Egypt Revolution Diary
Muslim Brotherhood resists another split
While the main Muslim Brotherhood leadership refused to participate in
Friday's Second Day of Rage, a great number of the Muslim
Brotherhood Youth disobeyed this directive
Dina Ezzat, Saturday 28 May 2011
The Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Mohammed Badie
To the dismay of the Revolution Youth Coalition, the Muslim Brotherhood announced
that it is pulling its youth from the coalition.
"There are no representatives currently of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Youth
Revolution Coalition," said Muslim Brotherhood Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein.
The statement was posted on Ikhwan Online.
The decision was announced this evening in an apparent sign of retaliation by the
leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood against the decision of some of its youth to take
part in yesterday's demonstrations, despite the position of the leadership that no
participation should be allowed.
A sense of dismay reigned over the coalition and a reaction is currently being considered.
"I am convinced I did the right thing. I know that the leadership of the (Muslim
Brotherhood) Gamaa had been against the participation in yesterday's demonstrations,
but still I felt it was my patriotic responsibility to take part, and so I did," said Mohamed
El-Kassas, a member of the youth generation of Egypt's most influential political Islam
Speaking to Ahram Online by phone Saturday morning, before the decision to suspend
the membership of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth in the Revolution Youth Coalition,
El-Kassas said he was aware of — and sympathetic to — the sensitivity of the Muslim
Brotherhood leadership against participation in a demonstration calling for a new
constitution ahead of parliamentary elections, contrary to the constitutional amendments
that the Muslim Brotherhood took part in drafting and in lobbying support for in March.
"This was not the main call for the Friday demonstration," said El-Kassas. Nor, according
to Al-Kassas, was the call for the establishment of a presidential council in order to delay
parliamentary elections, something that the Muslim Brotherhood is vehemently opposed
to, a main call in the demonstration.
According to Al-Kassas, the main call in the demonstration — dubbed Egypt's "Second
Day of Rage — was "the completion of the objectives of the January 25 Revolution,"
including the elimination of the regime of toppled president Hosni Mubarak and the
prompt trial of all figures of that regime.
According to Al-Kassas, the participation of "some of the youth of the Muslim
Brotherhood" impressed the political forces that amassed thousands of demonstrators on
Friday in Tahrir Square. "It did not leave the participants in a tough position within the
[Muslim Brotherhood] despite the fact that some within the [Brotherhood] think that we
violated the organisational orders which we should follow."
It was the commitment to observe these orders that prompted Abdel-Rahman Hossam to
refrain from going to Tahrir Square for Egypt's Second Day of Rage, he told Ahram
Online before the developments of the evening.
"Ultimately if one is a member of a party or any group then one needs to go by the rules,
and the collective majority agreement is a clear rule for all political groupings," Hossam
said. He added: "it does not make much sense for someone to be member of a party or a
group if one is not willing to go by the majority vote within the group."
It is not clear how decisions are actually made with the Muslim Brotherhood. According
to most accounts, they are made through the Supreme Guide in light of consultation with
the Guidance Bureau.
Hossam argues that the "confused bag of objectives" behind Friday's demonstration was
one reason that the Muslim Brotherhood leadership decided not to participate and issued
clear directives in this regard.
"Some of the calls made suggested that the objective was to fulfill the demands of the
January 25 Revolution, including the trial of the figures of the former regime, and respect
for all civil freedoms; those were objectives we risked our lives for," said Hossam.
However, Hossam added, some other calls were not in line with the wide consensus
expressed in the Yes vote that won the referendum on constitutional amendments that
specify the sequence of political transition during the interim phase: parliamentary
elections, drafting a permanent constitution, and presidential elections.
"There were calls made for drafting the constitution ahead of the parliamentary elections,
and this is not what the nation agreed to; and yes, it is not what the Muslim Brotherhood
is supporting," Hossam stated.
"Some people might not like the outcome of the referendum of the constitutional
amendments, and they might wish to reverse it, but I believe that this is not the way
democracy should be, because in a democratic regime the voice of the majority should be
heard," Hossam added.
Hossam is aware of the dismay among many political forces over the decision of the
Muslim Brotherhood to not participate when there appeared to be wide consensus for a
new mass demonstration. He says that this should not be reason for a rift between other
political forces and the Muslim Brotherhood.
"We were all partners in the January 25 Revolution, but I think people need to appreciate
that the Muslim Brotherhood, with a long history of coercion and state persecution, has
its way of operating that is influenced by this history," said Hossam.
Khaled Abdel-Hamid, a member of the Coalition of the Revolution Youth, has little
sympathy for why the Muslim Brotherhood refused to participate on Friday. He insists
that despite the many demands made during the demonstration, the clear objective was
"to keep the public pressure on, to secure the full implementation of the demands of the
Abdel-Hamid is impressed, he told Ahram Online, with the decision of "a considerable
group of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth" to be present in Tahrir Square. "This shows
that (within the Muslim Brotherhood) there are some with clear commitment to the
revolution and an obvious openness to work inclusively with, and not exclusively from,
other political forces," he argued.
Abdel-Hamid acknowledged that the position and pressure of the Muslim Brotherhood
leadership reduced the volume of participation on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood
In remarks he made later in the evening, Abdel-Hamid underlined the valuable
participation of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth and their role in making the January 25
Revolution a success.
For Abdel-Hamid, the message of the considerable presence in Tahrir Square on Friday,
despite the opposition of the Muslim Brotherhood, is not just about the obvious fact that
the strength of political forces in Egypt goes beyond the Muslim Brotherhood. It is also,
he added, about the "much demonstrated ability of Egyptians to make their own political
decisions away from the assuming patronage of some political parties or groups. It was a
message for all those who want to exercise power over the right of Egyptians to make
their own political choices."
Calling for 'second revolution,' tens of thousands flock to Tahrir
Photographed by مويلا يرصملا
Thousands of people poured into downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday for what they
called a "second revolution," calling for Egypt's military rulers to speed up the pace of
democratic reforms in a country that is still charting its political future.
Protesters set up two stages and Sheikh Mazhar Shahin delivered a sermon to thousands
of worshipers. Shahin stressed the need to try former president Mubarak, his aids, and
major figures from his regime. He spoke of how a teacher, who was captured on video
beating children with a ruler, was transferred to criminal court in 24 hours, while the
deposed president remains in Sharm el-Sheikh without being punished.
Shahin stressed the need to uphold national unity and emphasized the importance of the
military and the people remaining united. At the same time, Egypt’s current rulers must
respect the demands of the people, he said, particularly those protesters who freed Egypt
from injustice during the 25 January revolution.
After the Friday prayer, tens of thousands gathered around Sheikh Mohammed Gibril,
who led them in prayer. At the same time, thousands of protesters flocked to the square
from Bab al-Louq, Qasr al-Aini, and Qasr al-Nil bridge.
Christians and Muslims took turns praying in Tahrir Square, as they did in the protests
that forced the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in February. Sectarian clashes
have turned deadly since the revolution.
The ruling military warned that "dubious" elements may try to cause chaos during
Friday's protests, and said it would stay clear of the protest area to avoid any friction.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize winner and a reform leader, said
that he was "seriously concerned about the absence of security forces."
The military's leadership of the country's democratic transition has left many protesters
"I came here because I didn't feel that Egypt changed," technician Raafat Hendi said,
under huge posters calling for a new constitution.
Some critics accuse the military rulers of collaborating with the former regime and being
too lenient in its prosecution of Mubarak, his family and regime members. Mubarak now
faces trial on charges of conspiring to kill protesters.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's best organized political force, opposed the protest and
called it an attempt to drive a wedge between the military and the people. The
Brotherhood's absence will test the ability of liberal and secular groups to launch their
own sustained opposition movement.
Some liberal groups are calling for planned parliamentary elections, now set for
September, to be pushed back so that they will have more time to prepare. The
Brotherhood, however, stands to make major gains and wants the vote to go ahead.
The protest movement wants to oust the ruling Armed Forces Council and replace it with
a civilian council. Protesters accuse the army of using excessive force in cracking down
on peaceful protesters since Mubarak's ouster, sending thousands to military tribunals and
detaining young protesters.
A joint statement by four liberal and secular groups called for postponing the September
elections, drafting basic principles that guarantee that Egypt is a civil state and ending
The statement reflects worries of many political groups that the Brotherhood is poised to
win a big portion of parliament.
The Brotherhood, banned in 1954, became a political force after renouncing violence in
the 1970s. Eventually it became the most formidable opponent to Mubarak's regime,
though it was still banned as a political party.
When Mubarak fell, the Brotherhood stood ready with a huge network of social services
Armed Bedouins cut road to Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh
Sat, 28/05/2011 - 11:27
Photographed by Amr Abdalla
Armed Bedouin tribesmen blocked a main road to Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-
Sheikh on Friday to press the government to free jailed kinsmen, security sources and
Incidents of lawless behaviour have increased since police deserted the streets at the
height of the uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down on February 11.
There is still almost no effective policing in Sinai.
The latest incident could further dent tourism, a main source of income for Egypt's
economy. It began around noon when dozens of gunmen placed burning tyres and
makeshift barricades in the middle of the road at Wadi Feiran near the Gulf of Suez.
Gunmen fired into the air from time to time as hundreds of cars heading to Sharm el-
Sheikh or leaving the resort were backed up for miles. Many motorists were angry and
afraid but witnesses said no one was hurt.
"Women and children are crying after our water and food supplies ran out," Mohammed
Tolba told Reuters by telephone while trying to return from Sharm el-Sheikh to his
hometown of Mansoura, north of Cairo.
Security sources said the army was negotiating with the gunmen to re-open the road,
while directing motorists to turn back. They said the gunmen were trying to force the
government to free relatives imprisoned during Mubarak's rule.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf visited Sinai recently and promised to look into local
grievances, but Bedouins say none of the promises have been met.
Tahrir Speaks: May 27th (Photos and Videos)
0 May 27 2011 by Bassam Haddad and Ziad Abu-Rish
Today, May 27, 2011, Egyptians took to the streets in different parts of their country to
affirm their continued commitment to the revolution that began on January 25, 2011. In
Tahrir Square, approximately 150,000 protesters gathered to sing, laugh, chant, and assert
their various demands. Preparations for the demonstrations began late Thursday night /
early Friday morning and by mid-afternoon there was no doubt that a diverse array of
Egyptians wanted much more than the resignation of Husni Mubarak: they wanted a new
Egypt and had very specific ideas of what that new Egypt would look like. While we had
hoped to report on the protest through more prose, we found that certain themes and
demands were so dominant in Tahrir Square today that it made more sense to give voice
to them through videos and photos alone. Our only deliberate intervention is in the last
video, which was filmed and edited by the authors, entitled "Tahrir . . ."
We have tried to provide (rushed) English translations of signs, banners, speeches, and
interviews. In the interest of making these images and videos accessible as soon as
possible, the translations are rushed.
Interview with journalist protester Ghada Nabil:
Bassam: What are you here for?
Ghada: I am here because there are a lot of things I am not ok with. I am afraid for the
revolution. I feel like it is being hijacked. The corruption continues in all the institutions
of the state, in the municipalities, in the governorates . . . in the media--and specifically in
the national newspapers. Nothing has changed, [it is] as if January 25th had not
happened. The slowness [of the prosecutorial process] and the leaking of information
about the possibility of a pardon for the deposed president is what we do not accept after
the blood that spilled in Tahrir Square and all the governorates of Egypt. There is a need
to prevent all forms of external interference, whether it is from Saudi Arabia in order to
prevent the prosecution of the deposed president or from the United States or from Israel.
There is a need to activate all the demands of the Youth of the Revolution Coalition.
There needs to be a cleansing of the judiciary, as it remains to be viewed as a fortress
whose decisions and rulings are not subject to critique. This is scary because have fears in
regards to some of the judges that are presiding over financial corruption cases as well as
those of the spilling of Egyptian blood by the members of Husni Mubarak's government.
There is a need to stop sectarian strife, that we notice is becoming more active in a
hysterical way to undermine the revolution. We have confirmed information--I am a
journalist--that indicate that the Mossad and--here in Egypt--the remnant of the National
Democratic Party (NDP) are active in undermining the revolution through national strife .
. . There is also a need to save the revolution from being hijacked by any movement with
an eye for a non-civilian state. We will not accept this. The masses of tolerant Egyptians
will not accept this and will offer their blood for the sake of a civilian state; a completely
civilian states for all, and not for one group or movement.
Bassam: What does a civilian state mean?
Ghada: The civilian state is one that I can be a part of with my religion, with my beliefs,
with the freedom of what I wear and [the freedom of] manners, movement, thought,
writing, and achievement without interference in the name of religion, irrespective of
which religion; whether it is the religion of the majority or the religion of the minority.
We do not what a religious state, irrespective of the religion, and certainly not a military
state. The state that Egyptians martyred themselves for in this square on January 25th,
that they have been fighting for for years, and that blood has been spilt for for many
many years can only be a civilian state.
Interview with young protester:
Bassam: If you please, why are you here?
Protester: In the name of god, most merciful, most benevolent. We came to the Square
today to affirm that the revolution is still on the ground, that the Egyptian people are still
here, and that the revolution is not just [by] Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists only but
that the youth of the revolution are still here. We are here to ensure the demands of the
revolution, our legitimate demands. Atop of these is the prosecution of the leaders of the
previous corruption. And [if] god blesses us, we will continue with the revolution while
the army and people are hand in hand. And [if] god blesses us, all us Egyptians are hand
in hand and we are not waiting on anything from anyone.
Bassam: What does this sign mean?
Protester: This sign expresses several points. First of all, it says to the Chief of Staff
Samy 'Anan--who gives orders to Tantawi--that he should remind Tantawi that the
revolution is still on the ground of the Square. We haven't left. We are still here, every
Friday, in a peaceful manner. We are still here. They should remember that this ground is
ours. We will die on it until we--god willing--continue to achieve our demands. Thank
More from the interview with Ghada Nabil:
Bassam: If you please, when you speak about a civilian state and the Muslim
Brotherhood, do you differentiate between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists?
Ghada: I used to differentiate [between them]. Even though I haven't read much of their
literature, I did differentiate. In the revolution, we felt that we are all one. There were
some amazing positions from Salafists--and they used to say [of themselves] that they
were Salafists as opposed to us thinking they were by virtue of the[ir] dress code or
looks--and they were exemplary with us. Some of their positions were really
humanitarian, almost angelic. I assumed--prior to the resignation of the deposed
president--that I was the one that was fundamentalist in my thoughts towards the other
who is different. This is my responsibility. After the revolution and the events that
happened, which involved the baltagiyyah and the Salafists and others, I developed a
conviction that the difference [between the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists] was minor
so long as the Muslim Brotherhood were willing to join hands with the Salafists. I've
repeated things, not from myself but things that I heard from friends--irrespective of
whether they were Muslim or Coptic--that . . . there is coordination with the goal of
showing some of the Salafists as having a violent method (bloody or fierce) towards the
other that is different for the sake of a specific result that is in the interest of the Muslim
Brotherhood. Meaning that when these are the two most active movements with a
presence on the street, one of them--or parts of their followings or many of their symbols-
-incite violence against others while the other [movement] says "no" to that and that they
stand for a civilian state with an Islamic marja'iyyah--these are the Muslim Brotherhood--
people will fall into the lap or direction of those that appear in this case to be more
rational . . . yes, less bloody, or that condemn violence. But what is violence? This is
something that is very important. Violence is not only that I cary a weapon against you.
Violence is that I force you into what you do not want and do not believe in. This is
violence. The issue is the invoking of god into every issue and every thing. By the way, I
am speaking responsibly as I have written an article [about it] in Dustour al-asli
yesterday. That's it.
Bassam: Thank you.
Ghada: Thank you to you.
Video of one of the stage speakers:
First speaker: Israel, they are the ones that called for the pardoning of Mubarak.
Therefore, we say that the true charge against Husni Mubarak is high treason. He must be
prosecuted for high treason. And we say to you, we say to you, where is Hussein [last
name unclear]? Israel, where is Hussein [last name unclear]? Oh Saudi Arabia, where is
Hussein [last name unclear]? Oh Gulf states, where is Hussein [last name unclear]? Oh
America, where is Hussein [last name unclear]? What is the connection between this ruler
who steels and Netanyahu, and between Obama and Mubarak? Those who defend them
are the enemies of Egypt. We want those thieves to be tried publicly here in Tahrir
We also call on you [to explain] how do you claim to lead the Egyptian Revolution
having not yet acknowledged the martyrs of the Egyptian revolution. We have heard the
minister of interior saying that they are [unclear]. They do not recognize except the dead
from what they describe as the martyrs of the police. We want the families of martyrs to
be awarded the first medal for the Egyptian Revolution immediately. This is the first
demand of the Egyptian Revolution.
We also say to you, why have you shifted--in all honestly--against the Revolution after
the Egyptian people stood against Israel. What is the secret surrounding the suppression
of protesters in front of the Israeli embassy? How is it that these protests are suppressed
in front of the Egyptian embassy [sic] while [at the same time] Husni Mubarak and all the
thieves are treated with the utmost [unclear] and calm? We do not want a civilian to
spend [even] a day in front of the military courts. Why do you suppress the protests [that
were] in front of the Israeli embassy? Are you saying to them, "We are defending Israel
so leave us to do as we will with the Egyptian people?" This is the same message of
Husni Mubarak. It is the same message as his. We say to them, "We insist that our first
enemy is Israel." What is the secret, after the suppression of the protesters in front of the
Israeli embassy, surrounding Obama and the United States coming in and saying [that]
the the military aid will not be touched? Is this the reason for the selling [out] of the
Egyptian Revolution? We are still there in Sinai [where] the martyrs remain martyrs of
Sinai. They have not been recognized like the other Egyptian martyrs. All those detained
must be released as well as all those that are being persecuted in military courts. We will
not sell [out] the Egyptian Revolution. Sinai is part of Egypt, and we must defend its
national character. And we say that our message is: the people want the fall of military
rule. The people want the fall of military rule! The people want the fall of military rule!
Second speaker: There is a list identification card for.
More from interview with Ghada Nabil:
Ghada: This is the priority. That there not emerge a sectarian war, god willing. That we
achieve all the demands of the Revolution that youth, elderly, and children martyred
themselves for here in the Square and all the governorates of Egypt. We cannot forget
women in this whole cause. The woman is what connects all the revolutions. Either she is
oppressed through an oppressive movement or she is championed by the revolution after
a long oppression. Now is the time for her to have an awaking. During the Revolution,
we were all united here: the Salafists, liberals, seculars, and socialists. All the citizens,
from all the groups, generations, and ages. We were. Unfortunately, we were exemplary
with each other but that exemplary behavior did not continue after that. This is what
caused us to come down to the Square today: a new constitution; combatting sectarian
strife; demanding the military council to implement the demands of the Revolution; quick
trials; cleansing the judiciary and media; and the constitution first; and ensuring that there
is no external interference from any side that seeks to undermine and corrupt the
Revolution; and also to not pardon the deposed president. He must receive a judicial
ruling and [only] after that if the people want to pardon him due to his age then let it be. I
am for this. Someone else might not agree, because there are martyrs that have families
that might ask for punishment. This is my personal opinion. But a pardon simply because
Saudi Arabia or Israel intervene for for the sake of a pardon after he had beaten and killed
us--meaning a pardon without trial--would mean that the Revolution did not happen. That
sums it up. That would mean canceling the revolution and insulting the blood of the
Bassam: What is your opinion on fanning the the flame of sectarianism through the
burning of the church and these types of acts?
Ghada: I believe that there is a sectarian problem in Egypt that has been present and
suppressed not just from the time of Husni Mubarak but also from before. It is a real
problem. There is an oppression. I say this is a Muslim Egyptian. I know there is
oppression and I have dealt with it through Christian friends that fight it. This does not
negate that there are attempts by the National Democratic Party (NDP) and other
elements to feeding this current of strife in order to turn everything upside down in the
interest of what was before January 25th. This is one of the most crucial things that can
kill the revolution and kill Egypt.
Bassam: Are you optimistic about the upcoming months?
Ghada: I try to be optimistic. I must be optimistic. I must be optimistic. I must be
optimistic. The people that were martyred, we say there is over a thousand. The unofficial
estimates [of deaths] from before the revolution, during the resignation, and after put it at
over one thousand Egyptian martyrs. This is separate from the injured. The people, that
was willing to pay a blood tax is willing to pay another blood tax for the sake that its
freedom and dignity not be kidnapped or insulted.
Bassam: In your opinion, will there come a time after some of the domestic achievements
to deal with some of the regional issue, amongst them the Israel-Palestine issue, in a
Ghada: In what sense?
Bassam: For example, in your opinion does the majority of the people, irrespective of
whether they do anything or not, support the agreement [with Israel]?
Ghada: The people were accepting of the agreement despite the fact that they were not
consulted on it. When Sadat wen to Jerusalem, he did not consult the people. Because the
People's Assembly has always incased and represented the will of the president, whether
it was Husni Mubarak, Sadat, or whomever it may be. And the people know this. The
people did not have a say in Sadat's gaining to Jerusalem. And [the people] did not have a
hand or word in the gas agreement. I personally was against the agreement, because I
have an uncle that was martyred in 1973 during the October War. In spite of this, I am for
the continuation with the agreement--Camp David--because Egypt has to stand on its own
two feet and strengthen itself internally and regionally. But I am against the gas
agreement with Israel. It needs to be completely cancelled. Every summer the lights go
out in our homes because there is pressure from the electricity consumption. Lights go
out in our homes and we see that the street lights are on at noon. This agreement must be
cancelled. So long as the do not cancel it, they are going to see groups of people blow up
the gas pipeline every once in a while. We were not consulted on this disgraceful
agreement that they were benefiting from in the billions. This is one thing and Camp
David is another. Regarding the Palestine issue, there is not a person in Egypt that does
not support the Palestinian cause. But do want to go now to Jerusalem and liberate it? Let
us liberate Egypt first and feel confident about our internal matters--do some in-house
cleaning--and prevent the occurrence of sectarian strife and attend to the situation of the
Egyptian woman before we speak about what is outside of Egypt.
"Tahrir . . ." Remix by the Authors
Some images from the day:
["Pharaoh and Haman and their soldiers were mistaken." Quranic reference.]
[Mubarak says: "I will stay in Sharm al-Shaykh until my last heart beat."]
[People exiting the Square.]
[Right sign reads: "The criminal is in Sharm al-Shaykh; The victims are in government
hospitals." Left sign reads: "We demand the prosecution of Husni Mubarak.]
["My problem with the military council is that I don't know the people in it! I want a
civilian leadership council whose people are known and that I can hold accountable!"]
[View of one of the stages from within Tahrir Square.]
[Demonstrators watching a musical performance on one of the stages. Sign on right
reads: "Do your duty Your Excellency the Field Marshal." Sign on left reads: "Security
now. Cleansing now. Or else we will return to the Square."]
[Demonstrators watching a musical performance and laughing at the lyrics. Video to be
posted below soon.]
["Sharm al-Shaykh is Egyptian, not for the president that is a thief."]
["No to military rule. We want a revolutionary national civilian leadership council."]
[Text in red reads: "We are a group from the Egyptian youth and people. Our goal is the
achievement of the demands of the revolution. Listen to us and, if you will, understand
[Tree covered with various demands, advice, and political statements.]
["The constitution first."]
[View from inside Tahrir Square looking out.]
[View from inside Tahrir Square looking out.]
[Top of banner: "The smiling martyr (unknown name and parents)." See next picture for
bottom of banner.]
[Bottom of banner: "They and their accomplices killed me." See previous picture for top
["Against the revolution." Faces of public figures, including actors and singers.]
[Left column: "The Attorney General: the private lawyer of State Security." Right
column: "The Public Prosecutor: the private prosecutor of the corrupt." Each column lists
the allegations against each personality.]
[Mubarak's sign reads: "Have you seen what happened Suzie. . . what the revolution did
to us . . . it succeeded and god aided them against us, and now they will reveal the
hidden." Bottom of banner reads: "We want the prosecution of this oppressor that
corrupted our lives for thirty years."]
["The people want to cleanse the media."]
["Do you know that the Red Sea Governorate is part of the Arab Republic of Egypt and
that it is the biggest corruption whole?"]
[Protester sitting atop a pedestrian crossing sign.]
[Top of banner reads: "The Front for the Cleansing of Media."]
[Protesters sitting atop a traffic light in Tahrir Square.]
[View from within Tahrir Square looking out.]
["Oh Tantawi, tell 'Anan there is still a revolution in the Square."]
Apache helicopters in Libya: turning up the heat, or a sign of desperation?
Britain has said it's sending Apache helicopters to Libya, and France is deploying combat
aircraft as well. NATO says it's turning the screws on Moammar Gadhafi, but for some,
the move shows they're clutching at straws.
The quick and clean intervention promised in Libya has proved slow and messy. Despite
over two months of NATO air support for the Libyan rebels, the civil war in the country
is looking more and more like a stalemate.
As a result, it was only a matter of time before Britain and France sought to tip the
balance in its battle against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's military machine.
"We should be turning up the heat on the Libyan regime," British Prime Minister David
Cameron announced earlier in the week. "And on Britain's part, we'll be looking at all
options within the terms of the UN resolution to protect civilians, so Libyans have a
chance to decide on their own future."
Shortly thereafter, Britain announced it would be sending four Apache helicopters, with
France flying in similar Tiger helicopters as well. These maneuverable craft can fly lower
than large warplanes and bombers, and Western militaries hope they will offer provide
scope for more precise attacks against smaller targets like tanks.
Such vehicles are now routinely stationed in towns and villages, and some reports suggest
that the Libyan military is using human shields in a bid to protect them.
A worrisome sign?
Some military analysts, however, see this fresh deployment of more versatile aircraft as a
sign that the NATO mission in Libya is failing to make the impact Western nations had
predicted and promised.
"I think this is a worrisome sign," Brooks Tigner of Jane's Defense and Security
Intelligence and Analysis told Deutsche Welle.
"It means there is fierce fighting on the ground, that the high-altitude precision bombing
by NATO is maybe not having the effect that it should. Otherwise, why would they bring
in these helicopters?"
NATO, faced with such suggestions, has played down the implication. Lieutenant
General Charles Bouchard said that any military commander would always ask for all the
capabilities and equipment available. The commander of the NATO operation in Libya
described the helicopters as "another tool in a tool box that will help us meet our
Arming civilians, or protecting them?
Naysayers argue, however, that this extra air support is long overdue, and that ground
support for the rebels is the only measure that will really tip the balance.
The US and Britain both reiterated this week that sending in ground troops was not an
option, and arming the rebels does not conform to the mandate of UN Resolution 1973,
which only authorizes Western powers to protect civilian lives in Libya.
"The big question for me is going to be arms for the rebels," Tigner said. "How will they
get there, and who will supply them? They are disorganized, have no training, they're
learning on the spot. Who's going to train them?"
France has now deployed special-forces teams to Libya, and other countries might well
Estimates suggest the rebel troops are outnumbered by as much as 10 to one by those
loyal to Gadhafi, an imbalance that air support alone might not overcome. On this basis,
NATO looks set to stay in Libya, and for an indeterminate period of time.
Egypt's youth vocal against army
• Middle East
By Monica Villamizar in on Thu, 05/26/2011 - 20:44.
Photo by Mohamed Shawky
Political "street art" in Egypt has proven to be dangerous, only hours ago Mohammed
Fahmy @ganzeer was arrested, apparently in connection with his graffiti work.
There are more and more graffiti emerging around Cairo. Many are
stencil-graffiti (done by a precut model placed against the wall and
sprayed). It is fast and it minimizes the risk of being caught by
authorities, in Cairo there is currently a 2am military curfew.
Some drawings have the face of activists like Amr El Beheiry, sentenced to 5 years of
prison for participating in a sit-in. There’s another image of the statue of liberty wearing a
burka and another which needed to be explained: the underpants of Mohamed H Tantawi,
the commander of the armed forces. Ramy Raoof, a cyber activist, interprets it as an
attempt to show that many are no longer afraid of the military.
“It feels like there is something wrong; it’s hard to tell if the army is with the revolution.”
Raoof, 24, is among a group of influential characters in the Egyptian youth movement.
He has just helped organize a day to blog on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
(SCAF)'s human rights violations, to counter what he describes as a media blackout on
this issue. More than 300 entries were received and posted online.
We are at an outdoor cafe near the stock exchange, where activists, artists, intellectuals
and bloggers spend the evenings discussing the post revolutionary Egypt. There are
Christmas lights around palm trees and water pipes on each table. There are more than a
dozen “computer geeks” like Raoof in the country, who have decided to play an active
role in the Middle East and North Africa uprisings.
While blogging and tweeting was widespread during the January 25 revolution, the
service computer programmers bring to the youth movement beyond Egypt’s borders is
Raoof says “I write manuals and guides in Arabic on how to encrypt messages, to
maintain privacy and security online. I teach people how to remain anonymous to escape
evil people, hackers, government spies etcetera”.
Egypt’s security agency was provided spy software from the United Kingdom to locate
activists posting information on the internet.
“America has mythified the uprising in this country,” he says, by using catchy terms like
“the facebook revolution” or “the twitter revolution”- “but the reality on the ground is a
lot more complex”, he adds.
Raoof was attacked by the army, stopped on the street by thugs with knifes who
threatened to kill him. After that experience, he says he is not scared anymore. The
Egyptians of Tahrir have inspired young peers in the west, most recently in Spain, where
tens of thousands have taken over the Puerta del Sol square. Yet Raoof doesn’t take credit
for the toppling of a regime and says he has absolutely no political aspirations.
“The worse is definitely over… I can’t believe things can ever get any worse”.
As we speak he gets a phone call, from two Middle Eastern activists who have come to
Egypt to receive the 7 hour training course on cyber activist safety. “When they don’t
come to Egypt, we travel to meet them”.
We briefly attend a meeting in another cafe, 5 people are there, some are from other
countries that I was asked not to name. After the gathering we run into two young men
preparing to go out on a secret mission to spray graffiti in different locations, ahead of the
coming march against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. It’s not just a way to
voice discontent, as the cyber activists encrypt messages, these street artists put out
information to the potential protestors, like the next date of a major sit in, in this case
Raoof and others are optimistic about Egypt's future, despite recent sectarian clashes, the
growing discontent with the transitional leadership and the terrible state of the economy.
He says none of this is either surprising or disappointing, “all great things take many
years to happen”.
Muslim Brotherhood leadership clamps down on group's youth
The Brotherhood has released a statement withdrawing their political
cover for the MB youth at the Revolution Youth Coalition, in
punishment for their participation in Friday's protests
Ekram Ibrahim , Sunday 29 May 2011
Egyptian protesters wave national flags as they attend a rally in Tahrir
square in Cairo (Photo: AP)
The “Second Day of Rage” last Friday marked a significant step taken
by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). They announced they would remove
political cover for the MB youth, part of the Youth Revolution Coalition
(YRC), over their participation in Friday’s protests.
“Only Mohamed Afifi and Osama Yassin represent the MB in the coordination
committee for the protection of the revolution and no one is representing it in the YRC,”
said Mahmoud Hussein, Secretary General of the MB, according to a press release.
Meanwhile the MB youth do not plan to comply with this statement. “We will continue
both our role in the YRC and as MB members,” Mohamed El-Qasas, member of the MB
youth and member of the YRC told Ahram Online.
The MB youth declare that their participation in the “Second Rage Friday” doesn’t
conflict with the MB’s refusal to participate. “We participated in ‘Political Corruption
Friday’ which is what the YRC called it,” El-Qasas told Ahram Online.
The YRC called May 27 Political Corruption Friday and not Second Day of Rage
because they had different demands. “We did not call for a constitution before the
parliamentary elections or a presidential council or a sit-in,” el-Qasas said. They were
calling only for trials of corrupt figures of the old regime.
The coordination between the MB youth and the YRC began on the first day of the
Egyptian revolution, January 25 and has continued since then. “The decisions of the MB
don’t reflect on us and I think the MB did that to eliminate the role of the YRC,” Shady
Ghazaly Harb, a member of the YRC told Ahram Online.
Moreover, the Ikhwan Online editor, Abdel Gelil el-Sharnouby resigned today in protest
over the MB’s official statement released on the Second Day of Rage.
The MB refused to take part in the Second Day of Rage and released a statement on 27
May that said: “The Muslim Brotherhood group is very worried about Friday protests and
we ask to whom this anger is directed now?”
The statement said the group sees these protests as either a revolution against the majority
of the Egyptian people or a dispute between the Egyptian people and the military
represented by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. They asked Egyptian people to
Interestingly, around 100,000 protesters were at Tahrir Square on the Second Day of
Rage, raising questions about the actual weight of the MB among Egyptians.
"We are not biased towards anyone," say military
Statement 59 of the SCAF assures the Egyptian people they do not
favour any particular political force
Ahram Online Ahram Online, Sunday 29 May 2011
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has released Communiqué 59, which assures
Egyptians that they are not biased towards any particular political force.
In the statement released on the council’s official Facebook page, SCAF said they have
always been on the side of the revolution since the moment it began, because they
believed in the right of the Egyptian people to have a good life and a better future.
They added that the armed forces “did not and will not try to hijack authority in Egypt
out of respect for the legitimacy and principles of the military institution.”
SCAF then added that they deal with all the political forces in Egypt equally and without
bias in order to maintain national harmony. They added that the armed forces are working
hard to help Egypt pass through the transitional phase and “hand over power to a civil
authority democratically elected by the people.”
They added that if any of the country’s political forces have a demand, SCAF would first
present the demand to the people and would not force its own views on the nation.
SCAF then called on all the political forces in Egypt to follow two major strategies to
help Egypt have a “successful democratic experience that would become a model for the
world like the 25 January Revolution.”
The first, they said, is to stay united and push aside disagreements and understand that the
final word will always be that of the Egyptian people through the ballot box, which will
not be used to discriminate for or against any group. The armed forces “will not allow
anyone, no matter who they are to take over power without the consent of the people.”
The second, the statement said, is that the focus now should not be on individual
interests, but rather on the interests of Egypt as a whole.
“The great people of this nation are closely following the movements of the various
political forces,” the statement concluded, and “their only goal is to implement [the
people’s] ambitions without taking a side other than with those who will help Egypt pass
through this sensitive and historical period to a bright future which the armed forces will
New revolutionary group to march on Ministry of Defence
Photographed by Ibrahim Zayed
A new revolutionary group calling itself the Second Egyptian Revolution of Anger is
planning a march on Thursday afternoon to demand the achievement of various
revolutionary goals. The march will start at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo and move
on to the cabinet nearby, then continue on to the Ministry of Defense in Kobri al-Qobba,
where protesters will deliver their demands on paper before returning to Tahrir.
Group leaders say that if their demands are not met, they will call for the formation of a
civil presidential council to fulfill their demands.
The group is demanding that a committee of jurists draft a new constitution before the
parliamentary elections, the Interior Ministry be purged of corrupt members and
restructured, the judiciary and media also purged, and the attorney general replaced.
They called for the immediate release of youth detained since the outbreak of the 25
January revolution, no more military tribunals for civilians and the abolition of the law
preventing sit-ins and demonstrations.
The group has several demands of an economic nature, including fixed minimum and
maximum wage rates and the monitoring of market prices.
Doctors protest to demand better working conditions
Ghada Mohamed Al-Sherif
Photographed by Fouad Elgarnousy
Hundreds of doctors and health service providers organized a rally on Sunday which
began outside the Doctors Syndicate headquarters and headed to cabinet headquarters on
Qasr al-Aini Street in downtown Cairo. The protesters demanded the resignation of
Health Minister Ashraf Hatem, and a fair wage system for all employees, hospital
security, and increasing the Ministry of Health’s budget to amount to 15 percent of the
Protesters chanted slogans such as, “Minimum wage for those living in graves,” “The
stadium is protected by a tank and the hospital is without a gate,” and “We want a budget
increase and improved healthcare services.” They also chanted for the “fall” of the
president of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, Hamdy al-Sayed.
A member of the higher committee of the strike, Rashwan Shaaban, criticized Sayed’s
statement that the budget will only increase by LE10 billion. Shaaban said Sayed “does
not represent” doctors, and objected to the government’s disregard of citizens' health.
The Arab Spring's summersault
By Philip Whitfield May 29, 2011, 3:00 pm
CAIRO: Take stock. Egypt’s democratic dream hangs by a thread. Libya’s death throes
and Syria’s killing fields are civil war nightmares. Yemen is a chimera, Bahrain has been
bludgeoning and Tunisia is a memory. Scorching rays overwhelm the Arab Spring’s
refreshing breezes. Which way should we look for the revolution’s resolution?
Are we in an interregnum, a temporary freedom, or an antebellum, a period preceding
more bloodshed? The raging undercurrent swirls groping for an identity that responds to
a sense of Islamic belonging while respecting other faiths and global concerns. Pluralism
necessitates compromises, which riles zealots, branded bigots.
Take a wider view. The G8 Summit in Deauville last week offered Egypt respite if
promises to democratize are fulfilled. Others weighed in with billion-dollar boons. The
International Monetary Fund said MENA’s non-oil countries need $160 billion injected
in the next three years. The region needs to prepare for a fundamental transformation of
its economic model.
Egypt could become the breadbasket of the Middle East, the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development’s Jonathan Charles said. The woefully undeveloped
agricultural industry employing 30 percent of the population only yields 16 percent of
production. Agriculture is ripe for reconstruction.
Take heart. History’s lantern illuminates visionaries’ solutions. Let’s look closer at
Europe, remembering that World War II took 60 million lives, ended uncertainly and yet
today reaches accord on baffling, discordant matters.
Who would have thought it? European nations tried to shuck off their suzerains in the
19th century. The French turfed out Louis Philippe. Germany, Denmark, Austria, Italy,
Spain, Romania, and Belgium underwent revolutions.
But, as the historian A.J.P. Taylor reflected, history reached a turning point and failed to
turn. The revolutions mostly failed. In Italy, the monarchy returned. The French ended up
with a dictator, Louis-Napoleon after a coup d’état in 1851. German states’ unity failed.
Austria returned to rule Hungary. Other revolutions lost their luster and died out.
A hundred years later after World War II culminated in 60 million deaths, Europe was
ready to begin an arduous journey to resolve their differences amicably. Their thinking
was based on ideas promulgated by Count Richard Nikolaus Graf Coudenhove-Kalergi
the son of an Austro-Hungarian diplomat and a Japanese mother.
He’d mooted Pan-Europa, political, economic and social cooperation, arguing that the
constitution of a wide market with a stable currency was the vehicle for Europe to
reconstruct its potential. He, like Jean Monet, the father of European unity, never sought
Monet’s vision of European cooperation was based on a new economic order. During a
meeting in Algiers in 1943 Monet declared: There will be no peace in Europe if the states
are reconstituted on the basis of national sovereignty. The countries of Europe are too
small to guarantee their peoples the necessary prosperity and social development. The
European states should constitute themselves into a federation, Monet said.
France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands formed the
European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 making it practically impossible for France
and Germany to go to war.
Production of coal and steel as a whole was placed under a common authority. No more
fighting over the rich Ruhr region. The benefits enjoyed by one part of Europe would be
distributed across the whole.
The treaty establishing the European Economic Community followed six years later.
Since then eight treaties have expanded the renamed European Union’s governance, the
last at Lisbon in 2007, affirming the EU’s three pillars of cooperation over economic,
social and foreign policy.
These monumental agreements have grown an economy to $18 trillion by the 500 million
people in 27 countries of the EU, bigger than the USA’s 307 million people’s $14 trillion
and compares with MENA’s 460 million people’s meager $2 trillion — the latter in spite
of holding about a third of the world’s energy resources.
Visionaries aren’t guiding the pacesetters in the rerum mutatio, the hiatus between
revolution and new order. Pragmatic tinkerers hold the line.
Where is the bold, valiant sage with the farsightedness to unite the Middle East in a
modern Khilafah, unified in one polity? The region shares history, culture, and language.
The same or similar books, newspapers and magazines are read. Mostly they watch the
same TV programs and movies.
Since 1945 the more than 20 members of the Arab League, at least on paper, recognize
each is a part of an Arab nation, the “Ummah Arabiyyah”. Yet they remain divided
politically and economically. The Middle East economies are more competitive than
Dr. Hani Fakhouri, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies at
the University of Michigan, says practicing dangerous demagoguery has led the Arab
League in particular and the political leaderships of the Arab world nowhere. Over six
decades of agreements covering the Arab economic market, defense, employment,
education and water and food security have yielded not one result of significance, he
says. Free trade among Arab states amounts to only 5 percent of all Arab states’ trades.
Authoritarian, corrupt regimes in the Arab world are the obstacles to meaningful,
constructive progress that will enable the region to catch up with the rest of the world,
The three great ancient civilizations: the Chinese Qing dynasty, the Indian Mughal
empire and the Ottoman empire in the Middle East were overtaken by European
hegemony. The resurgence of China and India is apparent. Unfortunately the Middle East
languishes in unfulfilled aspiration more than half a century after achieving
None of the countries embroiled in revolution and those contemplating change can expect
to emerge into a successful new era without unseating the tyrants. But that’s only half the
job. To satisfy the revolutionary calls across the region, a new union is required that
demolishes borders to permit the free movement of people, goods and capital and the
bureaucracies that thrive on nitpicking national regulations.
That will radically reduce the cost of goods and services, eliminate the hundreds of
thousands of officials pick-pocketing the public’s purse and entice global investment into
the region rather than scatterings of consumers.
The 1.4 million-strong militias in the region’s 22 countries need streamlining into a force
whose mission exceeds protecting themselves from themselves.
Above all, leaders should spend their time developing the potential of their young people
rather than finagling ways to choke the craving for manumission, freedom from
Thousands protest against Egypt's military
rulers in return to downtown Cairo's Tahrir
By By Maggie Michael, The Associated Press | The
Canadian Press – Fri, 27 May, 2011
Egyptian protesters sit by a banner that reads in Arabic "The Constitution first" …
CAIRO - Thousands of protesters returned to downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday for
what they called a "second revolution," pressing Egypt's military rulers to speed up the
pace of democratic reforms in a country that is still charting its political future.
Protesters carried banners reading the "Egyptian revolution is not over" and chanted the
Christians and Muslims took turns praying in Tahrir Square, as they did during the
protests that forced the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February. Sectarian clashes
have turned deadly since the revolution.
They also called for the speedy trial of Mubarak and high-ranking members of his
"Our biggest fault is that we left Tahrir Square before seeing Mubarak inside a courtroom
being tried," 24-year-old salesman Ahmed Shawqi said.
Turnout was lower than expected after the ruling military warned that "dubious" elements
may try to cause chaos during the protests and said it would stay clear of the protest area
to avoid friction. The lack of a security presence made some protesters feel unsafe.
Two days before the protest, the prosecutor general ordered Mubarak and his sons to be
tried on charges of ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising, along with other
charges. That move likely tamped down the number of protesters returning to Tahrir
Some 850 Egyptians were killed during the uprising, many shot by security forces, rights
groups say. Thousands were injured.
Protesters formed checkpoints at the square's entrances, body-searched visitors and asked
for identification. Some protesters vowed to stay all night.
The military's leadership of the country's democratic transition has left many protesters
"I came here because I didn't feel that Egypt changed," technician Raafat Hendi said,
under huge posters calling for a new constitution.
Some critics accuse the military rulers of collaborating with the former regime and being
too lenient in its prosecution of Mubarak, his family and regime members.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's best organized political force, opposed the protest and
called it an attempt to drive a wedge between the military and the people. The
Brotherhood's absence will test the ability of liberal and secular groups to launch their
own sustained opposition movement.
Some liberal groups are calling for planned parliamentary elections, now set for
September, to be pushed back so that they will have more time to prepare. The
Brotherhood, however, stands to make major gains and wants the vote to go ahead.
The protest movement wants to oust the ruling Armed Forces Council and replace it with
a civilian council. Protesters accuse the army of using excessive force in cracking down
on peaceful protesters since Mubarak's ouster, sending thousands to military tribunals and
detaining young protesters.
A joint statement by four liberal and secular groups called for postponing the September
elections, drafting basic principles that guarantee that Egypt is a civil state and ending
The statement reflects worries of many political groups that the Brotherhood is poised to
win a big portion of parliament.
Some protesters are demanding a new constitution prior to elections, a divisive issue.
"We can't go to elections without having a constitution first," said 29-year-old accountant
Ezz Eldin Hamid. "You put the plan first then go to the game, not the other way around."
A referendum that passed in March with the backing of the military and the Brotherhood
paved the way for parliamentary and presidential elections. It mandated that the country's
new constitution will be written by a committee selected by the new parliament.
The protest movement fears a growing convergence of opinions between the Islamists
and the military.
The Brotherhood, banned in 1954, became a political force after renouncing violence in
the 1970s. Eventually it became the most formidable opponent to Mubarak's regime,
though it was still banned as a political party.
When Mubarak fell, the Brotherhood stood ready with a huge network of social services
Thousands of protesters marched in other Egyptian cities like Alexandria and Suez,
which also saw deadly clashes with security forces during the uprising. The army and
police withdrew all their forces and vehicles from Suez before Friday's protest began.
In front of the hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh where Mubarak remains
under house arrest, more than 200 Egyptians rallied, calling for his transfer to the Cairo's
Tora prison, where his sons and other members of his regime await trial.
"Leave, leave, Mubarak! The Tora prison awaits!" they chanted.
Bedouin tribesmen elsewhere in the Sinai blocked traffic on two main roads leading to
the resort town to support the protests and call for the release of members of their tribes
imprisoned under Mubarak.
A beacon for Syria
Posted on | Mai 19, 2011 | No Comments
Activist tells her story of assault by security forces on demonstration in Homs
Milia stayed out all night protesting. That night, people were chanting in the new clock
square, the one that protesters had dubbed “The liberation square of the governorate of
Homs”. Milia’s house is on Hamidia Street, right behind the Khaled Ben Walid mosque.
But this Christian neighborhood also harbours one of the oldest churches on earth, the
Church of the Holy Girdle and Milia lives right next to this landmark, visiting it every
Sunday to receive the archbishop’s blessings.
Homs has suffered for decades from constantly changing demographics; other religious
communities have been implanted in it, not just for economic purposes but also for
On that night, Milia was with some of her friends who were setting up tents and
mounting electricity cables to light up the square so that it would become a beacon for all
Syria. They were also writing slogans against the regime, such as “Strike, strike, until the
regime falls”. Milia thought that this kind of slogan was important “because we grew up
in a country that adopts slogans before it undertakes actions”.
That night, the work of these young men and women was organised, even though their
resources were limited. The news they heard and the fact that most of them came from
the areas where tensions were high gave them the needed momentum.
Deraa was dying, Bayda – close to the city of Banias – was calling for help, Douma was
on the verge of destruction, whilst other regions urgently needed some assistance.
Their strike might not have had much of an impact, but the purpose was to send a
message to all the Syrian people and show them that the people are working hand in
hand, that they are not divided or corrupted.
As soon as they starting calling for demonstration, scores of people came uninvited,
everybody was participating, everybody was praying, Muslims and Christians united for,
everyone was praising God. Then they all started chanting, “With our blood, with our
soul we sacrifice ourselves for Deraa; with our blood, with our soul we sacrifice
ourselves for Banias; with our blood, with our soul we sacrifice ourselves for Douma.”
A lot of young men and women were crying because blood was still running on many
streets in Syria. Syrian lives were now cheaper than a bullet. Then everyone sat down to
listen to the preachers who came from the nearby areas, everybody was with the
revolution and with the true demands of the Syrian people.
“We heard warnings from the authorities asking us to evacuate the liberation square,”
said Milia. “We then heard another warning, and then gunshots. The first time, the men
protected us with their bodies; they prevented anyone from approaching the women.”
“As women, we were not afraid of bullets as much as we were afraid of the brutal
assaults of officers like the one that were carried out on some of the demonstrators before
the protest,” she continued.” After midnight, the security forces breached the square and
fired at will to separate groups, and then everyone fled.”
It was not immediately known who died as a martyr, or who was arrested. What we do
know is that the ministry of interior issued a press release the following day claiming that
Salafist groups occupied the new clock square in Homs and were preparing to declare the
city a Salafist emirate, and that security forces dissuaded them with some of the soldiers
falling as martyrs during the operation.
“I wonder how this sort of press release can be issued,” laughs Milia. “As if I were a
Christian Salafist and some of the officers were shot even though none of us were
carrying weapons, or even knifes.”
As Syria enters its tenth week of protests the uprising
continues despite continued repression. George Boustani
looks at recent events and where the Syrian spring is
The popular uprising
in Syria has entered
its 10th week,
despite the harsh
the protesters and
their relatives. More
than 1000 civilians’
deaths have occurred
according to the
for Human Rights
based in London,
while more than 9000 people have been arrested and detained over
the past weeks. Between 1000 and 5000 Syrians have found refuge in
Northern Lebanon following the repression by the army and the secret
services in their region.
Demonstrations have been ongoing in Syria since the 15th of March, gathering Syrians
throughout the country, including in the two main cities of Aleppo and of Damascus, but
to a lesser extent than others and concentrated in the suburbs. There have been defections
in the army, but only on a small scale, while some members of the Ba’ath Party have
resigned in different cities including Banyas and Deraa.
Last Friday a 17-year-old activist, Mohammad Akram al-Tumah, immolated himself,
echoing the self immolation of the young Tunisian man of Sidi Bouzid last December
that sparked protests across the Arab world. Demonstrations gathered tens of thousands
of people throughout Syria this weekend, while protests also happened at night in various
cities these past few days.
The President Bachar al Assad has largely dismissed the protests as part of a foreign-
backed imperialist conspiracy to encourage sectarian strife in Syria and undermine the
“resistance stand” of the Syrian regime against the Israeli State. Syrian authorities have
accused small "armed terrorists groups" for the unrests, backed by salafists and foreign
powers, who they say have killed more than 120 soldiers and police. Syria has also barred
most international media since the protests broke out two months ago.
The popular movement has included the different ethnic and sectarian components of the
country. The main slogans chanted by the protesters, notably "By our souls, by our blood
we sacrifice ourselves for you, O Deraa" or “The Syrian People are one” shows that the
movement s has developed in a feeling of national solidarity and social recognition that
transcend sectarian division. The Facebook group “The Syrian Revolution 2011”, which
now has over 180 000 members, has repeatedly condemned sectarianism and any form of
discrimination between the Syrians, giving primacy to the national banner, against
attempts by the regime to portray the protest movement as sectarian. The Syrian
Revolution 2011 facebook group has actually issued a "code of ethics against
sectarianism in Syria” on March 24. The names of the Friday demonstrations among the
organizers has also been decided in order to be the most inclusive possible, designating
for example last week the “Azadi” ( Freedom in Kurdish) Friday, while on the Easter
weekend they called the “Azime” (Great) Friday for the Christian Fest ( Christians in
Syria call the Friday before Easter the Great Friday).
The regime has lost or is losing most of its so called credentials since the beginning of the
protest movement, which was able to show the contradictions of it. Let’s see how these
so called credentials can be deconstructed.
Syria: a socialist country?
The economic liberalization policies started in the beginning of the nineties, which were
accelerated and boosted since Bashar Al Assad’s arrival to power in 2000, has not been
beneficial to the country's economy and to the society as a whole, quite on the opposite it
benefited only to a small oligarchy and few of its clients. Today, the Syrian popular
uprising seal the regime project failure, the Baath was popular 30 years ago when it
offered social advancement in rural areas and among religious minorities, while now the
Baath Party is an empty shell. The uprisings in Deraa as well as other rural areas, historic
bastion of the Baath Party and the regime which had not taken part in the insurrections of
the 1980s, show this failure. Cities such as Qamichli and Homs have also participated in
the protest movement, Homs have actually witnessed the largest demonstrations and even
a huge sit in few weeks ago in downtown gathering around 50000 people during few
hours, before being dispersed by security forces shooting on protesters.
The regime economic liberalization policy has almost reproduced the Baathist socio-
economic situation that prevailed before it took power in 1963: 5% of the population has
more than 50% of national income.
The only missing component until now in the protest movement is the middle class in
Aleppo and Damascus, which has so far hardly participated in the protests, something
that, if it were to happen, would greatly strengthen the protest movement. It is likely that
the economic costs of the popular uprising, despite measures by the government and the
Central Bank to facilitate access to money or to favor loans to companies, will soon make
the middle class realize the importance of political reform. We have nevertheless
witnessed demonstrations in both cities, notably in Aleppo University campus and
protests were witnessed in Midan neighborhood last Friday, a traditional neighborhood of
Syria a mafia and clientelist regime
Bashar al Assad arrival to power has narrowed even more the spoils of the regime, which
were distributed more widely under his father with various groups linked to the regime
running businesses and winning state favors. The mafia structure of the Syrian regime
can be represented by two men: Rami Makhlouf and Maher al Assad.
The first one, Rami Makhlouf is the maternal cousin of the President, who World Finance
magazine presented and awarded him for his visionary leadership and contribution to the
Syrian economy earlier this year, the London-based journal declared that the businessman
had acted as a symbol of positive change within his country. Once again we can see the
relationship between dictatorship and neo liberalism, while protesters in Syria were
calling Rami Makhlouf a thief and targeting the telecommunications shops of his
company Syriatel, as he represents a symbol of corruption and opulence in Syria. The son
of the former commander of the Syrian Republican Guard, Mr Makhlouf actually
controls as much as 60 per cent of the country’s economy through a complex web of
holding companies.His business empire spans industries ranging from
telecommunications, oil, gas and construction, to banking, airlines and retail. He even
owns the country’s only duty free business as well as several private schools. His
brothers are not far as well heading Shalish Foundation for military construction work
and the building that handles all contracts for public construction, such as the proposed
diversion of water from the Tigris to irrigate the governorate of Hassake, voted recently
estimated at 2 billion dollars.At the same time, wealth gaps and inequality have
continuously increased these last few years.
The lower and middle classes did not actually benefit from the economic growth of these
past few years, on the opposite they suffered from it in many ways. The countries’
poorest are struggling to help themselves in the new economy due to a lack of
employment opportunities, while the middle class is plummeting towards the poverty line
because their incomes have not kept up with inflation, which rose to 17% in 2008.
The second one, Maher Al Assad who is the brother of the President, heads the
presidential guard and the 4th Division, which represents one third of the army, equipped
with modern tanks unlike the rest of it. Maher Al Assad was the main decision maker in
charge of the violence of the repression against the protest movement. The 4th Division
led by Maher Al Assad with Syrian security forces have used tanks, gunfire and mass
arrests. The regime has turned into prisons and torture camps few football stadiums and
other centers, countless apartments and houses have been raided without legal basis,
military units with tanks and snipers have occupied and devastated suburbs of Damascus
and Homs, Daraa in the South, the coastal town of Baniyas and most recently in the city
of Tall Kalakh near the Lebanese border.
We can see how the lifting of the emergency law did not change anything on the ground
and in the nature of the repression, still violent. The end of the emergency law actually
does not actually impact on the behavior of the regime because in 2008 President Assad
extended immunity from prosecution to all branches of Syria's security services under a
presidential decree which will remain unaffected by the lifting of emergency laws.
These two personalities are a symbol of the mafia structure of the regime, which is far
from being socialist as we can observe. Maher Al Assad in charge of the most important
and best equipped Brigade in the army therefore protects the president and Rami
Makhlouf is in charge of the economy, using the money as well to buy the loyalty of the
most prominent merchant families from Syria.
Syria: an anti imperialist state?
The Syrian anti imperialist stand has been well used by the regime’s propaganda to gain
popularity among populations inside and outside the country. But why is the West and
Israel so scared therefore to lose Bashar Al Assad’s regime?
The sanctions imposed against Syria by the Europian Union and the USA included asset
freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo of 13 targeted official, including President
Bashar Al Assad. Nevertheless the aim of both the EU and the USA is to stop the
violence and press Assad to agree to a process of reform, but not to force him to step
down, as repeatedly declared by different officials. The international community has
adopted a conciliate and not to severe position against Syria because no one wants to see
chaos at the gates of Israel, especially since this regime has been able to maintain the
most secure borders with Israel since the establishment of a demilitarized zone in 1974.
The passivity of the Syrian State to try to recuperate the occupied territory Golan, not a
single shot since 1974, has nevertheless not prevent it to crush the Palestinians and the
progresssist movements in Lebanon in 1976, while participating in the imperialist war
against Iraq in 1991 with the coalition led by the USA.
Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of Bashar Al Assad, actually declared few weeks ago that if
there is no stability in Syria, there will be no stability in Israel, and adding that no one can
guarantee what will happen if something happens to the Syrian regime. We have seen
better as anti imperialist stand and we can understand therefore Israel satisfaction with
the status quo with the Syrian regime. The USA on its sides needs Syria for the Iraqi
issue, due to the influence of this country on the Iraqi resistance and other actors, and its
role as a mediator between Washington and Iran, on Iraq.
This is not to say that the Western powers have traditionally been more hostile towards
the Syrian regime, as we can observe with the imposition of sanctions while neither
Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia suffered from it despite similar behavior against its people,
because of its support to the Resistance in Lebanon and in Palestine. The Western powers
can nevertheless not have a harsher stand against Syria, because it is engaged in a war in
Libya and trying to put back a so called peace process, which never really started, in
Palestine. They are therefore being very cautious in their sanctions and behavior against
Syrian regime, which has strong influence all over the region and could threaten any
attempts from Western powers or their interests.
In conclusion, the popular uprising in Syria is ongoing and will continue until the Syrian
people achieve their democratic and social rights. The protesters have refused the so
called “national dialogue” suggested by the regime, while the repression and killings
continue, and above all without the release of all political prisoners, the authorization of
meetings and peaceful demonstrations. The Syrians will make the popular uprising
Permanent and will not leave the streets until they have their rights and dignity back.
Images of riot police, burning cars and water cannons
have been everywhere lately – Tahrir Square, downtown
Damascus, Beyonce's new music video...
Beyonce has brought the revolution to MTV, waving red flags and raising an army to Run
The World. In a striking example of art mirroring life, the revolutionary fever that has
made 2011 the year of 'anything is possible' has now infected pop music.
Of course there are obvious flaws with this video. In particular there is the fact that
Beyonce has pitted men against women rather than rich against poor.
In Run The World (Girls) the division has been drawn between the sexes rather than
classes. It would be interesting to see where Beyonce would place herself in a real
revolution. She earned $35 million last year and $87 million the year before that -
marginally more than is earned by your average working American woman.
Recent world wide uprisings and demonstrations have done what is needed to bring about
real change – combine the power of men and women. While women only demonstrations
have their place within wider movements, the pitting of men against women is a
reactionary move. Working men and women have far more in common than a working
woman has with Beyonce whose astronomical wealth shields her from oppression.
There is clearly a great deal of hypocrisy involved when a multi-millionaire artist uses
revolutionary symbolism to enlarge their bank balance, as is discussed further in this
article. However the fact that this video has even been made is a sign of progress. There
would have been numerous storyboards discussed for this video – a myriad of concepts
vying for position. Beyonce could easily have done the video in a bikini from the back of
a limousine but the bosses at the record label instead went with a revolutionary theme. I
like to think that the thought of the revolutionary dispossessed invading their offices had
them squirming in their seats a little, so they quickly dreamed up the man vs woman
But the fact remains that the idea of revolution is now mainstream. Its hot. Officially.
And even if you don't like Beyonce – or her corruption of what was once a great track by
Major Lazor – she remains an aspirational figure to many young people. (In the time it
took me to write this article another million people watched the video.) If the idea of
charging riot police – and being victorious – can be popularised then so much the better.
This is more than just a fashion or a passing phase, because it is backed up by millions of
people fighting to change the world. It can only be a good thing if more and more people
start yearning for Revolution. We want the idea of Revolution to be popular – that's the
For artists that have been singing and rapping about revolution for years – providing the
soundtrack to the struggle – this is the time to take things one step further, if Beyonce is
treading on your toes then its time to take musical militancy to a whole new level.
Rather than hate on this video and on Beyonce, Run The World should be taken as a sign
that Revolution has never been so fashionable (sorry Tariq Ali) or possible. Not because
of Beyonce but because the struggle has become too big for anyone to ignore.
New release: 60 bloggers recount their revolutionary stories in
'Tweets from Tahrir'
Idle, co-editor of the recently published compilation, returns to Cairo
to share her inspiration with the bloggers she coordinated with as they
discuss their accounts and share their stories of Tahrir
Ashraf Amin, Monday 30 May 2011
Tweets from Tahrir, edited by NADIA IDLE and ALEX NUNNS, London: OR
Publishing, 2011. pp.234
"You People are Hypocrites! You talk about democracy but you won't let me run for
President? Where is freedom?!" such were the words of fake Hosny Mubarak on Twitter.
If you didn't have a chance to read it before, you will find it in the recently published
Tweets from Tahrir.
The book, a compilation of tweets from the 18 day uprising in Tahrir, was published in
Europe and the US last March. Co-edited by Nadia Idle and Alex Nunns, the latest book
to touch on the 25 January Revolution has been well received by world media for its
unique look at the events through the tweets of 60 bloggers.
In her last visit to Cairo, Idle, an Egyptian-British Activist and SOAS scholar, arranged a
group meeting with the bloggers at the Windsor Hotel last week to thank them for
allowing her to use their tweets and to offer them copies of the book. She also gave a
speech about how the idea of using tweets to recount the events of Tahrir came to her and
how they would evolve in the book.
A large cross-section of the bloggers were there: Sandmonkey, Gigi Ibrahim and many
others were all talking and introducing themselves to the other bloggers with their twitter
According to Idle, the book will be launched in Egypt and the Middle East by June and
the publishers, OR Books, are planning to translate the book into Hindi as the 25
January Revolution had a strong affect in South East Asian Countries.
As for translating the book into Arabic, Idle said that some bloggers expressed concern
while others refused since they felt bad translations or being accused for their political
words could unnecessarily get them tangled up with the current interim rulers, especially
considering that one of the book’s bloggers, Tarek Shalaby , was recently arrested and
later released for taking part in the nakba protests in front of Cairo’s Israeli embassy.
Activists seek to follow Tunisia, exclude regime party from
Mon, 30/05/2011 - 13:50
Photographed by Amr Abdalla
The revolutionaries of the 18-day uprising that overthrew former president Hosni
Mubarak had more than just the president in their sights - they hoped to bring down the
entire corrupt system. Now, the presence of figures from Mubarak’s National Democratic
Party (NDP) in public life continues to infuriate them.
Former stalwarts of the now-banned NDP party are personae non grata at almost any
post-Mubarak revolutionary conference. Over the past week, their participation has
caused conflicts at least three major conferences dedicated to discussing the path forward,
in one case even dissolving into a fistfight.
But it is more than just conferences that many activists want NDP figures banned from.
Many are calling for a ban on NDP figures from post-Mubarak politics.
“As prominent members of the former ruling political party, they do not fulfill one of the
major conditions to be eligible for high political office in Egypt, ‘being known as
someone with an upstanding morality and a good track record,’” said Appeals Court
lawyer and activist Essam al-Islambouly.
Islambouly was one of the first to bring a case to court regarding banning
former NDP members from political life when he requested that newly appointed
governors who were active with the NDP be removed from their positions.
“They helped ruin the country,” he said.
Tunisia, the first Arab country to revolt against its authoritarian ruler this year, set many
precedents in the so-called Arab spring. Now, Egyptian activists hope to emulate
Tunisians' decision to ban members of former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's ruling
party from participating in elections scheduled for July.
“It is perfectly normal for members of the ousted ruling party to be banned from political
life for a certain period of time after any revolution,” said Mohamed Mahsoob, a long-
time activist and the acting dean of law at Monufiya University. “It happened in almost
every revolution, as recently in Romania, Tunisia, even in Egypt, ‘52.”
Mahsoob has joined calls for the current government to ban leading NDP members from
running for office for the next five years and second-tier members from political life for
These prominent pundits, politicians and legal experts say it is important to exclude NDP
members from the coming government because it will be charged with writing a new
constitution and setting the scene for a new president.
The coming parliament will also have great symbolic significance as the first following
Mubarak's rule. Mahsoob, like other activists, objects to their inclusion in dialogue even
in the current interim period.
“It’s a joke,” he said.
In April, a court order the NDP dissolved on grounds of corruption. Many believe this is
ample reason for a decision to ban its members from politics.
Islambouly says a straightforward legal mechanism can be used to ban them from public
life. The April court ruling sets sufficient precedence, he says, allowing him to object to
the appointment of NDP members in high-ranking positions.
Islambouly intends to raise specific lawsuits whenever the government decides to appoint
former NDP members to important government posts.
But a blanket ban on participation of NDP figures in government would likely require a
decree from the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). This was the case
in Tunisia, where the interim prime minister announced the suspension of leaders of the
formerly ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) a little more than two months
after a court dissolved the party.
“[The SCAF] would be responding to the revolutionary legitimacy and popular demand.
It would not be an infringement of the Constitution as a result,” Mahsoob said.
Despite by all accounts a convicted party, some former NDP members are not guilty or
even suspected of any illegal activities.
“There were many NDP elements that were good and not corrupt. Why do we have to
exclude them? They can join other parties and benefit the country,” said former Egyptian
Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Bassiouny in a recent television interview.
“Those who are guilty of corruption are in jail or being prosecuted,” he added.
Activists, however, still see an issue with symbolic nature of their participation. And for
many, their presence in the party makes them guilty by association.
“They have joined and participated with a party that has corrupted the ruling system in
Egypt,” Islambouly said. Legally, he only needs to refer back to the court order
dissolving the party as evidence.
In general, the call for excluding NDP members is separate from corruption cases. This is
a call for exclusion, not prosecution.
The practical issue involved with banning senior NDP members involves the ability to
make dormant one of the more far-reaching political mechanisms in the country. It is a
force that has been used to disrupt political life during the last few elections with a
network of thugs, informants and employees.
But banning NDP figures from running still leaves big questions. Its countrywide
network could be used to disrupt the coming elections or continue corrupting political life
in Egypt if they feel that would be in their interest.
“They are already trying to ruin the revolution by disrupting everyday life in many parts
of the country. Either way there will need to be precautions keeping them from causing
disruptions,” Mahsoob said.
The NDP boasted that around three million Egyptians carried party membership cards. If
true, that would make it impossible to remove them all from public life. This kind of
move may also have far-reaching implications if recent history is any guide.
Shortly after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the US administrator, who was effectively
Iraq’s interim government, ordered the firing of around 150,000 government employees
and civil servants who belonged to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. As the policy
extended to the military, unemployment increased, leading to more crime and a loss of
The NDP was not as far reaching and hegemonic as the Baath Party, but it is significant
enough that legislators and activists are taking into account party members’ reactions if a
great deal of them are blacklisted.
Many see the removal of the NDP from public life in Egypt as due course for the
revolution. Its full implementation, however, lies not with revolutionaries but with the
Military questions journalists over allegations of abuse by
Tue, 31/05/2011 - 18:16
Photographed by مويلا يرصملا
Egypt’s military prosecutors questioned journalists and a blogger on Tuesday for
allegedly criticizing the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has been
ruling the country since the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak on 11 February.
Television anchor Reem Maged, who presents a daily talk show on the private television
channel ONTV, journalist Nabil Sharaf al-Din and blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy were
summoned on Monday after allegedly criticizing the military.
A military source told Al-Masry Al-Youm that investigators didn’t “question” the three
journalists, but rather inquired about claims that they have evidence showing the military
police abused some protesters during the last three months.
Outside the investigation’s headquarters in eastern Cairo, tens of protesters expressed
their anger on Tuesday at the SCAF and denounced what they believe to be plans by the
military to restrict freedom of speech.
“The revolution will not fall back. No to suppression. Yes to freedom,” chanted the
In a television show broadcast on ONTV on Thursday, the 33-year-old Hamalawy
accused the head of the military police of violating human rights and ordering his forces
to beat up protesters.
Human rights groups had previously reported cases of torture, including the beating and
electrocution of protesters detained by the military police during peaceful demonstrations
two months ago.
“El-Hamalawy didn’t say anything incorrect, because we all know the military police
insulted our human dignity,” said George Akram,18, who was holding a placard that
read, “You are not gods not to be criticized,” referring to the SCAF.
However, in his analysis of events on the same program last Friday, Sharaf al-Din
suggested that the SCAF is involved in a secret deal with the Muslim Brotherhood.
While it was originally thought the three were summoned for interrogation and would
possibly face military trials, they came out after about three hours from what they
described as a “friendly discussion”.
“This was neither an official interrogation nor a summons, and we are not facing any
charges. However, it is an intimidation for journalists,” said Maged right after she came
Maged added that it was a meeting with the head of the military court and a number of
military police officers for clarification and discussion of the statements made on
television regarding the military police abuse.
“They asked us to submit all the reports, testimonies and videos that prove the abuse,”
said Hamalawy after his release.
“But we made it clear to them that this evidence was already submitted to both the
general and military prosecution, but they were never investigated,”
Media censorship by the SCAF has been the concern of many journalists and activists,
especially since the revolution.
“This is not censorship, this is surveillance and it’s injustice,” said Amina Tharwat
Abaza, a television host who resigned from state television last month protesting the
biased coverage of protests.
“They want to send a message to the people that whoever opens his mouth with criticism
will be punished.”
Fighting raises Yemen civil war fears
Truce collapses as forces loyal to president Saleh and opposition
tribesmen clash in capital, Sanaa.
Last Modified: 31 May 2011 15:23
A tenuous truce declared a few days ago to end street fighting in the Yemeni capital
between tribal groups and forces loyal to president Ali Abdullah Saleh has broken down,
sending the country closer to the brink of civil war.
"The ceasefire agreement has ended," a government official said on Tuesday without
giving further details.
The announcement came as overnight clashes in Sanaa killed many people and left
Sources told Al Jazeera that the heaviest shelling took place near the interior ministry
building and the house of Sadiq al-Ahmar, a powerful tribal leader ranged against
They said forces loyal to Saleh, under pressure from protesters to quit and end his 33-year
rule, fired tens of shells and missiles from a mountain near the house of al-Ahmar.
A journalist from Sanaa told Al Jazeera the fighting was the fiercest the capital had seen
in a long time.
"People are leaving, several homes were burned and tribal forces took over some
government buildings and police stations," the journalist said.
Protesters 'shot dead'
Meanwhile, security forces reportedly shot dead at least two anti-government protesters
in Yemen's second-largest city of Taiz on Tuesday, witnesses said.
They said that security forces were attempting to prevent anyone from gathering in the
city, firing on those who tried to do so.
Medics confirmed that at least two
people had been killed.
Tuesday's deaths came after
protesters said security forces
smashed a four-month-long sit-in in
Taiz on Monday, killing 21
According to reports received by the
UN, more than 50 protesters have
been killed in Taiz since Sunday.
"The UN human rights office has
received reports, which remain to be fully verified, that more than 50 people have been
killed since Sunday in Taiz by Yemeni Army, Republican Guards and other government-
affiliated elements," UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said.
The latest violence follows the death of at least 30 people, reportedly killed by air strikes
in the southern city of Zinjibar, which is said to be controlled by fighters linked to al-
The air attack on Monday appeared to be in response to Sunday's takeover of the city by
300 alleged al-Qaeda fighters and an overnight ambush that killed at least six Yemeni
soldiers and injured dozens more who were travelling to the southern city.
"Civilians found a military car and an armoured vehicle. They were destroyed, and the
bodies of six soldiers were found on the roadside," Ayman Mohamed Nasser, editor-in-
chief of Attariq, Aden's main opposition paper, told the Reuters news agency by
Opposition leaders have accused Saleh of deliberately allowing Zinjibar, near a sea lane
where about 3 million barrels of oil pass daily, to fall to al-Qaeda in a bid to show how
chaotic Yemen would be without him.
Global powers have also been pressing Saleh to sign a deal brokered by Arab Gulf states
under their umbrella organisation, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), to hand over
Under the deal, Saleh was to hand over power in 30 days and be granted immunity from
prosecution. The opposition signed the deal but Saleh refused to sign it.
Fears over al-Qaeda
The deal was aimed at stemming the growing chaos in Yemen, home to al-Qaeda
fighters and neighbour to the world's biggest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia.
The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of attacks by Yemen-based al-Qaeda in
the Arabian Peninsula, are worried that chaos is emboldening the group.
Saleh has been losing support as protests continued.
A breakaway military group called for other army units to join them in the fight to bring
Under Saleh, Yemen has moved to the brink of financial collapse, with about 40 percent
of the population living on less than $2 a day and a third facing chronic hunger.
At least 320 people have been killed in fighting in Yemen since protests calling for Saleh
to end his rule started about four months ago, inspired by the popular uprisings that ended
the reign of the long-standing rulers of Tunisia and Egypt.
Hundreds demonstrate in solidarity with journalists being
questioned by military
Hundreds gather before the offices of the military prosecutor in a show
of solidarity with journalists Hossam Hamalawy and Reem Maged who
have been called in for questioning by the military
Salma Shukrallah and Mai Shaheen , Tuesday 31 May 2011
Activists at demonstration carry banners reading "The military council
is not a red line, the people are" and "no to oppressing freedom of
speech and expression" (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
Hundreds gathered on Tuesday in front of the military prosecutor, as journalist and
blogger Hossam El-Hamalawy and TV presenter Reem Maged were being interrogated,
to show solidarity for the two journalists and express support freedom of speech.
The demonstrators held banners reading “The people are above the ruling authorities and
nothing should overrule the freedom to criticize”, “you are not gods so as to ask people
not to criticize you” and “Freedom to Hossam”.
The demonstrators also chanted against the military trials of civilians and for freedom of
El-Hamalawy and Maged were called in for questioning by the military prosecution after
Maged hosted El-Hamalawy on her popular prime time talk show on On TV. In the
course of the show, El-Hamalawy charged that the military police had, on a number of
occasions, tortured activists and said that the head of the military police should be held to
account for this.
Another journalist, Nabil Sharaf El-Din was also called for questioning by the military
prosecution authorities on the same day as El-Hamalawy and Maged after criticizing the
role of the military in handling Egypt’s transition period.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces called on youth groups to participate in
dialogue with the military in a meeting set for Wednesday hours after El-Hamalawy,
Maged and Sharaf El-Din were called in for questioning. The Youth Coalition has
already declared that they will continue to boycott dialogue with the military so long as
civilians face military trials and prosecution.
Demonstrators continue to stand in front of the military prosecution waiting for El-
Hamalawy and Maged to come out.
Report: Egypt admits to forcing "virginity tests"
Posted by Joshua Norman 19 comments
Egyptian anti-government demonstrators pray at Tahrir Square on Feb. 10, 2011.
(Credit: Getty Images/Mohammed Abed)
On March 9, as the Egypt uprising continued to celebrate its success with Hosni
Mubarak's Feb. 11 departure from office, the army attempted to clear Tahrir Square in
Cairo of protesters, and about 18 women were caught up and arrested in the security
About two weeks later, Amnesty International issued a scathing report, claiming
Egyptian authorities forced "virginity tests" on the detained women, and this was only
after the female protesters had been beaten, given electric shocks and "subjected to strip
searches while being photographed by male soldiers."
At the time, Egypt's rulers denied the accusations, in no small part because forced
"virginity tests" are considered torture by many. Now, Maj. Amr Imam of the Egyptian
army has admitted to CNN that the virginity tests were indeed conducted, and he went so
far as to defend the practice.
"The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," Imam told CNN.
"These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and
we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs). We didn't want them to say we had
sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the
first place. None of them were (virgins)."
In its report Amnesty International writes:
"20-year-old Salwa Hosseini (said) that after she was arrested and
taken to a military prison in Heikstep, she was made, with the other
women, to take off all her clothes to be searched by a female prison
guard, in a room with two open doors and a window. During the strip
search, Salwa Hosseini said male soldiers were looking into the room
and taking pictures of the naked women. The women were then
subjected to 'virginity tests' in a different room by a man in a white
coat. They were threatened that "those not found to be virgins" would
be charged with prostitution. According to information received by
Amnesty International, one woman who said she was a virgin but
whose test supposedly proved otherwise was beaten and given electric
Most of the arrested women were brought to trial on March 11, and released two days
later with one-year suspended sentences, Amnesty writes.
Mubarak stepped down after 30 years in power on Feb. 11 and transferred power to the
military after the 18-day popular uprising. At least 846 protesters were killed, and
thousands injured, according to a government fact-finding mission.
Egyptian general admits 'virginity checks'
conducted on protesters
From Shahira Amin, For CNN
May 31, 2011 -- Updated 1557 GMT (2357 HKT)
Egyptian protesters get virginity tests?
• 17 women were arrested at a March 9 protest in Cairo, after
• A senior Egyptian general says some of them were subject to
• He says it was done so that they wouldn't claim later they had
• One woman allegedly targeted had said, "They wanted to teach
us a lesson"
Cairo (CNN) -- A senior Egyptian general admits that "virginity checks" were performed
on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous
denials by military authorities.
The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the
March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks,
strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity
At that time, Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of
torture or "virginity tests."
But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were
conducted and defended the practice.
"The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," the general said.
"These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and
we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs)."
The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn't later claim
they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.
"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to
prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were
This demonstration occurred nearly a month after Egypt's longtime President Hosni
Mubarak stepped down amid a wave of popular and mostly peaceful unrest aimed at his
ouster and the institution of democratic reforms.
Afterward, Egypt's military -- which had largely stayed on the sidelines of the revolution
-- officially took control of the nation's political apparatus as well, until an agreed-upon
constitution and elections.
Mubarak denies ordering shootings
The March 9 protest occurred in Tahrir Square, which became famous over 18 historic
and sometimes bloody days and nights of protests that led to Mubarak's resignation.
But unlike in those previous demonstrations, the Egyptian military targeted the protesters.
Soldiers dragged dozens of demonstrators from the square and through the gates of the
landmark Egyptian Museum.
Salwa Hosseini, a 20-year-old hairdresser and one of the women named in the Amnesty
report, described to CNN how uniformed soldiers tied her up on the museum's grounds,
forced her to the ground and slapped her, then shocked her with a stun gun while calling
her a prostitute.
"They wanted to teach us a lesson," Hosseini said soon after the Amnesty report came
out. "They wanted to make us feel that we do not have dignity."
The treatment got worse, Hosseini said, when she and the 16 other female prisoners were
taken to a military detention center in Heikstep.
There, she said, she and several of other female detainees were subjected to a "virginity
"We did not agree for a male doctor to perform the test," she said. But Hosseini said her
captors forced her to comply by threatening her with more stun-gun shocks.
"I was going through a nervous breakdown at that moment," she recalled. "There was no
one standing during the test, except for a woman and the male doctor. But several
soldiers were standing behind us watching the backside of the bed. I think they had them
standing there as witnesses."
The senior Egyptian general said the 149 people detained after the March 9 protest were
subsequently tried in military courts, and most have been sentenced to a year in prison.
Authorities later revoked those sentences "when we discovered that some of the detainees
had university degrees, so we decided to give them a second chance," he said.
The senior general reaffirmed that the military council was determined to make Egypt's
democratic transition a success.
"The date for handover to a civil government can't come soon enough for the ruling
military council," he said. "The army can't wait to return to its barracks and do what it
does best -- protect the nation's borders."
Yemeni protesters killed as Saleh's troops
storm their camp with tanks
By Catrina Stewart
Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Anti-government protesters demonstrate in Sana'a
Yemen's security forces stormed an anti-regime protest camp in the southern city of Taiz
yesterday, killing at least 20 people in the second bloodiest day of the four-month
uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule.
The raid coincided with the bombing of a southern provincial town that had fallen to
Islamist militants, bolstering the embattled president's claim that al-Qa'ida is poised to
exploit the vacuum that his departure would leave.
On Sunday night, security forces moved in on the protesters' camp in Taiz's Freedom
Square, focal point for anti-government demonstrations, deploying water cannons and
Tanks and bulldozers then razed tents, setting them alight, eyewitnesses said. Soldiers
also knocked down a field hospital and seized a nearby hotel, snipers using the rooftops
to fire on the demonstrators.
Protesters described horrific scenes, with one claiming he had seen a tent ablaze with its
terrified occupants inside unable to escape. Boushra al-Maqtari, one of the organisers of
the protests, called it a "massacre", saying the many wounded had been dragged off to
detention centres. Others claimed police had removed several of the dead bodies,
suggesting the actual death toll could be much higher.
The brutal assault comes just days after the capital, Sanaa, erupted in ferocious street
clashes after efforts by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to oversee the resignation of
Mr Saleh collapsed. Five days of street battles ensued, killing 124 people.
Since protests first broke out in late January, Mr Saleh has generally refrained from the
all-out violence against protesters seen elsewhere in the Middle East. Nevertheless, some
50 protesters were killed by snipers on 18 March in Sanaa, prompting a spate of
defections among Mr Saleh's allies.
Mr Saleh has reneged on promises to step down, presenting himself as the only leader
able to stop Yemen from falling into the hands of al-Qa'ida. Yesterday Yemeni fighter
jets pounded the coastal town of Zinjibar, seized by Islamist militants a few days ago, in a
bid to retake control. Ground forces also battled with the militants and at least six soldiers
were killed by rocket-propelled grenades and an ambush on a convoy.
Different opposition groups have accused Mr Saleh of deliberately allowing the town to
fall to Islamist militants, allowing him to use the spectre of the al-Qa'ida threat to cling on
to power. Since a daring jail break by militants five years ago, al-Qa'ida in the Arab
Peninsula (AQAP) has flourished in the lawless hinterlands of southern and eastern
Yemen, and has been identified by the US as the single biggest threat to its domestic
It remained unclear if the militants were part of AQAP, with local residents saying the
militants called themselves Ansar al-Sharia. Yemen scholar Gregory Johnsen tweeted
that AQAP had taken to calling itself by that name, although Yemen-based al-Qa'ida
experts said it was unlikely that AQAP would seize a town, thus presenting itself as a
large target for air strikes.
Mr Saleh has attracted billions of dollars in US aid in his efforts to fight AQAP, and
initially Washington refrained from criticising him, seeing him as a critical ally in the
fight against global terrorism. But in recent weeks, the Obama administration has
dropped its support for the Yemeni leader, instead backing efforts to secure his
resignation in return for immunity.
Yesterday, Yemeni forces were also searching for three French aid workers who went
missing in the desert province of Hawdramut at the weekend. It has not been confirmed if
they were kidnapped, but the French foreign ministry said it was looking more likely
after their car was found yesterday.
Who cares in the Middle East what Obama
President Obama has shown himself to be weak in his dealings with the Middle East, says
Robert Fisk, and the Arab world is turning its back with contempt. Its future will be
shaped without American influence
Monday, 30 May 2011
President Obama at Middle East peace talks in Washington last year with Benjamin
Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, Hosni Mubarak, and King Abdullah
• More pictures
This month, in the Middle East, has seen the unmaking of the President of the United
States. More than that, it has witnessed the lowest prestige of America in the region since
Roosevelt met King Abdul Aziz on the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake in 1945.
While Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu played out their farce in Washington –
Obama grovelling as usual – the Arabs got on with the serious business of changing their
world, demonstrating and fighting and dying for freedoms they have never possessed.
Obama waffled on about change in the Middle East – and about America's new role in
the region. It was pathetic. "What is this 'role' thing?" an Egyptian friend asked me at the
weekend. "Do they still believe we care about what they think?"
And it is true. Obama's failure to support the Arab revolutions until they were all but over
lost the US most of its surviving credit in the region. Obama was silent on the overthrow
of Ben Ali, only joined in the chorus of contempt for Mubarak two days before his flight,
condemned the Syrian regime – which has killed more of its people than any other
dynasty in this Arab "spring", save for the frightful Gaddafi – but makes it clear that he
would be happy to see Assad survive, waves his puny fist at puny Bahrain's cruelty and
remains absolutely, stunningly silent over Saudi Arabia. And he goes on his knees before
Israel. Is it any wonder, then, that Arabs are turning their backs on America, not out of
fury or anger, nor with threats or violence, but with contempt? It is the Arabs and their
fellow Muslims of the Middle East who are themselves now making the decisions.
Turkey is furious with Assad because he twice promised to speak of reform and
democratic elections – and then failed to honour his word. The Turkish government has
twice flown delegations to Damascus and, according to the Turks, Assad lied to the
foreign minister on the second visit, baldly insisting that he would recall his brother
Maher's legions from the streets of Syrian cities. He failed to do so. The torturers
continue their work.
Watching the hundreds of refugees pouring from Syria across the northern border of
Lebanon, the Turkish government is now so fearful of a repeat of the great mass Iraqi
Kurdish refugee tide that overwhelmed their border in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war
that it has drawn up its own secret plans to prevent the Kurds of Syria moving in their
thousands into the Kurdish areas of south-eastern Turkey. Turkish generals have thus
prepared an operation that would send several battalions of Turkish troops into Syria
itself to carve out a "safe area" for Syrian refugees inside Assad's caliphate. The Turks
are prepared to advance well beyond the Syrian border town of Al Qamishli – perhaps
half way to Deir el-Zour (the old desert killing fields of the 1915 Armenian Holocaust,
though speak it not) – to provide a "safe haven" for those fleeing the slaughter in Syria's
The Qataris are meanwhile trying to prevent Algeria from resupplying Gaddafi with tanks
and armoured vehicles – this was one of the reasons why the Emir of Qatar, the wisest
bird in the Arabian Gulf, visited the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, last week.
Qatar is committed to the Libyan rebels in Benghazi; its planes are flying over Libya
from Crete and – undisclosed until now – it has Qatari officers advising the rebels inside
the city of Misrata in western Libya; but if Algerian armour is indeed being handed over
to Gaddafi to replace the material that has been destroyed in air strikes, it would account
for the ridiculously slow progress which the Nato campaign is making against Gaddafi.
Of course, it all depends on whether Bouteflika really controls his army – or whether the
Algerian "pouvoir", which includes plenty of secretive and corrupt generals, are doing the
deals. Algerian equipment is superior to Gaddafi's and thus for every tank he loses,
Ghaddafi might be getting an improved model to replace it. Below Tunisia, Algeria and
Libya share a 750-mile desert frontier, an easy access route for weapons to pass across
But the Qataris are also attracting Assad's venom. Al Jazeera's concentration on the
Syrian uprising – its graphic images of the dead and wounded far more devastating than
anything our soft western television news shows would dare broadcast – has Syrian state
television nightly spitting at the Emir and at the state of Qatar. The Syrian government
has now suspended up to £4 billion of Qatari investment projects, including one
belonging to the Qatar Electricity and Water Company.
Amid all these vast and epic events – Yemen itself may yet prove to be the biggest
bloodbath of all, while the number of Syria's "martyrs" have now exceeded the victims of
Mubarak's death squads five months ago – is it any surprise that the frolics of Messrs
Netanyahu and Obama appear so irrelevant? Indeed, Obama's policy towards the Middle
East – whatever it is – sometimes appears so muddled that it is scarcely worthy of study.
He supports, of course, democracy – then admits that this may conflict with America's
interests. In that wonderful democracy called Saudi Arabia, the US is now pushing ahead
with a £40 billion arms deal and helping the Saudis to develop a new "elite" force to
protect the kingdom's oil and future nuclear sites. Hence Obama's fear of upsetting Saudi
Arabia, two of whose three leading brothers are now so incapacitated that they can no
longer make sane decisions – unfortunately, one of these two happens to be King
Abdullah – and his willingness to allow the Assad family's atrocity-prone regime to
survive. Of course, the Israelis would far prefer the "stability" of the Syrian dictatorship
to continue; better the dark caliphate you know than the hateful Islamists who might
emerge from the ruins. But is this argument really good enough for Obama to support
when the people of Syria are dying in the streets for the kind of democracy that the US
president says he wants to see in the region?
One of the vainest elements of American foreign policy towards the Middle East is the
foundational idea that the Arabs are somehow more stupid than the rest of us, certainly
than the Israelis, more out of touch with reality than the West, that they don't understand
their own history. Thus they have to be preached at, lectured, and cajoled by La Clinton
and her ilk – much as their dictators did and do, father figures guiding their children
through life. But Arabs are far more literate than they were a generation ago; millions
speak perfect English and can understand all too well the political weakness and
irrelevance in the president's words. Listening to Obama's 45-minute speech this month –
the "kick off' to four whole days of weasel words and puffery by the man who tried to
reach out to the Muslim world in Cairo two years ago, and then did nothing – one might
have thought that the American President had initiated the Arab revolts, rather than sat on
the sidelines in fear.
There was an interesting linguistic collapse in the president's language over those critical
four days. On Thursday 19 May, he referred to the continuation of Israeli "settlements".
A day later, Netanyahu was lecturing him on "certain demographic changes that have
taken place on the ground". Then when Obama addressed the American Aipac lobby
group (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) on the Sunday, he had cravenly
adopted Netanyahu's own preposterous expression. Now he, too, spoke of "new
demographic realities on the ground." Who would believe that he was talking about
internationally illegal Jewish colonies built on land stolen from Arabs in one of the
biggest property heists in the history of "Palestine"? Delay in peace-making will
undermine Israeli security, Obama announced – apparently unaware that Netanyahu's
project is to go on delaying and delaying and delaying until there is no land left for the
"viable" Palestinian state which the United States and the European Union supposedly
wish to see.
Then we had the endless waffle about the 1967 borders. Netanyahu called them
"defenceless" (though they seemed to have been pretty defendable for the 18 years prior
to the Six Day War) and Obama – oblivious to the fact that Israel must be the only
country in the world to have an eastern land frontier but doesn't know where it is – then
says he was misunderstood when he talked about 1967. It doesn't matter what he says.
George W Bush caved in years ago when he gave Ariel Sharon a letter which stated
America's acceptance of "already existing major Israeli population centres" beyond the
1967 lines. To those Arabs prepared to listen to Obama's spineless oration, this was a
grovel too far. They simply could not understand the reaction of Netanyahu's address to
Congress. How could American politicians rise and applaud Netanyahu 55 times – 55
times – with more enthusiasm than one of the rubber parliaments of Assad, Saleh and the
And what on earth did the Great Speechifier mean when he said that "every country has
the right to self-defence" but that Palestine would be "demilitarised"? What he meant was
that Israel could go on attacking the Palestinians (as in 2009, for example, when Obama
was treacherously silent) while the Palestinians would have to take what was coming to
them if they did not behave according to the rules – because they would have no weapons
to defend themselves. As for Netanyahu, the Palestinians must choose between unity with
Hamas or peace with Israel. All of which was very odd. When there was no unity,
Netanyahu told us all that he had no Palestinian interlocutor because the Palestinians
were disunited. Yet when they unite, they are disqualified from peace talks.
Of course, cynicism grows the longer you live in the Middle East. I recall, for example,
travelling to Gaza in the early 1980s when Yasser Arafat was running his PLO statelet in
Beirut. Anxious to destroy Arafat's prestige in the occupied territories, the Israeli
government decided to give its support to an Islamist group in Gaza called Hamas. In
fact, I actually saw with my own eyes the head of the Israeli army's Southern Command
negotiating with bearded Hamas officials, giving them permission to build more
mosques. It's only fair to say, of course, that we were also busy at the time, encouraging a
certain Osama bin Laden to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. But the Israelis did not
give up on Hamas. They later held another meeting with the organisation in the West
Bank; the story was on the front page of the Jerusalem Post the next day. But there wasn't
a whimper from the Americans.
Then another moment that I can recall over the long years. Hamas and Islamic Jihad
members – all Palestinians – were, in the early 1990s, thrown across the Israeli border
into southern Lebanon where they spent more than a year camping on a freezing
mountainside. I would visit them from time to time and on one occasion mentioned that I
would be travelling to Israel next day. Immediately, one of the Hamas men ran to his tent
and returned with a notebook. He then proceeded to give me the home telephone numbers
of three senior Israeli politicians – two of whom are still prominent today – and, when I
reached Jerusalem and called the numbers, they all turned out to be correct. In other
words, the Israeli government had been in personal and direct contact with Hamas.
But now the narrative has been twisted out of all recognition. Hamas are the super-
terrorists, the "al-Qa'ida" representatives in the unified Palestinian leadership, the men of
evil who will ensure that no peace ever takes place between Palestinians and Israeli. If
only this were true, the real al-Qa'ida would be more than happy to take responsibility.
But it is not true. In the same context, Obama stated that the Palestinians would have to
answer questions about Hamas. But why should they? What Obama and Netanyahu think
about Hamas is now irrelevant to them. Obama warns the Palestinians not to ask for
statehood at the United Nations in September. But why on earth not? If the people of
Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen and Libya and Syria – we are all waiting for the next
revolution (Jordan? Bahrain again? Morocco?) – can fight for freedom and dignity, why
shouldn't the Palestinians? Lectured for decades on the need for non-violent protest, the
Palestinians elect to go to the UN with their cry for legitimacy – only to be slapped down
Having read all of the "Palestine Papers" which Al-Jazeera revealed, there is no doubt
that "Palestine's" official negotiators will go to any lengths to produce some kind of
statelet. Mahmoud Abbas, who managed to write a 600-page book on the "peace process"
without once mentioning the word "occupation", could even cave in over the UN project,
fearful of Obama's warning that it would be an attempt to "isolate" Israel and thus de-
legitimise the Israeli state – or "the Jewish state" as the US president now calls it. But
Netanyahu is doing more than anyone to delegitimise his own state; indeed, he is looking
more and more like the Arab buffoons who have hitherto littered the Middle East.
Mubarak saw a "foreign hand" in the Egyptian revolution (Iran, of course). So did the
Crown Prince of Bahrain (Iran again). So did Gaddafi (al-Qa'ida, western imperialism,
you name it), So did Saleh of Yemen (al-Qa'ida, Mossad and America). So did Assad of
Syria (Islamism, probably Mossad, etc). And so does Netanyahu (Iran, naturally enough,
Syria, Lebanon, just about anyone you can think of except for Israel itself).
But as this nonsense continues, so the tectonic plates shudder. I doubt very much if the
Palestinians will remain silent. If there's an "intifada" in Syria, why not a Third Intifada
in "Palestine"? Not a struggle of suicide bombers but of mass, million-strong protests. If
the Israelis have to shoot down a mere few hundred demonstrators who tried – and in
some cases succeeded – in crossing the Israeli border almost two weeks ago, what will
they do if confronted by thousands or a million. Obama says no Palestinian state must be
declared at the UN. But why not? Who cares in the Middle East what Obama says? Not
even, it seems, the Israelis. The Arab spring will soon become a hot summer and there
will be an Arab autumn, too. By then, the Middle East may have changed forever. What
America says will matter nothing.
Syrian troops and tanks storm two 'rebel'
By Khalid Ali
Monday, 30 May 2011
Tanks launched a volley of shells and machine-gun fire during an assault on two central
Syrian towns yesterday where large-scale protests have been held against the regime of
President Bashar al-Assad. Armoured vehicles and troops stormed the towns of Talbiseh
and Rastan, raking houses with fire and killing at least three people.
The towns were surrounded by the army in the early hours of yesterday morning. In
Talbiseh, about six miles from the central Syrian city of Homs, civilians were seized from
their beds after tanks shelled the town and soldiers swept through the streets. Just a few
miles further north in Rastan, the town was encircled by troops who then opened fire.
"Rastan's main clinic is full of wounded people and there is no way to get them to a
hospital. Tanks are all around the town and they are firing heavily," said one witness, a
lawyer who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
On Friday, there had been a large demonstration in Rastan, a town of about 80,000
people, with protesters calling on Mr Assad to step down.
Internet, water, electricity and mobile links had been cut prior to the dawn raids – a
regular occurrence before military operations. "The government is disrupting internet
access across the country," said Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian human rights activist based in
the US. "They don't want people uploading videos on to YouTube."
In nearby Homs, which was shelled by the army earlier this month, troops have been
occupying the main city square to prevent demonstrators taking the city. Speaking to The
Independent yesterday, one man from Homs said: "I can hear the sound of machine gun
fire now. The streets around the city are empty. People can't move around easily from
place to place and 90 per cent of the stores are closed."
Rastan and Talbiseh are the latest towns to come under attack by the Syrian military, as
Mr Assad tries to get a grip on a nationwide uprising which began 10 weeks ago in the
southern city of Deraa. Since then more than 1,000 civilians have been killed and
countless more arrested, according to human rights groups. Many have been beaten,
tortured and held for weeks without charge at interrogation centres.
Demonstrators are now trying to use new tactics in a bid to outsmart the regime, with
organisers calling for night marches to avoid army snipers. The tactics have been used
before in various cities, but in recent days activists have used Facebook to demand they
be rolled out on a more regular basis.
The change in tack comes days after the death of Hamza al-Khatib, a 13-year-old boy
from Deraa who was arrested last month and died in custody. His tortured and mutilated
body was later returned to his family, while images of his corpse were then broadcast on
satellite television. His case has now attracted widespread publicity, with tens of
thousands of people signing-up to Facebook pages created in his honour.
Razan Zaitouna, a Syrian human rights lawyer, said: "The death of Hamza was
considered a very serious escalation by the authorities, as they killed and tortured a child.
Everyone has considered it a message from the regime to all the Syrian people."
The new shape of the struggle in Egypt
Mostafa Omar reports from Cairo on the mass protests on May 27--a breakthrough for the
left after several months of religious strife and anti-strike propaganda.
May 31, 2011
The May 27 demonstration in Tahrir
Square marked a renewal of the spirit of Egypt's revolution (Mai Shaheen)
AS MANY as 1 million people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square and across Egypt May
27 for a "Friday of Anger" that showed that the revolution against dictator Hosni
Mubarak and his regime has reached a new stage.
The May 27 demonstrations were called by left organizations in defiance of Egypt's
military rulers--as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal groups that were part of
the mass protests against Mubarak in February.
Despite a scare campaign in the official media--and most of the liberal media as well--
aimed at steering people away from the protests, the turnout was huge in Cairo, and even
bigger in Egypt's other main city of Alexandria, where at least 500,000 people marched.
Tens of thousands rallied in Suez, Port Said, Mansoura and many other cities.
In Tahrir, the militant crowd spent the day chanting, listening to speeches, and engaging
in lively discussions about the nature of the revolution, and what should be done about
the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military body that has ruled Egypt since
Mubarak's ouster. The spirit of revolution was in the air--the demonstration was
reminiscent of Tahrir in the days before Mubarak's fall.
Families of the martyrs and those injured in the uprising spoke at the rallies, and victims
of military torture and the regime's tribunals told their stories. Speaker after speaker
talked about how the Supreme Council is trying to contain the masses' demands for
democracy and equality, and the revolution must continue.
What you can do
Hossam el-Hamalawy and two other left-wing journalists have been summoned to appear
before military judges on May 31. Go to the Mena Soldarity Network website for more
information and to endorse a statement opposing the harassment of these journalists.
The new "Friday of Anger" on May 27 announced that the struggle is continuing in
Egypt, but now, it is against the country's military rulers who have refused to grant many
of the revolution's demands for democracy and who have tried to demobilize the
movement through a combination of some concessions and reforms and renewed
The future of Egypt's struggle will depend on whether the forces that participated on May
27 can continue to meet the urgent task of bringing wider layers of people into the fight--
and build an alternative to the Supreme Council and its supporters, including the liberal
organizations that were once sympathetic to the revolution.
A rally reshapes the political map
IN THE two weeks prior to the May 27 rallies, the issue of support for or opposition to
the planned demonstrations dominated the media and polarized the country.
On the one hand, the Supreme Council issued press statements insinuating that some
organizers of the protests intended to foment chaos and civil war. The media, both
official and liberal, mainly toed the line of the Council--many reporters and
commentators claimed the protesters are actually planning an armed uprising, rather than
a peaceful demonstration.
Rumors spread that thugs and provocateurs would carry out widespread of acts of
vandalism, that banks would close their ATMs, and that Hardee's and Kentucky Fried
Chicken would close their Tahrir Square franchises Friday in anticipation of rioting.
Multinational firms sent e-mails to employees telling them to avoid going near protest
Featured at Socialism
Hear Mostafa Omar at Socialism 2011 in Chicago, speaking on "Egypt: The revolution
continues." Check out the Socialism 2011 website for more details.
On the day before the protest, police arrested three activists for distributing leaflets and
posters critical of the Supreme Council, and handed them over to the military, which in
turn detained them for 12 hours.
The powerful Muslim Brotherhood organization, whose members participated in the
revolutionary uprising back in January and February, declared its opposition to the rally.
It issued a statement in support of the Supreme Council in which it denounced May 27
organizers as "counterrevolutionary," and accused them of conspiring against the army.
In Alexandria, Brotherhood supporters launched a red-baiting campaign, distributing
thousands of leaflets that accused anyone who would demonstrate against the Supreme
Council as being "communists and secularists"--code words for those who would
Other more hard-line fundamentalist groups--known collectively as Salafists--also
declared that they would not participate in the demonstration.
But organizers for the "Friday of Anger" also had reasons for feeling emboldened in the
days before May 27. One critical factor was the Supreme Council's concession on the
prosecution of Mubarak.
In April, in response to tremendous popular pressure, the Supreme Council announced
that Mubarak would go on trial for corruption and theft--his sons have also been accused.
But the Council refused to make him stand trial on more serious charges of killing
peaceful protesters. This dodged the issue of having to put the handcuffs on their former
boss--Mubarak was allowed to remain under treatment for a heart condition in a five-star
hospital in the posh tourist destination of Sharm el-Sheikh.
But the move was rejected among the mass of the population--and thus, in an unexpected
move, Egypt's attorney general announced on May 24 that Mubarak would go on trial for
conspiring with the former Interior Minister to kill more than 865 people and injure
thousands of others during the revolutionary uprising from its beginning on January 25
until Mubarak's resignation on February 11.
The Supreme Council's change of heart to try Mubarak for murder and not just financial
corruption was typical of previous concessions to mass pressure since it took power in
First, the Council drags its feet and tries to shield corrupt and brutal businessmen and
politicians as long as it can, so as to salvage as much of the old regime as possible. Then,
when millions begin to question why the army is being so soft Mubarak-era figures and
threats of marches and protests in Tahrir and elsewhere after Friday prayers begin to
grow, the Council hastens to make concessions in an attempt to absorb popular outrage.
In this case, organizations frustrated with the Council's timidity in holding trials for
Mubarak and his entourage planned a new protest for May 27--called the "Second Friday
of Anger" in reference to the mass demonstrations that shook the Mubarak regime on
Friday, January 28 and on a weekly basis in the days that followed. But this time, the
protesters' target would be the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
In the days immediately leading up to the rally, aside from the arrest of the three activists,
the government adopted a more conciliatory tone toward the protests. The Council
announced that it respected the right to peaceful protest and vowed that the military
would never open fire on the Egyptian people. Also, Egyptian Prime Minister Essam
Sharaf declared that workers' frustration over low wages was legitimate, and that he
unconditionally supports peaceful protests.
The message of May 27
Organizers of the "Friday of Anger" said they were demanding that the Supreme Council:
1) try Mubarak for murder; 2) end the use of military trials against activists and
revolutionaries; 3) abandon its authoritarian monopoly over major issues in the transition
to a democratic system; and 4) begin a process of redistributing the country's wealth
toward the poor by setting a living minimum wage.
The demonstrations were a huge success--and, considering all the attempts to derail them,
a blow to the Council and its supporters, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
In spite of the absence of the Brotherhood, the rallies were the largest show of force in
weeks by left and liberal forces in the country that support a continued struggle for real
democracy and social justice.
In the early hours of Friday, young people who organized themselves in public safety
committees secured the entrances to Tahrir Square, as had happened during the early days
of the revolution--searching participants to weed out provocateurs or thugs. As the day
wore on, speaker after speaker talked about the failures of the military to honor the
demands of the revolution, and declared their opposition to military trials and the "kid
gloves" treatment that Mubarak and his cronies have gotten.
The crowd chanted over and over about the Muslim Brotherhood's betrayal: "Where is
the Brotherhood? Here is Tahrir!" The protests all ended peacefully, with thousands
reserving the right to come back and reoccupy Tahrir in the future if necessary.
On Saturday morning, all the newspapers and TV stations had to report on the large size
of the turnout and the peaceful nature of the mobilizations. Millions who were subjected
to a weeklong campaign of scaremongering discovered that those who organized the rally
had the best interests of the revolution at heart.
Religious vs. class polarization
For those who want to unite everyone interested in continuing Egypt's democratic
revolution, the May 27 rallies were a big step forward in many ways.
With counterrevolutionary propaganda and religious strife dominating the political scene
for almost two months, the rallies' success could give confidence to workers' and
Throughout April and May, the government and the media outlets that support it carried
out a propaganda campaign against demonstrators, in particular, singling out striking
workers. Those who protested or struck were accused of paralyzing the country and
wrecking the economy. This led to a retreat in workers' confidence to strike for their
rights--strikes and sit-ins fell to 30 actions in April, compared to hundreds in each of the
previous two months.
Meanwhile, reactionary Salafist groups spent this period agitating and inciting hatred
against Christians, who make up 15 percent of the population. For example, in March,
Salafists, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, turned a referendum on changes to the
Mubarak-era constitution into a religious conflict. The vote was imposed
undemocratically by the Supreme Council to avoid drafting a new constitution.
Fundamentalists of all sorts mobilized millions to support nine changes to the old
discredited constitution, which itself maintains that Islamic Sharia is the main source of
laws in the country. In the weeks leading up to the referendum, the fundamentalists
insisted that good Muslims would vote "yes," and only bad Muslims and Christians
would vote "no."
More seriously, Salafists attempted to incite religious hatred against Christians in Friday
prayer sermons, and by holding provocative rallies outside of churches. Wild rumors
were spread, claiming that the Coptic Church kidnaps Christian women who marry
Muslims and convert to Islam. Different Salafist groups also pledged "jihad" to stop the
government from meeting Christians' demands to reopen more than 50 churches closed
arbitrarily by Mubarak.
As a result of this intense Salafist agitation, a number of anti-Christian riots broke out in
different parts of the country.
First, in early March, in the village of Atfih, south of Cairo, a mob of Salafists, along
with disenfranchised urban poor, burned a Coptic church to the ground because of an
alleged relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.
In April, in the Southern governate of Qena--which has a large number of Christian
residents--Salafists organized civil disobedience to oppose a new governor for the
province on the basis of his Christian identity. In fact, many Christians and Muslims
opposed the appointment of Emad Mikhael because he was a notoriously brutal general
in the secret police under Mubarak. But the Salafists directed their wrath on the appointed
governor's religious faith.
More recently, in early May, in the impoverished neighborhood of Imbaba in Cairo,
another Muslim mob attacked and burned a Coptic Church. Salafists had been agitating
against Christian s for some time, and claimed that priests were holding a Christian
woman married to a Muslim man in the church against her will. As army and police
officers stood by, gunfights between Muslims and Christians broke out. They lasted for
hours and left at least 11 people dead.
Fortunately, a public outcry by a sizeable majority of ordinary Muslims and Christians
against church burning temporarily slowed down the Salafists.
For example, mass demonstrations against religious sectarianism took place across the
country on May 13, and forced many Salafists to disown the attacks. Also, street
demonstrations and sit-ins by thousands of Christians--against church burning and for
equal rights--outside of the Radio and Television Building in Cairo and elsewhere have
sent a strong message that Christians are ready to fight back.
In this context, the importance of the May 27 demonstrations in focusing demands on the
Supreme Council, not religious issues, is very important--they can help to refocus the
attention of the majority of workers and the poor on class and political issues, away from
Who leads the counterrevolution?
As a result of the sectarian violence clearly organized to derail the revolutionary unity
forged during the uprising against Mubarak, millions of people in Egypt are aware that
counterrevolutionary forces are at work.
But answering the question of who leads them in Egypt today--given the fluidity that
comes with any revolutionary situation--is very confusing.
There are plenty of explanations floating around. Some believe Mubarak runs the
counterrevolution from his hospital bed in Sharm el-Sheikh. Others insist that the
"remnants" of Mubarak's National Democratic Party stand to lose the most from the
revolution. Many people recently focused on the Salafists. A minority mistrusts the
Do these explanations hold up?
The questions get even more confusing because of the new roles played by both liberals
who were former opponents of the regime and--it gets worse--former supporters and
functionaries of the old regime who have reinvented themselves as uber-revolutionaries.
Many Egyptians refer to this new category of individuals as the "colorful people"--
because they are chameleons, so to speak.
Now, many of the old liberal opposition figures and the "colorful people" have formed an
unholy alliance. Together, they have directed their condemnations against democracy
protesters and "selfish" striking workers who, they charge, want to wreck the economy
and destroy the revolution.
But as for the question of who is leading the counterrevolution, it is certain that Mubarak
is helpless and gone forever from the political stage. If he lives for a few more months,
there is a good chance that he will be hanged.
On the other hand, there can be no doubt that many officials from Mubarak's party, as
well as former secret police officers, are attempting to wreak havoc and incite civil war.
As for the Salafists, the events of the last few weeks have shown that those who opposed
the January 25 movement and sided, in typical fashion, with the ruler--previously, it was
Mubarak, and now it is the military--have proven to be dangerous counterrevolutionary
Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members participated in the uprising, has
broken off whatever relationship it had with the revolutionary forces and is increasingly
playing a counterrevolutionary role by opposing workers' strikes and demonstrations
designed to put pressure on the Supreme Council.
But the fact remains that the principal enemy of the revolution was and remains the social
class whose economic interests are directly threatened by this ongoing revolutionary
upheaval: Egypt's capitalist class.
The Egyptian capitalist class--known to many Egyptians as the "class of businessmen"--
amassed untold wealth through a system based on high levels of exploitation of Egyptian
workers and peasants, backed by a brutal and repressive state apparatus led by Hosni
As a result of this, a small minority of rich Egyptian families controls much of the
country's wealth, while millions of Egyptians barely survive, living in abject poverty.
There's no doubt that the general misery suffered by the majority of the Egyptians in the
last 30 or so years was the key underlying factor in the outbreak of the January 25th
Therefore, the future of the Egyptian revolution will be decided, ultimately, by which
class comes out on top. The question is: Can Egypt's "businessmen class" regain control
over society by squelching all revolutionary impulses and struggles, or will the workers
and peasants of Egypt develop the consciousness and level of organization needed to
forge an alternative to the businessmen's system?
Egypt's capitalists have been busy attempting to figure a way out of their crisis--and they
have a number of tools at their disposal. First and foremost, the businessmen want
Mubarak's generals to operate as an emergency executive committee to defend their
So far, the generals have attempted to do just that, but with varying degrees of success.
For example, the campaign to blame strikes for the collapse of the economy, backed by
the "colorful people" and many liberals, has led to a drop in the number of strikes. But
workers are still organizing protests after their shifts end.
The generals also periodically crack down hard. Some strikes have been outlawed, and
the head of the new independent Transport Workers Union was put on trial. Some
protests have been repressed--the military even used live ammunition against a peaceful
demonstration outside the Israeli embassy on May 15, the anniversary of the Palestinian
Nakba. Three people were killed.
But the movement has answered back--most recently, with the mass demonstrations on
Can Egypt return to January 24?
Despite its repressive measures, the Supreme Council understands that the January 25
uprising has changed Egypt once and for all in certain ways. The generals understand the
depth of revolutionary feelings among the poor, and they therefore have no intention of
trying to return to the way the regime operated before January 25. The goal is to get a
new set-up that preserves the interests of the businessmen.
The Council aims to reform the political and economic system, allowing it to become
more democratic and less oppressive. But of course, it has no intention of abandoning the
basic tenets of capitalism in Egypt. Its strategy revolves around a combination of offering
some concessions--always under pressure--while attempting to repackage the economic
priorities of the old regime.
So, for example, in mid-March, under the pressure of thousands of protesters storming
the headquarters of the secret police in cities around the country, the Council formally
dismantled this apparatus. But it then rehired some of the same brutal officers in a new
National Security Administration.
The Council dismantled Mubarak's New Democratic Party, but it has allowed thousands
of corrupt officials to continue to control hundreds of local municipalities.
And while the generals formally affirm their respect for human rights and the right of
citizens to peacefully protest, it has actually arrested many activists and tried them in
military courts on a number of occasions. Some army officers have tortured detained
activists in incidents similar to practices typical of the Mubarak era.
Also, as a result of big demonstrations in mid-May to support the right of return for
Palestinian refugees and demand that the Egyptian siege of Gaza be lifted, the Council
permanently reopened the Rafah border crossing to Palestinians. Still, the Council
continues to sell natural gas to Israel and receive high-level Israeli officials in Cairo.
Economically, the generals and the businessmen have made concessions to workers'
demands for higher wages. But they have no intention of changing the economic policies
and priorities of the Mubarak era. On the contrary, the council has said it would continue
the neoliberal policies of privatization of the Mubarak era--the same policies that led to
the impoverishment of the masses.
For example, the richest man in Egypt, Naguib Sawiris, publicly opposed even a
discussion of introducing a progressive income tax system to raise government revenue.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has asked the IMF for a new $12 billion loan--
which will only deepen the country's debt crisis.
Revolution vs. Counterrevolution
High workers' expectations for a better life after the revolutionary uprising continue to
place tremendous pressures on the cabinet and the Supreme Council. Millions of
industrial workers, government employees and their families are waiting for Sharaf to
fulfill his promise to set a living minimum wage this summer.
Despite the relative lull in strikes during April and May, significant workers' struggles are
For example, former workers for the Omar Effendi department store chain, which was
privatized a few years ago and sold dirt-cheap to a foreign investor who shut it down,
won a key court order to re-nationalize the company and have regained their jobs. Textile
workers in Shebeen Al-Koum, a city in the industrial Delta region, continue a brave
struggle, also for re-nationalization.
Government workers in the Department of Antiquities continue to threaten to close down
the Egyptian Museum if their wage demands aren't met. Plus, workers for a number of
Suez Canal companies are continuing a three-month sit-in against outsourcing.
And on May 16, thousands of doctors in public hospitals went on strike across the
country to win wage increases. Even more significantly, the doctors are demanding an
increase in government expenditures on health care from 4 percent of gross domestic
product to 15 percent--in order to create a more humane health care system for a
population plagued by diseases such as Hepatitis C and heart disease. Pharmacists are to
take a vote for a nationwide strike set for mid-June.
The ideological campaign against workers and strikes has begun to break down
somewhat. Sharaf said in a recent televised speech, "Workers' demands are legitimate
human aspirations from people who suffered so much for so long."
Meanwhile, the newspaper Al-Ahram admitted on May 28 that the economy is not
actually in a state of collapse as previously alleged by commentators who support the
Council's criticisms of strikes. In fact, industrial production actually grew in the first
quarter of 2011 compared to the first quarter of the previous year.
The decrease in strikes shows that workers are continuing production, but they are in a
wait-and-see position. Their struggles could return at a much higher pitch if, for example,
the government fails to raise the minimum wage.
At the same time, rising food prices are putting a strain on workers and the poor. The cost
of staples like beans and rise has jumped in recent weeks by 30 to 100 percent. Such
conditions are also giving rise, along with questions of democracy, to the dissatisfaction
expressed on May 27.
The stage is set for a new phase in the revolution, and in this new period, people will
continue to develop a clearer understanding of key political questions: the nature and
motives of the generals, the class interests of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, who
the economic system really serves.
The left attempts to organize an alternative
Back in February, the Revolutionary Socialists published a highly controversial article
titled "The Supreme Council leads the counterrevolution." The article highlighted the fact
that the generals control 25 percent of the economy and have interests antithetical to
those of the working masses, despite the Council's lip service to safeguarding the aims of
At the time, many radicals and people who participated in the uprising criticized this
statement as wrong at best, and reckless at worst. Many activists still harbored a
conviction that the generals had proven to be on the side of the revolution by ousting
Mubarak, and that they could be trusted to do the right thing. Only a handful of socialists
and revolutionaries insisted that, because of their class position, the generals were not a
However, the betrayals of the Supreme Council toward issues of democratic change over
the last three months have led thousands of young people and workers to begin to
question which side the Council is on. It is no longer considered taboo to at least criticize
the Supreme Council.
Nevertheless, all the forces on the revolutionary left in Egypt realize that larger
formations are needed in order to connect with the struggles ahead and play a role in
challenging the bosses and the generals, as well as their supporters among the liberal
opposition and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The left has begun to organize structures to prepare itself for the coming months. For
example, workers succeeded in the last three months in winning some key battles to form
independent unions. Postal workers, transport workers, temp workers and others have
formed more than 13 independent unions, and others are in the process of forming.
More than 2,000 militant workers, socialists and radical activists have joined the new
Workers Democratic Party, which has a radical anti-capitalist platform. Similarly, more
than 3,000 leftists, socialists and activists have formed the Socialist Popular Alliance
Party with a radical pro-worker program.
Two weeks ago, four revolutionary groups came together to form the Socialist Front--an
alliance to coordinate their tactics in the struggles to come.
Still, the revolutionary left has an urgent task of growing in numbers and building wider
layers of fighting cadre who can stand up for a socialist alternative within the working
The polarization that took place over the May 27 protests reflects a serious division
between those social and political forces that want to continue the revolution until it
accomplishes its basic democratic and social goals, and those forces that want to go back
to business as usual.
As the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists continue to expose themselves as pro-authority
and big business, the left will have a further opportunity to grow--if it further develops its
tactics and spreads its influence. In fact, at the May 27 demonstration in Tahrir,
thousands of people bought socialist newspapers and other revolutionary literature for the
first time. This reflects a big opening for socialist politics--despite the negative legacy of
Nasserism in the 1960s and its claims to stand for socialism.
The left is on the right track by focusing on building struggles, building its numbers and
building unity. It needs to use all of this to pressure the Council and its supporters in the
coming few months, while avoiding premature confrontations.
Blogger asked to hand reports of army abuses to
Hossam El-Hamalawy speaks to reporters after coming out of the Military Prosecution
office. (Daily News Egypt Photo / Ahmed Hazem)
By Ahmed Hazem and Amira Salah-Ahmed/Daily News Egypt May 31, 2011, 6:04 pm
CAIRO: Egyptian blogger and activist Hossam El-Hamalawy, television presenter Reem
Maged and journalist Nabil Sharaf El-Din were released Tuesday after “chatting” with
El-Hamalawy, known as 3arabawy, said he just “chatted” with officers and was asked to
provide proof of reported violations by the military.
“The visit to the military prosecutor became later a ‘chat’ where they wanted
‘clarifications’ for my accusations against General [Hamdy] Badeen,” El-Hamalawy said
on his Twitter account after being released.
“The day ended with the officers promising to look into those cases as well as whatever
we'll be presenting them in the coming days,” he added, urging anyone with information
about abuses to report them to human rights groups.
Lawyers said no official investigation was opened with the three, who were summoned
for questioning by the army Monday over statements made on Thursday’s episode of
OnTV’s “Baladna Bil Masry” that were critical of the army.
Maged was only called in as a witness. She also told journalists after being released that
it was not an official questioning, but more for clarification.
“I told officers that this is seen as a form of intimidation, and instead they should have
called in to the show so that public opinion is not turned against them,” she said, adding
that they spoke to officers about the need for more transparency between the council and
On the nightly talk show, El-Hamalawy demanded that military police be investigated for
reported violations and that the head of military police, General Hamdy Badeen, be held
Also on the show, Sharaf El-Din spoke about a “bargain” between the army and the
Muslim Brotherhood, which was denied by army council members.
After taking over power from ousted president Hosni Mubarak, the army has faced
criticism from human rights groups after trying hundreds of civilians in military courts.
Amnesty International has said many protesters arrested during the 18-day uprising
against Mubarak reported abuse by soldiers and is calling for an official investigation.
The three being summoned to Military Prosecution riled the anger of activists and
supporters on social networking websites, who quickly mobilized in solidarity with El-
Hamalawy, Maged and Sharaf El-Din.
Around 100 protesters gathered outside Military Prosecution in Nasr City early on
Tuesday, chanting against military trials of civilians.
Protesters spray painted the words “The only red line is Egyptians’ dignity,” on the street
outside the entrance of the Military Prosecution office.
Late on Monday, El-Hamalawy appeared on a program with Mahmoud Saad on Tahrir
TV but was abruptly cut off when he said the army should be held accountable for its
actions since it is playing a political role and receives funds from the national budget
from taxpayers’ money.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned the “ongoing
policy of the [army] council in suppressing the freedom of expression and dispersing fear
among Egyptian journalists, people working in the media and judges as well.”
It added that in its “current political role” the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces (SCAF) is “bound to accept all types of criticism against it, even tough ones,
citing that it had repeatedly declared its support to freedom of expression and acceptance
Meanwhile, CNN reported Tuesday that a senior Egyptian general admitted that
"virginity checks" were performed on women arrested when a Tahrir Square sit-in was
forcefully broken up on March 9.
“Virginity tests are an insult to all Egyptian women,” El-Hamalawy told reporters after
coming out of the military prosecution office.
“The meeting does not change anything. It is a matter of principle,” he added, reiterating
his stance against military trials for civilians.
According to the CNN report, “The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report,
published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten,
given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to
submit to virginity checks.”
These allegations have been repeatedly denied by the army council, and this anonymous
general’s testimony is the first such admittance.
"The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," the general said.
"These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and
we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs)."
"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to
prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were
ANHRI said, “Once again we reiterate that the Egyptian revolution had broken out
against the oppression, suppression and violation of freedom of expression, and the
sovereignty of law means evidently that nobody is above criticism including [SCAF],
which is currently playing a political role.”
Yemen truce ends with blasts, stokes
civil war worries
Smoke billows from a neighborhood in the Yemeni capital Sanaa after fierce fighting erupted between dissident tribesmen and
loyalist troops on May 31, as a truce that ended deadly clashes last week broke down. (AFP Photo/Gamal Noman)
By Mohamed Sudam / Reuters May 31, 2011, 4:34 pm
SANAA: Fresh street fighting raged across the Yemeni capital on Tuesday after a tenuous truce broke
down between tribal groups and forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, edging the impoverished
Arab country closer to civil war.
Global powers have been pressing Saleh to sign a Gulf-led deal to hand over power to try to stem the
growing chaos in Yemen, home to Al-Qaeda militants and neighbor to the world's biggest oil exporter,
"The ceasefire agreement has ended," a government official said on Tuesday adding that tribal groups
had gained control of a government building.
On Tuesday, there were three main flashpoints in the troubled country with street fighting in the
capital; government troops gunning down protesters in Taiz and a battle with Al-Qaeda and Islamic
militants in the coastal city of Zinjibar.
A senior UN official condemned the violence by Saleh's forces, but the wily veteran has defied calls
from global leaders, elements in his own military and tens of thousands of Yemeni protesters to end his
nearly 33-year-rule which has brought the state close to financial ruin.
Overnight battles in the capital brought an end to the truce brokered at the weekend. More than 115
people were killed last week in urban battles with machine guns, mortars and rocket propelled grenades
in the bloodiest fighting since anti-government protests began months ago.
In Sanaa, several explosions were heard over the staccato of automatic gun fire in the district of
Hasaba, the scene of nearly a week of fighting between Saleh's forces and tribesmen.
The fighting was too heavy for officials to bring bodies off the street or provide casualty figures.
"Last night's clashes were the fiercest so far," Mohammed Al-Quraiti, a Hasaba resident, told Reuters.
The fighting last week between members of the powerful Hashed tribe led by Sadeq Al-Ahmar and
Saleh's security forces widened to areas outside the capital where tribesmen squared off against Saleh's
elite Republican Guard.
Trouble in Taiz
Saleh's forces fired on hundreds of protesters in Taiz, about 200 km (120 miles) south of the capital,
who were trying to gather at the focal point of rallies dubbed "Freedom Square," witnesses and a
Reuters cameraman in the city said.
At least three people have been killed and scores wounded in the latest fighting, medical sources said.
A senior UN official said dozens may have been killed since Sunday when troops using bulldozers and
assault rifles began a violent crackdown on protesters.
"The UN human rights office has received reports, which remain to be fully verified, that more than 50
people have been killed since Sunday in Taiz by Yemeni Army, Republican Guards and other
government-affiliated elements," UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said in an internet posting.
"Such reprehensible acts of violence and indiscriminate attacks on unarmed civilians by armed security
officers must stop immediately," Pillay said.
More protests are planned for later on Tuesday across the country.
Fighting with Al-Qaeda
Further south, government troops and locals have been trying to force Al-Qaeda and Islamist militants
from the coastal city of Zinjibar after they seized the town at the weekend.
Saba news agency reported on Tuesday that 21 Yemeni soldiers had been killed a day earlier in the
clashes where Yemen's air force dropped bombs on the city of 20,000 near the Gulf of Aden.
Residents said bodies were strewn on the streets, the national bank building was burned and explosions
rocked the city from which most people have fled.
"Explosions lit the sky," a resident said.
The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of attacks by Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula, are worried that chaos is emboldening the group.
Opposition leaders have accused Saleh of deliberately allowing Zinjibar, near a sea lane where about 3
million barrels of oil pass daily, to fall to Al-Qaeda to try to show how chaotic Yemen would be
Yemen's military said in an internet posting that 21 soldiers have been killed and dozens wounded in
fighting over the last three days.
Opposition groups made up of tribal leaders, Islamists and leftists have said they could do a far better
job of curtailing the Al-Qaeda threat.
At least 320 people have been killed in fighting since protests started in Yemen about four months ago,
inspired by the popular uprisings that ended the reign of the long-standing rulers of Tunisia and Egypt.
Under Saleh, Yemen has edged to the brink of financial collapse, with about 40 percent of the
population living on less than $2 a day and a third facing chronic hunger. –Additional reporting by
Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa, Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden, Mahmoud Habboush, Nour Merza,
Sara Anabtawi and Firouz Sedarat in Dubai
Yemen: 63 killed in police raids on anti-gov't protesters
SANA'A, (Xinhua): The death toll of clashes between anti-government protesters and
security forces overnight Monday in Yemen's southern province of Taiz rose to at least
63, doctors told Xinhua.
Up to 800 others were injured and dozens of them with gunshot injuries were still in
critical conditions, doctors said.
Witnesses said police forces and armed government backers used bulldozers to clear the
remaining tents after the forces used live ammunition, tear gas and water cannon to
disperse the protesters from their sit-in area in downtown Taiz.
Taiz, the second largest city located about 200 km south of the capital Sanaa, has been
the scene of almost daily clashes between police and protesters demanding immediate
end to the 33-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Meanwhile, human rights activists said several bodies of physically handicapped
protesters were found after they were trapped in the fire which was set on the tents by
police and government supporters.
The scattered protesters gathered again on Monday evening and tried to march forward
their sit-in area dubbed Freedom Square, but police forces dispersed them again, killing
at least one protester.
Police forces then occupied the protest sit-in square, said the witnesses.
Human rights activists also said security forces arrested dozens of protesters overnight.
Since February, daily clashes between police forces and anti-government protesters broke
out in Yemen's major cities.
The impoverished Arab country is trying to cement a ceasefire to end a recent tribe
rebellion in the capital Sanaa that killed at least 127 people, as government forces have
been shelling militants of the Yemen-based al-Qaida wing after the latter took over the
southern troubled province of Abyan on Saturday.
"V for Vendetta": The Other Face of Egypt's
0 May 30 2011 by Linda Herrera
[Image from Google Images]
“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea […] and
ideas are bulletproof.” - From the film V for Vendetta
In the summer of 2010 the youth of Facebook, “shebab al-Facebook,” began a campaign
of peaceful civil disobedience through the Arabic “We are all Khaled Said” Facebook
Fan Page. The success of their “silent stands” throughout the country gave youth a media
friendly face as a group that espouses peaceful non-violent forms of civil disobedience to
confront oppression and tyranny. The inspiration for the peaceful side of the movement
was derived from divergent sources. Analysts writing in the western press were keen to
point out the influence from celebrated figures and icons of nonviolence like Gandhi,
Martin Luther King, and Gene Sharp and the human rights orientation of the cause. 
The reputation the youth garnered as deft in nonviolent civil disobedience was well
deserved and the silent stands were a feat of group solidarity, DIY youth activism, and
the art of on-line to off-line mobilization.  But in actuality the youth movement has
moved on multiple fronts and employed diverse strategies. The page itself vacillates
between using bellicose language and images when talking about the objects of their rage
— for example, the police and Interior Ministry — to instructing the community on non-
violent peaceful strategies. The two approaches coexist in a symbiotic relation. On the
flip side of any mask of peace is often a mask of menace.
[From Google Images.]
The Guy Fawkes mask lifted from the comic book series and film V for Vendetta has
been a staple of the page and the movement from the start. V for Vendetta enjoys cult
status among certain segments of shebab al-Facebook who fall under the rubric of leftists,
anarchists, Mohamed el Baradei supporters, Islamists, post-Islamists — which are by no
means mutually exclusive categories. The potent imagery and eminently quotable lines
from the film permeate individual Facebook pages and the “We are all Khaled Said”
Facebook Fan Page as posts, threads, cartoons, video links, and wall photos.
[Cartoon posted on Arabic "We are All Khaled Said" Wall on July 29, 2010. The text reads: "We seek
God's aid against misery."]
The film, written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski and adapted from the
comic book characters created by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, is set in a dystopian
future that is a totalitarian Britain. The story serves as a warning to governments not to
push their people too far and is a reminder to people of the formidable power they
possess if they know how to harness it. The antihero, V, whose name stands for vendetta,
vengeance, victim, villain, victory, violence, and “vestige of the vox populi,” also denotes
“veritas,” truth. V survives a personal ordeal of captivity and torture and dedicates his life
to taking revenge on his captors and awakening his fellow citizens to their oppression. He
uses the mass broadcast system, the state’s propaganda machinery, to transmit his
message. He proclaims:
“[T]he truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there?
Cruelty and injustice . . . intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the
freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and
systems of surveillance, coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.
How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those who are more
responsible than others, and they will be held accountable. But again, truth be told .
. . if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.”
The speech continues:
“I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War. Terror.
Disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason
and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you and in your panic, you
turned to the now High Chancellor Adam Sutler. He promised you order. He
promised you peace. And all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient
consent. Last night, I sought to end that silence. Last night, I destroyed the Old
Bailey to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred
years ago, a great citizen [Guy Fawkes] wished to embed the fifth of November
forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice and
freedom are more than words — they are perspectives.”
V not only speaks the truth about the complicity of individuals in perpetuating the
system, but makes them aware that they hold the power to overturn it. He declares to his
“You are but a single individual. How can you possible make any difference?
Individuals have no power in this modern world. That is what you've been taught
because that is what they need you to believe. But it is not true. This is why they
are afraid and the reason that I am here: to remind you that it is individuals who
always hold the power. The real power. Individuals like me. And individuals like
On June 14, 2010, eight days after Khaled Said’s killing at the hands of two officers, a
short film, “Khaled for Vendetta,” was uploaded to YouTube with links to it on the
Facebook page. A second film, “Khaled Vendetta,” followed on July 29, 2010.
The five-minute film “Khaled for Vendetta,” written and directed by Mohamed Elm
elhoda (Matrix2008 studio), masterfully draws out the parallels between the totalitarian
society in V for Vendetta and Egypt under Emergency Law.
The film opens with ominous music from V for Vendetta followed by a fade in and out of
Khaled’s image over a black backdrop. The shot cuts to the Peoples Assembly (Majlis al-
Sha`ab) session of May 11, 2010, with the then Prime Minister, Ahmed Nazif,
announcing the renewal of Emergency Law for two more years. He declares it will be
used only to confront drugs and terrorism. Members of parliament applaud. The words
“drugs and terrorism” are repeated over and over.
V sets down the first domino.
The next scene opens with a homemade film of a smiling Khaled in what appears to be
his bedroom, followed by the now infamous photo taken at the morgue of his mangled
face. A text states that Khaled Said was beaten by two plainclothes police under the
auspices of the Emergency Law.
The masked man stacks more dominos.
The shot moves to a scene from the original film, a conversation between two police
investigators about how everything is connected:
Finch: I suddenly had this feeling that everything was connected. It was like I
could see the whole thing; one long chain of events that stretched back […]. I felt
like I could see everything that had happened, and everything that was going to
happen. It was like a perfect pattern laid out in front of me and I realized that we
were all part of it, and all trapped by it.
Dominic: So do you know what's gonna happen?
Finch: No. It was a feeling. But I can guess. With so much chaos, someone will do
something stupid. And when they do, things will turn nasty. And then, Sutler [the
leader] will be forced do the only thing he knows how to do. At which point, all V
needs to do is keep his word. And then . . .
In the meantime V is setting up an elaborate pattern of dominos in the shape of an
encircled “V.” He flicks the first domino and it sets off scenes of violence, chaos,
destruction, fire, protests, shouting, upheaval.
The film ends with two still images. The first is of police in disproportionate numbers
surrounding a small group of demonstrators. The second and final image is of the people
outnumbering and surrounding the police. This closing image no doubt conveys the
famous dictum from the film, “People should not be afraid of their governments.
Governments should be afraid of their people.”
In June of 2010, after the film was uploaded, a handful of viewers posted comments
which are revealing of the movement within a movement.
“Brilliant video . . . Maybe Dr.El Baradei will be our "v" here in Egypt to save us .
. . I recommend this movie for everyone, it is like a mirror to the current situation
here in Egypt . . . God bless you”
“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr.
Adly, and ideas are bulletproof.”
“It brought the tears to my eyes I can see it all coming soon isa [inshaallah] it's
not khaled for vendetta anymore . . . it's Egypt for vendetta thnx mohamed for that
With the fall of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011, an
image that immediately started circulating on Facebook was that of a masked man in the
foreground of Tunisia’s flag. As Egyptians prepared for their own revolution, the simple
image of the masked V made the rounds.
[Image posted on Facebook.]
The appearance of this mask signaled that shebab al-Facebook were becoming restless.
Their strategy of silence, even a deafening silence, was perceived as no longer enough to
achieve the kind of political change they anxiously desired. And change they got.
In this post-revolution, post-Mubarak period, the mask and spirit of V have been more of
less dormant. If events take a turn for the worse, if the crackdown from the military
becomes unbearable or a dreaded counterrevolution occurs, V may very well resurface.
But for now this seems unlikely, as youth are working in coalitions to develop civil
political strategies to meet the changing circumstances. They are making some inroads as
they press for democratic change, for working towards the realization of a society that
affords people dignity and livelihoods. Yet so much remains unclear. What is certain is
that the idea for change has been firmly planted and cannot be eradicated. Ideas after all,
as V proclaims, are bulletproof. The struggle continues.
 See, for instance, articles about the influence of Gene Sharp in the revolution and
articles about the Arabic translation of a comic book about Martin Luther King and
strategies of non violence.
 For more on the silent stands see the excellent articles by Nadine Wahab and Adel
Egyptian media stays silent as military trials and detentions
An estimated 7,000 Egyptians remain in military prisons and military
trials are still being conducted for average citizens, but the media is
afraid to criticise the armed forces
Ekram Ibrahim , Wednesday 1 Jun 2011
An Egyptian protester carries a banner with drawings depicting ex
president Mubarak and reads in Arabic " No forgiveness, our children's
blood is not cheap." during a protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo (Photo:
Two major issues have exploded onto centre stage recently in world media, despite the
grand majority of Egypt's local media's suppression and unwillingness (or intimidation)
to speak out against Egypt’s ruling military.
CNN put the virginity tests conducted by the military on females during protests in Tahrir
Square on 9 March in full, international spotlight by airing their report on 31 May, two
months after the incident took place.
Military trials started in Egypt the day former president Hosni Mubarak sent the army to
the streets at the beginning of the Egyptian revolution on 28 January; nevertheless, it was
rarely touched on by local, Egyptian media.
The interrogation of the active blogger, Hossam el-Hamalawy and the TV presenter
Reem Maged after criticising the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on her
TV talk show on OnTV this week was blasted across the world and, likewise, blew open
the gate on the subject of military bullying.
While Ahram Online was the first to write on the military trials, torture and virginity
tests, and others also spoke on the subjects, such as the local talk show, Akher Kalam
(Last Word) and a spattering of online English-language news sources - the recent
international coverage of some of the major incidents isn’t enough, activists bemoan to
“The mainstream media never cover any violation of human rights committed by the
SCAF; we [citizens] have to catch up through new media,” Gamal Fahmy, a prominent
writer, told Ahram Online.
Rights activists complain that the media is silent about this issue. “I send press releases to
the local media (both government-owned and independent), yet nothing is being
published,” Heba Morayef, a researcher in the Middle East and North Africa division of
Human Rights Watch, complained to Ahram Online.
Other activists see the issue from a different angle. “The media kept silent about torture
but it began covering our press conferences as other political forces supported our
movement,” Mona Seif, an activist with the No Military Trials group, told Ahram Online.
Recently some local media covered the press conferences organised by No Military Trials
group with other political and rights groups, but no in-depth pieces on the issue appeared.
“The local media has not touched on the issue of military trials yet; only sometimes on
new media,” Seif told Ahram Online.
In an attempt to overcome the lack of media coverage and to increase the tone against the
military trails, Egyptian bloggers have set 1 June as a blogging day against military trials.
Last week Egyptian bloggers organised a blogging day against the Supreme Council of
the Armed Forces. Around 375 blog posts were written on that day criticising the ruling
While the media is silent, the issue of military trials became one of the major demands
for those who have been protesting in Tahrir Square. Several political forces are also
putting the issue in their demands. Among them is the Youth Revolution Coalition, who
froze their dialogue with SCAF until they release all protesters held in military prisons
and stop military trials for civilians. “There is a trend to make the military trials the norm
and the civil ones the exception and this is what scares us the most,” Seif told Ahram
Furthermore, many Egyptians object to the prosecution of corrupt figures of the old
regime in civil trials, while protesters and civilians are facing military ones.
Meanwhile, the unprofessionalism of many of the Egyptian media sources makes people
wonder whether it is SCAF who put those red lines (censorship), or whether it came from
the media sources themselves. “I think the media sources that used to work according to
the ousted president's agenda have replaced the president with SCAF and, accordingly,
SCAF considered it their right,” Fahmy told Ahram Online.
Currently there are around 6,000 to 7,000 Egyptians known by right activists to be in
military prisons, according to Morayef. During the Egyptian Revolution hundreds of
activists disappeared; some were collected by the armed forces and subjected to military
SCAF has released the majority of the political detainees arrested on the two most
popular days known for arresting protesters, 9 March from Tahrir Square and 15 May at
the Israeli Embassy. “I suspect that not all protesters arrested on 9 March have been
released, according to the witnesses of released ones,” Saif told Ahram Online.
Meanwhile, five protesters arrested between 28 January and March have yet to be
released. “Absolutely there are more, especially before 11 February - people were
disappearing during the revolution,” Morayef adds.
Morayef and other rights activists insist that these statistics are only the ones they know
about and are working on, but they suspect there are more they still know nothing about.
Recently, several activists and media figures were investigated after speaking their mind.
They were subjected to nothing more than a couple of questions and then they were
allowed to leave, but this led to anger and fear amongst other people in the field. “By this,
the military is sending a message; clear red lines on freedom of expression when it comes
to SCAF,” said Morayef.
NATO extends Libya air war, says Gaddafi will go
NATO mission in Libya extended for another three months, saying that
the decision sends a clear message to the Gaddafi regime to go
AFP , Wednesday 1 Jun 2011
NATO Wednesday extended its Libyan air war by three months and said the departure of
strongman Muammar Gaddafi is only a question of time, as the African Union backed
Russian mediation of the crisis.
Hours after NATO-led aircraft launched new raids on Tripoli, ambassadors of the
military alliance meeting in Brussels decided to renew the mission for another 90 days to
"This decision sends a clear message to the Gaddafi regime. We are determined to
continue our operation to protect the people of Libya," said NATO Secretary General
Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
"We will sustain our efforts to fulfil the United Nations mandate" to defend civilians
from Gaddafi's forces, he said in a statement, adding: "We will keep up the pressure to
see it through."
NATO, whose current campaign expires on 27 June, has intensified its air raids in recent
weeks with daily strikes on command and control bunkers in Tripoli to prevent Gaddafi
from crushing a revolt that began in mid-February.
Wednesday's decision would give individual nations time to prepare their contributions
for the next 90 days, a NATO diplomat said.
"There were very positive signs that nations will extend with the appropriate number of
resources," the diplomat said.
The Libyan government said Tuesday that the air war has so far cost the lives of 718
civilians and wounded more than 4,000.
"Since March 19, and up to May 26, there have been 718 martyrs among civilians and
4,067 wounded -- 433 of them seriously," government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said,
citing health ministry numbers which cannot be independently verified,
Ibrahim said these figures do not include Libyan military casualties, a toll the defence
ministry refuses to divulge.
NATO cast doubt on the Libyan claim.
"We have no indications that that is the case," NATO deputy spokeswoman Carmen
Romero told AFP, adding the alliance has no way to verify the claims because it does not
have troops on the ground.
"NATO is conducting its operations to implement the UN mandate to protect civilians
with great care and precision," she said. "This is in clear contrast with the indiscriminate
attacks of the Gaddafi regime on his own people."
At a news conference in Tripoli, Ibrahim warned the departure of Libya's veteran leader,
as demanded by NATO and the G8, would be a "worst case scenario" for the country.
"If Gaddafi goes, the security valve will disappear," he said.
"Gaddafi's departure would be the worst case scenario for Libya," he told reporters, and
warned of "civil war."
But Rasmusssen told reporters in Brussels Gaddafi's departure is only a question of time.
"The question is not if Gaddafi will go but when," Rasmussen said. "It could take some
time yet but it could also happen tomorrow."
Also in Brussels, the head of the African Union Commission voiced support Wednesday
for Russian mediation of the Libyan crisis but insisted that Africa should remain a key
player in finding a resolution.
"Anyone who can contribute to a resolution of the situation in Libya is welcome," said
AU Commission chairman Jean Ping.
"If the Russians can help find a solution, they are welcome. We can't ask for anything
better," Ping told a news conference after talks with European Commission president Jose
Prodded by G8 partners at a summit in France last week, Russia, a critic of the NATO air
war in Libya, agreed to act as a mediator in the conflict and openly called for Gaddafi to
But Ping stressed that the AU cannot be marginalised in efforts to bring a political
solution to the conflict, which began in mid-February when Gaddafi countered an
uprising against his 41-year dictatorship.
"Libya is in Africa and we cannot find a solution by sidelining Africa," Ping said.
In London, The Guardian newspaper reported former members of Britain's Special Air
Service (SAS) working for private security companies were in Misrata -- the main rebel-
held city in western Libya -- advising the rebels and supplying information to NATO.
The former soldiers were gathering information about the location and movement of
Gaddafi's troops and passing it on to NATO's command centre in Naples, military
sources told The Guardian.
Defence ministry officials denied the private soldiers were being paid by the British
government and insisted it had no combat troops on the ground.
The Maltese military meanwhile said that 76 boat people fleeing the conflict in Libya
were rescued off the coast of Malta in a state of distress Wednesday after their vessel
started taking in water.
The refugees were found adrift in their 15-metre boat and seemed to be in poor health.
They told rescue workers a fellow migrant had died during the journey and his body had
been cast into the sea, a Maltese military official told AFP.
Clashes in Yemen kill 39 people as the ceasefire truce collapsed
At least 39 people died on clashes between loyal forces to Yemen
President Ali Abduallah Saleh and opposition
AFP , Wednesday 1 Jun 2011
A motorcyclist rides through a roadblock set up by anti-government
protesters on a street in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz (Photo:
Gun battles raged Wednesday on the streets of Yemen's capital, killing 39 people,
witnesses said as a truce between security forces and tribesmen collapsed, residents fled
and embassies bolted their doors.
A medic at Jumhuriya hospital said 37 people, most of them combatants, were killed in
overnight clashes in Sanaa, while an AFP photographer said the bodies of two other
tribesmen were taken to Al-Ulum hospital during the day.
Heavy fighting ensued on Wednesday, prompting Kuwait to withdraw its diplomatic staff
from the city, one day after Italy closed its embassy on concerns of escalating violence
following threats against European missions.
The fighting between tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, who heads the powerful
Hashid federation, and security forces loyal to embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh
broke out in the city on Tuesday.
It ended a truce announced on Friday, after a week of fierce clashes that erupted when
Saleh warned of a civil war as he refused to sign a Gulf-brokered plan for him to give up
office as demanded by protesters.
Ahmar had in March pledged his support for protesters who have been demonstrating
since January for the departure of Saleh, who has been in power since 1978.
The defence ministry's 26sep.net news website said tribesmen had on Wednesday
occupied a building near the presidential palace, in the south of Sanaa.
The guns fell silent on Wednesday afternoon, but it was unclear how long the lull would
last as dozens of armed tribesmen could be seen in the streets of Al-Hasaba, where
Ahmar's home is located.
Residents had reported street fighting took place throughout the night in Al-Hasaba, an
area in the city's north.
"We heard the sound of ambulances evacuating the wounded throughout the night," one
resident of Al-Hasaba told AFP.
One veiled woman, who gave her name as Umm Ahmed, said as she fled from Al-Hasaba
with her five children that she was returning to her village. The group was carrying
plastic bags filled with clothes.
Most shops were closed in Sanaa, and there were long lines at petrol stations.
Witnesses said reinforcements from the Republican Guards, an elite unit loyal to the
president, had been sent to Al-Hasaba.
A fourth army brigade camp located near the state television and radio headquarters was
targeted by rockets, as was the interior ministry headquarters, witnesses said.
26sep.net, meanwhile, said government forces "regained control of a number of public
buildings," without specifying which ones.
The website had said on Tuesday that Ahmar's tribesmen had seized both the
headquarters of the ruling General People's Congress and the main offices of the water
Saleh's government had accused Ahmar's fighters of breaking the truce, but sources close
to Ahmar said Saleh's forces were to blame as they had opened firing on the tribal
In south Yemen, fighting between alleged Al-Qaeda militants and security forces
continued in the city of Zinjibar on Wednesday, residents said.
At least 41 soldiers and civilians have been killed in fighting in the city since Friday,
according to an AFP tally based on security officials and medics.
"Zinjibar is a ghost town," said Awad al-Matari, an engineer who had fled to Aden,
adding most of the population had left, except for some men who remained to protect
And a military source said on Wednesday that one soldier had been killed in fighting with
suspected Al-Qaeda fighters near the city of Loder, northeast of Zinjibar.
Taez was calm on Wednesday, an AFP photographer said, after security forces shot dead
seven people demonstrating against Saleh in the city, and after 21 people were killed
ending a four-month sit-in in a central square.
The shootings drew international condemnation.
"We condemn those indiscriminate attacks by the Yemeni security forces," State
Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said, referring in particular to violence in
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also voiced shock at the use of live rounds
against protesters in Taez in a crackdown that the UN human rights office said had
already killed more than 50 people since Sunday.
Support Egyptian activist Hossam el-Hamalawy
by Simon Assaf
Hossam el-Hamalawy, a leading voice in the revolution, was summonsed to appear
before a military tribunal. He had appeared on television and named a senior military
commander responsible for the torture of activists.
Hossam feared he would be arrested. But instead, in an unprecedented move, the tribunal
asked him to provide his evidence of torture so it can be investigated. This appears to be a
huge climbdown by the military.
Hossam published pictures of hundreds of Mubarak’s secret police from files seized from
the state security buildings following January’s revolution.
He has been gathering testimony of the treatment meted out to those arrested by the
On a recent live TV show Hossam said, “The military trials of civilians must end.
“There have been some 5,000 to 8,000 cases since the army started to rule the country,
while Mubarak and his thugs receive civilian trials.”
TV presenter Reem Maged and journalist Nabil Sharaf el-Din were also summonsed.
Bahrain lifts martial law
Troops and tanks withdraw from streets of Manama, but activists
seeking to stage fresh protests complain of attacks.
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2011 16:29
At least 30 people were killed in the crackdown that followed anti-
government protests in the kingdom [Reuters]
Bahrain has lifted martial law, a step the authorities hope will help to restore normalcy in
the kingdom rocked by political upheaval following anti-government protests.
Bahrain imposed emergency rule in mid-March, giving the military wide powers to
suppress demonstrations led by the country's Shia majority against the minority Sunni
rulers. The protesters were inspired to rise up by other revolutions sweeping Arab nations
around the Middle East and North Africa.
With the end of martial law on Wednesday, tanks and soldiers withdrew from the centre
of Manama, the capital, but numerous police checkpoints remained around the city.
The move came a day after King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa offered a national dialogue
with opposition figures on reforms.
"The end of the national security law and announcement of dialogue are both positive. It
will be a shame if anyone is negative about it," Jamal Fakhro, a Bahraini lawmaker, said.
But there were reports of security forces attacking people attempting to stage fresh anti-
government protests around the capital following the lifting of martial law.
"People are trying to gather but they are attacking them," an activist told the AFP news
agency, on condition of anonymity.
She mentioned attempted protests in villages including Diraz, Bani Jamrah and Karzakan.
Another activist reported a heavy security presence in Bani Jamrah and said security
forces had fired tear gas at protesters who dared to venture into the centre of the village.
He added about 30 women had gathered in front of his house, but security forces used
batons and tear gas to disperse them.
"With the end of the emergency situation, the security would not be here but they still
are," said Ali Zirazdi, a 30 year-old man, who said police had fired tear gas after a few
hundred people gathered in the predominantly Shia village of Diraz.
"The security presence is even stronger and their approach now is as soon as they hear of
any protest in advance, they come down to stop it from happening," Zirazdi added.
At least 30 people were killed since the protests for more rights and greater freedoms
began in February in the island nation, which hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet.
Bahrain invited 1,500 troops from a Saudi-led Gulf force to help suppress the unrest
when emergency rule was imposed.
Teenage victim becomes a symbol for Syria's
Mutilated body of Hamza al-Khatib given to family as state TV says injuries were faked
The US state department says reports of the torture of a 13-year-old
Syrian boy are horrifying
The new face of the Syrian revolution is chubby, has a winning smile and belongs to a
13-year-old named Hamza al-Khatib.
The boy, from a village called al-Jizah near the southern city of Deraa, has become the
most famous victim yet of Syria's bloody chapter of the Arab spring.
Hamza was picked up by security forces on 29 April. On 27 May his badly mutilated
corpse was released to his horrified family, who were warned to keep silent.
According to a YouTube video and human rights activists, Hamza was tortured and his
swollen body showed bullet wounds on his arms, black eyes, cuts, marks consistent with
electric shock devices, bruises and whip marks. His neck had been broken and his penis
Like Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman who was shot dead in street protests after
Iran's disputed presidential elections two years ago, Hamza has come to symbolise the
innocent victims in a struggle for freedom against tyranny and repression.
In the YouTube video, a picture of Hamza is held above his coffin. It shows his angelic
grin and thick head of black hair. He is dressed in a polo shirt. Below the gold-framed
photo lies his body. "He was taken alive and he was killed because he called for
freedom," says the voice-over.
Other grainy clips show crowds holding a banner saying: "The martyr Hamza al-Khatib,
killed under torture by Assad's gangs."
Cries of "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) were heard at his funeral and pro-democracy
protesters have designated this Friday as "Children's Friday" in his memory."
Hamza's violent death is being discussed all over Syria as citizens struggle to come to
terms with the brutality that has accompanied the two-month uprising against the regime
of President Bashar al-Assad.
The official media are focusing on troops and police who have been killed by "armed
Videos of protests on Saturday show crowds chanting for Hamza in towns as far away as
Latakia, home to the Assad clan. "The case has upset all of us," said a former security
officer and father of four from Homs. "The brutality, especially to children, is only
causing more people to come out – as it did in Deraa at the start of the protests."
Several Facebook pages have been started, including one with more than 61,000
followers called "We are all Hamza al-Khatib".
"Hamza has become a poster boy for the Syrian revolution," said Malik al-Abdeh, whose
London-based Barada TV broke the story by broadcasting the YouTube clip last
Thursday, before it went global on al-Jazeera Arabic on Friday.
"It's the same thing that happened with Mohammed Bouazizi [the vendor who burned
himself to death in protest] in Tunisia and Khaled Said [who was killed by police] in
Egypt. But this was not another young man. He was just a boy."
Syria's official media have accused al-Jazeera and other satellite channels of peddling
State television aired an hour-long programme on Tuesday night on the death of Hamza.
Accompanied by a doctor, Akram Shaar, and a psychological doctor, Majdee al-Fares,
the presenter promised to expose the "whole truth" of the affair.
The doctors said the marks on Hamza's body were not signs of torture, as activists have
alleged, but were faked by conspirators.
The doctors said Hamza died from bullet wounds but that conspirators created the marks
on his body, trying to give the people a Syrian equivalent to Bouazizi in order to agitate
The programme also showed a pre-recorded conversation with Hamza's father and an
uncle who said they trusted a pledge made by Assad to look into the circumstances of
Hamza's death. The interior ministry said it would set up a committee to look into the
None of Hamza's relatives could be reached for comment. Hamza's father, Ali, 65, was
detained on Saturday, according to activists in Damascus. Wissam Tarif, the director of
the human rights group Insan, said Hamza's uncle was picked up on Monday and his
brother had also been detained.
The Syrian government has not allowed foreign journalists into the country since the
uprising began in March. Demands for UN access have been rebuffed.
Syrian activists and rights organisations say more than 1,100 people have been killed and
thousands rounded up and tortured in the past 10 weeks, but Hamza's is the most brutal
case yet. The fact that the body was returned to the family rather than disposed of was
intended to warn off other people, they said.
"This is a message from the state to all protesters," said a human rights expert who runs
the Monitoring Protests Facebook page which focuses on abuses during the protests.
"They are trying to say, 'We don't spare anyone and if you continue protesting this what
we are going to do to you and your kids.' "
The Local Co-ordinating Committees of Syria, the best-organised grassrootsopposition
network, said at least 25 children under 18 had been killed since mid-March.
The death toll includes a seven-year-old girl, Majd Ibrahim Airfaee, from Deraa, who
was shot in the abdomen on 26 April, and Tamam Hamza Al-Saidawi, aged five, from
Homs, who was shot dead in the car he was travelling in with his family in a case that has
incensed the city.
Rime Allaf, an associate fellow at the London thinktank Chatham House, said the Syrian
government's decision to broadcast a response demonstrated it was aware of how deeply
Hamza's case has angered Syrians.
"Even people who have previously not taken sides, or who have been leaning towards the
regime, have found this intolerable," she said.
Nidaa Hassan is a pseudonym for a journalist in Syria
Additional reporting by Lana Asfour
Egyptians protest over 'virginity tests' on
Tahrir Square women
Activists call for investigation into abuse after Egyptian general admits tests were
conducted and defends practice
Egyptian women protesting in Tahrir Square in February. Photograph:
Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images
Egyptian activists will hold an online protest on Wednesday to press the military
leadership to investigate soldiers who abused pro-democracy demonstrators, including
women who were detained and forced to take "virginity tests".
The interim authority, formed after Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February, has come in
for increasing criticism from the youth movement for the slow pace of its reforms, and
intolerance of dissent.
The abuse of the women, which was confirmed by a senior army official, has caused
particular anger, and prompted a storm of protest on the internet.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had previously denied claims by Amnesty
International that 18 women detained in March were subjected to virginity checks and
threatened with prostitution charges.
But an Egyptian general told an American television network on Monday that tests were
in fact conducted, and defended the practice.
"The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," the general, who
requested anonymity, told CNN. "These were girls who had camped out in tents with
male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found … molotov cocktails and [drugs]."
He said the tests were conducted so that the women would not be able to claim that they
had been sexually abused while in custody.
"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to
prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were
Amnesty condemned the general's comments and called for a full investigation.
"This general's implication that only virgins can be victims of rape is a long-discredited
sexist attitude and legal absurdity," a statement said. "When determining a case of rape, it
is irrelevant whether or not the victim is a virgin. The army must immediately instruct
security forces and soldiers that such 'tests' are banned."
The women were detained on 9 March, nearly a month after the revolution that forced
Mubarak from power, when soldiers cleared Tahrir Square after men in civilian clothes
One of the female victims, Salwa Hosseini, 20, told Amnesty that she and the other
women were forced to remove their clothes before being strip-searched by a female
guard. Male soldiers looked into the room, and took pictures, she said.
The women were also beaten and given electric shocks, Amnesty reported.
The growing dissatisfaction with the interim government is increasingly clear. While the
military council has pledged to organise elections this year and hand over to a civilian
government, tens of thousands of people appeared in Tahrir Square last week to demand
Youth activists have said that additional, online protests are necessary because Egypt's
mainstream media treads too softly around the military, a taboo carried over from
The new rulers have shown themselves to be thin-skinned, with a military prosecutor
summoning a prominent blogger and a television journalist after they criticised the army
during a talkshow. Three other journalists were also called in for questioning on Tuesday.
They were all released without charge.
In a statement, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information condemned the
military council for "dispersing fear" among the media and the judiciary. The group said
that three judges were also under investigation for appearing on talkshows where they
criticised the use of military courts for civilian cases and called for judicial reform.
Dead Syrian boy emerges as symbol for protesters June 01,
2011 04:11 PM Reuters
A childhood snapshot of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib has been
emblazoned on posters by protesters across Syria after a YouTube
video of his bloodied corpse sparked international outrage.
BEIRUT: A Syrian boy, who activists say was tortured and killed by
security forces, has emerged as a powerful symbol in protests against
the rule of President Bashar Assad which have been met with a bloody
A childhood snapshot of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib has been
emblazoned on posters by protesters across Syria after a YouTube
video of his bloodied corpse sparked international outrage.
Syrian authorities deny he was tortured, saying he was killed at a
demonstration in which armed gangs shot at guards.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "very concerned"
about Khatib's case.
"I think what that symbolises for many Syrians is the total collapse of
any effort by the Syrian government to work with and listen to their
own people," Clinton told a news conference. "I can only hope that this
child did not die in vain..."
Khatib, like the market-seller Mohamed Bouazizi who set himself alight
in Tunisia and Neda Agha Soltan whose dying moments were filmed
and distributed in Iran, has become a potent symbol to protesters
demanding more freedom.
Some rights officials believed the case would inject new life into the
Bullet wounds and bruises
The video shows the bloated body of a boy, with bullet wounds to his
arms, stomach and chest as well as facial and leg bruises. Two men
who seem to be medical examiners then say Khatib's penis was cut
off. That image was pixilated.
"Look at these reforms that the treacherous Bashar has called for,"
one of the examiners is heard saying in the video, apparently taken on
May 25. A U.S. spokesman described the boy's reported treatment as
"horrifying" and "appalling".
Khatib disappeared during a protest on April 29 and his body was
returned to his family about a month later.
"Uprisings need symbols ... These individual cases are symptomatic
and represent hundreds of other cases that may go unreported that
are just as horrendous," said Human Rights Watch's (HRW) senior
Syria and Lebanon researcher, Nadim Houry.
"What's more important is that this is part of a broader pattern of
rampant torture which shows how systematic torture has been for
people detained in (the city of) Deraa, including children. It raises
alarm bells that there are still hundreds of people, if not more, whose
fate is still unknown," Houry said.
Rights groups say more than 10,000 people have been arrested in 10
weeks of protests raging in many parts of Syria.
Some 1,000 civilians have been killed in the unrest, causing the United
States and the European Union to impose sanctions on Assad. They,
along with Syria's close neighbour Turkey, have all condemned Assad's
repression of protests.
"The regime commits two types of torture, the systematic, which we
see accompanying mass arrests, and the particularly gruesome to
spread fear on an even larger scale," said Radwan Ziadeh, head of the
Syrian Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. "The Hamza case
belongs to the latter."
Khatib was from Deraa, an agricultural city in the south near the
border with Jordan, where the protests first erupted on March 18,
calling for greater freedoms.
HRW published on Wednesday a report based on more than 50
interviews with victims and witnesses to abuse that show "systematic
killings and torture by Syrian security forces in the city of Deraa",
which it said strongly suggested they qualified as crimes against
"They need to stop -- and if they don't, it is the (U.N.) Security
Council's responsibility to make sure that the people responsible face
justice," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director.
Syrian authorities say that armed groups backed by Islamists and
foreign powers are responsible for the violence and have killed civilians
and security forces.
Syria denies boy was tortured
Syrian state television aired on Tuesday night a programme about
Khatib in which Judge Samer Abbas said Khatib's death was due to "a
number of bullet wounds without any indication of torture or beating
on the body".
He said the body was handed to the family on May 21.
Coroner Akram al-Shaar verified the claims, saying, according to a
transcript on the state news agency:
"There are no marks on the surface of the body that show violence,
resistance or torture using the nails or scratching or bruises, or
fractures, or joint-dislocation," Shaar said.
A man who identified himself as Khatib's father on Syrian television
said he had met with Assad who "engulfed us with his kindness,
graciousness and promised to fulfil the demands which we've called for
with the people".
"The president considered Hamza his own son and was deeply
affected," the man said, adding Assad had promised reforms would
start from the next day.
Syrian authorities have banned most foreign media from operating in
the country, making it difficult to verify official and witnesses'
Assad on Tuesday issued a general amnesty that covers "all members
of political movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood", the latest
in a series of reforms aimed at addressing protesters' grievances but
which they were unlikely to find satisfactory in the face of a sustained
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the amnesty had come too
late and called for a more fundamental change in policy to the
Wissam Tarif of the Insan human rights group said Khatib's killing
would spur more people to take to the streets.
"Hamza is a symbol now, definitely," he told Reuters.
"There are no red lines, the regime can be as brutal as it wants, it will
kill and torture children. People are aware of that, but what can they
do, go back home? The wall of fear cannot be built again. The protests
are not reversible."
Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2011/Jun-
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
Living With an Endless Revolution
By Yazeed Kamaldien
SANA’A, Jun 1, 2011 (IPS) - It was during moments on our
rooftop earlier this week - seeing flashes in the air and hearing
the heavy pounding of gun fire - when we realised that
Yemen’s capital city Sana’a was no longer as safe as we had
Violent killings were spreading fast and bloodshed was no longer
contained within areas where anti- government protesters clashed with
Opposition parties, their supporters and apolitical protesters had
mostly called for a "peaceful revolution" since mid-January. Their tactic
has been to place pressure on Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh to
leave the office he has held onto since 1978. This week’s battles were
a clear message that the fight to eliminate the 69-year-old leader of
the Arab world’s poorest and most unstable nation had taken a new
The shootings all apparently started because of a roadblock. Gunmen
aligned to tribal leader Sadiq al- Ahmar and government troops
clashed when military roadblocks closed in too near the al-Ahmar
Day-after-day of shootings in the al-Hasaba neighbourhood where al-
Ahmar lives have plunged the city into further instability.
Already, there have been weeks of fuel, diesel and gas shortages.
Long queues of cars waiting to fill up at petrol stations are common at
any given hour of the day. The cost of gas used for cooking has
doubled. Rattling diesel-powered electricity generators have drowned
out the joyous sounds of the capital. Shootings have led al-Hasaba
residents to flee the area.
There has yet been no truce to end the shootout between the al-
Ahmar and Saleh forces. Al-Ahmar is the leader of the strongest tribe -
Hashid - in Yemen and is the brother of main opposition party leader
Hamid al-Ahmar. He has the firepower and troops to endure a battle
with the president. And he would likely continue doing so since Saleh
last week issued a warrant for his arrest.
Hamid al-Ahmar meanwhile is a multi-billionaire who wants the
president’s seat. As leader of Islah, a party that claims its basis in
Islam, he has partly funded an anti-Saleh movement to gain support
for his presidential bid.
This latest battle between the wealthy al-Ahmar family and the
government is not widely supported by citizens though. Anti-
government protesters at Change Square have started physically
marking and moving into spaces that support opposition political
parties and those who don’t. The tent village at Change Square is the
main anti-Saleh sit-in demonstration site located at the gates of the
capital’s Sana’a University.
Youth protesters have said that they would stand with the opposition
parties against Saleh but would not blindly accept opposition
leadership at protest sites or in government. Protesters have felt
disgruntled at being used by the opposition in what Saleh has called a
Some have dubbed Yemen’s crisis the ‘endless revolution’ in the Arab
world - meanwhile the death toll is climbing. Roaring gun fire between
al-Ahmar’s armed men and the government security forces last week
reportedly resulted in a body count of 80.
The chaos was anticipated though and had already gripped Sana’a last
Sunday when Saleh was expected to sign the regional Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC) agreement outlining his exit. Opposition
parties had signed it the previous day but Saleh said that he wanted
them to sign it with him at his presidential premises.
That they were not willing to do so was reason enough for the leader
to back out of the deal after saying all along - since it was introduced
almost two months ago - that he was willing to sign on. The GCC
agreement would have guaranteed his exit 30 days after signing. In
return, he would be ensured immunity.
Citizen-led road blocks sprang up across Sana’a last week. Saleh’s
supporters closed all roads leading to his compound and demanded
that he not sign the GCC deal. His conflicting statements indicated first
that he was still prepared to sign the deal - which has now been
suspended by Gulf leaders - but then also that he intended to stay in
power until the end of his elected term in 2013.
The al-Ahmar tribal leaders were clearer on their position. They want
Saleh out as soon as possible. To gain a grip on the capital city, al-
Ahmar gunmen have taken control of various government buildings.
They tried seizing power of the state-run news agency Saba and they
set fire to the Yemenia Airlines building. Fears of an impending civil
war are forcing Yemenis to seek safety in their villages outside the
Various airlines cancelled incoming and out-bound flights. A tense
week of get-out-now amidst water and electricity cuts across the
capital unfolded. At a farewell pizza party for a friend who left the
country this week we held candles because the lights had been out for
hours. The next evening another friend had to stay one more night in
Sana’a because his Ethiopian Airlines flight had been cancelled. A close
friend who works for the U.N. was evacuated Friday morning. It is just
A host of governments have urged their nationals to leave Yemen
while commercial flights are still available. The airport was believed to
be closed as gun battles crept closer to it.
Saleh is facing a crisis that is becoming an international headache
while he repeatedly reiterates that the matter can be resolved
internally. Even his strongest allies are now urging him to quit. The
U.S. has supported Saleh with weapons and a budget of millions to
fight al-Qaeda. The U.S. government is now dealing with him as it did
Hosni Mubarak, of Egypt - it said last week that he should sign the
GCC deal and relinquish power. Yet without regional support and
echoes from all quarters for him to step down he refuses to do so.
Saleh’s departure is viewed as the one factor that can save Yemen
from civil war.
For now, Sana’a is not sleeping easily. One evening this week, we
went to bed at 2:30am to the sounds of warfare. When we opened our
eyes at 8:30am, the unsettling combat was continuing on unchanged.
It was like we had not gone to sleep at all.
All around us, wherever we drive, road blocks and dark streets
surround us. Armed neighbourhood watch groups stop cars entering
their areas to check if occupants are residents, as looting is now a
possibility too. Yemen stands on the brink of - for better or worse.
Media War Blurs Picture in Syria
By Mona Alami
BEIRUT, Jun 1, 2011 (IPS) - Since pro-democracy protests
began over two months ago, Syria has been engaged in a fierce
media war - with journalists arrested and international press
banned from entering the country. This has severely curtailed
the flow of information out of the country.
"There is no independent press in Syria," says Human Rights Watch
Director Nadim Houry. "And journalists apprehended by authorities are
held in complete isolation and forced to remain incommunicado," he
told IPS in Beirut.
The deteriorating state of journalism in Syria has placed the country
among the worst in the world - in terms of freedom of the press. As a
result of the information vacuum, the media is forced to depend on
eyewitness accounts and second-hand reports.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), about 20 local
and international journalists have been physically assaulted, detained,
or expelled from Syria since the start of the country’s popular uprising
on Mar. 15.
"All foreign journalists are turned away at the borders," says a taxi
driver talking to IPS on condition of anonymity. "Any person carrying a
pocket camera will automatically raise the suspicions of Syrian custom
Dorothy Parvaz, an online reporter for Al Jazeera English, arrived in
Syria on Apr. 29. She was detained by an unidentified security service
for six days and denied any contact with the outside world. On May 4,
authorities admitted she was in custody and shortly thereafter, an Al
Jazeera spokesperson announced that they had received information
that she had been deported and was being held in Tehran. News of her
release was made public on May 18.
Parvaz was dragged by her hair, handcuffed and imprisoned with other
people, reports the Al Jazeera website. She describes hearing
"interrogations and beatings taking place about 10 metres away".
"The beatings were savage," Parvaz says, "those being hit were crying
out, ‘Wallahi!’ (I swear to God)." Similar grizzly accounts of tortured
prisoners were reported by Khaled Sid Mohand, an Algerian journalist
working for the French newspaper Le Monde, in an interview with
Ghadi Frances, a journalist for the Lebanese daily As-Safir, was also
detained in Damascus on May 7 for a day. "I was arrested because I
was reporting on a Friday in areas where demonstrations were taking
place," Frances told IPS. "However, intelligence services treated me
very politely as soon as they discovered I was a journalist."
Fayiz Sara, a contributor to the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, was arrested
on Apr. 11 and released last week according to the CPJ. Syrian officials
detained Mohamed Zayd Mastou, a correspondent for Al- Arabiya, on
Apr. 6. Akram Darwish, a freelance photographer, has been detained
in Qamishli in northeastern Syria since May 3. There is no information
regarding the current status of Mastou or Darwish.
Ghassan Saoud, a contributor to the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar and the
Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, was detained and beaten by plainclothes police
before being released in Damascus.
A total of five Reuters employees were either arrested and released, or
expelled from Syria over the past two months - as have two Jordanian
"It’s unfair that the Syrians are getting away with this. So many high
ranking people intervened for my release that I am not free to speak
on the matter," says an Arab journalist imprisoned by Syrian
intelligence services, who spoke to IPS on condition of anonymity.
Internally, Syrian journalists whose reports differ from the official
government line are forced to resign or are brought in for
interrogation, stresses Houry.
"This was the case of local journalist Samira Masalmeh," he points out.
Masalmeh, who was the editor of the state-run newspaper Tishrin, was
fired after giving an interview to Al Jazeera - in which she held security
forces responsible for the violence in Daraa.
As a result of the strict restrictions on media organisations operating in
Syria, journalists stationed in neighbouring Lebanon are having a very
hard time producing detailed coverage.
"When I was reporting this month from Syria, I discovered that many
reports published by wires about possible demonstrations were
completely inaccurate," underscores Frances.
Such inaccuracies will continue until freedom of the press is granted in
the country. Until then, intimidation, violence and incarceration will
further blur the picture of what is really happening in Syria. (END)
Within the Arab Left, Contradictions Emerge Over Syria
Analysis by Samer Araabi
WASHINGTON, May 12, 2011 (IPS) - Though the Arab Spring
has heralded newfound hope and optimism across the Middle
East, the mood has darkened considerably as entrenched
governments have fought back viciously against democratic
The relatively quick collapse of the governments in Tunisia and Egypt
has given way to protracted struggle - along with its many
complications - in Syria, Bahrain and Libya. Nowhere has this been
demonstrated more clearly than in Syria, where the demand for
democratisation has become deeply tangled with geopolitical
dynamics, overlapping alliances, and clashing political ideologies.
The situation in Syria has developed differently than the revolutions
that swept its neighbours. As one of the members of the so-called Axis
of Resistance, Syria has evaded the accusations of subservience to
foreign powers that plagued the old guard of Egypt, Bahrain, and
More importantly, Syria sits between Lebanon and Iraq, states still
struggling to overcome their recent spasms of sectarian violence and
instability. Syrians have also watched warily as the revolutions in Libya
and Bahrain have produced large-scale violence, continued instability,
and foreign military interventions.
For these reasons, along with the Assad regime's brutal month-long
crackdown, the vast majority of Syrians have stayed at home, many
quietly seething at the government, but unwilling to publicly embrace
Nowhere has this gap between disdain for the government and support
for the opposition been more clear than in the circles of the Arab Left -
near-unanimous in their animosity towards Bashar Al-Assad, but
deeply conflicted about the nature, substance, and future of the
burgeoning opposition movement.
As the opposition scrambles and regroups in the face of the Syrian
government's recent offensive, various influential leftists have
struggled to wed their support for popular uprising with their concerns
of manipulation by Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States.
A small but vocal minority have categorically rejected the current
opposition, claiming that disorder in Syria only serves to embolden
right-wing Islamist movements that will consequently tilt the balance
of power toward the camps of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United
Some have complained that while the revolutions of Egypt and Tunisia
heralded significant defeats for the traditional enemies of the Arab
Left, the implications of a power vacuum in Syria are significantly more
muddied, and may well further destabilise its already fragile
Prominent Syrian dissident Michel Kilo, in a recent article in the leftist
Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, warns that sectarian conflict will "move
society backwards", undermining state, society, and national unity "for
God knows how long". Kilo is joined by a few others who agree that
the total collapse of the regime, at this particular juncture, may not be
beneficial to the aims and goals of the left.
Generally speaking, these comments have invited a flurry of
opposition. Rime Allaf, an associate at Chatham House, has pointed
out that the "other regimes [are] seemingly throwing their weight
behind the Syrian regime, fearful of the reach of this inconvenient
A number of commentators have likewise noted that those who worry
that the demonstrations will empower their traditional enemies - Israel
and Saudi Arabia - find themselves in the same camp as a number of
Israeli and Saudi policymakers, who fear precisely the opposite.
Though Israeli officials have largely remained silent on the issue of
Syria, many suspect the Israeli government of supporting the Syrian
regime, in word if not in deed.
"You want to work with the devil you know," Moshe Maoz, a former
Israeli government advisor, said to the Los Angeles Times in March.
Others have been supportive of the opposition, but more cautious,
including well-known analyst As'ad Abu-Khalil , the proprietor of the
Angry Arab News Service blog. Abu-Khalil has argued on numerous
occasions that the "Saudi" and "Western" tendencies of the opposition
were counterproductive and dangerous, and must be considered
separately from the "majority" of protesters who remain free of such
Abu-Khalil has been particularly tough on expat Syrians, who some say
have played a pivotal role in organising the protests and disseminating
information. He points to examples such as Farid Ghadry, leader of the
"Reform Party of Syria", who left Syria at the age of 10 and maintains
that Israelis should be allowed to stay in the Golan Heights, a position
that is highly unpopular with mainstream Syrians.
Bassad Haddad, a well-respected specialist on Syrian politics and co-
founder of the website Jadaliyya, finds the entire debate frustrating.
"The whole conversation is not productive, because this is not a
conversation of the Left, but a conversation between people who
believe in conspiracy theories…and those who see [the situation in
Syria] as it is," he said in a recent interview with IPS.
Though Haddad admits that "I have friends who don't like what I'm
saying," he stands strongly behind the consideration that "there are
probably infiltrators, but they're a minority. What's going on in Syria is
not the result of infiltrators, but 40 years of people living under
oppression…and in the end the Syrian regime is killing its own people.
That's where the buck stops for any self-respecting leftist."
"We must be able to critique the regime … without making the critique
amenable to be abused by the enemies of resistance anywhere," he
said, noting that the balance between the two positions can be a
difficult road to travel.
Haddad warns that for some, "the principle at heart here is being
abandoned for politics," accusing opponents of the opposition of acting
as "apologists for authoritarianism" simply because they share some of
the same enemies of the Syrian regime.
As the debate rages, the government's crackdown has continued
unabated, shielded by an increasingly effective media blackout, leaving
all sides waiting anxiously to see if their worst fears will come true.
Returning to Safed in shackles
Budour Youssef Hassan
The Electronic Intifada
31 May 2011
Israeli forces confront Palestinian youth in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya
on Nakba day, 15 May 2011.
Much attention has been paid to the marches of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and
Syria to the borders with occupied Palestine, as well as the courageous protests at the
Qalandiya checkpoint in the occupied West Bank and in Gaza. But Palestinians inside
what is known as the green line, Israel’s internationally-recognized armistice line with
the occupied West Bank and Gaza, marched on 15 May as well. We converged on the
borders with Lebanon in a symbolic protest of the apartheid regime that has confiscated
our lands, discriminated against us and attempted to strip us of our national identity.
The day started with apprehension. The bus which was supposed to arrive from the
Palestinian Bedouin village of al-Araqib to Jerusalem was stopped by Israeli security
forces on its way and three of the passengers were detained by Israeli police. An hour
later, we were forced to go with another driver from Jerusalem toward the Lebanese
border town of Maroun al-Ras.
On our long journey to the north, we were frantically following updates from Qalandiya,
Gaza, Maroun al-Ras and the village of Majdal Shams, in the Israeli-occupied Golan
Heights. For the 25 passengers on the bus, it was a mix of anxiety, pride toward the
incredible courage displayed by the young Palestinian revolutionaries, and hope. Very
few of us actually believed that we would be able to make it to the borders and that we
would be able to welcome our returning Palestinian sisters and brothers back home. But
we wanted to send a clear message to the Israeli occupation that we are here to stay and
that the Palestinian struggle for freedom, dignity and justice is resolute.
As we arrived in the checkpoint near the destroyed village of Birim, protesters who came
from Haifa and Nazareth were either arrested or forced to leave after being violently
dispersed by the Israeli border police. We were not allowed by the “security” forces to
reach the borders as they declared it a closed military area. So we decided to hold our
protest and chant at the checkpoint.
Armed with the power of our just cause and our loud voices, we chanted for 25 minutes
in solidarity with our comrades in Maroun al-Ras, Majdal Shams, Gaza and the West
Bank, and vocalized that even after 63 years, we haven’t forgotten the catastrophe of
1948 and we have not given up on the rights of Palestinian refugees to return.
The Israeli police had enough of us and ordered us to leave. We did not oblige and
carried on our chants. Meissa Irshaid, an attorney with the Public Committee against
Torture in Israel, tried to explain to the deputy commander of the Galilee district, Kobi
Bachar, that our standing near the checkpoint did not violate any law. But just as she was
speaking with him, Bachar smacked her viciously in her face and then the police started
kicking us, firing tear gas at us and arresting more protesters.
Maath Musleh, a Palestinian blogger at Palestine Youth Voice and freelance social media
consultant, was one of eights activists who were detained in the prison in the northern
city of Safed for a night and later put under house arrest for four days. “I just witnessed
the first ten seconds of the attack, for then four soldiers attacked me and dragged me to
the street,” Musleh said.
“A soldier stepped with his knee on my face. My eyes were looking at an old man laying
still on the ground and hearing and smelling the gas bombs that have been fired at the
peaceful demonstrators. As I was staring at the soldiers’ eyes, I saw fear. Fear of the
strength of the [righteous]; fear of the strength of the Palestinian people whom they failed
for 63 years to break,” he added.
Describing the night he spent at the Safed prison, Musleh said: “When I was locked in
my cell in Safed prison, I endured the worst three aspects of being locked down in prison.
Firstly, it was really hurtful to see some Palestinians working side by side with your
enemy to oppress you; the judge who imposed the four-day house arrest on us was an
Arab as were some of the prison guards.”
“Secondly, I was wondering if the movement beyond the walls of the prison was
ongoing. I was engulfed with the fear that the people had laid down,” Musleh added.
“Thirdly, I was overwhelmed by a feeling that someone out there has sacrificed more
than I did. We lost dozens of martyrs that day. People lost their lives for their rights. I
have lost nothing.”
Lawyer Meissa Irshaid, who was also detained for a night and put under house arrest for
four days, summed up the heart-wrenching irony of the Nakba perfectly: “My family was
among the families who were expelled from Safed in 1948. It is ironic that, 63 years later,
I was forced to return to my hometown Safed in shackles.”
Budour Youssef Hassan, originally from Nazareth, is a Palestinian socialist activist and
third-year law student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Follow her on Twitter:
Egypt and Tunisia Revolutions at the
Starting in Tunisia, a wave of revolutions and protests swept the
Middle East and North Africa followed Mohamed Bouazizi's
desperate act of self-immolation against poverty and oppression.
These movements have now reached turning points.
As protesters in Egypt call for a 'second revolution', ROBERT
BECHERT from the Committee for a Workers' International, the
socialist world organisation to which the Socialist Party is
affiliated, looks at the latest revolutionary, and counter-
revolutionary, reverberations. Following Robert's article is an
eye-witness report from Tunisia.
Despite the heroic mass revolts it seems that in Tunisia and Egypt, notwithstanding the
ousting of the old dictators, the bulk of the old elite are still in power, while in other
countries the regimes are holding on.
Spiegel, the German news weekly, summed this up: "The Arab revolution has come to a
standstill, and all the signs point to the restoration of the status quo".
At the same time, under a 'humanitarian' banner, the US and the European powers are
directly intervening, whether it be to help install a pro-western regime in Libya or to help
their friends in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc, avoid revolutionary upheavals.
Real revolutions are marked by the entry of the broad masses onto the stage of struggle
and mass activity. This is certainly what we have seen in country after country.
Revolutions do not develop in a straight line; there are ups and downs, advances and
But through events and experiences the broad masses learn and draw conclusions,
something seen already in the growing opposition to the Supreme Council of the Armed
Forces (SCAF) that took power in Egypt after Mubarak resigned.
A vivid sign of the continuing radicalisation in Egypt was seen on 27 May. Just over four
months since the first mass protest against Mubarak on 25 January, tens of thousands
gathered in cities across the country in a "Second Day of Rage" to call for a "second
revolution". Despite opposition and warnings from Egypt's military rulers and the
Muslim Brotherhood (MB)and other Islamic forces, around 100,000 gathered in Cairo's
The demands were varied and included quick trials of Mubarak, release of all political
detainees arrested since Mubarak's fall and the replacement of the military SCAF by a
presidential council to run the country until elections are held.
Above all there was a feeling that the old elite was still in power, summed up by some
protesters saying that they "haven't felt the change" since Mubarak had gone.
On the one hand there have been big changes, especially the experience of mass
movements undermining dictators and the confidence this has given to many workers and
However the big initial victories, Ben Ali's flight from Tunisia and Mubarak's forced
resignation, had two, contrasting, sides. They were great victories for the mass
movements but at the same time they were also sacrifices made by the Tunisian and
Egyptian ruling classes so that they could continue in control. Egypt's military tops made
this abundantly clear when they, in reality, put themselves in power by staging a 'cold
The SCAF made some gestures, formally charging Mubarak and allowing a limited
opening of the Rafah crossing into Gaza, just before 27 May. But at the same time one of
its advisers was arguing that the military should have a "special status" in the new
constitution and parliament should not openly discuss military matters.
Initially, the generals' cold coup was not clear to the millions who celebrated Mubarak's
departure. Since then, many have begun to understand that, despite the welcome changes,
the fundamental structure of Egypt has not fundamentally altered. This is the background
to the 27 May protests.
In practically all North African and Middle Eastern countries, overwhelmingly young
populations face corrupt dictatorial, or at best authoritarian, regimes presiding over large-
scale unemployment and poverty, now being worsened by inflation. The revolution was
made not simply to remove such cliques but to open the way to transform lives.
Inevitably the ruling class, and especially those associated with the old regimes,
attempted to stabilise their position, seeking to control mass protests and limit
In these revolutions there was the potential to fundamentally change society, there was a
tremendous desire to sweep away the old order, but there was no clarity on what should
replace it and what concretely could be done.
A combination of decades of repression, limited independent workers' organisations and
the weakness of genuine socialist forces meant that there was no sizeable organisation
that could argue for concrete action to implement a programme to secure democratic
rights, break the local elite's power and begin the transformation of society.
This is why the huge elemental movements in Tunisia and Egypt have not, so far,
resulted in the overthrow of the old ruling class. This is despite the fact that, at their
initial peak, these revolutionary struggles of workers and youth could potentially have
swept aside all obstacles to transforming society if they had been fully aware of their
Especially in Tunisia the leadership of the official trade unions, most of whom were tied
to the previous regime, played an important role in helping to hold back the revolution's
scope. While in Egypt the old official trade unions had far less standing among workers,
already before the revolution, pro-capitalist trade union leaders from Europe and the USA
were attempting to influence the leaders of the newly emerging independent trade unions.
While sections of workers and others are using the new, more open situation to press
forward their demands there is a growing understanding that elements of the old order are
reasserting themselves. This has produced the repeated protests in Tunisia as workers and
youth try to resist attempts to 'end' the revolution before all their demands are met,
something seen previously in many other revolutions.
Objectively, in today's world dominated by imperialism, these societies cannot develop
on the basis of capitalism. In fact, given the relative weakness of capitalism in many of
these countries, the ruling classes cannot tolerate for long the existence of real democratic
rights, especially the right to organise and struggle.
This is why the question of building a movement that can bring to power a workers' and
poor farmers' government is so essential. Only on this basis can the grip of capitalism and
landlordism be broken, democratic rights guaranteed and a start made to the democratic
planning of the use of society's resources.
Unfortunately, many of the emerging left forces in these countries either do not agree
with this analysis or fail to make this idea the basis of their day-to-day activity.
Instead, pointing to the current consciousness of many of the workers and youth, they
limit their programme to one that fundamentally attempts to work within capitalism. Not
arguing that the government which is needed to complete the revolution is one formed by
workers and the poor, opens the door to supporting, directly or indirectly, a pro-capitalist
It was through this kind of transitional approach that the Bolsheviks were able to link
together immediate slogans like "Bread, Peace, Land" with the idea of overthrowing
capitalism in Russia. They were able to build the mass movement that led to the 1917
October revolution when workers took power. Today this means building a movement
that fights on both the immediate economic, social and political issues and for the
overthrow of capitalism.
Inevitably there is a competition to build support and in both Tunisia and Egypt Islamic
forces have also been gaining. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood leadership has striven to
gain the confidence of the military rulers, opposing the 27 May rally and praising the
Partly this growth stems from their roots in society and existing organisation as well as
the relative weakness of genuine socialist forces. They also campaign on the questions of
poverty and corruption while exploiting the disappointment with the failure of other more
secular nationalist and left forces, some of which once had mass support, to develop
society and their subsequent degeneration.
But these Islamic forces are not immune from broader developments. Immediately after
the 27 May protests the MB leadership attacked their youth wing for participating in the
protests and at the same time sacked the editor of the MB's website for writing, amongst
other things, that there was a "low turnout" at the protests. A skilful and principled
approach by the workers' movement could win over many of those currently looking
towards the MB and other such forces.
However, the recent religious clashes in Egypt between Salafist mobilised Muslims and
Coptic Christians are a warning of how deep sectarian divisions could develop in the
absence of a strong united workers' movement able to defend minorities while showing a
socialist way out of society's crisis.
The current weakness of socialist forces has also shaped the development of the
revolution more generally. The situations that have unfolded in Bahrain, Libya, Syria and
Yemen, while all having their own individual features, have shown the limits of simply
demonstrating or occupying open spaces.
It should be recalled that there were moments in Egypt before Mubarak's departure when
it was not clear whether or not the revolution had lost momentum and vital questions of
what to do next, including appealing to the armed forces' rank and file and taking
initiatives to oust the Mubarak regime, were posed. The mobilisation of the working class
hastened the international and military pressure on Mubarak to go.
Events will not develop in a straight line, as already seen in many countries. But they will
test all political forces, including those of political Islam, and provide opportunities for
socialists to build support for the programme of breaking with capitalism.
If, on this basis, the working class is able to build sizeable forces of its own, especially a
mass party, it will have the opportunity to reach out to the rest of the oppressed and also
those seeking fundamental change to create a workers' and poor farmers' government.
Then there would be the opportunity for the revolution in North Africa and the Middle
East to not only set an example of struggle but start to create a socialist model that can
inspire working people around the world that there is an alternative to oppression and the
dictates of capitalism.
Tunisia: Decisive working class action urgently needed
Four months after former president Ben Ali was ousted there is still an atmosphere of
revolution and mass politicisation in Tunisia. Suspicious moves from remnants of the old
elite face immediate reaction from the streets. But the joy and optimism of the initial
stages have partially been overshadowed by growing dissatisfaction that little has actually
changed in the country.
At first, the revolutionary heat was powerful enough to bring down two transitional
governments; to topple a number of local 'bosses' in Ben Ali's RCD party as well as
corrupt bosses in the private and state sectors; to impose the dismantling of the RCD; and
to organise the first elections for a Constituent Assembly. Thanks to a surge in social
protests and strike action, some important social gains, such as wage rises, were also
However, the revolution did not bring down the backbone of the dictatorship's powerful
state apparatus. Nor did it change the economic relations upon which the old hated
In the first weeks of May, a brutal police crackdown reminded many Tunisians that the
counter-revolution is determined not to give up without a merciless fight.
Despite the official claims, the political police, as well as its networks of snitches, spies,
plain clothes cops and provocateurs have not disappeared from the scene.
Some ex-high ranking RCD officials have been organising through new political parties,
registered legally under new names. Meanwhile there has been no serious effort to judge
Ben Ali, along with his family and cronies, for their crimes, or to seize their colossal
No moves have been taken against most of the torturers or those who opened fire on
demonstrators during the uprising. Acts of violence are being encouraged by police thugs
and counter-revolutionary militias. Their aim is to create tension that could 'justify' the
return to authoritarian methods.
For weeks the government has been campaigning to restore the confidence in the
'profitability' of Tunisia among imperialist countries. The daily demonstrations, strikes
and sit-ins are increasingly targeted as an obstacle to the country's development and a
threat to national security.
The provisional government of Caïd Essebsi is increasingly exploiting the weaknesses of
the revolutionary camp to reaffirm the authority of the state and capitalist rule over the
economy. While the majority of the population is struggling to keep its head above water,
the government continues to pay back the billions of external debt contracted by Ben
Ali's ruling clan. At the same time Essebsi has threatened to withhold civil servants'
wages if strikes and sit-ins continue.
United struggle needed
In a situation of mounting social marginalisation and explosive levels of unemployment,
all sorts of divisions can develop. Reactionary forces will try to capitalise on this. Deadly
tribal clashes have taken place in the region of Gafsa. Elsewhere some unemployed, in
desperation, are invading workplaces to dislodge workers and take their place.
These are warning examples of what could develop if a bold lead is not given to unify the
different layers of the working and downtrodden masses in a common struggle against
capitalism, imperialism and landlordism.
Ennahda, the Islamist party, although it did not take any active part in the revolution,
enjoys rising popularity and organisational strength. Its convoys of humanitarian aid sent
to the poorest regions of the country contribute to this process.
This is of growing concern to many left activists. However, it is only by building working
class unity around a programme addressing the deep social needs of the masses, as well
as the aspirations for real democratic rights, and by unveiling the real increasingly pro-
big business and divisive character of Ennahda and other Islamist forces, that their impact
can be seriously undermined.
A recent initiative, a broad Front of the Forces of Progress and Modernity adds further
confusion and obfuscation. Worryingly this initiative involves large parts of the left in an
alliance with discredited pro-capitalist forces. It is supposedly aimed at challenging
Ennahda's growing influence. However, disconnected from the social and economic
concerns of the majority, it instead contributes only in polarising the whole debate around
the place of religion in society, and is used by right wing forces to mask their pro-
A new political party called the Party of Tunisian Work (PTT) has recently been
launched by some trade union leaders. However, the PTT's programme seems to be weak.
Indeed, businessmen and notoriously corrupt high-ranking UGTT union bureaucrats are
part of the PTT leadership.
The CWI is in favour of resurrecting the idea of a mass party fighting for the interests of
the working class and all the poor masses. But such a party should be democratically built
from below, bringing together all the genuine revolutionary activists. It must openly
challenge the compromised leadership of the UGTT trade union congress to avoid
becoming a 'left refuge' for union careerists and for bosses 'praising the virtue of class
As long as the revolution has not accomplished its fundamental aims, and the counter-
revolutionary threat remains alive, all the local rank-and-file revolutionary committees
and collective bodies of defence, that emerged in the initial stage of the revolution, must
They must also be consolidated, structured, and extended in all workplaces and
communities. This is vital to prevent the dislocation of the revolutionary movement, and
to coordinate discussions and actions on a mass scale.
Such committees could also discuss the contents of the new constitution and the future of
the country, exercising a real control over the electoral process.
The majority of ordinary Tunisian people share common objectives: to clear out the
spectre of the dictatorship once and for all, to get rid of poverty and unemployment, and
to achieve real social and democratic freedom for all.
To fulfil these tasks, the revolutionary movement will have to break the power of the
minority of rich capitalists and foreign imperialist vultures who perpetuate their control
over Tunisia's major companies, banks and big land properties. It must bring these
resources into public ownership, to be run democratically by and for the majority.
As the international repercussions of the Tunisian revolution have already shown, such a
decisive breakthrough would soon be emulated by millions across the region.
Syrian activists call 'Children's Friday' protests
Syrian activists called for mass protest on Friday to honor the children
who were killed since the uprising started
AFP , Thursday 2 Jun 2011
In this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone and provided
by Shaam News Network, taken on Friday (Photo: AP)
Anti-regime activists in Syria have called for fresh demonstrations under the banner of
"Children's Friday," snubbing government concessions which the opposition says have
come too late.
The protests are to honour the children killed in the uprising, such as 13-year-old Hamza
al-Khatib whom activists say was tortured to death, a charge denied by the authorities.
The UN children's agency UNICEF says at least 30 children have been shot dead in the
revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's autocratic rule which erupted mid-March.
"The people want the fall of the regime. Tomorrow, it's 'Children's Friday' of rising up
against injustice, like the adults," the activists announced on their Facebook page Syrian
Revolution 2011, an engine of the revolt.
More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 arrested in a brutal
crackdown on almost daily anti-regime demonstrations in Syria, rights organisations say.
Activists said that at least 43 people have been killed by security forces since Sunday in
the Homs region, north of Damascus.
Clashes also occurred in the flashpoint Daraa areas of southern Syria, where according to
Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights four people were
killed during raids on Wednesday night in the town of Hirak.
The protests and clashes come despite concessions by embattled Assad, who on
Wednesday launched a "national dialogue" while freeing hundreds of political prisoners
in a general amnesty.
The opposition has previously dismissed calls for dialogue, saying that this can take place
only once the violence ends, political prisoners are freed and reforms adopted.
At a meeting in Turkey, about 300 Syrian activists, mostly exiles, on Thursday were
working to draft a "roadmap" for a peaceful and democratic transition, organisers said.
The participants, among them members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, have
dismissed the general amnesty as too little too late.
Washington, which has been upping the pressure by slapping sanctions on key regime
members, said the release of "100 or so political prisoners does not go far enough."
"The release of some political prisoners is not the release of all political prisoners. We
need to see all political prisoners released," State Department deputy spokesman Mark
Toner told reporters.
Activists said Khatib had disappeared while taking part in a demonstration in Daraa on
April 29, which he decided to join after police killed his cousin.
The activists say the boy died under torture and had been abused by security forces.
A medical report published by Syrian official media said however three bullets killed the
teenager and that other apparent wounds on his body were due to decomposition, not
security force brutality.
The government insists the unrest is the work of "armed terrorist gangs" backed by
Islamists and foreign agitators.
Vodafone loses face after taking credit for Egyptian revolution
The telecommunications company's new campaign in which it suggests
that it inspired the Egyptian revolution provokes a furious backlash
Lina El-Wardani , Thursday 2 Jun 2011
The advertisement that was released yesterday caused a lot of anger on social network
websites overnight especially since Vodafone like all three mobile companies in Egypt
cut Egyptians from the world for seven days during the revolution.
On 28 January, the Mubarak regime shut down mobile services and cut off the internet
for almost a week.
And after following the regime’s orders without notifying its customers, Vodafone is now
suggesting it contributed to the revolution.
The notorious advertisement starts with the words “for 30 years Egyptians have felt
powerless, on January 1st Vodafone launches (Power to you) in Egypt.
“How do you empower the powerless? The idea was to create a campaign using real
people to inspire and remind Egyptians that everyone has power.”
The advertisement goes on to ask people on the street “do you have power?” to which
two people reply: “What do you mean by power?”
Then we hear the voice of veteran actor Adel Imam (who has been criticised as a
mouthpiece of the regime for his comments about protesters during the uprising) from an
old advertisement saying, “one’s move can turn the world around... and this is the power
of 80 million ones.”
The advertisement then goes on to say that Vodafone launched its “Our power” campaign
on 1 January, which is an advertisement and a documentary film, then it suggests that
social media takes over, and there is a clip of an internet page where Wael Ghonim
tweets on 31 December that Vodafone is great and “simply proved that you can be
inspiring and enlightening.”
The campaign suggests that it received 100,000 hits and gained over 500,000 fans in the
three days after its launch in early January.
The advertisement’s ending is even more provocative with dozens of photos from Tahrir
Square during the revolution with the words: “We didn’t send people to the streets, we
didn’t start the revolution, we only reminded Egyptians how powerful they are.”
Immediately after the campaign appeared, critics used Twitter to denounce the advert,
with many going as far as declaring they will cancel their Vodafone accounts.
For Adel it went too far. “I will cancel my vodafone number,” he tweeted, “I didn’t
forgot those who died.” Sara said: ”the ridiculous vodafone ad. was the board broken?coz
you sure cant [sic] learn to ride the wave!”
The campaign backfired, according to Maha who tweeted: “Taking Credit for Egyptian
REVOLUTION! This is BAD PR. What were they thinking???” Shahinaz says: “How
dare you say you contributed to the revolution, you blocked our communications
Many simply described the advertisement as "shameless."
Vodafone Egypt denies it has any link with the advert, emphasising on its official Twitter
account that it is only responsible for the videos on its official YouTube page. This
official denial was to no avail as the advert was presented on the Vodafone-JWT.com
Yesterday a website and a Twitter account were launched in the name “I hate Vodafone
Egypt.” The website, using the same logo and colour scheme as Vodafone, asks visitors
why they hate the telecommunications company and to describe their experiences with it.
The website also includes blogs, of which is called “Vodafone’s biggest mistake yet.”
“It is really quite sad, and pathetic, when an advertising agency helps a client ride the
revolutionary wave and manipulate it, but it's an entirely different ballgame when they
dare to even hint at the idea that their client had anything to do with it,” writes the blog’s
“Vodafone, who sent its customers pro-government messages, seems to think they can
play around [with] the timing of an ad that had nothing to do with anything but pure
market competition,” the blog post continues.
Protests planned to mark anniversary of Khaled Said's death
Demonstrations to commemorate Egypt's most famous victim of police
brutality will target stations in Cairo and Alexandria as anger builds
over ongoing torture
Ahram Online, Thursday 2 Jun 2011
Activists are calling for protests in front of police stations on 6 June to mark the first
anniversary of the death of Khaled Said, Egypt's most famous victim of police brutality.
The planned protests will take place in front of the Sidi Gaber police station in Said’s
native city of Alexandria and the Bulak El Dakrour police station in Cairo.
The Sidi Gaber police station was chosen because it is where the two policemen who beat
Said to death worked. The Bulak El Dakrour police station is where Ramzi Salaheddine
was tortured last week while being questioned for failing to pay a debt.
Saleheddine later died in a hospital and his death seen as the first post-uprising incidence
of police torture.
The protesters are voicing their anger that police brutality and the torture of victims in
stations have continued despite the January 25 revolution.
The death of Said is believed to be one of the triggers of the January 25 revolution, after
images of his battered face were circulated across social media sites.
Following his death a Facebook page was founded under the name of 'We are all Khaled
Said'. Aiming to help fight injustice in Egypt, the site's founders were among the first to
call for the 25 January protests which eventually led to the fall of longtime
president Hosni Mubarak
Libya’s revolution, U.S. intervention, and the
By Lance Selfa
IN THE heady days of February, as the Libyan government of Muammar el-Qaddafi
teetered, the Arab revolution appeared to be on the verge of forcing out a third dictator.
The Libyan revolution had burst onto the scene with the same energy and fighting spirit
that the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia had shown. Youth led the revolt, giving
confidence to wider layers of the population to mobilize. For various historical reasons,
opposition to Qaddafi was strongest in the country’s eastern oil-rich regions. Although
protests spread throughout the country, they reached farthest in the eastern cities of
Benghazi and Tobruk. The mobilization drove the police off the streets and turned many
city administrations over to popular committees.
But Qaddafi determined that he wouldn’t follow in Ben Ali and Mubarak’s footsteps. The
Qaddafi government, acting through its loyal security forces, launched savage repression
against the movement. Pro-Qaddafi forces opened fire on crowds, killing hundreds, while
attempting to regain control of the streets of the capital and other major cities. The
repression (or the fear for their own skins if they ended up on the wrong side of a
triumphant revolution) prompted dozens of high-level Libyan government figures to
defect to the side of the anti-Qaddafi opposition. In the eastern part of the country, whole
military units went over to the opposition. The Libyan uprising transitioned from mass
mobilization into a civil war between Libyan army units and mercenaries loyal to
Qaddafi and rebels composed of military defectors and volunteers.
By early March, two key poles started to emerge in the heterogeneous Libyan opposition:
one, centered on the Youth of February 17, the popular committees, and other forces who
had formed the core of the early mass demonstrations; and a second one, convening
generals, ex-members of Qaddafi’s government, and other longtime elite opposition
figures. This second group forms the core of the National Transitional Council (NTC),
announced March 5. The thirty-one-member Council, chaired by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the
Libyan justice minister until only a few months ago, has declared itself the “sole
legitimate body representing the Libyan people and the Libyan state.” To date, France,
Italy, Qatar, and the Maldives have recognized it as the legitimate Libyan government.
From its formation, the Council canvassed Western capitals for support against Qaddafi.
Initially they met with skepticism. Italy’s foreign minister accused the opposition of
harboring al-Qaeda elements. For its part, the U.S. appeared as a bystander. An internal
debate inside the Obama administration tried to ascertain the direction of the revolution.
If Qaddafi could succeed in rolling back the revolution, the U.S. would verbally castigate
him while secretly thanking him for cutting short the Arab revolution before it spilled
over into a place, like Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, that really concerned the U.S.
But as the outcome in Libya appeared increasingly uncertain and the possibility of a
protracted civil war looked increasingly likely, Western countries decided to move. The
first out of the gate was France, which recognized the rebels as the legitimate government
of Libya. France’s loathsome Islamaphobe president Nicholas Sarkozy began amplifying
calls, emanating from the NTC, for a United Nations–sanctioned “no-fly zone” over
Libya. Liberals on both sides of the Atlantic began banging the drum for “humanitarian”
military intervention to stop Qaddafi’s forces from massacring the opposition. Soon other
former colonizers of Africa, including Britain and Italy, started clamoring for
Although late to arrive, the U.S.’s ultimate decision to support the UN “no-fly zone”
shifted the balance in its favor. The White House spin portrayed President Barack
Obama’s decision to go to war in Libya as a triumph for a triumvirate of liberals—
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and Obama adviser
Samantha Power—who have well-established records of advocating the use of U.S.
military force for “humanitarian” purposes. But Pepe Escobar, the Asia Times
correspondent, offered a more plausible accounting of the decision based on his reporting
from the UN:
You invade Bahrain. We take out Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. This, in short, is the
essence of a deal struck between the Barack Obama administration and the House of
Saud. Two diplomatic sources at the United Nations independently confirmed that
Washington, via Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gave the go-ahead for Saudi Arabia to
invade Bahrain and crush the pro-democracy movement in their neighbor in exchange for
a “yes” vote by the Arab League for a no-fly zone over Libya—the main rationale that
led to United Nations Security Council resolution 1973.
Clinton’s meeting with NTC representatives in late March may also have helped to sew
up U.S. support for intervention. The Council has already publicly stated that it will
honor the Qaddafi government’s oil contracts and debts. We can only imagine what other
assurances Clinton managed to extract from the Council.
To win its endorsement of the no-fly zone, the United States had held out for the support
of the Arab League and the African Union (AU). It received the support of the Arab
League with only 11 of its 22 members voting, and most of these were members of the
Saudi-financed and dominated Gulf Cooperation Council of reactionary oil monarchies.
In early March, the AU had issued a communiqué condemning Libya’s attacks on
peaceful protesters, calling for a cease-fire and humanitarian assistance to Libyans, and
urging its member states to open their borders to African migrant workers fleeing Libya.
Although the AU did not endorse the no-fly zone, two of its members (Nigeria and South
Africa) voted in the UN Security Council to enact it.
Supporters of the no-fly zone urged quick action to head off what they predicted was a
Qaddafi-planned massacre of opposition forces in the unofficial rebel capital of
Benghazi. We may never know what would have happened in Benghazi. But Phyllis
Bennis, in a March 29 article published on ZNet challenging Middle East expert Juan
Cole’s pro-intervention stance, offered a reasonable counter to much of the hysterical
commentary that formed the core of the pro-intervention case:
Qaddafi’s tanks had already attacked Benghazi and had been driven out by the armed
power of the opposition forces—that’s why the tanks were outside the city when they
were destroyed by the French warplanes. Was there danger to Benghazi and other parts of
the country? Of course. But it is far from certain that the opposition, albeit less well-
armed than the government’s forces, lacks the power to fight back. We’ve heard a great
deal about military forces who defected with their weapons—in the east apparently
Qaddafi lost the ability to deploy any of his military forces very early on.
If anyone wondered what real-world “humanitarian” intervention looks like, NATO
didn’t give them much time to wait. Its initial bombing in the first week of the no-fly
zone went far beyond its supposed charge to protect Libyan civilians. NATO hit targets
across Libya, including several in densely populated Tripoli. It has even managed to kill
rebel columns by mistake. Behind the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention, NATO is
carrying out a war for regime change (Obama has said repeatedly that “Qaddafi must
go”) in Libya. And if it can’t win the ouster of the dictator in Tripoli, it may be satisfied
with hiving off a pro-Western state in the east, where Libya’s oil wealth resides.
For its own part, the Transitional Council has continued to push for Western support,
having won a deal with Qatar to market Libyan oil under the control of the rebels to raise
money to buy arms. The rebels, now under the command of Libya’s former interior
minister Gen. Abdul Fatah Younis, continue to press NATO to carry out air operations on
their behalf. McClatchy Newspapers reported that another former military officer,
Khalifa Hifter, moved from Virginia to take his position as Younis’s number two in the
opposition militia. Hifter, who once commanded the Libyan military’s 1980s intervention
in Chad before moving into opposition to Qaddafi, had lived for decades in the United
States, lending quite a bit of circumstantial evidence that he was a CIA asset. Whatever
Hifter’s connections to the CIA, we know from a March 31 New York Times report that
the CIA is on the ground to build ties with the rebels and helping them to spot targets for
At the time of writing, the war between Qaddafi and the opposition seems to be bogging
down into a stalemate. In early April, Libya’s foreign minister defected to Britain. With
each former Libyan official to declare for the opposition, the West adds a new person
“we can do business with” to its list of preferred clients in Libya. The rebels and the
government have already engaged in fruitless AU-sponsored negotiations for a cease-fire,
with negotiations foundering on conditions for Qaddafi’s departure.
The left and Libya
Clearly, the mass opposition to Qaddafi received its initial inspiration from the
revolutions that overthrew tyrants in Tunisia and Egypt. As it unfolded as the next phase
of the Arab revolution, it demonstrated conclusively that there is nothing about the
Qaddafi regime worth defending. The challenge for the left in the West is how to provide
support and solidarity with the popular movement against the Qaddafi dictatorship while
opposing Western imperialism’s attempts to misdirect or squelch it under the guise of
intervening to support it.
Unfortunately, a small number of commentators on the left in the United States as varied
as the editors of MRZine, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and Glen Ford of Black
Agenda Report have taken positions that show varying degrees of sympathy toward
Qaddafi (as have state leaders such as Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro). This current also
tends to be skeptical of, if not downright hostile to, the popular challenge to the Qaddafi
regime that began with mass protests. Some leftists in the West may have mistaken
Qaddafi’s past anti-imperialist and quasi-socialist rhetoric as evidence of his progressive
credentials. But the victims of Qaddafi’s torture chambers know better.
His regime began implementing neoliberal economic measures in the late 1980s that
temporarily stalled in the 1990s before resuming over the last decade. Foreign investment
in the oil industry, from Italy, Britain, France, and China, was encouraged. Moreover,
Qaddafi’s anti-imperialist credentials faded years ago and he has been a key (if unstable)
ally to the West’s “war on terror.” As Vijay Prashad notes in a February 22
After 9/11, Qaddafi hastily offered his support to the U.S. In October 2002, Foreign
Minister Mohammed Abderrahman Chalgam admitted that his government closely
consulted with the U.S. on counterterrorism, and a few months later, Qaddafi’s heir
apparent Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi warmly spoke of Libya’s support for the Bush war on
Qaddafi was considered a good enough ally that imperial powers France, Britain, and the
U.S. were selling his government weapons only weeks before imposing the no-fly zone.
Far more significant than the small pro-Qaddafi current are those who have supported the
U.S./NATO intervention. It’s no surprise that many of the most vocal supporters of a
Democratic president’s military action would hail from the Democratic sector of the
foreign policy establishment—people like Clinton and Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.).
But support for one form or another of Western military intervention extends to important
figures on the left and in the antiwar movement. Gilbert Achcar, the veteran socialist and
respected scholar—who has published numerous articles, interviews, and books on the
struggle in the Middle East, including in this magazine—contended in an interview and a
subsequent article published on ZNet:
Can anyone claiming to belong to the left just ignore [the Libyan] popular movement’s
plea for protection, even by means of imperialist bandit-cops, when the type of protection
requested is not one through which control over their country could be exerted? Certainly
not, by my understanding of the left.
Likewise, Juan Cole added his voice to the chorus in support of the UN-sponsored no-fly
zone over Libya with an “Open Letter to the Left on Libya” on March 27, in which he
chided anti-interventionists as being indifferent to the outcome of the Libyan struggle.
Cole has gone so far as to write that “I am unabashedly cheering the liberation movement
on, and glad that the UNSC [United Nations Security Council]–authorized intervention
has saved them from being crushed.”
Achcar and Cole have made the case for Western intervention in Libya, however limited,
for humanitarian aims, and they criticize those on the left who oppose it. But their
arguments ignore the context in which the attack on Qaddafi’s forces took place—as well
as the long and sordid record of such military actions in the past.
The United States and its European allies began the year with the Qaddafi regime as an
ally in the “war on terror” and Libya a fertile ground for Western investment. Until
recently, they were prepared to accept Qaddafi’s continued rule in Libya, even at the cost
of the rebellion against him being crushed. Only when the threat to regional stability and
oil supplies became alarming to the West did they act.
The excuse for intervention has been the call by Qaddafi’s opponents for a no-fly zone
and other military action. Of course, Western intervention has many other motivations
besides the humanitarian claims in support of Resolution 1973: preserving the flow of
Libyan oil, preventing mass migrations of Libyans to Europe, getting rid of a “failed
state” in Libya, and stopping the Arab revolution from overthrowing another dictator
through its own efforts.
But even if the intervention plays some role in Qaddafi’s downfall—which is by no
means certain—any regime that comes to power in Libya will be compromised from the
start by its dependence on Western powers that aren’t concerned at all about democracy
and justice, but about maintaining stability and reasserting their dominance in a region
that has seen two victorious revolutions against U.S.-backed dictators and the possibility
of more to come.
The history of U.S. and European “humanitarian” intervention has produced only greater
violence and more injustice—in Somalia, in Haiti, in the former Yugoslavia and Kosovo,
and in Iraq. The seemingly progressive cover of opposition to dictators (all of whom the
West once supported) can’t hide the fact that these operations produced disasters.
How should socialists respond?
As already argued, socialists support the popular uprising against the Qaddafi
dictatorship, and we have no truck with defenders of Qaddafi. But we also oppose the
imposition of the no-fly zone and other forms of Western intervention because, in
strengthening the role of imperial intervention in the Libyan revolution, they undermine
the prospect of genuine freedom and independence. Consider the fate of Kosovo, over
which NATO fought a “humanitarian” war in 1999.
During the Balkan wars of the mid-1990s, NATO established a no-fly zone over the
Bosnian town of Srebenica. That didn’t prevent the massacre of thousands of civilians at
the hands of the Bosnian Serb military and fascist gangs associated with it. NATO used
the tragedy of Srebenica as justification when it launched its 78-day bombing campaign
against Serbia in 1999. Ostensibly, the NATO war was aimed at protecting Kosovar
civilians who faced massacre at the hands of Milosevic’s forces.
Yet it was apparent at the time—and has since been verified by the research of University
of Arizona professor David Gibbs—that the bombing actually prompted Serb forces to
step up their massacres. And this is not to mention the hundreds—or thousands, we may
never know—of Serbian and Kosovar civilians killed by NATO bombs.
More than a decade later, Kosovo exists as a ward of NATO and is home to Camp
Bondsteel, a huge U.S. base whose 7,000 soldiers support the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Although Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, its real government is
a combination of what remains of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in
Kosovo and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo. These have presided
over a massive privatization campaign that sold off formerly state-run firms to European
Union investors. Meanwhile, unemployment hovers around 40 percent while the
International Monetary Fund and World Bank collect Kosovo’s share of the debt it
contracted as a member of the former Yugoslavia.
This is the “success” that today’s liberal interventionists want NATO to replicate in
Libya. Achcar and Cole and others who support the intervention in Libya are wrong to
disregard that history by suggesting that a U.S.-led military intervention in Libya will
produce a different result this time around.
Supporters of Western intervention proceed from the assumption that a Western no-fly
zone was the only option available for the Libyan opposition. But they should recognize
that the interplay between imperialism and the Arab revolution constrains what choices
are on offer. Reportedly, European governments chose to ignore most of the NTC’s
initial demands. But they accepted the NTC’s proposal for a no-fly zone. In other words,
the notion that “there was no other choice” but a no-fly zone already accepts a
compromise of the Libyan movement’s independence.
In the short space of a few weeks, it appears that the Libyan opposition—or at least the
NTC members that the West has elevated as its interlocutors—are increasingly putting
themselves in a position of providing cover for the Western attempt to roll back the Arab
revolution and to maintain the flow of Libyan oil. The West is marginalizing other forces
in the opposition, from youth to social and community organizations.
There is a long history of anti-imperialist movements making temporary alliances or
marriages of convenience with various imperialist powers or their agents. The
intervention of the French navy forced the surrender of British forces at Yorktown in the
final battle for American independence. Agents of the Kaiser supplied weapons to Irish
freedom fighters during the First World War. The Soviet Union provided military and
political aid to scores of anti-imperialist movements in Latin America, Africa, and Asia
during the Cold War.
The key in each of these situations was that the liberation forces: 1) fought a historically
progressive and just struggle for freedom, and 2) managed to retain an independent
identity that made them authentic representatives of the oppressed rather than
subordinates to their sponsors’ aims. In fact, in the post–Second World War era, the
nonaligned movement of newly independent states often played the imperialist Cold War
adversaries, the U.S. and USSR, against each other.
However, there are times in history where the representatives of a just struggle do
transform their relationship with imperialism into one of dependence and political
subordination. Such a process took place in Kosovo, where the Kosovar Albanian
guerrilla force, the Kosovo Liberation Army, transformed itself from a guerrilla group
that U.S. officials once denounced as “terrorists” into the ground spotters for NATO’s air
A similar development unfolded in the anti-USSR opposition in Afghanistan in the
1980s. What began as a mass popular uprising against the Soviet occupation became,
under the tutelage of the CIA, Saudi Arabia, and the Pakistani security services, a proxy
army in the U.S.’s Cold War against the USSR. Over the course of the 1980s, the Reagan
administration and its allies in the region remolded the Afghan opposition into a vehicle
for its most reactionary forces. The CIA/Saudi/Pakistani combine denied arms and
support to all but the most reactionary fighters, many of whom now form the leadership
In these cases, genuine anti-imperialists wanting to support just struggles against
oppression had to expose the corruption of opposition forces at the hands of imperialism.
Whether the official Libyan opposition has gone down the same road as the Kosovar and
Afghani resistances remains to be seen. But as the British socialist Mike Marqusee in
his essay “Thoughts on Libya and liberal interventionism” has argued, if the current
intervention achieves its aims, it will ensure that
if Qaddafi falls, his replacement will be chosen by the West. The new regime will be born
dependent on the Western powers, which will direct its economic and foreign policies
accordingly. The liberal interventionists will say that’s not what they want, but their
policy makes it inevitable.
Libya in a regional context
Most of the arguments in favor of Western intervention put the pointed question to those
who oppose intervention: “What would you do?” But answering that question according
to the narrow confines in which it is posed—as a response to an immediate situation such
as an assumed Libyan army attack on Benghazi—is the wrong way to address it. Our
starting point is that the Libyan revolution is part of the revolutionary wave that is
sweeping the Arab and North African world. The intervention of Western forces into that
process amounts to the introduction of counterrevolution into the region. Not only is this
true geographically (Libya lies between Tunisia and Egypt), it is true politically. The
“deal” that Escobar described was the license the U.S. gave to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and
Yemen to crush the revolutionary upheavals in their own countries. The supporters of
intervention are asking us believe that the Libyan revolution can be advanced with the aid
of the chief backer and funder of counterrevolution in the region!
As Bennis noted in a March 24 article on Al-Jazeera online,
Ironically, one of the reasons many people supported the call for a no-fly zone was the
fear that if Qaddafi managed to crush the Libyan people’s uprising and remain in power,
it would send a devastating message to other Arab dictators: Use enough military force
and you will keep your job.
Instead, it turns out that just the opposite may be the result: It was after the UN passed its
no-fly zone and use-of-force resolution, and just as U.S., British, French, and other
warplanes and warships launched their attacks against Libya, that other Arab regimes
escalated the crackdown on their own democratic movements.
U.S. and Western hypocrisy was clear to see. While Libyan attacks on unarmed civilians
was a casus belli, the U.S. sanctioned the Saudi invasion of Bahrain to support the
Bahraini monarchy’s attacks against its opposition. Seen in this way, the Western support
for the no-fly zone is about derailing the Arab revolution while posing as its friend.
The counterrevolution works in mysterious ways. At first, the West held back, thinking
Qaddafi could do the job of defeating the revolution himself. Later, they weren’t so sure.
At first, they weren’t sure about the rebels. Now Western governments are trying to
cultivate them. A March 20 statement by the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt put it
Modern imperialism uses various mechanisms to achieve its single goal, which is to
ensure that the Arab regimes remain faithful to the obedience of the monopolies of global
capitalism and the politics of colonialism. This is achieved in alliance with the classes
which benefit from keeping the old regime alive, and which fear the spread of popular
Intervention takes many forms: through propaganda and the use of dubious sources of
funding linked with the American administration and companies supportive of U.S.-
Zionist imperialism as well as through military operations. The entry of the Peninsula
Shield force into Bahrain, the announcement of military intervention in Libya, Hillary
Clinton’s visit, the bags of dollars which appear under the under the pretext of
“supporting democracy” and spreading “democratic awareness” are all part of the same
scheme. This does not mean it is a “conspiracy,” but there is naturally a close
interdependence of interests, between systems and governments, and international
So we need to turn the “What would you do?” question around: In the face of this
imperialist attempt to short-circuit the revolution, should we stand by and do nothing? Or,
worse, cheer on the Empire’s intervention? No, we demand an end to NATO military
operations. We demand the cutting off of aid to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Bahrain, and
we support the deepening of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. And to the Western
powers that shed crocodile tears about Libyan civilians facing down a brutal dictatorship,
we say, “Lift your anti-immigrant laws and grant asylum to any Libyan who wants it!”
We recognize that the fate of the Libyan revolution is tied up with the fate of the Arab
revolution. An advance by the Tunisian, Egyptian, Bahraini, or Syrian uprisings can help
advance the struggle in Libya. And renewed mass action in Libya can shift the balance of
forces inside the opposition from those willing to do deals with the West to those who
want genuine freedom and independence. The future of the Arab revolution, in Libya and
the rest of the region, is still being written. We join with the socialists in Egypt to say:
No to foreign interference. No to counterrevolution.
Long live the revolution of the peoples.
The myth of U.S. humanitarian intervention in
By Michael Corcoran and Stephen Maher
THE MYTH of humanitarian intervention has once again surfaced as the key justification
for Western imperial adventurism. This time, Libya has been targeted by the United
States and France for a bombing campaign that is alleged to be primarily about
“protecting” the people of Libya, who joined others in the “Arab Spring” in demanding
freedom from a ruthless dictator.
As this so-called humanitarian intervention takes place, the United States continues its
support for the brutal suppression of peaceful demonstrations in states allied with the
United States, such as Bahrain and Yemen. This clearly demonstrates the brazen level of
hypocrisy of the U.S. position and illustrates just how concerned U.S. state managers are
with human rights. Clear geopolitical motives for the intervention in Libya, as well as the
suppression in Yemen and Bahrain, show the true purpose of the U.S. policy: to
maximize its control of a vital, resource-rich region while hiding its true intentions, as
always, behind the veil of benevolent intentions. This has been made possible, in part,
because the media has worked to spread the party line of U.S. humanitarian intervention
and benevolent intentions, serving as what the neo-Marxist writer Louis Althusser
referred to as an “Ideological State Apparatus” (ISA).1
This article seeks to dismantle the arguments made by apologists for U.S. imperialism in
Libya by examining the true nature of U.S. foreign policy and its concern (or lack
thereof) for human rights, the illegality of the Libyan invasion through the lens of both
domestic and international law, and by demonstrating how corporate media complicity
has helped to sell this narrative, serving, as always, as an arm of official ideology.
Humanitarian intervention as imperial ideology
The ideological nature of much of the debate over the intervention is painfully clear, even
among critics. “At the end of the day,” writes Council on Foreign Relations president
Richard Haass, who sits at the dovish extreme of the permitted spectrum, “the Libyan
intervention is more than anything about the role of the United States in the world,” and
“the United States cannot and should not intervene in every internal dispute where bad or
even evil is on display.”2 On the surface, Haass is correct, of course; no one would
suggest the United States intervene in every country in which it saw “bad or even evil.”
Yet his statement is actually a manifestation of state ideology: the United States either
acts in the name of good (to stop “bad or even evil”) or it does not act at all. The idea of
the United States itself committing “evil” is not a possible category, it is outside the
bounds of “thinkable thought” to borrow Noam Chomsky’s phrase.3 Haass’s evaluation
reveals his uncritical acceptance of this principle, and thus his fitness to serve at the head
of a respectable and important ideological institution. Yet the full support the United
States has lent to the violent crackdown on protests in Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi
Arabia—not to mention Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians—reveals that U.S. policy
lacks the moral quality Haass and others inherently ascribe to it.
This is not the first time that a U.S. president has justified intervention on the basis of
supposed humanitarian imperatives. The most noted example in U.S. history is President
Clinton’s 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia. Though he claimed at the time—much like
Obama—that such an intervention was necessary to prevent the massacre of civilians,
“uncontroversially, the vast crimes took place after the bombing began: they were not a
cause but—it is hard to deny—a consequence.”4 In a book strongly endorsed by Clinton’s
deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott (who worked closely on the intervention), John
Norris writes, “It was Yugoslavia’s resistance to the broader trends of political and
economic reform—not the plight of Kosovar Albanians—that best explains NATO’s
war.”5 When one takes notice of simultaneous U.S. support for Indonesia’s genocidal
occupation of East Timor,6 as well as its support for Turkey’s horrific ethnic cleansing of
its Kurdish population,7 this conclusion becomes even harder to avoid.
Those who wish to understand the world around them must shrug off the yoke of
ideology and examine matters for what they are. What is most striking about the demands
of the recent revolutionary uprisings across the Middle East is that they are
overwhelmingly secular, universal demands for freedom, human rights, and economic
justice; not fanatical cries to impose a supreme leader, nor fundamentalist calls to holy
warfare. Despite official rhetoric of humanitarian intervention and “promoting freedom,”
the United States is struggling to repress the revolutionary awakening. Though the
popular uprisings have largely been free of anti-imperialist slogans, the challenge they
pose to U.S. client regimes through which imperial power is projected into the Middle
East, the chief oil producing and most strategically important region of the world, is very
The independence that would result from the liberation from dictatorship and oppression
demanded by the region’s people is the dialectical opposite of U.S. control: more power
for the masses means less control for the United States. This explains the management of
the region through a network of client dictatorships, overseen and stabilized by Israeli
nuclear hegemony. It is a system enforced by an expansive disciplinary apparatus of
interlocking state coercion, which relies on terror to maintain order; if it does not respond
when tested, it loses all effectiveness. In recent months, we have seen masses of people
across the Middle East challenging that coercive mechanism, which is none other than
empire itself—and it has responded. It should go without saying that such a system of
raw power and domination does not take account of “humanitarian concerns.”
In reality, this imperial system was constructed to ensure continued U.S. control of the
Middle East’s energy resources, particularly the vast Saudi reserves, deemed “the greatest
material prize in history” by the U.S. State Department.8 In pursuing this objective, the
United States strengthens the regimes it controls—Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen,
Bahrain, Egypt, and so on—while threatening and attacking those that oppose its
objectives—Iran, Syria, and Libya. Human beings only matter insofar as they get in the
way. This poses a simple rejoinder to Mr. Haass: the easiest way for the United States to
put an end to “bad or even evil” in the world (in Haass’s sense of “infringements on
human rights”) is to stop carrying it out.
Expanding empire, repressing opposition
As the brutal repression of recent uprisings makes clear, the main purpose of growing
U.S. military assistance programs to Yemen and Bahrain (Obama increased military
assistance to Yemen from $67 million in 2009 to $150 million in 2010) is to repress
“their people,” and maintain the U.S.-prescribed regional order.9 The violent crackdown
against protesters in Bahrain has included tactics such as a 3:00 a.m. attack by hundreds
of riot police on unarmed sleeping protesters, “including families and children,”
supported by tear gas and live ammunition fired from U.S.-manufactured Apache
helicopters.10 Doctors trying to help the hundreds of wounded and dying were savagely
beaten, one example of what Human Rights Watch has called “a troubling pattern of
security forces preventing medical staff from providing urgent care to wounded protesters
and assaulting doctors and paramedics dispatched to provide treatment to the injured.”11
Though the U.S. government has issued muted public statements deploring the violence,
full American support for the repression has continued.12
Bahrain is an important and close U.S. ally, housing the Fifth Fleet of the U.S. Navy, and
is located adjacent to Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which contains the majority of
Saudi oil reserves.13 Ominously for Washington, there are some signs of rebellion
spreading to the Saudi Kingdom, including protests in the Eastern Province.14 Such a
threat is not likely to be taken lightly.
While the United States intervenes directly in Libya on behalf of armed rebels, it
authorized Saudi Arabia’s deployment of its U.S.-supplied military to Bahrain to support
the brutal crackdown on nonviolent demonstrations there, which arrived just days after
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had visited the island.15 Far from being faced with
sanctions and bombardment for its repressive role not just within its own borders, but
elsewhere in the region, Saudi Arabia has received substantial American support for its
longstanding imperial service, including the largest arms sale in U.S. history—$60
billion—in October 2010.16
Massive protests in Yemen, another strategically located U.S. client, have likewise been
suppressed with ferocious violence. U.S.-armed paramilitaries attacked students staging a
sit-in at Sanaa University, and, backed by U.S.-made tanks, have gunned down unarmed
demonstrators in the streets.17 One such attack recently killed fifty-two people and
wounded hundreds, and was followed by the enactment of an emergency law that
“effectively suspends the constitution.”18 The government crackdown reached such levels
of brutality that several military leaders defected and joined the protesters, yet Obama has
not announced his support for their cause nor called on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to
step down, and “U.S. special forces continue to operate across the country in support of
the government.”19 Hollow, tepid condemnations of the wave of violence Saleh has
released on the demonstrators by the White House Press Secretary20 have been carefully
balanced by Robert Gates’s reminders that the United States has vital interests in
Yemen,21 and have so far not been followed by action. Despite support for such crimes
by allied regimes, the Washington establishment is still able to push the narrative that it is
acting primarily, and selflessly, in the interest of human rights in Libya.
U.S. backing of Israel’s barbaric, monthlong slaughter of half-starved, defenseless
Palestinians in Gaza in 2009, including widespread use of U.S.-manufactured white
phosphorous against civilians likewise reveals the true role played by “humanitarian
concerns” in U.S. foreign policy.22 Rather than sanction Israel or intervene militarily to
safeguard the rights of Palestinians, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution at the height of
the massacre expressing its support for the attack, while the Bush administration blocked
international efforts to reach a cease-fire. The Obama administration has worked
tirelessly to discredit those documenting the crimes,23 and remains the chief supporter of
Israeli strangulation of Gaza, causing a severe humanitarian crisis, including a “complete
economic collapse” and “a substantial drop in the availability of necessities” such as
food, clean water, and medicine.24
Through intervention in Libya, the United States reifies the illusion that it is siding with
the popular rebellions throughout the region, even as it is the most powerful force
working to crush them. While it arms the despots the masses seek to overthrow, it focuses
attention on its supposedly noble humanitarian defense of Libyans from the brutal
dictatorship of Muammar Qaddafi.25 No doubt the decision to intervene was helped by
the Benghazi shadow government’s indication that if in power, it would adopt positions
favorable to Western interests, which has already won it French recognition.26 Further,
many of the Benghazi opposition leaders are former prominent Qaddafi regime officials27
(in addition to a possible CIA operative),28 who it is difficult to believe have suddenly
become pro-democracy activists. Apart from public statements, there is little reason to
think that empowering the Benghazi regime will lead to any substantial change in Libya
whatsoever—aside from the country’s geopolitical alignment, as it would then be under
U.S. control. What is clear is that the U.S. establishment knows little about the opposition
(it has even been suggested that it includes members of “al-Qaeda”),29 and probably does
not care; it simply wants to empower those who support its interests and enhance its
With the region in a state of unprecedented revolutionary upheaval, including ongoing
uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt—both of which border Libya—intervention against
Qaddafi was designed to capitalize on the circumstances and enhance U.S. dominance.
As ongoing military catastrophes in Iraq and Afghanistan strengthen the perception of the
United States as an overstretched empire in decline, by attacking Libya the United States
also seeks to reestablish the “credibility” of its “military deterrent”—in other words,
ensure that the world is still too terrified of the response to risk challenging U.S. dictates.
Obama’s bellicose rhetoric is intended to send a clear message and reinforce the cardinal
principle of U.S. foreign policy: as George H. W. Bush put it in 1991, “What we say
goes.”30 Retribution is swift and total for those who refuse to comply.
There is also a dangerous message that will greatly weaken future international
nonproliferation efforts: had Libya kept its nuclear and chemical arsenal instead of
“voluntarily” renouncing all WMDs in 2003, the regime would have been able to deter
the attack, as would have Iraq in the case of the 2003 U.S. invasion.31 North Korea, on
the other hand, appears safe from such intervention.
Protecting civilians: “A non-negotiable ultimatum”
Whatever complex geopolitical motivations exist for yet another Western bombing
campaign in the Middle East, what is perfectly clear is that by engaging in this
undeclared war, President Barack Obama has violated domestic law and has engaged in a
radical expansion of executive power.
While Obama did attempt to justify the war by using the 1973 War Powers Act, the
action clearly goes beyond the scope of the law.32 The War Powers Act does indeed allow
for the president to use military force for sixty days (with a possible thirty-day extension)
in the case of a “national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its
territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” This was clearly not the case with the
conflict in Libya, which posed no threat to the United States or its neighbors, and
essentially constituted a civil war. While there is clearly no doubt that Qaddafi has lost
the support of much of the population of Libya due to his many abuses, this in no way
enables a U.S. president to start a war without approval from Congress.
“In taking the country into a war with Libya, Barack Obama’s administration is breaking
new ground in its construction of an imperial presidency—an executive who increasingly
acts independently of Congress at home and abroad,” wrote Bruce Ackerman in Foreign
Policy magazine, a journal run by the Carnegie Institute. “He was elected in reaction to
the unilateralist assertions of John Yoo and other apologists for George W. Bush-era
illegalities. Yet he is now moving onto ground that even Bush did not occupy…putting
Bush-era talk into action in Libya—without congressional authorization.”33
That an elite publication would voice such a view is telling (although in the mainstream
media, only Representative Dennis Kucinich has been allowed to articulate this
argument, calling Obama’s action without congressional authorization an “impeachable
offense”)34 and illustrates how unambiguously illegal Obama’s war in Libya is. This did
not stop Obama from laying out an incredibly flawed justification for the endeavor,
perhaps most ludicrously declaring in a February 25 letter to House Speaker John
Boehner that Libya constituted “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national
security and foreign policy of the United States.”35 With few exceptions, members of
Congress seemed to uncritically accept that an imperial president had effectively usurped
the war-making powers of the legislature. Even Speaker Boehner, one of Obama’s chief
political opponents, would only encourage Obama to “do a better job of briefing
members of Congress,” but made no mention of a vote of authorization.36
The intervention violates international law as well. The United Nations Security Council
did authorize all necessary actions “to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under
threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a
foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” But, as former
head of the National Lawyers Guild Marjorie Cohn noted, the attack “exceeds the
bounds” of this authorization.” All necessary measures “should first have been peaceful
measures to settle the conflict. But peaceful means were not exhausted before Obama
began bombing Libya,” Cohn wrote.37
Indeed, Chapter I of the UN Charter forbids the “threat or use of force” in international
relations.38 Though the resolution was passed under Chapter VII, which allows the
Security Council to take action that “may be necessary to maintain or restore
international peace and security,” provisions demanding a determination that all measures
short of force are exhausted before resorting to intervention were clearly not satisfied.39
Moreover, even if we leave aside the language in the resolution calling for a peaceful
settlement and assume the intervention is authorized by the Security Council, a UNSC
resolution is not a blank check to violate these fundamental principles of the UN Charter:
article 24 mandates that the Security Council “shall act in accordance with the Principles
and Purposes of the United Nations.”40
Neither the Security Council resolution nor the UN Charter could be interpreted to
authorize regime change, yet Obama boldly announced, “It is U.S. policy that Qaddafi
needs to go.”41 Obama seemed to hedge a bit when he added that, “when it comes to our
military action, we are doing so in support of United Nations Security Council resolution
1973 that specifically talks about humanitarian efforts, and we are going to make sure
that we stick to that mandate.”42 This argument also forms the basis for the White House
legal strategy to work around the need for congressional authorization by claiming, as
White House Middle East advisor Dennis Ross did, that the attack constitutes a “limited
humanitarian intervention, not war.”43
But clearly, the United States is looking to oust Qaddafi through one lawless method or
another. “When the mission was launched, it was largely seen as having a limited,
humanitarian agenda: to keep Colonel Qaddafi from attacking his own people,” claimed a
New York Times article from March 29. “But the White House, the Pentagon and their
European allies have given it the most expansive possible interpretation, amounting to an
all-out assault on Libya’s military.” The article notes that while the “Obama
administration has been reluctant to call the operation an actual war,” American
involvement “is far deeper than discussed in public and more instrumental to the fight
than was previously known.”44 There are also new reports of CIA agents on the ground in
Libya, despite Obama’s proclamations that there would be no ground troops in the
country, and the UN resolution’s express prohibition on such a presence.45
Likewise, reasonable alternatives to intervention that fall short of regime change have
been ignored, revealing the true motivation for the attack. A political “Roadmap” passed
by the African Union on March 25 calling for an end to the bombing and immediate
negotiations between the opposition and the government was agreed to by the Qaddafi
regime, but has been ignored by Washington.46 And Congress, with limited exceptions,
has expressed support for this policy. The always hawkish Senator Joe Lieberman of
Connecticut also vigorously promoted illegal regime change, telling CNN that “Once the
president of the United States says, as President [Barack] Obama did, that Qaddafi must
go, if we don’t work with our allies to make sure Qaddafi does go, America’s credibility
and prestige suffers all over the world.”47 Despite the fact that Al Jazeera and others
reported before the bombing that the Libyan leader “was looking for an agreement
allowing him to step down,” the bombing was initiated anyway, showing that the West
was not even considering a peaceful resolution to the situation.48 The United States never
even acknowledged such reports, and Obama defiantly declared that the dictator faced a
Corporate media as “Ideological State Apparatus”
The U.S. mainstream media has predictably served to advance the U.S. narrative,
accepting the war as a just act of benevolence by the United States, which is selflessly
working to save the lives of Libyan civilians. This is predictable: the media in a capitalist
country largely serves as what Louis Althusser called an “Ideological State Apparatus,”
accepting and spreading the ideological doctrines of the state.
Perhaps The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, largely viewed to be the extreme left of
the editorial shows on cable television, provided the most glaring example of the way
state ideology pervades the media. Maddow observed that Obama, like Bush, was
invading a Middle Eastern nation. But by initiating the attack without so much as a press
conference to the American people, she argued, he was avoiding the “chest-thumping” of
previous administrations in an effort to “change the narrative” of U.S. foreign policy.
Obama’s decision, she said in a March 21 broadcast, “to forego the chest-thumping
commander-in-chief theater that goes with military intervention of any kind, that in itself
is a fascinating and rather blunt demonstration of just how much this presidency is not
like that of George W. Bush.”50
This pathetic display reveals precisely the way the media function as an ISA. As the
media’s best known “liberals” celebrate U.S. imperialism because it is hidden from the
public, and carried out in a way that makes state violence more palatable, we see the
extremely narrow parameters of debate. Liberal journals, such as the Nation, followed
suit. The magazine published a piece by Professor Juan Cole, titled “An open letter to the
left on Libya,” in which he argued that “If we just don’t care if the people of Benghazi
are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren’t people of the Left”—
implying that the only reason one could oppose the intervention is “not caring” about the
Libyan people.51 It is simply assumed by “serious” mainstream outlets that the war is
noble. Debate is encouraged within these narrow boundaries, which gives official
propaganda a system-reinforcing character.52
Obama’s role in starting a third U.S. war in the Middle East also seems to indicate the
extent of his commitment to militarism, and shows a major similarity with President
George W. Bush. Yet, the media has scrambled to portray this as a different kind of war,
a “liberal war,” as Russ Douthat described it in a New York Times op-ed. “In its month-
long crab walk toward a military confrontation with Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi, the
Obama administration has delivered a clinic in the liberal way of war,” he wrote. The
rebranding of imperialism and militarism under Obama has indeed proven to be effective.
Indeed, the Times op-ed page serves as an especially effective ideological tool for the
state. In fourteen op-eds and two editorials written about Libya from March 14 to 28,
only two could be described as offering anything resembling opposition to the war. One
was a piece by Bob Herbert, who condemned “pouring shiploads of cash into yet another
war…while simultaneously demolishing school budgets.”53 The other was by Thomas
Friedman, who expressed his desire to support what he considers a noble mission in
Libya, but admits, “Sadly, we cannot afford it.”54 Clearly, even these criticisms are within
the “bounds of the expressible” laid out by the ideological system—assuming that our
motives in Libya are virtuous, but arguing that our commitment to justice must be
tempered by other pressing needs.55 The more typical op-eds run by the paper of record
were similar to that of Nicholas Kristof, whose “Hugs from Libyans” told stories of
Libyan “Thank you rallies” in honor of the U.S. war.56
Few corporate outlets dared mention the heights of U.S. hypocrisy or the excessive cost
of the operation—estimated at $2 billion a day, according to Forbes—just as the
government seeks to make cuts to vital programs like Medicare and Social Security.57
These costs may explain why, despite the near unanimity of the media in favor of the
intervention, 63 percent of those polled by the Pew Research Center did not think the
United States had a responsibility to act with violence in Libya.58
Business as usual for the American Empire
The Libyan war is yet another clear example of the imperial nature of U.S. foreign policy
and the effectiveness of state ideology in blinding the public to the true nature of violence
carried out abroad. Piercing the veneer of official propaganda, we discover that the
United States is again engaged in a war of choice, using the military as a weapon, not as a
last resort to defend itself, but rather to display and entrench Western power and shape
the world in its interest during a time of massive change. The media—most shamelessly
liberal apologists for Obama—perpetuate this lie in near-monolithic fashion, while
allowing for “debates” merely over tactics, and ignoring geopolitics and the brute reality
of U.S. Empire.
Michael Corcoran (michaelcorcoran.blogspot.com) is a journalist and media critic from
Boston who has written for the Boston Globe, the Nation, the Guardian, the Christian Science
Monitor, NACLA Report on the Americas, Extra!, and other publications. He is a master’s
candidate at the John McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at the University of
Stephen Maher (rationalmanifesto.blogspot.com) is a freelance writer based in Washington,
D.C., and a master’s candidate at American University School of International Service. His
work, covering a wide range of issues, has appeared in the Guardian, on the Electronic
Intifada, Truthout, Extra!, and elsewhere.
1 Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” La Pensée, 1970,
2 Richard Haass, “Too much, too late,” Council on Foreign Relations, March 21, 2011,
3 Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (Boston: South End
Press, 1999), 33.
4 Noam Chomsky, A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor, and the Standards of the West
(New York: Verso Books, 2000), 96.
5 John Norris, Collision Course: NATO, Russia, and Kosovo (New York: Praeger, 2005), xxiii.
6 Chomsky, A New Generation Draws the Line, 76–78.
7 Ibid., 11.
8 The United States Department of State Foreign Relations of the United States: diplomatic papers, 1945.
The Near East and Africa: vol. VIII, 45, University of Wisconsin digital collection,
9 Nir Rosen, “How it started in Yemen: From Tahrir to Taghyir,” New Statesman, March 21, 2011.
10 “Bahrain: End deadly attacks on peaceful protesters,” Human Rights Watch, February 17, 2011; See
also: Scheherezade Faramarz, “Bahrain crackdown routs protesters; clashes kill 5,” ?McClatchy
Newspapers, March 16, 2011,
11 Faramarz , “Bahrain crackdown routs protesters”; “Bahrain: End deadly attacks on peaceful protesters”;
and “Bahrain: Injured people denied medical care,” Human Rights Watch, March 17, 2011.
12 Office of the Press Secretary, “Statement from the Press Secretary on violence in Yemen and Bahrain,”
March 13, 2011, www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/13/statement-press-secretary-violence-
13 Brad Knickerbocker, “U.S. faces difficult situation in Bahrain, home to US Fifth Fleet,” Christian
Science Monitor, February 19, 2011.
14 Ulf Laessing and Cynthia Johnston, “Saudi police fire in air to disperse protest,” Reuters, March 10,
2011; See also Frank Langfitt and Renee Montagne, “Saudi forces out in force to stop ‘Day of Rage,’”
Morning Edition, National Public Radio, March 11, 2011.
15 Though the Pentagon initially claimed it did not know of the Saudi moves in advance, reports later
surfaced that the United States had in fact been informed. See “Saudi told US of Bahrain intervention: US
official,” Agence France-Presse, March 14, 2011.
16 Anthony Cordesman, “The New Saudi arms deal: Serving vital U.S. security interests,” Center for
Strategic and International Studies, August 24, 2010.
17 Rosen, “How it started in Yemen” ; See also Ahmed Al-Haj, “Yemeni soldiers attack students,”
Associated Press, March 8, 2011.
18 “Yemen: Emergency law does not trump basic rights,” Human Rights Watch, March 23, 2011.
19 Seumas Milne, “There’s nothing moral about Nato’s intervention in Libya,” Guardian, March 23, 2011.
20 Andrew Malcolm “Yemen president gets stern warning from Obama press secretary.” Los Angeles
Times, April 6, 2011.
21 “US says post-Saleh Yemen would pose ‘real problem,’” Agence-France Presse, March 27, 2011.
22 Jonathan Weber, “Goldstone report slams IDF warfare in Gaza,” YNet News, September 16, 2009.
23 Stephen Zunes, “The Gaza war, Congress, and International Humanitarian Law,” Middle East Policy
Council, http://www.mepc.org; Edith Lederer, “U.S. blocks UN Security Council action on Gaza,”
Associated Press, January 3, 2009; Jack Khouri, “Goldstone tells Obama: Show me flaws in Gaza report,”
Ha’aretz, October 22, 2009.
24 “The Gaza Strip—Background,” B’Tselem–The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the
Occupied Territories, www.btselem.org/english/Gaza_Strip.
25 Eben Kaplan, “How Libya got off the list,” Council on Foreign Relations, October 16, 2007.
26 “France recognizes Libya rebels, to surprise of EU,” Associated Press, March 10, 2011.
27 David Wood, “Gaddafi’s army, Libyan rebels square off for showdown,” Huffington Post, March 29,
28 Chris Adams, “Libyan rebel leader spent much of past 20 years in suburban Virginia,” McClatchy
Newspapers, March 26, 2011.
29 Greg Miller, “Libyan opposition includes a small number of al-Qaeda fighters, U.S. officials say,”
Washington Post, March 29, 2011.
30 Mitchel Cohen, “What we say, goes! How Bush Sr. sold the bombing of Iraq,” CounterPunch,
December 28, 2002.
31 Paul A. DeSutter, “Libya renounces weapons of mass destruction.” eJournal USA, America.gov.
32 Lauren Rozen, “Averting ‘Srebrenica on steroids’: White House defends Libya operations,” Yahoo!
News, March 23, 2011.
33 Bruce Ackerman, “Obama’s unconstitutional war,” Foreign Policy, March 25, 2011.
34 Quoted in Jennifer Epstein, “Kucinich: Libya action ‘impeachable,’” The Politico, March 21, 2011.
35 Quoted in Josh Rogin, “Obama Declares National State of Emergency over Libya,” Foreign Policy,
February 25, 2011.
36 Stephanie Condon, “Boehner, GOP want Obama to consult with Congress on Libya,” CBS News,
March 21, 2011.
37 Marjorie Cohn, “Stop bombing Libya,” Huffington Post, March 21, 2011.
38 Charter of the United Nations, www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter1.shtml.
41 Aprille Muscara, “Obama leaves door open to regime change in Libya,” InterPress Service, March 21,
43 Rozen, “Averting ‘Srebrenica on steroids.’”
44 Eric Schmidt, “U.S. gives its air power expansive role in Libya,” New York Times, March 28, 2011.
45 National Public Radio, “CIA operatives gathering intelligence in Libya,” March 31, 2011,
46 Luc Van Kemenede, “Libya says it’s ready to implement a ‘road map,’” Yahoo! News, March 25, 2011.
47 As quoted in Josh Rogin, “Obama declares national state of emergency over Libya,” Foreign Policy,
February 25, 2011.
48 “Libyan rebels reject potential Gaddafi offer to step down: Reports,” Reuters, March 7, 2011.
49 Quoted in “Q&A: The Libyan ceasefire, the UN resolution and military tactics,” Guardian, March 18,
50 For transcript, see The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC.com, March 21, 2011,
51 Juan Cole, “An open letter to the left on Libya,” Nation, March 26, 2011.
52 Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions (Boston: South End Press, 1989), 48.
53 Bob Herbert, “Losing our way,” New York Times, March 25, 2011.
54 Thomas Friedman, “Tribes with flags,” New York Times, March 22, 2011.
55 Chomsky, Necessary Illusions, 45–73.
56 Nicholas Kristof, “Hugs from Libyans,” New York Times, March 23, 2011.
57 Linda Thompson, “The real cost of U.S. in Libya? 2 billion dollars per day,” Forbes, March 28, 2011,
58 For poll results, see: www.usnewsweekly.info/americans-?appear-wary-over-u-s-role-in-libya-reuters/.
International Socialist Review Issue 4, Spring 1998
Zionism: False Messiah
By Lance Selfa
FIFTY YEARS ago in May, Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, proclaimed the founding of the State of
Israel. Immediately, Jewish commandos in Palestine launched what Israel called its "War of Independence."
When Israel concluded an armistice with the armies of Egypt, Transjordan and Syria in 1949, more than 750,000
Palestinians had been forced to flee from their homes. They became refugees from their own country, which the
Jewish Zionist armies now controlled. The founding of Israel marked the culmination of a 50-year-long campaign,
waged by political Zionists, to establish a Jewish state.
The Zionists claimed that they expressed world Jewry's yearning for "national liberation." Yet, if Zionism was a
movement for national liberation, it was like no other. Rather than seeking to break free from imperialism, it
actively courted patronage from imperialist powers. Rather than promising self-determination to the people of
Palestine--the vast majority of whom were Arab--it expelled them. And rather than representing a widely popular
expression of the fight against national oppression, Zionism counted as little more than a sect for most of its
existence prior to the Second World War.
No doubt all sorts of distorted history and ideological claptrap will accompany the media's "celebration" of Israel's
50th anniversary. This is understandable, if only because the real history of Zionism and Israel is so sordid.
What Is Zionism?
Political Zionism, "a doctrine which, starting from the postulate of the incompatibility of the Jews and the
Gentiles, advocated massive emigration to an underdeveloped country with the aim of establishing a Jewish
state,"1 developed as a response to an upsurge of anti-Jewish racism (anti-Semitism) in Europe at the end of the
last century. In Western Europe, the formation of openly anti-Semitic political parties challenged the assumption
of many middle-class Jews that they could simply blend into (or "assimilate" into) non-Jewish society. In the
Russian Empire, where the majority of world Jewry lived, Jews fell victim as the feudal order gave way to
capitalist economic development. As feudalism collapsed, Jews lost the specific roles they had played as money
lenders and organizers of commerce in the feudal economy. Forced out of the feudal economy, Jewish artisans
and shopkeepers fell into competition with non-Jews (Gentiles). Meanwhile, capitalist development destroyed the
artisanal economy, turning artisans and craftspeople into wage workers. These two processes--the destruction of
the feudal economy and the undermining of the artisanal economy--combined in less than 50 years to create a
massive Jewish working class in Eastern Europe. These wrenching changes in the position of Jews in society
impelled millions of Jews to emigrate from Eastern Europe. Those who stayed behind often faced pogroms, anti-
Jewish riots. Taking advantage of rising anti-Semitism among the Gentile middle class and seeking to keep the
Jewish working class divided from its Gentile brothers and sisters, Tsarist police stirred up pogroms against the
This atmosphere of despair and oppression stirred several responses in the Jewish population, among them a
growing nationalism. Nathan Weinstock emphasizes that "...Jewish nationalism, in particular, its Zionist variant,
was an absolutely new conception born of the socio-political context of Eastern Europe in the 19th century."3 For
centuries, the idea of a return to "Zion" (i.e., the "Holy Land" in Palestine) occupied a significant place in
Judaism, but this belief had no political significance. Passover's ritual toasts to "next year in Jerusalem" didn't
imply the desire to found a Jewish state with its "eternal capital" there. Jewish religious pilgrims emigrated to
Palestine in the late 1800s to form religious communities, not to establish a state. Yet political Zionism had just
that goal in mind.
Political Zionism received its most powerful statement in The Jewish State, an 1896 tract by Jewish Austrian
journalist Theodore Herzl, considered the "father" of political Zionism. Herzl, a widely traveled man, covered the
1894 Paris trial of Colonel Albert Dreyfus, a Jewish military officer whom French military authorities framed as a
spy. The Dreyfus Affair brought out shocking displays of anti-Semitism from official French society. On the other
hand, it also spurred an international antiracist campaign led by the Gentile journalist and novelist Emile Zola.
Mass pressure--which the socialist movement helped to organize--forced the French government to retry Dreyfus.
The courts later found "extenuating circumstances" to lessen Dreyfus' sentence. The outcry against the Dreyfus
trial dealt severe blows to the French right and institutions like the army and the Catholic Church, which stoked
anti-Semitism. One could have read the Dreyfus case as an example of the potential for Jews and non-Jews to
unite to fight anti-Semitism. Herzl did not. As he later wrote in his Diary: "In Paris...I achieved a freer attitude
toward anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognized the
emptiness and futility of trying to combat anti-Semitism."4
Herzl's "pardoning" of anti-Semitism reflected a core assumption of Zionism--a belief that all non-Jews are anti-
Semites. Anti-Semitism is "like a psychic affliction, it is hereditary and as a disease has been incurable for 2,000
years," wrote Leo Pinsker, a Zionist contemporary of Herzl.5 If persecution or death awaited Jews who tried to
assimilate into largely Gentile societies, then the only solution to the "Jewish problem" would be the physical
separation of Jews and non-Jews. It followed that only a Jewish state could provide a haven from persecution. On
this point, the Zionists and anti-Semites converged. Both believed Jews to be a "foreign" presence in Gentile
society. And both believed that Gentile society would be better off without Jews.
Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. Two hundred delegates from 17
countries authorized the creation of the World Zionist Organization to campaign for a "publicly recognized, legally
secured homeland in Palestine." Later, Herzl modestly claimed: "If I were to sum up the Basel congress in a
single phrase, I would say, 'In Basel, I created the Jewish State.'"6 Yet Herzl found one major problem in building
the Jewish state in Palestine. Very few Jews were interested in it. Between 1880 and 1929, almost 4 million Jews
emigrated from Russia, Austria-Hungary, Poland, Romania and other countries. Only 120,000 of them immigrated
to Palestine. More than 3 million immigrated to the U.S. and Canada. In 1914, there were only about 12,000
members of Zionist organizations in the U.S. At the same time, there were as many Jewish members of the
Socialist Party in the Lower East Side neighborhoods of New York's Manhattan!7
Socialism and the Fight Against Anti-Semitism
Unlike Herzl, socialists defended Jews who faced persecution. Socialists also combated anti-Jewish racism as a
poison to the workers movement. In this period, Auguste Bebel, a leader of the German Social Democratic Party
(SPD), denounced anti-Semitism as "the socialism of fools" for diverting workers from their true enemy, the
ruling class, onto Jewish scapegoats. Karl Kautsky, another German SPD leader, argued that the differentiation of
the Jewish population into classes meant that the condition of the Jews would be bound up inextricably with the
overall working-class movement. Connecting the fight against anti-Semitism to the fight for workers' power
became the Marxist approach to fighting anti-Semitism.8 Because socialists stressed the need to fight anti-
Semitism in the countries where most Jews lived, the socialist movement recruited Jews in large numbers.
Many Jews played active roles as founders, leaders and activists in the socialist parties in Europe. Count Witte,
the Tsar's finance minister, once complained to Herzl that Jews "comprise about 50 percent of the membership of
the revolutionary parties," while constituting only 5 percent of the Russian Empire's population.9 One such party
that earned Witte's hatred was the General Jewish Workers League, known as the Jewish Bund. The Bund,
launched in 1897--the same year as Herzl's Zionist Congress--became Russia's first mass socialist organization.
It bitterly opposed the Zionists' calls for a Jewish state. Over the course of the next decade, the Bund grew
among Jewish workers, swelling to 40,000 members in Russia during the 1905 Russian Revolution. In the
revolutionary period, Jewish socialists--both in the Bund and in the other socialist parties--assumed leadership of
the working-class and communal organizations in Jewish communities.
The Bund opposed political Zionism, but it accommodated to Jewish nationalism. Because of this, Lenin and other
Russian revolutionaries engaged in fierce polemics with Bund leaders. In the 1903 founding congress of the
Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP), Bund leaders argued for the official right to represent and to
speak for Jewish workers inside the broader Russian socialist movement. Lenin and prominent Jewish socialists
such as Martov and Trotsky opposed the Bund. Lenin argued the Bund was wrong to "legitimize Jewish isolation,
by propagating the idea of a Jewish 'nation'". Socialists' task was "not to segregate nations, but to unite the
workers of all nations," Lenin later wrote. "Our banner does not carry the slogan 'national culture' but
international culture." The Bund lost the vote to represent Jewish workers and subsequently left the RSDLP.10
The 1917 October Revolution showed what the socialist strategy for Jewish emancipation meant in practice. In a
country where the Tsar and his henchman used anti-Semitism to divide workers, Russian workers elected to
leading roles in the revolutionary government Jewish Bolsheviks like Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Sverdlov.
The revolution declared freedom of religion and abolished Tsarist restrictions on education and residence for
Jews. During the 1918-1922 Civil War against counterrevolutionary armies which slaughtered Jews by the
thousands, the revolutionary Red Army meted out stern punishment--including execution--to any pogromists in
its ranks. In the workers' government, Yiddish was given equal status with other languages. A Commisariat of
Jewish Affairs and a special Jewish Commission inside the Bolshevik Party simultaneously worked to involve Jews
in the affairs of the workers' state and to win the Jewish masses to socialism. The revolution's early years saw an
unprecedented flowering of Yiddish and Jewish cultural life. In 1926-27, over half of the Jewish school population
attended Yiddish schools and 10 state theaters performed Yiddish plays. By the late 1920s, nearly 40 percent of
the Jewish working population worked for the government.11
Thus, by the 1920s, the Zionists had been marginalized on all sides. The majority of the world's Jews clearly
showed their desire to emigrate to Western countries. And thousands of Jews who remained in Eastern Europe
fought for a better life, winning solidarity from many of their Gentile brothers and sisters. By 1927, as many
people left Palestine as migrated to it. The entire Zionist enterprise seemed in doubt.12
Appealing to Imperialism
When they embarked on their campaign for a Jewish homeland, the Zionists didn't let any ideological attachment
to Palestine stand in their way. In fact, in the first years after Herzl formed the World Zionist Organization,
Zionists debated a number of alternative targets for colonization: Uganda, Angola, North Africa. In 1903, Herzl
accepted a British government proposal to colonize Jews in Uganda, a decision which proved controversial in
Zionist ranks. Herzl's death in 1904 put an end to colonization schemes outside of Palestine. Yet the debate on
alternative sites for the Jewish state exposed the Zionist enterprise in two respects. First, it showed that political
Zionism placed the colonizing project ahead of any 2,000-year longing for Jewish people to "return" to Palestine.
Second, it showed that, from its inception, Zionism depended on European powers' sponsorship of its colonial-
Early Zionists made no secret that they hoped the Jewish state to be what Herzl called: "a portion of the rampart
of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism."13 Herzl's writings abound with praise
for the leading imperialist powers in Europe. Herzl admired the German Kaiser's dictatorship: "To live under the
protection of a strong, great, moral, splendidly governed and thoroughly organized Germany is certain to have
most salutary effects upon the national character of the Jews."14 In 1902, he wrote to Lord Rothschild, a British
Zionist with connections in the highest reaches of the British state: "So far, you [the British empire] still have
elbow room. Nay, you may claim high credit from your government if you strengthen British influences in the
Near East by a substantial colonization of our people at the strategic point where Egyptian and Indo-Persian
interests converge."15 Zionism's founders exuded pro-imperialist racism against what they considered the
"backward peoples" of Asia and Africa.
When it came to seeking imperialist sponsors, the Zionists had no scruples about dealing with any regime, no
matter how rotten or anti-Semitic. Herzl himself negotiated for increased Jewish emigration to Palestine with
Vyacheslav von Plehve, the Russian Tsar's Interior Minister and architect of one of the worst pogroms in history
at Kishinev in the Russian Empire in 1903. During the First World War, leading Zionists ingratiated themselves to
British imperialism. They hoped that Britain would reward them after it defeated the Ottoman Empire, which
controlled Palestine. They achieved their goal with the 1917 declaration by Tory politician Lord Balfour. The
Balfour Declaration proclaimed British support for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the
Jewish people" under British protection. That Balfour had sponsored legislation to bar Jewish immigrants from
Britain in 1905 didn't faze the Zionists.
The Balfour Declaration grew out of discussions between France and Britain over the carve up of the Ottoman
Empire's lands following the First World War. In 1915, British Cabinet Minister Herbert Samuel proposed that
Britain establish a Jewish protectorate in Palestine. The Cabinet majority opposed the plan. "Curiously enough,
the only other partisan of this proposal is Lloyd George, who, I need not say, does not care a damn for the Jews
or their past or their future, but thinks it will be an outrage to let the Holy Places pass into the possession or
under the protectorate of 'agnostic, atheistic France,'" wrote Samuel.16 Yet two years later, Britain issued the
Balfour Declaration. What had changed in Britain's calculations? One clue comes from the fact that Britain issued
the Balfour Declaration days before the October Revolution in Russia. Both Britain and the Zionists saw a Jewish
state as a bulwark of imperialism against the spread of Bolshevism. Winston Churchill, then a Tory Cabinet
Minister, later explained Britain's motivations in meeting Zionists' expectations: "a Jewish state under the
protection of the British Crown...would from every point of view be beneficial and would be especially in harmony
with the truest interests of the British Empire." Chief among those interests was stopping Russian revolutionary
Leon Trotsky's "schemes of a world-wide communistic state under Jewish domination." Thus, Churchill showed
himself to be both an ardent Zionist and a rabid anti-Semite!17
Zionism: Left and Right
Under the Balfour Declaration, Britain promised the Zionists both Palestine and Transjordan (modern-day
Jordan). Pressure from Arab countries forced Britain to renege on the promise of Transjordan in 1922. The Zionist
movement's mainstream, led by David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizman, accepted Britain's decision. Later, they
agreed to accept British decisions to limit Jewish immigration into Palestine. This provoked a major split in the
Zionist movement as a minority, led by Polish writer Vladimir Jabotinsky, protested Ben-Gurion's and Weizman's
realpolitik. Jabotinsky argued that Zionists should insist on capturing "both sides of the Jordan" and refuse to
abide by any limitations the British imposed. To placate Arab opinion, the World Zionist Organization called its
colony in Palestine "a homeland." But Jabotinsky insisted that Zionists speak openly of their goal to build a Jewish
state in Palestine. Jabotinsky's program amounted to a call for revising the World Zionist Organization's strategy,
thereby earning his followers the description "Revisionists" in the Zionist movement.
Jabotinsky wrote bluntly in his 1923 essay, "The Iron Wall":
We cannot give any compensation for Palestine, neither to the Palestinians nor to other Arabs. Therefore, a
voluntary agreement is inconceivable. All colonization, even the most restricted, must continue in defiance of the
will of the native population. Therefore, it can continue and develop only under the shield of force which
comprises an Iron Wall which the local population can never break through. This is our Arab policy. To formulate
it any other way would be hypocrisy.18
Jabotinsky posed the first major challenge to the dominance in mainstream Zionism of the ideology of "Labor
Zionism." Labor Zionism, which traced its roots to the Eastern European Poale Zion movement in the early 1900s,
dominated all of the major institutions of Zionism and of the yishuv, the Jewish settler community in Palestine. If
the Bund represented socialists who caved in to nationalism, the Labor Zionists represented nationalists who used
socialist-sounding rhetoric to win supporters away from genuine socialist parties.
The defining institutions of Labor Zionism in pre-state Palestine were the Histadrut "trade union," the General
Confederation of Workers in the Land of Israel, and the kibbutzim, a network of communal settlements which
some have compared to utopian socialist communities. Both of these institutions carried over into the state of
Israel. Many supporters of Israel even point to them as evidence of "socialism" in the Zionist enterprise. Yet this
is another part of the Zionist story where myth collides with reality.
When it was launched, the Histadrut strictly limited its membership to Jewish workers. Only in 1960 did it it
officially allow Israeli citizen Palestinian Arabs to join it. One year after its founding, it owned a holding company
and a bank. The capital for these ventures came not from the Histadrut's original 5,000 members, but from the
international Zionist movement's Jewish Agency. In other words, the Histadrut subsisted (and continues to
subsist) on its role as a conduit for investment from world Zionism. The Histadrut formed the backbone of the
Jewish "state-in-waiting, controlling the mainstream of Zionist colonization efforts, economic production and
marketing, labor employment and defense (the Haganah)."19 One of its early leaders (and later Israeli Defense
Minister) Pinhas Lavon described it this way: "Our Histadrut is a general organization to the core. It is not a
workers' trade union although it copes perfectly well with the real needs of the worker."20
Kibbutzim also restricted membership to Jews only. Kibbutz land was defined as being the possession of "the
nation," which in pre-state and Israeli law was defined as being the property of the "Jewish people." Therefore,
no Arab can hope to join a kibbutz. What is more, in the pre-state period, kibbutzim served as forward military
bases in the strategic plan of Zionist settlement. The "strategic consideration which had underlain the plan of
Zionist settlement, decided, in large measure, the fate of many regions of the country" because Haganah militia
detachments attacked Palestinians from kibbutz bases.21
Until 1977, when self-described terrorist Menachem Begin became Israel's first Revisionist prime minister, the
Labor Zionists effectively represented "Zionism" in most people's minds. But Labor--the Zionist "left"--and the
Revisionists--the Zionist "right"--differed on means, rather than ends. Both supported an exclusively Jewish
state. Like apartheid South Africa's rulers, the Revisionists were willing to employ the native Palestinian
population. Labor sought to replace Palestinian workers with Jewish workers. Both looked for support from
imperialism. Labor Zionists oriented towards British and the U.S. imperialism. The Revisionists made overtures to
the Italian and German fascism.22
The Zionists tried to convince themselves that Palestine was an unoccupied land. Yet for more than 1,300 years,
a Muslim Arab majority--living side by side with Jews and Christians--had resided in the Ottoman province. In
1882, Palestine held a population of 24,000 Jews and 500,000 Arabs. By 1922, after more than two decades of
Zionist-sponsored immigration, the country had a population of nearly 760,000, 89 percent of it Palestinian
Zionists purchased land--and a foothold in Palestine--from absentee Arab landowners in the 1920s. Later, in the
1930s, rich Palestinians sold their land to Zionists. Individual Jewish "pioneers" didn't buy the land. Zionist
organizations like the Jewish National Fund bought land to provide a foundation for Jewish settlement in the
country. Zionists drove Palestinian peasants off their land, forcing them into destitution. British authorities
assured the Zionists privileged access to water and other essential resources.
After establishing themselves in Palestine, the Zionists proceeded to set up a separate Jewish economy and
government under the noses of British mandate authorities. They called their economic policy "the conquest of
Jewish land and labor," a flowery description for expelling the Palestinians from the country's economic life.
Under the slogan, "Jewish land, Jewish labor, Jewish produce," the Histadrut, the kibbutzim and the moshavim
(agricultural cooperatives) proceeded to drive Palestinians out of their jobs and their livelihoods. Histadrut
members acted as goon squads against Palestinians:
Members of the Histadrut would picket and stand guard at Jewish orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting
jobs. Squads of activists stormed through market places, pouring kerosene on tomatoes grown in Arab gardens
or smashing eggs that Jewish housewives might buy from Arab merchants.24
The Palestinians fought back against their dispossession. In 1936, Palestinian organizations launched a general
strike against increased poverty, the Zionists and the Zionists' British sponsors. The strike and subsequent armed
uprisings lasted for three years before collapsing under the weight of Zionist and British repression. The Zionists'
role in the Palestinian Revolt clearly showed that Labor Zionism had nothing in common with genuine workers'
solidarity. The Histadrut organized scabbing against the strike. It worked with the British to replace Arab strikers
with Jewish workers in the Port of Haifa and on Palestine railroads.25 The British also armed Zionist militias to
crush the Palestinian uprising. "With two divisions, squadrons of airplanes, the police force, the Transjordanian
frontier forces, and 6,000 Jewish auxiliaries, British troops outnumbered the Palestinians ten to one." Yet it still
took three years to crush the Revolt.26
The Revolt's intensity derived from the fact that the Zionist threat to Palestine was becoming clear in the 1930s.
Throughout the 1930s, the Jewish population in Palestine exploded. Thousands of Jews fleeing persecution in
Central and Eastern Europe--and denied admission to Britain, the U.S. and other Western countries--made their
way to Palestine. Between 1931 and 1945, the Jewish population in Palestine swelled from 174,000 to 608,000.
While Jews accounted for only one-third of the population of Palestine on the eve of the state's declaration in
1948, they were a well-armed and powerful minority. As the Jewish population increased, so did Zionist
provocations against the Palestinians.
The Road to al-Nakbah
Without the Holocaust, the state of Israel probably wouldn't have been founded. Zionists recruited immigrants to
the state of Israel from among the thousands of Holocaust survivors whose communities in Europe were
destroyed. Perhaps more importantly, the Holocaust provided a convincing justification for a Jewish state. The
Holocaust proved that Gentiles were inherently anti-Semitic, the Zionists argued. Jews living in Gentile societies,
therefore, faced the constant danger of extermination. By the end of the war, most Jews agreed with the
Zionists. What was more, the Nazis' physical elimination of alternative political currents in Jewish society
increased support for Zionism. While the Nazis willingly dickered with Zionist leaders throughout the 1930s and
1940s, they made sure to kill every communist, socialist or Jewish resistance fighter they could get their hands
The war forced the British to evacuate much of their empire, including Palestine. Britain left to the United Nations
the task of deciding Palestine's fate. In November 1947, the UN agreed to a partition plan. The plan granted the
Zionists control of 55 percent of Palestine (although they represented only one-third of the country's population).
The Palestinian majority was left with 45 percent of their own country. Jerusalem was to be an "international city"
with equal access granted to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Zionist leaders accepted the UN Partition Plan in public. In private, they planned a military assault to seize as
much Palestinian land as possible. Judah L. Magnes, president of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and supporter
of a bi-national Arab and Jewish state, explained the Zionists' logic in 1947:
A Jewish state can only be obtained, if it ever is, through war...You can talk to an Arab about anything, but you
cannot talk to him about a Jewish state. And that is because, by definition, a Jewish state means that the Jews
will govern other people, other people who are living in this Jewish state. Jabotinsky knew that long ago. He was
the prophet of the Jewish state. Jabotinsky was ostracized, condemned, excommunicated. But now we see that
the entire Zionist movement has adopted his point of view...28
As Magnus predicted, the Zionist "right" and "left" united to hijack the country. They used terror, psychological
warfare and massacres to instill fear among Palestinians. In the most well-known massacre, the Revisionist Irgun
and the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel militias--whose chief leaders were future Israeli prime ministers
Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir--murdered the entire Palestinian village of Dir Yassin. The commandos
"lined men, women and children up against walls and shot them," according to a Red Cross description of the
massacre.29 After Dir Yassin, Zionists used the threat of massacre to compel Palestinians to flee their homes,
including those in cities like Haifa and Jaffa.
Israeli military commander and future Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin oversaw the expulsion of the Palestinian
population of Lydda. He described the events:
Yigal Allon asked Ben-Gurion what was to be done with the civilian population. Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a
gesture of "drive them out." "Driving out" is a term with a harsh ring. Psychologically, this was one of the most
difficult actions we undertook. The population of Lydda did not leave willingly. There was no way of avoiding the
use of force and warning shots in order to make the inhabitants march the ten or fifteen miles to the point where
they met up with the Arab Legion.30
For years, Zionist history asserted a number of "facts" about the 1948 war: that little Israel faced overwhelming
Arab firepower; that Palestinian leaders encouraged Palestinians to leave the country; that there was no Zionist
plan to drive the Palestinians out; that Palestinians rejected partition and started the war. Yet recent historical
research--based on formerly top secret Israel Defense Force documents--prove that all of these assertions are
lies. When the war ended, the Zionists held more than 77 percent of Palestine, including 95 percent of all the
good agricultural land in the country. The state of Israel stole 80 percent of privately owned Palestinian land.
More than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes, with Jews moving into them. Palestinian society
was destroyed. For this reason, the Palestinians refer to 1948 as al-Nakbah ("the catastrophe").
In 1949, a kibbutz welcomed members of the "socialist" Hashomer Hatzair from the U.S. and Canada to colonize
a Palestinian village seized in 1948. One of the kibbutz's first acts was razing the village's mosque. A Hashomer
member wrote in his/her diary: "It had to be done. It would have been useless to preserve this symbol of a
population which showed itself to be, when one views the thing factually and unsentimentally, our hardened
enemies whom we have no intention of permitting to return. It's now a mass of ruins, and yet most of us agree
it's better this way. The hovels, the filth, the medieval atmosphere--it's gone now for the most part. Bring on the
bulldozers and let's plant trees."31
On a foundation of war and murder, the Israeli state was built. Zionism gained its longstanding aim--a Jewish
state. But as the 100-year history of political Zionism and the 50-year history of the state of Israel shows, this is
nothing to celebrate. Members of the Israeli Socialist Organization, a revolutionary socialist organization, said it
best in 1972:
Zionism promised national awakening and fraternal solidarity; it has produced a society of increasing inequality
and of racist discrimination and cultural oppression. Zionism promised independence; it has produced a society in
which the Prime Minister must periodically affirm to the people that the existence of the nation depends on the
delivery of fifty or a hundred Phantom jets from the United States.... Zionism promised physical security to the
Jews; Israel is the most dangerous place on earth today for a Jew, and it will remain so as long as Israeli-Jewish
society retains its colonial character and its function as an instrument of imperialism.32
Zionism and the Holocaust
During Israel's many wars with the Arab states, Israeli leaders accused Arab states of desiring a "new Holocaust."
Leading Zionists regularly called critics of the Israeli state's repression of the Palestinians "anti-Semites," likening
them to the Nazi murderers of 6 million Jews. Zionists consciously use this sort of emotional blackmail to silence
any critics of Israeli policies. "I repress the urge to shout 'Shut up, already' in the White House press room when
[former Israeli Prime Minister] Menachem Begin toasts an American president with a 15-minute lecture on the
meaning of the Holocaust," said a Holocaust survivor and supporter of peace with the Palestinians. "Must every
thought of compromise conjure up the threat of appeasement at Munich?"33
From their attacks on their political opponents, one might think that the Zionists stood up to Hitler and the
Holocaust. But the history of Zionists' inaction and their dealings with the Nazis makes a mockery of their use of
the Holocaust as a political weapon.
A few months after Hitler came to power, the leading German Zionist organization sent Hitler a long memo
offering formal collaboration with the Nazis. This stomach-turning memo reads, in part:
On the foundation of the new state, which has established the principle of race, we wish to fit our community into
the total structure so that for us too, in the sphere assigned to us, fruitful activity for the Fatherland is possible...
For its practical aims, Zionism hopes to be able to win the collaboration even of a government fundamentally
hostile to Jews, because in dealing with the Jewish question no sentimentalities are involved but a real problem
whose solution interests all peoples, and at the present moment especially the German people.34
At the time, collaboration meant that leading organizations of Zionism worked to undermine a worldwide anti-
German boycott called to protest the Nazis' anti-Semitism. Instead, the World Zionist Organization worked out a
"Transfer Agreement" by which money from German Jews could be sent to Palestine to finance imports into
Germany. Meanwhile, inside Germany, the Nazis shut down all socialist and Jewish resistance organizations and
arrested their leaders. But the Nazis allowed the Zionists to operate. An American Zionist leader confessed his
embarrassment: "It was a painful distinction for Zionism to be singled out for favors and privileges by its Satanic
counterpart [Nazi Germany]."35
Throughout the 1930s and the Second World War, Zionists always placed the interests of Palestine ahead of
fighting anti-Semitism in Europe. Seeking allies against Britain, the Zionist militia, the Haganah, negotiated for
support from the German SS. In one secret meeting in Haifa in 1937, Haganah agent Faviel Polkes told the SS's
Adolph Eichmann that "Jewish nationalist circles are very pleased with the radical German policy, since the
strength of the Jewish population would be so far increased" and overwhelm the Palestinians. For a period in the
late 1930s, the Nazis allowed Polkes to set up Haganah recruiting and training camps inside Germany. For a
period of time, Polkes' sole income was "secret funds from the SS."36 The Zionists impressed Eichmann. Years
later in exile in Argentina, he recalled "I did see enough to be very impressed by the way the Jewish colonists
were building up their land. I admired their desperate will to live, the more so since I was myself an idealist. In
the years that followed I often said to Jews with whom I had dealings that, had I been a Jew, I would have been
a fanatical Zionist. I could not imagine being anything else. In fact, I would have been the most ardent Zionist
imaginable."37 This is the man who oversaw Hitler's Final Solution!
Thousands of Jews, including the rank and file of Zionist groups, resisted Hitler's attempt to herd them into death
camps. Zionists united with Communists and Bundists in the 1943 armed uprising against the Nazis in the
Warsaw Ghetto. But even at the Holocaust's height, Jewish Agency leaders and settler leaders in Palestine offered
little help. "The disaster facing European Jewry is not directly my business," said Ben-Gurion in 1943. Zionist
leaders believed the fight in Europe diverted them from their main task: building the Jewish state in Palestine.
The chairman of the Jewish Agency's committee refused to divert Jewish Agency funds from Palestine into
rescuing Europe's Jews. "They will say that I am anti-Semitic, that I don't want to save the Exile, that I don't
have a warm Jewish heart" said Yitzhak Gruenbaum at a 1943 Jewish Agency meeting. "Let them say what they
want. I will not demand that the Jewish Agency allocate a sum of 300,000 or 100,000 pounds sterling to help
European Jewry. And I think that whoever demands such things is performing an anti-Zionist act." During the
war, the Agency spent far more money to acquire land in Palestine than to mount rescues.38
Preserving the "remnant" of Jewry for transfer to Palestine, rather than saving the Jews, guided Zionist leaders.
Ben-Gurion opposed a plan to allow German Jewish children to emigrate to Britain in 1938. To justify himself,
Ben-Gurion said: "If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to
England, and only half of them to [Israel], then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not
only the life of these children but also the history of the people of Israel."39 Unfortunately, plans like the British
proposal to rescue Jewish children, were few. In general, Western governments turned their backs on Jews
fleeing Germany. In one celebrated case, the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939 turned away a ship, the St. Louis,
carrying more than 900 refugees wishing to emigrate to the U.S. Until several European countries agreed to
accept the refugees, they were destined to return to Germany--and to certain death. Still, American Zionist
organizations refused to press for abolishing immigration restrictions which prevented Jews fleeing Germany to
move to the U.S. Only the Left--the Trotskyist Communist League and the Communist Party--called for the lifting
of all restrictions on Jewish immigration.
The wartime actions of some Zionist leaders came back to haunt them. In 1952, Malchiel Gruenwald, an Israeli
hotel operator who lost 50 members of his family in the Holocaust in Hungary, accused Dr. Rudolph Kastner of
collaborating with the Nazis. Kastner, a prominent Labor Party politician and spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of
Commerce and Industry, sued Gruenwald for libel. The subsequent trial, which became known as the "Kastner
affair," exposed a sordid history of deal making between the Zionists and the Nazis. Kastner had been the head
of the Jewish Agency in Hungary, the leading Zionist representative in that country during the war. He had cut
deals with leading Nazis, including Eichmann and SS officer Kurt Becher, to win passage of Jews to Palestine. But
as a leader of the Jewish community in Hungary who knew about Hitler's "Final Solution," he helped send far
more Jews to their deaths. He even appeared as a witness for the defense of Becher at the postwar Nuremberg
Trials of Nazi war criminals. Gruenwald charged:
[Kastner] wanted to save himself, so that Becher would not reveal to the international court their deals and their
joint acts of robbery...Where now is the money of the Jews of Hungary, millions of which no accounting was
given?...He saved no fewer than fifty-two of his relatives, and hundreds of other Jews--most of whom had
converted to Christianity--bought their rescue from Kastner by paying millions! That's how Kastner saved the
members of Mapai [the Israeli Labor Party]...He saved people with connections, and made a fortune in the
In the end, the court decided that some of Gruenwald's charges were true, but that others were unproved. Yet,
the court did not want to take upon itself the judgment of Kastner's actions during the war. It left that to a
government board of inquiry. Many in Israel's elite realized that an investigation would expose dozens of leading
Israeli politicians with skeletons similar to Kastner's in their closets. A former Israeli secret service agent saved
the government the embarrassment of an investigation when he assassinated Kastner in 1957. In 1993, the Tel
Aviv City Council voted to name a street in Kastner's honor.41
1 Nathan Weinstock, Zionism: False Messiah (Ink Links, London, 1979), p. 32.
2 This description of the roots of anti-Semitism in late 19th-century Eastern Europe can be found in the classical
Marxist text, Abram Leon's The Jewish Question (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1970). Leon was a Belgian Jewish
Trotskyist who wrote most of the book while he conducted underground political activity in Nazi-occupied
Belgium. Leon died in Auschwitz in 1944.
3 N. Weinstock, Zionism: False Messiah, op. cit., p. 32.
4 Theodore Herzl, The Diaries of Theodore Herzl (Dial Press, New York, 1956), p. 6.
5 This idea is no mere 19th century relic. Daniel Goldhagen's recent book, Hitler's Willing Executioners, starts
from the assumption that all non-Jews were culturally programmed to slaughter Jews if given the chance. See
Henry Maitles' review of Hitler's Willing Executioners in International Socialism 77, pp. 103-110 or Annie Zirin's
review in ISR 2, pp. 47-48. The Pinsker quote comes from Maitles, p. 109.
6 Herzl's quote comes from the horse's mouth, "Zionism: the First 100 Years," found on the World Wide Web site
of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.
7 Immigration figures come from N. Weinstock, Zionism: False Messiah, op. cit., p. 12. Figures comparing the
number of Zionists and Jewish socialists are from Arthur Liebman, Jews and the Left (John Wiley and Sons, New
York, 1979), p. 163.
8 Nathan Weinstock, "Introduction" in Abram Leon, The Jewish Question. Translated by Ernest Mandel (Pathfinder
Press, New York, 1970), p. 32.
9 Quoted in A. Liebman, op. cit., p. 111.
10 Lenin quoted in Peter Alexander, Racism, Resistance and Revolution (Bookmarks, London, 1987), pp. 149-
11 N. Weinstock, Zionism: False Messiah, op. cit., p. 15-18.
12 Phil Marshall, Intifada (Bookmarks, London, 1989), p. 37.
13 Quoted in Maxime Rodinson, Israel and the Arabs (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England, 1973), p. 14.
14 Quoted in Richard P. Stevens, "Zionism as Western Imperialism" in Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, ed., The
Transformation of Palestine (Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Ill., 1971), p. 35.
15 Ibid., p. 36.
16 Samuel quoted in Ibid., p. 46.
17 Churchill quoted in N. Weinstock, op. cit., p. 96.
18 Jabotinsky quoted in Ralph Shoenman, The Hidden History of Zionism (Socialist Action, San Francisco, 1988),
19 Uri Davis, Israel: Apartheid State (Zed Press, London, 1987), p. 49.
20 Lavon quoted in Jim Higgins, "The Middle East Crisis" in International Socialism 64 (Mid-November, 1973), p.
21 Erskine B. Childers, "The Wordless Wish: From Citizens to Refugees" in I. Abu-Lughod, op. cit., p. 165.
22 Lenni Brenner describes the history of Zionism's dealings with fascism in his Zionism in the Age of the
Dictators (Lawrence Hill and Company, Westport, Conn., 1983).
23 Samih K. Farsoun and Christine E. Zacharia, Palestine and the Palestinians (Westview Press, Boulder, Col.,
1997), p. 75.
24 John Rose, Israel: The Hijack State (Bookmarks, London, 1986), p. 33.
25 Zachary Lockman, Comrades and Enemies (University of California, Berkeley, 1996), pp. 240-265. This
extremely detailed book documents many attempts by the Histadrut to organize Arab workers into "separate but
equal" affiliates. The history shows that Zionists viewed Palestinian workers as "enemies" much more than as
26 Quoted in S. K. Farsoun and C. E. Zacharia, op. cit., p. 107.
27 In saying this, I do not mean to minimize Hitler's determination to kill all Jews regardless of their political
beliefs. But it is important to understand the Nazi regime in class terms. Long before they devised plans for the
"Final Solution," the Nazis crushed working-class and socialist opposition. The first concentration camps were set
up for communists and trade unionists. The Nazis understood that only the working class held the power to break
their regime. That is why they so ruthlessly crushed all working-class resistance. Only after they crushed
opposition to their rule could the Nazis launch the war and carry out genocide.
28 Quoted in Maxime Rodinson, Israel: A Colonial-Settler State? (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1973), p. 68.
29 Quoted in Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel (Pantheon Books, New York, 1987), p. 94.
30 Rabin quoted in Ibid., p. 81.
31 Joel Beinin, Was the Red Flag Flying There? (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1990), p. 81.
32 Ari Bober, ed., The Other Israel (Anchor Books, Garden City, N.J., 1972), pp. 200-201.
33 Quoted in David Schoenbaum, The United States and the State of Israel (Oxford University Press, New York,
1993), p. 322.
34 L. Brenner, op. cit., pp. 48-49.
35 Ibid., p.85.
36 Christopher Simpson, Blowback (Collier Books, New York, 1988), p. 253.
37 Eichmann quoted in Lenni Brenner, op. cit., p. 98.
38 Ben-Gurion quoted in Tom Segev, The Seventh Million. (Hill and Wang, New York, 1993), p. 98. Gruenbaum
quote and comparison of Jewish Agency spending in Segev, p. 102.
39 Quoted in L. Brenner, op. cit., p. 149.
40 Quoted in T. Segev, op. cit., pp. 257-258.
41 The Kastner case is described in detail in Akiva Orr, "The Kastner Case, Jerusalem, 1955," in his Israel:
Politics, Myths and Identity Crises (Pluto Press, London, 1994), pp. 81-116.
The nature of revolution
By Duncan Hallas
Duncan Hallas (1925–2002) was a British Marxist and a leading member of
the Socialist Workers Party (UK). He is the author of Trotsky’s Marxism and
The Comintern. The following is a lecture he delivered at a socialist
conference in London in 1998. Transcription by Karen Domínguez Burke.
REVOLUTION, IN the sense that we’re using the word, is—I’m quoting Marx—a more
or less rapid transformation of the political, and/or social and economic system. Now, we
ought to add, it needs to take place in a fairly short time on this definition, relevant to the
things I’m going to talk about. People talk about the Neolithic revolution, you know, the
discovery of agriculture, etc. Well, yes it was a revolution in the sense that the method by
which you sustained life, the mode of production, was transformed. Fine. But it took
several centuries. It was a relatively slow process. We’re talking about revolutions in
terms of things that happen relatively rapidly.
Now there are five talks on twentieth century social revolutions, and another five on the
Russian revolution alone [at this conference]. Revolutions are not that uncommon. I mean
living in Britain you might think, “My god, 1640, that’s back to the Ark.” No, no, on the
world scale, the revolutions in the twentieth century are comparatively common.
The South African instance is a very important recent example. Because it was a
revolution—make no mistake about it. The destruction of the apartheid system meant a
fundamental transformation in the political superstructure of society. It wasn’t a social
revolution, though—a matter which I’ll come to in a moment. What matters to us really is
the distinction between bourgeois and proletarian revolutions. That’s what really matters
to us today.
Are there any common factors that we can generalize about revolutions? This applies to
both kinds, political and social. Well, Lenin wrote, there were three conditions. The first
was, the old ruling class cannot go on in the old way. In other words, revolutions, or at
least the immediate crack-up of the old order, starts at the top. It starts because of a crisis
in the ruling class itself. Secondly, the mass of the population won’t go on in the old way.
That is to say, there is a radicalization, which occurs quite quickly, quite rapidly. And
thirdly, that there is a coherent and adequate leadership of the oppressed classes.
Three conditions. But wait a minute, we have to go back to Marx. You see, that’s
absolutely right politically, but as Marx said, changes in the economic foundations of
society, the entire immense superstructure, political ideological and so on, is more or less
rapidly transformed. Again back to South Africa. You see, why didn’t [prime minister
from 1978-1984] P.W. Botha go on in the good ole tradition of [prime minister from
1958-1966 Hendrik] Verwoerd? Why didn’t [prime minister from 1948-1954 D.F.]
Malan, and so on, hold the thing?
Answer: Because the economic conditions, which were fundamental to the regime, or any
regime, were changing. The comparatively rapid industrialization, the development of
factory industry, and so on, meant that the old bonds, again, in Marxist terms, turned into
fetters: They got in the way of capitalist accumulation. They were a bloody nuisance to
big business. Hence the ruling class itself starts to split. They attempt a series of reforms,
and, in doing so, precipitate the actual revolution.
Now I thought I’d talk about changes in the economic structure and so on and so forth,
but there is a very important component to any real revolution, that is, a revolution in
ideas. Let’s characterize it: first of all, there are rapid shifts in ideas. Secondly there’s an
expansion of the range of ideas that are considered by ordinary people, and thirdly, most
important of all, people who you might say, if you were a bit contemptuous, didn’t have
two ideas to rub together in their pocket, suddenly take up aspects of fundamental social
changes. I’ll give you a couple of examples.
The great French Revolution—that’s the 1789-96 one, didn’t happen in Britain—
nevertheless it had a profound effect on both [British] artisans—I won’t call them
workers because most of them weren’t wage workers—and intellectuals. The poet
Wordsworth wrote, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very
heaven!” Now Wordsworth was not a revolutionary. Far from it. In later life he became a
popular establishment voice, he was conservative, and even reactionary. Nevertheless, the
impact of the event transformed consciousness, or sections of consciousness and so on, in
Do you remember the three women—I’m not going so far back this time—the three
Portuguese women who wrote what we could describe as a feminist pamphlet, booklet
[during the 1974-76 Portuguese Revolution]. I referred to the Catholic Church in Ireland
and its stultifying effect, particularly on the position of women, in a previous discussion.
But actually I should have ignored Ireland—I should have taken Portugal. Because
though the Irish church 20 years ago was still half in the Middle Ages, it was positively
progressive compared to the Portuguese hierarchy. This pamphlet’s essential contents
were: (1) Women ought to have equal rights with men. Revolutionary idea! It was a
revolutionary idea in Portugal in the early 70s; (2) Contraception ought to be legal; (3)
There ought to be a system of child benefits.
This sort of thing, written in London, Paris, Berlin, or whenever, would have created no
sensation whatever. Such ideas were commonplace. Some of the objectives had been
achieved, or partly achieved. But in Portugal it had a sensational success. The print run
sold out in a very short time. There were many, many editions produced, some pirated.
Why? Because the actual conditions in the opening stages of the Portuguese revolution
were such that people who had previously accepted, even if they didn’t like, the ideas of
the old order, thought, “My God, something different is possible. Anything is possible.”
There’s a story—I don’t know if it’s true or not—that one or two of the more energetic of
these middle class ladies who introduced this subversive work, spent a little time going
round in northern Portugal, talking to illiterate or barely literate peasant women,
gathering round listening. In other words, the ideological transformations are integral to
any real revolution and they are of fundamental importance.
Mind you, there’s the other side of the coin. If the revolution is aborted, or partially
aborted, people slide back. The new ideas are marginalized. The old ideas revive in
various forms. The process of the general ideology of the population shifts, changes with
revolutionary ups and downs. It shifts and changes without revolutions, but in
revolutionary situations it shifts and changes at enormous speed.
Second generalization. This again applies to both political and social revolutions. Phase
1, everyone’s united, except the reactionaries of course. We’re all united around a certain
set of demands. Different classes are united. The springtime. But after the initial phases,
within a comparatively short time, you get a rapid differentiation amongst the very people
who supported the revolution in the first instance. “Ah you’ve gone far enough, that’s
enough. Let’s keep what we’ve got now.” Or “we’ve got to go further to preserve what
This reflects, of course, a class differentiation. Broadly speaking, there’s never been a
revolution, certainly not a proletarian revolution, or a political one either for that matter,
in which the mass of the petit bourgeoisie, sections of the middle classes, did not initially
In 1789, once the Bastille has been stormed, everyone is for the revolution, except the
aristocracy. And even some of them, as a matter of fact. Very shortly after however, the
revolutionaries divide—you get divisions between the [more moderate] Girondists and
[more radical] Jacobins and they conflict with one another. And in the third phase, the
conflict becomes open, often becomes violent, often is decided by force.
In Portugal of course, everyone was against the old regime (except the reactionaries, the
secret police, and so on). But within weeks, not months, we have a clear division between
those that wanted to go forward and those supported by the CIA, the Social Democratic
Party—financially and otherwise—who wanted to stop, who wanted to stabilize the
situation; who thought it was getting out of hand, because workers were occupying the
factories, not just passively occupying, but operating the factories. And finally of course,
this conflict was resolved by force.
Now, let’s go back to Lenin’s three conditions. The first two are fairly simple. It’s
important to remember the first one: There’s never been a revolution without a crisis in
the ruling class itself and that is usually the precipitating factor. That the mass of the
population rapidly changes its ideas, that’s fairly simple. But the third thing—again, let’s
look at South Africa.
The ruling class was in crisis. The mass of the population was increasingly difficult to
hold down in spite of the really massive coercive apparatus of police, soldiers, secret
police, and so on and so forth, that was there.
What wasn’t there though was the leadership. Not that there wasn’t a leadership. There
was—the African National Congress (ANC). And the ANC’s objective was not a
workers’ revolution, but rather a stabilization of the capitalist system to fit the changed
conditions. And, no question at all, they successfully did that. I’m not saying it’s going to
go on forever, but for a period anyway.
When we talk about leadership, in modern terms anyway (we can forget about Cromwell
and Robespierre and so on), we’re talking about parties. Leadership must require a
political organization or party. Why? There are three reasons. One is the question of
ideas. I said ideas shift rapidly, that people are transformed during any revolutionary
process. But ideas don’t fall from the sky. There must be people arguing them,
propagandizing for them in advance. That’s simple enough.
But then tactics. We know from experience, unfortunately, though under certain
circumstances purely spontaneous movements can have considerable effect.Nevertheless
they are ephemeral. They don’t last very long, unless there is some kind of leadership.
Look at Poland in 1981, Solidarity. The ideas of Solidarity, suppressed by the regime,
nevertheless didn’t come from nowhere. Lech Walesa and all the rest of them had a set of
ideas, which you can loosely call “social Catholicism.” And those ideas, were the ideas
that spread rapidly once the regime started to crack, and continued to spread after the
initial repression under Wojciech Jaruzelski. Consequently the outcome, the ultimate
outcome—all the preconditions, the first two preconditions of revolution, were there—it
stopped. It was aborted at the political stage.
Finally, there is the question of numbers. We sitting in this room, with the most correct
ideas in the world in our heads—we supposedly have them—and with a mastery of
tactics and so on, nevertheless, cannot make a revolution in Britain, even if the conditions
are right. There aren’t enough of us. A party that is to have any serious effect, does
require numbers. Now that’s a complicated question. It doesn’t mean that at all stages it
has to have numbers, but come the crisis, without numbers, no, you are marginalized.
What sort of party? First of all, the workers’ party, the revolutionary party, cannot be a
passive reflection of the ideas current in the working class. That sounds pretty obvious,
doesn’t it? It won’t do to go around to your local pub, if it’s in a working class area and
reflect the ideas that you hear discussed over the bar. That’s not our function. No. In that
sense, the party, throughout most of its life, is not representative. It is not true that the
party represents the class. Actually, that’s another passive concept and it means in reality
that it doesn’t lead. It’s a question of a conscious striving to achieve leadership in all
those situations where it is possible—and not simply a propagandist one, but an
The Russian Marxist Plekhanov coined a useful distinction between “propaganda” and
“agitation.” (Plekhanov is a bad man in the Leninist tradition—the later Leninist tradition
I mean. Lenin thought he was good.) He said, the distinction is this: Propaganda means
many ideas are put across to a few people. Agitation means that a few ideas are put across
to many people (or as many as you can reach, anyway). Both are necessary. But it is a
question not only of winning this or that cause, but also of building the organization
A couple of years ago when [National Union of Mineworkers leader Arthur] Scargill was
starting up the [Socialist Labor Party], there was a meeting called in Hackney [in
London], not indeed by Scargill’s own people—I don’t think he had any people, though
no doubt he had a lot of sympathizers—but by a combination of sects. One called itself
the Provisional Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain.
“Provisional,” you see, of a party which doesn’t exist—we’re talking here of only a
dozen or so people.
What’s lacking is interaction with the working class, of the members of the Provisional
Committee, with the working class. They lack the intermediate thing, they lack the party.
But the party itself needs leadership, and this is a more contentious thing—I hope we get
some criticism on it. Why is this so? Well, different people, different layers of people in
the party at any given time, have different experiences, different levels of knowledge (not
that knowledge is always necessary for militancy), and different experiences (and
experience can be a bad guide as well as a good one). Above all, there has to be a
continual interaction between the party members and the class they are aspiring to lead.
Inside the organization there has to be a constant interaction, which quite often leads to
friction, between the people who happen to be on the leading committees of the party at
any given time and the membership. But even that won’t do, because there are members
and members. We have a layer of members—quite a significant layer in numbers, some
call them sympathizers—who are enthusiastic about this or that, will now and again do
something, now and again engage in activity, but they’re not really interested in
dialectical materialism, or you name it.
These members are essential. Under conditions where a party grows rapidly, they will be
a majority. No question about it. You deceive yourself if you think otherwise. There has
to be an intermediate layer, a “cadre.” It is a term of military origin. It referred originally
to non-commissioned officers in the French Army. A cadre, meaning, not super
theoreticians, or people who were experts on economics or whatever, but people who
were seriously committed to building the organization and who have this dual
relationship: a relationship with workers outside the organization, and an interactive
relationship with the leadership. Now that’s the hardest thing of all to achieve. I don’t
want to sound rude—I spent a quarter of a century as one of them—but if the Central
Committee [of the British Socialist Workers Party] were to drop dead tomorrow, we
would be able to replace it—not at random, but precisely because we do have a cadre in
the sense I’m talking about.
Let me illustrate that with a few examples. In April 1917, Lenin arrives at the Finland
Station and makes a speech that horrifies the dignitaries—not Tsarist anymore of course,
but various shades of alleged socialists, including a number of Bolshevik leaders—and he
in effect tears up the party program and says, “We must work toward taking power.”
Now this was completely contrary to the Bolshevik doctrine as it had been up to that
time: the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. Sorry about these
jargon phrases. What it means is fighting to achieve a democratic republic in place of the
Tsar. Why? Because the economic development, the transformation of the productive
forces, which is totally inadequate for socialism in Russia, will be accelerated [under a
bourgeois republic]; meanwhile, we are in opposition, trying to build a working class
Therefore, talk about taking power now? The man must have lost his marbles! No! That
was the position. Lenin was in a small minority in April, but in the course of a very
fierce, sharp, internal conflict that immediately followed, he was able to win over
decisive sections of the cadre—people who had never been on a central committee,
people who weren’t even on district committees in many cases—actually were won to
him. And so in a comparatively short time he was able to achieve a majority. The
magnitude of the change is enormous. The interesting thing is, without the Bolshevik
cadre—not just the membership as a whole—this could not have been achieved.
Contrast that experience with Rosa Luxemburg’s. In January 1919, a newly formed
German Communist Party—growing quite fast, but tiny in relation to the Social
Democrats—have a conference, and decide enthusiastically they must take power now by
means of an insurrection in Berlin. She argued that this was nonsense, that this was
impossible, patiently explaining that you have to win a significant proportion of the
delegates to the then-existing workers councils. At the moment, she argued, we haven’t
got any worth talking about. We’ve got to get a majority in the workers’ councils before
you can think of attempting to seize power, exactly as the Bolsheviks had to work
between February and October to win a majority of the Russian workers’ councils.
They wouldn’t listen. They were enthusiastic. They had seen the Kaiser flee to Holland;
they had seen the generals put away their uniforms and pretend “we’re not really them,
you know.” All these changes occur very rapidly in a revolutionary situation and, well,
it’s been done once, we can do it again by an act of will.
Well, they tried. The result was a catastrophe. The insurrection was defeated. Some
people supported it—I don’t mean to say they were without support. But it was defeated
by the forces of reaction who were then under the direction of the Social Democratic
Party, who had a great majority in the workers’ councils, and who denounced the German
Communist party as “putschist,” “Blanquist,” and who received the support, passively,
but received the support, from a great majority of the working class.
Now what was the difference? The lack of a cadre. Rosa Luxemburg was preaching in the
wilderness. There were not a sufficient number, there were only a handful as a matter of
fact, of people who had gone through the lengthy process of learning, developing, and
had some sense of tactics, of what is possible, what’s necessarily possible. The party had
only existed a few months. So cadres can’t be improvised. Central committees normally
can be improvised. At least if you’ve got a Lenin or a Luxemburg around, or perhaps
even a Tony Cliff [one of the founders of the International Socialist Tradition and a
member of the Socialist Workers Party]. Cadres can’t be improvised.
There are a few other things that I really should talk about, but instead I will summarize.
First of all, a revolutionary party cannot make a revolution until the conditions are ripe.
Marx used the analogy of midwifery. He described the revolutionary force as the midwife
of the new society struggling to be born. Striking analogy. Trouble is, if the fetus isn’t
viable, the best committee of midwives can’t possibly produce the infant. The conditions
must be ripe.
Secondly, of course, who decides? It’s not difficult in Britain to judge that we’re not ripe
for revolution at this minute; but in changing circumstances, you have got to change all
the time your emphasis, your orientation. To judge successfully requires experience. It
requires that all members of the party, although they do it in different degrees, through
their activity, learning from workers, as well as trying to teach them, acquire the knack.
What did Lenin call it? He didn’t use the work knack. I don’t think he knew English
slang. But anyway, he had an impassioned passage about this: cadre can’t be improvised.
It does depend on a considerable degree of experience—both working with people
outside the party, and participating in the direction of the party, at the same time so that
the leadership itself, which typically is not working on the buses [i.e. organizing in
workplaces] or what have you, does not directly therefore relate to workers in their
workplaces, has to be all the time under the pressure, under the influence if you like, as
well as influencing, the people who are.
And finally, unless the party is substantial…I’ve touched on this before—you need
numbers. The process of getting numbers is a very uneven one. For the first fifteen
years—more than fifteen, eighteen years—the founders of our organization, and the few
people who joined them, never exceeded 100 people. Tremendous events took place
during these years, tremendous struggles in Britain. Nevertheless, we had in 1950 or 1951
some thirty-odd members, and come 1967 we might have gone up to—I doubt it,
personally—but nevertheless, we were claiming about one hundred. And then in the
course of nine, months, we were over a thousand, and it was real. That’s an explosive
growth rate. Suppose we’d gone on growing at that rate. We’d be a mass party now!
Marvelous! But of course, not marvelous, because changing conditions meant, inevitably,
that the rate of expansion slowed, and not only that, actually in the 1970s, in the first half
of the 1970s, the rate of expansion was negative—i.e., on balance we were losing
In connection with that of course, is the question of the need we talked about before, to
change your tactical orientation. We changed it fairly rapidly. We would not have
considered such an operation in 1970. Wouldn’t have considered it. “Come on, the
central thing’s the industrial struggle”—and it was at the time, it was marvelous. Then the
industrial struggle goes down, and fascist organizations are growing—it was the National
Front at that time. Therefore, we needed a fundamental shift in orientation, which we
managed to achieve without too much trouble. The trouble came later. When the fascists
were no longer the main problem, the difficulty was to convince some enthusiastic
comrades that we have to shift the emphasis again. To take advantage of situations where
rapid growth is possible, we need the largest possible number of members in the here and
This is our task. This is basically what we have to do in Britain, and socialists have to do
internationally. There are certainly going to be many struggles, many shifts in the tactical
line. I don’t know what they are, actually nobody knows what they are because you don’t
know what the situation, the exact situation, is going to be in, let us say, 2000. There will
be many struggles, and a good deal of learning, because we don’t know everything. There
are problems we haven’t even thought of yet. I can’t think what they are, but I’m sure
So we come to the question of the world situation today. Crisis in capitalism, wars
internationally, upheavals of all kinds, basic instability which is reflected in the sphere of
ideas. Large numbers of people are no longer confident that, actually, in Britain, as
somebody put it, “My children will be better off than I am.” They believed that in the
1960s, and to some extent the 1970s and with some justification. In these circumstances,
yes, it’s in the cards. I’m not putting a time scale on it—you can’t. But yes, it’s in the
The final question therefore is, “But are we up to it?” Can we actually build the necessary
coherent, flexible revolutionary party? Well, by our very existence we affirm that we
believe we can.
Zionism and Anti-Semitism: Are Israel’s Critics Anti-Semites?
by HADAS THIER
ZIONISM—THE political movement to create an exclusively Jewish state in
Palestine—has always accused its critics of anti-Semitism. Today, as the racism and
brutality of the Israeli state reaches increasingly grotesque proportions, a Zionist
propaganda machine is churning out a flurry of articles, books, and arguments that
declare the rise of a "new anti-Semitism." This has served as a convenient smear
against advocates of Palestinian rights.
In a front-page article called "The Return of Anti-Semitism," New York magazine
opened with the lines, "Israel has become the flash point—and the excuse—for a
global explosion of an age-old syndrome. Why has hating the Jews become politically
correct in many places?"1 And in Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism,
Abraham Foxman says, "I am convinced we currently face as great a threat to the
safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s—if not a
greater one."2 Foxman’s argument can be summed up as follows:
Zionism simply refers to support for the existence of a Jewish state—
specifically, the state of Israel.… The harsh but undeniable truth is that what
some like to call anti-Zionism is, in reality, anti-Semitism—always,
everywhere and for all time. Therefore, anti-Zionism is not a politically
legitimate point of view but rather an expression of bigotry and hatred.3
There is nothing "new" in these claims of a new anti-Semitism. Zionists have long
used anti-Semitism and the Holocaust as emotional blackmail—their justification for
Israel’s existence is that it is necessary to defend Jews from another Holocaust.
Therefore, it is argued, Israel’s actions today, no matter how brutal, are always
justifiable because the Jewish state is located in the middle of Arab peoples who
"want to drive Jews into the sea." The end result of this propaganda is to stunt the
growth of an international solidarity movement for justice for Palestine. At the same
time, confusing anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism obscures the real root of the Israel-
Palestine conflict. In truth, Zionism’s real history shows that it has never been about
Judaism or saving Jews, and that its relationship with anti-Semitism is much more
To be sure, there has been a rise in anti-Semitism—particularly in Europe. The
European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia concluded that there has
been a noticeable rise of anti-Semitic incidents in Belgium, France, Germany, the
Netherlands, and England, ranging from hate mail to arson. There was a six-fold rise
in anti-Jewish incidents in France between 2001 and 2002. And while physical
assaults were rarely reported in Greece, Austria, Italy, or Spain, the report found
that anti-Semitic ideas, such as conspiracy theories of Jewish world domination, have
been gaining ground. The report notes that the majority of those behind the assaults
in some countries are right-wing skinheads or neo-Nazis, while in other countries an
increasing number of the attacks are carried out by Muslim youth. Overall, however,
the majority of perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts continue to be white Europeans.4
This is an upsetting trend, which dovetails with a broader political problem—the
growth of the far right. But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s ultra-right
government has only contributed to this rightward trend in mainstream politics. More
importantly, the most virulent racism of the right-wing parties in Europe is saved for
Arabs and Muslims—though unfortunately very little attention is being paid to it. In
France, for instance, attacks on Jews are counted as hate-crimes whereas attacks on
Arabs and Muslims, as well as other nonwhite immigrants, are not. As a Pew
Research Center survey on global attitudes noted one year into the Iraq war: "As is
the case with Americans, Europeans hold much more negative views of Muslims than
But the other important aspect of the rise in those anti-Semitic attacks specifically
carried out by Muslim youth is that they also have to do with an unfortunate, but
increasingly understandable, confusion in regards to the difference between Israel’s
policies and Jewish people. For instance, anger at the massacres going on in Gaza
today or the assassinations of Hamas leaders may be directed at a Jewish individual
or a community. This confusion has been fostered by Israel, which claims to speak
for worldwide Jewry. But in reality, Judaism and Zionism are distinct and separate
issues. Their only connection is that one is used as a cloak for the other. That is, all
of Israel’s policies are defended on the basis that they are necessary in order to
safeguard Jews the world over.
As CounterPunch editor Alexander Cockburn has correctly argued,
The left really has nothing to apologize for, but those who accuse it of anti-
Semitism certainly do. They’re apologists for policies put into practice by
racists, ethnic cleansers and in Sharon’s case, an unquestioned war criminal
who should be in the dock for his conduct.6
There is no correlation between supporting Zionism and Israel on the one hand, and
opposing anti-Semitism on the other. In fact, Zionism is just a particular Jewish
brand of a nationalist, colonial project. Moreover, the Zionist project, as we shall see,
has been at times willing to collaborate with anti-Semites to fulfill its goals—which
themselves were based on racist ethnic cleansing.
There are a couple of mistaken responses to the confusion (which Zionists have been
careful to sow) about the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. One
is to completely dismiss anti-Semitism as altogether irrelevant. A pretty outrageous
example of this is Michael Neuman’s essay in The Politics of Anti-Semitism where he
argues, "I think we should almost never take anti-Semitism seriously, and maybe we
should have some fun with it."7 Neuman flippantly admits to the existence of some
forms of anti-Semitism such as "the distribution of the Protocols of the Elders of
Zion, the myths about stealing the blood of gentile babies. This is utterly
inexcusable. So was your failure to answer Aunt Bee’s last letter."8
Besides showing a complete disdain for anyone who might be genuinely worried
about anti-Semitism, Neuman also shows a total misunderstanding of the nature and
character of anti-Semitism and how it has been used historically. It has not always
taken the form of systematic economic oppression, but more often has provided a
convenient scapegoat for ruling elites during periods of capitalist crisis. Neuman ends
up concluding that since "anti-Zionism is a moral obligation" and "if anti-Zionism is
anti-Semitism" then "anti-Semitism is a moral obligation."9 This upside-down logic
doesn’t challenge the basic framework that Israel’s defenders use. It just stakes out
an anti-Zionist stance within their framework, which ends up concluding that anti-
Semitism is non-existent at best, justifiable at worst.
Another response to Zionism, which blames the "Israel lobby" (sometimes more
disturbingly referred to as the "Jewish lobby") for U.S. support of Israel, only helps
to blur the distinction between Zionism and Judaism. Certainly, Israel has lobbyists
in Washington. But the idea that the United States gives billions in military and
economic aid to Israel out of an obligation to a particular lobby misses the real
reason that the U.S., out of completely selfish reasons, supports Israel. Israel has
long been America’s "watchdog" in the Middle East, helping to keep Arab nationalism
and any other threat to U.S. interests in check. Fixating on the so-called Israel lobby,
fails to appreciate this basic fact. The United States is not an otherwise neutral body
that has somehow been manipulated by a particular interest group. The White
House, through every administration, has always had an interest in maintaining a
foothold in the most oil-rich region of the world. Israel is part of that equation—a
"Sparta acting as a U.S. surrogate"10—which is why U.S. support for it will remain
unwavering until those interests are challenged at their root.11
Zionism in no way represents the interests of the world’s Jewish population. This has
never been more clear than it is today, as Israel has become the least safe place for
a Jew to live. Furthermore, the history of the Zionist project reveals that the
movement never had the interests of Jews at heart.
In fact, up until the rise of fascism in Europe, Zionism was a fringe movement. Most
Jews were just not that interested in moving to Palestine, let alone colonizing it or
driving out the Arab population. In fact, between 1880 and 1929, almost four million
Jews emigrated from Russia and Eastern European countries. But only 120,000
moved to Palestine, while more than three million moved to the U.S. and Canada. In
1914 there were only 12,000 members of Zionist organizations across the entire
U.S., while the Socialist Party had that many Jewish members in the Lower East Side
of New York.12
Modern anti-Semitism was born out of the tumultuous period in Eastern Europe and
Russia when feudalism gave way to capitalist development. As Nathan Weinstock
writes, anti-Semitism was a product of the despair of the ruined petty bourgeoisie
seeking scapegoats. "[T]he persistent memory of the Jewish usurer"—Jews had in
earlier times been forced into petty trades and money-lending—was used to deflect
anger against capitalism toward the Jews. "This confusion," writes Weinstock, "was
denounced by [the German socialist August] Bebel in his famous aphorism: ‘Anti-
Semitism is the socialism of fools.’"13
In Russia, anti-Semitic scapegoating deliberately organized and provoked by the Tsar
was used as a means of dividing and weakening workers’ struggles. A wave of
pogroms—"anti-Jewish riots—spread like wildfire through Russia from 1881 onwards,
spreading to Poland and other Eastern European countries. Another outbreak of anti-
Jewish violence reached even more barbaric proportions in 1903. Not coincidentally,
both 1882 and 1904 experienced waves of immigration to Palestine and other
Zionism is not an age-old Jewish idea. From its inception, it was a secular rather
than a religious movement. It merely used Judaism as a means to bolster its
nationalist claim. Zionists settled upon Palestine, instead of some other locations that
they had originally flirted with, not for religious reasons but for purely propagandistic
ones. Religious Jews, by and large, opposed the growth of Zionism at that time, and
some Orthodox groups still do today on the basis of Jewish law.15 Judaism refers to
returning to the Holy Land on a spiritual level. Jewish religious pilgrims had
emigrated to Palestine in the past to form religious communities, but not to establish
a state. Political Zionism—which sought to form an exclusive Jewish state—was a
new phenomenon that arose in Eastern Europe in response to the growth of modern
anti-Semitism. The leaders of the Zionist movement adopted and reflected many of
the ideas of ultra-nationalism and colonial expansion that characterized the period.
But Zionism was just one minority response among many to anti-Semitism. Jewish
nationalism grew, and within that Zionism was a particularly conservative variant.
Many more Jews flocked to socialist and communist movements, which actually
fought against fascism. Zionism’s response, on the other hand, was one of
resignation to anti-Semitism and at times even collaboration with it.
How Zionists tolerated anti-Semitism
The basic starting point of Zionism was that anti-Semitism could never be defeated.
Zionists raised the idea that Jews and non-Jews couldn’t ever live together to a
scientific principle. Leo Pinsker, one of the early Zionist leaders, claimed that anti-
Semitism was "a psychic affliction, it is hereditary and as a disease has been
incurable for 2,000 years."16 Theodor Herzl, commonly referred to as the "father of
Zionism," wrote of how his experience of anti-Semitism during the notoriuos
Dreyfuss affair in France allowed him to achieve "a freer attitude toward anti-
Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I
recognized the emptiness and futility of trying to combat anti-Semitism."17 As a
member of the (now-defunct) Israeli Socialist Organization put it, Zionism "accepts
at least tacitly the basic assumptions of racism."18 That is, there is something
inherent either in Jews or non-Jews that necessarily warrants a separation.
A number of leading Zionists concurred with many of the racist ideas aimed at Jews
themselves. Herzl accepted the idea that Jews were an economic burden, and in this
way brought anti-Semitism on to themselves anywhere they went.19 And Vladimir
Jabotinsky, who represented a further-right strand of Zionism, wrote "the Jewish
people is a very bad people; its neighbors hate it and rightly so…its only salvation
lies in a general immigration to the land of Israel."20 Thus there has always been a
disquieting symmetry between Zionism and anti-Semitism.
On an ideological level, Zionism had to battle both socialist ideas of fighting anti-
Semitism and assimilationist ideas. As a result, Zionism was at the very least
resigned to anti-Semitism, while some major strands within the movement
consciously articulated a common interest, and in fact the benefit of anti-Semitic and
even fascistic ideas to Zionism. One particularly nauseating example of this attitude
was expressed by Joachim Prinz, a Zionist leader in Germany in the 1930s.
Commenting on the recent accession of Hitler to power, he writes:
The theory of assimilation has broken down. We have no longer any refuge.
We want assimilation to be replaced by the conscious recognition of the
Jewish nation and the Jewish race. Only those Jews who recognize their own
specificity can respect a state founded on the principle of the purity of nation
and race.… From every last hiding place of baptizing and mixed marriage [the
Jews] are being pulled out. This does not make us unhappy. In this coercion
to acknowledge and clearly stand by one’s own community, we see at the
same time the fulfillment of our dreams.21
Practically speaking, the most overarching reason that emerged for why Zionists
looked to anti-Semitic regimes wasn’t necessarily because they actively preferred
anti-Semites (though sometimes they did), but because one of the most important
characteristics of Zionism was, and remains, its dependence on gaining imperial
backing for their project. A minority settler community simply could not colonize a
majority native population without the military support of one or more of the major
powers. They looked to the Ottoman Empire first, then Britain, and now the U.S.,
any regime that might have power and with which they could gain a hearing.
Zionists, including those in the more mainstream "Labor" camp, didn’t discriminate
as to where that backing came from, even if it was based on a total disdain for Jews.
Most important, based on a common assumption that Jews ought to be separated
off, the Zionist movement made very practical and cynical links with European
countries that were looking to get rid of their Jewish populations. Zionists wanted to
populate Palestine with these same Jews, so they made sickening alliances towards
that end. For instance, the British ruling class agreed with the Zionists that it would
be mutually beneficial for them to support a Jewish state in Palestine, because a
Zionist state could act as an important counter-weight to a growing Arab nationalism
as well as against the tendency of many Jews in Britain to join radical and
revolutionary movements against oppression.
Winston Churchill argued as much in an article called "Zionism versus Bolshevism,"
which argued that it was important to "develop and foster any strongly-marked
Jewish movement" such as Zionism that could "lead directly away from" the
"worldwide conspiracy" of "the International Jews" (and here he mentions Karl Marx,
Leon Trotsky, Emma Goldman, and Rosa Luxemburg) "for the overthrow of
A leading Zionist, Chaim Weitzman, expressed a similar loathing for revolutionary
Jews. He wrote to Herzl that in Russia:
The lion’s share of the youth is anti-Zionist, not from an assimilationist point
of view as in Western Europe, but rather as a result of their revolutionary
mood. It is impossible to describe how many became the victims of police
oppression because of membership in the Jewish Social Democracy—they are
sent to jail and left to rot in Siberia…and I am not speaking only of the youth
of the proletariat.… Almost the entire Jewish student body stands firmly
behind the revolutionary camp. This revolutionary movement has captured
the spirit of the very young.… This is a terrible vision…and all this is
accompanied by a distaste for Jewish nationalism which borders on self-
This confluence of interests between the Zionists and often anti-Semitic governments
led the movement to create the state of Israel. Zionists negotiated to win favorable
immigration laws, which could allow Jews to settle in Palestine. This required not
only permission to enter Palestine, but at times collusion to limit immigration into
other countries to which Jews were trying to gain passage.
Though Zionists claimed that Palestine was a "land without a people for a people
without a land," this was entirely a myth. For more than 1,300 years a Muslim Arab
majority lived there. In 1882, Palestine had 500,000 Arabs and 24,000 Jews.
International Zionist organizations bought up land for Jews to settle, but after five
decades Jews still only made up 16 percent of the population.24 What’s more, these
settlers were completely economically dependant on international funds to survive—
not only rich donors and international Zionist organizations, but also from supporting
This paid off in 1917, when Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, formally declaring
support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Lord Balfour, who wrote
the declaration, was an anti-Semite who had sponsored legislation against Jewish
immigration into Britain. British officials gave economic and political support to the
burgeoning Zionist state. For instance, 90 percent of economic concessions were
granted to Jews even though they made up a fraction of the population.
As settlers drove Palestinians from their lands and workplaces, Arab nationalism
grew in response to what was clearly an unfolding disaster. This response was
passionately anti-Zionist but was not characterized by anti-Semitism. In fact there
are numerous examples to the contrary. One appeal to "all sons of the Arab nation"
which was issued in 1913 by the Arab Union, invited Muslims, Christians, and Jews to
unite behind the banner of Arab nationalism.25 In 1907 a couple of Jews who were
disaffected by the anti-Arab organizing spearheaded by Zionist leaders took it upon
themselves to help organize a strike of Arab laborers at Petach-Tikva against
starvation wages. The strikers were arrested and tortured but refused to name the
Jewish leaders who helped organize the strike.26
Zionism and the Second World War
It was not until the rise of fascism in Europe that the Jewish population in Palestine
got a significant boost. But it was also in this period that Zionism’s ugliest face
reared up in regards to European Jewry. Within months of Hitler coming to power,
the leading German Zionist organization sent him a memo offering collaboration. In
fact, while the Nazis were smashing socialist and Jewish resistance organizations,
they allowed the Zionists to continue operating. The leading Zionist organizations, for
their part, worked to undermine a worldwide anti-German boycott.27
Zionist leaders believed that the fight in Europe was a distraction from winning a
Jewish state in Palestine. Time and again they chose to negotiate for the immigration
of Jews to Palestine rather than saving Jews from the Holocaust. In the process they
decided which immigrants were desirable. Chaim Weizmann for instance declared:
"From the depths of this tragedy I want to save young people. The old ones will
pass. They will bear their fate or they will not. They are dust, economic and moral
dust in the a cruel world…. Only the branch of the young shall survive."28 Similarly,
the chair of the Jewish Agency’s committee refused to divert funds from Palestine
into rescuing European Jews. The agency decided to spend money on acquiring land
And David Ben-Gurion, who was to become Israel’s first prime minister, opposed a
plan to allow German Jewish children to emigrate to Britain. His explanation for this
despicable stance was to say:
If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by
bringing them over to England, and only half of them to Israel, then I would
opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these
children but also the history of the people of Israel.29
Zionist organizations acted on these views, for example organizing against attempts
to change immigration laws in the U.S. and Western Europe.
Israel—founded on racist expulsion
Even in 1947—on the eve of Israel’s foundation—Jews made up less than one-third
of the population of Palestine. Settlement alone couldn’t create a Jewish state. The
other arm of the strategy was the "transfer" of the Arab population (a sterile
euphemism for ethnic cleansing.) This idea was expressed by the majority of Zionist
leaders from Herzl to Ben-Gurion. As Joseph Weitz, the head of the Jewish Agency’s
Colonization Department said:
Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in
this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country.
There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring
countries—all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left.30
The UN partitioned Palestine in 1947, giving 55 percent of the land to Jews and
leaving the Arab majority with only 45 percent of their own country. The Zionist
leadership accepted the partition publicly, but drew up plans to capture the rest of
the country and drive the Arab population out. In the months between the partition
and the time that Britain pulled out, Zionist militias took the opportunity to terrorize
the Arab population. It was during this time that massacres such as the one at Deir
Yassin happened—in which every man, woman, and child in the village—254 in
A report called the Koenig Plan laid it out plainly: "We must use terror, assassination,
intimidation, land confiscation and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee
of its Arab population."32 That is exactly what the Zionist militias proceeded to do in
what Israelis call "the war for independence," but what is more aptly called "al
Nakbah" by Palestinians—the catastrophe. Close to a million Palestinians were driven
from their land. Ethnic cleansing was the only way to create a Jewish majority that
would make an exclusively Jewish state possible.
The final irony
The final irony of Zionism is that it turned the oppressed minority Jews of Europe
into an oppressor majority in Palestine. Rather than challenge oppression, Zionists
accepted discrimination and separation as natural principles of humanity. As Nathan
Weinstock has argued,
[I]n the final analysis, the Zionist is contaminated by racism. In asserting, not
the specificity, but the essential otherness of the Jewish condition, and
thereby postulating the incompatibility of nations, he internalizes the thesis of
the anti-Semite, inverting albeit, the values of anti-Jewish racism.32
The rise of European fascism not only benefited the Zionist project in creating a
massive impetus for immigration to Palestine, it also, in the eyes of many Zionists,
legitimized ethnic cleansing of Arabs. The most right-wing strands of Zionism took on
ideas of racial purity as their own. These elements are still represented by the
fanatical settlers who occupy territory seized by Israel in 1967, and who are
represented in government by Jewish fundamentalist parties. These settlers are
armed and regularly take it upon themselves to shoot down and terrorize the
Palestinian population around them. Today in Hebron, a city of over 100,000
Palestinians in the West Bank, which is bisected by a Jewish settlement of 500, you
can find graffiti on the walls that reads "Arabs to the gas chamber."SUP FONT
Ultimately, the real fight against anti-Semitism has to be linked to the fight against
all oppression. For that reason, anti-Zionism and the fight against Palestinian
oppression have much more in common with the struggle against anti-Semitism than
Zionism does. The socialist movement has a proud tradition of fighting anti-Semitism
and racism within the broader fight against oppression and exploitation. Jews were
disproportionately represented in the socialist parties of Russia and Europe at the
height of those movements because socialists have always put the fight against
oppression as the central component to a revolutionary struggle against capitalism.
As Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin put it, the revolutionary party must be the
"tribune of the oppressed."
We have a particular responsibility in the U.S. to challenge Zionism, because Israel
would not be able to exist and continue to keep Palestinians dispossessed and
brutalized without $5 billion a year in direct U.S. aid and loan guarantees, and
without U.S.-made Apache helicopters, M-16s, and Phantom jets. The role of the Left
in building solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and demanding an end to U.S. aid
to Israel is therefore critical.
In order to do that, we need to know the history of Zionism, what relationship it has
had to anti-Semitism, and why the Left has no reason to be defensive.
Unfortunately, there has been a lot of confusion within the Left around these
questions, which has hampered our ability to build an effective movement. This
struggle desperately needs to be clarified, strengthened, and built so that we can
one day live in a world where the brutality of pogroms and occupation are consigned
to the dustbin of history.
Hadas Thier is an Israeli-born Jew who is an activist in New York City.
1 Craig Horowitz, "The Return of Anti-Semitism," New York Times, December 15, 2003.
2 Quoted in Brian Klug, "The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism," Nation, January 15, 2004.
4 "Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003," European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia
(EUMC), available online at http://eumc.eu.int/eumc/as/PDF04/AS-Main-report-PDF04.pdf.
5 The Pew Research Center’s survey also drew somewhat different conclusions about anti-Semitism in Europe
than the EUMC report: "Despite concerns about rising anti-Semitism in Europe, there are no indications that anti-
Jewish sentiment has increased over the past decade. Favorable ratings of Jews are actually higher now in
France, Germany, and Russia than they were in 1991. Nonetheless, Jews are better liked in the U.S. than in
Germany and Russia. As is the case with Americans, Europeans hold much more negative views of Muslims than
of Jews." "A Year After the War," available online at http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=206.
6 Alexander Cockburn, "Israel and ‘Anti-Semitism’," CounterPunch, May 16, 2002.
7 Michael Neuman, "What is Anti-Semitism," in Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, eds., The Politics of
Anti-Semitism (Oakland: AK Press, 2003,) 1.
8 Ibid., 7.
9 Ibid., 3.
10 Cheryl Rubenberg quoted in Gilbert Achcar, Eastern Cauldron: Islam, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq in a
Marxist Mirror (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2004), 19.
11 For fuller discussion see Lance Selfa, "Israel the Watchdog State," in The Struggle for Palestine (Chicago:
Haymarket Books, 2002), 29—46, or Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle (Cambridge: South End Press, 1999.)
12 Lance Selfa, "Zionism: False Messiah," in The Struggle for Palestine, 5.
13 Nathan Weinstock, Zionism: False Messiah (London: Ink Links, 1979, 14.
14 Ibid., 43.
15 For instance, Neturei-Karta, meaning "Guardians of the City," was formed by religious Jews that lived in
Palestine in 1938, and still organizes international Jewish opposition today. Their Web site is available at
16 N. Israeli, "Zionism and Anti-Semitism," in Arie Bober, The Other Israel (Garden City: Anchor Books, 1972),
17 Ralph Schoenman, The Hidden History of Zionism (Santa Barbara: Veritas Press: 1988), 47.
18 Israeli, 175.
19 Annie Zirin, "The Hidden History of Zionism," International Socialist Review, July—August 2002, 39.
20 Schoenman, 47.
21 Quoted in an interview with Moshe Machover in Weinstock, xxi.
22 Zirin, 41.
23 Moshe Machover, "Borochovism," in Bober, 152—53.
24 Weinstock, 77.
25 Ibid, 85.
26 Ibid, 87.
27 Schoenman, 48—49.
28 Ibid., 51.
29 Ibid., 50.
30 Ibid., 31.
31 The massacre at Deir Yassin is the most well known of a number of such massacres. It was carried out by the
right-wing militias, but other massacres like the one committed at Dueima were committed by ZAHAL, the Labor
32 Schoenman, 31—32.
33 Weinstock, 44—45.
34 Bill Glauber, "Israeli Veterans Show Occupation’s Ugly Side," Chicago Tribune, June 14, 2004.
Islamist-secular rift threatens Egypt's emerging democracy
Thu, 02/06/2011 - 16:39
Photographed by Mohamed Hossam Eddin
Friday’s protests represented a possible climax in the deepening rift between Egypt’s
secularists and Islamists that has developed post-Mubarak. With the Muslim Brotherhood
warning the masses against participating - and leftists, liberals and nationalists fully
backing the rally - political forces have failed to reach a consensus over the details of the
transition period. Many voices warn that the split could bode ill for the prospect of
successful democratic transition.
“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is the only beneficiary of this division,” says
Emad Gad, political scientist with Al-Ahram Center of Political and Strategic Studies.
“Now there is no united bloc monitoring the implementation of the revolutionary
demands. If political forces were united, they could pressure [the SCAF] to achieve these
In the meantime, Gad, who is also a founder of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party,
blames Islamists for the growing gap.
“It’s hard to heal this rift because the Brotherhood is dealing with the situation as if it
were a golden opportunity for them to hijack power and gain a [parliamentary] majority,”
During Egypt’s 18-day uprising, Egypt’s myriad opposition groups surmounted their
differences. But in recent months, the Islamist-secular divide has dominated headlines.
The two camps disagree on the timing of the parliamentary elections, the process of
drafting a new constitution, the role of religion in politics and the proper limitations to
SCAF’s power during the transitional period.
The Brotherhood insists on abiding by the results of the March referendum, in which a
majority endorsed the road map suggested by the military. Under the plan, parliamentary
elections should be held this fall, with presidential elections later. The new parliament is
expected to elect a 100-member assembly to draft the new constitution. Until all elections
are concluded, the SCAF would continue to control the country.
The secular forces, trying to find a way around the plan approved in referendum, continue
to demand that parliamentary elections be postponed until a new constitution is drafted.
They argue that while Islamists and remnants of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party
will most likely dominated the new parliament, these two forces should not also
monopolize the writing of the new constitution, they contend.
Some groups also demand that the SCAF cede power to a predominantly civilian
presidential council until all elections are concluded.
The SCAF has ignored such calls, insisting on holding parliamentary elections in
September and sticking to the plan approved by the referendum. This reaction prompted
some liberals to allege that the military forged a deal with the Brotherhood, whereby
Islamists would be allowed a larger role in the next parliament in return for not
interfering in military affairs.
Last Friday, secular forces sought to mobilize people to press their demands. While most
groups called for a protest to pressure the SCAF to hold serious and public trials of the
former regime officials, appoint new governors, and reshuffle the cabinet, others echoed
more controversial demands to postpone the elections, draft a new constitution before the
parliamentary poll and form a presidential council.
The nation’s oldest Islamist organization boycotted the protest and launched a smear
campaign against those who made the call.
Through their official website, the Brotherhood accused the protests’ leaders of “driving
wedges” between the military and the people. In another statement, the group sought to
denigrate the groups by emphasizing their secular nature and accusing them of being
“communist.” Both secularism and communism carry negative connotations of atheism in
In response, secularists launched their own verbal war against the Brotherhood in the
local media, accusing them of political opportunism and deploying similar tactics of the
The growing animosity might discredit both groups in the eyes of the public, according to
Ammar Ali Hassan, columnist and political commentator.
The polarization “might make Egyptians turn away from both civil and Islamist groups
and swear allegiance to the military,” warns Hassan, explaining that such a scenario
might entice the military to remain in power. “Here, the military can turn from a partner
and guardian of the revolution into an owner of it.”
The local press recently began to feature columns urging compromise. In the independent
daily newspaper Al-Shorouk earlier this week, prominent columnist Diaa Rashwan
proposed postponing elections until December so that nascent non-Islamist parties would
have time to build support bases and hold “immediate” and “serious” talks among all
groups to reach a consensus over the constitution. The outcome of these talks would
serve as guidelines for the new assembly that would later draft the constitution.
Hassan says the Brotherhood could be convinced to have the constitution drafted before
parliamentary elections. “Some Muslim Brotherhood leaders who oppose the idea oppose
it because they fear being excluded from the process and not because they want to
monopolize the new constitution’s drafting,” says Hassan, an expert on the Muslim
Hassan and Rashwan might be too optimistic about achieving a compromise. Speaking to
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Essam al-Erian, vice president of the Muslim Brotherhood’s would-
be Freedom and Justice Party, expresses the group’s vehement opposition to writing the
constitution first, and dismisses such proposals as an attempt to “circumvent” the results
of the referendum.
“Is it possible to ignore people’s will? What would guarantee that their choices would be
respected in presidential and parliamentary elections later on?” Erian asks rhetorically.
As to resolving contentious issues before drafting the constitution, the group has already
refused to engage in the military-backed National Accord Conference, where different
political factions were invited to discuss the fundamentals of the new constitution.
The group insisted that such discussions should be left to the assembly that the new
Parliament is supposed to elect.
In the meantime, Erian intimated that such talks were unnecessary and argues that the
Brotherhood already agrees with most other groups about what the constitution should
look like in a broad sense. He affirmed his group’s commitment to democracy and the
state’s civil nature, but most secularists refuse to take the pledge seriously. Doubts were
exacerbated in recent weeks after some Brotherhood leaders made incendiary statements
implying their plan to Islamize the state if they reach power.
Although the rivalry might seem irreparable, some expect Islamists to eventually settle
for a compromise.
According to Akram Ismail, a founder of the secular Association of Progressive
Revolutionary Youth, rapprochement with secular forces is in the Brotherhood’s best
“They have a lust for controlling everything but they know that such an attitude might
antagonize other forces and eventually these forces will call upon the army to intervene,”
In this case, Islamists fear a repeat of the Algerian scenario where the army crushed
Islamists after their sweeping electoral victory in the early 1990s, Ismail continues.
In fact, the Brotherhood is careful not to risk sealing its fate by monopolizing power. This
fear seems to shape the group’s discourse and tactics.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to the Gazan and Algerian scenarios. When Islamists there
reached power quickly, the military establishment turned against them,” the influential
Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater told a local paper in April when asked why the
group would not field a presidential candidate.
As a sign of goodwill, the group had announced that it would not field any presidential
candidate and would compete for no more than 50 percent of parliamentary seats.
Ismail contends that secular fears of Islamists hijacking the revolution and instating a
religious state are overblown. First, there are large segments in Egyptian society that
would not bend to an Islamic state. Second, the military would not accept such radical
change, which could easily jeopardize ties with the West, explains Ismail.
The Supreme Council sent a warning to Islamists while also reassuring seculars and the
West when it stated that Egypt would not turn into another Iran or Gaza.
Ismail believes that it is about time for secularists to stop emphasizing the secular-
Islamist divide and get prepared for the parliamentary race.
“The [non-Islamist] forces should overcome their fears, become effective on the ground,
and accept defeats. Politics is a serious job that’s not for fearful people,” Ismail
Yemeni opposition figure speaks on Saleh and civil war
Wed, 01/06/2011 - 21:56
Photographed by Jameel Subay
Yemen’s uprising began nearly five months ago on the day Tunisia’s president Zine al-
Abdin Ben Ali was ousted from power. To the surprise of many, the country began its
own peaceful revolution despite the fact that the country has one of the top three rates of
gun-ownership per-capita in the world.
Over the last two days, however, forces close to Ali Abdullah Saleh, the embattled
president of 33 years, violently cleared the Square of Freedom in the city of Taiz, killing
at least 68 people. The Yemeni uprising has seen at least 300 civilian deaths so far. On
Tuesday, there were reports of heavy gunfire from the Square of Change in front of the
Sana’a New University as demonstrators were attacked.
Sana’a’s airport is closed and Saleh’s forces have the city virtually isolated from the
outside world. The situation has left many stranded, unable to make their way back to the
Yemeni capital from abroad.
Ali al-Sarari is one of those people. The veteran Yemeni politician is a member of the
Secretariat of the Yemeni Socialist Party and also a well-known journalist, having
worked as editor-in-chief of more than one Yemeni daily newspaper. He originally came
to Egypt for medical reasons and was due to return to Yemen last week.
In an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm, Sirari discussed Yemen’s future, the
complexity of the tribal and religious situation, and the legacy that President Saleh has
Sirari was one of many who feared that the revolution would begin violently.
“Yemenis had a view of themselves that they’re violent. Carrying weapons is a very
traditional thing in tribal communities. The tribes put down their weapons and stood
peacefully. It was very encouraging to see,” he said.
Sirari says that, like other uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring, Yemen’s was
spontaneous. The main opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties, which includes
leftists, Islamists (Sunni and Shia) and Arab Nationalist parties, have only played a
peripheral role, while the phenomenon of the sit-ins in open squares is where the
uprising’s real legitimacy lies.
Since the beginning of Saleh’s reign in 1979, Yemen has been plagued by tribal wars and
feuds that cost thousands of lives annually. With the exception of Sana’a, men in towns
and villages in Sana’a openly carry their weapons.
Many accuse Saleh of fomenting tribal warfare and internal strife as a method of
maintaining control over the country. “Saleh’s main strategy for maintaining power was
creating internal rifts,” Sirari said.
Sirari added that Saleh’s regime has been responsible for encouraging and perpetuating
many such wars, sometimes funding and arming opposing sides simultaneously, he
The success of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions in ousting their heads-of-state
provides and inspirational \example for young Yemenis, according to Sirari, many of
whom have grown weary of armed conflict.
“Yemenis have shown a profound desire for an upstanding, legal civil society that is
governed by the rule of law. They are all tired of the state of chaos that has plagued the
country,” he said.
So far, warring tribes are standing side-by-side in different sit-ins around the country.
Saleh, though, has use provocations to test demonstrators’ peaceful resolve. His forces
have opened fire on the protesters several times. After the "Friday of Dignity” on 19
March, which left over 50 dead, military commanders from the First Battalion decided to
join the uprising, pledging to protect Sana’a’s sit-in. Since then, Saleh’s provocations
have been less consistent, with protesters only being attacked or harassed from afar or on
the periphery of squares - until Tuesday night.
The Presidential Guard, a force run by Saleh’s sons and nephews reportedly opened fire
on some locations where the First Battalion stood guard.
“Military commanders who decided to join the uprising didn’t defect, and did not intend
to instigate any confrontation with Saleh’s forces. They saw the uprising as a legitimate
shift of power and decided to protect it,” Sirari said. In addition to the First Battalion,
many other generals defected, including some from the Presidential Guard.
Earlier this week, Saleh decided to test tribal resolve to remain peaceful by attacking a
house belonging to opposition tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar of the Hashed tribe, which
also happens to be Saleh’s own tribe as well. Al-Ahmar’s forces retaliated by taking
control of certain government buildings.
“Up until now, unprovoked attacks have come from one side only. Opposition tribes have
only retaliated outside the squares, in order to maintain the revolution’s peaceful nature,”
However, he thinks that continued attacks will lead to more retaliation and bloodshed,
increasing the possibility of open confrontation between those supporting the revolution
and Saleh’s forces. “Given how things are going, it’s very possible and expected that
there will be tougher retaliation from the opposition,” he added.
The presence of Al-Qaeda and Salafis has added another dimension to violence in
Yemen. Sirari says that while some Al-Qaeda members from the international
organization exist in Yemen, the majority of those identified as belonging to the group
are Saleh’s pawns, used to keep certain areas unstable and to neutralize enemies.
On Sunday, the city of Zanjibar fell to Islamist gunmen, who the Yemeni government
identifies as including Al-Qaeda elements. “There’s no doubt that they left on the orders
of Saleh. The Presidential Guard conspicuously pulled out of the city before the gunmen
attacked, leaving it to them,” Sirari said.
Al-Qaeda has always been used as a scarecrow to maintain Western support for Saleh’s
regime, according to Sirari. Many speculate that the fall of Zanjibar was an attempt to
play that card once more and raise the specter of Islamist extremism that could undermine
foreign support for the uprising.
However, Saleh now seems to be running out of allies and alibis; his erratic behavior and
violent attacks are seen as attempts to crush the opposition as quickly as possible,
regardless of future implications. “Saleh is losing a great many of his allies, because they
only go as far as he is able to pay them,” Sirari said.
Despite the fact that Saleh assumed power with the blessing and financial backing of
Saudi Arabia, even the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, usually supportive of
Saleh, appear to want him out.
Saleh rejected a peace initiative brought forth by the GCC over a month ago. The deal
would have allowed him to leave peacefully. The GCC countries have been generally
averse to openly supporting any of the region’s uprisings.
“He has become a liability to the GCC, because he has become addicted to blackmailing
them… but they want to make sure they can control the power transfer,” said Sirai.
Saleh may be fighting his last battle, or he may have begun a war that could drag on for
much longer. In either case, his shifting positions have been erratic and generally
“Ali Abdullah Saleh is a person whose actions you can never attempt to make sense of.
He is a one-off phenomenon who wakes up in the morning only to think as far as getting
to the night ahead of him,” Sirari said.
Sirari believes that the Yemeni people are ready to transition to a civil state, and have
seen enough poverty and turmoil under Saleh’s reign to appreciate the importance of
“We have had enough wars, bloodshed, and mayhem,” said Sirari.
Thousands flee Yemeni capital as battles rage
Residents flee as armed clashes between tribal fighters and
government forces intensify in capital Sanaa.
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2011 14:40
fleeing Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, as fighting between opposition tribesmen and loyalist
troops of president Ali Abdullah Saleh, rages on.
Much of the clashes which began late on Wednesday night occurred in the Hasaba district
of northern Sanaa, where Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, the powerful leader of the Hashed
tribal confederation, has his base.
Yemen’s defence ministry said the Special Forces, headed by Saleh’s son Ahmed, have
been deployed to “liberate” buildings held by al-Ahmar’s fighters.
Medics in Sanaa told the AFP news agency that 15 people had been killed in the
overnight clashes, including a seven-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet.
They have yet to receive word on casualties from Thursday’s fighting as ambulance
crews were unable to access the neighbourhood.
Hakim Al Masmari, editor of the Yemen Post, told Al Jazeera that an estimated 2,000
additional fighters "armed and ready to fight" have entered Sanaa to reinforce the Hashed
"We expect [the tribal fighters] to take control of different government complexes [in
Sanaa]," Al Masmari said.
Witnesses near the Hasaba
district said they heard several blasts
but were not sure of the cause or
"There are very powerful explosions.
Sounds like missiles or mortars. May
God protect us," a resident said.
One Sanaa resident told AFP that he
and 30 members of his household
were trying to flee Sanaa like the
For more on Yemen, visit our Spotlight page
city’s many others.
"Sanaa is deserted now and if these battles continue, Yemen will be finished," he said.
Many shops were closed and long queues formed outside petrol stations. Residents who
had remained complained of water shortages and power cuts.
Main flash points
Sanaa residents said Thursday’s fighting was the fiercest since the mostly peaceful street
protests demanding an end to Saleh’s 33-year rule started nearly four months ago.
Fresh fighting ensued after a fragile truce between al-Ahmar’s forces and embattled Saleh
collapsed on Tuesday.
This week, there have been three main flash points in the country - the fighting in the
capital, government troops firing on protesters in Taiz in the south and a battle
with fighters in the coastal city of Zinjibar.
Sanaa’s Hasaba has been the focal point of armed clashes over the past week that have
killed at least 115 people and pushed the country closer to civil war.
Residents also reported overnight fighting near Sanaa airport, which was closed briefly
last week during skirmishes between Saleh's forces and Hashed rebels.
Passengers said flights were suspended for several hours at Sanaa airport on Thursday,
but the airport reopened later in the afternoon.
But Naji al-Marqab, director of the airport, denied that flights had been suspended and
diverted to the southern city of Aden, insisting that air traffic was running normally.
The fighting on Thursday came as US envoy John Brennan left Saudi Arabia for the
United Arab Emirates to reportedly seek help in stopping a civil war in Yemen, the
Reuters news agency reported, citing an unnamed US official in Saudi Arabia.
The US and others have been pressing Saleh to accept a Gulf-led agreement to step down.
Saleh has agreed to the deal three times, only to renege at the last minute.
Protesters 'killed' in Syria town
Crackdown in Rastan continues, as opposition conference ends with
declaration demanding Syrian president's resignation.
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2011 17:19
Syrian security forces have killed at least 13 civilians in the latest crackdown on pro-
democracy protests, rights groups say, as opposition leaders meeting in Turkey called for
President Bashar al-Assad to step down and lay the framework for democratic elections
to be held within a year.
Security forces, backed by tanks, have laid siege to the central town of Rastan since
Sunday in an effort to crush protests against Assad's rule there.
The 13 civilians were killed by gunfire from snipers and security forces storming Rastan,
which is under curfew, said Ammar Qurabi, the head of the Syrian Organisation for
Human Rights, and Razan Zaitouna, a
Earlier, Zaitouna said that 41 people had
been killed in the town, including a four-
year-old girl who was killed as security
forces shelled neighbourhoods on
Five of the victims were buried in Rastan on Wednesday, she said. Syrian forces also
killed nine civilians on Tuesday in the town of Hirak, according to Qurabi.
Syrian state media reported that four soldiers were killed by "armed terrorist groups" in
Rastan on Wednesday were buried on Thursday.
"We have become refugees in our own country,'' a resident of Rastan told the AP news
agency. He said that he had fled his home in the centre of the town to escape arrest and
was now sleeping in the woods.
"My family and sisters are still there, and I don't know how they are doing,'' he said,
speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Call for Assad's exit
At the conference in the Turkish city of Antalya, the Syrian opposition called for Assad
to resign immediately and cede powers to his vice-president.
"The delegates have committed to the demands of the Syrian people to bring down the
regime and support the people's revolution for freedom and dignity," said a communique
issued by 300 delegates at the conclusion of the two-day meeting, which brought together
various opposition groups, activists and
independent figures, some from inside Syria.
The opposition also decided to establish a 31-member council to act as an international
representative for protesters in Syria, reported Mohamed Vall, Al Jazeera's correspondent
Abrahim Miro, a Syrian activist of Kurdish ethnicity who was at the conference, said the
committee "is represented by all the factions, all different ethnic groups and all different
religions", adding that "it must show the world that they can make a strong voice to
support the revolution inside Syria".
"They have to show the world that they are capable of being the face of this revolution in
Syria," he told Al Jazeera.
The communique issued by the conference attendees also opposed any foreign
intervention in Syria from outside powers, such as has been seen in Libya.
About 50 Assad supporters demonstrated outside the conference venue on Thursday,
brandishing posters of the Syrian president and branding the opposition as being "on the
payroll of the United States and Israel".
President Assad has recently launched a "national dialogue", pledging to free hundreds of
political prisoners and promising to investigate the killing of 13-year-old Hamza al-
Khateeb in an attempt to blunt growing anger.
State television said Assad had set up a committee and charged it with "formulating
general principles of dialogue that will open the way for the creation of an appropriate
climate in which the different elements can express themselves and present their
The opposition has previously dismissed calls for dialogue, saying that this can take place
only once the violence ends, political prisoners are freed and reforms adopted.
The demand that prisoners be freed was partially met on Wednesday when, according to
a rights activist, hundreds of detainees were released from prisons across the country
under an amnesty declared by Assad on Tuesday.
Washington, which has been increasing pressure by slapping sanctions on key regime
members, said the release of "100 or so political prisoners does not go far enough".
"The release of some political prisoners is not the release of all political prisoners. We
need to see all political prisoners released," Mark Toner, the US state department deputy
spokesman, told reporters.
Human rights organisations have echoed this sentiment.
"Hundreds of people have been released," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the London-
based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
"Fifty of them are from Baniyas, including the 76-year-old poet Ali Derbak," he added,
but "thousands of political prisoners remain in jail and are to be released at any time".
"Leaders of the communist Labour Party were unable to benefit from the amnesty as the
decree excluded people convicted of joining an organisation to change the social and
economic status of the state," Rahman said.
More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 arrested since protests
against Assad's autocratic government erupted in mid-March, Human Rights Watch said.
Speakers at the Turkey conference said Assad's amnesty offer did not go far enough and
came too late. "We demanded this amnesty several years ago," Abdel Razak Eid, an
activist from the Damascus Declaration, a reformist group launched in 2005 to demand
democratic change, said. "But it's late in coming."
A mobile video by one of the delegates showed the delegates vowing not to end dialogue
until Syria's people were free.
Assad's legitimacy 'nearly out'
Other international responses to the presidential decree were tepid at best, though US
secretary of state Hillary Clinton did say on Thursday that her country believed that
Assad's legitimacy has "nearly run out".
Clinton also indicated that there was a lack of international consensus on how to move
forward in order to appear on "the right side of history".
Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, has demanded "more ambitious and
bolder" action from Syria. "I fear that it might already be too late," he told France Culture
Turkey, while not dismissing the decree outright, also asked for deeper change.
Meanwhile in Syria, residents called for nationwide protests to take place on Friday, to
commemorate the nearly 30 children killed during the uprising.
Syria has denied that a boy aged 13, whom opposition activists say died under torture,
had been abused by security forces, labelling the accusations as lies.
A medical report published by Syrian official media said three bullets killed teenager
Hamza al-Khatib and that other apparent wounds on his body were due to decomposition,
not security force brutality.
Coroner Akram al-Shaar indicated that there was a period between the initial inspection
and the handover of the corpse which was presided over by a legal commission including
"The report closes the door on the lies and allegations and shows the truth," the state-
run news agency SANA said.
The activists said the boy had disappeared since taking part in a demonstration in the
southern region of Daraa on April 29, which he decided to join after police killed his
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said that at least 30 children have been killed by
gunfire since the revolt began. The government insists the unrest is the work of "armed
terrorist gangs" backed by foreign agitators.
Security forces attack Bahraini protesters
Bahraini troops attack anti-government protesters in villages near the
capital, hours after martial law is lifted.
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2011 00:19
Bahraini troops have attacked anti-government protesters in several villages near the
capital Manama, witnesses say.
Despite the lifting of martial law on Wednesday, regime forces fired tear gas on
protesters who had poured into the streets to stage protest rallies in villages around
Manama, including Diraz, Bani Jamrah and Karzakan, according to witnesses.
"Protests are to be in main streets and squares ... the movement must return to important places ahead
of the imminent return, God willing, to Martyr's Square"
'February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition', Facebook page
One activist reported a heavy security presence in Bani Jamrah and said about 30 women
had gathered in front of his house, but security forces used batons and tear gas to disperse
"With the end of the emergency situation, the security would not be here but they still
are," said Ali Zirazdi, a 30 year-old man, who said police had fired tear gas after a few
hundred people gathered in the predominantly Shia village of Diraz.
"The security presence is even stronger and their approach now is as soon as they hear of
any protest in advance, they come down to stop it from happening," Zirazdi added.
Opposition activists in Bahrain called for a "fresh wave" of anti-government protest
rallies across the country on Wednesday, as a state of emergency imposed during a
March crackdown on protesters has ended.
"Protests are to be in main streets and squares ... the movement must return to important
places ahead of the imminent return, God willing, to Martyr's Square," said a post on
"February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition" Facebook page, referring to the site of the
demolished Pearl Square, which was the focal point of anti-government demonstrations
from February until being destroyed during the government crackdown in March.
Bahraini activists say their protest campaign will continue until the nation's demands are
Amnesty International, the human rights group, had called on Manama to allow the
planned protest rallies to go ahead and stop using violence against peaceful protesters.
Law lifting 'insincere'
The unrest comes despite the lifting of an emergency law, a step the authorities hope will
help to restore normalcy in the kingdom rocked by political upheaval following anti-
Nabeel Rajab, the vice president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera
the government was not sincere in its
lifting of the emergency law.
"I think we are going to see more
protests in the coming days. The
lifting [of the] state [of] emergency it
was more to attract the Formula One
... which was going to act as an
indicator if Bahrain has come to
normal or not," he said.
"The Bahraini government is
desperately trying to send out the
message that everything is back to
Click here for more of Al Jazeera's special coverage
normal, but it is not. Today Bahrainis
are gathered again, protesting on the streets of all the villages, more than 40 different
protests all around Bahrain ... all of them were attacked from the moment they started
and many people were injured by live ammunition, rubber bullets or tear gas."
Bahrain imposed emergency rule in mid-March, giving the military powers to suppress
demonstrations led by the country's Shia majority against the minority Sunni rulers. The
protesters were inspired to rise up by other revolutions sweeping Arab nations around the
Middle East and North Africa.
With the end of martial law, tanks and soldiers withdrew from the centre of Manama, the
capital, but numerous police checkpoints remained around the city.
The move came a day after King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa offered a national dialogue
with opposition figures on reforms.
"The end of the national security law and announcement of dialogue are both positive. It
will be a shame if anyone is negative about it," Jamal Fakhro, a Bahraini lawmaker, said.
At least 30 people were killed, since the protests for more rights and greater freedoms,
began in February in the island nation, which hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet.
Bahrain invited 1,500 troops from a Saudi-led Gulf force to help suppress the unrest
when emergency rule was imposed.
[Map of Dar'a Governorate.
Image from HRW.org]
[Below is the latest from the Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Syria.]
"We've Never Seen Such Horror": Crimes Against
Humanity by Syrian Security Forces
Since the beginning of anti-government protests in March 2011, Syrian security forces
have killed hundreds of protesters and arbitrarily arrested thousands, subjecting many of
them to brutal torture in detention. The security forces routinely prevented the wounded
from getting medical assistance, and imposed a siege on several towns, depriving the
population of basic services. Some of the worst abuses took place in Daraa governorate in
The nature and scale of abuses, which Human Rights Watch research indicates were not
only systematic, but implemented as part of a state policy, strongly suggest these abuses
qualify as crimes against humanity.
This report focuses primarily on violations by Syrian security forces in Daraa governorate
from March 18 to May 22, 2011. Since the beginning of the protests in Syria, Human
Rights Watch has issued numerous press releases documenting the crackdown on
protesters in different parts of Syria. Obtaining information from Daraa proved most
challenging as Syrian authorities put enormous efforts into ensuring that such information
did not get out.
The report is based on more than 50 interviews with residents of Daraa and several
Jordanian nationals who were in Daraa during the protests. Human Rights Watch also
reviewed dozens of videos, filmed by the witnesses, which corroborate their accounts.
Additional information was provided by Syrian activists who have been documenting the
The Daraa protests, which eventually spread all over Syria, were sparked by the detention
and torture of 15 young boys accused of painting graffiti slogans calling for the downfall
of the regime. On March 18, following Friday prayer, several thousand protesters
marched from al-Omari Mosque in Daraa calling for the release of the children and
greater political freedom, and accusing government officials of corruption. Security
forces initially used water cannons and teargas against the protesters and then opened live
fire, killing at least four.
The release of the children—bruised and bloodied after severe torture in detention—
fanned the flames of popular anger. Protests continued, every week growing bigger with
people from towns and villages outside Daraa city joining the demonstrations.
The Syrian authorities promised to investigate the killings, but at the same time denied
any responsibility and blamed the violence on “terrorist groups,” “armed gangs,” and
“foreign elements.” In the meantime, security forces responded to the continuing protests
with unprecedented brutality, killing, at this writing, at least 418 people in the
governorate of Daraa alone, and more than 887 across Syria. Exact numbers are
impossible to verify given the information blockade imposed by the Syrian government.
Some of the deadliest incidents that Human Rights Watch has documented in this report
• An attack on al-Omari mosque (which had become a rallying
point for protesters and served as a makeshift hospital for the
wounded protesters) and ensuing protests from March 23 to 25,
2011, which resulted in the killing of more than 30 protesters;
• Killings during two protests on April 8, 2011, which resulted in
the deaths of at least 25 victims;
• Killings during a protest and a funeral procession in Izraa on
April 22 and 23, 2011, which claimed the lives of at least 34
• Killings during the siege of Daraa and neighboring villages
(starting on April 25 and ongoing in certain towns) and killings at
an April 29, 2011 protest, during which residents of neighboring
towns tried to break the siege, which claimed up to 200 lives.
Witnesses from Daraa interviewed by Human Rights Watch provided consistent accounts
of security forces using lethal force against peaceful protesters. In some cases, security
forces first used teargas or fired in the air, but when protesters refused to disperse, they
fired live ammunition from automatic weapons into the crowds. In most cases, especially
as demonstrations in Daraa grew bigger, security forces opened fire without giving
advance warning or making any effort to disperse the protesters by nonlethal means.
Security forces deliberately targeted protesters, who were, in the vast majority of cases,
unarmed and posed no threat to the forces; rescuers who were trying to take the wounded
and the dead away; medical personnel trying to reach the wounded; and, during the siege,
people who dared to go out of their houses or to gain access to supplies. In some cases
they also shot bystanders, including women and children.
From the end of March, witnesses consistently reported the presence of snipers on
government buildings near the protests, targeting and killing protesters. Many of the
victims sustained head, neck and chest wounds, suggesting that they were deliberately
Other evidence obtained by Human Rights Watch also suggests that security forces
participating in the operations against the protesters (in Daraa and other cities) had
received, at least in a number of cases, “shoot-to-kill” orders from their commanders.
Security forces who participated in the crackdown in Daraa included several army units,
as well as various branches of Syria’s mukhabarat (intelligence services). Several
witnesses noted that most of the violence was perpetrated by mukhabarat forces and elite
army units such as the 4th Division which reports directly to Maher al-Asad, the younger
brother of President Bashar al-Asad. On several occasions army units deployed to quell
the protests seemed reluctant to shoot at protesters, allowed them to pass through
checkpoints, and, in at least two cases documented by Human Rights Watch, refused
orders to shoot and either surrendered to the protesters or handed over their weapons to
Syrian authorities repeatedly blamed the protesters in Daraa for initiating the violence
and attacking security forces. On several occasions, starting in late March, after security
forces first used lethal force against the demonstrators, Daraa residents resorted to
violence. For example, they set several building on fire, including the governor’s house,
and the political security building, as well as vehicles belonging to the security forces,
and on several occasions killed members of the security forces.
At the same time, all witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that the protests
started peacefully, with demonstrators often carrying olive branches, unbuttoning their
shirts to show that they had no weapons, and chanting “peaceful, peaceful” to indicate
that they posed no threat to the security forces. Dozens of videos of the Daraa protests
that witnesses provided to Human Rights Watch as well as those posted online
corroborate these accounts. Witnesses said that protesters only used violence against the
security forces and government property in response to killings by the security forces or,
in some cases, as a last resort to secure the release of wounded demonstrators captured by
the security forces.
The incidents of violence by the protesters should be further investigated and the
perpetrators brought to justice. However, these incidents by no means justify the massive
and systematic use of lethal force against the demonstrators, which was clearly
disproportionate to the threat presented by the overwhelmingly unarmed crowds.
Syrian authorities also routinely denied wounded protesters access to medical assistance.
In at least two cases documented by Human Rights Watch (and reportedly in many
others), this denial of medical assistance led to the deaths of wounded persons who might
otherwise have survived.
Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that security forces regularly prevented ambulances
from reaching the wounded and, on several occasions, opened fire as medical personnel
were trying to reach the injured. They also prevented people from carrying away the
wounded and, in several cases documented by Human Rights Watch, shot at and killed
the rescuers. Security forces took control of most of the hospitals in Daraa and detained
the wounded who were brought in. As a result, many wounded avoided the hospitals and
were treated in makeshift hospitals with limited access to proper care.
Since late March, and particularly after Daraa came under siege on April 25, security
forces launched a massive campaign of arrests in the governorate. Witnesses from Daraa
city and neighboring towns described to Human Rights Watch large-scale sweep
operations conducted by security forces who daily detained hundreds arbitrarily, as well
as targeted arrests of activists and their family members. Some detainees, many of whom
were children, were released several days or weeks later, while others have not
reappeared. In most cases their families have no information on their fate or whereabouts.
The majority, if not all, of the arrests seemed entirely arbitrary with no formal charges
ever brought against the detainees. People arrested in Daraa were initially held in various
ad hoc detention facilities before being transferred for interrogation in military
intelligence or political security departments in Daraa. Many were then sent to Damascus.
Released detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that they, as well as
hundreds of others they saw in detention, were subjected to various forms of torture and
degrading treatment. The methods of torture included prolonged beatings with sticks,
twisted wires, and other devices; electric shocks administered with tasers and electric
batons; use of improvised metal and wooden “racks”; and, in at least one case
documented by Human Rights Watch, the rape of a male detainee with a baton.
Interrogators and guards also subjected detainees to various forms of humiliating
treatment, such as urinating on the detainees, stepping on their faces, and making them
kiss the officers’ shoes. Several detainees said they were repeatedly threatened with
All of the former detainees described appalling detention conditions, with grossly
overcrowded cells, where at times detainees could only sleep in turns, and lack of food.
Two witnesses (both former detainees) independently reported to Human Rights Watch a
case of an extrajudicial execution of detainees on May 1, 2011 at an ad hoc detention
facility at the football field in Daraa. One of the two witnesses said the security forces
executed 26 detainees; the other one described a group of “more than 20.”
The majority of witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch also referred to the
existence of mass graves in Daraa. On May 16, Daraa residents discovered at least seven
bodies in one such grave about 1.5 kilometers from Daraa al-Balad. Five bodies were
identified as members of the Abazeid family. Syrian government officials denied the
existence of a mass grave, but al-Watan, a Syrian newspaper closely affiliated with the
government, acknowledged that five bodies had been found.
On April 25, 2011, Syrian security forces launched a large-scale military operation in
Daraa and imposed a siege which lasted at least 11 days and was then extended to
neighboring towns. Daraa residents told Human Rights Watch that security forces moved
into the city in military vehicles, including numerous tanks and armored personnel
carriers. Under the cover of heavy gunfire they occupied all neighborhoods in Daraa,
imposed checkpoints, and placed snipers on roofs of buildings in many parts of the city.
They prevented any movement of residents in the streets. The security forces opened fire
on those who tried to defy the ban on
movement and gatherings, or simply went out of their homes in search of food or
Witnesses said that Daraa residents experienced acute shortages of food, water (because
security forces shot and damaged water tanks), medicine, and other necessary supplies
during the siege. Electricity and all communications were cut off for at least 15 days, and,
at the time of this writing, remained cut off in several neighborhoods in the city.
From April 25, 2011 until at least May 22, 2011, Daraa residents were not allowed to
pray in mosques and all calls for prayer were banned. Security forces occupied all of the
mosques in the city and, according to witnesses who saw the mosques after they
reopened, desecrated them by writing graffiti on the walls.
As the killings continued during the Daraa siege, residents also struggled with the
growing number of dead bodies. Due to the lack of electricity, the bodies could not be
stored in morgues, and restrictions on movement and communications placed obstacles to
identification and burials. As a result, Daraa residents stored dozens of bodies in mobile
vegetable refrigerators that could run on diesel fuel. These were subsequently confiscated
by the security forces who then returned at least some of the bodies to the families.
Syrian authorities also imposed an information blockade on Daraa to ensure that abuses
were not exposed. No independent observers could enter the city and one international
journalist who managed to report from Daraa during the first two weeks of protests in
March was arrested upon his return to Damascus. During the siege all means of
communication were shut down, including Syrian cell phone networks. Many witnesses
told Human Rights
Watch that cell phones were the first thing authorities confiscated during searches in their
houses or at checkpoints. They were specifically looking for footage of the events and
arrested and tortured those whom they suspected of trying to send out images or other
information out, including some foreign nationals.
Human Rights Watch called on the Syrian government to immediately halt the use of
excessive and lethal force by security forces against demonstrators and activists, release
unconditionally all detainees held merely for participating in peaceful protests or for
criticizing the Syrian authorities, and provide immediate and unhindered access to human
rights groups and journalists to the governorate of Daraa, as well as hospitals, places of
detention, and prisons. It also called on the Security Council to push for and support
efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the grave, widespread, and
systematic human rights violations committed in Syria since mid-March 2011, and adopt
targeted financial and travel sanctions on those officials responsible for continuing
human rights violations.
Youth group withdraws from army dialogue
meeting, chaos prevails
Activist Gigi Ibrahim holds a placard as she takes part with dozens of Egyptian youth in a
demonstration in front of the building where the high military council held a meeting
with other youth groups of the revolution in Cairo on June 1. (AFP Photo/ Khaled
By Heba Fahmy /Daily News Egypt June 2, 2011, 7:12 pm
CAIRO: The Children of Egypt group withdrew from what was dubbed an “open
dialogue” meeting between youth coalitions and members of the Supreme Council of the
Armed Forces (SCAF) on Wednesday, which was boycotted by the main coalitions and
several political forces.
“The first thing [an army official] told us was that this was a meeting not an open
dialogue,” Dalia Hussein, member of the group, told Daily News Egypt.
“The army doesn’t want to hear or discuss anything with us,” she said. “They just want us
to obey their orders.”
The eight items on the meeting’s agenda included the role of the armed forces in the
January 25 Revolution, the achievements made so far, the army’s vision about the
country’s future and the role of the youth, with the open discussion placed at the bottom
of the list.
“The program they distributed demonstrates that we were going to be merely recipients
[not participants] in this meeting,” member of the group, Nermine Rifaat, told DNE
“They asked us to write our questions on a piece of paper so they could answer some of
them at the end of the meeting,” she said.
“That’s the kind of discussion they were referring to.”
A pamphlet about the army’s role and achievements during the January 25 Revolution
was also distributed.
The SCAF generals boasted about the army’s role in protecting the revolution during the
"What would have happened if the military … did not take the right decision?" asked the
general during the conference, referring to its decision not to crack down on protesters
who led popular protests that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.
"Libya! Syria!" yelled approving crowd members who packed the auditorium.
When someone shouted back: "It would not have been your right to attack us!" others
then stood up and started chanting: "We want a constitution, now!"
The generals were reduced to pleading with the crowd to remain quiet.
Even as they promised a transition to civilian rule, one general lost his temper and
shouted: "When I speak, you listen!"
Some officers expressed their shock at seeing the generals being heckled.
"They are shouting at generals," said one lieutenant, in disbelief. "What do they want, a
(Libyan leader Moammar) Qaddafi?"
The event was billed as the first public meeting between members of the Egypt's ruling
body and the youth of the revolution.
While some of the participants were disenchanted and repeatedly heckled the generals
over alleged human rights abuses, the majority offered profuse applause.
The Children of Egypt group described the meeting as very unorganized and chaotic,
adding that many of those who attended did not represent the youth.
“I saw people attending the conference who were between the ages of 60 and 80,” group
member Ahmed Orabi said.
Outside the gates of El-Galaa Theater, around 100 protesters gathered to condemn the
meeting and called on SCAF to end its human rights violations.
Political activist Gigi Ibrahim criticized the fact that the army’s meeting with the youth
wasn’t broadcast live. She speculated that the remnants of the former regime and
members of the Muslim Brotherhood dominated the meeting.
“Most of the activists involved in the January revolution are not attending the meeting,”
Ibrahim condemned the military for not investigating allegations that women, arrested in
Tahrir during a protest on March 9, were forced to undergo virginity checks.
“This is a red line which should not have been crossed,” she said.
The American broadcaster CNN reported that a general, under condition of anonymity,
admitted that the assault did take place, but the military denied the report.
An employee at an insurance company, Sarah Aal said, “This is not why we had the
Protesters condemned referring civilians to military courts, while members of the former
regime are being tried in civilian courts in “slow motion.”
Inside El-Galaa Theater, SCAF generals began with a moment of silence for the martyrs
killed during the revolution.
The conference was attended by 1,200 people representing 153 youth groups, according
to the state-run Middle East News Agency.
During the conference, participants were asked to answer a survey titled “Egypt First”,
which included 23 questions evaluating the performance of the SCAF.
The army council had invited youth coalitions of the revolution to an open dialogue on
Monday through in a statement issued on its Facebook page.
Twenty-two groups, including the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution and the April
6 Youth Movement, boycotted the conference.
Member of the Youth Coalition and the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed El-Qassass said
that it was more of a symposium than an open dialogue.
“The army talked but didn’t listen to the youth,” he said. –Additional reporting by AFP
and Abdus Shuman.
People hold placards as they take part with dozens of Egyptian youth in a demonstration in front of the
building where the high military council held a meeting with other youth groups of the revolution in Cairo
on June 1. (AFP Photo/ Khaled Desouki)
Women sidelined on political scene, concludes
File photo of a women’s march in Tahrir Square on International Women’s Day on
March 8. (Daily News Egypt photo / By Hassan Ibrahim)
By Safaa Abdoun / Daily News Egypt June 1, 2011, 5:41 pm
CAIRO: Since the January 25 Revolution, women have been excluded from the decision-
making process, Mervat El-Telawi, head of the Association of International Civil
Servants Egypt (AFICS), said.
“This has been the case ever since the 1919 Revolution, women going back to square
one,” she said.
El-Telawi was speaking at a seminar held by the Alliance for Arab Women (AAW), in
cooperation with AFICS and the Coalition of Egyptian NGOs discussing the current
events with regards to women.
Controversial issues, such as the amendment of certain laws that are deemed favorable to
women and associated with the ousted regime, were debated. “There must be changes
and some laws need to be reviewed but they need to be looked at as a whole not only
certain articles of the law,” said Hoda Badran, head of the AAW.
She noted that rights women have gained in the past period were earned after years of
relentless struggle by civil society organizations and women’s rights activists.
Regarding religious extremists, El-Telawi explained that if poverty and illiteracy are
eradicated then extremists won’t have any power in society.
“These people are forging thoughts, the problem doesn’t lie in the country side but here
in the city, in the slums where all people care about is feeding their children,” she said,
adding that civil society organizations have to launch awareness campaigns in these
In addition, the Ministry of Endowments has to take action regarding the use of churches
and mosques for political propaganda, El-Telawi noted.
“The solution is to reform the people’s culture,” she said, pointing out that instead of
building museums, efforts should be directed at educating people. “The television shows
and the incorrect stereotypes they reinforce are what need to be changed,” El-Telawi said.
The three organizations are holding a convention on June 4 with three main objectives;
expressing views about the public issues raised in the national dialogue; highlighting the
important role women have played during the revolution, ensuring women’s participation
in all public decisions in the future, while also ensuring the protection of their acquired
“This convention is the voice of the people,” said El-Telawi, adding that issues such as
illiteracy, development and poverty will be thoroughly discussed.
Badran explained that the convention will announce two declarations, the first states civil
society views on public issues, particularly those related to women, and the second gives
suggestions with regards to the new constitution.
She explained that current debates such as the constitution, postponing elections, the right
of Egyptians abroad to vote, reviewing the quota for women, farmers and workers, and
justice in income allocation will be discussed.
It is expected that some 2,000 participants will attend the convention from NGOs,
political parties, syndicates, labor unions and academia from all over the country. The
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the Cabinet of Ministers were also invited.
Report claims German police train Saudis in repression
German federal police have been training Saudi Arabian security forces since 2009.
While their official mission is to train in border control, a recent report claims the police
have been involved in murkier activities.
Dozens of officers in the German federal police have been involved in training Saudi
Arabian security forces in how to search and occupy houses and deal with protests and
uprisings, according to an investigative report by the television news magazine Fakt.
The report, aired Monday on public broadcaster ARD, quotes classified documents,
unnamed German police officers and people involved in the training as saying their
mission goes beyond the official description by the government to train in border
In March, Saudi forces entered neighboring Bahrain to support the Sunni-led regime,
which was facing massive protests by majority Shiites. The troops violently suppressed
the protests and dozens were killed.
"It was clear in March at the demonstrations that protesters were shot," an unnamed
German police trainer said in the report. "You don't want to imagine what happens when
these units trained by German police go ahead in their own country."
In a statement e-mailed to Deutsche Welle, the Interior Ministry said it could not
explicitly confirm the report and that training by German federal police in Saudi Arabia
was for border observation and "leadership and decision-making processes." It said the
training courses do not serve to prepare police for protests, and that "human rights and
the fundamentals of the rule of law" are included.
EADS defense contract
Fakt had previously reported in April that the German mission in Saudi Arabia was an
essential part of a contract between the Saudis and the European defense firm EADS to
improve border security.
EADS was hired to provide infrared cameras, laser sensors and ground radar along Saudi
borders. The report said the Saudis had specifically requested German police trainers, and
that EADS paid honorariums to the trainers, while their base salary came from the
The federal police union has confirmed that German police officers were cooperating
with EADS at a training camp in Saudi Arabia. Missions of at least 25 German police
officers have reportedly traveled to Saudi Arabia for three months at a time to take part in
The Interior Ministry said in its statement that the federal police mission in Saudi Arabia
was not on behalf of EADS, and that employees were paid through the German
development organization GIZ.
The involvement of German police in Saudi Arabia has from the beginning drawn heavy
criticism from the political opposition and within the ranks of the German police force.
Green party politician Wolfgang Wieland said the German mission in Saudi Arabia
should be abolished.
"Here, police are being trained in a dictatorship, in a backward regime," he said. "That
cannot be. A democracy like Germany is not allowed to do that."
Jörg Radek, deputy chairman of the Trade Union of the Police, agreed. He said whether
German police were training in border security or in dealing with protesters, they had no
place in a country like Saudi Arabia.
"When this mission supports the unjust system in Saudi Arabia, that's the point at which
you have to say German police must withdraw," he said.
The mission in Saudi Arabia has been reviewed by parliament, and is currently under
another review requested by The Left party.
Reports last month said Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, who took over the
position in March after his predecessor Thomas de Maiziere became defense minister,
was surprised by the mission and was looking into it.
Armin Schuster, a parliamentarian in the ruling center-right Christian Democratic Union,
defended the project in Saudi Arabia. He said while he understood objections to working
there, Germany could not limit its cooperation exclusively to countries with identical
values of law and justice.
"If you want to cooperate with a country on fighting terrorism, then you have to invest
there," he said. "For me it's a principle of 'You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.'"
Bahrain: Zainab Alkhawaja summoned to police
station, threat of arrest
Following is email we received from Maryam Al-Khawaja who is concerned that her
sister Zainab, who was called to go to a police station in Manama, Bahrain, may be
detained like 5 members of her family.
"As Zainab Alkhawaja heads to the police station, I write to you in urgency as I just
received confirmed news that her father Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was told in prison that if
he does not comply with their demands and accepts what they're asking of him, they will
get his daughter Zainab as they 'already have a file on her'. They also told him to instruct
Nabeel Rajab and his other daughter Maryam Alkhawaja to stop the pressure on the
Zainab Alkhawaja, also widely known as @angryarabiya on Twitter and for her hunger
strike which then inspired a mass hunger strike may be detained. If imprisoned, Zainab
will be the 6th member of her family to be detained.
Zainab's husband, Wafi, was arrested 55 days ago. His whereabouts is still unknown. It is
not known what charges against him are. He has had no access to lawyers or to his
Now with Zainab being summoned, if arrested, their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter
will have both her parents in detention.
Both of their arrests are seen to be a tool used by the regime to put pressure on Abdulhadi
Alkhawaja, a prominent human rights activist, and me.
It is not new in Bahrain that they use a family member to pressure someone to do what
they want. In a testimony I recorded in late February I was told by a family member:
'They brought my younger brother in front of me and stripped him naked except for a
blindfold. They told me if you don't do as we say, we will rape him in front of you. I said
ok, I will do whatever you want, and they made me sign documents without letting me
We urge you to do all that you can to put pressure on the Bahraini government to comply
with human rights standards and release all political prisoners."
Maryam Al-Khawaja is Head of Foreign Relations Office, Bahrain Center for Human
Yemen crisis deepens as dozens are killed in
Foreign Office urges all Britons to leave at once with diplomats describing the situation
as 'worse than Libya'
Yemen: clashes between tribes and security forces Link to this video
The crisis engulfing Yemen deepened on Wednesday with dozens of people killed as
President Ali Abdullah Saleh reinforced his troops after heavy clashes with gunmen loyal
to an influential tribal leader.
Overnight street battles left at least 41 people dead, some trapped in burning buildings.
Fighting raged until dawn as presidential guard units shelled the headquarters of an army
brigade responsible for protecting government institutions.
Arab embassies were said to be evacuating their staff and the few remaining western
residents were being advised to leave urgently. The Foreign Office is urging all Britons to
leave while flights are still available in a situation diplomats described as "worse than
Residents of Sana'a woke to a chorus of birdsong and machinegun fire as plumes of
smoke rose into the sky, mortar blasts rattling windows and nerves. Heavy clashes
resumed as Saleh's republican guard forces equipped with heavy artillery pushed the
tribesmen out of government buildings. By nightfall they had wrested back control of
several key positions.
The week's gun battles between rebel tribesmen and Saleh's troops have already claimed
200 lives and the confrontations are fanning fears of civil war.
Life in the capital is growing fierce and desperate. Sana'a's eastern suburb of Hasaba –
the centre of the clashes so far – is a ghost-town where Kalashnikov-wielding tribesmen
stalk the streets.
Cars and buses with bags strapped to the roofs filtered their way out of the city. "No
safety, no electricity, no water, no phone network, and people with no jobs, the situation
is very bad these days," said Ahmed Zaid, who scratches a living by ferrying people to
Tagheer Square, centre of the protests, on his battered motorbike. "I'm terrified for my
family, we're leaving tomorrow, inshallah," he said.
The home of Sadeq al-Ahmar, the Hashid tribe's most prominent sheikh, lies dark. It was
an attack by government forces on al-Ahmar's home, a gothic style mansion, last week
that triggered the clashes.
Several sheikhs attending a tribal mediation were killed when the house was hit directly
by government artillery. It has been the target of shelling ever since and now lies in near
ruins. Windows have been blown out and parts of the facade litter the street. Blood is
splattered on the walls .
The conflict between the security forces and the Hashid erupted after Saleh refused to
sign an agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states requiring him to give
up power within 30 days. Violence has escalated across Yemen since then, with at least
21 people killed in the southern city of Taiz on 30 May, one of the bloodiest days in four
months of protests in the poorest country in the Arab world.
Key military leaders defected in March after Saleh loyalists fired on demonstrators
calling for an end to his 33-year-old rule. Yemen is on the brink of financial ruin, with
about a third of its 23 million people facing chronic hunger. It is running out of oil and
Western policy is largely dictated by concern that al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula will
take advantage of the chaos to plan new attacks.
In Washington, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, criticised Saleh's refusal to
The two sides blamed each other for breaking a ceasefire that halted three days of
fighting last week.
The violence has overshadowed the protests that erupted on 11 February calling on Saleh
to step down. The president, whose term ends in 2013, has said he is willing to hold early
elections, a call that has so far been rejected by the opposition Joint Meeting Parties.
It is still unclear whether Saleh is holding out for a better exit deal such as a guaranteed
position in a future government or intends to try to ride out demands for his resignation
until his term officially ends. If it is the former he appears to be making a blunder, since
the likelihood of a managed transition are fading and attempts to forcibly oust him are
becoming more likely.
"Even if Saleh can defeat all those challenging him, his ability to 'govern' the country in
any coherent sense of the word is gone forever," said the Yemeni political analyst, Abdul
"Even in the most autocratic regimes, governance relies on some degree of acceptance of
authority. In Yemen there is no sign whatsoever that this exists. Either Saleh leaves
power through a political deal he brokers from a position of weakness or he is ousted by
force by breakaway military groups and tribal leaders."
Locked up for reading a poem
Ayat al-Gormezi, the woman who symbolises Bahrain's fight for freedom
By Patrick Cockburn
Thursday, 2 June 2011
Ayat al-Gormezi was forced to give herself up after police raided her parents' house and
made four of her brothers lie on the floor at gunpoint
Bahrain's security forces are increasingly targeting women in their campaign against pro-
democracy protesters despite yesterday lifting martial law in the island kingdom.
Ayat al-Gormezi, 20, a poet and student arrested two months ago after reading out a
poem at a pro-democracy rally, is due to go on trial today before a military tribunal, her
mother said. Ayat was forced to turn herself in when masked policemen threatened to kill
her brothers unless she did so.
She has not been seen since her arrest, though her mother did talk to her once by phone
and Ayat said that she had been forced to sign a false confession. Her mother has since
been told that her daughter has been in a military hospital after being tortured.
"We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery," a film captures
Ayat telling a cheering crowd of protesters in Pearl Square in February. "We are the
people who will destroy the foundation of injustice." She addresses King Hamad bin Isa
al-Khalifa directly and says to him: "Don't you hear their cries, don't you hear their
screams?" As she finishes, the crowd shouts: "Down with Hamad."
Ayat's call for change was no more radical than that heard in the streets of Tunis, Cairo
and Benghazi at about the same time. But her reference to the king might explain the fury
shown by the Bahraini security forces who, going by photographs of the scene, smashed
up her bedroom when they raided her house and could not find her.
There are signs that Bahraini police, riot police and special security are detaining and
mistreating more and more women. Many are held incommunicado, forced to sign
confessions or threatened with rape, according to Bahraini human rights groups.
Bahrain is the first country affected by the Arab Spring where women have been singled
out as targets for repression. Human rights groups say that hundreds have been arrested.
Many women complain of being severely beaten while in custody. One woman journalist
was beaten so badly that she could not walk.
A woman doctor, who was later released but may be charged, says she was threatened
with rape. She told Reuters news agency that the police said: "We are 14 guys in this
room, do you know what we can do to you? It's the emergency law [martial law] and we
are free to do what we want."
The ending of martial law and a call for dialogue from King Hamad appear to be part of a
campaign to show that normal life is returning to Bahrain. The Bahraini government is
eager to host the Formula One motor race, which was postponed from earlier in the year,
but may be rescheduled to take place in Bahrain by the sports governing body meeting in
Despite the lifting of martial law, imposed on 15 March, there is no sign of repression
easing. Some 600 people are still detained, at least 2,000 have been sacked, and some 27
mosques of the Shia, who make up 70 per cent of the population, have been bulldozed.
The protests started on 14 February in emulation of events in Egypt and Tunisia with a
campaign for political reform, a central demand being civil and political equality for the
majority Shia. The al-Khalifa royal family and the ruling class in Bahrain are Sunni.
The targeting of women by the security forces may, like the destruction of mosques, have
the broader aim of demonstrating to the Shia community that the Sunni elite will show no
restraint in preventing the Shia winning political power. Shia leaders complain that the
state-controlled media is continuing to pump out sectarian anti-Shia propaganda.
The government is eager to show that Bahrain can return to being an untroubled business
and tourist hub for the Gulf. Having the Formula One race rescheduled to take place on
the island later this year would be an important success in this direction.
The New York based Human Rights Watch has written to the Federation Internationale
de l'Automobile (FIA), saying that the race would take place in an environment of
unrelenting "punitive retribution" against pro-democracy protesters.
If the race does go ahead it will be without a quarter of the staff of the Bahrain
International Circuit, the host organisation, who have been arrested, including two senior
staff. Most have been sacked or suspended, accused of approving of the postponement of
the Formula One event earlier in the year.
The government has been detaining and beating local reporters. The one international
journalist based permanently in Bahrain was ordered out this month. Even foreign
correspondents with entry visas have been denied entry when they arrive in Bahrain.
Profile: Ayat al-Gormezi
Ayat al-Gormezi, a 20-year-old poet and student at the Faculty of Teachers in Bahrain,
was arrested on 30 March for reciting a poem critical of the government during the pro-
democracy protests in Pearl Square, the main gathering place for demonstrators, in
February. She was forced to give herself up after police raided her parents' house and
made four of Ayat's brothers lie on the floor at gunpoint. She was not there at the time.
One policeman shouted at their father to "tell us where Ayat is or we will kill each of
your sons in front of your eyes".
Masked police and special riot police later took Ayat away telling her mother that her
daughter would be interrogated. Her mother was told to pick up her daughter from Al-
Howra police station, but has not seen her since her arrest. She did speak to her once on
the phone when Ayat told her that she had been forced to sign a false confession. Her
mother has been told confidentially that Ayat is in a military hospital as a result of
injuries inflicted when she was tortured.
Adrian Hamilton: The Spanish are having their
own Arab Spring
Thursday, 2 June 2011
While President Obama was in London extolling the Arabs for seeking the kind of
democracy enjoyed in the West, the Spanish were occupying the main square in Madrid
demanding the same things as the Arab protesters.
"Break the shackles of the past" was one banner seen among the tents of the indignados
("the indignant") while a more literary effort declared: "If you don't let us dream we won't
let you sleep." Even in Granada's Albaicin the youth were being summoned by Twitter
and Facebook to attend protests.
Of course you can draw too closely the parallels between Madrid and Cairo. A lot of
Spanish angst, as Greek anger, has been caused by the financial crisis and the measures
taken by their governments to cut the deficits.
But this is not a repeat of traditional union-led, left-wing organised demonstrations
against government of the sort we have seen so often in the past. Far from it. The
peculiarity of European politics at the moment is that the revolt against cuts is directed
against anyone in power to the benefit of the party in opposition.
In Spain, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the socialist prime minister who has tried hard to
keep Spain's finances solvent, has been blown aside in the latest local elections in favour
of the right wing PP party founded by one of General Franco's ministers, which isn't
expected to do much different if it gets into power. Yet in the German regional elections
it is the right-of-centre Chancellor Angela Merkel who is being hammered by left-wing
and Green candidates, despite the fact that Germany is doing rather nicely at the moment.
The Spanish protests, in contrast, are not a left-right affair. Rather, like the Arab
movements, they are demonstrating against the whole system and the major parties held
to be part of it. The means of organisation through social networks is the same as in the
Arab uprising. The occupation of public places and the establishment of committees to
handle food and rubbish draws on the North African example.
Some of the causes are also the same. Spain now has the highest rate of unemployment in
the EU, with a youth unemployment of 45 per cent which is pretty close to the rates
experienced through much of the Middle East.
Corruption is held to be widespread, with over 100 candidates in the local election being
accused of it. The banking crisis has exposed– as in Ireland – a system in which
financiers, developers and politicians hug each other all too closely.
Spain isn't on the point of revolution, any more than Ireland or even Greece. But a
situation in which the young, and indeed many older people, feel excluded by existing
political structures and in which they sense little reason to hope that it will get better in
the future is not a sustainable one. Looking around Europe, it is hard to find countries in
which you couldn't see the similarities.
To claim that we in the West should congratulate ourselves on an Arab Spring which
looks to us as its example is just to misunderstand its nature and our response. The
protesters in the Arab squares are demonstrating against an autocracy and corruption
which have become insufferable. The demonstrators in Spain are saying the same about
their democratic structures.
Where it all ends, no one knows. Theoretically democracies should be more adept at
adjusting to changing pressures. But looking around America and Britain, as much as
Spain, that is an optimistic assumption at the moment. The Middle East world has risen
up just as the West has stumbled down with the financial crisis and consequent recession.
There is really no sign at the moment in its leadership or in its processes that western
democracies see a way of re-invigorating themselves and giving hope to the coming
generation. Rather the measures taken to cope with the financial crisis are doing the
Far from it being a moment for self-congratulation, the Arab Spring should be causing us
to look at ourselves and see what lessons it has for us.
Fears of Depleted Uranium Use in Libya
by Peter Custers, June 02, 2011
LEIDEN, The Netherlands — The pattern of deception to gain legitimacy for war in the
eyes of the public by now is familiar. In the middle of March, Western powers led by the
US, Britain and France initiated actions of war against Muammar Gadhafi’s government
of Libya. The start of war was preceded by a publicity offensive in which the Libyan
leader was depicted as a madman.
The war was defended on the grounds that the Libyan people needed to be protected
against their dictator via a ‘no-fly’ zone, and the public was made to believe the West
exclusively aimed at defending the humanitarian interest of Libya’s population. Now,
concerns among the Western public over Libyan events have thinned. The need to
camouflage war aims has concomitantly decreased.
Time to highlight some of the long-term implications of the Western intervention. A
sound, but difficult test case is the West’s use of depleted uranium weapons. Though US
and British officials have so far denied their employment over Libya, from the very start
of the intervention to overthrow Gadhafi’s speculation has been rife that ammunitions
used by the US and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) contain "depleted"
uranium. What to make of these stories?
First, the record on previous uses of so-called depleted uranium weapons is unequivocal.
While the very word "depleted" or impoverished appears to indicate that arms containing
this type of uranium are not very dangerous, depleted uranium well exemplifies the
intractable nature of nuclear production. For the radioactivity spread by these weapons is
not just long lasting, it is perennial in a literal sense: it is said to last into the future for
nearly as long as planet earth exists: some 4,5 billion years.
Yet for two reasons the US and European states have historically opted to build weapons
with everlasting radiating effects. Depleted uranium, largely consisting in uranium-238,
is a very hardy metal. Hence it can be employed to strengthen military vehicles and arms.
Also, arms containing depleted uranium can easily pierce the armament systems of any,
less powerfully equipped enemy.
Thus, the Iraqi army was taken by surprise during the Gulf war staged against Iraq’s
occupation of oil-rich Kuwait in 1991. Suddenly, US tanks fired shells, later identified as
depleted uranium shells, having a 1,000 meters longer carrying capacity than theirs, and
hitting their tanks with extraordinary speed. Again, there is ample evidence confirming
that the US war plane known as Thunderbolt (the A-10) in the Gulf war and in the war
against former Yugoslavia staged in the late 1990s fired similar armor-piercing shells
from its cannon. A whole range of Western tanks and military planes have meanwhile
been equipped with shells and bombs containing depleted uranium.
But how damaging is the use of depleted uranium in war really? It emerged as a by-
product of the process of nuclear enrichment — massive quantities of depleted uranium
originally needed to be put aside as waste. Their new destination therefore might appear
an appropriate answer to the generation of waste. Yet the deleterious impact of materials
containing a relatively ‘low’ dose of radioactivity, as uranium-238 does, have been
exposed for decades — and from well before they started being channelized towards
Best documented have been the consequences for Iraq, where depleted uranium weapons
figured in US tanks shells and bombs fired in the 1991 Gulf war, but also in the
occupation war started in 2003. Two French journalistic accounts published in 2001 have
given detailed descriptions of the effects suffered by Iraq’s civilian population after the
The extensive field-investigation carried out by the priest Jean-Marie Benjamin brought
out that there had been a 350 percent increase in the rate of malformations in Iraqi babies
at birth, such as dislocations of brains outside the head and of eyes at an unusually wide
distance. Again, there have been reports that the number of blood cancers, leukemia, in
Iraqi children has not just increased, but has multiplied.
Academic reports, for example by the conservative American Rand Corporation, have
similarly spoken of indiscriminate risks for the lungs and digestive systems, of civilians
and combatants alike. Radioactive dust may be inhaled after explosions of depleted
uranium shells, or people get radiated after contact with unexploded shells in war zones.
The toxic effects from depleted uranium weapons, such as for human mutations, have
been recorded too.
Third, not only has the danger of depleted uranium weapons’ use by Western powers
been put on record by a variety of sources, the use has also been delegitimize, thanks
notably to sustained campaigning by anti-war coalitions over the past decade. Western
analysts studying the US and NATO war strategies have long ago admitted that depleted
uranium weapons when spreading their radioactivity do not differentiate between military
and civilian targets.
As long as such weapons are being used, damaging impacts on non-combatants, on
civilian populations, cannot be averted. Hence in recent years international pressure has
mounted, so as to force the US and other Western powers which have incorporated this
uranium into their armory, to renege on its use.
Significantly, the General Assembly of the United Nations has thrice adopted resolutions
expressing its concerns over the given weaponry. In the third resolution adopted towards
the end of 2010, no less than 148 UN member states demanded from states employing
depleted uranium weapons that they frankly "reveal their use" whenever asked to do so
by affected countries. Perhaps not surprisingly, four UN members voted against — the
US, Britain, France and Israel. The three countries now waging war against Libya plus
Israel stood opposed to an overwhelming majority of states expressing humanity’s
Since the start of the war against Gadhafi, speculation by critics on the likelihood or risk
that Western powers use the discredited weaponry in Libya has primarily focused on the
potential inclusion of depleted uranium in two types of weapons; as warhead or armor
enhancing material in cruise missiles; and as part of the shells fired by A-10 military
planes. In view of the past, inclusion in the shells fired by the A-10 Thunderbolt is more
Although Western officials routinely deny that they have used depleted uranium in the
war on Libya, they have not excluded its possibility either. There are ample reasons to
suspect that the denials are a war tactic, as was the initial denial stating that Western
powers do not target bringing down Gadhafi’s government. The fear is justified that the
Libyan civilian population will face long-lasting radiation effects from depleted uranium
weapons used over their territory.
Qatari weapons reaching rebels in Libyan
• Wednesday, 1 June 2011 5:58 PM
LIBAYN REBEL: In Libya's west, the rebels hold a chain of towns stretching more than
200 km across a bleak mountain plateau from the Tunisian border (Getty Images)
Rebel fighters in Libya's Western Mountains say they are smuggling in arms and
ammunition from the rebel coastal stronghold in Benghazi, via Tunisia, and at least some
of the weapons appear to originate in Qatar.
Officially, rebels fighting on the western front of Libya's three-month-old war say the
only way they replenish ammunition is by taking it from enemy soldiers they capture or
kill in battles with forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.
Some are poorly-equipped, and heavy weaponry does appear to be in short supply. But
there is evidence of new weapons and ammunition reaching the mountains through the
only supply route, the rebel-held Wazin-Dehiba border crossing with Tunisia.
In the rebel-controlled town of Zintan, 150 km (95 miles) southwest of the Libyan capital
Tripoli, journalists saw a complete, brand new mortar base plate, mortar tube and 42
mortar shells still vacuum-packed.
The set included new scopes and rucksacks to transport the equipment. The packaging
had the word "Qatar," in English, stenciled onto it.
The cache included new military fatigues, radios and boxes of German-made Steiner
binoculars that cost around $1,000 per pair, though some of the equipment did appear to
be Libyan army issue.
At another location, new Milan anti-tank guided missiles were seen.
A senior rebel fighter in the region said the rebellion in the mountains was running low
on ammunition, but that the insurgents expected more supplies to arrive "from outside".
"It's coming from Benghazi," he said. "From Benghazi through Tunisia. They're saying
it's just milk and food. It's easy to bring the stuff in. This is the only way." He said some
of the goods originated in France, but offered no evidence.
He said the supplies included ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and other "heavy
Qatar has been the Arab country most staunchly supportive of the Libyan rebels and the
NATO-led effort to stop Gaddafi's forces from attacking civilians.
Qatar, an OPEC member in the Gulf region, has sold 1 million barrels of crude on behalf
of the rebels and said in April it had shipped four tankers full of gasoline, diesel and other
refined fuels to Benghazi.
Government officials in Qatar were not immediately available to comment on whether
they were supplying weapons to the rebels.
A diplomatic source based in Doha said Qatari authorities had been flying a C-17 military
cargo plane loaded with weapons to Benghazi "almost on a daily basis."
"We imagine this is filled with the kind of thing you're referring to (mortars). We
understand they've also got some trainers floating around as well," said the source.
Tunisia, cradle of the uprisings that have swept the Arab world, has joined international
sanctions against Gaddafi's administration and many ordinary people are sympathetic to
the rebel cause in Libya.
Tunisia's army has reinforced the border with Libya after fighting between pro-Gaddafi
forces and rebels spilled over onto Tunisian territory.
Tunisian security officials check some vehicles entering Libya at the Dehiba-Wazin
crossing, but not all of them.
Asked if weapons were reaching the rebels via Tunisia, a source in the Tunisian foreign
ministry said: "We categorically deny this information."
Tunisia's role in the Libya conflict "consists solely of urgent humanitarian aid and
receiving refugees and the injured", the source said.
In Libya's west, the rebels hold a chain of towns stretching more than 200 km across a
bleak mountain plateau from the Tunisian border.
Pro-Gaddafi forces hold the desert plains below, and at their closest point sit level with
Zintan some 10-15 km from the town centre, shelling the desert and the outskirts of
The rebels have the advantage of holding the high ground. But their isolation could work
against them in the long run since supplies of food and fuel coming through the single
border crossing they hold are barely meeting demand.
The insurgents have cleared a landing strip along a stretch of the main mountaintop road
they control, saying they hope NATO will give clearance for Benghazi to send food, fuel
and weapons to continue the fight.
Mubarak to stand trial on murder charges
EGYPT’S FORMER president Hosni Mubarak is to go on trial for murder and corruption
on August 3rd, along with his sons Alaa and Gamal and fugitive businessman Hussein
Mubarak and his sons are accused of conspiring with former interior minister Habib al-
Adly and senior police officials to kill and injure Egyptians during the 18-day uprising
that culminated in Mr Mubarak’s resignation on February 11th. If convicted, he and his
sons could face the death penalty. At least 846 were killed during mass protests.
The Mubaraks are also accused of aiding Mr Salem to secure ownership of hundreds of
thousands of acres of state-owned land in the tourist resort of Sharm al-Sheikh. Mr
Mubarak and former oil minister Sameh Fahmi are charged with enabling Mr Salem to
profit from the sale of Egyptian natural gas to Israel at low prices.
Egypt’s illicit gains authority has estimated that Mr Mubarak’s local fortune at $145
million, a villa in Sharm el-Shaikh, and a 19th-century palace in Cairo, while the
Mubarak family’s foreign holdings are said to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Since Mr Mubarak’s fall, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have taken part in rallies to
call for him to be brought to justice, putting pressure on the ruling military council to
organise speedy trials for the former president, his sons, ministers and entourage.
But the military has been reluctant to put Mr Mubarak, their for- mer commander in chief
and benefactor, in the dock.
He has been detained in a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh since April due to ill health and
depression and his doctors argue he cannot be moved to prison near Cairo.
Analysts suggest that the court may have to convene in the luxury wing of the hospital. If
this happens, Egyptians demanding that he be held accountable for his actions could stage
more demonstrations unless the trial is public and televised.
Many are dissatisfied with the trials behind closed doors of several members of the
Mubarak administration and the failure of the prosecution to publish charges against
If the trial goes ahead, Mr Mubarak will be the first modern Arab leader to be hauled
before a court by his own people. Although Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein was tried
before an Iraqi bench, the court was constituted by US occupation authorities.
Organise like an Egyptian
The new societies being created in Egypt and the wider region must include strong,
independent trade unions, says Kamal Abbas - the founder of Egypt's Centre for Trade
Union and Worker Services (CTUWS), during his visit to the UK last week.
(Kamal Abbas General Co-ordinator of the CTUWS addressing the FBU Conference in
Southport last week. Photo by Rob Bremner. )
Around the same time as the Berlin Wall was coming down Abbas, then a young welder,
found himself the ringleader of an 'illegal' strike by 17,000 workers over pay and
conditions at a large steelworks in the southern Cairo neighbourhood of Helwan.
The response of the state was massive repression. They sent in 5,000 soldiers who used
live and rubber bullets as well as tear gas. One person was killed - Abdelhai Suleiman.
Fifteen more were injured and more than 600 arrested and jailed.
Abbas was the last one to be released and the only one who was not reinstated at his job.
He says that the long-term result of the strike was higher wages for the workers in
Shortly after losing his job at the plant, Abbas and his colleagues established the Centre
for Trade Unions and Workers' Services as an embryonic and independent movement in
contrast to the officially-sanctioned Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), which
worked hand in glove with the Mubarak regime.
In 2010, the CTUWS celebrated its twentieth anniversary by receiving the Meany-
Kirkland award from the American trade union centre, the AFL-CIO.
Abbas, who was in London recently as the guest of Egypt Workers Solidarity after
speaking at the conference of the Fire Brigades Union, met us at the TUC where he told
us that the old state-controlled unions were deeply worried about his organisation.
They saw the CTUWS as "an infectious virus" which would undermine their status and
"change the whole union scene in the region" where official unions are the norm.
Those unions have worked together in the International Confederation of Arab Trade
Unions (ICATU), which was headquartered in Syria and run by a Qaddafi appointee.
ICATU, a relic of the Nasser era, was not only hostile to the CTUWS, but even denied
membership to the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions on the grounds that it
'collaborated with Zionism' by working together with the Israeli Histadrut. The
Palestinian trade unionists, though ignored by the official unions in Egypt, have been
welcome guests at CTUWS events in the past.
With the collapse of the state-controlled ETUF in Egypt, Abbas thinks they were right to
be worried: "the revolution didn't just change the regime but also the old and corrupted
He revealed that a decision had been made to smash his organisation -- but was only
averted by the revolution in January.
Abbas admits that he hadn't anticipated the revolution but is surprised by his accidental
prescience in the choice of the motto for the CTUWS's annual calendar - 'Freedom is
Now' - which was released only days before the Tahrir Square movement erupted.
Judging by his dog-tiredness it looks like Abbas and his colleagues are running to stand
They have exchanged messages of support with the newly independent unions in Tunisia
but haven't yet found the time to deepen the links, let alone think of how to make the
wider movement more representative of the workers of the Middle East.
He was tight-lipped about particular candidates in the forthcoming elections in Egypt
"although trade unions are inevitably on the same side as social justice."
But he was crystal clear about the Muslim Brotherhood, saying "they don't have a good
relationship with workers or women" and could "provoke a climate of discrimination
against women and Coptic Christians." He summed up their viewpoint as 'you should
obey your employers'.
Asked about his core message to trade unionists and democrats he said: "the Egyptian
revolution succeeded in removing the dictatorship but we are only half way to a
democratic state and in transition to building independent unions which are a basis of a
more socially just and democratic system."
Given international support -- and more sleep -- this modest former welder could yet help
achieve his dream and boost social justice in Egypt and more widely.
GARY KENT is the Director of Labour Friends of Iraq and is writing in his personal
ERIC LEE is the founding editor of LabourStart, the news and campaigning website of
the international trade union movement.
The TUC is supporting an ITUC project to help the new Egyptian Federation of
Independent Trade Unions assist workers in forming and joining independent and
democratic trade unions across the country. To support this critical work, please donate to
the TUC Aid Middle East and North Africa Appeal.
Yemen president speaks after attack
Ali Abdullah Saleh delivers an audio speech after surviving an attack
on his palace in Sanaa that killed seven officers.
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2011 18:26
Forces loyal to a prominent tribal leader have been locked in fierce fighting with Saleh's forces [AFP]
Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, says he is "well and in good health" after
suffering injuries in an attack on his presidential palace in the capital, Sanaa.
In an audio address delivered on state television late on Friday night, Saleh said the
strike, where "seven officers were martyred", was by an "outlaw gang" - the opposition
Hashed tribe led by powerful Sadiq al-Ahmar.
Shells hit a mosque in the presidential palace compound where officials, including Saleh,
At least three guards and Sheikh Ali Mohsen al-Matari, an imam at the presidential
compound's mosque, died and "several other officials and officers" were wounded,
Yemen's state news agency SABA said.
The president was taken to the defence ministry hospital to be treated for his minor
injuries, officials said.
"I salute our armed forces and the security forces for standing up firmly to confront this
challenge by an outlaw gang that has nothing to do with the so-called youth revolution,"
Saleh said in his late night audio address.
The president, who has faced nationwide protests against his 33-year rule since January,
was scheduled to address the nation earlier in the day. His appearance was postponed for
several hours until his audio speech on Friday night.
Initial reports of the palace attack hinted at Saleh's possible death, to which the Yemeni
state television said - as an assurance to the public - that the president was "well".
Abdu Al Jandi, the deputy minister of information, has said, "There is nothing that affects
his health," while mentioning that a probe on Friday's violence at the palace has been
The blame game
Authorities blamed the shelling on dissident tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar
who have been locked in fierce clashes with government forces in Sanaa since Tuesday.
"The prime minister, head of the parliament and several other officials who attended the
Friday prayers in the mosque at the presidential palace were wounded in the attack,"
Tareq al-Shami, spokesman for the ruling General People's Congress, told the AFP news
"The Ahmar (tribe) have crossed all red lines," he added.
Abdul Ghani Al-Iryani, an independent political analyst in Sanaa, told Al Jazeera that it
was "quite reasonable to assume" that al-Ahmar's fighters were behind the palace hit.
"[The tribesmen] probably wanted him to know that [Saleh] can no longer attack them
with impunity, and that they can reach him as he can reach them," Al-Iryani said, of the
attack's possible message.
But al-Ahmar's office denied responsibility and instead blamed Saleh for the attack,
calling it part of his effort to help justify a government escalation of street fighting in the
Tribal home 'shelled'
Friday's attack came soon after Yemeni troops, who have deployed heavy weaponry in
their battle against the tribesmen, sent a shell crashing into the home of Sheikh Hamid al-
Ahmar, a leader of the biggest opposition party and brother of Sheikh Sadiq.
Three shells also struck near the
university campus in the city centre
where opponents of Saleh have been
holding a sit-in for four months
demanding his exit.
After a brief lull at dawn, artillery
and heavy machine-gun fire rocked
the Al-Hassaba neighbourhood of
northern Sanaa where Sheikh Sadiq
has his base, witnesses said.
For more on Yemen, visit our Spotlight page
They said that during the fighting the
headquarters of national airline Yemenia was burnt down and the offices of Suhail TV, a
channel controlled by Sheikh Sadiq, destroyed.
There was no immediate word on casualties from the latest fighting as medics said
ambulance crews were unable to access the battlegrounds.
Before the attack on the palace, protesters paraded the coffins of people it said were
killed by Saleh's forces.
Heavy fighting also spread for the first time to the southern part of Sanaa, an area held by
forces loyal to Saleh and possibly marking a turning point in the conflict.
Explosions were heard in the southern city of Taiz, where the United Nations has said it
is investigating reports that 50 people have been killed since Sunday.
The White House expressed its concern amid the fighting on Friday. It urged "calm and
restraint on all sides" in Yemen, and called for the dispute to be resolved through
negotiations, Tommy Vietor, US National Security Council spokesman, said.
Vietor added that John Brennan, US president Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism
adviser, had travelled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates "to discuss options
with government officials on how to address Yemen's deteriorating situation".
Mark Toner, the state department's deputy spokesman, also denounced Friday's violence
and made a call for an immediate ceasefire.
"We strongly condemn all these senseless acts of violence that have taken place in the
last 24 hours, and call for an immediate cessation of all hostilities," Toner said.
"All parties must end these attacks and avoid any further escalation or any further
casualties in the days ahead."
"Clearly the deteriorating situation in Yemen can be only addressed through a peaceful
and orderly transfer of power and so we again call on president Saleh to move
immediately to heed the calls of the Yemeni people," he added.
Bahrain police 'suppress protest'
Eyewitnesses say police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters
marching in capital, Manama.
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2011 16:21
Anti-government protests took place around the country after emergency laws were lifted on Wednesday [EPA]
Bahraini police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters marching against the
government near the capital Manama, eyewitnesses say.
The crackdown on Friday came just two days after the tiny Gulf kingdom's authorities
lifted emergency rule.
The protesters in Manama were marching adjacent to the city's Pearl Roundabout, which
was the epicentre of weeks of protests against the kingdom's Sunni rulers, with
demonstrators in particular demanding more rights for the island nation's majority Shia
There were no immediate reports of injuries during the protests, the eyewitnesses said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.
Witnesses said that police fired tear gas at a crowd of hundreds of people who had
gathered to mourn Zainab Altajer, who died on Thursday. Opposition activists said she
died as a result of exposure to tear gas, but the government said her death was due to
This video, uploaded to YouTube by user
Bhtv100, appears to show the security forces'
crackdown on protesters in Sanabis on
Friday. Al Jazeera cannot independently
verify the footage, as the Bahraini
government has barred journalists
from entering the country.
The protesters marched through the village of Sanabis, adjacent to the Pearl roundabout.
Also on Friday, hundreds of mourners gathered at a cemetery in Manama to bury Salman
Abu Idris, a 63-year old protester who died in hospital earlier in the day of injuries from a
demonstration in March, a witness told Al Jazeera.
Security forces had set up multiple checkpoints around the cemetery in Gudaibya, where
they were checking the identities of those attempting to attend the funeral, and refused
entry to "many", the witness said.
He said that people at the funeral were "calm", and while some in the crowd did raise
slogans against the ruling al-Khalifa family at one point, "not many people chanted with
He said some left after the funeral to protest at the slums near Bab al-Bahrain, but were
stopped by security forces armed with tear gas and rubber bullets. It did not appear that
security forces used these weapons in that confrontation, however.
The witness was speaking to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity, for fear of reprisals
from the authorities.
Protests after emergency lifted
The Bahraini government lifted emergency rule in the country on Wednesday. Tanks and
soldiers left the centre of the capital, but authorities warned that they would still not stand
for any protests against the government. This came as opposition groups called on
supporters to return to the streets.
This was the first such appeal for protests since the military raided the roundabout in
February, and martial law was imposed in mid-March.
At least 31 people have been killed in Bahrain since the protests, inspired by revolts in
Tunisia and Egypt, began on February 14.
Bahrain's rulers responded to the initial round of protests by inviting 1,500 troops from its
Gulf neighbours (primarily from Saudi Arabia) to suppress the unrest under emergency
Since the country lifted the emergency law on Wednesday, small protests have taken
place in various villages and in Manama itself, rights groups have said. They said that
they were met with tear gassing from the police.
"Instead of rights, every family got a political prisoner. Did the government expect
people to stay at home?" said Nabeel Rajab, a leading activist and the Bahrain Center for
Human Rights' president. "After almost three months of military rule, the crisis is deeper
because every family has suffered when the army was sent to solve a political problem."
Hundreds of protesters, political leaders and Shia professionals like doctors and lawyers
have been arrested and tried in a special security court, set up under martial law. Two
protesters were sentenced to death.
Formula One on track
Also on Friday, Formula One's governing body decided at a meeting in Barcelona to
allow Bahrain's Formula One Grand Prix to go ahead. The race had initially been
scheduled for March, but has now been put on the calendar for October 30.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch,
said the state of emergency appears to have been lifted partly "for the benefit" of the
Formula One race.
But he said the crisis in the country
was continuing and that protesters
remained at risk.
"The fact is ... the crisis is by no
means over. Not only since [the
lifting of emergency rule] have there
been protests, violently suppressed ...
but also the repression by which the
government has kept quelled the
protest movement in the last weeks
continues. So large numbers of
Click here for more of Al Jazeera's special coverage
people are under incommunicado
detention, at risk of torture. There are reports of torture continuing. There are layoffs
right, left and centre against people who took part in the protests," he said.
"The abuses that we've seen in Bahrain actually predate the imposition of the state of
emergency ... and it was clear that this state of emergency was lifted in part to send a
message that everything is back to normal in Bahrain, and partly for the benefit of the
Formula One movement.
"But the situation remains appalling. The repression is there. Obviously large numbers of
people were killed during the protests, proportionate to the size of the country. This is a
major crisis, and it's part of the wider situation in the Middle East."
'Dozens killed' in fresh Syria protests
Activists say 34 people killed in the city of Hama during one of the
largest anti-government protests in the uprising.
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2011 20:48
Syrian security forces have opened fire on one of the largest anti-government protests in
the 10-week uprising so far, leaving at least 34 people dead in the central city of Hama,
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the victims were killed on Friday as
security forces dispersed a rally of more than 50,000 people in a city where thousands
died in a failed 1982 revolt against the government.
The deaths came as president Bashar al-Assad's forces renewed their assault on towns
seen as key to the demonstrations calling for an end to his family's 40-year rule.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the
Hama protest was among the largest yet in the uprising that began in mid-March. He said
security forces also shot dead one person in the village of Has in the northern province of
The violence began after Muslim prayers ended, as worshippers left the mosques and
marched in cities, towns and villages. Syrian security forces dispersed some, mostly
using batons, tear gas and water cannons and fired live ammunition in at least two
locations in southern and northeastern
"It is a real massacre. It is
terrorism by itself and they want
the people to stay silent," said an
activist in Hama. The activist, Click here for more of our Syria coverage
who like many involved in the
protests requested anonymity to avoid reprisals, said hospitals were
calling on people to donate blood.
In 1982, Assad's father and predecessor Hafez Assad, crushed a Sunni uprising by
shelling Hama, killing 10,000 to 25,000 people, according to Amnesty International
On Friday, an eyewitness in Hama reached by The Associated Press news agency
described a chaotic scene, with security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition, and
snipers shooting from the rooftops as people fled.
"There are many killed and wounded people, the hospital is full," he said. "I fled the area
but I can still hear sporadic gunfire."
Syria's state-run TV said three "saboteurs" were killed when police tried to stop them
from setting a government building on fire in Hama. The Syrian government blames
armed gangs and religious extremists for the violence.
The government also cut internet service across most of the country, a potentially dire
blow for a movement that motivates people with graphic YouTube videos of the
crackdown and loosely organises protests on Facebook pages.
The Internet shutdown, if it continues, could also hamper the movement's ability to reach
the world outside Syria, where the government has severely restricted the media and
expelled foreign reporters, making it nearly impossible to independently verify what is
happening there. Still many activists found alternate ways to log on and upload videos,
such as satellite connections.
Syrian troops also pounded the central town of Rastan with artillery and gunfire for a
seventh day on Friday, killing at least two people.
The Local Co-ordination Committees, which helps organise and document Syria's
protests, said troops also opened fire on residents fleeing the town.
Friday's protests reached nearly throughout the country, from a village in the south to a
city in the northeast. Protesters even gathered in several Damascus suburbs, though the
capital has not seen the kind of disruption as many other cities.
Friday's deaths bring the toll in Rastan and nearby Talbiseh to 74 killed since last
Saturday. Rights groups say more than 1,100 people have been killed since the revolt
against Assad erupted in mid-March.
The opposition had called for Friday's nationwide rallies to commemorate the nearly 30
children killed during the uprising.
In the southern city of Deraa, where the uprising began 10 weeks ago, scores of people
rallied in the city's old quarter, chanting "No dialogue with the killers of children," an
The protesters were referring to a decree by Assad to set up a committee tasked with
leading a national dialogue.
The call for protests came after a video surfaced earlier this week on YouTube, Facebook
and websites featuring Hamza al-Khatib, a 13-year-old boy whose tortured and mutilated
body was returned to his family weeks after he disappeared during the protests.
The boy has since become a symbol to Syria's uprising and many people carried his
posters during anti-regime rallies this week.
Yemen tribe leaders denies link to palace attack
Sadeq al-Ahmar, leader of Hashed tribe federation, denies any links to
presidential palace attack
Reuters , Friday 3 Jun 2011
The leader of a powerful Yemeni tribal federation on Friday denied his
group was behind an attack on the presidential palace earlier in the
day that injured several officials, his office said.
Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of the Hashed federation, blamed President Ali Abdullah Saleh for
the attack, saying it was done to help justify a government escalation of street fighting in
10-year-old Egyptian child accused of inciting revolt in Kuwait
Fri, 03/06/2011 - 14:40
Photographed by AFP
A Kuwaiti school expelled a 10-year-old Egyptian student for inciting revolutionary
sentiments, a leading Kuwaiti daily reported on Friday.
The Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al-Rai said Friday that a teacher dismissed the fifth grader
from school after she accused him of instigating a revolt in the oil-rich country.
The newspaper reported that the teacher decided to dismiss Bassem Fathy from al-Shaya
School after he asked her, "Why don't you make a revolution in your country?".
The newspaper reported that the student's father filed a complaint with school
administration, which said that the dismissal came because the boy "incited a revolt in
The father also filed a complaint with the Ministry of Education of Kuwait, which has not
Tens of thousands of Egyptians work in Kuwait, which provided significant financial
assistance in January to its citizens in an effort to prevent the type of unrest breaking out
across the region.
Mixed demands mark Friday protest in Tahrir
This Friday saw fewer protesters in Tahrir. (Daily News Egypt photo / Ahmed Hazem)
By Ahmed Hazem/Daily News Egypt June 3, 2011, 6:37 pm
CAIRO: In what was named by some Facebook groups as the “Friday of Work,” Tahrir
Square witnessed a diminutive presence compared to previous weeks, marked by
The square, which last week saw tens of thousands on what was dubbed the “Second
Friday of Anger,” was relatively empty as traffic flowed throughout the day with
hundreds of scattered protesters without a coherent set of demands.
Though activists and protesters reject the idea that Friday demonstrations and sector
protests are disruptive to the flow of production and thus the economy — an argument
used by some officials and analysts — some Facebook users had called for June 3 to be
the “Friday of Work,” urging Egyptians to cease protesting.
“People should concentrate on rebuilding Egypt and call for their demands during non-
working hours,” one Facebook page advocated.
Still, hundreds were in Tahrir, and most agreed that only a small number of demands of
the January 25 Revolution — which ousted Hosni Mubarak — have been met.
The situation grew tense when police had to fire shots in the air to disperse a crowd of
protesters attacking an unidentified television reporter. She was seen being carried away
by police officers, who put her in a cab and escorted her from the scene.
Gigi Mahmoud, a newspaper seller, claimed that the attack started because the reporter
accused the youth of harassing women in Tahrir.
When calm was restored, chants called for unity between the army and the people while
others demanded the death penalty for Mubarak and members of the old regime.
Sayed Al-Salamony, a sales representative at a telecom company, said no measures have
yet been taken to achieve freedom and social justice. “Military trials and arrests are still
taking place, this is not freedom,” Al-Salamony told Daily News Egypt.
“There are still Egyptians earning LE 600 per month while the salaries of others exceed
LE 30,000 per month,” Al Salamony added.
Mahmoud Yehia, an owner of a medical supplies company and a member of Egypt’s
Youth Movement for Awareness, demanded a speedy trial for Mubarak and members of
the former regime as well as more to be done to honor the revolution martyrs.
“It’s ironic that people want this to be ‘Friday of Work’ and want us to leave Tahrir
Square while we can’t find work,” Hassan Mohamed, a truck driver said.
Sayed Abdel Fattah, a secretary, said next Friday should be dubbed “Friday of Hunger”
as he believes the LE 700 minimum wage announced earlier this week is still too little to
meet the needs of any Egyptian family.
“What can LE 700 do? LE 1200 is the minimum acceptable level,” he told DNE. “We
now have dignity and freedom, what we need is social justice.”
Police fired shots in the air to disperse a crowd attacking a female reporter. (Daily News Egypt photo /
Syrian forces kill 34 in Hama, crackdown intensifies June 03,
2011 07:30 PM Reuters
A member of Syrian opposition shouts slogans as he stands under a
former Syrian flag to protest against President Bashar Assad after their
meetings in the Turkish coastal city of Antalya June 2.
BEIRUT: Syrian security forces shot dead at least 34 demonstrators in
Hama on Friday, an activist said, in one of the bloodiest incidents in
their crackdown on an 11-week-old revolt against President Bashar al-
In a pattern seen every Friday since mid-March, protesters have
marched out of mosques after noon prayers, to be met by security
forces intent on crushing a revolt against Assad, in power in Syria for
the last 11 years.
Three residents said security forces and snipers fired at tens of
thousands of demonstrators gathered in the city centre in one of the
biggest protests seen so far in Hama, and scores of wounded were
taken to a nearby hospital.
"The firing began from rooftops on the demonstrators. I saw scores of
people falling in Assi square and the streets and alleyways branching
out. Blood was everywhere," a witness who gave his name as Omar
told Reuters from Hama.
"It looked to me as if hundreds of people have been injured but I was
in a panic and wanted to find cover. Funerals for the martyrs have
alrady started," he said.
Protests in Hama have a particular resonance, as the armed forces
crushed an armed Islamist uprising there in 1982 on the orders of
President Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, killing up to 30,000 people
and razing parts of the city to the ground.
Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told
Reuters he expected the death toll to rise because many people at the
demonstration had serious injuries.
"Tens of thousands turned up in Hama and Idlib in the biggest
demonstrations since the uprising began. This is a natural reaction to
the increased killings and lack of seriousness by the regime for any
national reconciliation," he said, adding that one person was killed in
Syrian forces also opened fire on demonstrations in the eastern city of
Deir al-Zor and in Damascus' Barzeh district.
Activists and residents said thousands of people marched in the
northwestern province of Idlib, the Kurdish northeast, several
Damascus suburbs, the cities of Homs and Hama and the towns of
Madaya and Zabadani in the west.
Assad uses force, promises reforms
In the southern city of Deraa, where protests first broke out 11 weeks
ago, hundreds defied a military curfew and held protests, chanting "No
dialogue with killers", two residents in the city told Reuters. The
protest later broke up.
Analysts say protests continue to spread despite the military
crackdown, but have shown no sign yet of reaching the scale needed
to topple Assad.
Rights groups say security forces have killed more than 1,000 civilians,
provoking international outrage at Assad's ruthless handling of the
demonstrators and leading U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to
say Assad's legitimacy "had nearly run out".
Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed groups, backed by
Islamists and foreign powers, and say the groups have fired on
civilians and security forces alike. Authorities have prevented most
international media from operating in Syria, making it impossible to
verify accounts of the violence.
One activist, who declined to be named, said that before the shooting
started protesters burned the Baath Party office in Hama and said it
was not clear how the shooting broke out.
Activists say there have been some instances of citizens resisting
security forces by using personal weapons, and of security police
shooting soldiers for refusing to fire at protesters.
Assad has responded to this, the most sustained and challenging
rebellion against his rule, by sending tanks to crush demonstrations in
certain flashpoints and by making some reformist gestures, such as
issuing a general amnesty to political prisoners and launching a
But protesters and opposition figures have dismissed these measures.
The cities and towns of Deraa, Tel Kelakh, Banias and Rastan have
undergone intense crackdowns by the military.
Western powers have escalated their condemnation of Assad as the
unrest spreads and the death toll rises.
The United States, the European Union and Australia have imposed
sanctions on Syria, but perhaps because of reluctance to get entangled
in another confrontation such as Libya, and wary of provoking more
instability in a region still in the midst of an "Arab Spring", their
reactions have been less vehement.
But outrage has grown over the death of a 13-year-old boy, Hamza al-
Khatib, whom activists say was tortured before his body was given
back to his family. The authorities deny he was tortured.
Khatib has emerged as a symbol for protesters and in Dael, a town
near Deraa, about 5,000 protesters raised pictures of him as they
called for freedom and the downfall of the regime.
Two U.N. special advisers said they were alarmed about the Syrian
authorities' "systematic and deliberate attacks" on civilians, adding
they appear to have been targeting residential neighbourhoods in their
Opposition figures meeting in Turkey called on Assad to resign
immediately and hand power to the vice president until a council was
formed to introduce democracy to the country.
Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/2011/Jun-03/Huge-demo-in-
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Moroccan protests draw tougher response June 03, 2011 05:07
RABAT: An increasingly tough police response to street protests in
Morocco may hand the "Arab Spring" demonstrations a political asset
they have conspicuously lacked so far -- widespread sympathy among
Squads of police and pro-government thugs charged thousands of
protesters in the commercial capital Casablanca on May 29 and
shoved, punched and kicked them until they dispersed. Many of those
who resisted were thumped with batons.
In Tangiers, a similar clash degenerated into stone-throwing, with
injuries on both sides.
The scenes were a far cry from the lethal violence of Syria, Yemen or
Bahrain, and Moroccan police to date have not used rubber bullets or
tear gas, let alone firearms.
But the muscular response contrasted to an earlier hands off approach
to the demonstrations for major constitutional change in the kingdom,
where the political landscape is dominated by a powerful dynasty that
has ruled for 350 years.
A man wounded by security forces at a May 29 pro-democracy
demonstration died of his injuries on Thursday, opposition groups said,
in what activists said was the first such death in the current wave of
protests. The government said the death of the man, Kamal Amari,
was unrelated to the street protests.
The government's chief spokesman said the May 29 demonstrations
were banned and that police had acted in response to what he
described as provocative behaviour by the protesters.
To some, however, the police response seems an over-reaction.
Deaths would change the dynamic
"The authorities made a mistake," said Toufik Bouachrine, editor of the
independent daily Akhbar Alyoum.
"But the state is afraid of change that comes from the street. It wants
any change to come from the summit of power."
He said the authorities appeared to have used violence because the
February 20 youth movement spearheading the protests had sought to
stir unrest in low-income neighbourhoods with a history of labour
"A few people getting beaten up is not going to create a huge problem
(for the government)," said Michael Willis, a lecturer in North African
politics at Oxford University.
"If people get killed, then yes."
Mohamed Tarek Sebai, who leads the Organisation for the Protection
of Public Goods, an anti-corruption group, said: "If the repression
continues ... all the Moroccans will sympathise with the February 20
movement. The message the violence would send would be that the
lobby of corruption did not want reform."
The European Union, a big trade partner and source of aid, said the
May 29 violence was "worrying" and urged restraint and respect for
Earlier in May the EU announced that 2.23 billion euros in aid for
Morocco and other Arab states on condition that they favoured
"durable democracy" and inclusive economic policies.
Amnesty International called the police action a draconian response to
people merely exercising freedom of assembly.
These were rare reprimands for a country that cherishes a reputation
as stable and moderate, and where for years police in the capital
Rabat have usually allowed regular protests outside parliament by the
unemployed demanding government jobs.
The next test for the government comes on Sunday when the February
20 movement stages the latest in its weekly series of demonstrations
in major towns.
To date, the movement, a loose coalition of secularists, leftists,
Islamists and independents, has yet to show that its demands have
struck a chord with the majority of Moroccans.
King offers change
The movement wants King Mohammed to reign, rather than rule, and
curb his economic influence and that of the secretive and influential
court elite known as the Makhzen.
Experts say periodic parliamentary elections seem to change little in a
system where the royal palace controls key ministries and has the last
word on policy.
The king reacted quickly, on March 9 promising reforms that would
bolster parliamentary powers under constitutional changes to go to a
referendum later this year.
In a cafe in Casablanca's low-income Sbata district, February 20
activist Mounaim Ouihi said the movement wanted liberty and
modernity and the reforms needed to go further.
"We want a representative government that is truly held to account by
the people," he said. Referring to a traditional Moroccan gown, he
added: "We are not against cultural traditions, but we are against the
djellabah of the mind."
While many agree with protesters' complaints about corrupt politicians
and bureaucrats, some fear instability or worse if demonstrators push
harder for deep changes.
"We are not Yemen, Syria or Tunisia. Our country is a model of
democracy in the region," said Ahmed Amerani, 39, placing elegant
outfits in the display window of his Rabat clothes shop.
"The king unifies us. What we lack is a little reform, above all the
elimination of poverty and social inequality."
A 56-year-old taxi driver who gave his name as Abdallah M. said the
protests risked plunging Morocco into a "bloodbath".
Reforms to limit social inequality were needed, so "the young must be
patient and not exploit the regional situation".
Bouachrine, the newspaper editor, said the king enjoyed legitimacy in
part because of his record of social and human rights reform and a
large project to build homes for the poor.
"It's true there's been a bit of a retreat on the liberty front, above all
in press freedom, but the era of King Mohammed remains flexible, and
that's what allows the street to be flexible in its demands."
Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2011/Jun-
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