s M-19 guerrillas, armed Chilean leftist groups, the Irish Republican Army, and a variety of African armed movements.

He offered a seaside villa to Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian-born assassin of US Senator Robert Kennedy, should he ever be paroled from his life sentence in a California prison.

He infuriated Arab leaders ranging from Yassir Arafat to Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd, whom he once referred to as a pig.

‘Sponsor of terrorism’

In 1999, Libya handed over two agents to the Lockerbie bombing investigation [AFP] 

In 1979, an angry mob burned down the US Embassy in Tripoli. Soon thereafter the US severed diplomatic ties and designated Libya a “state sponsor of terrorism” and enforced economic sanctions on the African state. 

But within a few years, shooting and bombing replaced diplomatic slaps and name calling.

In 1981, two Libyan warplanes fired on US navy jets in the Gulf of Sidra, an area claimed as territorial waters by Libya. The Libyan planes were shot down.

The Libyan planes were shot down. Five years later, in a similar incident, the US claimed Libya targeted its aircraft patrolling the Gulf of Sidra. US naval forces sank two Libyan patrol boats and bombed a Libyan missile base.

In April 1986, a bomb exploded in the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin, killing three people including two US military personnel. Evidence of Libyan involvement was discovered and years later a Libyan diplomat was convicted of the killings.

Ronald Reagan, the then-US president, responded by ordering an air strike on Tripoli and Benghazi. One of the targets was Gaddafi’s residential compound. The Colonel escaped but his adopted 15-month-old daughter was killed.

Lockerbie bombing

Many conspiracy theories have been expounded about who was really responsible for the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988.

Some contend it was the work of a Palestinian faction, others point to Iran, saying it no coincidence that the Lockerbie explosion came five months after an Iran Air flight was shot down by the US warship Vincennes in the Gulf, killing 290.

The facts are, however, that in 1999 Libya handed over two intelligence agents who were tried in a special Scottish court, and in 2003 admitted a measure of responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people.

Whether Libya made a “false confession” in order to get out from under crippling sanctions, as some contend, may or may not be known some day. UN sanctions were lifted in 2003, although some unilateral US sanctions remained in place.

George Bush, the former US president, believed his invasion of Iraq served as a warning to Libya, forcing it to bring its behaviour back to within international norms.

In December 2003, Gaddafi announced Libya was scrapping its programme to build weapons of mass destruction.

A subsequent UN inspection team found no evidence Libya was working on nuclear arms. Back-channel negotiations between the US, UK and Libya had reportedly been underway since 2002.

In 2004, The US and Libya resumed diplomatic relations, and the US dropped sanctions. In 2006 the US removed Libya from its list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism’.

By 2008, Gaddafi had behaved himself so admirably in the eyes of the US that he was treated to a visit by Condoleezza Rice, the redoubtable US secretary of state .

The final touch came in July of this year when Gaddafi, swathed in multiple multicoloured patterned silk robes, shawls and an gold-embroidered red pillbox hat, shook hands with Barack Obama, the US president, at a multinational summit in Italy.

While Libya has reoriented its foreign policy and abandoned its overt support for radicals of all stripes, little has changed to make life freer and more democratic for the Libyan people.

The Gaddafi dynasty

The US has objected to Gaddafi, left, giving al-Megrahi, right, a hero’s welcome [AFP]  

Gaddafi rules with the help of an insidious and pervasive mukhabarat, or secret police, apparatus. 

Far from beginning to transition his country toward democratic institutions, the flamboyant Colonel has apparently taken his cue from Syria and North Korea in preparing for a dynastic succession that would put his son Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi in charge.

The rapturous ceremony afforded to the cancer-stricken Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi on his return to Tripoli after release from Scotland on “compassionate” grounds has somewhat spoilt the newly chummy relationship.

Video of the Libyan dictator hugging the convicted Lockerbie bomber did not go down well with the public, or with the US Congress. Obama called the scene “highly  objectionable”.

It does seem hypocritical of Obama and Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, to appear more upset about al-Megrahi’s welcome-home party than they are over the baffling decision by Scotland’s not-quite-ready-for-prime-time Scottish National Party government to set him free in the first place.

And new evidence has emerged, in the form of hitherto secret memorandums, that strongly suggests the UK government leaned on Edinburgh to release Megrahi in order to (surprise!) grease a lucrative oil deal with Tripoli.

The Englewood uproar can be seen as a metaphor for how the West now treats Gaddafi. Having lots of Libyan oil on the market certainly is nice, and Western oil companies love having another country to exploit.

To sanitise a pungent saying favoured by President Lyndon Johnson, it’s better to have Gaddafi inside the tent spitting out, than outside the tent spitting in.

But like the citizens of Englewood, the US certainly doesn’t want Gaddafi setting up his tent in its backyard.

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




Protesters retake Bahrain square


Anti-government protesters back in Pearl roundabout after troops and police withdraw from protest site in capital.

Last Modified: 19 Feb 2011 14:24 GMT
                           [WARNING: This video contains images that some viewers may find disturbing]Thousands of anti-government protesters have reoccupied their former stronghold in the capital, Manama, after troops and riot police retreated from the Pearl roundabout in the centre of the city.The cheering protesters carrying Bahraini flags, flowers and signs that said “Peaceful, peaceful” marched
to the square on Saturday. They chanted, “We are victorious”.Protesters kissed the ground in joy and took pictures of about 60 police vehicles leaving the area.Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the crown prince, had earlier in the day ordered the military to withdraw, saying that the police would now be responsible for enforcing order, the Bahrain News Agency reported.Soon after the crown prince’s directive, protesters had attempted to stream back to the roundabout, but were beaten back by the police. According to the Reuters news agency, about 80 protesters were taken to a hospital after being hit by rubber bullets or teargas.The protesters, however, were successful in the next attempt, when the riot police withdrew from the traffic circle as well.Symbolic centre

The Pearl roundabout, the symbolic centre of the protesters’ uprising, had been the scene of heavy-handed crackdown. Several demonstrators were killed and many injured as security forces cleared the area of protesters in a pre-dawn attack on Thursday morning.It was the scene of shootings again on Friday night when troops opened fire on protesters with live rounds.An Al Jazeera correspondent in Bahrain, who we cannot name for security reasons, said the reoccupation of the roundabout by the protesters left one to wonder what the violence during the previous days was all about. “It makes one ask what those deaths were for,” he said.

The withdrawal of the troops and police from the roundabout appeared to be concessions extended by the authorities to the protesters.

‘Time for dialogue’

The opposition, In rejecting a call from the crown prince for a dialogue, had earlier said the government must resign and the army should be withdrawn before any talks with the ruling family can begin.

Ibrahim Mattar, a member of the Wefaq bloc which quit parliament on Thursday, said his party did not believe there was a “serious will for dialogue because the military is in the streets”.

Sheikh Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain, had earlier asked the crown prince, to start a national dialogue “with all parties”.

The tiny kingdom has been in upheaval with the Shia majority taking to the streets in thousands against the Sunni rulers.
Meanwhile, the General Union of Bahraini Workers has called a strike from Sunday, according to a member of the workers union at national flag carrier Gulf Air.

Also on Saturday, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, called for the dialogue process to begin “without delay”. She also said that she was “deeply concerned” by reports of the use of violence by security forces, and called on all sides to show “restraint”.

Speaking on state television on Friday evening, the crown prince called for calm, saying it was “time for dialogue, not fighting”.
“The dialogue is always open and the reforms continue,” Sheikh Hamad al-Khalifa said on Bahrain TV.
“We need to call for self-restraint from all sides, the armed forces, security men and citizens,” he said. “I urge you, there should be calm. Now is time for calm.”

But protesters have so far shown little appetite to heed his calls, with anger sweeping the streets following the shootings by security forces.

US condemns violence

Barack Obama, the US president, discussed the situation with King Al Khalifa of Bahrain in a telephone calln on Friday, asking him to hold those responsible for the violence accountable.

He said in a statement that Bahrain must respect the “universal rights'” of its people and embrace “meaningful reform”.
“I am deeply concerned about reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen.

The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur,” he said.

“The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people.”

On Friday, thousands observed funerals for the four people killed in a pre-dawn raid on a protest encampment at Manama’s Pearl roundabout a day earlier.
Riot police had used clubs, tear gas and bird-shot guns to break up the crowd of protesters. They also tore down their tents, and blockaded the roundabout with police vehicles and barbed wire. More than 200 were wounded in that raid.

At the funerals on Friday, many chanted slogans against Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifa family. They said that while they would earlier have settled for the prime minister being sacked, they were now demanding the fall of the entire ruling government, including the royal family.

Mourners told Al Jazeera that they were both grief-stricken and angry at the heavy-handedness of the police, and that they were demanding that the international community take notice of what they call the brutality of the security forces.
As Friday prayers commenced, Sheikh Issa Qassem, a prominent Bahraini Shia Muslim religious leader, delivering his sermon in a northwestern village, described Thursday’s violence as a “massacre”.

Our correspondent reported that Qassem said the government was attempting to create a “sectarian divide” between Sunnis and Shias. He advocated peaceful protests, saying “violence is the way of the government”, and that protesters should not espouse violent actions.

“Many of those who in the past came out [to protests] … are afraid. They’re frightened and they don’t want to turn up at a protest … because they are fearful for their lives,” our correspondent said, citing an incident on February 15 in Manama, when at least one person was killed when police fired on a funeral procession.

Also on Friday, Bahraini state television showed pictures of a pro-government rally, attended by hundreds of people, taking place in Manama, despite a ban on public gatherings.




Women of the revolution

Egyptian women describe the spirit of Tahrir and their hope that the equality they found there will live on.

Fatma Naib Last Modified: 19 Feb 2011 12:11 GMT

When 26-year-old Asmaa Mahfouz wrote on Facebook that she was going to Cairo’s Tahrir Square and urged all those who wanted to save the country to join her, the founding member of the April 6 Youth Movement was hoping to seize the moment as Tunisians showed that it was possible for a popular uprising to defeat a dictator.

Mahfouz later explained on Egyptian television that she and three others from the movement went to the square and began shouting: “Egyptians, four people set themselves on fire out of humiliation and poverty. Egyptians, four people set fire to themselves because they were afraid of the security agencies, not of the fire. Four people set fire to themselves in order to tell you to awaken. We are setting ourselves on fire so that you will take action. Four people set themselves on fire in order to say to the regime: Wake up. We are fed up.”

In a video she subsequently posted online , which quickly went viral, she declared: “As long as you say there is no hope, then there will be no hope, but if you go down and take a stance, then there will be hope.”

Egyptian women, just like men, took up the call to ‘hope’. Here they describe the spirit of Tahrir – the camaraderie and equality they experienced – and their hope that the model of democracy established there will be carried forward as Egyptians shape a new political and social landscape.

Mona Seif, 24, researcher
 I have never felt as at peace and as safe as I did during those days in Tahrir 

The daughter of a political activist who was imprisoned at the time of her birth and the sister of a blogger who was jailed by the Mubarak regime, Mona Seif says nothing could have prepared her for the scale and intensity of the protests.

“I didn’t think it was going to be a revolution. I thought if we could [mobilise] a couple of thousand people then that would be great.

I was angry about the corruption in the country, [about the death of] Khaled Said and the torture of those suspected but never convicted [of being behind] the Alexandria Coptic church [bombing].

I realised this was going to be bigger than we had anticipated when 20,000 people marched towards Tahrir Square on January 25. That is when we saw a shift; it was not about the minimum wage or emergency law anymore. It became much bigger than this, it turned into a protest against the regime, demanding that Mubarak step down and that parliament be dissolved.

On the night later dubbed ‘the battle of the camels’ when pro-Mubarak thugs attacked us, I was terrified. I thought they were going to shoot us all and get it over with. The turning point for me was when I saw the number of people ready to face death for their beliefs.

“The turning point for me was when I saw the number of people ready to die for their beliefs”Mona Seif

I was amazed by the peoples’ determination to keep this peaceful even when we were under deadly attacks. When we caught the pro-Mubarak thugs, the guys would protect them from being beaten and say: ‘Peaceful, peaceful, we are not going to beat anyone up’. That was when I started thinking: ‘No matter what happens we are not going to quit until Mubarak leaves’. The spirit of the people in Tahrir kept us going.

My friend and I had the role of ensuring that all of the videos and pictures from Tahrir were uploaded and as the internet connection was bad in Tahrir, we would use a friend’s nearby flat to make sure the images made it out so everyone could see what was happening in the square.

I have never felt as at peace and as safe as I did during those days in Tahrir. There was a sense of coexistence that overcame all of the problems that usually happen – whether religious or gender based.

Pre-January 25 whenever we would attend protests I would always be told by the men to go to the back to avoid getting injured and that used to anger me. But since January 25 people have begun to treat me as an equal. There was this unspoken admiration for one another in the square.

We went through many ups and downs together. It felt like it had become a different society – there was one Egypt inside Tahrir and another Egypt outside.

The moment Tahrir opened up, we saw a lot of people that were not there before and there were reports of females being harassed.

“There was one Egypt inside Tahrir and another Egypt outside”Mona Seif

I know that Egypt has changed and we will transfer the spirit of the square to the rest of the country. Before Tahrir if I was [harassed] I would refrain from asking people for help, because there are a lot of people that would disappoint you by blaming you. But I think the spirit of the revolution has empowered us to spread the feeling we established wider and wider. From now on, if anything happens to me, I am going to scream, I am going to ask people to help me and I know that I will find people that will help me.

I was in front of the TV building when the news broke about Mubarak stepping down. I found myself swept away with people screaming and cheering. It was an emotional moment that I celebrated with strangers. People were hugging me, shaking my hands, distributing sweets. At that moment we were all one.

I no longer feel alienated from society. I now walk the streets of Cairo and smile at strangers all the time. I have gained a sense of belonging with everyone on the streets of Cairo – at least for now. Before January 25 I was tempted to leave the country. This feeling has changed now, I want to stay here. This is an extension of our role in the revolution, we have to stay here and contribute to changing our society.”

Gigi Ibrahim, 24, political activist
In my experience women play a pivotal role in all protests and strikes 

Political activist Gigi Ibrahim played an instrumental role in spreading the word about the protests.

“I started [my political activism] by just talking to people [who were] involved [in the labour movement]. Then I became more active and the whole thing became addictive. I went to meetings and took part in protests. I learned very quickly that most of the strikes in the labour movement were started by women.
In my experience women play a pivotal role in all protests and strikes. Whenever violence erupts, the women would step up and fight the police, and they would be beaten just as much as the men.

I have seen it during the Khaled Said protests in June 2010 when many women were beaten and arrested. Muslim, Christian – all types of women protested.
My family always had problems with me taking part in protests. They prevented me from going for my safety because I am a girl. They were worried about the risks. I would have to lie about attending protests.
When the police violently cleared the square on January 25, I was shot in the back by a rubber bullet while trying to run away from the police as they tear gassed us. I returned to the square, as did many others, the following day and stayed there on and off for the next 18 days.
As things escalated my dad got increasingly worried. On January 28, my sister wanted to lock me in the house. They tried to stop me from leaving, but I was determined and I went out. I moved to my aunt’s place that is closer to Tahrir Square and I would go there every now and again to wash and rest before returning to the square.
At first my family was very worried, but as things escalated they started to understand and to be more supportive. My family is not politically active at all.

The day-to-day conditions were not easy. Most of us would use the bathroom inside the nearby mosque. Others would go to nearby flats where people kindly opened their homes for people to use.

“[When the pro-Mubarak thugs attacked us] we were unarmed, we had nothing. That night I felt fear but it changed into determination”Gigi Ibrahim

I was in Tahrir Square on February 2, when pro-Mubarak thugs attacked us with petrol bombs and rocks. That was the most horrific night. I was trapped in the middle of the square. The outskirts of the square were like a war zone. The more things escalated the more determined we became not to stop. Many people were injured and many died and that pushed us to go on and not give up.
I thought if those armed pro-Mubarak thugs came inside the square it would be the end of us. We were unarmed, we had nothing. That night I felt fear but it changed into determination.

The women played an important role that night. Because we were outnumbered, we had to secure all the exits in the square. The exits between each end of the square would take up to 10 minutes to reach, so the women would go and alert others about where the danger was coming from and make sure that the people who were battling swapped positions with others so that they could rest before going out into the battle again.

The women were also taking care of the wounded in makeshift clinics in the square. Some women were on the front line throwing rocks with the men. I was on the front line documenting the battle with my camera. It was like nothing that I have ever seen or experienced before.
During the 18 days neither I nor any of my friends were harassed. I slept in Tahrir with five men around me that I didn’t know and I was safe.

But that changed on the day Mubarak stepped down. The type of people who came then were not interested in the revolution. They were there to take pictures. They came for the carnival atmosphere and that was when things started to change. 

When the announcement came we all erupted in joy. I was screaming and crying. I hugged everyone around me. I went from being happy and crying to complete shock. It took a while for it to sink in.
The revolution is not over. All of our demands have not yet been met. We have to continue. This is where the real hard work begins, but it will take a different shape than staging sit-ins in the square. Rebuilding Egypt is going to be tough and we all have to take part in this. There are organised strikes demanding workers’ rights for better pay and conditions and those are the battles to be won now.”

Salma El Tarzi, 33, filmmaker
What kept us going was the conviction that we did not have any option – it was either freedom or go to jail

Having never been politically active, Salma El Tarzi was sceptical about the protesters’ chances of getting their demands met until the day when she stood on her balcony and saw the crowds. She decided to join the protesters and has not looked back since.

“I was protesting on my own on the 26th and 27th, but bumped into my younger brother in the crowd by chance on the 28th. We just carried on from then onward.

What kept us going was the conviction that we did not have any option – it was either stay and fight for freedom or go to jail.
My dad has been very supportive. He was getting to the point where he was telling me and my brother: “Don’t run away from gun fire, run towards it.”

While in Tahrir we were all receiving threatening calls telling us that if we didn’t vacate the square we would be hunted and killed. But we didn’t care at that point. We were at the point of no return.
Tahrir Square became our mini model of how democracy should be. Living there was not easy. We would use a nearby mosque and I would go to a friend’s house every now and then to wash. But I must admit that conditions were not ideal. It was very cold, we slept on the floor. Some of us had tents and some made their own tents. Let’s put it this way, due to the difficult conditions we called it the ‘smell of a revolution’.

“Something changed in the dynamic between men and women in Tahrir. When the men saw that women were fighting on the front line that changed their perception of us and we were all united. We were all Egyptians now”Salma El Tarzi

I was one of many women, young and old, there. We were as active as the men. Some acted as nurses and looked after the wounded during the battles; others were simply helping with distributing water. But there were a great number of women that were on the front line hurling stones at the police and pro-Mubarak thugs.

The duties in the square were divided. We were very organised. Something changed in the dynamic between men and women in Tahrir. When the men saw that women were fighting in the front line that changed their perception of us and we were all united. We were all Egyptians now.
The general view of women changed for many. Not a single case of sexual harassment happened during the protests up until the last day when Mubarak stepped down. That is a big change for Egypt.
The fear barrier was broken for all of us. When we took part in the protests it was just a protest for our basic human rights, but they [the regime] escalated it to a revolution. Their brutality and violence turned it into a revolution. What started as a day of rage turned into a revolution that later toppled the regime that had been in power for 30 years. They [the regime] empowered us through their violence; they made us hold on to the dream of freedom even more. We were all walking around with wounds, but we still kept going. We were even treating injured horses that they had used in their brutal attacks against us.
Before January 25 I didn’t have faith that my voice could be heard. I didn’t feel like I was in control of my future. The metaphor used by Mubarak that he was our father and we were his children made us feel as though we lacked any motivation.

The revolution woke us up – a collective consciousness has been awoken.”

You can follow @FatmaNaib on Twitter


Bahrain, Libya and Yemen try to crush protests with violence

Reports of dozens killed by Gaddafi’s security forces, while Bahrain troops leave scores woundedIan Black, Middle East editor, and Martin Chulov in Manama

  • guardian.co.uk, Friday 18 February 2011 19.37 GMT
  • Article history

    Protesters in Tobruk seen knocking over statue of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s Green Book in footage posted on YouTube Link to this video

    Violence in Libya and Bahrain has claimed scores of lives and left many more injured as the two Arab countries were united by popular protests that continue to shake the status quo and sound alarm bells across the region and the world.

    A week after Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, was forced to stand down, dozens of Libyans were reported killed by Muammar Gaddafi’s security forces. Meanwhile, Bahraini troops shot dead at least one protester and wounded 50 others after mourners buried four people who were killed on Thursday in the worst mass unrest the western-backed Gulf state has ever seen.

    “We don’t care if they kill 5,000 of us,” a protester screamed inside Salmaniya hospital, which has become a staging point for Bahrain’s raging youth. “The regime must fall and we will make sure it does.”

    Last night footage was posted on YouTube apparently showing Bahraini security forces shooting protesters.

    Western nations have been struggling to adjust their policies in response to the security crackdowns in Arab countries.

    But Britain announced that it was revoking 44 licences for the export of arms to Bahrain amid concern over the violent suppression of protests in the Gulf state. The Foreign Office also said that eight arms export licences to Libya had been withdrawn, while a review of arms exports to the wider region continues.

    Bahrain’s crown prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa went on television to promise a national dialogue once calm has returned. But the country’s most senior Shia cleric, Sheikh Issa Qassem, condemned attacks on protesters as a “massacre” and said the government had shut the door to such dialogue.

    While the unrest in Bahrain was broadcast instantly around the world, the unprecedented bloodshed in the remote towns of eastern Libya was far harder for global media to cover.

    Amid an official news blackout in Libya, there were opposition claims of 60 dead as diplomats reported the use of heavy weapons in Benghazi, the country’s second city, and “a rapidly deteriorating situation” in the latest – and the most repressive – Arab country to be hit by serious unrest.

    Libyans said a “massacre” had been perpetrated in Benghazi, al-Bayda and elsewhere in the region. Crowds in the port city of Tobruk were shown destroying a statue of Gaddafi’s Green Book and chanting, “We want the regime to fall,” echoing the slogan of the uprising in Egypt.

    Umm Muhammad, a political activist in Benghazi, told the Guardian that 38 people had died in the city. “They [security forces] were using live fire here, not just teargas. This is a bloody massacre – in Benghazi, in al-Bayda, all over Libya. They are releasing prisoners from the jails to attack the demonstrators.” Benghazi’s al-Jala hospital was appealing for emergency blood supplies to help treat the injured.

    News and rumours spread rapidly via social media websites including Twitter and Facebook, but information remained fragmentary and difficult to confirm.

    In Yemen at least five people were reported killed when security forces and anti-government protesters clashed for a seventh consecutive day in the capital, Sana’a, Aden and other cities, with crowds demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year rule.

    Barack Obama said he was “deeply concerned” about the reports of violence from Bahrain, a close ally and the base of the US fifth fleet, as well as those from Libya and Yemen, and he urged their rulers to show restraint with protesters.

    Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, also condemned the killings of protesters in Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. “The Middle East and North Africa region is boiling with anger,” he said. “At the root of this anger is decades of neglect of people’s aspirations to realise not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights.”

    In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the influential Egyptian cleric Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi said the Arab world had changed and said Egypt’s new military leaders should listen to their people “to liberate  us from the government that Mubarak formed”.

    It has also emerged that the Ministry of Defence has helped train more than 100 Bahraini army officers in the past five years at Sandhurst and other top UK colleges.

    Een helder verhaal van Bertus Hendriks en Roel Meijer over de ook in Nederland veel besproken Moslimbroederschap (http://religionresearch.org/martijn/2011/02/19/utopische-moslimbroeders-zijn-realisten-geworden/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+religionresearch%2FuWnN+%28C+L+O+S+E+R%29):

    Utopische Moslimbroeders zijn realisten geworden

    19 February 2011 9 views No Comment

    Guest Authors: Bertus Hendriks & Roel Meijer

    Het is bijna onmogelijk een nuchter debat te voeren over de politieke islam, waarvan de Moslimbroederschap de belichaming vormt. Een voorbeeld is het artikel van Hala Naoum Nehme over de rol van de Moslimbroederschap in de omwenteling in Egypte (Opinie & Debat, 14 februari). Eens een dief, altijd een dief, zo zou je haar analyse kunnen samenvatten.

    De Moslimbroederschap heeft in het verleden inderdaad een revolutionair islamitisch programma uitgedragen. Dit heeft overigens in Egypte nooit tot enig resultaat geleid. Toen de Broederschap in 1954 door de toenmalige Egyptische president Nasser beschuldigd werd van een poging tot staatsgreep, volgde een genadeloze repressie die veel heeft bijgedragen aan de radicalisering van de Broederschap en haar toenmalige chef-ideoloog Sayyid Qutb. Deze is een belangrijke inspiratiebron geworden voor de extreme en gewelddadige jihadstrijders van Gama’at Islamiyya, Jihad Islamiyya en de Al-Qaida variëteit.

    Afstand genomen

    Maar sindsdien heeft de Broederschap onder Hassan al-Hudeibi, de opvolger van oprichter Hassan al- Banna, nadrukkelijk afstand genomen van de gewelddadige opvattingen van Sayyid Qutb. En is de Broederschap begonnen aan een ‘lange mars door de instituties’ die karakter en opstelling van de Broederschap ingrijpend heeft veranderd.

    De afgelopen dertig jaar heeft de Moslimbroederschap geleerd dat politiek bedrijven gepaard gaat met het sluiten van compromissen. Dat bleek niet alleen uit haar deelname aan de verkiezingen van 1984, 1987 en 2005, maar vooral uit de manier waarop de beweging opereerde in beroepsorganisaties als de Journalistenbond, de Artsenbond, de Orde van Advocaten en andere standsorganisaties. Daar heeft ze door haar pragmatische opstelling veel invloed verworven. Ook de wijze waarop de 88 in 2005 gekozen parlementariërs van de Broederschap hebben geopereerd bevestigt dit proces van geleidelijke hervorming. Dat ging niet zonder slag of stoot. Radicale facties hebben zich verbitterd afgescheiden, terwijl vooral jongere kaderleden voor wie de modernisering niet snel genoeg ging, zich afscheidden. Die richtten de Wasat-partij op, door Mubarak eveneens illegaal verklaard. Maar ook onder hen die de Broederschap trouw bleven, woedden discussies; tussen de oude garde en de generatie van mensen als Issam al-Ariaan die nu prominent naar voren treedt, en vervolgens ook tussen die generatie en de nog veel jongere Broederbloggers.


    De hervormingstrend en de obstakels daarbij komen ook tot uitdrukking in de heftige discussies rond een ontwerpbeginselprogramma waarin de Broederschap nadrukkelijk ingaat op economische en sociale kwesties en niet alleen de slogan ‘islam is de oplossing’ bezigt. Met deze verschuiving van utopisme naar praktische politiek en belangenbehartiging is het idee van een islamitische staat geleidelijk achter de horizon verdwenen.

    Zelfs de invoering van de sharia is op de achtergrond geraakt. Dat was ook niet zo’n issue omdat de Moslimbroederschap zich makkelijk kon vinden in het door Sadat ingevoerde grondwetsartikel dat de sharia de voornaamste bron van wetgeving is. Dit illustreert nog eens de stelling van Olivier Roy, dat de regimes die hun dictatoriale optreden rechtvaardigen met de noodzaak de Moslimbroederschap tegen te houden, de secularisatie allerminst hebben bevorderd. Om het gras voor de voeten van de Broeders weg te maaien, werd de islamisering door het regime juist bevorderd. Daar kunnen de Kopten over meepraten.

    18 karaats-democraten

    Betekent dit dat de Moslimbroeders nu 18 karaats-democraten geworden zijn? Natuurlijk niet, en dat soort romantische illusies koesteren wij ook niet. Zo huldigt de Broederschap zeer problematische standpunten op het terrein van gelijke rechten voor vrouwen en niet-islamitische minderheden. De meningen zijn intern sterk verdeeld. Terwijl de meest liberale vertegenwoordigers bereid zijn een vrouw of een koptische christen als president te accepteren, is dit voor de oude garde nog een brug te ver.

    Niet minder tekenend is de strijd om de voorrang tussen de twee principes van de beweging, namelijk de soevereiniteit van het volk en de sharia. Bepaalt de democratische wil van het volk de wet of moeten alle wetten uiteindelijk toch getoetst worden aan de sharia door een raad van geestelijken? De discussie daarover zal snel beslecht moeten worden nu de Broederschap besloten heeft met een eigen politiek partij aan de verkiezingen deel te nemen. Dat dwingt op deze en andere heikele punten met een concreet en duidelijk standpunt te komen.


    Al deze ontwikkelingen afdoen als met twee monden spreken van een wolf in schaapskleren is een versleten, maar ook niet te weerleggen argument. Harde taal bewijst immers het extremistische en fundamenteel ondemocratische karakter van de beweging, concrete en zichtbare hervormingen bewijzen alleen maar de geheime agenda van de beweging om de wereld zand in de ogen te strooien. In dit gesloten wereldbeeld heb je altijd gelijk. Maar steeds meer beleidsmakers, van het Arab Reform Project van de Carnegie Foundation tot de CIA, zijn ervan overtuigd dat het toekomstscenario van de Moslimbroederschap het Turkse model is en niet het Iraanse.

    Het is belangrijk dat de Broederschap kan meedoen aan eerlijke en vrije verkiezingen waar ze de concurrentie moet aangaan met geloofwaardige, seculiere partijen, voor wie niet ‘islam’ maar ‘Tunesië’ de oplossing is. Die moeten dan wel de tijd krijgen zich te organiseren, dus geen overhaaste verkiezingen waarbij de Broederschap met zijn goed gewortelde netwerk een onevenredige voorsprong geniet.

    Er is na de ‘revolutie van de jeugd’ die de Broederschap evenzeer heeft overvallen als het regime, voldoende reden de uitslag van die verkiezingsstrijd met het nodige vertrouwen tegemoet te zien.

    Bertus Hendriks en Roel Meijer zijn beiden verbonden aan Clingendael. Roel Meijer is eveneens verbonden aan de afdeling Islam & Arabisch van de Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen en redacteur (met Edwin Bakker) van de bundel The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe: Burdens of the Past, Challenges of the Future (2011).



    The revolution is not over

    Adam Shatz 11 February 2011


    The demonstrations that have rocked Egypt for the last 18 days have turned into a nation-wide street party, and it is impossible not to be moved by the scenes of Egyptians celebrating their victory. The dictator who ruled Egypt for the last 30 years has been forced from office by non-violent, civil disobedience on a scale not seen since the 1979 revolution in Iran. And the principal agent of transformation – until today, when Mubarak stood down and the army took over – has been the Arab citizen, a striking change in a region where the romanticised figure of ‘resistance’ has been the soldier, the guerilla and, at times, the suicide bomber. At the White House press conference today, Obama and his press officer Robert Gibbs insisted that Egypt’s revolution was really just about Egypt, but they knew better: Washington’s policy during the crisis had been driven by fear of regional instability, and by the fears whispered into the administration’s ears by Israel and the Saudis, and shifted only when Mubarak became a clear liability to American interests.The success of the Egyptian revolutionary model will be studied closely, and its lessons applied. The realisation of the Egyptian dream is the nightmare of Arab despots, and of Binyamin Netanyahu.

    But the revolution in Egypt is not over: in fact, it has only begun. Mubarak’s removal from power was only the first objective of Egypt’s demonstrators. It was not just Mubarak but the regime that they want to dislodge, and to replace with a democratic government based on the rule of law. One of the pillars of the regime is the institution that is now improbably cast as the national saviour: the army. The army is respected, even admired by most Egyptians for its role in defending the country’s borders, and for its success in the 1973 war. It has always kept – officially – a discreet distance from the day-to-day running of the country, but it has also acquired a deep investment in the status quo, particularly in the country’s economy: the army is involved in the production of everything from washing machines and heaters to clothing and pharmaceuticals, and is estimated to own about a third of the country’s assets. Nor does it have much incentive to make any changes in foreign policy that might affect the terms of US aid: $1.3 billion per year.

    One of the least convincing slogans in Tahrir Square has been ‘the people and the army, standing together’. One can hardly blame the protesters for expressing this hope: it was, arguably, a necessary fiction, without which millions of people would not have dared to turn out to call for Mubarak to stand down. The army played its cards well. Under strong pressure from Robert Gates, it did not fire on demonstrators, and, after Mubarak’s non-resignation speech yesterday – a fantastic tribute to the powers of self-deception – it finally decided to wash its hands of him. But the army did not join the movement, either: a critical phase in classical revolutions. And the communiqués issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt have been ambiguous at best, full of vague promises and calls for people to return home. Certainly they indicate no conversion to the principle of civilian rule. The supreme council, now at the helm of power, was chosen and shaped by Mubarak; its chairman is the defence minister, Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, described in a 2008 WikiLeaks cables as ‘aged and change-resistant’. It is not a description that inspires confidence.

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