Archive for category Society
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.
Women queue at a polling station to vote in the second and final round of a referendum on Egypt’s new constitution, in Giza, south of Cairo, Dec. 22, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)
On March 6, a Cairo administrative court ruled the election laws unconstitutional, suspending parliamentary elections slated to start in late April. The decision came after the Shura Council bypassed submission of the revised electoral-laws draft to the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), raising concerns about the laws’ constitutionality. After stating that he would respect the court’s decision, President Mohammed Morsi appealed the Administrative Court’s decision via the State Litigation Authority.
For Zeinab Afify, chair of The National Orphans Association and the Social Services Association, among others, the delayed election is good news. She is leading a group of eight women to form Egypt’s first independent all-women candidate list to contest the upcoming elections in the first disctrict of Giza. The chance for Afify to form an independent candidate list is the result of an amendment to the election laws after the SCC dissolved the previous parliament in June 2012. Previously, in what the SCC judged to be a breach of the principle of equality, only political parties could run lists in elections. Independent candidates were only permitted to run as individuals.
A gracious, articulate women who has spent the past 25 years conducting women’s development work, this is her first foray into politics. Like most ordinary Egyptians, she is frustrated with the current political options, finding no one who represents her interests or beliefs.
“We are the majority of Egyptians. We are Islamic, but not Islamists,” she says.
Her colleagues on the list are lawyers, doctors and engineers aged between 30 and 60 who also have no previous political experience. More than half are women with whom Afify has worked through her Charitable Pearls Association, an organization that she helped found and also chairs. Her approach to social work is reflected in her political beliefs: “The difference between us and the Islamists is [that we] teach women how to be independent and critical thinkers.”
Other political parties asked Afify to join their lists, but, disenchanted with them, she refused. For her, women voted, but did not benefit.
“The problems of women were not solved after the new parliament. No one from the Islamists, Salafis or liberals helped,” Afify explains. Moreover, the Shura Council voted against a proposed amendment requiring at least one woman to be in the top third of all candidate lists last week. Thus, the law remains as it was during the 2011-2012 parliamentary elections; at least one woman must be on the list, but in any position. This renders it a superficial provision to encourage women’s political participation, as many parties slot women toward the bottom of the list, where it is impossible for them to win a seat.
This change to the electoral law continues the “severe deterioration on the level of political rights of women,” according to a 2013 report issued by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights. Women’s representation in parliament decreased to two percent in 2011, after reaching 12.5% in 2010 under deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s regime; this decline lowered Egypt’s status to 128 of 131 countries for female representation in parliament. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranked Egypt 124 of 135 countries regarding economic opportunities for women.
There have also been various draft laws put forward on women’s issues by the Islamist parties seeking to undermine women’s current rights regarding divorce and child custody. In a heavily criticized statement, the Muslim Brotherhood denounced the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, of which Egypt is a signatory but with reservations, claiming that it violates all principles of Shariah and the Islamic community.
Afify, who has long worked with divorced, widowed and abused women, is determined to change these conditions for women and ordinary Egyptians by engaging the political system. Although the liberal opposition has employed the strategy of boycotting elections and refusing discourse with the current regime, Afify refutes, “It is necessary to enter elections because if you don’t, your opinion will not count.”
Although her expectations for victory are realistic, hoping to be elected herself as the first candidate on the list, along with another colleague, she has grand plans after that, sharing, “In parliament, we will make a lobby of women from our NGO to support me. We must move society forward.” The women’s list is also an initiative for women from divided religious and ideological backgrounds to unite around women’s issues.
Tensions between Muslims and Christians have been high after the revolution, especially as many Christians fear that the Islamist government will attempt to limit their rights and status in society. Afify hopes to have at least two women representing Christians, liberals and Islamists respectively on the list. So far, she has struggled to find liberal and Christian women who are willing to participate with them in the list, saying, “The liberals see us in hijab and say that we are Islamists, but we are the people in the middle. Many of our ideas are liberal.”
The Charitable Pearls Association is well known in Giza and works closely with schools and mothers providing after-school programs for children and training for women. Amany Zaghloul, a board member and candidate on the women’s list, is confident that their detailed knowledge and reputation in local communities will help win over women’s support for them.
“Like many Egyptian women, I am a mother and a wife, who is also working in the social sector. I feel the problems of Egyptian women, who are like me, and also the problems of poor women because of my work,” Zaghloul explains.
Naglaa Fathy, a soft-spoken, poised young woman who was trained by the Charitable Pearls Association and is now a trainer herself, is leading the development of the campaign strategy. Armed with detailed constituency maps, voter registration figures and activity calendars, she explains that they have approximately 50 volunteers at the moment who are speaking to women in their communities about the list. According to Afify, “In the end, women vote, but most women are told how to vote. We want women to make their own decisions.”
While they are confident about winning much of the female vote, they are aware that persuading men to support them will be more difficult. The idea of an all-women’s list is still new and strange for many Egyptians, while others may continue to oppose them for ideological reasons. Laughing, Afify told Al-Monitor that her own brother is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and vowed to vote against her in the election for the Freedom and Justice Party’s candidate.
However, this group of woman is determined to prove to all Egyptians that women can help solve Egypt’s problems.
“We can work, we can have a place, and we can do it. Let us do it, let us take the chance,” says Afify.
Zenobia Azeem is a Cairo-based freelance writer. She has worked in the field of international election observation for the past five years, primarily in the Middle East. Follow her on twitter @elbowsymmetry.
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:
Shahira Amin / December 5, 2012 /
The mood was tense last Thursday as anti-Islamist protesters continued their sit-in in Tahrir Square, demanding that President Mohammed Morsy annul the constitutional declaration he had issued a week before.
Liberals and leftists had all come together to adopt a common stance: “No to absolute powers for the president.”They vowed to continue their sit-in until the president rescinds his edict. Judges also denounced President Morsy’s power grab that placed his decisions above judicial review, calling it an assault on the judiciary.
Islamist supporters had meanwhile planned their own rally the following day outside Cairo University to express solidarity with the president. With at least two protesters dead and scores injured already, concerns were growing that a bloody confrontation between Islamist supporters and opposition activists might take place on the so-called Friday of Shari’a and legitimacy. Some analysts even warned of an imminent civil war if the constitutional crisis was not contained.
Controversy over the draft constitution had also deepened. Liberals and Christians on the 100- member Constituent Assembly had walked out saying that the assembly was dominated by Islamists and was not representative of minorities and women.
President Morsy had given a two-month timeline to complete the draft charter saying that it would be put to a popular referendum and be followed by legislative elections.
Failing to persuade the liberals and Christians to return to the panel to complete their task, Morsy gave directives to the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly Counsellor Hossam El-Gheriany to finalise the draft by Saturday, ahead of a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court that had widely been expected to dissolve the assembly and the Shura Council.
It was in the midst of all the political turmoil that I received a request from Presidential Spokesman Yasser Ali to interview President Morsy later that same day. An interview scheduled at such short notice could only mean that the president had an important announcement to make, I thought.
Perhaps he had decided to offer concessions to ease the standoff with the judges or scrap his extraordinary decree altogether. Those were my thoughts as I rode in a taxi to the presidential palace through the dense Thursday afternoon traffic.
I was proud to have been chosen as one of the two anchors who were to conduct the interview but I was also aware that viewers would expect me to challenge the president on his controversial decree and to ask probing questions.
On arrival at the palace, I was greeted by Yasser Ali and the Presidential aide for Political Affairs Pakinam El Sharkawy who both said that I was free to ask any questions as long as I observed the standard protocol of addressing the president as “His Excellency” or “Mr. President.” That was the sole instruction given to me before the interview.
It was a far cry from the days of Morsy’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak when all state TV interviews had been staged and the content was more at the hands of the then-Minister of Information Anas El Fekky and before him, Safwat el Sherif. Co-interviewer Tamer Hanafi and I were then left alone to discuss our questions and plan for the interview.
Two hours later, we were led to the room where the interview was to take place immediately after Maghreb prayers. Morsy walked in minutes later and greeted us in a gracious manner. I was surprised that he shook hands with me as I knew that most male members of the Muslim Brotherhood are often reluctant to shake hands with women.
Having twice met Morsy (in 2005 and 2009), before he was elected Egypt’s first civilian president, I felt completely at ease. His modesty and down to earth attitude also helped me feel comfortable in his presence.
In the hour-long interview Tamer and I quizzed the president over domestic issues ranging from his controversial edict and a possible escalation in street violence, to Coptic fears that their rights would be undermined under Islamist rule.
I also voiced my concerns as a liberal woman about Shari’a Law, asking if it would curtail the rights of women. I also asked the president what had led him to change his position on the IMF loan, suggesting it was likely to put a heavy burden on the poor, already struggling to make ends meet.
Rather than offer the widely-anticipated concessions on the constitutional declaration, the president reiterated his earlier stance that his new powers are “temporary and necessary to take the country out of the bottleneck towards democratic transition.”
While welcoming peaceful opposition, he vowed to deal harshly with dissidents attempting to derail the political process or those who use violence to attain their goals. Insisting there was a ‘conspiracy’ aimed at hindering efforts to rebuild the country.
President Morsy did not elaborate on the “threats” that had led him to resort to what critics describe as “an authoritarian power grab.”
The president also downplayed the concerns of minority Christians who, in the past year, have faced threats from Muslim extremists and on several occasions have been forced to evacuate their homes.
Denying that many Copts had been forced to flee the country, Morsy repeated the Mubarak-era slogan that “Muslims and Christians were one fabric of the society.” He also rejected use of the term “minority” to describe Egypt’s Christian population saying Christians were equal citizens who would be protected by the law. He also appealed for unity and calm, urging Egyptians to show respect for one another and be more tolerant. “Egyptians have had their first taste of freedom and are learning about democracy” he said.
Morsy’s words however, failed to pacify the opposition activists in Tahrir. Instead the interview triggered a barrage of criticism in both the traditional media and on social media networks.”No to dictatorship” read a front page banner in bold red print in the independent Al-Tahrir newspaper the following day.
Internet users meanwhile exchanged humorous posts on Facebook and Twitter stating that “love would help Egypt overcome its current woes.” My inbox was choked with hundreds of messages from viewers, some congratulating me on my scoop while others criticised my inability to get straight answers and from the president.
Moreover, a video clip of an angry Salafi Sheikh condemning me for being unveiled was widely circulated on the internet.
While it may be true that my less than fluent Arabic language did pose a hurdle, I remain fully convinced that even the most proficient interviewer would not have gotten more direct answers from the president. Besides, the opposition activists in Tahrir were not prepared to settle for anything less than a complete reversal of the president’s latest decisions.
At this time of deep polarisation, the level of tolerance among Egyptians is at an all-time low. This generation has inherited a legacy of mistrust and fear of the Muslim Brotherhood, for decades demonised as radicals who pose a threat to the society.
The liberals are suffering from Ikhwanophobia and fear Shari’a Law will be imposed under Muslim Brotherhood rule. A campaign by the independent media, vilifying Islamists, has in recent months fuelled such fears. Fierce denunciation by judges of the recent presidential decree has also raised serious concerns about the future independence of the judiciary.
As a matter of fact, the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate movement and the new charter that’s up for a popular vote in less than two weeks’ time has retained the exact wording of Article 2 in the previous 1971 constitution stipulating that the “principles of Shari’a are the source of legislation in the country.”
Responding recently to chants by his Islamist supporters of “The people want Shari’a law to be implemented,” President Morsy said that “Sharia Law means freedom, social justice and rule of law.”H is words however, have done little to allay the fears of a sceptical public.
Senior State Council Judges have now announced that they will oversee the referendum on the draft constitution on 15 December. Other lower-ranked judges from the influential Judges Club however remain defiant in their boycott of the referendum. Ahmed Abdullahi, a political columnist in the Daily Nation wrote in his column on 4 December that the judicial outburst that followed Morsy’s declaration was “the conundrum that faces agents of reform at times when the old order throws the last kicks of a dying horse.”
“How can a judiciary that for decades was so timid and loyal, and was an appendage of the Mubarak apparatus, be so loud during revolutionary moments like now? ” he asked, adding that “in dictatorships, the judiciary is always a strong ally used by the rulers as a legitimate tool to preserve their power and oppress the masses.
It is a powerful bulwark against the overthrow of the political order.” I totally agree, our first democratically elected parliament was after all dissolved by the Supreme Constitutional Court at the behest of General Tantawi . And haven’t former regime loyalists been acquitted in cases connected with the killing of protesters during the revolution? It makes one wonder if the judges’ symbiotic relationship with the old regime is the real reason why none of the accused have been convicted.
While I do not condone the constitutional declaration, it is my conviction that President Morsy will use the sweeping powers he gained to purge the judiciary and other state institutions of former regime loyalists – vital steps if Egypt is to make a smooth transition to democracy.
I expect a lot more instability in the period ahead as the former regime fights for survival within the new order. I hope that Egyptians will be cast aside their scepticism and be patient, strong and resilient enough to endure the coming period of turbulence. Please fasten your seat belts.
A former cop who claims he lied to get more than 100 court convictions is prepared to face his demons and go to jail for his deceit.
Patrick O’Brien, a police officer between 1971 and 1978, acted as an agent provocateur, in order to obtain drug convictions against a number of targets, while working undercover for the CIB. He was even praised for the multiple convictions he obtained while undercover.Now police are investigating O’Brien and have contacted some of those wrongly imprisoned because of his lies.
Detective Inspector Bruce Scott wrote to O’Brien last month, updating him on where the inquiry was at.
“Enquiries have been made with people you interacted with in Hamilton, who live in New Zealand and Australia,” Inspector Scott said in the letter.
“The enquiry is now at a stage where I probably need to talk to you (about the allegations of perjury).”
By Julian Crawford/Pic: O’Brien in 2011
The investigation began in 2007, after he wrote to Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias admitting he lied under oath in “every case and on every charge” to obtain convictions against about 300 targets in the Waikato.
“With one exception, the jury in every case returned guilty verdicts on all charges, and most defendants were sentenced to periods of imprisonment,” O’Brien told Truth.
“Telling lies was easy, and my targets never stood a chance. To effect my lies, it was first necessary to deceive my operators.
“In reality I answered to the men who trained me and on whose orders I obtained these convictions. They called it ‘doomsday’ work and instructed me to take this dreadful secret to the grave.”
O’Brien said he was the Crown’s principal witness in a series of High Court drug trials, presided over by Judge Sir David Beattie.
The highly respected judge even commended O’Brien for his good work. “I was so impressed with the standards this man had set himself, the risks he had run and the results he achieved,” Sir David said in 1986.
“Unflinching in the face of sustained attacks on his truthfulness by all defence teams, Constable O’Brien’s manner when presenting evidence ensured that juries accepted him as credible.”
However, the judge was unaware that O’Brien’s credibility and good results were all based on deception.
“For more than 30 years I have carried a dreadful secret. In every case, and on every charge I lied to Sir David and I lied to his juries,” O’Brien said.
“Eventually the work broke me. Haunted, traumatised and scared, I resigned from the police and fled New Zealand.