October 11: London Protest in solidarity with Hunger Striker Alaa Hammad + Jordanians in Israeli prisons

 

alaa-hammad.600pxInminds has issued the following call for protest:

Monday 11th October 4:00-6:00pm – Jordan International Bank
112-120 Brompton Road, London SW3 1JJ
Closest tube station : Knightsbridge
https://www.facebook.com/events/164484023751199/

After 100 days on hunger strike 4 of the 5 Jordanian hunger strikers suspended their strike after the Israeli prison service agreed to allow family visits for the first time. Some of them have not been allowed to see their families for 13 years.

Two months later however, Israels have reneged on the deal with not a single prisoner being allowed to their family. The father of Jordanian prisoner Abdullah Al-Barghouti is in critical condition in hospital with only one wish – to see his son before he dies. The Jordanian government for its part have been complicit with Israel in not pursuing the rights of its citizens. So the families have been left in limbo, their hope now rests with the sole remaining Jordanian hunger striker Alaa Hammad.

With Israel restricting information on Alaa Hammad. most of what we know is two months old. At the time Alaa Hammad had already lost around 30kg in weight whilst others had lost their ability to walk and were confined to wheelchairs. It was a torturous 100 days with the Israeli prison service putting immense pressure on the men to stop their strikes.

Mohammad Al-Rimawi, who suffers from a heart disorder where sometimes his heart beat is 125 and sometimes it drops to 50 beats per minute, was denied his medicine by the Israeli Prison Service until he agreed to stop his hunger strike. The day before he stopped – on his 99th day without food – on the eve of Eid, 5 soldiers shackled his hands and legs and threw him from his hospital bed to the ground and began savagely beating him with not a single Israeli doctor or nurse coming to his defense. The officers told Mohammad Al-Rimawi that they can treat him with violence and force with impunity because of lack of international attention on him and in particular Jordan who will not lift a finger to help him.

Two weeks before on 26th June 2013 the Israeli guards had brutally attacked Abdullah Al-Barghouti, again whilst he was in hospital – they dragged him from his hospital bed to the concrete floor and kicked him in the face leaving him bleeding. When a lawyer visited him on 7th August his condition remained critical, with problems with his liver, low blood pressure and constant migraines. Unable to walk, he is left shackled to his bed with threats of force feeding should he fall into a coma.

Under these conditions it was a miracle that the other prisoners managed 100 days of hunger strike. That in itself was their victory. The defeat was ours – the prisoners gave activists around the world 100 days to mobilize and pressure the Jordanian government in to action.. but we failed them. The hunger strikers confirmed this saying that lack of international attention was the primary reason why the hunger strikes ended.

Now the only Jordanian prisoner still on hunger strike is Ala’ Hammad and his condition is very precarious. On 5 August Hammad fainted and remained unconscious for five hours, ignored by the Israeli doctors. After finally receiving treatment Hammad regained consciousness.

Currently there are 26 Jordanian citizens that Israel has confirmed are in its prisons and another 21 missing which Israel has not accounted for. There are also unmarked ‘numbered graves’ of Jordanians who have died in prison..

One of the 26 is the child prisoner Mohammad Mahdi Saleh Suleiman. Now 17 years old he was been caged for over 6 months all ready, he is the youngest Jordanian in an Israeli prison. He has been severely tortured at Al Jalame – the notorious Israeli children’s dungeon. One of the missing 21 Jordanians is Laith Al-Kinani, he has been missing for 6 years. Mohammed Mahdi’s father and Laith’s parents have protested everyday for the last three months in front of the Jordanian Parliament and Royal Palace with no response from the government.

There have been over 90 demonstrations in Jordan by the families of the prisoners – elderly mothers standing in the burning sun, at several protests each day! Even a 22km solidarity march from one city to another.. All of this falling on deaf ears with the Jordanian government shamefully abandoning the prisoners and according to some accounts even pressuring the prisoners to give up their hunger strike.

Terrified by the iron will of the families and friends of the hunger strikers to relentlessly carry on protesting everyday and the support and respect they garner in wider society and the resulting momentum building up to end the states total submission to every whim of the Zionist enemy, the Jordanian security services have come down very hard on the protesting families. Family members have been threatened with arrest if they persist to champion their loved ones in Israeli dungeons. They dragged away a 16 year old boy, a nephew of one of the hunger strikes, to prison and locked him up for 3 days – his crime was to hand out a leaflet about his uncles’ imprisonment in an Israeli prison. On another occasion, wearing military camouflage uniforms that have never seen service on the enemy front line, the security forces with batons drawn, attacked a peaceful protest with plain cloths security service personnel cowardly targeting hunger striker Muneer Meree’s brother, assaulting him before disappearing back behind the uniform lines.

Its with this backdrop of intimidation, that we made contact with activists in Jordan. The families and campaigners in Jordan courageously, at great personal risk to themselves, asked us to help internationalise the campaign by protesting in solidarity with them in London. This will be the fifth London protest for the Jordanian prisoners in Israeli prisons. On 11th October we will protest outside the Jordan International Bank in Knightsbridge, which is partly owned by the Jordanian government.

We will protest in solidarity with Ala’ Hammad’s continued hunger strike, and for the child prisoner Mohammad Mehdi Saleh Suleiman and for the missing son Laith Al-Kinani and for the release of all the Palestinian prisoners. Lets not fail them, please join us.

Live updates during protest

We will, inshAllah, be tweeting live (hash tag #ShameOnJordan ) from the protest with live photos being uploaded to our twitter and facebook page. So if you can’t join us on the day, please help us by sharing the photos as they get uploaded.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Inmindscom-Boycott-Israel/365007213584914

https://twitter.com/InmindsCom

(Source / 10.10.2013)

In Egypt, a campaign to promote an ‘Egyptian Islam’

Egyptians exit El-Rahman El-Rahim mosque after Friday prayers in the Cairo neighborhood of Nasr City in this September photo.

CAIRO — One recent Friday, Egyptian officials dispatched an Islamic preacher named Mustafa Nawareg to a mosque full of angry people — distraught relatives and friends of demonstrators killed by security forces.

It was a crowd used to hearing fiery sermons that called the dead “martyrs” and exhorted followers to take to the streets. But now the crowd would hear from Nawareg, who was sent there by the government to “correct the fallacies of extremist thought.”

It took about five minutes for the shoes to start flying.

“Who paid you to say this?” yelled one man, according to Nawareg and others at El-Rahman El-Rahim mosque that day.

“Come down from your stage, you infidel!” yelled another as the crowd surged toward Nawareg. He felt hands clasp his neck before he managed to escape.

Nawareg’s sermon was part of a campaign by Egypt’s military-backed government to “standardize religious discourse” and promote what authorities describe as the true “Egyptian Islam.”

But critics say the effort could add fuel to a violent backlash that has included a suicide bombing in the heart of Cairo and regular attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula.

Although the government’s initiative promotes a separation between Islam and politics, opponents say that the new push serves the decidedly political purpose of casting a divine glow on the brutal crackdown against supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Hundreds of Morsi’s backers in the Muslim Brotherhoodhave been killed and thousands arrested by authorities, who describe them as “terrorists.”

“This is the new regime trying to create an official Islam, a state Islam, which doesn’t exist within the Islamic tradition,” said Emad Shahin, a professor of public policy at the American University in Cairo. “It’s providing a religious justification to tolerate the killing of possibly thousands of people, and it is sending alarming signals into many segments of society. This is exactly what you call fascism.”

Pop culture is taking the cue, Shahin noted, pointing to a new song being played around Cairo. It is called “We Are a People, and You Are a Different People,” a thinly veiled reference to Morsi’s followers.

“We have a God, and you have a different God,” the lyrics go. “Because Egypt is in our blood, we will never be like you, and you will never be like us. . . . Take your yelling and your screaming and your fatwas and go far away from our land.”

So far, the Ministry of Endowments, which regulates mosques, has effectively disqualified tens of thousands of preachers in the country, imams known for urging a more Islamist political order and, lately, for rallying followers to protest the July 3 coup that ousted the democratically elected Morsi.

In their place, the ministry has mandated that all preachers be government-­certified graduates of Cairo’s al-Azhar University, the world’s preeminent institution of moderate Sunni learning. Al-Azhar has also been closely associated with a string of Egyptian autocrats.

The goal, officials said, is to promote an “Azhari paradigm” of Islam, which they describe as an “Egyptian notion of religiosity” that tolerates no explicit talk of politics while encouraging respect for government institutions, including the military.

“It is balanced, open, respectful of traditions and very aware of current changes in reality,” said Ibrahim Negm, a senior adviser at al-Azhar. “We want to return religion to its rightful place, as a forum of spiritual guidance, not as a forum of political debate.”

Penalties for those who violate the new rules are under discussion. Negm and others bluntly defend the curbing of religious freedom as necessary, given the 21 / 2 turbulent years since the uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

“In normal societies where you have 100 percent literacy, you can implement democratic values,” Negm said. “In Egypt, it’s very risky to leave things as they are because experiments have made us realize — too late — that not regulating the religious landscape leads to violence and terror.”

A long struggle over Islam

The struggle to define Islam in Egypt has a long history, one pitting the Muslim Brotherhood and other dissidents who favor political Islam against the more secularly oriented establishment.

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser established the Ministry of Endowments in the 1950s, around the time that he survived an assassination attempt by a Brotherhood member and banned the organization.

All his successors launched periodic crackdowns on Islamist preachers, though the wider goal of stifling their ideas inevitably failed in a country with more than 100,000 mosques and millions drawn to sermons promising a more perfect Islamic society.

The 2011 revolution that toppled Mubarak unleashed the full power of the Islamist movement, sweeping Morsi to the presidency. But during his troubled year at the nation’s helm, Morsi also attempted to drag Islam in the Brotherhood’s direction, removing moderate preachers considered to be Mubarak allies and replacing them with Islamists who proselytized for Morsi’s agenda.

The struggle played out within al-Azhar itself, as Islamists attempted to wrest control of the revered 1,000-year-old institution from its traditionally moderate leadership. The moves alienated Egyptians who follow a more moderate Islam, and their massive protests helped the military justify the coup.

In his first address to the nation after Morsi’s ouster, Egypt’s army chief, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, was flanked by Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar, whose close associates run the Ministry of Endowments.

In the larger mosques across Cairo, plastic-coated signs are going up on the gates these days: “The Ministry of Endowments is the only one that completely and generally supervises the mosque.”

New tone in sermons

Morsi supporters say they are hearing new sermons, sometimes urging them to rally around the military, other times dwelling on matters such as health care.

“Last Friday, the preaching was all about military rule and the marches,” said Mohamed Ali, a doctor, speaking during one of the dwindling Friday protests by Morsi supporters. “This Friday, it was about the treatment of honey for diseases. I wanted to leave, but I felt it was not acceptable.”

The Friday after Nawareg was attacked at El-Rahman El-Rahim, worshipers began streaming in around noon — cleanshaven men and others with beards, women in colorful scarves and some in conservative black niqabs.

They passed through the gates, where there was a checkpoint manned by several security guards, who rummaged through backpacks and satchels. An old Azhari professor of Nawareg’s delivered a sermon about how God’s plan can be found in the details of nature, and there was no shouting.

Afterward, some worshipers stopped to talk about what had happened the previous Friday.

“Those people are not Muslims,” said one man, referring to the Brotherhood supporters. “They are terrorists, and we will not stop until we catch them all. Thank God the government is with us.”

“We are very positive, very optimistic,” agreed Ashraf Ibrahim, 43. “Things are getting better and better every day.”

As the gathering crowd nodded, a man in the middle spoke up to disagree.

“These preachers are taking orders from the government, and it’s a united message in all the mosques,” said Ala Ahmed, 32. “It is military rule, and we are living our lives according to them, even the sermons.”

The crowd was now about 30 strong, and members started yelling at Ahmed.

“They are trying to separate us so they can kill us,” he continued.

More yelling.

“Finally!” shouted a man in the back, offering support. “Someone who is telling the truth!”

But now the yelling was louder, and there was shoving and grabbing, and then the crowd began chasing the two dissenters alongside the ivory mosque, beating them in the parking lot as people passed by.

(Source / 10.10.2013)

Letter to UN: The World Must Increase Efforts to End Conflict and Stop Suffering of Syrian people

Press Statement
Syrian Coalition
Istanbul, Turkey
October 10, 2013

Today, the Syrian Coalition transmitted a letter to all 193 members of the United Nations to coincide with the UN Security Council’s consultations on Syria. It urged all members of the international community to build on the momentum provided by the adoption of the latest Security Council resolution to disarm Syria’s chemical weapons programme and intensify efforts to stop the conflict in Syria.

The chemical weapons attacks on August 21st have reinforced the urgent need for all members of the UN to show their support for UN-led efforts to comprehensively disarm the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program. At the same time, the Coalition stresses the importance of remaining focused on taking all necessary measures to stop the regime’s ongoing and excessive use of conventional force and inflicting extreme suffering on the Syrian people.

As a first step, even more political pressure must be placed on the regime to stop preventing the delivery of necessary humanitarian relief to millions of Syrians in need.

“For the past two and a half years, the Syrian regime has perpetrated a systematic campaign of violence against the people of Syria,” wrote Dr. Ghadbian, Special Representative of the Syrian Coalition to the UN. “Despite the ongoing efforts of UN agencies and humanitarian aid organizations to deliver such assistance, the Syrian regime continues to obstruct the delivery of aid and prevent urgently needed access to cities and towns across the country, in direct violation of international humanitarian law.”

The Syrian Coalition therefore calls on the international community to ensure that the Security Council’s Presidential Statement on October 2, 2013 is fully respected. Furthermore, the Coalition notes that increased pressure is needed to make the regime accept the need for and agree to a political transition if a political solution to the conflict is to be reached, and the growing threat of extremism to be neutralized.

“Each day that the war in Syria is allowed to continue, [Syrians’] disillusionment grows, as does their frustration with the international community’s perceived indifference,” wrote Dr. Najib Ghadbian, Special Representative of the Syrian Coalition to the United Nations, in the letter to UN members. “With despair comes extremism and radicalization, which threaten not only the future of our country, but the stability of the region.”

The Syrian Coalition unconditionally rejects the presence of extremist actors in Syria, including the majority composed of Hezbollah, Iranian revolutionary Guards, and all other terrorist organizations. As the conflict continues “our task of rebuilding a stable Syria with intact, democratic institutions becomes more difficult the longer the world fails to act to end this war.”

The Syrian Coalition therefore calls on the collective UN membership to build on the impetus provided by the Security Council’s recent endorsement of the Geneva Communiqué, as stipulated in UNSCR 2118, and make it explicitly clear that any future peace conference must have one clear and concrete goal: the creation of a transitional government.

We ask for Mercy for our martyrs, health for our wounded, and freedom for our detainees.

Long live Syria and its people, free and with honor.

(Source / 10.10.2013)

Jordan demands Israel to implement UNESCO resolutions

Gaza, ALRAY – Jordan on Wednesday called on the Israeli occupation to implement international resolutions related to Jerusalem and the latest decisions adopted by the UNESCO executive board.

The UN agency on Friday issued a resolution denouncing violations by the Israeli occupation authorities in the holy city of Jerusalem.

In its decisions, the UNESCO condemned Israel over several issues in relation to the preservation of archaeological sites in the Old City, the construction of a visitors’ centre, plans to build an elevator by the Western Wall, accusations of archaeological excavations damaging Muslim sites in Al Haram Al Sharif, and the deterioration of educational and cultural institutions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Mohammad Momani renewed Jordan’s warning that repeated acts of aggression against Islamic and Christian sites in Jerusalem, Israel’s unilateral measures and settlement policies pose a threat to the peace process.

Israel’s practices against the holy sites are rejected and condemned and are in violation of international conventions and agreements, he said, noting that Israel must stop its continued violations of the holy city.

Momani said Israeli occupation insist on allowing Jewish extremists into Al Aqsa Mosque which ignites religious conflict and constitutes a grave offence to Muslims and their feelings.

Expressing Jordan’s condemnation of the Israeli government turning a deaf ear to the Kingdom’s explicit and constant calls to prevent Jewish extremists from entering Al Aqsa Mosque, Momani urged world powers and international organizations to adopt a firm position to confront Israeli plans and practices against the holy site.

(Source / 10.10.2013)

Special Report – The real force behind Egypt’s ‘revolution of the state’

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CAIRO (Reuters) – In Hosni Mubarak’s final days in office in 2011, the world’s gaze focused on Cairo, where hundreds of thousands of protesters demanded the resignation of one of the Arab world’s longest serving autocrats.

Little attention was paid when a group of Muslim Brotherhood leaders broke free from their cells in a prison in the far off Wadi el-Natroun desert. But the incident, which triggered a series of prison breaks by members of the Islamist group around the country, caused panic among police officers fast losing their grip on Egypt.

One officer pleaded with his comrades for help as his police station was torched. “I am faced with more than 2,000 people and I am dealing with them alone in Dar al Salam, please hurry,” the policeman radioed to colleagues as trouble spread. “Now they have machine guns, the youth are firing machine guns at me, send me reinforcements.”

In all, 200 policemen and security officers were killed that day, Jan 28, called the Friday of Rage by anti-Mubarak demonstrators. Some had their throats slit. One of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders to escape was Mohamed Mursi, who would become president the following year.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry, which controls all of the country’s police forces including state security and riot police, never forgot the chaos. In particular the Wadi el-Natroun prison break became a powerful symbol inside the security apparatus of its lost power. Officers swore revenge on the Brotherhood and Mursi, according to security officials.

When army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appeared on television in July this year to announce the end of Mursi’s presidency and plans for elections, it was widely assumed that Egypt’s military leaders were the prime movers behind the country’s counter revolution. But dozens of interviews with officials from the army, state security and police, as well as diplomats and politicians, show the Interior Ministry was the key force behind removing Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

Senior officials in Egypt’s General Intelligence Service (GIS) identified young activists unhappy with Mursi’s rule, according to four Interior Ministry sources, who like most people interviewed for this story, asked to remain anonymous. The intelligence officials met with the activists, who told them they thought the army and Interior Ministry were “handing the country to the Brotherhood.”

The intelligence officials advised the activists to take to the streets and challenge Mursi, who many felt had given himself sweeping powers and was mismanaging the economy, allegations he has denied. Six weeks later, a youth movement called Tamarud – “rebellion” in Arabic – began a petition calling for Mursi to step down.

Though that group’s leaders were not among the youth who met the intelligence officials, they enjoyed the support of the Interior Ministry, according to the Interior Ministry sources. Ministry officials and police officers helped collect signatures for the petition, helped distribute the petitions, signed the petition themselves, and joined the protests.

“They are Egyptians like us and we were all upset by the Brotherhood and their horrible rule,” said a 23-year-old woman in the Tamarud movement who asked not to be named.

For the Interior Ministry, Tamarud offered a chance to avenge Wadi el-Natroun; the reversal of fortunes has been remarkable. The state security force, both feared and despised during Mubarak’s 30-year rule, has not only regained control of the country two and half years after losing power, but has won broad public support by staging one of the fiercest crackdowns on the Muslim Brotherhood in years.

The interior minister openly speaks of restoring the kind of security seen under Mubarak. A renewed confidence permeates the police force, whose reputation for brutality helped fuel the 2011 uprising. Egyptians now lionise the police. Television stations praise the Interior Ministry and the army, depicting them as heroes and saviours of the country.

The Interior Ministry’s most dreaded unit, the Political Security Unit, has been revived to deal with the Brotherhood. Under Mubarak, officers in that department were notorious for treating citizens with a heavy hand and intruding into their lives. When activists broke into the agency’s premises shortly after Mubarak was forced to quit on February 11, 2011, they found and posted online documents, videos and pictures of what they described as a torture chamber with a blood-stained floor and equipped with chains.

The Interior Ministry has apologised for “violations” in the past and has said they will not be repeated.

Key to the turnaround has been the Interior Ministry’s ability to forge much closer ties to the army, the most powerful and respected institution in Egypt. It was a tactic that began almost as soon as Mubarak stepped down.

FUMING SILENTLY

Weeks after Mubarak was overthrown, the Interior Ministry called a meeting at the police academy in Cairo. The gathering, headed by the interior minister and senior security officials, was the first in a series that discussed how to handle the Brotherhood, according to two policemen who attended some of the gatherings.

Thousands of mid- and lower-ranking officers were angry and said they could not serve under a president they regarded as a terrorist. Senior officers tried to calm them, arguing that the men needed to wait for the right moment to move against Mursi. “We tried to reassure them but the message did not get through,” said a senior police official. “They just fumed silently.”

The senior state security officer told Reuters there were no explicit orders to disobey Mursi but that a large number of officers decided they would not be “tools” for the Brotherhood.

“I worked during Mursi’s time. I never failed to show up at any mission. This included securing his convoys. Yet I never felt I was doing it from the heart,” said one major in state security.

“It was hard to feel that you are doing a national job for your country while what you are really doing was securing a terrorist.”

Resentment grew when Mursi pardoned 17 Islamist militants held since the 1990s for attacks on soldiers and policemen. One of the militants had killed dozens of policemen in an attack in the Sinai. None of them publicly denied the charges or even commented on them.

Mursi’s decision last November to grant himself sweeping powers triggered a wave of public protest. On December 5, protesters rallied in front of the Ittihadiya, the main presidential palace in Cairo. As the crowd grew, Mursi ordered security forces to disperse them. They refused. A senior security officer said there was no explicit order to disobey Mursi but they all acted “according to their conscience.”

The Muslim Brotherhood brought in its own forces to try and quell the unrest and Brotherhood supporters tried to hand some protesters to police to be arrested. But the police refused, Brotherhood officials said at the time.

“Do they think the police forgot? Our colleagues are in jail because of the Brotherhood,” said a state security officer.

Ten people were killed in the ensuing clashes, most of them Brotherhood supporters. Liberal activists accused Brotherhood members of beating and torturing anti-Mursi protesters.

Mursi miscalculated further by calling off a meeting sought by the army to discuss how to calm the storm, according to two army sources.

“It was a veiled message to stay out of politics, and we got it, as we understood that Mursi was an elected leader and (it) would be hard to defy that,” said an army colonel. “But it was clear by then where his rule was driving the state.”

“CONSTANT FIGHTS”

In January 2013, Mursi fired Ahmed Gamal, former senior state security officer, as interior minister and replaced him with Mohamed Ibrahim who was the senior-most official with the least exposure to the anti-Brotherhood factions inside the ministry, security sources said. Ibrahim was seen as weaker and more malleable than Gamal, who was blamed by the Brotherhood for not acting harshly enough against anti-Mursi protests.

But appointing Ibrahim, who was previously an assistant to the interior minister for prison affairs, proved to be a costly mistake. He moved to get close to the army, attending events to establish direct contact with army chief Sisi and regularly complimenting the general on his management techniques, said the police major.

Sisi had served as head of military intelligence under Mubarak. He was known to be religious and had the charisma to inspire younger army officers. Mursi believed those younger officers posed less of a threat than the old generals who had served under Mubarak and whom he fired in August 2012, two months after he took office.

But the country’s police chiefs had one message for the military: The Brotherhood is bad news.

“We are in constant fights on the streets. This made us tougher than the army and ruthless,” said the police major. “We don’t understand the language of negotiating with terrorists. We wanted to handle them from day one.”

Ibrahim rejected requests by Reuters for an interview and would not answer questions sent by email. Sisi could not be reached for comment.

By early 2013, army officers and Interior Ministry officials had begun meeting in the military’s lavish social and sports clubs, some of which overlook the Nile. Over lunch or steak dinners, officials would discuss the Brotherhood and Egypt’s future, according to senior state security officers and army officers who took part in the meetings.

The Interior Ministry argued that the Brotherhood was a threat to national security and had to go, according to one senior security officer. In the 1990s, during the Interior Ministry’s battle with the Muslim Brotherhood, the ministry had referred to all Islamists as terrorists. It urged the army to adopt the same terminology.

“I have gone to some of those meetings with the army and we spoke a lot about the Muslim Brotherhood. We had more experience with them then the army. We shared those experiences and the army became more and more convinced that those people have to go and are bad for Egypt,” the senior security officer said.

“The army like many people who have not dealt directly with the Brotherhood and seen their dirtiness wanted to believe that they have something to offer to Egypt. But for us it was a waste of time.”

Officials in the Interior Ministry warned the military that Mursi’s manoeuvrings were merely a way to shore up his power. The Muslim Brotherhood, they told their army colleagues, was more interested in creating an Islamic caliphate across the region than serving Egypt.

“The Brotherhood have a problem with the Egyptian state,” said the state security officer. “I am certain that Mursi came to implement the plan of the Brotherhood … They don’t believe in the nation of Egypt to begin with.”

Over time, middle-ranking Interior Ministry officers became more vocal with the military. The message got through at the highest level. Early this year, army chief Sisi warned Mursi that his government would not last.

“I told Mursi in February you failed and your project is finished,” Sisi was quoted as saying in an interview published this month in the newspaper al-Masry al-Youm.

Interior Ministry officials believed that the Brotherhood planned to restructure the ministry, one state security officer said. Concerned officials discussed the issue in a private meeting in the parliament. One option was the cancellation of the police academy. Many saw that as a threat to their institution and careers.

“The news became known to young officers. This action is against the interest of the officers. He was fighting their future,” said the state security officer.

Muslim Brotherhood officials have denied plotting against the Interior Ministry and say there were no plans to dismantle the police academy. They have previously accused Interior Ministry officials of working to undermine the government, refusing to protect Brotherhood leaders, and trying to turn the public against the group’s rule.

“We cooperated with the Interior Ministry all along. We never had plans to undermine it or the police academy. It was the Interior Ministry that refused to work with us,” said Brotherhood official Kamal Fahim. “All along they resisted us and tried to turn Egyptians against us.”

“DOWN, DOWN”

Pressure from the Interior Ministry on Sisi and the military grew, helped by the emergence in May of the Tamarud.

At first the group was not taken seriously. But as it gathered signatures, Egyptians who had lost faith in Mursi took notice, including Interior Ministry officials. Some of those officials and police officers helped collect signatures and joined the protests.

“Of course we joined and helped the movement, as we are Egyptians like them and everyone else. Everyone saw that the whole Mursi phenomena is not working for Egypt and everyone from his place did what they can to remove this man and group,” said a security official.

“The only difference was that the police and state security saw the end right from the start but the rest of the Egyptians did not and had to experience one year of their failed rule to agree with us.”

On June 15, the Interior Ministry held a meeting of 3,000 officers, including generals and lieutenants, at its social club in the Medinat Nasr district of Cairo to discuss the death of a police officer killed by militants in Sinai. Islamist militancy in Sinai, mainly targeting police and army officers, had risen sharply after Mursi’s election.

Some at the meeting blamed “terrorist elements … released by Mohamed Mursi,” said the state security officer.

Police officers started chanting “Down, down with the rule of the General Guide,” a reference to Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Mohamed Badie, now in jail on charges of inciting violence during the Ittihadiya protests.

On June 30 – the anniversary of Mursi’s first year in office – angry Interior Ministry officers joined Tamarud members and millions of other Egyptians to demand the president’s resignation. Four days later, Sisi appeared on television and announced what amounted to a military takeover. Some security officials called the move “the revolution of the state.”

TEARGAS, BULLETS AND BULLDOZERS

For weeks after Mursi’s overthrow, Western officials tried to persuade Sisi to refrain from using force to break up Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo. But the hardline Interior Ministry, which had quickly regained its old swagger, pressed for a crackdown. Police officials argued that Brotherhood members had weapons.

“For us, negotiations were a waste of time,” said the state security major. “We know what was coming: terrorism. And now after this horrible experience I think everyone learned a lesson and appreciates us and that we were right about those people.”

Early on the morning of August 14 policemen in black uniforms and hoods stormed the Rabaa al-Adawiya camp, one of two main vigils of Brotherhood supporters in Cairo.

The police ignored a plan by the army-backed cabinet to issue warnings and use water cannons to disperse protesters, instead using teargas, bullets and bulldozers. Hundreds died there and many more died in clashes that erupted across the country after the raid.

Army officers later asked the police why the death toll was so high, according to a military source. The interior minister said his forces were fired on first.

“It is one thing for decisions to be taken by officials in suits and sitting in air-conditioned rooms,” said a state security officer in charge of some top Brotherhood cases. “But we as troops on the ground knew that this decision can never be implemented when dealing with anything related to this terrorist organisation. Force had to be used and that can never be avoided with those people.”

Despite the use of force and the deaths, liberal Egyptians who had risen up against Mubarak seemed sanguine.

The liberal National Salvation Front (NSF) alliance praised the actions of security forces. “Today Egypt raised its head up high,” said the NSF in a statement after the raid. “The National Salvation Front salutes the police and army forces.”

Two years after the Wadi el-Natroun prison break, the Interior Ministry had power again. It announced it would use live ammunition when dealing with protesters it accused of “scaring citizens.” Trucks used by the once-dreaded anti-riot security forces now have signs on them which read “The People’s Police.”

The government has jailed the Brotherhood’s top leaders in a bid to crush Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement. Muslim Brotherhood officials now face trial in connection with the Ittihadiya protests.

Senior security officers say their suspicions about the Brotherhood were confirmed in documents they found when they raided the group’s headquarters. The documents suggested that Mursi planned to dismantle the army under the guise of restructuring, they said. One of the documents, which a state security officer showed to Reuters, calls for the building of an Islamic state “in any eligible spot.”

Muslim Brotherhood leaders could not be reached to comment on this document because most of them are either in jail or hiding.

Police officials say they no longer abuse Egyptians and have learned from their mistakes under Mubarak. But not everyone is buying that line.

Muslim Brotherhood leader Murad Ali, who was recently imprisoned, wrote in a letter smuggled out of prison and seen by Reuters that he was put in a foul-smelling, darkened cell on death row and forced to sleep on a concrete floor. Lawyers for other Brotherhood members say prisoners are crammed into small cells and face psychological abuse. One elderly Brotherhood prisoner said guards shaved his head and brought vicious dogs around to scare him, inmates near his cell told Reuters.

There were no complaints of the type of whipping or electrocution seen in Mubarak’s days. But Brotherhood members say the current crackdown is more intense. “The pressure never subsides. None of my Brotherhood colleagues sleep at the same place for too long and neither do I,” said Waleed Ali, a lawyer who acts for the Brotherhood.

(Source / 10.10.2013)

Olive harvest season starts in Gaza

 

Palestinian Olive SeasonAl-Tarshawi expressed his happiness with the start of the harvest season and announced that the Gaza Strip is expected to produce around 10,000 tons of olives this season.

Gaza’s ministry of agriculture celebrated on Thursday the beginning of the olive harvest season for this year.

Minister Ali Al-Tarshawi and staff from the agriculture ministry attended the celebration, which took place at an olive farm in Khan Younis City, in the south of the Gaza Strip.

Al-Tarshawi expressed his happiness with the start of the harvest season and announced that the Gaza Strip is expected to produce around 10,000 tons of olives this season.

However, he explained that this amount is far less than the amount produced in the previous year. He said that his ministry is planning to import olives from the occupied West Bank to meet the remaining demand of the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, he announced that his ministry is working on expanding the Gaza Strip’s olive harvesting lands in the coming years to reach 36,450 dunams.

He said that the Gaza Strip used to produce huge amounts of olives and citrus products, but because of Israel’s aggression against the agricultural areas in Gaza during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, this produce has sharply decreased.

 

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(Source / 10.10.2013)

Syrian child refugees face exploitation, UNICEF says

Syrian refugees from Aleppo city, on a street in Raqqa October 6, 2013.

Child refugees who have fled Syria’s civil war are vulnerable to exploitation including early marriage, domestic violence and child labor, despite efforts to keep them in school, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday.

More than one million children, some without parents or close relatives, are among 2.1 million refugees who have crossed mainly into Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey since March 2011, the agency says.

Jordan hosts 540,000 Syrian refugees, straining health and education services and already scarce water resources, said Michele Servadei, UNICEF’s deputy representative in Jordan.

Most Syrians live in host communities in the north, while 120,000 are at the teeming Zaatari camp in the Jordanian desert.

“In host communities they are much more exposed to child labor, to early marriage, to exploitation in general,” Servadei told a news briefing in Geneva.

Some 200,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan are school-age, but only 80,000 are enrolled in education, often in classrooms with double shifts. Adolescents aged 14 to 17, many of whom had dropped out of school, were especially at risk, he said.

“The main coping mechanism that these children have in many cases is withdrawal…We noticed that actually many children don’t go out of the house,” he said.

“But the problem is that the house is not the safest place always. There is a high level of domestic violence among communities, definitely because of the war situation, but also because of the protracted displacement and the sense of frustration that it brings.”

Jordan lacks enough shelters for battered women, he added.

UNICEF operates 80 child-friendly spaces in Jordan, offering activities and psycho-social support to young Syrian refugees, some of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

An estimated 30,000 Syrian child refugees are working in Jordan, Servadei said. A UNICEF assessment in the Jordan Valley in April identified 3,500 child laborers, mainly seasonal.

“They were working mainly on the farms, in many cases also hard labor, let’s say 10 hours a day using pesticides,” he said. Other children work in family bakeries or as mechanics.

UNICEF is providing cash assistance – 30 Jordanian dinars or about $45 per month – for families to remove a Syrian child from work and return him to school, according to Servadei.

“We monitor the attendance, when the attendance is no longer there, the cash assistance gets stopped,” he said. “But we are checking if that is going to be enough because actually most of these children are earning much more working, unfortunately.”

In 2012, 18 percent of the registered marriages of Syrians in Jordan involved under-18-year-olds, up from 12 percent a year before, he said. Imams have the authority to approve marriages for youths over 16, but these often go unregistered, he said.

Syrian rebels are also alleged to have infiltrated refugee camps in Jordan seeking to recruit young people to fight in their homeland, Servadei said, declining to give specifics.

(Source / 10.10.2013)

Morocco king names new govt ending 3-month drift

RABAT (AFP) — Morocco’s King Mohamed VI appointed a new Islamist-led government on Thursday ending a months-long crisis triggered by the defection of a key coalition partner, a minister told AFP.

The king “has just appointed the new government” at a ceremony at the palace in Rabat, said Justice Minister Mustafa Ramid, a member of the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party whose leader, Abdelila Benkirane, remains prime minister.

(Source / 10.10.2013)

Mursi faces trial as U.S. reviews aid to Egypt

The remnants of a poster of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi are seen at a petrol station in Cairo August 28, 2013. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

 (Reuters) – Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Mursi will stand trial on November 4 on charges of inciting the killing of protesters, a prospect sure to raise concern in Washington, already considering cutting aid as a way to urge Cairo to restore democracy.

Mursi has been held in a secret location since his overthrow on July 3. If he is brought before the court, it would be the Islamist leader’s first public appearance since then.

The trial could further inflame tensions between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army-backed government and deepen the political instability that has decimated tourism and investment in the most populous Arab state.

The upheaval worries Cairo’s Western allies, who were hoping the uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule would turn the region’s biggest country into a democratic success story.

The United States and European Union had wanted an inclusive political process in Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the Suez Canal waterway between Europe and Asia.

Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, and other Brotherhood leaders accuse the army of staging a coup that reversed the gains of the 2011 revolt against Mubarak.

The army says it was carrying out the people’s will and has presented a plan it says will lead to free and fair elections.

Judge Nabil Saleeb said Mursi and other Brotherhood members had been charged with “inciting the killing and torture of protesters in front of the Etihadeya (presidential) palace”.

U.S. REVIEWS AID

The charges relate to the deaths of about a dozen people in clashes outside the presidential palace in December after Mursi enraged protesters with a decree expanding his powers.

Egypt has been in turmoil since the army removed Mursi following mass protests against his rule and then launched a tough crackdown against his Brotherhood, killing hundreds at protest camps and marches and arresting about 2,000.

Mursi supporters and security forces clashed again on Sunday, one of the bloodiest days since the military took power, with state media reporting 57 people dead and 391 wounded.

The United States is leaning toward withholding most military aid to Egypt except to promote counter-terrorism, security in the Sinai Peninsula that borders Israel, and other such priorities, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

The official said President Barack Obama had not made a final decision on the issue, which has vexed U.S. officials as they balance a desire to be seen promoting democracy and rights with a need to keep up some cooperation with Egypt’s military.

After Mursi’s ouster, the Obama administration said it would suspend about $585 million in military assistance to Egypt pending a wider policy review.

The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration was now inclined to continue withholding most of that, with the exceptions described above.

The United States is also considering continuing some economic aid to Egypt, but chiefly funds that go to non-governmental groups rather than to the government itself, the official said.

Cairo said it had received no official word on the issue.

“The relationship between Egypt and the United States is one of partnership, and not one of donor and recipient,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty.

Egypt has for decades been among the largest recipients of U.S. military and economic aid because of its 1979 peace treaty with U.S. ally Israel, which agreed to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula it seized from Egypt in 1967 as a result of the pact.

Washington has long provided Egypt with about $1.55 billion in annual aid, including $1.3 billion in military assistance.

Aside from the political crisis, Egypt’s interim government faces an Islamist insurgency in the Sinai, near Israel and the Gaza Strip, which is run by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Four Egyptian soldiers were wounded on Wednesday when militants threw an explosive device at their car in central Sinai, security sources said. An army camp in Rafah, northern Sinai, was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades but there was no immediate report of casualties.

Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in the Sinai have stepped up attacks on soldiers and police since the army toppled Mursi and have on occasion extended their campaign into major cities. A Sinai-based group claimed responsibility for a failed suicide bombing targeting the interior minister in Cairo in September.

Security sources said Mursi was expected to be tried at a Cairo police institute near Tora, Egypt’s most notorious prison, which held Mubarak until he was moved to house arrest in August.

(Source / 10.10.2013)

Israeli forces detain man at Huwwara checkpoint

A man from Qalqiliya was detained at the Huwwara checkpoint, sources said.
NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israeli forces Thursday detained a man at the Huwwara checkpoint in southern Nablus, a Ma’an correspondent said.

Local sources said that Israeli soldiers detained Yousef Mustafa Ishtewe, a 21-year-old from Kafr Qaddum in Qalqiliya, at the Huwwara checkpoint.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army could provide no further information on the incident.

(Source / 10.10.2013)