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One Billion Rising – Break the Chain

And now for inspiring… One Billion Rising is making Valentine’s Day meaningful with these actions to empower women against domestic violence. Ahhooo.

Former Israeli official: Demand for recognition as Jewish state ‘nonsense’

From

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan has dismissed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand for Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, calling it “nonsense”.

Dagan stated that ‘If we look at the UN resolution on [partition and] the establishment of the state of Israel in 1947, it clearly says that Israel is a Jewish state. So, now we are demanding such recognition from the Palestinian state? We seek recognition of the character of our country from a country that does not even exist?’

According to the Israeli news website Walla!, Dagan said during a closed lecture in Tel-Aviv that “asking the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state is nonsense.”

Dagan noted that: “If we look at the UN resolution on [partition and] the establishment of the state of Israel in 1947, it clearly says that Israel is a Jewish state.”

He continued: “So, now we are demanding such recognition from the Palestinian state? We seek recognition of the character of our country from a country that does not even exist?”

Instead of calling for this recognition, Dagan pointed out that it would be better for Israel to refuse the right of return for Palestinian refugees and insist that they receive citizenship in the states where they are living now, from Lebanon to the Gulf countries. Unlike recognition, he argued, the Palestinian refugees pose a real danger to the Jewish state.

Regarding Jerusalem, Dagan noted that it is not a Palestinian issue, but an Islamic one. Thus, he argued that Israel has “to include Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Morocco in any talks” about the fate of the holy city, because “if Israel reaches a deal with these countries about Jerusalem, Abu-Mazen will be able to take difficult decisions about it,” referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Dagan also warned that Israel needs an agreement with the Palestinians not for the interests of Palestinians, “but for Israel’s interests.”

South African Parliamentary Conference backs boycott of Israel

From

Monday, 10 February 2014

South Africa’s Parliamentary Portfolio Committee held a “Solidarity Conference in Support of the Peoples of Palestine, Western Sahara and Cuba” on Thursday, 6th February. The session was opened by an icon of the anti-apartheid struggle, Ahmed Kathrada. He was followed to the podium by South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations, Marius Fransman; the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations, Mr Tisetso Magama, MP; and the Ambassadors of Cuba, Palestine and Western Sahara.

The Palestine solidarity human rights organisation, BDS South Africa, welcomed the resolutions and recommendations of the conference. In particular, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign group was pleased to see the recommendation to forward the 2009 Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) report, which found Israel guilty of Apartheid, to international bodies including the International Parliamentary Union, the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the African Union.

The parliamentary conference was attended by MPs as well as a wide range of civil society organisations including representatives from South Africa’s largest trade union, COSATU; the South African Communist Party (SACP); the African National Congress (ANC); the African National Congress Youth League (ANC Youth League); the Congress of the People (COPE); the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF); the Coalition for a Free Palestine (CFP); the Friends of Cuba Society (FOCUS); the Western Sahara Solidarity Forum; Kairos Southern Africa; the Media Review Network (MRN); African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP); BDS South Africa and some members of the South African Jewish community who identify with the struggles of Palestine, Cuba and Western Sahara.

“The solidarity conference is a first of its kind in parliament,” explained Mr Magama. “It is a culmination of extensive work carried out… in response to the call by President Zuma in his successive State of the Nation addresses since 2010, with a message that solidarity should feature as a strong element of South Africa’s internationalism… The primary focus of the conference is to make the people of South Africa aware of the common challenges facing the peoples of Cuba, Palestine and Western Sahara relating to the denial of human rights.”

The full list of recommendations and resolutions adopted by the Parliamentary conference on the issue of Palestine follows below.

SOUTH AFRICAN PARLIAMENT’S INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS CONFERENCE

RESOLUTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ON PALESTINE

06 February 2014

1. South Africa has a legal obligation under the Rome Statute to set up a special court to deal with war crimes, this needs to be urgently setup. South Africa must expeditiously deal with the “Gaza Docket” and deal with South Africans serving in the Israeli Defence Force;

2. The 2009 Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) report that found Israel guilty of Apartheid should be adopted by South Africa’s Parliament and by the South African government. The HSRC report must also be referred to international bodies including the International Parliamentary Union, the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the African Union.

3. South Africa has a legal obligation and must stop all financial transactions with Israeli settlement companies as well as banks and companies involved in the Israeli settlements. This would be in line with developments in Europe and other countries.

4. On the global arena South Africa must lobby for the financial and other support of the Palestinians for socioeconomic development after the end of the illegal Israeli occupation.

5. The South African government must support Palestinian students, as a concrete act of solidarity, similar to how India, Cuba and other countries supported South Africa during the 1980s.

6. Entrance into South Africa for Palestinians must be made easier.

7. The Palestinian health system must be supported beyond people capacity. Infrastructure in Gaza, West Bank and refugee camps must be supported.

8. Conference supports the Robben Island Declaration for the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian Political prisoners.

9. Conference supports the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) issued by the majority of Palestinians. Complete military, financial and political sanctions must be applied against Israel until it complies with all applicable UN resolutions and international law and ends its occupation.

10. All South African political parties must clearly communicate their stance on the plight of the Palestinian people and make it timeously known in the build-up to 2014 elections.

11. Witness and solidarity visits to Palestine should be encouraged, for example, through the World Council of Churches EAPPI programme.

12. South Africa should build and strengthen an international diplomatic block in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

13. The South African government and parliament must campaign for Israel to be suspended from the SWIFT banking network.

14. Palestinian reconciliation efforts must be encouraged and supported.

15. Our government and parliament must table the above at the AU, UN and IPU.

International Women’s Day Delegation to Gaza 2014

Ed. note; While CODEPINK still does International Solidarity with a simplistic bring our dollars home approach, all publicity is good publicity on this front and a delegation to Gaza this March could as they say be very interesting.

END

A call for Delegates.

Answering a call from the women of Gaza, CODEPINK is forming a US delegation of 15 women who will join with a larger international women’s coalition traveling to Gaza for International Women’s Day 2014.

The purpose of the delegation is show solidarity with the women of Gaza, to bring attention to the unbearable suffering caused by the Israeli blockade, to educate people back in our home countries, to push for opening the Gaza borders and to bring solar lamps to help with the electricity shortage.

We will meet in Cairo on March 5. We will attempt to enter Gaza on March 6 and return from Gaza on March 12, 2014. Due to the political and security issues in Egypt, there are no guarantees that we will be able to get into Gaza. If we get to Gaza, we will spend our time meeting with women’s groups, human rights leaders, fisherfolk, farmers, UN representatives, youth activists and journalists. If we do not get into Gaza, we will make your time in Cairo very worthwhile.

Sushil Koirala set to become Nepal Prime Minister

From the Hindu

by Damakant Jayshi

Kathmandu, February 9, 2014

Reconciling their differences over power-sharing that was beginning to deepen the political impasse, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML signed a seven-point agreement on Sunday paving the way for Sushil Koirala as the new Prime Minister.

Soon after, NC President Koirala filed his nomination in the Parliament for Monday’s election and thanked the UML for its support. “The responsibility to draft a democratic Constitution is on the shoulders of the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML,” Mr. Koirala told media persons after filing his nomination.

“We will prepare the draft of the Constitution in six months and promulgate in a year.”

With this expression of support, Mr. Koirala is assured of getting elected unopposed. He would still need to enter the election process as per the Interim Constitution, since the election is being held under majority provision.

NC vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel is set to propose his name and the CPN-UML’s newly elected Parliamentary Party leader K.P. Oli would second the proposal.

As per the agreement between the two parties, there would be no election for the post of President and Vice-President for now, a demand that UML had insisted upon until the last moment.

The election for these two posts — and for the Prime Minister and Speaker of the House — would be held after the Constitution is made public (in a year) but before it comes into effect.

However, the NC agreed to the UML’s suggestion of having the President and the Vice-President endorsed by the Parliament. The parties agreed to amend the Interim Constitution incorporating this provision.

They also agreed to draft the Constitution according to the spirit of all the agreements reached in the past — right from the 12-point agreement reached in New Delhi in 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Interim Constitution and the mandate expressed by the people in the November election.

As a sop to Unified CPN (Maoist) and Madhesi parties, the deal says it would own the agreements reached by the last Constituent Assembly, a move likely to be challenged by the fourth largest party, the RPP (Nepal). The pro-monarchy party has opposed any adoption of pacts of the last CA, arguing that it would be a violation of the mandate of the recent election.

The NC also agreed to support the UML nominee as chairman of the Constituent Assembly (who will also function as Speaker of the Legislature-Parliament).

This point was added to an earlier draft agreement.

Within a week of government formation, the Cabinet would announce a common minimum programme and a code of conduct for cabinet members.

The deal was signed after the CPN-UML decided on Sunday to support an NC-led government.

The highest decision-making body of the CPN-UML, the standing committee, took the decision to support Mr. Koirala.

“The UML has decided to support an NC-led government,” CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal told mediapersons after the meeting of the party’s Standing Committee.

Keywords: Nepali Congress, Sushil Koirala, Nepal politics, Jhala Nath Khanal
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Six hundred Syrians flee besieged Old Homs in aid convoy

By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT Sun Feb 9, 2014 3:14pm EST

(Reuters) – Six hundred people left the besieged ruins of rebel-held central Homs on Sunday, escaping more than a year of hunger and deprivation caused by one of the most protracted blockades of Syria’s devastating conflict.

The evacuees, mainly women, children and old men, were brought out by the United Nations and Syrian Red Crescent on the third day of an operation during which the aid convoys came under fire and were briefly trapped themselves in the city.

siege ofHoms

Video footage from inside Homs showed scores of residents, carrying a few bags of possessions, rushing across an open expanse of no-man’s land towards 10 white vehicles with U.N. markings. Gunshots could be heard as they raced to the cars.

“The last vehicle has arrived and the total is 611 people,” Homs governor Talal Barazi told regional Arab broadcaster Al Mayadeen at a meeting point for evacuees outside the city.

The Red Crescent confirmed that around 600 people were evacuated and said 60 food parcels and more than a ton of flour were delivered to the Old City.

Barazi and Red Crescent officials said they were working to extend the operation beyond Sunday, the final day of a fragile and frequently violated three-day ceasefire in the city.

homs_map976x617_2.gif cachebuster=cb00000002 map clickable

Some of those who came out were men of fighting age who were not originally eligible to leave, Barazi said, but they had agreed to hand themselves over to police and judicial authorities and could win their freedom through amnesty.

Authorities suspect all men of fighting age to be part of rebel forces fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad’s authorities and rebel fighters have traded accusations of responsibility for attacks on Saturday which stranded the joint United Nations and Red Crescent team in central Old Homs for several hours after dark on Saturday.

The convoy was targeted as the relief workers were handing over food and medical supplies in the district where the United Nations says 2,500 people had been stranded by an ever-tightening military siege since the mid-2012.

The Red Crescent said one driver was lightly wounded but the rest of the team eventually left safely.

Video footage released by activists showed the team, led by U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Syria Yacoub el Hillo, taking refuge on Saturday in a basement while explosions rocked the rubble-strewn, devastated streets above them.

In another video filmed inside Homs on Saturday, Hillo said the aid supplies, including food parcels, medicines and hygiene kits, were just a drop in the ocean when set against the conditions endured by people trapped for months on end.

“When I look around me and see the level of need, and suffering of all – especially the children, the women and the elderly – let me say that even though it’s a significant amount of medical and nutritional aid, it’s still just a drop,” he said. “But let’s start with this drop.”

On Friday, the first of the planned three-day humanitarian operation in Homs, 83 women, children and elderly men were evacuated, significantly fewer than the 200 which the city governor had predicted.

Many showed signs of malnutrition, the United Nations said.

BARREL BOMBS IN ALEPPO

Syria’s conflict has killed 130,000 people, driven millions from their homes and devastated whole city districts – particularly in Homs, a centre of protest when the 2011 uprising against 40 years of Assad family rule first erupted.

The evacuation of civilians and delivery of aid was the first concrete, though modest, result of talks launched two weeks ago in Switzerland to try to end the civil war.

At the Geneva peace talks, which resume on Monday, international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi has been pushing for agreement on aid deliveries and prisoner releases, hoping progress on those issues could build momentum to address the far more contentious question of political transition.

The view from the Syria talks.

The view from the Syria talks.

Assad’s government has rejected out of hand any surrender of power in Geneva, and on the ground his forces have made gains while rival rebel forces battle each other in the north and east of the country.

If anything the scale of violence – including internecine rebel fighting, clashes with Assad’s forces and government bombardment – has escalated since the delegates held their first face-to-face meeting just over a fortnight ago.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad monitoring group, said that 304 people were killed across the country on Saturday, including more than 100 civilians.

And in a sign of deep skepticism towards peace talks shared by the opposing parties inside Syria, neither the authorities nor the activists in Homs credited the Geneva talks for the weekend evacuations and aid deliveries.

Homs governor Barazi said the operation had been planned months ago but had been hit by delays, while several Homs activists – angered by a second day of bombardment which killed five people – bitterly criticized the Geneva negotiations.

“Today we have five martyrs and yesterday we had five,” one activist said, pointing to a row of corpses being prepared for wrapping in burial shrouds. “Every day the world sees this regime’s crimes and it remains silent.”

On Sunday, activists reported at least 11 people were killed in the northern city of Aleppo when helicopters dropped barrel bombs on rebel-held neighborhoods.

Video footage purporting to show the aftermath of one such attack in the Haidariya district showed at least nine corpses, including one child, scattered across a wide highway, flooded by a broken water pipe.

Cars were still on fire and black smoke rose from the flames. Wounded men were carried into ambulances and one man could be seen carrying a severed leg from the scene, as women screamed in grief.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Karzai to Ratify anti-woman laws

President Karzai is about to ratify a law that would prevent relatives testifying against men accused of domestic violence.

A law that would permit Afghan men to hurt and rape female relatives.

by ManizhaNaderi

theguardian.com,

Thursday 6 February 2014

Gulnaz, 19, was raped by a cousin but found guilty of adultery and jailed for 12 years. Her daughter was born on the floor of her prison cell.

It is hard sometimes to describe the enormous efforts taken by the Afghan political elite and conservative lawmakers to roll back hard won progress on women’s rights in Afghanistan. Here we have yet another frightening example: a new law, passed by both houses of the Afghan parliament and waiting for President Hamid Karzai’s ratification, would prohibit the questioning of relatives of an accused perpetrator of a crime, effectively eliminating victim testimony in cases of domestic violence.

In article 26 of the proposed change in the criminal prosecution code, those prohibited from testifying would include: husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and descendants of those relatives up to the second generation. Doctors and psychiatrists would also be banned from giving evidence.

This proposed law is particularly troubling in a country where violence against women is endemic and, most commonly, is at the hands of a relative. In a 2008 study, Global Rights found that 87% of Afghan women will experience some form of violence in their lifetime; 62% experience multiple forms of violence, including forced marriage and sexual violence.

Women for Afghan Women (WAW) can attest to these findings. Over 90% of the nearly 10,000 women and girls we have served since 2007 have been victims of domestic violence. Our clients have been raped, sold, beaten, starved and mutilated – primarily at the hands of a family member, or in some cases, multiple family members.

Should Karzai sign this law into effect, justice for these women would be virtually impossible. Not only would they be barred from testifying against family members who committed crimes against them, any family member who witnessed the crime would be barred as well.

Under the proposals, WAW clients, such as 15-year-old Sahar Gul who was kept in a basement and tortured by her in-laws, would have been robbed, not only of justice, but of the opportunity to reclaim her power and testify against her tormentors. Furthermore, the doctors who treated her bloodied, malnourished, and burned body would also be barred from testifying. Sahar Gul’s in-laws are serving a five-year prison sentence for torturing her. Had the new measure been law in 2012, her in-laws would likely be free to torture and abuse more women.

Other clients, such as 16-year-old Naziba who was raped by her father, would be left with no other option but to live with the abuse. At Naziba’s rape trial, her mother and uncles courageously testified against her father, and he is now serving a 12-year prison sentence. If Naziba’s relatives had been barred from testifying on her behalf, Naziba’s father might still be raping her today.

The timing of this proposed change to the law is important: a recent report by UN Women found that reported cases of violence against women was up 28% in the past year. This finding is significant because it illustrates that Afghan women are beginning to understand their rights and demand access to them.

Since 2007, our organisation has worked hard to build coalitions with local police departments, government ministries and court officials. As a result of our advocacy, these agencies are referring more and more victims to our services, instead of sending them back home or imprisoning them for running away. In some provinces, such as Kabul, the police are our biggest ally – they refer more women than any other agency. This gives us hope, illustrating that there has been a shift in attitude and perception about violence against women, not only among Afghan women, but at an institutional level as well.

However, should Karzai ratify this law, I fear that women would stop coming forward because prosecutions would be nearly impossible to secure. As an organisation that has been working tirelessly to obtain justice for women and girls who have suffered so much and so needlessly, our hands would be tied. There would be little we could do.

We, along with other human rights activists, refuse to stand back and allow this to happen. The stakes are too high and the consequences too horrific to imagine.

Abolish Prisons?

Pussy Riot Disown Freed Bandmates in Open Letter

From

Six members of Russian punk rock activist group Pussy Riot have signed an open letter, published on their Livejournal page, insisting the recently released Maria Alyokhina (Masha) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Nadia) are no longer members of the Pussy Riot collective.

The authors of the letter claim the two had forgotten about the “aspirations and ideals of our group” because “they are being so carried away with the problems in Russian prisons.” The letter was published just after Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were introduced onstage by Madonna at an Amnesty International concert in New York.

“It is no secret that Masha and Nadia are no longer members of the group, and will no longer take part in radical actionism,” read the letter. “Now they are engaged in a new project, as institutionalised advocates of prisoners’ rights.”

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova started the non-governmental human rights group Zona Prava (Justice Zone) after being released from prison last year. According to the open letter the pair have repeatedly told the media that they no longer belong to Pussy Riot, but their statements have so far been ignored.

“In almost every interview they repeat that they have left the group,” said the letter. “However, headlines are still full of the group’s name, all their public appearances are declared as performances of Pussy Riot.”

“Thus ignoring the fact that, at the pulpit of Christ the Saviour Cathedral, there were not two but five women in balaclavas, and that the performance in Red Square had eight participants,” they continued referencing the staged performances that landed Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova in prison.

The statement, which also suggests that Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are refusing to communicate with them, also expressed frustration with the way the pair were presented the Amnesty concert. They took particular offence with the event’s poster which showed a man in a balaclava with an electric guitar, under the name Pussy Riot, “while the organisers smartly called for people to buy expensive tickets,” they explained.

“The mixing of the rebel feminist punk image with the image of institutionalised defenders of prisoners’ rights, is harmful for us as [a] collective, as well as it is harmful for the new role that Nadia and Masha have taken on,” continued the letter.

The six members elected to stay anonymous, signing the letter as Garadja, Fara, Shaiba, Cat, Seraphima and Schumacher. They wished their former bandmates luck for the future. “Yes, we lost two friends, two ideological fellow members, but the world has acquired two brave, interesting, controversial human rights defenders.”

“We appreciate their choice and sincerely wish them well in their new career,” they insisted. Adding, “since Nadia and Masha have chosen not to be with us, please, respect their choice. Remember, we are no longer Nadia and Masha. They are no longer Pussy Riot.”
END

Debbie Kilroy

Seemingly an honourable if not amicable divorce over at Pussy Riot. Coincidentally, I have just read ‘Kilroy Was Here’ by Kris Olsson. (Bantam 2005) A story very similar to Masha and Nadia’s of ex-prisoners becoming prison reformers. They could do well to look at this biography and learn how Sisters Inside evolved and flourished under Kilroy’s strong leadership. Especially between the women inside the prison who she promised not to leave behind.

The Kilroy’s had fallen victim to Queensland’s Premier Bjelke Petersen’s ‘war on drugs’. Debbie had married the famous Aboriginal rugby player Joe Kilroy and both were targeted by Qld.Police in an entrapment sting linked to heroin trafficking. Both doing prison time in the 1980s, Debbie has since become renowned as a prison reformer, being awarded the OAM and working with people such as Aboriginal historian Jackie Huggins; Angela Davis; (Davis wrote the Foreword) and Rubin Hurricane Carter in their quest for justice and rehabilitation in prisons in Queensland and internationally.

Shortly after her incarceration, Kilroy was to witness the death of her best mate in a prison stabbing that saw Kilroy herself injured. Now Kilroy’s life was really on a knife edge as she rejoined the prison group with her attackers inside. Revenge hard on her tracks. Compassion prevailed and with a twist …or two along the way. I really recommend this story of forgiveness and redemption and political smarts.

Why is the PKK siding with the AKP in the AKP-Gulen conflict?

On Feb. 2, the Turkish daily Vatan published an interview with Cemil Bayik, one of the leading “commanders” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The interviewer, Rusen Cakir, is a prominent Turkish journalist known for his expertise on the Kurdish issue, political Islam and the current political battle between the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gulen movement. No wonder Bayik addressed this hot topic in Turkish politics. At the PKK headquarters in northern Iraq’s Kandil Mountains, the guerrilla leader shared various views about Turkish politics, but the bottom line was the Vatan headline: “Behind the [Gulen] community, there is America; they want to get rid of Erdogan.”

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) may believe that the enemy of my friend is my enemy.

From

Author Mustafa Akyol Posted February 3, 2014

Translator Ezgi Akin

This was perfectly in line with the AKP government’s explanations of the recent corruption probe: a foreign-backed conspiracy — if not “coup attempt” — by the pro-Gulen “parallel state” within the Turkish state. Bayik’s statement was, in other words, music to AKP ears.

In fact, it was not just Bayik but also the very leader of the PKK, the jailed Abdullah Ocalan, who recently took a stance supportive of the AKP against Gulen followers. From his prison cell on Imrali Island, he spoke against “those who want to set our country ablaze once again with the fire of a coup.” This was interpreted in the Turkish media as support for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. No wonder AKP deputy Mehmet Metiner, an Erdogan loyalist, publicly commended Ocalan for his stance.

But why is the PKK — a terrorist group, by Turkish and most international definitions — sympathetic to the AKP in Turkey’s new power struggle? And why does this matter?

The first question has a simple answer: The PKK sees the AKP government, especially Erdogan, as its partner for “peace.” The organization has fought the Turkish state relentlessly since 1984 with a guerilla war that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, but the “political solution” that liberals have been advocating became possible only under Erdogan. In late 2012, a “resolution process” began based on covert talks between the Turkish government and Ocalan, and the conflict has been silent ever since. Both sides complain that the other is too timid to take the promised steps, but both sides seem willing to keep the peace as well.

On the other hand, the Gulen movement is known to be skeptical of this peace process. In fact, the AKP has accused the Gulen movement’s “parallel state” within the police and judiciary of trying to “sabotage the peace process.” The “Turkish National Intelligence Organization crisis” of February 2012 is interpreted as one of the earliest signs of this intention. Since then, it has been whispered in Ankara, and lately exposed in the press, that the Gulen community is against peace with the PKK.

One wonders why. The movement is globally known for moderation and pacifism, and Fethullah Gulen publicly praised “peace” when the deal with the PKK first went public. However, journalists close to the movement have repeatedly raised concerns about how the AKP government is “fooled” by the PKK. (I wrote in May 2013 for Al-Monitor that “the Gulen movement is not against the peace process, but is skeptical of its success and critical of its methods.”) Since then, such criticisms of the peace process have only increased in the pro-Gulen media.

These days, the pro-Erdogan camp, in its usual conspiratorial tone, explains the uneasiness of the Gulen movement with the peace process as a sign of its “high treason.” Accordingly, the peace process disturbs “the powers that want to weaken Turkey,” and since the Gulen movement is a puppet for those evil powers, they treacherously sabotage what is good for Turkey. However, using Occam’s razor, one can find a simpler explanation: The Gulen movement considers the PKK a threat, specifically to the movement’s facilities in predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey, including a wide network of schools, dormitories and charities. The PKK has targeted these institutions over the years, saying they “steal Kurdish children” from being PKK militants and make them followers of the pro-Turkish teachings of Gulen.

Gulen himself noted this tension recently in a rare interview, given to the BBC. Gulen said Ocalan was “uneasy with what we were doing with the Kurdish people” in reference to the extension of Hizmet schools deep in Kurdish territory. “They didn’t want our activities to prevent young people joining the militants in the mountains. Their politics is to keep enmity between Kurdish and Turkish people.”

This should explain why there is a conflict between the Gulen movement and the PKK, and why the latter supports the AKP, its “peace partner,” against the movement. How this will influence Turkish politics is a separate matter.

The PKK is loathed by the majority of Turkish society, so its support will not be of much help there for the government. Only the left-wing liberals who ardently support the peace process see it as a reason to stand by the AKP. However, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has 26 seats in parliament and some 6% to 8% of the votes, according to various polls. This political bloc may be an ally for Erdogan in the coming months, even in the presidential elections of next summer, where Erdogan, if he runs, will need the majority of all votes.

In short, the PKK has taken a clear side in the AKP-Gulen conflict in favor of the AKP, and this has an understandable logic. Instead of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic, it’s the other way around: “The enemy of my friend is my enemy.”

Mustafa Akyol
Columnist

Mustafa Akyol is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse and a columnist for Turkish Hurriyet Daily News and Star. His articles have also appeared in Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. He is the author of Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. On Twitter: @AkyolinEnglish

Original Al-Monitor Translations
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Does Netanyahu have plans for settler withdrawal?

The reactions of the settlers and their political associates to rumors that US Secretary of State John Kerry will manage to push forward the two-state solution are reminiscent of the symptoms a junkie experiences in the first stages of withdrawal. Even before the US proposal document could become official, the Yesha Council, the settlement umbrella organization, produced a film slamming Kerry. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon labeled him “messianic” and “obsessive,” whereas Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of an “irrational loss of values.”

The settler movement is anxious about the possibility of the Israeli government making a deal that would force them to leave.

Author Akiva Eldar Posted February 3, 2014

Translator Ruti Sinai

From

Although the current Israeli government is the most right wing in the state’s history, the settlers are restless. Even before the ministers conducted a preliminary discussion about a document that has yet to be born, the settlement organizations are buying giant ads in newspapers, reminding their representatives in the Knesset and government of their oath of allegiance to the Greater Land of Israel or to the annexation of the territories.

Local council heads in the Samaria region launched a “Samaria on the Bar” campaign, fanning out over pubs in the center of the country to treat the young patrons to alcoholic beverages produced in the settlements. Between nibbling and imbibing, the clients are also treated to generous portions of Zionism, tinged with a touch of occupation.

It is therefore no wonder that reports to the effect that the document of principles being formulated by Kerry includes a proposal to vacate distant settlements is driving the settlers crazy. For decades they were told that they were the “salt of the earth,” “new pioneers” and “harbingers of salvation.” Now, suddenly, they are being treated like enemies of the state, threatened with a cutoff of funding and being uprooted from their homes.

Western states that for many years had made do with lip service against the settlement enterprise began boycotting their products. Even though Israeli administrations — all of them, without exception — encouraged them to settle throughout “Judea and Samaria,” opened legal loophole after legal loophole for them and invited them to take anything they wanted.

Even late founder of the leftist Meretz Party Shulamit Aloni, the hero of human rights and of the left who passed away Jan. 24, participated in a 1995 compromise that enabled the establishment of the Olive Hill neighborhood in the settlement of Efrat. In an interview with Hani Kim in Haaretz on Jan. 6, 1995, the late Knesset member Hanan Porat of the National Religious Party, one of the settlement movement leaders, boasted, “The construction on Olive Hill, with the approval of the ministerial committee of which Shulamit Aloni is a member, is very good news.”

That very week, she scolded Knesset member Ahmad Tibi for “stirring up” the Palestinians about the expropriation of land in the vicinity of Ariel for the sole purpose of building by-pass roads. Once she found out that the parcels were intended for building a road to the small settlement of Psagot, Aloni said that if this was true, she would retract her words. It was not the only occasion that Aloni was misled by the settlers and their supporters in the government, and she acknowledged this with regret.

Zehava Gal-On, who was then-secretary-general of the Ratz Party and is now chair of the Meretz Party, said that she was “stunned” by Aloni, then a member of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s cabinet, who voted in favor of the construction of dozens of new houses in the settlement. Gal-On said, “If this were any other government, we would already be lying in the roads [in protest].” Her colleague at the time, Knesset member Avraham Poraz, claimed his party’s ministers were “humiliating themselves” by remaining in government.

During the term of the Rabin government, the construction in the West Bank of 9,850 housing units (launched during the previous administration’s term) was completed. At the time of the establishment of Rabin’s administration in 1992, before the Oslo Accord, the settlers numbered 100,500. In 1996, the year in which the Likud Party, headed by Netanyahu, returned to power, their numbers reached 141,500.

At a meeting with members of his Labor Party, Shimon Peres, then foreign minister, announced that he did not believe in any evacuation of settlements whatsoever, Kim wrote in the interview with Porat. During the seven years after the signing of the Oslo Accord until September 2000, when the second intifada broke out, the number of housing units in the territories grew by 54%. The sharpest increase — 4,800 housing projects — occurred in the year 2000, during the term of the Labor-Meretz government.

True, the settlers have enjoyed the bounty of the land for years, and their politicians are conducting a de-legitimization campaign against Israeli and Palestinian members of the peace camp. True, the settlers wish to impose their ideology and interests on an entire country, and they indulge the “price tag” criminals. But the responsibility for turning the settlers into lords of the land is, first and foremost, that of those governments and politicians who supplied them with more and more of the drug that addicts its users to the illusion that one can expand the settlement enterprise, deepen the occupation and at the same time conduct negotiations over the division of the land and maintain Israel’s international standing. The Babylonian Talmud has this to say about such cases: ”It is not the mouse which steals; it is the hole that steals.” (BT Gittin 45a) Meaning, the party guilty of the theft is the one who opened the hole in the wall, not the one who passes through it to eat the cheese.

The Israeli politicians who nurtured the settlements cannot shake off responsibility for the thousands of families who enjoyed the status of favorite sons. Neither are Western leaders, who did not set an appropriate consequence for ignoring the issue, entitled to shirk responsibility for the fate of the people who will be forced to pay the heaviest personal price for a diplomatic arrangement. Now, when the time has come to choose between an isolated Greater Land of Israel and a whole and accepted State of Israel, anyone who was complicit in the addiction process, directly or indirectly, must take part in the withdrawal process.

Experts from Retorno, an organization in Israel that treats drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, explained, “The addict is exposed to sensitive and dependent situations, and it is thus advisable that the withdrawal process be fully accompanied by professionals, by enveloping support and a continuous treatment process.” Retorno experts stress that the withdrawal process might be deeply-felt and gradual.

The complaint voiced recently by the mayor of Ma’ale Adumim, Benny Kasriel, to my colleague Mazal Mualem, that during the time of the Netanyahu government the pace of construction in his town was markedly slower than the wave of construction during the Rabin government — might indicate that this deep, slow and gradual process is already well-underway. “Absurdly,” as Kasriel said, maybe it should fall precisely on the leader of the Israeli right, Netanyahu, to lead the withdrawal process.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/settlers-lords-of-the-land-israeli-leadership-rabin-meretz.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129#ixzz2sOcCiegt

Egypt, Sudan rhetoric escalates over disputed region

Egypt, Sudan rhetoric escalates over disputed region

Author; Ayah Aman Posted February 3, 2014

Translator; Kamal Fayad

From

CAIRO — The Egyptian-Sudanese dispute concerning the sovereignty of the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle continues to be a source of constant tension in relations between the two countries. The escalatory rhetoric has risen between officials from both countries, without any real diplomatic solutions on the horizon for this issue, which has been on hold since the reign of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Sudan’s independence in 1956.

Egypt and Sudan have traded fiery statements over the disputed border region of the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle.

The debate between Egyptian and Sudanese officials was renewed this time around when Sudan’s Minister of State at the Presidency Al-Rashid Haroun announced on Jan. 6 that the Halayeb border region with Egypt was 100% Sudanese, and that discussions and understandings were possible with Cairo in this regard. Egypt, on the other hand, rejected this statement when its Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ambassador Badr Abdel Ati, issued a news release published by Egyptian media on Jan. 7, which read: “The Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle is part of Egyptian territory and subject to Egyptian sovereignty. Cairo will not accept any compromise solutions because its position is clearly defined.”

In this regard, a diplomatic source with close ties to the Egyptian government told Al-Monitor: “The relationship with Sudan is marred by many unresolved issues, particularly the dispute over the Halayeb Shalateen Triangle, which remains unsettled despite all international legal or official efforts. Add to that Khartoum’s espoused stances, which might be detrimental to Egyptian interests, such as its support for the building of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”

The source, who wished to remain anonymous, explained, “This is not the right time for Cairo to deal with the disagreement over the Halayeb area with Sudan. The country is living in a state of security alert, with army troops concentrating their efforts to secure Egyptian borders, particularly in Sinai and the western border with Libya. This is a result of the fears that elements might infiltrate the country to harm Egyptian national security. The present transitional period also does not allow entering into a regional engagement with another country. But there are policies that the Egyptian government has adopted to exploit the Halayeb area for the benefit of the Egyptian economy, and to achieve real development there.”

On Nov. 27, 2013, the Egyptian cabinet formed a special committee tasked with the implementation of an urgent plan to develop the Halayeb and Shalateen area, through investments totaling 764 million Egyptian pounds ($110 million). These investments were used to complete road and water networks as well as housing projects for the settlement of the regions inhabitants. This move reflected the government’s interest in this region, considered to be one of the most important tourist and investment destinations in Egypt.

“Egypt considers the Halayeb and Shalateen region to be rich in resources, and of special strategic importance politically and economically,” said Council of Ministers spokesman, Hani Salah, speaking to Al-Monitor.

Salah added that the cabinet was considering signing agreements permitting the exploitation of the region’s gold and manganese deposits, as well as activating the Shalateen Mining Co. through coordinated efforts between the Ministry of Petroleum and the armed forces.

Deposed President Mohammed Morsi’s administration faced overwhelming popular disapproval when Sudanese officials were quoted as saying that it had expressed willingness to negotiate on restoring the Halayeb and Shalateen region to Sudan, during a visit by Morsi to Khartoum in May 2013. However, the Egyptian presidency denied those statements at the time.

With the backdrop of Egypt asserting its claim on the Halayeb region, and its attempts to exploit the natural resources and riches there, Sudan’s ambassador to Egypt, Kamaluddin Hassan, spoke with Al-Monitor about his country’s position on this issue.

“We must recognize that an ongoing problem exists between Egypt and Sudan concerning the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle. In fact, a conflict exists as a result of Cairo and Khartoum’s insistence on their respective viewpoints in this regard. We hope that this conflict would soon be resolved in a brotherly fashion between the two countries. But I also hope that this issue not be raised again in Egyptian media because doing so has caused a lot of damage to Egyptian-Sudanese relations, and Sudan is of the opinion that our interests are greater than to be confined into one specific area,” said Hassan.

Similarly, Egypt’s ambassador to Sudan, Abdel Ghaffar al-Deeb told Al-Monitor: “The political leaderships of both countries had previously agreed that the Halayeb and Shalateen region be an integrated area used for economic development, especially after Sudanese President [Omar] Hassan al-Bashir announced that Sudan did not intend for Halayeb to be the source of disagreement and conflict with Cairo.”

Groups of political activists, headed by former member of parliament Ahmad Raslan, formed a popular delegation that went to Halayeb city, where it held a town hall meeting to assert Halayeb and Shalateen’s Egyptian identity, chanting the slogan “Halayeb is Egyptian.”

The Egyptian government also opened seven electoral stations in Halayeb and Shalateen cities during the constitutional referendum Jan. 14-15. According to official estimates, the majority of the region’s inhabitants voted in favor of the new Egyptian constitution.

The history of the conflict

The Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle lies on the African side of the Red Sea, encompassing 20,580 square kilometers (7,946 square miles). Its three largest cities are Halayeb, Abu Ramad and Shalateeen, with Egypt imposing its full security control over the region in 2000.

The conflict between Egypt and Sudan over the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle began in 1958, after Sudan gained its independence and decided to secede from Egypt. Subsequently, the Sudanese administration included the region in Sudan’s electoral districts. Friction endured between the two countries throughout the 1980s and 1990s, with the conflict primarily focusing on petroleum and gold resources. In addition, the Egyptian army made 39 raids inside Sudanese borders in 1995. The crisis emerged anew in 2010, when Sudan insisted that the region be considered part of its electoral districts.

Hani Raslan, an expert in Sudanese affairs at the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, spoke to Al-Monitor about this issue. “Sudan resorts to causing problems with Egypt every time it faces internal unification crises and every time it tries to prevent rifts from occurring inside the country. It would have been better if it had held on to larger and richer areas of land that became part of South Sudan when the latter seceded in 2010. Furthermore, the 1899 agreement states that the border line between Egypt and Sudan lies on the 22nd parallel north of the equator; yet Halayeb is located further north of that line,” said Raslan.

As of yet, neither Egypt nor Sudan announced the adoption of official measures to solve the ongoing conflict over the region. This comes at a time when the Egyptian government is fully exploiting the area’s resources and maintaining its security control over the region.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/egypt-sudan-halayeb-shalateen-border-region.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129#ixzz2sOa42NKC

Gul proposes Turkey-Iran cooperation in Syria

Gul proposes Turkey-Iran cooperation in Syria

In his official visit to Italy Jan. 28-31, President Abdullah Gul met twice with Turkish columnists covering his trip. His remarks provided opportunities to observe how deep his longtime political differences with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have become.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul is distancing himself from the political culture and foreign policy of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Author Kadri Gursel Posted February 3, 2014

Translator(s)Timur Goksel

From

As a columnist who took part in both meetings and asked questions of the president, my observation is this: Gul, who set up the Justice and Development Party (AKP) with Erdogan and who, until he became president, was the party’s second in command. He has plainly distanced himself from Erdogan’s wordview. It is not an exaggeration to say that the distance between them is becoming increasingly ideological.

We all know that the president, in contrast with the AKP government, defends Turkey’s EU perspectives, reforms, state of law and freedom of press. In the days following the dramatic intensification of the strife between the AKP and the Fetullah Gulen movement after the corruption investigations that directly targeted Erdogan’s family and close political associates, the divergence between the narratives of Gul and Erdogan was also reflected by their actions.

We have to remember the initiatives of the government to make legislative moves that would totally eliminate the independence of the judiciary were blocked, thanks to the firm stand of Gul, before the European Union stepped in.

As with many of the political developments in Turkey, it is also impossible to predict how the ideological divergence between Gul and Erdogan will affect the AKP. To make a reasonable guess, one has to wait for the outcome of the March 30 local elections. Only then we will be able to say what kind of role Gul is planning to fill in national politics and in the future of the AKP.

For the time being, let’s lay out how Gul has deviated from his old comrade Erdogan, especially in foreign policy.

The first issue is Syria. We can observe that the president of Turkey is more realistic and has a more rational approach as compared to that of Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and that he doesn’t ignore politics the way they do.

In his Jan. 30 talk with journalists in Rome, Gul suggested working with Iran on the issue of Syria, saying,

“Iran’s launching of a dialogue with the international community and the Western world and better prospects for solving problems through politics will make the world a more comfortable place. The beginning of a new era with Tehran may also enable engaging Iran on the Syrian issue. We spoke with Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani on how essential it is to work together on the Syrian issue and develop alternatives. We tasked our foreign ministers to work on this. There is another opportunity that could arise from joint efforts. If Turkey can be in close and sincere cooperation with Iran on Syria, we can come up with proposals to the international community, and the Western world can take our proposals seriously.”

The prerequisite for Gul’s proposal is the development of a Syrian policy along rational and secular lines instead of the ideological basis favored by Erdogan and Davutoglu.

Gul’s words were made even more interesting by their timing, coming a day after Erdogan told the journalists in his plane returning from Tehran that “there was no agreement with Iran on Syria.”

For Ankara to work together with Tehran, which today is in the opposite camp over Syria, it first has to take a reality check and accept that the Syrian regime is not going away in the foreseeable future.

Gul has done this reality check and demonstrates that, unlike Erdogan and Davutoglu, he can empathize with the actors in the opposite camp. He said, “In an interview I gave to Foreign Affairs two years ago, I had said that there are no other countries committed to the opposition as much as Iran and Russia are for Syria. I was talking about the West and about Turkey. For Iran, Syria is an existential issue; for us, it is a humanitarian issue. For Russia, it is an issue of warm seas, of having a single base. On the other side, some talk about how [the United States] will be the one to end the war with its known policies. Today, Damascus has the stronger hand. How did they get to Geneva?”

In terms of Turkey’s threat analysis, Gul’s opinions are distinctly more realistic and up to date than those of Erdogan and Davutolgu, the architects of Ankara’s crumbled Syrian policy. Asked about the Turkish army’s retaliation for a Jan. 30 mortar round fired by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the president said, “We don’t have any reason to be optimistic about when Syria will achieve salvation. If a strong transition government had emerged from Geneva, we would have had some hope, but it wasn’t to be. The second point is the threats and dangers for Turkey of the existing situation. In that environment of uncertainty, many groups emerged. It is not only a war between the regime and the opposition but also within the opposition. There are no targets. If these [battles] are taking place along our 900-kilometer [559-mile] border, you can’t know where they will spread to. Such situations create and provoke extremism, radicalism. You will not know where they will end.

“This is why there is a big difference between our threat perception of four or five years ago, and our threat perception of today. At that time, the biggest threat for us was the struggle against [Kurdistan Workers Party] terror. Today, we see diverse, numerous groups. We have to be much more careful now. I want to say that our southern border is more difficult. If the Turkish armed forces today refrain from getting involved, who knows, tomorrow you may have to deal with a much more formidable force.”

It is a known fact Erdogan is defining the corruption investigations as an international conspiracy to remove him from power. His government allies and supportive media back this discourse.

On the evening of Jan. 28, Gul was asked a question about the conspiracy theory. A journalist from the pro-government media asked, “Don’t you think that in recent days, the Western media is drawing a portrait of an unstable Turkey?” He gave this interesting reply: “You complain. You gripe and demand that they should treat our affairs positively. Because of its nature, the press is generally expected to be critical. … You have to look at this as an objective media analysis. … There may well be those abroad who intentionally want to paint a negative portrait of Turkey, but it is not correct to group them together with ‘They want to show us in negative light; they are campaigning against us.’ Let’s not forget that these are newspapers that used to print headlines about the ‘reformist government in Turkey.’ They used to lavishly praise our successes. That is why we have to be objective. At times, you come across articles that stand out as excessively negative and biased. Some, however, write critically when they observe the debates in Turkey. You should not put them all in same basket as enemies of Turkey. That would be a mistake. We will then see everyone as our enemy, which, of course, is not the case.”

There are four main points to Gul’s response:

Gul is not giving credit to the conspiracy allegations of Erdogan and his coterie.
He is accepting that the press has to be critical, and supporting the freedom of the press.
His suggestion that a press that only sees the positive sides of the government will cease to be “the press,” a strong admonishment of the pro-AKP media.
Gul reminds us that newspapers currently critical of Turkey once wrote favorably of it. This is an implicit criticism by Gul of the negative direction the AKP government has been taking in recent years.

The president referred to recent unfavorable changes in Turkey when responding to a question about preparations for an international campaign on the centennial of the Armenian genocide. He said, “2014 and 2015 will be crucial years. Turkey will confront many tough questions on international platforms. Three or four years ago, as a shining country with many friends, we were thinking that we could overcome these tough questions. To be honest, with the global situation, our problems that require attention and our domestic issues will make these international questions more difficult to handle. Our government is making some preparations. … We have to find ways to remind others of the importance of being friends with Turkey.”

These remarks by Gul contain criticism of how Turkey has become isolated and suffered soft-power losses globally and regionally because of the policies pursued by the Erdogan-Davutoglu team since 2010.

We have to emphasize that Gul’s observations and attitude have strong and favorable reflection in the AKP base and within the party structure, and that he is not alone.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/gul-proposed-iran-joint-effort-syria.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129##ixzz2sOXJXQe1

Journalists under threat in Egypt

Living dangerously in the ‘new’ Egypt

by Ruth Pollard

Feb 1 2014

It doesn’t take long for a crowd to turn on you on the streets of Egypt these days.

A finger pointed, an accusation levelled, and you are literally running for your life.

For months now I have been hesitant to even pull my notebook from my bag when I am reporting from the street, such is the animosity against, and suspicion of, foreign journalists.

But I am lucky – I can usually move through a crowd, observe the mood, chat to a few people and leave quickly before drawing too much attention.
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Not so photographers, whose cameras have become a magnet for angry crowds and security services who smash, grab and detain.

Two weeks ago I was a few blocks from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, interviewing stallholders and passers-by about the constitutional referendum due to begin the next day.

I had identified myself as an Australian newspaper journalist. As people began to speak, I took out my notebook.

A middle-aged man suddenly began paying close attention to my questions – simple inquiries about what people thought of the constitution, was it better than the last one they had voted in a little over a year ago?

“You are from TV?” he asked.

“No, a newspaper,” I replied, acutely alert to where the conversation was going.

“You are from Jazeera,” he shouted.

“No,” I insisted. “A newspaper – look,” I said, gesturing around me: “I have no camera crew.”

“You are a spy,” he yelled, as people crowded around us and began repeating his accusations as if they were facts. And again: “You are from Jazeera.”

The mood darkened. There was no possibility of negotiation, no hope of discussion. It was time to run.

I dashed through the all-but-stationary traffic, turned down a side street to avoid police gathered on one corner in case they grabbed me, and in a few short minutes I came to a roundabout where the cars were moving, flagged down a cab and went home.

It was an incident hardly worth mentioning. Unlike so many of my colleagues, I was not beaten by the crowd or detained by security forces.

It was just another day trying to report on the extraordinary wave of revolution and crackdown, fledgling democracy and repression that Egyptians are riding.

And it was another reporting exercise cut short by an angry crowd, encouraged by an interim government, backed by a powerful security establishment and fuelled by the country’s media which are loudly feeding a tide of xenophobia that threatens to spill over at the slightest provocation. Like taking out a notebook, or interviewing the other side of politics.

The threat of arrest is ever-present. The detention of our colleagues from al-Jazeera – Australian Peter Greste, dual Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, along with Egyptians Baher Mohamed, Abdullah al-Shami and Mohamed Bader – weighs heavily on our minds.

The media have always had a difficult relationship with the powerful in Egypt. Repression was rife during President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of Mohamed Mursi sought to quash criticism of his short-lived, dysfunctional administration.

But the targeting of journalists from al-Jazeera English over the network’s alleged pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance – a charge denied by al-Jazeera executives – has spilt over to encompass all foreign media. I will no longer answer “sahafia” – the feminine form of ”journalist” in Arabic – when I am asked what I do. Not since a taxi driver took a journalist straight to a police station after he revealed his profession.

Soon after the incident downtown I travelled with a photographer to Fayoum, two hours from Cairo, to report on the second day of voting in the constitutional referendum.

Groups of soldiers backed by local plain-clothes police armed with shotguns were in control of every polling booth. A judge oversaw the voting inside.

At many points during the day our every move – interviewing voters, taking photos or seeking a judge’s permission to enter the room – was filmed by a soldier on his mobile phone. Our local driver was also filmed, his identity now inextricably linked to the small crew of foreign journalists he takes with extreme care from point A to point B.

During an earlier visit to the site of a bomb blast in Cairo’s Nasr City, my colleague and I lasted just over seven minutes on the street observing and photographing the wreckage before police challenged our presence and it seemed the crowd could turn on us.

Only a month ago I worried that a quick visit to a protest or bomb blast site was not enough to do a decent reporting job. Now I wonder if I should go at all.

At least 12 journalists were detained and several were wounded as they tried to cover the third anniversary of the overthrow of Mubarak. Almost every journalist and photographer I know has been detained, and those of us who haven’t regularly run for cover, hiding in residential buildings, ducking into cafes, talking our way into the safety of a big hotel.

The threat of being detained, or a crowd turning on us, versus the need to cover the story, is a constant debate among those of us covering Egypt.

Every day we hope we have the right answer, because one wrong move can be devastating.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/living-dangerously-in-the-new-egypt-20140131-31sjk.html#ixzz2s0yJ0Zq2

Ed. note Australian journalist Peter Greste is detained, with 4 other al-Jazeera crew accused of spreading false news and having links to the Muslim Brotherhood. These are obviously false accusations by anti-democratic forces. I also note that this article didn’t comment on the recent ‘crowd rapes’ that have occurred to female protesters and journalists who become obvious to the crowd. I hope these people are returned safely to their family in the very near future. Just how many foreign journalists did Morsi lock up?

Thoughts on Ukrainian nationalism, Feb. 2014

by Patrick Muldowney

Over in Ukraine ‘Christmas gifts’ are being unwrapped and all sorts of stuff is coming out from under the shiny paper that everyone wraps things up in. Hard to tell the real value of the ‘gift’ even when out of the paper, but it’s virtually impossible while it’s still wrapped up in paper. What’s the value of a V8 ute to a 18yr old high school student compared to a 36yr old builder?

Christmas only comes once a year, but wise people acquire gifts all through the year and they are put away for that one special day. When the day approaches a tree is set aside and decorated in the current fashion. The hidden gifts are then wrapped up in that shiny paper and left under the tree for anyone to wonder about.

By Christmas Eve most of the gifts have arrived and the pile sits there overnight in unseen beauty. The mystery of the decorated packages is only solved in the frenzy of opening and sometimes not even then. ‘Have I got what I asked for?’ is the unspoken thought from the children.

The kids get to the task of unwrapping the gifts, even if a beloved grandmother that bought some of them during the year has been dead and buried for months. They unwrap what is there and then make of it as they will!

They may have received blank paper and paints. It may be a model; or a flag; or a history book written by somebody with an ‘interest in promoting human rights’; or even a book written by a person keen on free and fair elections for a proportionately representative parliament that are IMV the foundation of those human rights.  It maybe a Crucifix the old woman had thought a sacred object and when it’s unwrapped a discussion might start that leads all the young people into a more solid understanding that they just don’t share the old ideas.  On the other hand it might get put up on the mantle piece and everyone begin a fervent prayer just to get the old girl out of Purgatory.  Who knows what the naked apes of Ukraine are making of the 21st C.  What is evident is that they are divided over how the country ought to orient it’s form of capitalism.  I think the majority favor a western lean away from what many see as ‘the old foe’ and half of the remainder would want to get more distance between themselves and Putin types generally.

We all know from experience that just as people change so do the organisations that they set up. It’s only in Neverland where people don’t change.  Self evidently many Ukrainians understand (even better than Syrians) that Putin is their enemy and that any political leadership that draws their country closer to Putin is to be opposed and struggled against.

The Irish up against the English is the best example of how a national movement of the Ukrainians against the Russians ought to be thought about, right down to the massive loyalist presence in a concentrated part of the country. The National question is still being resolved in Ukraine and Georgia and right across that big slab of territory north of the Caucuses that Putin has been waging his ruthless city smashing wars in for years.

Al Qaeda sorts thrive in the swamp that Putin is maintaining. Putin has not changed course and is not part of the solution to the national questions; or the struggle for democracy; nor women’s rights; or gay rights; and so on. His nonsense is a blockage to the swamp draining that extends right up into the Ukraine and beyond that. East European development is way behind Norway and the rest of the exemplar Scandinavian countries – even if the Norwegians have to deal with rightwing terrorists.

Putin keeps Assad’s air power going and democrats want to see that it gets smashed to bits.

Because the strategic grand plan is to fight oppression by uniting the many to defeat the few, we look to the current demands of the Ukrainians as Steve directed our attention with respect to the Sunni demands in Iraq.

Whatever the past role of Ukrainian nationalism way back at the time Stalin was coping with his problems, the current struggle is a no-brainer because the Ukrainian people are against Putin’s Russia.  I guess that the largest block of Ukrainian people want their government to resign and they want new elections to form a new government to lead their country away from Russia and towards greater connections with western Europe.  If they got that outcome it won’t solve all their problems anymore than the problems are solved in Ireland, Spain or Greece and I suppose that is obvious to them as they can see for themselves how bad things are in those Euro countries; but at least they will be that much further away from the system that Putin is running!

As with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt there are more than just a few “very conservative” democrats in the Ukrainian context, and just as there are Salafi parties that are more reactionary (and less democratic) in Egypt there are the equivalent in this part of the swamp.

As Arthur said re Egypt;

‘Anyone democratic is inherently less reactionary and conservative than the various “progressive” parties of the secular opposition who actually want to go BACKWARDS towards the Mubarak era.  So emphasizing the conservative or reactionary character of the brotherhood is likely to give a misleading impression to people who are unaware of how bad the opposition to the brotherhood is.’
END

My view is that issues that blow up this big ought to have been brought before the people in Referenda. The situation is well beyond that now and new elections are now how the issues of the Ukraine can be resolved. There is that, or a reasonably quick descent into the civil war scenario.   I think the police and the army would ‘quickly’ shatter and the country then divide along the two ethnic lines.  The Russian dominated regions – absent Putin meddling – would after a few months or whatever time it takes would lose out to the Ukrainian nationalist forces but Putin would/will meddle.  Eventually we could then see Putin’s tanks cross the border in the manner that he did with Georgia a couple of years back.

It is a little different to Georgia, but the resolution of the national question is at the heart of the issue and these are both historically ‘Promethean’ movement inspired countries.

Anyway the new Pinochet in Egypt has more support I’d bet than does the current friend of Putin running the show in Ukraine, where I’m sure ‘it isn’t just the disgusting liberals and “left” that have faith in the army’ [but like Egypt] ‘if a Syrian situation can be avoided (as has been successful in Tunisia) then it is well worth trying to avoid it.’

Nations do want liberation and Putin works against them. Countries do want independence and Putin won’t let them have it, and as far as I can see the peoples’ do want a revolutionary change in the way they are governed by the knuckle-dragging-ruling-classes, and their increasingly inbred ruling-elites. Oh and Putin backs the Assad sorts!

Supporting the fight for democracy I have endorsed the COW liberation of Iraq. I don’t pretend there is a fight for socialism in regions threatened by Putin, but there is a struggle for national liberation and democracy. I have no trouble working out where to stand. As in the Syrian case there are unsavory sorts all over the place, but that was the way it was with the struggle for national liberation in Vietnam, and in Ireland as well for that matter.

Rwanda sends battalion to Central African Republic (CAR)

In efforts to stem the violence in the Central African Republic, Rwanda says it will send some 800 troops to the country. (ed. note this is somewhat out of date and now reads Rwanda has sent some 800 troops)

09 Jan 2014

Rwanda said on Wednesday it would send some 800 troops to the Central African Republic (CAR) next week as part of an African Union (AU) force to help restore security.

Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told local radio: “Our troops will arrive in CAR in about 10 days. AU asked us for a battalion, which is about 800 soldiers.”

Rwanda announced last month it would send troops but had not said how many would be dispatched or when.

Mushikiwabo acknowledged the problems in the CAR were “very complex” but stressed that Kigali’s stated policy was to “contribute to global peacekeeping”.

The troops are being briefed about the terrain and the conflict and the non-French speakers are receiving some language training, the minister said.

The AU force in the CAR is due to be 6 000 strong at full strength, working alongside some 1 600 French troops.

By late December, more than 4 000 troops were already deployed, with 850 Burundians, 800 Cameroonians, 850 from Congo Republic, 850 from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 500 from Gabon, 200 from Equatorial Guinea and 850 Chadians.

Joint operation

European Union nations are considering a joint military operation in CAR to help the African and French troops already deployed, experts said on Wednesday. A decision is expected on January 20.

The CAR spiralled into chaos after a March coup in which the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group overthrew president François Bozizé.

Rebel leader Michel Djotodia was installed as the first Muslim leader of the majority Christian nation and disbanded the Seleka, but many rebels went rogue, spreading terror which government forces could not stop.

Months of brutal massacres, rapes and looting have followed, with locals forming Christian vigilante groups in response to the atrocities. – (Sapa-AFP)