Bejaarde Iraakse vrouw in vreemdelingendetentie

‘Dit heb ik nog nooit meegemaakt’  zegt  de ervaren maar toch aangeslagen advocaat. `Mevrouw is 78 jaar oud, oogt nog veel ouder, zit in een rolstoel en kan zich absoluut niet verweren.  Waarom dan opsluiten in een gevangenis?’ Samen met haar 44-jarige dochter vraagt de Iraakse vrouw in maart van dit jaar asiel aan in Nederland. Beide vrouwen behoren tot de christelijke minderheid in Irak en zoeken hier bescherming. Ze hopen ook op steun van hun in Nederland wonende zoon/broer. Maar de Nederlandse overheid beslist dat de vrouwen op grond van Europese regels (de Dublinverordening) hun asielverzoek in Spanje moeten indienen. Dat begrijpen en willen de vrouwen niet. Volgens de berichtgeving op de website van Amnesty International zouden beide vrouwen vandaag gedeporteerd zijn.

Nederland was niet verplicht om moeder en dochter aan Spanje over te dragen. De Europese regels bieden ruimschoots mogelijkheden om het asielverzoek van de vrouwen in Nederland te behandelen. De vrouwen konden worden opgevangen door hun familie in Nederland.

Lees meer op de website van Amnesty International

(Source / 29.10.2013)

Algeria’s ailing President Bouteflika will run for fourth term

 Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will run for a fourth term, his National Liberation Front (NLF) party announced on Saturday.

The 76-year-old leader will run for another term despite having said publicly in April 2012 that his generation’s time had passed. He was referring to the independence-era leaders who have been running the country since the 1960s.

Recently, Bouteflika has taken a series of measures in what observers saw as paving his way to run up again for presidency

One of these major steps included a shakeup of the country’s Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS), a strong government organ suspected of running the country behind the scenes.

Amar Saidani, chairman of the National Liberation Front party or FLN, told Reuters Bouteflika was determined to create a “civil society” and limit the DRS’ political influence.

“The DRS will continue to play its role, but it will no longer get involved in politics, including in the political parties, media and justice,” Saidani said at FLN headquarters in Algiers’ Hydra district.

Political changes in Algeria are closely monitored in Europe and the United States. Algeria is a major supplier of gas to Europe and a U.S. partner in the fight against terrorism.

Bouteflika rose to power in 1999, and was re-elected in 2004 and again in 2009, after changes in the constitution which allowed him to stand for more than two terms.

Boutefika was recently in Paris for health issues, rising concerns over his ability to run for a new term.

(Source / 29.10.2013)

U.N. Confirms Polio Outbreak in Syria

GENEVA — United Nations officials confirmed an outbreak of polio among children in Syria on Tuesday, lending urgency to plans for vaccination campaigns there and in nearby countries to try to halt the spread of the disease.

Tests confirmed polio in 10 out of 22 children in Deir al-Zour Province in northeastern Syria who became ill this month, Oliver Rosenbauer, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, said. Results of tests on the other 12 children are expected soon, he added.

“With population movements, it can travel to other areas, so the risk is high of spread across the region,” Mr. Rosenbauer said.

United Nations officials said last week that they were launching a campaign to immunize 2.4 million children in Syria against polio and other diseases. With thousands of refugees fleeing daily from Syria’s civil war to neighboring countries, the officials are also intensifying immunization efforts in six countries: Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, which have taken in more than two million Syrian refugees, as well as Egypt and Israel.

Most of the affected children in Syria are younger than 2, Mr. Rosenbauer said, underscoring the impact of 31 months of conflict on Syria’s health infrastructure. The United Nations says half a million Syrian children have not been inoculated against polio in a country where, before the conflict, 95 percent of the country’s population was immunized.

Despite the difficulty of delivering vaccines in a country convulsed by war, the United Nations Children’s Fund said it had vaccinated about a million Syrian children this year, including 800,000 who were vaccinated against polio.

After confirming the presence of the disease, attention is turning to identifying the source, Mr. Rosenbauer said. Public health officials have speculated that a possible source may have been jihadists traveling to Syria from Pakistan which, with Afghanistan and Nigeria, are the only countries where the disease is still endemic.

The outbreak of polio in Syria “shows you have to eradicate the disease in the endemic countries because from there it will spread no matter where you are,” Mr. Rosenbauer, who works with the World Health Organization’s Polio Eradication Initiative, said in an interview.

The polio outbreak in Syria was “a setback” like any upsurge in the disease, but health officials were seeing significant progress in curbing the disease in endemic countries, Mr. Rosenbauer said. In Pakistan and Nigeria, the disease is geographically more restricted, and in southern Afghanistan, the area of that country where the disease is endemic, no new cases had been reported this year. “That’s never happened before,” he said.

(Source / 29.10.2013)

PLO: Israel’s stance in talks harshest in 20 years

RAMALLAH (AFP) — Israel’s negotiating position with the Palestinians in US-sponsored peace talks is the toughest it has taken since before the 1993 Oslo Accords, a senior Palestinian official said on Tuesday.

“The current Israeli negotiating position is the worst in more than 20 years,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top official with the PLO, adding there had been “no tangible progress” in talks that resumed in July after a hiatus of nearly three years.

“They want security first, and that the borders of the state of Palestine should be set out according to Israeli security needs that never end, and that will undermine the possibility of establishing a sovereign Palestinian state,” Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the PLO executive committee, said in a statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists on an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank in any final settlement, although the Palestinians refuse to countenance troops on land they want for a future state.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who in July nudged the Israelis and Palestinians into resuming talks frozen since September 2010, held a seven-hour meeting with Netanyahu in Rome last Wednesday.

On Monday, Kerry said that the Israeli-Palestinian talks, which take place under an American-imposed media blackout, have “intensified.”

He said that since the end of July 13 direct meetings had taken place.

“The pace has intensified, all the core issues are on the table and they have been meeting with increased intensity,” Kerry said.

“It is no secret to anybody that this is and remains a difficult process, there is no shortage of passionate skeptics,” he added.

(Source / 29.10.2013)

Iran : Execution of 16 Baluchi prisoners highlights the ongoing State terror policy – FIDH

Iran : Execution of 16 Baluchi prisoners highlights the ongoing State terror policy – FIDH

Sixteen Iranian Baluchi prisoners were speedily executed on 26 October in retaliation for an armed attack by Baluchi insurgents on the previous day in Saravan city, south-east Iran.

The retaliatory execution of 16 Baluchi prisoners on Saturday, in revenge for the deplorable killing of 14 border guards, is in total breach of international law. The latest executions are even more shocking as these Baluchi prisoners were not even connected to the insurgents’ attack”, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “This further vindicates our assertion that the situation of human rights has not changed in Iran since the taking of office of Hassan Rouhani”, he added.Mohammad Marzieh, the prosecutor of the provincial capital Zahedan, confirmed that the executions were in direct retaliation for an attack that led to the killing of 14 border guards.

A day after the executions, Fars News Agency reported that only 8 of the 16 accused had actually been members of a rebel group known as ‘Jondollah’ (Army of God) while the other eight had been drug smugglers.Several of the prisoners had been in detention since early 2010, where they had allegedly been tortured. Some of them, if not all, had been reportedly deprived of due process and sentenced to death in unfair trials without access to a lawyer. Executions were carried out 10-12 hours after the attack. Hence, the authorities did not even comply with the existing regulations, which require the officials concerned as well as the victim’s lawyer to be notified of the time of the planned execution at least 48 hours in advance.Furthermore, two Kurdish political prisoners, Habibollah Golparipour and Reza Esmaeili (aka Elham Mamadi), who had been convicted of moharebeh (fighting God), were executed in West Azerbaijan province on 25 and 26 October, respectively. The implementation of the death penalty has clearly increased in recent months and has already, by the end of October, exceeded the minimum figures of executions recorded in 2012. At the present rate, the yearly number of executions in Iran is bound to exceed far beyond 600 by the end of December.

Background information on targeted death sentences

Ethnic communities in Iran, including the Azeris, Arabs, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen experience discrimination in the enjoyment of their political, civil, economic and cultural rights. Political and cultural activists of ethnic communities often face arbitrary arrest and prosecution and are subjected to torture, and grossly unfair trials before the unconstitutional Islamic Revolution Courts.

In some cases, they are accused of collaboration with opposition groups operating from abroad, charged with moharebeh and sentenced to death. In particular, the Arabs in the southern Khuzestan province, the Baluchis in the south-east, and the Kurds in western Iran have been disproportionately targeted for executions.

The authorities have used the retaliatory mass executions against the Baluchi prisoners before as, for example, in December 2010, when 11 Baluchi prisoners were executed after an explosion in a mosque in the port city of Chabahar. As of 28 October, at least 20 Kurdish activists are known to be on death row. Beside the execution of at least 8 Arab activists in 2011 and at least 4 in 2012, death sentences of 9 others have reportedly been upheld in 2013 so far.

(Source / 29.10.2013)

We’ll never forget October 1956 massacre, say Palestinians in Israel

 

Photographs of the victims are displayed at the Kafr Qassem Massacre Museum.

On 29 October 1956, Israeli border police carried out a massacre in the Palestinian village of Kafr Qassem, situated in the central district of present-day Israel.

The massacre took place on the eve of the Suez crisis — in which Israel invaded Egyptwith the backing of France and Britain. It followed the announcement of a curfew by Israel in the middle of that day.

Although most Palestinians who were outside their villages were doing agricultural work in the fields and had no way of knowing about the curfew, Israeli border police were ordered by the military to shoot anyone who returned after 5pm.

Many Israeli officers did not comply. Yet in Kafr Qassem, the order was carried out. Forty-eight men, women and children were slain — 23 of the victims were children between eight and 17 years old. One of those killed was a pregnant woman.

“You won’t find any mention of the massacre in any Israeli schoolbook sealed by the ministry of education,” Lina Badr, a 19-year-old from Kafr Qassem, said in an interview with The Electronic Intifada.

“So Arab schools around the country make sure to dedicate the week before the anniversary each year for educational events, school trips to the [Kafr Qassem massacre] museum, and distributing literature about the full story of what happened during the massacre.

“Plus, each year for over half a century we hold a huge demonstration on 29 October to make sure it is clear: there will be no forgetting.”

Residents from Kafr Qasim said that they plan to march from the village’s mosque to the site of the killings to commemorate the massacre on Tuesday.

Although 57 years have passed, most of the few remaining survivors are still too scared to speak publicly.

Air “full of bullets”

 

Ismail al-Badr was shot in the leg during the massacre.

Ismail al-Badr, a 74-year-old man who survived the massacre despite being shot, told The Electronic Intifada that the Israeli soldiers “tried to get rid of all of us.”

Just 17 at the time, al-Badr returned to the village shortly after 5pm. He had spent the day selling vegetables in Petach Tikva, a city in Israel. “I came back with my cart and donkey and there were a lot of people at the entrance of the village. A soldier with an Uzi stopped me and asked where I was from,” he said.

“I told him Kafr Qassem, but he stood up and looked past me. I heard gun shots. Another soldier was shooting people behind us. I heard him saying ‘get rid of all of them’ in Hebrew.

“The air was full of bullets. I was very scared and didn’t know if I should run or hide. I started moving back and forth to dodge bullets. Everyone was being shot, and then suddenly I felt that my leg was hit and I fell.”

Al-Badr then pretended he was dead until all the soldiers got in their vehicles and left. After they were all gone, he crawled towards a nearby building to hide. At this point, he recalled, distant soldiers fired at him again but missed and hit a car.

“There were soldiers everywhere, so I crawled into the olive tree orchard and hid there. God must love me because he showed me where to hide,” said al-Badr, adding that he spent the entire night in the field. “There was still a curfew until the next morning, so no one found me that night.”

Palestinians from the neighboring village of Jaljuliya were forced by Israeli soldiers to come to Kafr Qassem and dig a mass grave for the victims. “My father was called to identify the bodies. As he walked through the field, he found me laying there. I caught his eye because I was wearing a yellow shirt,” al-Badr said.

“My leg was still bleeding and there were worms in it,” he added. Several days later, after unsuccessfully trying to treat the infection in his leg, doctors decided to amputate it.

Several of his cousins and his mother-in-law had been killed. “The people killed that day were just civilians,” stressed Rami Amr, a volunteer guide at the Kafr Qassem Massacre Museum. “They weren’t fighters, they didn’t have weapons, they were just coming home from work.”

Al-Badr spent two months in the hospital after the massacre, and it took several years of physical therapy to regain the ability to walk.

He has repeatedly sought compensation for the loss of his leg. In 1959, he was given the inadequate one-time sum of 450 dinars from the Israeli national insurance to pay for medical treatment.

In the 1990s, al-Badr was given another single lump sum of 2,800 shekels as compensation. That is approximately $800 today.

Humiliation

“Today I want medication and special medical socks for my prosthetic leg,” he said. “They told me at the [Israeli national] clinic not to come back anymore. They were tired of seeing me.”

Needing regular medical treatment for other problems, including impaired hearing, he is continually denied entrance to the local Israeli clinic. “The security guard stops me at the door and doesn’t let me in anymore,” he said.

He also said that he no longer travels to the occupied West Bank to visit friends and relatives because the Israeli soldiers “humiliate me by making me take off my leg at thecheckpoint. What do they want with my leg? It’s plastic.”

The police officers who carried out the killings were later taken to court, where they were found guilty of not disobeying “illegal orders” and were sentenced to lengthy terms of imprisonment. But they were all issued pardons that cut their sentences significantly, and the commander was symbolically fined a single Israeli qirsh (the currency at the time, equivalent to a penny).

“He had to pay a single qirsh. Dozens dead, and look at me. Look at my leg,” said al-Badr. “Do you see any justice in my case?”

In December 2007 — 51 years later — Israeli President Shimon Peres apologized for the massacre during an Eid al-Adha reception in the village. “A terrible event happened here in the past, and we are very sorry for it,” he said.

“The Arab citizens do not need charity, but opportunity. The link between religion and violence should be severed. We are all children of the same God, who has not given us permission to kill, oppress and humiliate others,” Peres added (“President Peres apologizes for Kafr Qasem massacre of 1956,” Haaretz, 21 December 2007).

While Peres’ words reflect the image of a peace-seeker he has sought to cultivate in the international arena, his apology rang hollow to most Palestinians.

Al-Badr said that no one ever notified him of the apology. “This is the first I’ve heard of Peres coming to Kafr Qassem. I used to write him letters demanding compensation, but I’m sure no one ever read them.”

“Respect our dead”

The museum volunteer Rami Amr, on the other hand, stated that “we don’t want [Peres’] personal apology. We’re still waiting for a confession. That’s the justice we want — just this small thing for the children of our martyrs. It’s about respecting our dead.”

As he spoke, Amr gestured to a wall covered with the photographs of those who were killed in the massacre — among them were elderly, women and children, as well as a handful of blank picture frames for the bodies that were too badly disfigured to be identified.

“We don’t call for revenge, but we want to send a message to the extremist Israeli government,” Amr said. “We haven’t forgotten our massacre after 57 years, and do not deny that it happened.”

The Kafr Qassem massacre is just one from a long list of assaults on the Palestinian minority in present-day Israel.

“All of the massacres we’ve experienced as Palestinians inside [Israel] are tied together and have their roots in the Nakba. There is a straight line tying the Kafr Qassem massacre to the Prawer Plan today,” said Amr, referring to the ongoing dispossession of Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab (Negev) region.

In 1976, Israeli police killed six Palestinian citizens during demonstrations against the state’s confiscation of thousands of dunums of land (one dunum is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters). The event came to be known as Land Day and is commemorated annually.

At the onset of the second intifada in October 2000, 13 unarmed protesters — all Palestinian citizens of Israel — were shot and killed by Israeli police during demonstrations across the country. Despite a commission that found that police had “illegally used rubber-coated bullets, live ammunition and snipers,” justice has yet to be delivered for their deaths.

On 4 August 2005, Israeli soldier Eden Natan Zada killed four Palestinian citizens and injured another 23 when he boarded a public bus in the town of Shefa Amr and opened fire on the passengers. Four of those who killed him in self-defense were found guilty of attempted manslaughter in July, and another seven were convicted of charges related to aggravated assault on police officers.

“Obviously it would be better for the Israelis if with time … we would forget that the Kafr Qassem massacre ever happened,” Lina Badr said.

“But it’s important to us as Palestinians living in this country that even after a hundred years, our children still feel that pain, the suffering of our grandparents and great grandparents, knowing always that the Jewish majority is scared that the Arab minority continues to grow bigger and stronger.”

(Source / 29.10.2013)

Medicine shortage threatens Gazans

The Ministry of Health in the besieged Gaza Strip says the lives of hundreds of patients are at risk over the lack of medication due to the Israeli blockade, Press TV reports.

Some 400 patients with renal failure in the Palestinian territory suffer from the lack of medicine and special chemicals that are required for dialysis, the ministry says.

In addition to the shortage of medicine, hospitals in Gaza face frequent power outage and lack of fuel and spare parts for backup emergency electricity generators.

Mohammad Shatat, with the Gazan ministry, said there were a lot of problems related to shortage of many types of medical supplies and the patients are facing stoppage of the treatment machines as a result of power outage.

Rights groups have slammed an Israeli closure of the crossings into Gaza, calling for an end to the illegal blockade of the Palestinian land.

“The situation is disastrous especially in the health sector. Years of blockade have deteriorated the situation in Gaza. This illegal blockade must be lifted to save the patients’ lives,” said Samir Zaqout, an official from al-Mezan Center for Human Rights.

The Gaza Strip has been blockaded by Israel since 2007.

The Palestinian enclave also faces hardship over restrictions imposed by the army-backed Egyptian government along Gaza’s southern border.

(Source / 29.10.2013)

Prisoner Hassan al-Turabi fell into a coma in the Israeli jails

 

RAMALLAH, AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– The Palestinian prisoner Hassan al-Turabi who suffers from cancer slipped into a coma after his health condition deteriorated, his family said.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said in a statement on Monday that the prisoner Hassan al-Turabi went into a coma after he underwent surgery.

The Israeli doctors in Afula Hospital informed the detainee’s family that his health condition is getting worse as a result of an internal bleeding and after the spread of cancer in his body.

Prisoner Turabi suffers from leukemia. He has been detained in the occupation jails since the 1st of January 2013.

Lawyer Jawad Boulos warned on Monday of the deterioration of health condition of prisoner Naim Shawamra, from Dura south of al-khalil in the southern West Bank, who suffers from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Shawamra is held in Ashkelon prison in the 1948 occupied territories and has been in detention since 1995.

Boulos appealed to immediately release Shawamra, in light of the medical negligence in the Israeli jails.

(Source / 29.10.2013)

Syrian opposition calls for sacking of Brahimi

Lakhdar Brahimi

Mr Brahimi’s visit to Damascus is part of his regional tour in preparation for Geneva II

Forces within the Syrian opposition have escalated their stance against the Arab and international envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, over his insistence that Iran should participate in the Geneva II Conference.

Member of the National Coalition for the Opposition Syrian Forces, Samir Nashar, told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the coalition had sent a recommendation to the Arab League’s foreign ministers asking them to relieve Mr Brahimi from his position.

It is worth mentioning that this call was announced soon after Brahimi arrived in Damascus on Monday to meet Bashar al-Assad and his foreign minister, Waleed al-Mu’allem.

Mr Brahimi’s visit to Damascus is part of his regional tour in preparation for Geneva II. He is also scheduled to meet a number of opposition leaders inside Syria.

(Source / 29.10.2013)

Special Report: As Egypt’s Brotherhood retreats, risk of extremism rises

A man walks on debris outside the Rabaa Adawiya mosque complex, after the clearing of a protest camp around the mosque, in Cairo, in this file picture taken August 15, 2013. REUTERS-Amr Abdallah Dalsh-Files

Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Ahmed Fahim sits at his desk during an interview with Reuters at his office in Alexandria, 230 km (143 miles) north of Cairo, September 18, 2013. REUTERS-Stringer
Muslim Brotherhood supporter Ahmed Nabil shouts slogans during a demonstration in Alexandria, 230 km (143 miles) north of Cairo, September 4, 2013. REUTERS-Stringer-

(Reuters) – In Egypt’s second city, medical student Ahmed Nabil lives in fear that the police may come and arrest him any day. As a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, he is part of a movement facing an onslaught by the security forces which toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July.

“These days we can be picked up at any time,” said Nabil, whose parents are also members of the organization, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement and a supporter of Mursi.

The Brotherhood’s discipline and hierarchy helped it win elections after the 2011 popular uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak, eventually propelling Mursi into power. But now the army-led government and its supporters regard the Brotherhood as a terrorist group and enemy of the state. The security forces and police, feared and despised under Mubarak, are lauded for cracking down on the organization.

The Brotherhood denounces violence and says it is committed to peaceful protest. But as members go into hiding, its key building blocks – local groups of seven members known as usras – are under pressure.

“The most important person for me is the head of my usra,” said Nabil. “I get everything from him.”

In Nabil’s eyes, the usras, which provide everything from Koran studies to marriage counseling, are crumbling. That raises the risk the organization will fracture, and that some members will abandon peaceful activism to take up arms.

In a sign of how the Brotherhood is retreating, Nabil has bought a new, unregistered mobile phone. He encrypts text messages and is careful about what he writes on Facebook, fearful that the authorities are monitoring communications.

Nabil said he has lost five friends killed in demonstrations and that he narrowly escaped arrest when he took part in a protest. He worries about survival and avoiding jail. The clampdown, he said, could radicalize some members.

This month suspected militants killed six Egyptian soldiers near the Suez Canal, fired rocket propelled grenades at a state satellite station in Cairo and exploded a car bomb near an Egyptian army intelligence building in the city of Ismailia. More than 50 people have been killed and more than 270 wounded in recent clashes between the police and protesters supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Even as questions remain over who mounts such attacks, it seems clear the recruitment pool for radicals has grown significantly since Mursi’s overthrow.

“Not all people in the opposition can go on resisting peacefully if this unbelievable pressure continues, especially the detentions of leaders who pushed the movement to remain peaceful,” said Nabil. Before they were imprisoned, top Brotherhood leaders often told followers that avoiding violence would give the movement the moral high ground against the government.

“All these military actions against us, including killing and torture and arrests, push us to respond with force. One prays that God ends the crisis before we reach the situation in Syria,” he said, referring to civil war in that country. “As our grand guide (top leader) said, ‘Our peaceful ways are stronger than a bullet.'”

The government makes no distinction between the Brotherhood and al Qaeda-inspired militants based in the Sinai Peninsula who have sharply stepped up attacks against soldiers and police since Mursi was overthrown. The authorities say the Brotherhood’s members are terrorists out to spread an Islamic caliphate across several nations, not focus on Egypt’s well-being.

A top security official who has monitored the Brotherhood for decades told Reuters: “The usra has been destroyed in a very big way. The Brotherhood member is taught not to think on his own, just to take orders. This is how the group functions. So if there is no one to give them orders it means the group is in trouble.”

CELL DECAY

The usra was devised by Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, to indoctrinate and mobilize followers. Usras typically used to meet once a week for at least three hours, usually at the home of a member. The usra leader could be so pivotal that members sought their permission to travel to Cairo.

During past crackdowns, the usra survived by adapting. Its size was reduced to three members when restrictions were tightened. Those small units avoided arrest by speaking while walking down streets or meeting in tea houses, not homes. In prison, the usra became the number of men in each cell.

After Mursi fell, the Brotherhood had hoped to mobilize millions of protesters; but the army reacted forcefully, bulldozing a protest camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya in eastern Cairo on August 14, killing hundreds of Mursi’s supporters. Security forces have arrested many top Brotherhood leaders, including Mursi, on charges of inciting or perpetrating violence.

Before the leaders were detained, they sent messages to Brotherhood officials urging them to ensure that usras continued, according to the head of an usra and other Brotherhood members. But members are struggling.

In Alexandria, Abu Bakr al-Masri is the head of an usra and worships in a spartan Brotherhood mosque on the bottom floor of an apartment building. For decades, the Brotherhood has used such mosques in rundown neighborhoods across Egypt to deepen its influence and raise funds.

Masri’s usra has not met since Mursi fell. He is proud of his position but worried because he can no longer guide young men.

“I gave people advice on everything. Even if you have trouble with your wife you come to me,” he said, sitting in his apartment, a block from the mosque. “The usra is under a lot of pressure now. I speak to people in the usra by phone, but it is always brief and we never have a chance to speak about the important issues.”

There are usras for women and Masri’s wife, Um Abdullah, heads one. It, too, has not met since July and she is a member of another that has stopped gathering.

“I am sitting here doing nothing,” she said, complaining about the Brotherhood’s isolation. Um Abdullah, who was veiled, is tasked with spreading the Brotherhood’s views of how Muslim families should approach life. There is little scope for that now. “I used to be able to go out in the streets and tell other women about our vision, about the true Muslim family,” she said. “Now I can only wander in our building and speak to my neighbors.”

The Brotherhood has few options. Many Egyptians turned sharply against the organization during Mursi’s year as president. He was accused of trying to give himself sweeping powers, entrenching the Brotherhood in the institutions of state and mismanaging the economy. The Brotherhood denies those charges.

While limited protests by Mursi supporters continue, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, head of the military, has announced a political roadmap promising new elections. The transition includes rewriting the constitution that was drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly, passed in a referendum and signed into law by Mursi. The most contentious feature of the new constitution may be a clause banning religious political parties.

The Brotherhood wants nothing to do with the transition and its supporters are retreating. In one tight-knit Brotherhood community in Alexandria, four families have already fled for fear of arrest after the security forces and army began conducting overnight searches of apartment buildings, according to local Brotherhood supporters.

EXTREMIST RISK

In the office of Ahmed Fahim, a lawyer in Alexandria who represents Muslim Brotherhood members, stands a photograph of a past leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an offshoot of the Brotherhood. It’s a small sign of Fahim’s defiance.

His day usually starts with a brief walk to the courthouse, which he believes treats the Brotherhood unfairly. “Why do they let common criminals see their day in court while Muslim Brotherhood detainees are seen as a security risk and are only allowed hearings in jail?” he said.

A Justice Ministry official said security forces advise the ministry that taking Brotherhood members to a courthouse poses a security risk because there could be protests and other problems.

For Fahim, all around are reminders of the Brotherhood’s steep fall from power. In the street a young boy sells posters showing army chief Sisi with Gulf Arab leaders who pumped billions of dollars into Egypt after Mursi fell. At the courthouse, overlooking the sea, a blue police truck displays a poster showing Sisi beside Gamal Abdel Nasser, a former president of Egypt who ordered a crackdown on the Brotherhood after an attempt to assassinate him.

Fahim seemed resigned to the idea that the Brotherhood will experience hardship. “We knew from the beginning that our path would not be lined with roses, but thorns,” he said. He no longer thinks it is realistic to demand Mursi’s reinstatement.

He worries about the fate of the usra – but also the possibility that members of the Muslim Brotherhood may turn to armed struggle. “People won’t be able to hold back,” he said, though he calls for restraint.

At his modest apartment, Fahim spoke proudly about how his son Muiz, 10, and daughter Amena, 7, joined him at the demonstration at Rabaa al-Adawiya, which at times swelled to tens of thousands of protesters. The family laughed when the daughter said she didn’t like Sisi or Mubarak. But the mood soured when they recalled how the Rabaa protest was crushed.

The conversation turned to how unpopular the Brotherhood is. A joke doing the rounds illustrated the grim mood: A boy who wants to have his father killed leaves their fifth floor apartment, goes to the ground floor and posts a sign at the entrance, “Muslim Brotherhood headquarters is located on the fifth floor, apartment three.”

Like Fahim, some outside experts fear the severity of the crackdown could backfire. “The weekly usra meeting is a very important tool in shaping the mindset and behavior of Brotherhood members. The alternative might be an extreme path,” said Khalil al-Anani, senior fellow at The Middle East Institute in Washington.

“This might replicate the 1950s and 1960s when the state cut links between the leadership and grassroots, leading in the end to the deviation of youth and creation of groups that started insurgencies.”

While Reuters found no evidence of Brotherhood members joining extremist groups, the authorities are now portraying most Islamists as one broad group of terrorists.

ARMY CONTROL

When reporters first met Nabil, the medical student in Alexandria, he was upbeat about the prospect of the Brotherhood returning to power. He had spent a great deal of time reading commentaries from Brotherhood officials about how many military coups had ultimately failed.

He was especially interested in reading about Algeria. There the army’s decision to cancel elections in 1991, which Islamists had won, plunged the North African country into a civil war that killed at least 150,000 people.

But later Nabil grew downbeat. With the top Muslim Brotherhood leaders behind bars and his usra leader on the run, Nabil has no one to help him get through tough times. Fear of arrest has forced Islamists to cut down on protests. Maintaining secrecy is important: Protest locations are only shared with a few. False destinations are sometimes announced on Facebook to confuse the authorities.

If Nabil does run into his ursa leader at a protest, there is little time to talk, he said. Demonstrations are often cut short to avoid clashes with security forces, who may have been tipped off by informers.

Pro-government activists called baltagiya, or thugs, usually attack the processions from behind, using everything from rocks to swords and guns, demonstrators say. Nabil pointed to Egyptian flags held by Brotherhood members and said: “Actually those flags have another purpose. When we are attacked, people holding them flip them around and use the wooden poles to defend protesters.”

He cannot count, as the Brotherhood once did, on popular support. During one demonstration, Nabil and a friend looked up at the balconies of surrounding buildings to find people insulting them and hurling water. “Every week we count the numbers of people who are against us,” he said.

There is no doubt the army-backed government has the upper hand, and Brotherhood members often compare the current campaign against the group to the repression imposed by Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s.

In Alexandria, Abdel Latif Mohammed, a Brotherhood member who is now too old to kneel for prayers in the mosque, recalled how jailers during Nasser’s crackdown whipped his feet and then set dogs on him. He recalled, too, that 15,000 people were arrested in one night. Yet in Mohammed’s eyes, the current situation is worse.

No government spokesman would comment on the scale of the crackdown. But a senior security official told Reuters: “This group has to be stopped. They are terrorists with an international agenda. They don’t care about Egypt.”

Even lawyers who defend Muslim Brotherhood members say they no longer feel safe and move from one house to another to avoid arrest. In August, in an interview with Reuters, Khalaf Bayoumi, a leading Muslim Brotherhood lawyer in Alexandria, predicted he would be arrested. He is now being held with other Islamists at the sprawling Borg al-Arab prison on the edge of Alexandria.

Visitors to the prison say groups of 35 Mursi supporters are crowded into cells built for 10. Army tanks guard the premises.

Before he was incarcerated, Bayoumi said that to survive, the Brotherhood must preserve the usra. “If the Brotherhood loses that, the group will fall,” he said.

(Source / 29.10.2013)