Archive for category Middle East
On Sunday, three Palestinian boys were detained by the IDF in Hebron, along with a Swedish activist who seems to have tried to calmly prevent their arrests. (Footage of the arrest is below, and highly disturbing to watch). According to the International Solidarity Movement, who put out a report on Sunday and has since been updating, the children were released a few hours later, but the Swede is still being held and attempts are being made to deport him.
According to sources from Youth Against Settlements and B’Tselem with whom I spoke, the children were detained because settlers from the extremist Beit Hadassah settlement inside Hebron complained to the IDF that they had thrown stones. One of the children is only 10, the others 11 and 12 (the age of criminal responsibility is 12).
Issa Amro, a Palestinian activist with Youth Against Settlements who has been arrested countless times for organizing and engaging in peaceful protests in Hebron’s Tul Rumeida area where he lives, told me that the arrest of children by the IDF has become a regular “phenomenon” in Hebron. He says the IDF is “pro-settler,” often arresting Palestinian residents, whether children or adults, simply because settlers tell them to – regardless of whether there is any evidence against them. He also points out that settlers are almost never detained after they throw stones, even when the soldiers are standing right there. Issa added: “These arrests do not stop violence, on the contrary, they feed violence more and more in the long term.”
According to Ynet, the Swedish activist was arrested because he tried to steal a soldier’s weapon and resisted arrest – however the first video below makes both those accusations appear false, although he clearly made an effort to stop the soldiers from taking the children. (It is also well known that the IDF tries to deport foreign citizens living and documenting life in the West Bank). I contacted the IDF Spokesperson several times in recent days to hear its side of the story, but have yet to receive a response.
According to B’Tselem, the children were investigated at the Kiryat Arba police station with an adult present, and released 3-4 hours later. The Swedish activist is reportedly still in Israeli custody and trying to avoid deportation.
The first video below, published by Youth Against Settlement, shows one of the children and the Swede being arrested. Below that is a video filmed by an member of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) showing the arrest of one of the other children at the same time. Needless to say they are very disturbing, and no one in Israeli media is giving it any attention.
Source: JoinRevolution Miswiyati-v
Women stand to be emancipated in more ways than one.
It’s a shame that the term chutzpah is not more commonly associated with Arab feminism. In a week that has seen the passing of one Iron Lady, and the decidedly softer agitprop of Ukrainian mammaries, it’s worth remarking on one of the least addressed yet perhaps most significant aspects of the Syrian revolution; namely, how important women have been to it and how important it has been for them.
Typically characterized in the Western press as grieving widows and childless mothers – bit players in an overlong masculine tragedy – Syria’s women have been prime movers in the two-year-long struggle for emancipation, which carries a double meaning in this context. Women have led the earliest demonstrations against the regime, they’ve chronicled the uprising and its repression in vivid detail, they’ve coordinated humanitarian relief efforts, and they’ve taken up arms. Judging from what I’ve witnessed of the extensive reconstruction planning being undertaken by the Syrian diaspora, women have also been the best organized and most willing to bypass the pettiness and factionalism that have stunted their male counterparts. (Martin Amis’ notion of a “gynocracy” is especially intriguing in light of the Muslim Brotherhood.)
Any reckoning with a post-Assad society will necessarily be a reckoning with the status conferred on half the population. Two worthwhile projects that are trying to redefine that status merit discussion. The first is called Syrian Women at Work, which is sponsored by the Syrian-American Alliance and does exactly what its name suggests. Women refugees in Antakya, Turkey are given jobs in the handcrafting of fabric bric-a-brac for sale in the United States. (This charity was started by my friend Mahmoud Elzour, of whom I’ve written extensively over the past year; it was he who first suggested to the young male activists of liberated al-Bab that they needed to include women in all spheres of emerging municipal governance.) In much the same vein, Syria’s Future Lies in the Hands of Its Women is the nicely titled initiative being underwritten by the new NGO Watan Syria. This organization is teaching 200 refugees in Reyhani, Turkey basic computer skills, nursing, social advocacy, and foreign languages. It’s also putting them to work making garments and accessories for sale abroad. The idea, as relayed to me by Mouna Hashem, one of Watan’s volunteers, is simple: professional autonomy is the only way to stop the horrors of auctioned-off child-brides and coerced prostitution that have added misery upon misery for the ever-growing number of female refugees. “Syrian women are so resilient and strong,” Hashem told me. “They want representation in every aspect of the political and economic sectors in Syria.”
By representation, Hashem means something other than the sham sexual equality peddled by the Assad crime dynasty, founded as that has been on the presence of women in elite positions in the regime. Bashar’s mother Anissa is to this day thought of a combination between Lady MacBeth and Connie Corleone, and I suppose there still must be people out there who believe that Bouthaina Shaaban testifies to social progress under Ba’athism more so than Leni Riefenstahl did under Nazism. By contrast, the extremities of war have allowed for, if not demanded, a dramatic reconsideration of traditional gender roles.
Razan Zeitouneh, the de facto leader of the Local Coordination Committees and the recent recipient of a prize named for Anna Politkovskaya, told Al-Arabiya: “At the beginning of the revolution, I heard young men shouting ‘Al-Bayt lil neswan’ (Women should stay home), and now I hear them say ‘Hayyou ‘alaeneswan’ (Cheer for women).”
“This revolution also freed us from the tyranny of our homes,” Amina Ahmed Abid told Newsweek in describing her leadership of inaugural protests in Latakia.
Abid’s husband had sought to keep his own head well below the parapet but didn’t dare restrain his spouse from risking hers. Farah Nasif, a liberal Damascene explained that the feminine garb of the pious had now become a useful prop in the underground: “We’ll wear a hijab to look like the local women if we’re heading to a conservative area. I hide medicine, sometimes money, in my pockets and in my clothes, and I don’t really get any questions.” As for the men who remained confined to their homes, Nasif was mordant: “I am happy for this. Keep men in the home and kitchen.”
Can it be a coincidence that the most prominent Alawites who have given the lie to the notion that opposing the regime is an inherently ‘sectarian’ action have also tended away from the y-chromosome? Feminist novelist Samar Yazbek chronicled the protest movement only to discover she had become a part of it.
She fled Syria in 2011 after being given a guided tour of one of the regime’s torture dungeons and warned that what she saw there awaited her if she didn’t shut up. (Her PEN-winning memoir of the first months of the uprising, “A Woman in the Crossfire,” came out last year.) Despite being called a ‘whore’ and a ‘black stain’ on her sect, Yazbek has gone back to tour the liberated areas, putting her life at further risk. Joining her is Loubna Mrie, a 21 year-old Alawite whose father, Abu Muntazer, is – or was – a shabiha assassin. After participating in protests in Latakia, Loubna appeared in an online video, her face thinly disguised by the Syrian Independence flag she used as a bandana. She compared the ruthlessness of her own sect to that of the Salafists, who have been cast as the drivers of anti-Assad sentiment. As she later recounted on Facebook, her father “went to his brothers, cheered them up, and told them that he washed the shame that his daughter brought to Jebel al-Akrud” by murdering his own wife. Honor killings, it seems, are also the purview of ‘secular’ dictatorships.
Indeed, the regime’s well-documented sexual violence is clearly more than the psychotic outcroppings of totalitarianism. The horrifying industry of rape in Syria may target both men and women but it’s the latter’s case to not only shame and traumatize the individual but to “break the family,” as Lauren Wolfe of Women Under Siege phrased it in a haunting piece for The Atlantic. Husbands and sons are meant to turn against their ‘tainted’ wives and mothers such that society simply cannot be reconstituted. This is an actual war on women with nihilism as the intended endgame. Little wonder that some have chosen to fight back.
Em Joseph is a nom de guerre taken from a popular Syrian television mini-series that belongs to a 40 year-old rebel profiled by Time’s Rania Abouzeid as a Levantine Maid of Saragossa. She’s not afraid to tell the men to leave the real dirty work to the deadlier of the species:
Here, she’s one of the boys, and she’s as tough — or tougher — than most of them. She is a respected member of the unit, somebody the men say they are proud to fight alongside. “She’s a sister of men,” one of her comrades says, using a common Arabic phrase for a strong, independent woman. “She raises our morale,” says another, Walid. “When we see her in front of us, we push forward. May God keep her,” he says before offering her a hearty slap on the shoulder, the kind of slap a man might give another man, but not one a man would give a woman in a community where many women will not shake hands with a man they are not related to. Em Joseph was married only briefly and has no children; her parents are alive and live nearby. When asked what they thought of her fighting, she responds, “God willing, I have raised their heads high.”
It’s worth noting that Em Joseph fights for Suqoor al-Sham, a popular Islamist brigade in Idlib that is party both to the Syrian Liberation Front – a loose consortium of rebel formations that, although lacking a coherent ideological platform, espouse a vaguely defined Salafist-nationalism – as well as to the U.S.-backed Supreme Military Command. I have no idea of what Em Joseph’s own politics are, but let us assume that once the war is over some of her bolder comrades-in-arms will eschew the hearty back-slapping and hosannas only to turn their attention to that brief marriage and that conspicuous lack of offspring. Will a Kalashnikov- and grenade-wielding veteran of air base raids find it necessary to submit to the misogyny of the blowhard clerics and politicians her bravery helped bring to power, or will she be emboldened to defy them as she did the Assadists?
The case should not be overstated that a violent conflict, particularly one set in the Middle East, is the cask in which the equality of the sexes can fully mature. Hamas has long managed to define female militancy in its Qassam Brigades as just another expression of a woman’s duty-bound domesticity. But there is at least now an opportunity, even if it has been forged in hell, for a second revolution in Syria to follow from the first. That is no small thing.
Due to the recent news I would like to share this article (already written in 2011 but still actual)
by Oscar Assadullah Mukhtar Bergamin
The National Council of Syria (NCS), a loose umbrella organization of groups opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, will meet Oct. 1 in Turkey to discuss whether to request the establishment of a U.N.-backed no-fly zone over the country similar to the one that played a critical role in the ouster of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.
Demonstrations and violent crackdowns by the al Assad government have convulsed the country since the Arab Spring began, and the opposition group is looking to convince potential foreign backers that the collapse of the ruling minority Alawite regime is imminent. But the reality of the situation is much more nuanced: The opposition itself is highly fractured and is operating under heavy constraints.
The geopolitical trends in the region work against the al Assad regime in the long run, but the opposition is ill-equipped to achieve its goals on its own. The movement will be hard pressed to find the level of external support needed to force regime change. While the regime maintains considerable strength, it likewise is operating under significant constraints, and at this point neither the regime nor the opposition has the ability to overwhelm the other, which will leave Syria consigned to a state of protracted conflict for the foreseeable future. Key to understanding this dynamic is an assessment of the Syrian opposition.
Evolution of the Protests
Syria saw hints of unrest in early February, but it was not until mid-March that the protests became more commonplace, when a small group of protesters attempted to organize demonstrations in Damascus through Facebook. The Syrian regime was quick to pre-empt and clamp down on those protests, but a new uprising emerged March 18 in the southwestern city of Daraa, a concentration of rural Sunnis with ties to Sunni tribes and religious groups across the Iraqi and Jordanian borders.
While Daraa was the scene of the most violent unrest and crackdowns, demonstrations began to spread rapidly to the Damascus suburbs, Latakia (where a large number of Alawites are concentrated), Homs, Hama and the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli. Protesters began replicating the Daraa model of protest, whereby they attempt to circumvent government detection by organizing by word of mouth rather than by social networking websites. Pro-regime forces responded by cutting off the city’s electricity and water supply and blocking the delivery of food. Daraa has since remained relatively quiet and locked down.
However, the regime then faced bigger problems in the Sunni strongholds of Homs, Hama and Jisr al-Shughour. As the protests moved into these Sunni areas, the Syrian regime concentrated its resources in the key urban population centers of Damascus and Aleppo, where security forces were quick to disperse protesters. The Syrian regime, relying mostly on the Republican Guard, the 4th Armored Division, and the 14th and 15th Special Forces divisions — all of which are composed of Alawites — along with armed plainclothes shabbiha militiamen and riot police, attempted to replicate their crackdown in Daraa in the cities of Baniyas, Hama, Latakia, and Homs, among others, but with limited success.
Despite the regime’s efforts, Syrian security forces simply do not have the resources to overwhelm the protesters — as Iran was able to during its protests following the 2009 presidential election controversy. Indeed, Syria has been reluctant to deploy more demographically mixed army divisions for fear of causing more severe splits within the armed forces, thereby overstretching the mostly Alawite units. (Rather than deploy the military to all reaches of the country, the regime has been tracking persons of interest with human and signal intelligence, then raiding those homes on a case-by-case basis.) At the same time, the regime benefits from the fact that Syrian minorities — Alawites, Christians and Druze, who form the economic elite; the Kurds; and a select group of Sunnis that the al Assads have incorporated into their patronage network — have not yet shown the willingness to join the demonstrations and transform Syria’s fractious protest movement into a veritable revolution.
Makeup of the Opposition
There are factions of the opposition that operate both inside Syria and outside. The external opposition is highly fractured, composed of people who cannot account authoritatively for the reality on the ground.
The protests on the ground consist primarily of young and middle-aged men, though women and children are also present at times. The largest protests materialize after Friday prayers, when participants congregate on the streets outside mosques. That is not to say protests are relegated solely to Fridays; a number of demonstrations have been held on other days of the week but on a smaller scale. These protests also consist of men, women and children of all ages.
But the opposition is ideologically diverse. A key element of what is considered Syria’s traditional opposition — groups that have long been opposed to the regime — is the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which the regime has demonized throughout the unrest. In 1976, the Syrian MB began an armed insurgency against the Alawite regime, led at the time by al Assad’s father Hafez. By 1982 the group was crushed in the notorious Hama massacre that allegedly killed some 30,000 civilians. The MB was driven underground, and dissenters in other Sunni majority cities, including Jisr al-Shughour, were quickly stamped out.
Today, the Syrian MB remains a key participant in the opposition movement, but its capabilities inside Syria are weak. Syrian MB leader Ali Bayanouni resides in exile in London, and the Syrian MB outside Syria has become increasingly involved in the external opposition movement, participating in conferences such as the NCS conference in Istanbul in late August.
However, the Syrian MB is unable to maintain much influence in Syria due to a limited presence inside the country, and it would take a concerted effort on the part of the Islamist group to earn the trust and fellowship of other Syrians. Since the banning of the Syrian MB in 1980, al Assad’s regime has been quick to blame the organization for militant attacks as a means of instilling fear of the MB among Syrian citizens. Christians, Alawites, and even other Muslims are weary of groups of a conservative Sunni group gaining political influence in the regime.
Opposition has also traditionally been found in Syria’s mostly Kurdish northeast due to the Kurds’ long-standing grievances against the regime, which has denied the group basic rights and citizenship. The Kurds have taken part in conferences led by the external opposition, such as the NCS meeting in Istanbul. Protests have meanwhile occurred in Kurdish majority cities such as Darbasiyah, Amuda, and Qamishli, but they have not reached the scale of unrest as those in Sunni-concentrated areas. The Kurds and Sunnis may share the desire for regime change, but once the goal of regime change is achieved, whoever is in power, aside from the Kurds, will seek to contain Kurdish separatism. There already have been indications that Kurdish representatives among Syria’s protest movement are being excluded from the process of drafting demands.
The Syrian MB and the Kurds are two of several groups that have tried to coalesce, without much success, into a more substantial opposition force inside Syria in recent years. These groups took advantage of the Syrian regime’s weakened position following the withdrawal from Lebanon in the spring of 2005 by drafting and signing the Damascus Declaration in October of the same year. Written by Syrian dissident Michel Kilo, the declaration was a statement of unity calling for political reforms. Declaration signatories include the Kurdish Democratic Alliance in Syria and the Kurdish Democratic Front in Syria. The Syrian MB was originally part of the Damascus Declaration, but internal disagreements led the MB to distance itself from this opposition movement in 2009. Disunity among the opposition remains to this day.
Despite the disconnect between the external and internal opposition forces, some progress is being made to bridge the gap. Of the various councils formed by opposition members outside Syria, the NCS has recently emerged as the only council that has received the support of the Local Coordinating Committees (LLC), a group that claims to unite roughly 120 smaller coordinating committees across Syria. The NCS was selected by a diverse committee of independents, leftists, liberals, and Kurds and claims that roughly half of its members, which include grassroots activists and traditional opposition supporters, are based inside Syria.
In the past, the LLC and many other internal Syrian opposition groups, fearing competition, have been quick to denounce the formation of these external councils. Although many logistical constraints of uniting the external and internal opposition persist, the fact that the LLC has pledged support for the NCS and called upon the Damascus Declaration parties and Kurdish leadership to do so mean this should be watched as a potential sign of the opposition gaining coherence.
Tactical Overview of the Protests
Opposition groups — and thus protests — inside Syria remain relatively small and localized. Protests rarely involve more than 500 participants, and they take place in the cities or areas in which the participants live. Typically, the protests are short, lasting no more than half an hour, though in exceptional cases like Hama, protesters have numbered in the thousands.
Coordinating these protests is a challenge for the opposition movement. Since mid-March, most of the coordination has been conducted by local coordinating committees operating within Syria. Opposition members insist coordination is improving with these entities, which are responsible for planning protests in their respective communities. These committees use Facebook to designate the theme of an upcoming protest. STRATFOR sources claim that liaison officers in many cities and towns report directly to a command center in Ashrafieh, a Christian sector in Beirut. They receive instructions on the timing of the demonstrations from there, and they send images of the protests and police brutality to the center.
To curb what interface there is among the groups, the al Assad regime has tightened controls on the country’s communications, especially Internet communications. This is especially true on Fridays and Saturdays, when bigger protests are more likely to occur. But in this regard the regime is careful not to overstep its boundaries. Shutting down communications in full would compromise the Sunni business class’ support for the regime. In addition, the regime uses communications to its advantage by identifying members of the opposition.
After 40 years under authoritarian rule, many Syrians possess the technological savvy to find ways around the regime’s communications controls. Syrians have found ways to communicate internally via the Internet or cell phone, and some have posted video recordings of the protests to the Internet. It also likely that they have learned methods of avoiding detection from opposition groups in the Middle East, not to mention the fact that there are a number of open source tools available on the Internet to help avoid detection.
They also use more traditional means to coordinate their activities. Locations such as local mosques or neighborhood stores or tea houses are useful meeting points because they are common places where most Syrians tend to frequent on a given day. Opposition members use couriers to pass messages between each other, and likely employ other covert measures, such as drop spots, when necessary.
Why Syria is Not the Next Libya
There are four main reasons why Syrians working towards the overthrow of the Assad regime cannot expect to replicate the experience of the Libyan rebels, who were able to carve out an independent territory of their own early on in their uprising, then received significant external support in their fight against Moammar Gadhafi. The first problem is that there is no “address” for the Syrian opposition, to quote U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There is no one overarching body that the international community can recognize as the alternative to the Assad regime, but several competing organizations that speak with different voices. Though Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) has proven not to have been a true representative of a united Libyan opposition in recent weeks, it did serve as a unified symbol of opposition to Gadhafi for several months. All of the disparate rebel groups that fought against Gadhafi pledged loyalty to the NTC until the fall of Tripoli and resultant power struggle began to expose its internal divisions.
The second problem for the Syrians is geographic. Their country cannot provide the sort of safe-haven that the Libyan rebels had from the beginning of the rebellion in the east (and later in Misurata and the Nafusa Mountains). No safe-haven means no place to amass forces for training, nowhere to store weapons sent in from abroad, and nowhere to form a de facto political capital in Syria. Though Turkey has at times issued empty threats about creating a buffer zone on its border, thus far none of the other neighboring countries have hinted that they would ever consider providing any sort of haven across the border.
The third problem is that unlike in Libya, where there were mass army defections in Benghazi and elsewhere in the east at the onset of the uprising, this never happened in Syria. Whereas Libyan defections were numerous and began just days after the start of the uprising, Syrian army defections took months to gain momentum only became more frequent in late June, and even then defectors did not contain large numbers of top commanders. The Syrian soldiers defected to form the Free Syrian Army but their size and strength remain unknown — they are believed to number in the hundreds, and are largely sequestered on the Turkey-Syria border. Only recently has the Free Syrian Army claimed to have a battalion stationed near Homs, though this has not been independently verified.
The fourth problem has to do with the lack of desire among the countries that could serve as external patrons of the Syrian opposition to have Syria’s destabilization spread across the region. Libya may be right across the Mediterranean from Europe, but it is much more isolated than Syria is in the heart of the Levant. Regime change in Libya does not create nearly the same sorts of prospective problems in the region as the toppling of the Alawite regime in Damascus would.
War of Perceptions
There are two sides to every war, and the war of perceptions in Syria is no exception. Through state-run media agencies, the al Assad regime has portrayed the opposition as armed terrorists while depicting military personnel as peacekeepers who attack only when provoked. The regime has accused foreign states of using the unrest to divide Syria, playing to the population’s fear of foreign meddling. It also has downplayed or denied rumors of officials having resigned in response to the government’s handling of the protests, and it has vilified those who report contradictions of its official statements.
For its part, the opposition is also crafting a version of the story in Syria, the bulk of which originates from two sources: the Syrian Revolution General Commission, purportedly an umbrella group for 70 percent of the more than 200 local coordinating committees operating within Syria, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Both groups operate from abroad and claim to play a role in coordinating the protests. Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reportedly leads a group of some 200 activists throughout Syria; he claims to maintain contact with his sources through Skype, Gmail and phones with unregistered numbers. However, the degree to which these two groups actively coordinate the opposition is questionable, given that they do not operate in the country.
What is unquestionable is their role in reporting on the opposition inside Syria — reports that picked up by mainstream and Western media. LCC avail themselves to the media and actively post developments on Facebook in Arabic and English. Through these outlets, the LCC present updates on casualty counts, the whereabouts of the military and abductions of opposition figures — unsurprisingly, these figures conflict with those of the regime. They have also alleged that security forces surround hospitals to prevent wounded protesters from receiving medical treatment, and that they have stormed several schools. These reports, like those from the regime, should be viewed with skepticism; the opposition understands that it needs external support, specifically financial support, if it is to be a more robust movement than it is now. To that end, it has every reason to present the facts on the ground in a way that makes the case for foreign backing.
Conflicting storylines do not conceal the fact that the opposition is very unlikely to overwhelm and topple the regime without substantial foreign military and financial backing. Turkey and Saudi Arabia have a long-term interest in restoring Sunni power in Syria, but are more concerned about the short-term cost of sectarian spillover and provoking Iranian retaliation as Tehran seeks to maintain its strategic foothold in the Levant. Unlike Libya, Syria is unlikely to be the recipient of foreign military intervention. In fact, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford explicitly said that the situation is “a Syrian problem and it needs Syrian solutions,” and that the opposition must “figure out how to win away support from the regime, and not look to outsiders to try and solve the problem.”
Small-scale logistical support is most likely under way already. External opposition groups that support Syria accept donations and membership dues, though much of this money goes to sustaining themselves rather than to support an uprising in Syria. To move money, Syrians use a Hawala network, a remittance system that operates outside traditional banking or financial avenues. Such a system is ideal for the opposition because there are no wire transactions to be tracked or smuggled currency to be found. It also makes difficult to quantify exactly how much money is being transacted.
The opposition remains largely nonviolent. This is likely a strategic move; maintaining a nonviolent image allows the opposition to appear sympathetic to would-be foreign backers when the regime cracks down on protesters. But it is also a tactical decision in that the opposition will not engage in a war it knows it cannot win.
However, there are some elements within the opposition who believe they will never receive external support and seek to arm themselves. This especially true among some within the youth faction, who argue that they do not need to maintain a nonviolent image and they should obtain weapons and counter the regime offensive before the Syrian regime has a chance to take advantage of regional distractions to intensify its crackdowns. In theory, weapons and equipment should be relatively difficult to procure inside Syria — most of the country’s arms were confiscated after the anti-regime uprising in Hama in 1982 — but porous borders, highly functional smuggling networks, and a region awash in military hardware make weapons acquisition less problematic than in other areas of the world. Before that happens, they must receive substantial covert backing, and there is no evidence to suggest this is happening.
Without foreign backing, the opposition movement is unlikely to acquire enough money or gain enough traction to acquire large quantities of weaponry, let alone achieve regime change. The movement is simply too small and too ill equipped, and it is unlikely that foreign powers will come to the Syrian opposition’s aid. As the opposition and the regime continue to shape the perceptions of the reality in Syria, the developments there will continue to be stalemated, regardless of how they craft their narrative. If the regime is to face a meaningful threat to its stability in the near term, that threat is far more likely to emanate from Alawite divisions within the regime than with the opposition in the streets.
Frank Beuken is a Blogger and a political analyst, he talks to Al-Rasub about his coming novel and changing political conditions of Arab world..
Al-Rasub: Frank, can u tell us briefly about your younger years and school College life .
Frank Beuken: I was born in Baarn, The Netherlands. I have seen many schools as my parents moved quite a lot. Several places in the Netherlands, France and Belgium. High school was my highest grade. Due to severe problems at home I ran away and lived temporary in a shelter home. I first tasted freedom when I lived in a town called Nijmegen in the Netherlands. I became active in protests against government decisions which were undermining normal civil rights. As well against American weapons to be place in the Netherlands. I spent many of these years in the so called underground culture of the town. Evenings were filled with philosophical discussions with friends which lasted often till the next morning.
Al-Rasub: You have a very close look on Arab Spring, will you explain the context of Arab Spring ?
Frank Beuken: From the first moment in Tunisia when a boy set himself on fire out of pure frustration against the authorities, my attention for the Arab spring was born.
Of course I was always against suppression and followed the news in Romania 1989 when the dictator Ceausescu was captured and shot by a military tribunal. The people of that country suffered for many years just because one man “owned” the country and found he had the right to abuse the people. With fear for their lives, young people, supported by miners dared the stand up against this cruel man. With the fast that 1 of 5 men in Romania had served the Securitate (Secret services) they were never sure who to trust. But they won with the right spirit.
In Tunisia the young people found the strength to stand up as well and they succeeded. Egypt followed, then Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and many more countries. The young people just had enough of these cruel dictators. All they wanted was respect, jobs and a normal future without fear.
Al-Rasub: How do you think Arab spring gets its targets ?
Frank Beuken: The Arab spring was already very successful. Several dictators fled or were killed. The people took back what belongs to them. The country itself. It is now important to stay focused. A good example is Egypt now with Mursi, who wants to get more power than Mubarak had. Maybe his intentions are good and does he really wants to protect the revolution but it is unacceptable for the people on Tahrir square. Many of their friends died or are in prison. Mursi needs to listen to them. Not to Tantawi, who in my opinion is still very much in power. Often I wonder if Mursi is a puppet from the army and with this idea, a democracy is still far away. And the youngsters on Tahrir are aware of this.
Al-Rasub: There is a common perception in many groups in Muslim world that Arab Spring is American funded moment, what are your observation and opinion ?
Frank Beuken: Personally I think it is the biggest offence for all these young people who have given their lives for the revolution. The first real proof that America couldn’t be in control, when Obama mentioned the resign date of Mubarak. But it didn’t happen. Mubarak stayed in charge. Obama lost his face with this awkward moment. People who believe that foreign powers have set up the Arab spring, are conspiracy thinkers. People who always believe that higher powers are behind it. The Arab Spring is pure and started and finished by these brave young people.
Al-Rasub: Some critics says that Arab spring divided Muslim world or specially Arab world in two groups, Liberal and Fundamentalist and they give the examples of Tunisia and Egypt what you think ?
Frank Beuken: These critics are often people from the west, with a huge lack of knowledge of the Arab world. Remember that Ben Ali, Khadaffi, Mubarak and now Assad as well, always mentioned the danger of fundamentalists? They wanted to warn the nation for a fear what doesn’t really exist. I mean of course there are extremist groups but they do not have the power to set the revolution in their direction. Personally I believe Al Qaida is a myth. In a sense that it isn’t a worldwide terroristic group. Every extreme group uses the name Al Qaida to impress the world. Fear is a tool to make the nation to believe in their leader, to protect them against evil.
Al-Rasub: What will be or should but the outcome of Arab spring like moments ?
Frank Beuken: To my opinion this isn’t an issue what will be solved in one or two years. Of course the expectations of the western world are probably the same as the people in the Arab world. We all hope that democracy is installed within a short time. That is the ideal world but unfortunately, reality is otherwise. People lived for over 30 years under suppression. Most of the people, survived by adapting them to the system. And for most families, the basic things are important: A home, a job, to be able to feed your family. Now everything is turned upside down. Suddenly the oppressor is gone. Security forces fell apart and people feel liberated. But then, reality of all day life comes around: Homes, jobs, feed the family etc. To be honest, I think it will take up to 30 years to have a full stable country again. Don’t forget; most people think the same way: Freedom. But still there are many groups who are still either supporting the former dictator or groups who want to take over control. Also these people need to be given a place in the new society. They cannot be ignored, as they are there. It will take a full generation before the whole consensus is a fact.
Al-Rasub: What kind of lessons can be learned from Arab spring, especially in Muslim word.
Frank Beuken: The revolutionaries must stay focused until the end. They have to stay alert until a democratic constitution is established and protected.
Al-Rasub: Tell us something about your Books and what inspires you to write a book ?
Frank Beuken: With all the information and all the conversations I had with revolutionaries from Egypt, Tunisia and Libya I felt to do something. To write a book was a long time wish from my and what subject was better than the Arab Spring. What I did is I combined the protests in a novel. It is a story based on the Arab Spring. The reader will experience the protests in the streets, social behavior and to see a world which is so different than west Europe but so very much alike as well. After all, we are all human beings. This book is an ode to the young man, or the young girl in the middle of the freedom fights. The book is written in my language, Dutch, but soon it will be available in German and English. Inshallah soon in arab as well.
Al-Rasub: What keep you busy during your free time?
Frank Beuken: Since August I started to write a new book. Again a novel in which east meets west. Still I talk a lot with people from “the arab spring” countries.
Al-Rasub: What are your future projects on which you are working or you want to work?
Frank Beuken: As said, my new book of course. Secondly, my wish for next year, is to meet the people I had contact with in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.
Al-Rasub: Your message for our readers ?
Frank Beuken: Believe in mankind. Stay focused and let’s unite because, we are in a far majority compare to small extremist groups who want to tell us how we have to live. So we can win and make this world a better place for all. Respect, dignity, peace and a future for all.
Frank Beuken can be reach at:
The truth about Israel’s invasion of Gaza …
Israeli soldiers confess that they were told to “cleanse” Gaza, to “put a shell in every house” indiscriminately, and even to shoot chickens with machine guns. Their use of force was to be “disproportionate” and indeed the “war” was a massacre, with 1,400 Palestinian deaths to 13 Israeli deaths. One soldier says, “We entered the city shooting like crazy. None of us knew what we were shooting at.” Another soldier says, “It sounds terrible to say ‘cleanse’ but those were the orders.”
Select photo to watch the Channel 4 Video
“I destroyed their homes but they bought me a plasma TV…”
Yesterday morning, branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced political activist Asal Esmaeilzadeh to four months in prison and eight months *suspended imprisonment. Her charges are: “Propaganda against the regime” and “Gathering and Colluding…”. She is currently not imprisoned.
Esmaeilzadeh was recently arrested in Behesht Zahra cemetery along with activists Peyman Aref and Sharar Konoor Tabrizi under the charge of praying at Neda Agha Soltan’s grave site. Esmaeilzadeh and Konoor Tabrizi were released after a few days on bail. Peyman Aref remained jailed until last month.
Esmaeilzadeh was also arrested by plainclothes agents in her home back in May 2011. She endured 31 days in solitary confinement in ward 209 of Evin prison. She was released on June 1, 2011 on a $100 thousand [USD] bail.
* A suspended imprisonment sentence means that the sentence will not be implemented, unless the person is found guilty on another charge. There is usually a time limit associated with the suspension.
يكشنبه 18 دی 1390 ساعت 01:01 |
خبرگزاری هرانا – صبح روز گذشته دستگاه قضایی “عسل اسماعیلزاده”، فعال سیاسی را به یک سال حبس محکوم کرد.
بنا به اطلاع گزارشگران هرانا از تهران، صبح روز گذشته ۱۷ دی ماه شعبه ۲۶ دادگاه انقلاب تهران عسل اسماعیلزاده را به اتهام “تبلیغ علیه نظام” و “اجتماع و تبانی” به تحمل چهار ماه حبس تعزیری و ۸ ماه حبس تعلیقی محکوم نموده است.
وی چندی پیش به همراه پیمان عارف و شرر کنور تبریزی در بهشت زهرا و به جرم فاتحه خوانی بر مزار ندا آقا سلطان دستگیر شده بود که پس از چند روز به همراه شررکنور تبریزی، به قید التزام آزاد شد.
خانم اسماعیلزاده همچنین ۱۱ اردیبهشتماه سال جاری در حین بازگشت به منزل توسط نیروهای موسوم به لباس شخصی بازداشت شده بود و مدت ۳۱ روز در سلول انفرادی بند ۲۰۹ به سر برد و یازدهم خرداد ماه با قرار وثیقه یکصد میلیون تومانی به طور موقت آزاد شده بود.