These are all the Blogs posted on Thursday, 26, 2011.
Thursday, 26 May 2011
The New York Times' Sour -- And False -- Report On Netanyahu's Speech
NYT's Wishful Thinking Vs. Ha'aretz Poll
As we blogged yesterday, the New York Times headline "Israelis see Netanyahu Trip as Diplomatic Failure" was contradicted by a Dialog poll covered in Ha'aretz showing "47 percent of the Israeli public believes the U.S. trip was a success, while only 10 percent viewed it as a failure. "
New York Times editors are likely wincing as they look at Ha'aretz's front-page today:
AMMAN (Reuters) - The young man was dangling upside down, white, foaming saliva dripping from his mouth. His groans sounded more bestial than human.
It was one of many fleeting images of human degradation I witnessed during four days as an unwilling guest of Syrian intelligence, when I was detained in Damascus after reporting on protests in the southern Syrian city of Deraa.
Within minutes of my arrest I was inside a building of the intelligence services -- known, as elsewhere in the Arab world, simply as the "Mukhabarat." I was still in the heart of bustling Damascus, but had been transported into a macabre parallel world of darkness, beatings and intimidation.
I caught sight of the man hanging by his feet as one of the jailers escorted me to the interrogation room for questioning.
"Look down," the jailer shouted as I took in the scene.
Inside an interrogation room, they made me kneel and pulled what I could just make out as a car tyre over my arms.
My reporting from Deraa, where protests against President Bashar al-Assad had broken out in March, had apparently not endeared me to my hosts, who accused me of being a spy.
The formal reason Syrian authorities gave Reuters for my detention was that I lacked the proper work permits.
That I was an established journalist working for Reuters, going about my professional business, was not an argument to men whose livelihood depends on breaking human dignity.
"So, you cheap American agent!," the interrogator shouted.
"You have come to report destruction and mayhem. You animal, you are coming to insult Syria, you dog."
From outside the room I could hear the rattling of chains and hysterical cries that echo in my mind to this day. My interrogators worked professionally and tirelessly to keep me on edge at every step of the questioning process over several days.
"Shut up, you bastard. You and your types are vultures who want to turn Syria into another Libya," said another interrogator, who kept yelling: "Confess, liar!"
ARREST IN THE STREET
I had crossed the border from Jordan, where I have reported for Reuters for nearly two decades, on March 18, as unrest was first breaking out in Deraa. I spent most of the next 10 days reporting from that city. Inspired by the fall of Arab dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, the protests rapidly escalated into a grave challenge to the Assad family's 40-year rule.
I was arrested on March 29 in Damascus as I went to meet someone in an old district of the capital. Two plain clothes security men approached me and told me not to resist as they held my arms and then marched me into a hairdresser's until an ordinary-looking white car came to take me to the Mukhabarat.
Interrogators showed particular interest in two aspects of my reporting -- the fact that I had written about watching protesters burn images of late President Hafez al-Assad, father of the incumbent, and hearing chants attacking Maher al-Assad, brother of Bashar and commander of the Republican Guard.
Iron busts of Assad the father and portraits of the current president adorn the corridors and offices in buildings of the state security apparatus, part of a family personality cult recognizable to students of authoritarian rule the world over.
DEMONSTRATION OF METHODS
I felt my hosts wanted to give me, as a foreign journalist, a demonstration of the methods they use on Syrians. To brace myself for what might yet come and save myself from total breakdown, I tried to fix my mind on old childhood memories.
These mental games helped me avoid thinking of my young twins and wife back home in Amman, who had no way of knowing where I was, or even whether I was still alive.
The questioning lasted eight hours until midnight on my first day of detention. Mostly I was blindfolded, but the blindfold was removed for a few minutes.
That allowed me -- despite orders to keep my head down so that my interrogators should remain out of view -- to see a hooded man screaming in pain in front of me.
When they told him to take down his pants, I could see his swollen genitals, tied tight with a plastic cable.
"I have nothing to tell, but I am neither a traitor and activist. I am just a trader," said the man, who said he was from Idlib province in the north west of Syria.
To my horror, a masked man took a pair of wires from a household power socket and gave him electric shocks to the head.
At other moments, my questioners could be charming, but would quickly switch to ruthless mode in what looked like an orchestrated performance to wear me down.
"We will make you forget who you are," one of them threatened as I was beaten for the sixth time on my face.
I could not see what hit me. It felt like fists.
Twice in detention I was whipped on the shoulder, leaving bruises that stayed a week.
During intervals in the corridor, with my back against the wall and my hands in the air, I stood on display as at least a dozen security men jostled me and hurled abuse.
And yet humanity could appear at the unlikeliest moments.
At one point, the interrogator who was screaming at me that I was a dog (a particular insult to Arabs) took a call on his mobile phone. His tone became immediately warm and affectionate: "Of course, my dear, I'll get you whatever you want," he said, switching from professional torturer to indulgent father.
SCREAMS AND COCKROACHES
For long periods, I lay on a mattress in a windowless cell, lit by a small neon light, as cockroaches scurried around.
Occasional screams reminded me of where I was and what might happen. I was kept in solitary confinement and my jailers gave me a piece of dry bread or a potato and a tomato twice a day.
When I wanted to go to the toilet, I would knock on the door of my cell. A jailer would then appear, though it could take over an hour to have my request met.
I thought of the thousands of people in Syrian prisons, and how they endured solitary confinement and constant degradation, many for decades. I thought of Russians I had read about in Siberian exile, and about the meaning of freedom, for Syrians and for other Arabs living under autocrats across the region.
I was not the first person there in the cell, of course. One of my unknown predecessors had carved an inscription on the wall, apparently with his fingernails.
"God against the oppressor," it read.
My mind went back to the events in Deraa -- the thousands of youngsters clapping in unison, shouting "Freedom," and the expressions on the faces of the women, children and old men who came out to the streets to watch in a mixture of disbelief and euphoria, an electrifying spirit of defiance.
I saw how decades of fear sown in the hearts and minds of people was crumbling as hundreds of bare-chested young men braved bullets fired by security men and snipers from rooftops. I will never forget the bodies of men shot in the head or chest, carried through the blood-spattered streets of Deraa, and dozens of shoes left on the streets by youths running from gunfire.
Then on the fourth day of detention, my hosts came to move me, putting me in a car that whisked me to what turned out to be the intelligence headquarters several blocks away in Damascus.
It was a huge complex, with hundreds of plain-clothes security men in the courtyard outside, all with grim faces.
"Search every inch of him," said one man as two others dragged me toward the basement.
I spent two hours in a cell where I reflected on how I would cope with imprisonment in the months ahead.
Then I was brought into a room nearby. To my bewilderment an urbane man with an air of authority told me: "We are sending you back to Jordan."
I realized later, from looking at pictures in the media, that this had been Major General Ali Mamluk, the director of Syrian State Security himself, a man whose subordinates hold thousands of Syrians in similar jails across the country.
He said my reporting from Deraa had been inaccurate and had damaged the image of Syria.
Within hours I crossed the border and was back home, where I learned that Jordan's royal family had worked for my release and spared me from a longer and more grueling fate. Other Reuters journalists were also expelled, some also after detention, and now Syria is effectively barred to most foreign media.
Nearly two months later, time has helped me absorb the impact of those four days, to the extent that I can record the experiences in writing. But I am haunted by the human cost of the Arab uprisings for people seeking the sort of freedoms which others elsewhere in the world take for granted.
Asher Susser: Different Standards For Israelis And "Palestinians"
Much of the commentary on the Middle East by outsiders is based on a skewed analytical prism. For reasons that defy rational explanation, pundits do not treat Israelis and Arabs as equals. While it is widely accepted, as it should be, [why? Why should anyone think that one more group of Arabs, hastily invented as a separate people, deserve statehood when everywhere the Arabs deny autonomy, much less statehood, to every single non-Muslim or non-Arab people within their countries, inclduing Copts, Berbers, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Maronites, black Africans --save in the Sudan, after three decades of steady Arab mass-murder finally got the Western world's attention, and forced a referendum (97% for independence from the Arabs) that the West has insisted be fulfilled?] that Israelis and Arabs, including the Palestinians, have equally valid rights to self-determination and statehood [why? because after the Six-Day War the local Arabs were renamed the "Palestinians"? Because everyone forgot that the territory assigned to the Jewish National Home did not change merely because Ben Gurion called off his victorious troops and allowed the Jordanian troops to hold on to a large bit of Judea and Samaria? Why? ], Israelis and Palestinians, in the eyes of these observers, do not share a similar measure of agency or responsibility for their actions. [but why should one more group of Arabs
Much of the analysis on the recent Fatah-Hamas reconciliation is a good example of this faulty paradigm. After years of mutual hostility, Hamas and Fatah have essentially papered over their differences to pave the way for the creation of a unity government that will make it easier for the international community to recognize Palestinian independence. This is a move directed at the UN General Assembly and is not even intended for Israel. No one on the Palestinian side, neither in Fatah nor in Hamas, would seriously regard the inclusion of Hamas in a Palestinian government as a gesture of goodwill toward Israel, or to the U.S. for that matter.
The agreement is a reflection of Fatah’s increasing weakness after the demise of its greatest Arab ally, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. The new post-Mubarak Egypt is one in which the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent movement of Hamas, is widely expected to be a dominant player. This is wind in the sails of Hamas as much as it is the deflation of Fatah. It is also reason for Israeli concern about the future of the peace treaty with Egypt, to which the Muslim Brotherhood were and are firmly opposed.
Since the agreement with Fatah, spokesmen for Hamas have given no indication of any change in their position toward Israel. They still say they will continue the fight against Israel after the creation of a Palestinian state, and they do not have any intention of recognizing the Jewish state. They are willing to accept a two-state solution subject to a referendum, they say. But this referendum is to be held not only among all the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza but in the diaspora, too. This is intended to place the issue of large-scale Palestinian refugee return to Israel at the top of the agenda.
No one in Hamas really expects the Palestinian diaspora to endorse a two-state solution without such refugee return. This was and is a non-starter for Israel and is a Hamas ploy to base the “solution” on what is no more than a euphemism for dismantling Israel as the state of the Jewish people. This is not even intended as the basis for an agreement, but only as a design for endless conflict. It is precisely the refugee issue, more than any other, that has made Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking so elusive. The recent violent incidents of “Nakba Day” on Israel’s borders, focusing on the rejection of Israel’s very creation in 1948, rather than on its withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, is as clear an indication as any of where the real obstacles lie.
Israel has offered statehood to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, with the Palestinian capital in Arab Jerusalem and a corridor linking the territory of the West Bank with Gaza. But Israel’s offer was rebuffed twice, in 2000 and again in 2008, even though the Israelis had increased their proposed withdrawal from some 95 per cent of the West Bank to 100 per cent (with land swaps). Israel’s initial proposal was met with an onslaught of suicide bombers sent by Hamas and Fatah too, not to mention the rocketry from Gaza even after Israel’s complete withdrawal from the territory in 2005. In their 2006 parliamentary elections the Palestinians gave Hamas a whopping majority. Henceforth, Fatah could not deliver without Hamas. The problem is, however, that Fatah cannot deliver with Hamas, either.
Palestinian rejection notwithstanding, Israel is still expected to reach out to the Palestinians and repeat these same offers as if nothing has happened in the interim. As if all the attacks and ongoing upheaval and rising levels of overt hostility toward Israel in the Arab world had never occurred, as if what the Arabs say and do is totally immaterial.
The Israelis should, indeed, show moderation and reach out to the Palestinians.[why should the shock troops -- these local Arabs carefully renamed "the Palestinian people" -- for decades the cynosure of all "international-community" eyes and the spoiled recipients of endless aid who are both the immediate instrument, and most immediate promoters, of the Jihad against Israel] There is no question that Israelis, for their own good, should never miss even the slimmest opportunity for peace. [Israel has peace now; a Peace Treaty is much more likely to weaken Israel as it establishes the conditions of a future war] But shouldn’t the Palestinians, and Hamas in particular, be expected to reach out to the Israelis, too, to offer recognition, to stop firing rockets into Israeli towns, to cease referring to the Jews as “the sons of pigs and monkeys?” Surely they are also accountable for their deeds and misdeeds. Surely they have a role, too. Or don’t they? Israelis will forever be baffled by this warped logic whereby it is they alone who bear all the responsibility for the fate of their neighbourhood.
Asher Susser is a senior fellow and former director of the Moshe Dayan Center of Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, and author of Israel, Jordan and Palestine: The Two-State Imperative (fall 2011).
Asian Image is the first this afternoon with the news of the sentencing of the four Muslim men who attempted to murder Christian RE teacher Gary Smith for daring to teach Muslim girls. The one slight snag to the report is the omission of just how long the sentence was. But they do get the Judge's comments upon sentencing. He is in no doubt about their religious motive.
Four men were jailed after they carried out a brutal attack on an RE teacher because they did not approve of him teaching religious studies to Muslim girls.
Simon Alam, 19, of Whitechapel, Azad Hussain, 26, of Wapping, Sheikh Rashid, 27, of Shadwell, and Akmol Hussein, 26, of Bethnal Green, all in east London, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent earlier this year. I imagine this was the lesser charge to an alternative attempted murder which a jury would have been asked to deliberate upon.
Sentencing them at east London’s Snaresbrook Crown Court, Judge John Hand QC said he believed they all remained a danger to the public due to their extreme religious beliefs.
Addressing the defendants one by one, he said: “Your belief is that you carried out a duty to your God and you did so with no mercy. If you think that people around you in society present an insult or threat to God then you will not hesitate in attacking again in the way that you have acted.”
Hussein, who had a niece at the school, was heard to say: “He’s mocking us and he’s putting thoughts in people’s minds. How can somebody take a job to teach Islam when he’s not even a Muslim himself?”
He was also recorded as saying that he did not care if he had to go to prison over the attack as he was doing it for the sake of Allah.
Update, the Express and Star, a Midland's newspaper is ahead of the London press with this.
He said he deemed Akmol Hussein, a social worker and self- employed builder, and Azad Hussain, a finance worker, to have played the greatest role in the planning and execution of the attack and sentenced them each to an indeterminate sentence with a minimum of five years.
Student Alam was told he must serve a minimum of five years in prison before being released on licence for a further five years, while bus driver Rashid was handed a four-year sentence with a further five years on licence.
The London Evening Standard has got a report, just not on their front page. Such attacks are ten a penny in vibrant multicultural London.
Prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse said of Mr Smith: "He was targeted as the victim of this attack quite simply because of his position as head of religious studies at the school. The defendants held very strong religious beliefs and they chose him because they did not approve of his teaching."
Some of the defendants had also claimed the reason behind the attack was because of rumours that he had raped a girl at the school, but this was found to be "utterly without foundation and a complete mistake" when it was investigated.
A fifth defendant, Badruzzuha Uddin, 24, also of Shadwell, was also jailed for two years after previously admitting a charge of assisting an offender after he hid the men's bloodstained clothes.
I remember my days as a clerk of the Crown Court when an attack like this attracted life imprisonment, or at least over 10 years. We live in sad times.
MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi bombarded the rebel-held city of Misrata with mortars on Thursday, and a new cease-fire offer from Gaddafi's government was met with scepticism.
The bombardment of Misrata was the heaviest for days and came as Western leaders, gathering for a Group of Eight summit in the French seaside resort of Deauville, were expected to reiterate their determination to force Gaddafi out.
A Reuters reporter in Misrata, scene of some of the fiercest fighting in Libya's three-month-old conflict, said the mortar attack killed one rebel and wounded five.
Earlier, the sound of exploding mortar shells could be heard every few minutes in the western outskirts of Misrata and there was a steady stream of ambulances. At Misrata's hospital, rebel fighters mourned their dead colleague.
Suleim Al-Faqih, one of the rebels, said the clashes started when rebels attacked pro-Gaddafi forces who were using an excavator to dig a trench to block a road. "We fired on them and advanced. They fell back and started firing mortars," he said.
Spain said it was one of several foreign states contacted by Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi with an offer of an immediate cease-fire.
"Everyone is anxious for there to be an agreement," said a spokesman for the Spanish prime minister's office. "But certain steps have to be taken first and so far they haven't been taken."
White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, speaking in Deauville at the G8 summit, said the United States did not see the new Libyan cease-fire offer as credible because it was not accompanied by action.
Libya was not complying with U.N. demands and its forces were still attacking population centres, so the United States would continue with the military campaign, he told reporters.
At a news conference in Tripoli, Al-Mahmoudi said the offer was based on an existing African Union "roadmap" to resolve the conflict, which does not include any mention of Gaddafi's own future -- a crucial sticking point.
"We are ready for a cease-fire. The solution cannot be a military one. There must be debate among Libyans far away from bombs," he said.
But he added: "Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of the Libyan people, if Muammar Gaddafi goes all the Libyan people go."
The rebels said they wanted any government initiative to include the Libyan leader's departure as a first step.
"We welcome any initiative which starts with the departure of Gaddafi, his sons and his regime from Libya," Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel Transitional National Council, said on Al Jazeera television. "Any initiative that contains this point as a first step, we welcome it," he said.
WAR OF ATTRITION
Gaddafi's security forces cracked down ferociously when thousands of Libyans rebelled against his rule. NATO missiles and warplanes have been bombing targets in Libya for two months under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians from attack.
Rebels now control the east of the country, around their main stronghold of Benghazi, and pockets of land in the West.
But the conflict has reached stalemate on the ground, with the rebels unable to advance towards Tripoli and NATO powers -- wary of getting sucked into new conflicts after their experience in Iraq and Afghanistan -- refusing to put troops on the ground.
Nevertheless, Western officials say they are confident that they are gradually loosening Gaddafi's grip on power through a combination of sanctions and military and diplomatic pressure.
"You are wearing down a regime over time," said a U.S. defence official. "You make the elites feel uncomfortable; you get dissension in the upper ranks. It doesn't happen quickly."
"What you are trying to do is get the regime to read the writing on the wall," the official said.
Britain's defence ministry said its Typhoon and Tornado aircraft had used Paveway guided bombs to attack a military vehicle depot at Tiji, in western Libya, which was being used to support attacks on the rebel-held Western mountains region.
Gaddafi denies that his troops target civilians and say his security forces were forced to act to put down a rebellion by criminals and members of al Qaeda.
Anxious to break the stalemate in Libya, some Western powers are pressing for NATO to intensify its operations. France has said it will deploy attack helicopters, which are better able to pick out targets on the ground than high-altitude aircraft.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said Britain was considering the deployment of its own attack helicopters.
"We are looking at ways to turn up the pressure (on Gaddafi), including helicopters. When we are ready to make an announcement we'll make an announcement," he said.
Sarkozy, the most hawkish Western leader on Libya, is hosting the G8 summit and is expected to use it to press other powers to ramp up military and diplomatic pressure on Gaddafi to quit.
Attempts to build a consensus at the summit on Libya may be prevented by Russia, which opposes the NATO bombing.
In Moscow, a foreign ministry spokesman said the use of NATO helicopters in Libya would go beyond the United Nations resolution which mandated intervention to protect civilians.
"The delivery of such kinds of weapons raises the most serious fears," spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
"Such a scenario runs absolutely counter to the U.N. Security Council resolution No. 1973, which is increasingly being violated by the international coalition."
BEIRUT // Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah yesterday pledged support for the Syrian government, saying that an end to the Assad regime would only serve American and Israeli interests.
Speaking on the 11th anniversary of Liberation Day - marking the day Israeli troops withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 - the head of the Lebanese Shiite group also called for the rejection of sanctions against Syria and claimed the regime was committed to reform.
"No one denies that Syria has committed mistakes, but no one can deny the historic achievement of Syria to Lebanon, also Syria's stance on Israel and the Palestinian resistance," he said.
Mr Nasrallah again reiterated his claims that the UN-backed investigation into the assassination of the Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri was politicised. His comments come after claims made earlier this week by the US president, Barack Obama, that the Lebanese Shiite group was responsible for political assassinations and car bombings. Mr Nasrallah dismissed the remarks as "US hostility" towards Hizbollah and said that Mr Obama had not just levelled accusations at the movement, but also passed "judgment about us".
While he addressed the changes sweeping across the Arab world, Mr Nasrallah also harkened back to when the regional "equation changed", with the end of the 22-year Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and the west Bekaa region.
"Liberation Day is not the occasion of a particular party or sect, but a national occasion," he said in the televised speech. "What happened on May 25, 2000, changed the face of Lebanon and that of the region."
At a gathering in the town of Nabi Sheet, in the Bekaa valley, thousands of supporters watched as Mr Nasrallah, who has not been seen in public since 2008, spoke via satellite link-up from an undisclosed location. Hizbollah and its supporters celebrate the Israeli withdrawal every year, but yesterday - for the first time in several years - Liberation Day was marked by a public holiday across Lebanon.
This year's commemoration also comes during a time of great uncertainty in Lebanon, which remains without a government, and as the distance between the country's two main political camps widens.
Commemorating the day used to be more a political event than a "national holiday", according to Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut.
"Really, if the balance of power shifts again, we may not be marking Liberation Day again next year," he said.
In the midst of failed efforts to form a new government four months after the previous cabinet collapsed, representatives from Lebanon's political parties spoke out about the significance of the Liberation Day. Saad Hariri, the caretaker prime minister and leading figure within the March 14 coalition, spoke of the "national unity" that forced Israel to withdraw.
Walid Jumblatt, Lebanon's main Druze leader and a member of the rival March 8 camp, paid tribute to the "thousands of martyrs" who died during the Israeli occupation. According to Professor Khashan, Hizbollah has long framed the events of May 25, 2000 as the first Arab victory against Israel. [When it comes to Israel at these sorts of events, Everyone Hates Raymond]
It's no longer a question of whether Bashar al Assad's regime will collapse, but a question of how. Will he trigger the sectarian time bomb he has prepared, or will he go quietly?
This year, the event also came in the aftermath of one of the most serious border incidents in recent years. During a demonstration along Lebanon's border with Israel on May 15, 11 Palestinian protesters were killed when Israeli troops opened fire. Scores more Lebanese and Palestinian protesters demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees were injured in the attack, which occurred when demonstrators approached the fence that marks the beginning of Israeli territory.
In his speech last night, Mr Nasrallah reiterated the need to maintain "armed resistance" against Israel. He also called for the 2002 Arab peace initiative - which called for peace between Israel and the Arab world in exchange for Israel's return to the 1967 borders - be withdrawn.
"The events during the past three decades have proved that the correct, realistic, logical, productive choice which allows reaching the targets and aims is the choice of the popular armed resistance," Mr Nasrallah said
As Time Goes By, Or, It Won't Be Long Now Before That "Arab Spring" Idea Is Mocked From Pillar To Post
Because as water seeks its own level, Muslim states and societies, despite all the misdirected Western aid they are now, and apparently will continue in even larger amounts to receive, will revert to exhibiting the kind of behavior that Muslims, raised on the texts and tenets of Islam, and captives to its violence, aggression, general inability to countenance compromise with an enemy, any enemy, naturally exhibit when not held in check by a despot, enlightened (Ataturk) or unenlightened (Qaddafy, Saddam Hussein) or a despotic regime (Egypt). And even non-Muslims living, and trying to survive, in an estranging and threatening Muslim sea are affected by the circumambient Muslim mental climate. . For example, Alawites -- syncretistic and barely quasi-Muslims who see themselves as fighting fnot for a regime but for their lives, have long parroted and promoted the anti-Israel propaganda of the Muslim Arabs waging Jihad against Israel in order to save themselves, and they have been as ruthless as Muslims in trying to defend themselves proleptically against a Muslim takeover, with the results that they are now helping, inadvertently, to possibly bring on.
Saudi Women Complain By Lifting A Line From Click And Clack: I Don't Drive, Unlike My Brother:
Saudi Arabian women demanding right to drive are threatened with beatings, arrested
By Elizabeth Flock
Manal al-Sharif in her driving video (Screengrab from youtube) Manal al-Sharif, a woman arrested for organizing an online campaign to encourage Saudi women to drive on June 17, was supposed to be released by police today.
She won’t be.
Instead, Sharif will remain in custody for 10 more days, despite allegedly confessing and repenting for recording a video on YouTube that showed her driving.
Women are unofficially banned from driving in Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi blogger in Riyadh, Eman Al Nafjan, says the report is likely wrong. Sharif did not repent. “Manal’s support campaign and personal friends have denied all this and insist that Manal remains strong,” Nafjan wrote on her blog, Saudi Woman.
Meanwhile, Saudi men have launched a campaign to beat women who drive their cars on June 17.
The “The Iqal Campaign: June 17 for preventing women from driving” Facebook page has attracted more than 6,000 supporters and advocates that men hit women with the cord (Iqal) used to hold on a traditional headress. Some are even proposing they distribute boxes of Iqals for men to use that day.
Author Saudi Abdo Khal, writing in Okaz, said he did not know “whether to laugh or cry” over the proposed Iqal campaign, according to the Agence France-Presse.
But blogger Nafjan is less surprised by the response. “Regarding the whipping, that was completely expected, that happened even 20 years ago,” she said over the phone from Riyadh.
But Nafjan says some things are different now.
“It used to be that we would protest, and there was just one platform. The religious establishment and newspapers would only put out the official story, which would only be against the woman. The difference now is other platforms can be used,”she said.
Sharif’s campaign has used Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to spread the word.
The Lede blog has reported that much of Sharif’s online campaign has been deleted, including the YouTube video of Sharif driving, a second clip in which she talked about the June 17 protest, and a Facebook page she set up called “Teach Me How to Drive So I Can Protect Myself.” Even the Twitter account Sharif used to spread news of the protest movement was copied and altered to make it seem as if she had canceled the campaign.
But that hasn’t ended the women’s protests. A new “Teach Me How to Drive So I Can Protect Myself” Facebook page is up. A page called “We are all Manal al-Sharif: a call for solidarity with Saudi women's rights,” has gathered 19,000 followers. Sharif’s driving video is on YouTube again, along with her original message about the protest.
“[The government] needs to understand that censorship does not work anymore,” says Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran, who writes on his blog Saudi Jeans from New York, where he is a graduate student at Columbia Journalism School. “By the time they removed one version of the video, dozen copies of the same video appeared.”
Watch Sharif’s driving video:
Sharif is not the first to demand that women be allowed to drive. In November 1990, more than 40 women drove their cars in the middle of Riyadh, which resulted in severe condemnation by the official religious establishment and a statement by the interior ministry that women were not allowed to drive.
“Legally speaking, there is no law banning women's driving,” says Omran. “The [Interior Ministry statement is] still a statement, never a law.”
In 2008, an activist recorded a similar video of herself behind the wheel on YouTube. But Nafjan says the government ignored her, in part because she was in the desert, not a city, and in part because she was an activist known for stirring up trouble.
“Manal is not an outsider, she is not known for doing stunts. She is a respected woman and role model. So the government is paying attention,” says Nafjan.
“Everybody wants to take a stand against it. There are thousands of women [in Saudi Arabia] who have international licenses, but few drive. We are afraid of the consequences. Manal was not. She is very brave.”
The public prosecution department on Wednesday called for PVV leader Gert Wilders to be found not guilty of inciting hatred, as it tied up its case against the MP. Prosecutors say Wilders' remarks are critical of Islam which is not the same as inciting hatred against muslims themselves. Earlier in the day the prosecutors said Wilders' should be found not guilty of insulting a group because he has not stated any conclusions about muslims. Instead he has merely criticised their religion, the prosecutors said.
The decision to call on judges to find Wilders not guilty follows on from fact the department did not want to take the PVV leader to court in the first place. However, it was forced to do so by the appeal court following protests from a number of ethnic minority groups
But American Government Willing To Sacrifice American Lives To "Defend" Iraq And Keep It Whole
U.S. general: Militant attacks on American troops in Iraq on the rise
(CNN) -- Attacks against American troops in Iraq by armed militias are on the rise, an attempt to demonstrate their power ahead of an anticipated U.S. withdrawal at the end of the year, a top military spokesman said.
The attacks come as Iraq debates whether to request U.S. troops stay beyond a January 1, 2011, deadline that requires 46,000 American forces out of the country.
U.S. troops have increasingly been targeted by roadside bombings and mortar attacks, largely in Baghdad and southern Iraq, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Iraq, told CNN by telephone from Baghdad.
"This is one thing that I think all along we have really anticipated," Buchanan said.
While al Qaeda in Iraq, predominantly Iraqi Sunni insurgents, continue to launch strikes, Buchanan said the militia attacks against the U.S. are "designed for power and they want to claim credit for our redeploying, for us leaving."
In recent days, four U.S. vehicles were targeted by roadside bombs, including an explosion Sunday on the outskirts of Baghdad that killed two American soldiers. They were identified by the Defense Department as Sgt. 1st Class Clifford E. Beattie, 37, of Medical Lake, Washington, and Pfc. Ramon Mora Jr., 19, of Ontario, California.
Last week, U.S. soldiers caught a man suspected of conducting reconnaissance on American convoys, Buchanan said. The man was in possession of "a whole file of videos" believed to be used to improve the effectiveness of roadside bombings, he said.
The U.S. military has long accused Iran of providing money and weapons to Shiite militias, such as the Promise Day Brigade, Hezbollah and al-Haq, that in turn attack American troops. Iran denies it.
Overall, the numbers of attacks in Iraq have dropped drastically since 2007 when sectarian violence nearly tore the country apart. There have been 13 attacks a day in Iraq during the first four months of this year compared with 145 a day in 2007, Buchanan said.
Lyrics sung by Helen O'Connell make topical references that might not be understood:
Tangerine, she is all they say
With mascara'd eye and chapeaux by Dache.
Tangerine, with her lips of flame
If the color keeps, Louis Philippe’s to blame.
And I’ve seen clothes on Tangerine
Where the label says “From Macy’s Mezzanine”.
Yes, she’s got the guys in a whirl, but she’s only fooling one girl
She’s only fooling Tangerine!
And whose fault is it? Australia's of course. This article doesn't directly mention Islam or Muslims, nor the reason for their fleeing their homelands in droves. But we know that they are fleeing Indonesia and Malaysia, and the social and economic conditions that derive from Islam.
If Muslims fleeing Islam turn to suicide rather than return to Dar al-Islam, does that make it incumbent on Australia to take them in, if they have no intention of assimilating but rather have every intention of imposing Islam on the kufirs? The unstated assumption here is yes, immigrants have a right to enter Australia (or the U.K., or the U.S., or Canada, etc.). Failure to admit them, and admit them in a timely fashion according to their standards, is a violation of their rights. Who granted them this right, when, and under what logic? Unknown.
SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia's asylum seeker policy came under more fire Thursday with the Human Rights Commission warning that suicide and depression were major concerns in the country's detention centres.
A new study focusing on the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney was released as criticism mounted of Canberra's plan to send boatpeople to Malaysia, where detainees can be caned.
Detention is mandatory for asylum seekers who arrive in Australia until their claims are processed, with some remaining locked up for more than a year.
The Australian Human Rights Commission said three apparent suicides at Villawood last year and high rates of self-harm should serve as a warning.
A warning, not of the dire effect that Islam has on its adherents, but a warning that the kufirs need to provide more, more, more, to those Muslim economic refugees.
Commission president Catherine Branson said that the uncertainty caused by being held indefinitely was triggering serious mental health issues.
"What we saw at Villawood was the result of the system of mandatory and indefinite detention, where people can see no end in sight because there is no set time limit on the period a person can be held in detention," she said.
Hmm, if the problem is uncertainty, and no set time limit on detention, then that should be easily solved by announcing clearly and unambiguously that NO illegal refugees will be accepted, and that those who attempt to illegally enter Australia will be IMMEDIATELY returned to their country of origin. That should clarify the situation, and soothe their fragile mental state.
Sixty percent of those in detention when the commission visited Villawood had been held for longer than six months, and 45 percent for more than a year.
The Australian Human RIghts Commission and the sympathetic author of this article mention this because they are outraged that the refugees are not allowed to enter Australia much more quickly. On the other hand, I am outraged that Australia is forced to maintain these refugees for 6-12 months at Australia's expense, rather than Indonesia's or Malaysia's. Once again, the failures of Islam become the responsibility of gullible, generous, and naive kuffar to solve.
"We saw people scarred from self-harming. We heard others talk of sleepless nights, days of depression and frequent thoughts of suicide," said Branson.
"The commission has been deeply concerned for some time about the detrimental impacts of prolonged and indefinite detention on people's mental health and wellbeing."
She added that the concerns had escalated over the past year as thousands more people arrived, usually on boats from Indonesia.
"I urge the government to make greater use of community-based alternatives that are cheaper, more effective and more humane, such as the use of bridging visas or community detention," she said.
Louise Newman, head of the immigration department's detention health advisory group, admitted there were problems.
"Whenever we have in close proximity people killing themselves then that raises very serious issues about the function of the system," she told ABC radio.
No, not about the function of the Australian immigration system, but about the horrifying effect that Islam has on the human soul.
Some 8,000 boatpeople have arrived in Australia since the beginning of 2010, and recent riots and rooftop protests have prompted the government to approach Malaysia about taking some for processing.
Canberra plans to send 800 there and in return will accept 4,000 people already assessed to be refugees from Malaysia for resettlement over four years.
Australia seems to know where the responsibility lies, but...
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights this week warned Australia the plan could be illegal, with Malaysia not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention nor the UN Convention against Torture.
According to Amnesty International, Malaysia canes up to 6,000 detainees a year, claims seized on by critics Thursday.
Muslims cannot be returned to Islamic regimes. The brutal conditions that Islam engenders is therefore used as a tool by "human rights groups" to further spread Islam around the world. Simply brilliant logic.
But Immigration Minister Chris Bowen insisted that he had received assurances that any asylum seekers sent to Malaysia would not be abused.
"Malaysia has agreed to treat any asylum seekers transferred from Australia in line with their human rights," he said in a statement.
Sopona (or Shapona) is the god of smallpox in the Yoruba religion.
The Yoruba people of Nigeria believed that smallpox was a disease foisted upon humans due to Shapona’s “divine displeasure”, and formal worship of the God of Smallpox was highly controlled by specific priests in charge of shrines to the God. People believed that if the priests were angered they were capable of causing smallpox outbreaks through their intimate relationship with Shapona.
Dr. Oguntola Sapara suspected that the priests were deliberately spreading the disease, and surreptitiously joined the cult. He discovered that the priests were causing the disease through applying scrapings of the skin rash of smallpox cases. Based on this information, the British colonial rulers banned the worship of Shapona in 1907. Worship continued, however, with the faithful paying homage to the God even after such activities were prohibited.
More details from the Wikipedia page on Dr. Sapara:
In Nigeria at that time there were secret societies such as the "Sopona" cult of the Yoruba people that attempted to blackmail people, threatening that if they did not pay they would get sick and die. When a victim refused, they infected him with smallpox through applying scrapings of the skin rash of smallpox cases. The societies naturally resisted vaccination. Sapara joined the cult incognito, at considerable risk. When he had learned the secret, he helped the government prepare legislation to ban the societies.
Was Britain being "racist" and "Soponaphobic" when they outlawed the religion?
Would followers of Sopona, god of smallpox, be free to practice their "religion" under the protection of the U.S. Constitution today? Did our Founding Fathers have the right to infect non-believers with smallpox in mind when crafting the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights? Would Americans at any time since have said, "Well, sure, Soponaists are intentionally causing deaths here in the U.S. due to their religious practices, but there's nothing we can do about it, they're entitled to the full protection of the Constitution"?
No, I don't think the Founding Fathers would have offered any protection to the followers of Sopona; I don't think they would agree that such a belief system rose to the level of a true "religion", according to their standards. I think there are limits to which religious beliefs can and should be protected. Any "religion" that only offers death, destruction, and misery has no place in our society, and should be eradicated without hesitation.