Europese Islamofobie Conferentie 2013 te Amsterdam

Het Euro-Mediterraan Centrum Migratie en Ontwikkeling (EMCEMO) en het Collectief Tegen Islamofobie en Discriminatie (CTID) organiseren een conferentie over de problematiek van islamofobie in Nederland en andere EU landen, met plenaire sessies en interactieve workshops over de volgende thema’s : Islamofobie, wetenschappelijke benaderd; Islamofobie, juridisch bekeken; Islamofobie en politiek; en de relatie van islamofobie met verschillende vormen van radicalisering.

Tijdens de conferentie zullen de aanwezigen over deze vier thema’s spreken, mede met het oog op het algemene politieke en maatschappelijke debat over de Islam. De centrale focus van de conferentie is de actualiteit van islamofobie : wat is islamofobie? Welke islamofobe incidenten hebben in Nederland plaats gevonden? wat zijn de gevolgen ? Daarnaast willen wij ook de mogelijke aanpak van dit probleem bespreken: wat is er al gedaan en wat kan er nog gebeuren? wat is er politiek en juridisch mogelijk in Nederland en de EU? Deelnemers aan het conferentie krijgen ook een inhoudelijk map met meer informatie.

Graag nodigen wij u uit voor de Europese Islamofobie Conferentie 2013 op 18 oktober 2013 van 9:30-18:00uur in het Concern Congres Centrum, Weesperstraat 113. Onder leiding van dagvoorzitter Fenna Ulichki spreken Ineke van der Valk (Universiteit van Amsterdam), Marwan Muhammed (Stat X and Collectief Tegen Islamofobie in Frankrijk), Ties Prakken (Universiteit van Maastricht), Mohammed Rabbae (Landelijk Beraad Marokkanen), Jan Jaap de Ruiter (Tilburg University), Yassin Elforkani (Contactorgaan Moslims en Overheid) en Roemer van Oordt (Projectbureau Zasja) tijdens de plenaire sessies en workshops. Aan de workshops wordt ook deelgenomen door Martijn de Koning (Radboud University en Universiteit van Amsterdam), Marlene Bosman (betrokken bij anti-discriminatie zaken) en Miriam Barhanzi (Moslim Jeugd Italië).

In de bijlage vindt u het programma. Voor meer informatie of om deelname te bevestigen, stuur een email naar Tara Coghlan via islamofobie@gmail.com of bel het kantoor van EMCEMO: 0031 (0)20-4288825.

Morocco under rights fire as U.N. makes new W. Sahara peace bid

Morocco is sturggling to regain the initiative as the U.N. makes a new peace push for the disputed territory.

Under fire over its human rights record in the Western Sahara, Morocco is vying to regain the initiative as the U.N. makes a new peace push for the disputed territory.

U.N. envoy Christopher Ross is trying to break a decades-old deadlock between Morocco, which annexed the former Spanish colony in 1975 in a move never recognized by the international community, and the pro-independence Polisario Front, which is backed by neighboring Algeria.

The envoy, whom Morocco tried unsuccessfully to have replaced last year, accusing him of bias, began his shuttle diplomacy with talks with government ministers in Rabat on Monday.

They were due to be followed by talks with Algerian officials and with leaders of the Polisario, which has retained control of a small sliver of the territory ever since a U.N.-brokered ceasefire came into force in 1991.

Earlier this year, aggressive international lobbying by Rabat successfully shot down an unprecedented U.S. proposal to task the U.N. peacekeeping force in the territory with human rights monitoring.

Instead, the U.N. Security Council resolution extending the force’s mandate simply stressed the “importance of improving the human rights situation” in Western Sahara and the Sahrawi refugee camps in neighboring Algeria.

Amnesty International called the resolution a “missed opportunity.”

In the weeks after the Security Council vote, scores of pro-independence protesters were injured in clashes with Moroccan security forces in the territory’s main city Laayoune and other towns, where calm has since returned, at least temporarily.

But speaking to parliament on Friday, King Mohamed VI warned against “blind optimism.”

“The situation is difficult. Nothing has yet been settled. The scheming of those opposed to our territorial integrity will not stop,” he said, while calling on “all citizens” to mobilize.

“Instead of waiting for the attacks of our adversaries to respond, we should put them on the defensive.”

North Africa specialist Khadija Mohsen-Finan warned the human rights issue will “inevitably be back on the agenda, by April at the latest,” when the U.N. peacekeeping force’s mandate next comes up for renewal.

Morocco has been stung by the criticism of its Western Sahara policies, some of it from its Western allies.

A report by the U.S. State Department to Congress last month detailed the kingdom’s harsh repression of those publicly advocating independence for the territory.

Rabat slammed it as “biased, simplistic and unbalanced.”

Its record is expected to be put under the spotlight again later this month with a report by the European Parliament’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Sahel and Western Sahara.

The U.N. envoy has broadened the scope of his meetings beyond the rival leaderships, and will fly to Laayoune later in the week for meetings with non-governmental groups, both pro-independence and pro-Moroccan.

“There is a recognition by him of civil society, which has forced itself into the regional political sphere in these last few years,” Mohsen-Finan said.

She said that Morocco, which has remained outside the pan-African bloc for decades because of its decision to give membership to the Polisario’s Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, needed to stop basing its relations with foreign governments on their position on the dispute.

Mohsen-Finan said that, above all, Morocco needed to flesh out the details of the broad autonomy it has long promised for the Western Sahara as an alternative to the referendum on full independence demanded by the Polisario.

It should “give new content to the proposed autonomy, taking into account the wishes of the population, the natural wealth to be distributed,” she said.

Mustapha Naimi, a researcher and former member of Morocco’s Royal Advisory Council of Saharan Affairs, echoed her comments.

Morocco’s best response to foreign criticism would be to “accelerate the reform process,” in particular its plans to grant the regions greater autonomy, he said.

Naimi remained skeptical, however, of any breakthrough being made in the latest U.N. peace push, given the entrenched positions of the two sides.

“There are a number of parameters which show that things haven’t really haven’t budged,” he said

(Source / 15.10.2013)

Armed settlers attack mosque, burn cars in West Bank village

Sayel Kanan gestures towards graffiti reading “The redemption of Zion loves Tomer Hazan,” referring to an Israeli soldier recently killed in the West Bank, spray-painted on Burqa village’s mosque.

Israeli settlers raided Burqa, a village near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, on 10 October. In addition to vandalizing the village mosque, three cars were also set ablaze in front of their owners’ homes.

This attack and others appear to be in response to the recent killings of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. A mere fifty meters down the street, the perpetrators spray-painted graffiti on the side of the mosque. “The redemption of Zion loves Tomer Hazan,” it read, referring to an Israeli soldier who was killed in the city of Qalqiliya last month.

The attack followed one in the Jalazone refugee camp, also in the Ramallah area, on 27 September. After setting two cars on fire in the camp, Israeli settlers left graffiti proclaiming that the act was revenge for the killing of an Israeli soldier in Hebron (“Settlers set two cars on fire near Ramallah,” Ma’an News Agency, 27 September 2013).

Despite the illegality of their presence under international law, Israeli settlers face virtually no consequences for their routine violence against Palestinians. Across the West Bank, these settlers have targeted Palestinian holy sites, farmers, buildings and land with increasing frequency.

“They came around 1 o’clock am and wrote on the mosque. Then they set our neighbor’s car on fire before they came to our garage and set my truck and our car on fire,” said Abu Ali Nitham, a farmer who lives at the edge of Burqa.

“They all had weapons”

Although his family woke up from the noise, Nitham was unable to stop the settlers from burning both of his vehicles. “There were six of them and the whole group was armed. I was all by myself — of course, I couldn’t approach them because they all had weapons.”

Nitham said that the attacks came on foot from Givat Asaf, a settlement “outpost” situated on a neighboring hilltop and within plain sight of his home. The outpost has not been given official authorization by Israel.

A mechanic has told Nitham that repair of his truck will cost more than $1,400. Fixing the car, on the other hand, would cost another $850 — more than its total value.

Although the settlers harrass him almost every day while he farms his olive tree orchard, Nitham said that this latest attack was the first time they came this deep into the village.

“We have olive trees and sheep over there,” he said, gesturing to a plot of land connected to his home. “They attack it every day, they burn the trees or tear them out. If you go to the land right now, you’ll find settlers there.”

Desperate as a result of the frequent attacks, Nitham said that he “went to the Israeli police station four or five times. It’s pointless — there are no results.”

Man gestures towards scorched car

Israeli settlers set three vehicles on fire last week in the Palestinian village of Burqa.

“This is neither the first time [the settlers] attacked nor will it be the last,” Nitham added. “Each day they cause more problems.”

In December 2011, a group of settlers, also believed to be from the outpost of Givat Asaf, set fire to the village’s mosque, sprawling racist graffiti across its walls (“Settlers torch Ramallah mosque,” Ma’an News Agency, 15 December 2011).

In early January 2012, a similar group of five or six settlers entered the village in the early hours of one morning and set fire to two cars belonging to Sayel Kanan, acting mayor of the village.

“When they lit the first car on fire, they woke up my 75-year-old mother who lives in the house next to me,” said Kanan. “She started screaming and yelling enough to wake everyone else up.”

Despite his mother’s screaming, the perpetrators remained long enough to set a second car on fire and scrawl “Death to Arabs” on the wall outside the home.

“Thankfully we were able to put out the fire before it spread to the house,” said Kanan. The damage cost him more than $8,500, and he has since spent upwards of $10,000 on security measures to protect his house and family — including reinforcing the fence and installing alarms and security cameras.

Kanan has alleged that these attacks, along with the most recent incident this week, have all been carried about by the same group of young men believed to be from Givat Asaf.

“I’m very sure [the Israeli police] know the perpetrators,” said Kanan.

After the attack on his house, the attack on the village’s mosque, and the most recent incident, Kanan and the other residents of Burqa have attempted to involve Israeli police from the nearby Shaar Benyamin station in the investigation.

“They said they know there are about five to six people from Givat Asaf who are causing problems. They know them very well, but they will never punish them,” said Kanan. In fact, he suspects the same group to be responsible for similar attacks within the surrounding villages.

“Nearly beaten to death”

In August of this year, a 47-year-old Palestinian shepherd, Najeh Thalejeh, was attacked by a group of six settlers in the neighboring village of Mukhmas. The settlers beat him in the head and the chest with knives and rods (“Palestinian shepherd attacked by masked men,” The Times of Israel, 18 August 2013).

“They nearly beat him to death,” said Kanan. It was reported that Thalejeh needed 75 stitches in his head and chest area.

The attack bears resemblance to one which took place on 30 April, when eight settlers attacked Burqa farmer Sayel Muhammad Jaraba and beat him with metal pipes, according to the human rights organization Al-Haq (“In one week: 13 attacks by settlers against Palestinians in West Bank,” 9 May 2013).

“These are not kids. They are a well-organized group with obvious military training. They are armed. They moved like soldiers — they are well-trained,” said Kanan of the attack on his house.

Home to 2,000 Palestinians, the village of Burqa is flanked on three sides by Israeli settlements and outposts, leaving it vulnerable to attacks and military closures. “We are surrounded,” said Kanan.

“On one side we have the settlement of Koukab Yacoub, then there is the outpost Givat Asaf in the north. The area where Migron [another outpost] once was is over there,” Kanan added, pointing towards a military installation, “and Israel’s Highway 60 finished the square.”

“Living in a cage”

“They [the Israeli installations] are all built on a part of Burqa’s land. They have taken about 30 percent of our land, but of course, if you include all the land surrounding them that they prevent us from accessing, then it reaches upwards of 50 percent of our land,” said Kanan.

“We are living in a cage. We can jump and jump, but no matter what, we’ll stay in the cage.”

The Israeli settlement outpost of Migron sat on land belonging to Burqa until Israel’s high court ruled it illegal — it was evacuated in September 2012. Burqa’s villagers say the settlers who lived in Migron have simply moved to Givat Asaf, from where they continue their attacks.

Givat Asaf, built in 2001, was ordered to be evacuated by the Israeli high court in 2011. Its residents vowed to unleash a “tsunami of resistance” and use “violent resistance” to prevent their removal, according to press reports (“Settlers vow to resist future evictions,” Ynet, 7 October 2011).

In May 2013, despite past promises to evacuate all outposts, considered illegal even under Israeli law, the Israeli authorities announced that they were seeking to formally approve Givat Asaf and a few other outposts (“State considering legalizing four West Bank outposts,” The Times of Israel, 16 May 2013).

“The biggest problem we face is from Givat Asaf in the north,” said Kanan. “We face a lot of pressure from them. They’ve taken a lot of land surrounding the settlement. None of the villagers can use their land — if they try, they’ll get seriously hurt. They may even be killed.”

Police “protect settlers”

More than 515,000 Israeli settlers reside in illegal settlements snaking throughout occupiedEast Jerusalem and the broader West Bank, according to the Israeli human rights groupB’Tselem.

Alongside Israeli military installations and industrial zones, these settlements encage Palestinians in small geographical islands with densely concentrated populations, often unable to access their agricultural lands.

Research published by international and Palestinian human rights organizations demonstrate complete legal impunity for Israeli settlers.

“The record clearly indicates that the vast majority of files are closed without even an indictment,” Bill Van Esveld, a researcher with Human Rights Watch told The Electronic Intifada.

“We have seen an increase year after year — a lack of indictments, a lack of prosecutions, and an increase in violence. Those things paint a clear picture.”

Between January and April this year, Al-Haq “documented 58 attacks by settlers against Palestinians and their property,” the organization stated in its aforementioned report. Al-Haq also recorded 13 attacks throughout the course of a single week in April.

Navi Pillay, the United Nation’s high commissioner for human rights, called on Israel to prosecute settler violence in March 2013, stating that “Israel needs to hold perpetrators accountable” (“Israeli settler violence must be prosecuted, says UN chief,” 18 March 2013).

However, there has been little to no effort by Israel’s government to curb or investigate settler violence.

The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din recently published a report that finds that more than 90 percent of the investigations opened into settler violence between 2005 and 2013 “were closed without an indictment being served against suspects” (“Law enforcement on Israeli civilians in the West Bank,” July 2013 [PDF]).

“They make you feel like they’re trying to help you, but in reality, they will never help any Palestinian citizen,” said Kanan. “The Israeli army and police are here to protect the settlers … that’s it.”

(Source / 15.10.2013)

Jihadists flooding into northern Syria put Turkey on edge

 

  • turkeyfence.jpeg

    A Turkish soldier speaks with Syrian refugees who are trying to cross the border fence from the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain into Turkey.

The brutal, Al Qaeda-linked group rebels invited into Syria to help topple President Bashir Assad has virtually taken over northern Syria, raising fears that its brand of indiscriminate terror could spill into neighboring Turkey, where some 300 U.S. soldiers are based to protect Turkish airspace from Syrian missile attacks.

ISIS — whose name has been translated as “Greater Syria” — joined the Free Syria Army’s bid to oust Assad, but now seeks to turn the embattled nation into a building block in a radical Sunni Islamic empire, or caliphate, across the Middle East. The group has captured towns and swaths of territory along the border with Turkey.

According to a recent analysis from Stratfor, a Texas-based global intelligence organization, ISIS “has dispatched hundreds of fighters north toward Turkey in response to closure of certain border crossings.” Turkey has a powerful military, but even so, can’t welcome an enclave of radical jihadists on its border, say experts.

Abu Omar recently stated that more radical Islamists are on their way to Syria. “Everybody wants to go for jihad in Syria.”- Abu Omar, terrorist leader now believed in southern Turkey

“Turkey could be a target for them [ISIS ]… Not in the immediate future, but maybe in the far future,” said Yossi Melman, a top Israeli security expert and co-author of “Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars.”

Melman said Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is not a “real Muslim” in the eyes of ISIS because he is a relatively moderate Islamic leader.

The ISIS has “gained a lot of knowledge and experience about Turkey,” cultivated ties and could form sleeper cells, added Melman. “If I were a Turkish official, I would say, there is  room for concern,” he said.

The shocking anti-Western and anti-Christian ideology of ISIS led its jihadis to dismantle a cross on the top of a church in the city of al-Raqqa and replace it with the black flag of Al Qaeda. When ISIS seized the Syrian town of Jarabulus, it imposed a madrassa — a strict Islamic school — on a moderate Muslim pupil population. An Al Qaeda flag blankets the front of the school.

ISIS declared the town to be the “Emirate of Jarabulus” and swiftly clamped down on women, pressing them to fully cover their bodies with hijabs and their faces with veils.

The fanatical ISIS Islamists have outlawed tobacco and implemented public executions in the Syrian villages under their control. Humanitarian aid to the millions of displaced refugees within Syria has been made more difficult because ISIS declared that it will kidnap and kill aid workers who enter Syrian territory. It is unclear if the International Committee of the Red Cross workers abducted this week in northern Syria — an ISIS stronghold — were victims of the ISIS.

Just last month, ISIS defeated a pro-Western rebel group, Northern Storm, in the city of Azaz. The intense clashes prompted the Turkish government to shut a series of border crossings. The growing strength of ISIS — and its insatiable drive to secure more territory — could mean the jihadis are bent on confronting Turkey.

The Stratfor analysis stated that, “If the ISIS attempts to fight the Turkish Army along the border, it will incur heavy losses. However, the border is long and difficult to control.”

The Turkish authorities apparently went on the offensive this month to prevent an ISIS jihadist spillover. Sky News reported that Turkey has begun to construct a 6-foot high (2 meters) wall along its frontier with Syria, “to stem border security and smuggling problems.” According to Sky, a government official said, “We haven’t had border security problems in Nusaybin so far, but in that area it’s extremely easy for people to cross illegally. It’s almost like there is no border.”

For now, jihadists may be content to consolidate power inside Syria’s borders, according to Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, the Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the U.S.-based Middle East Forum, told FoxNews.com,

“I do not foresee any ISIS clashes with Turkish forces in the near future. It is not in their interest to provoke such a clash and it would risk seeing the
loss of their current northern strongholds (most notably, Jarabulus and Azaz),” al-Tamimi told FoxNews.com.

Al-Tamimi noted that Ankara has not moved to stop the flow of foreign jihadis into Syria via Turkey, likely because it sees them as a useful proxy against the Kurdish PYD/PKK [separatists in Turkey], which it fears much more as a threat to Turkish hopes for what is essentially a ‘divide-and-rule’ policy towards the region’s Kurds.”

Turkey’s southern border to Syria has become a lawless entry point for foreign jihadis. Last month, Abu Omar, who Al Qaeda freed from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in July, managed to make his way to the Turkish city of Gaziantep and hence into Syria. Abu Omar has wide latitude to move around in Gaziantep. At the same time, nearly 300 U.S. troops operate Patriot surface-to-air missile interceptions systems on a hill overlooking the Turkish city — a mere 90-minute drive to Syria’s highly dangerous border.

Abu Omar recently stated that more radical Islamists are on their way to Syria.

“Everybody wants to go for jihad in Syria,” he told Foreign Policyjournal.

He confirmed that he joined ISIS to create an Islamic caliphate, a radical Islamic empire bent on limitless expansion.

“Syria and Iraq are the same struggle to us. Both governments in Iraq and Syria are run by unbelievers, so we will fight both. Syria is currently very weak and close to falling into the hands of the mujahedeen [Jihadis],” said Abu Omar.

(Source / 15.10.2013)

UK union head calls on G4S to end Israel contracts

G4S’s complicity with human rights abuses has united different campaigns.

One of the UK’s biggest unions on Friday called for controversial security firm G4S to pull out of Israel. The British-Danish security giant has been a major target for activists because of its involvement with several Israeli prisons.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of UNISON, wrote to G4S arguing:

I understand that your activities in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories only account for approximately one percent of G4S profits.

However, I believe that the reputational risks that these activities pose for your company are far greater [than profit] and I would urge you withdraw now from doing business in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In the press release announcing Prentis’ letter to G4S’s chief executive Ashley Almanza, UNISON listed the giant firm’s complicity.

It provides security for Ketziot and Megiddo prisons in Israel, to which Palestinians are transferred in breach of the Geneva convention’s stipulation not to detail prisoners outside an occupied territory. It runs the central command room at Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank, and runs security systems at Kishon and Jerusalem detention centers, where there is evidence that Palestinians are tortured.

1.3 million workers

UNISON is the UK’s second-largest trade union, with a listed membership of 1.3 million. It represents mostly public sector workers, such as in the health care, social services, local government and voluntary sectors. Two-thirds of UNISON members are women, says their website.

Like all the major British unions, UNISON has fairly strong policies of support for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign welcomed the news in a press release. Their chairmanHugh Lanning said:

G4S must be under no doubt that servicing Israel’s violations of the fourth Geneva Convention is not only wrong but deeply unpopular. Shareholders raised their opposition to G4S’ activities with Israel at the AGM. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, together with other groups committed to peace, justice and human rights, have been protesting against G4S’ servicing of Israeli prisons and detention centers. Other major trade unions have also made representations to G4S.

The campaign’s Sarah Colborne said today that other unions had made similar calls to G4S in private: “we are aware that there are are important representations being made behind the scenes by other unions too.”

“A union publicizing this is very significant. It’s a ground-breaking move: I’m not aware of this happening before within British trade unions,” she told me on the phone.

“G4S is head over heals complicit in grave breaches of the Geneva convention,” said Greg Dropkin, a UNISON member active in Palestine solidarity campaigning. “They are in it up to their eyeballs,” he told me on the phone, welcoming Prentis’ letter.

As I reported last month, UNISON is the same union being sued by Israeli Lt. Colonel (res.) Moty Cristal. Cristal went to a London court last month seeking tens of thousands of pounds in damages from the union and the National Health Service for what he claims is “indirect discrimination.” A workshop of his was cancelled in 2012 when union members objected to the presence of an Israeli soldier.

“Pervasive racism” in G4S

As a huge global corporation with more than 620,000 employees, Palestine solidarity activists are not the only campaigners critical of G4S.

In October 2010, 46-year-old Angolan Jimmy Mubenga was killed after G4S guards used “unreasonable force” to pin him down during deportation.

Last year the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was “insufficient evidence to bring any charges for Mr. Mubenga’s death.” But an inquest in August found he had been “unlawfully killed,” and that there was a climate of “pervasive racism” among G4S guards at Heathrow airport.

G4S guards were found during the inquest to have exchanged racist and Islamophobic jokes with each other on their phone. The Crown Prosecution Service is reported to be reconsidering its decision not to press criminal charges.

G4S was also in the media spotlight for its failure to fulfil a contractual obligation to provide enough guards for the 2012 London Olympics.

A Norwegian union recently terminated its contract with G4S in protest of the firm’s role in Israeli prisons and settlements

(Source / 15.10.2013)

Rebels and activists fight sectarian strife in south

 

Lt. Col. Jihad Saadeddine, from Deraa, condemns the actions of the Shariah Committee.

For much of the Syrian uprising, pro-opposition activists from two neighboring provinces in the south have been confronting the danger of sectarian tension between the Sunni-majority governorate of Deraa, and the Druze-majority governorate of Swaida.

Over the last week, some 50 representatives of both provinces gathered in Jordan to discuss how to respond to challenges to sectarian coexistence, which in the past have been blamed on both hard-line Islamist groups, and the “shabbiha,” or pro-regime paramilitaries. The meeting had special relevance in the wake of the latest “kidnapping,” of three rebel Free Syria Army fighters.

In the north and the east of Syria, FSA battalions have been involved in clashes or other incidents with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), a spin-off of Al-Qaeda. South of Damascus, ISIS has yet to establish a commanding presence but a similar role is played by the Nusra Front, another Al-Qaeda-inspired group.

In Deraa province, the provincial capital has been joined by a host of other places that have entered the news because they have seen battles, destruction or civilian massacres: Tafas, Nawa, Khirbet Ghazaleh, Busr al-Harir, and Busra al-Sham, to name a few.

But the small town of Mseifereh, located halfway between the towns of Deraa and Swaida, has now jumped into the spotlight.

According to multiple media reports and sources contacted by The Daily Star, the three FSA fighters ended up last month in the custody of the Shariah Committee of Mseifereh, accused of being regime agents tasked with assassinating FSA officers.

Two of the kidnapped, Khaled Rizq and Raef Nasr, are Druze from Swaida and the third, Bassel Trad, is Sunni, from the Deraa town of Ezraa.

Media adopting the line of the Shariah Committee say the three were “arrested” while opponents claim they were kidnapped, either by the Nusra Front or at its direct instigation.

In one version, the Shariah Committee’s members interviewed FSA officers and confirmed the assassination plot.

But a YouTube video of their “confessions” sparked condemnation from activists and mainstream rebel groups, who say the men were clearly coerced.

A delegations of rebel officers, sheikhs and local civilian leaders visited the Shariah Committee on two occasions, demanding evidence of the soldiers’ supposed treachery. When nothing was offered except the video, the delegation’s members condemned the detention of the three men.

During the first visit, the delegation included Lt. Fadl Zeineddine, the leader of a mainly Druze rebel battalion and the brother of the first Druze army defector, who was killed in a battle in January.

During the visit, Zeineddine and the brother of one of the captives were themselves arrested by the Shariah Committee, which provoked an even bolder response.

FSA soldiers surrounded the committee’s headquarters and briefly detained two Islamist fighters from the Nusra Front in order to secure the release of Zeineddine and the other man.

During the second visit, the Shariah Committee’s members argued that the evidence of the men’s guilt should remain secret, but said they would show it to one member of the visiting delegation. The sheikh who was appointed to see the evidence exited the committee’s headquarters and told his colleagues that the suspect video remained the only piece of evidence in the case, which was firmly rejected by the delegation.

In addition, several FSA battalions in Deraa have issued written or filmed statements attesting to the loyalty of the detained fighters whom they know, listing where they have served and fought over the last two years, mainly in the provinces of Deraa and rural Damascus.

One impassioned plea on YouTube by a Deraa-based commander strongly condemns the Shariah Committee. The commander states that he does not recognize the committee and warns against any actions taken against the captives.

He, like others commenting on the story, claims that the kidnappers, whether the Nusra Front or the Shariah Committee, had originally held the men for 27 days and demanded $20,000 for their release, before they produced the treason accusation.

A prominent social media commentator in Deraa, the “Hawran sniper,” provided the same version before the rebels’ accounts emerged publicly, and he has condemned the Nusra Front for committing several either suspect or devious acts – everything from duping a captive into carrying out a suicide car bomb attack, to working for Jordanian and Israeli intelligence.

Detailed, documented proof of the Nusra Front’s crimes has been promised, but yet to surface.

Many of the statements and videos on social media emerged last week, when around 50 figures, split almost evenly between Swaida and Deraa provinces, gathered in Amman, Jordan, for meetings on how to bolster national unity.

The already-planned meetings represented a local initiative to stop sectarian strife, said the National Coalition’s Rima Fleihan, one of the attendees who represented Swaida.

On behalf of Deraa were, among others, Walid Zoubi, a prominent businessman, and Sheikh Ahmad Sayasineh, the imam of the Omari Mosque where the uprising was touched off two-and-a-half years ago.

After a few days of meetings in the Jordanian capital, the two sides issued a statement in which they condemned the attempts by the regime and the extremists to sow strife between the two provinces.

Some activists on social media complained that the statement didn’t criticize the Nusra Front by name.

“There was nothing clearer than the language in the statement,” Fleihan told The Daily Star.

“It mentioned the [religious] extremists, and it mentioned the supporters of the regime, the shabbiha.”

Another attendee from Swaida who requested anonymity called the meetings a success and argued that for now public statements about the situation should be drafted with caution.

“The good part was that the communication was excellent between the two sides,” the participant said. “As for not mentioning the Nusra Front, the statement was designed to solve rather than create problems.”

The participant said a negative point was that the attendees from Deraa did not sufficiently represent the rebel groups active in the province, while the “official” FSA body for Swaida, the Swaida Military Council, constituted a problematic attendee.

“There is a lot of criticism of the Swaida Military Council these days” for its lack of action on the ground, the participant said, adding that the council’s representatives did attend the Amman meetings, after earlier complaining they had yet to receive an official invitation.

The case of the three captured fighters highlights the continued fragmentation in rebel ranks, and how an incident in a single town in a largely rebel-held province can create huge problems for efforts to stave off sectarian strife.

When it issued a statement of thanks for the effort to release Zeineddine and the brother of one of the captives from their brief detention, the Swaida Military Council listed several different rebel groups, and ad hoc groups of FSA fighters from several different towns, as having taken part in the effort. The Nusra Front’s actions might continue to stir up wide-scale anger, but no wide-scale, organized opposition to the Islamist hard-liners has yet to emerge.

(Source / 15.10.2013)

No chemical sites under opposition control

Rebel fighters gather in the Salaheddin district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on September 23, 2013.

Rebel fighters gather in the Salaheddin district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on September 23, 2013.

AFP – None of Syria’s chemical weapons sites are under rebel control, the key opposition National Coalition said on Tuesday.

The assertion came after the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said one abandoned site was in a rebel-held area and that inspectors from a UN-OPCW team were hoping to visit it.

In a statement, the Syrian National Coalition opposition grouping said it backed the UN-OPCW mission but insisted none of the weapons sites were under rebel control.

“There are chemical sites under regime control that Free Syrian Army brigades are laying siege to but there are no chemical sites at all that are controlled by the rebel brigades,” the Coalition said.

The statement said the Coalition and rebel command sought “full cooperation with all international missions to facilitate their work and ensure their full protection.”

On Monday, OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu told the BBC that inspectors from the mission had visited five out of at least 20 Syrian sites where chemical weapons could be produced.

And he said one abandoned chemical weapons site was in rebel-held territory and that routes to other sites went through opposition-held areas.

The first members of the UN-OPCW team arrived in Syria on October 1 to carry out the terms of a UN Security Council resolution on the verification and destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal.

The resolution enshrined a US-Russian deal that came in the wake of an August 21 sarin attack on the outskirts of Damascus.

The United States threatened military action against the regime in response to the attack, despite the government’s denial of responsibility.

But the threatened strikes were called off after the US-Russian agreement.

(Source / 15.10.2013)

Egypt detains Muslim Brotherhood members in Sinai

 EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma’an) — Egyptian security forces on Monday detained four leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Beir al-Abed in the northern Sinai, among them one Palestinian.
The four are accused of robbing a police station during protests in August, a Ma’an reporter said.

Egyptian security sources identified the detainees as municipal worker Suliman M.A., 24, farmer Mahmoud A.A., 29, Palestinian Ibrahim M.S., 36, and Ahmad S.G., 17.

(Source / 15.10.2013)

Aid group calls for humanitarian access in Syria

 

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, third left, prays on the first day of Eid al-Adha at the Sayeda Hassiba mosque, in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013.

BEIRUT — A general director of Doctors Without Borders called Tuesday for greater access for humanitarian aid to Syrians suffering in their country’s civil war, and urged the international community to show the same urgency to help them as it did to address dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

The Syrian conflict, which began as a largely peaceful uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011, has triggered a humanitarian crisis on a massive scale, killing more than 100,000 people, driving nearly 7 million more from their homes and devastating the nation’s cities and towns. With the country now carved up into rebel- and regime-controlled areas, providing desperately needed food and medical aid has become a colossal — and dangerous — task.

“You have an industrial-scale war, but you have a very kind of small-scale humanitarian response,” said Christopher Stokes, a general directors for Doctors Without Borders. “There is a recognition that greater humanitarian access is needed for life-saving assistance, but at the same time we don’t see the mobilization.”

The United Nations Security Council issued an appeal in early October for immediate access to all areas of the country to deliver humanitarian aid, including across conflict lines. Still, organizations that provide assistance continue to struggle to reach all the people who need it.

Stokes said the aid community has long been told that it’s impossible to grant full access to all regions affected by the fighting, and that “one side is always blaming the other” for the impasse.

But the recent agreement to grant international inspectors unfettered access to every site linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program “has shown is that it is possible, if the international political willingness is there, to grant access and free movement to aid agencies to go into these enclaves,” Stokes said.

“Cease-fires could be organized as was done to allow chemical weapons inspectors in, they could be organized to allow in medical convoys,” he said.

Doctors Without Borders says it currently runs six field hospitals in rebel-held areas, and supports 70 medical facilities in contested areas of the country and regions controlled by the government or the rebels.

The Syrian government has not granted the group permission to work in the country, so it is forced to bring in supplies surreptitiously — a high-risk job that Stokes said has become harder.

In the past, it would take a few days to get supplies brought in from abroad into the clinics, he said, whereas now it can take weeks. “There are more checkpoints, and it’s harder and harder to get supplies in,” he said.

On the ground, the conflict has shown no sign of easing, even on Tuesday as Muslims celebrated the holiday known as Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice.

In the village of Yabroud, several dozen miles north of the capital, assailants detonated explosives on the roofs of Our Lady’s Church and the Church of Helena and Constantine, Syria’s SANA state news agency reported.

The explosions damaged the crosses, SANA said. It said attempts to detonate more bombs outside the two churches were foiled.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group confirmed that several explosions went off, damaging the churches.

There was no claim of responsibility, though SANA blamed “terrorists,” the regime’s term for rebels. Assad has drawn support from Syria’s ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians. The rebel movement is dominated by Sunni Muslims, who are a majority in Syria.

In regime attacks, warplanes bombed targets in the village of Latamneh in the central province of Hama, killing at least three children, the Observatory said. The government also bombed areas of the Eastern Ghouta district, near Damascus, and the southern city of Daraa.

As the fighting continued, Assad attended holiday prayers in a Damascus mosque. Syrian state TV showed him sitting cross-legged on the floor, in the front row of worshippers. Assad continues to appear in public, apparently to send a message of “business as usual” even as large parts of Syria lie in ruins.

Meanwhile, Syrian refugees marked a subdued holiday in the Zaatari tent camp in Jordan. The camp is home to more than 120,000 refugees and has turned into Jordan’s fifth-largest city.

A few children bought toys from shops in the camp, as is customary during the holiday, and men attended special Eid prayers, though the refugees said there’s no joy in the holiday.

“We feel bad, we feel bad because everyone here has lost his home and family members and his money,” said Ibrahim Oweis, a refugee from Damascus.

(Source / 15.10.2013)

Isolation in Israeli prisons: Murad Nimer and Nawal al-Saadi

muradnimerDespite a 2012 agreement, in order to end the mass Karameh hunger strike of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners, to end the use of solitary confinement, the practice continues in occupation prisons. Dirar Abu Sisi was isolated since his kidnapping from the Ukraine in 2011, and despite the agreement was not removed from isolation until days ago, when two other prisoners joined him in his cell. He is still housed apart from the general Palestinian prisoner population. However, at least two other Palestinian prisoners continue to be held in isolation.

Nahar al-Saadi, 32, has been isolated for five months; imprisoned since 2003, he was taken from Ramon prison to Jalama interrogation centre earlier in the year, where he was interrogated for a month. Following his return to Ramon prison, he was moved to Shata prison where he was placed in renewable isolation according to a “secret file,” reported his lawyer Hanan al-Khatib. He was returned to Ramon, but his isolation has continued to be extended on this basis continually since May 21.

Murad Nimer, 29, is being held in 6-month renewable isolation in Ramon prison as well. Imprisoned since 2010, Nimer was taken from Gilboa prison in August to Petah Tikva interrogation and detention centre, where he was interrogated for two weeks. He was returned to Ramon prison and placed in isolation for a 6-month renewable period, accused of continuing resistance activities inside the prisons.

Isolation is not a closed file but an ongoing practice in Israeli prisons, as illustrated by these two cases.

(Source / 15.10.2013)