Anti-Saleh rallies continue in Yemen

Yemenis shout anti-government slogans during a protest rally demanding the ouster of Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern town of Damt, October 28, 2011.
Tens of thousands of people have rallied across Yemen to demand the immediate ouster of country’s long-time ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Demonstrators also called for the prosecution of Saleh, who has been in power since 1978. Yemenis blame Saleh for the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.

Anti-government protests were reported in the capital, Taizz, Ibb, Hudeida and several other cities following the Friday Prayers.

“O men who love peace in the world, Saleh must face justice,” chanted anti-regime demonstrators in the capital, Sana’a.

Witnesses say a 28-year-old woman was shot dead by forces loyal to Saleh in the capital as she walked with her husband along Hael Street, which separates areas controlled by regime forces from those held by dissident troops supporting the opposition. Her husband was also injured in the shooting.

There are also reports of gunfire exchanges and explosions in al-Hassaba neighborhood in Sana’a. Witnesses say the recent clashes between regime forces and tribesmen supporting anti-regime protests began over night and continued intermittently on Friday.

Five Yemenis were also wounded after regime forces opened fire on anti-government protesters in the southern city of Taizz. Four of the injured are reported to be in critical condition.

Meanwhile, an officer in charge of the counterterrorism unit in the southern city of Aden was killed in a car blast.

“A device placed under the car of Colonel Ali al-Hajji, head of Aden’s anti-terrorism unit, exploded, killing the officer and wounding two of his children,” the state news agency SABA reported.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. However, security officials blamed al-Qaeda.

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis have been holding anti-government demonstrations since January, demanding an end to the rule of Saleh, whom they accuse of nepotism and corruption.

Hundreds of protesters have been killed and many more were injured in the government crackdown.

Yemenis have vowed to continue street protests until Saleh’s resignation.

( / 28.10.2011)

‘Leers kan Mauro wel degelijk verblijfsvergunning verlenen’

Een groep van twaalf rechtshoogleraren stelt dat minister Leers, van Immigratie en Asiel, de Angolese asielzoeker Manuel Mauro wél een verblijfsvergunning kan verlenen. Volgens de professoren zijn voor die stelling goede juridische argumenten aan te dragen.

Leers zei eerder deze week alle mogelijkheden te hebben onderzocht om Mauro alsnog in Nederland te kunnen houden, maar er geen één gevonden te hebben. Zijn besluit zou vast staan, aldus de minister. Volgens de hoogleraren heeft de minister echter een grote mate van vrijheid om zijn bevoegdheid te gebruiken, zo meldt de Volkskrant.

In een opinie-artikel, dat morgen verschijnt, stellen de hoogleraren dat de Raad van State oordeelde dat Leers ‘in redelijkheid’ heeft geoordeeld dat Mauro op grond van gezinsbanden geen verblijfsvergunning hoeft te worden verstrekt. Andersom zou dat echter evengoed gelden.

Gezinsleven beschermen
Mauro vormt met zijn pleegouders en pleegbroer eveneens een gezin. ‘Dit gezinsleven verdient bescherming op grond van onder meer artikel 8 van het Europese mensenrechtenverdrag.’ In alle redelijkheid zou de rechter, zo schrijft de groep, kunnen vinden dat Leers wél een vergunning aan de jongen kan geven.

Omdat er bovendien maar een beperkt aantal ‘Mauro’s’ rondlopen, zou het risico van de aanzuigende werking gering zijn, vinden de juristen. ‘Als de minister zijn hart wil laten spreken, dan kan dat prima’,  besluiten de hoogleraren. ‘Er zijn goede juridische argumenten voor aan te voeren en er dreigt geen stortvloed van vergelijkbare zaken’.

( / 28.10.2011)

Shari’ah ≠ Islamic Law: Misunderstanding the Role of Islam in Libya

After Libya’s interim leader Abdul-Jalil’s Sunday speech, many have raised concerns about the place of Shari’ah law in Libya. Of course, you could take Juan Cole’s angle on this, and ask why we weren’t as concerned about the Islamic nature of the “new” Iraq and Afghanistan. Omar Ashour speculates on the reason for the mention of Shari’ah, positing that firm references to the role of Islam might have something to do with appeasing the Islamist elements of Libya’s popular revolution.

To begin, a brief primer. Shari’ah is not quite Islamic law. It is, rather, “the path to the water,” the sum total of God’s revelation to humanity, through the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad. What we call Islamic law, and what is often meant by Shari’ah, areinterpretations of Shari’ah, attempts by humans to ascertain what God’s intent in a certain verse was, or what the Prophet Muhammad meant when he said something.

With that, there are three points to take away here.

First, references to the place of Shari’ah in politics matter less because of an abstract reference to Shari’ah, which is not ipso facto dangerous; rather, references to Shari’ah are better considered in light of who is interpreting that law, by what authority, and on which forms of appeal exist to balance, check, and contain those interpretations. This is where the reference to democracy comes in, but also the great challenge.

To my second point, many Muslim-majority states will make reference to Islam, and/or Shari’ah, in their political and cultural institutions—but not all of them. We just saw Tunisia’s “moderate” Islamist party, Ennahda, win that country’s first election, but Tunisia’s a lot like Turkey, and it’s hard to see Tunisia’s future constitution advocating a strong or rigid role for Islamic law. Because the boundaries between “democracy” and “Islam”—as between democracy and Christianity here in America—are unclear.

Libya can claim it wants democracy and Islamic law, and these are not necessarily contradictory; the question becomes: What kind of Islamic law? What happens when democracy and Islamic law conflict? Who arbitrates these disputes? Are they even possible to arbitrate? These will be difficult and serious questions, and perhaps have no easy answer. But all the same, it is unlikely we can see Arab democracies emerge where Islam, liberalism, socialism, nationalism and other trends do not overlap.

Finally, Libya’s political system is quite a muddle right now. It’s not clear what power the NTC has in deciding Libya’s future governance—but there are some signs of concern (why are issues like polygamy raised during the country’s liberation day?), as well as some rather obvious continuities. (The points on Islamic finance are far more interesting, intriguing in the present global economic crisis, and deserve expanded consideration.) For example, Qaddafi’s Libya was culturally and politically Islamic—in certain ways. It was Qaddafi’s authoritarian, and weird, interpretation of Islam, but all the same, Libya under Qaddafi’s freakish ideology was shaped by Qaddafi’s own relationship to Islam. The map of Islam in Libya isn’t clear, and it is shaped by many different sources, which suggests the possibility of a more pluralist attitude.

( / 28.10.2011)

Palestinian leader: Arabs erred on 1947 partition

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Palestinian president, in a remarkable assessment delivered on Israeli TV, said Friday the Arab world erred in rejecting the United Nations’ 1947 plan to partition Palestine into a Palestinian and a Jewish state.

The Palestinian and Arab refusal to accept a U.N. plan to partition the then-British-controlled mandate of Palestine sparked widespread fighting, then Arab military intervention after Israel declared independence the following year. The Arabs lost the war.

“It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Channel 2 TV in a rare interview to the Israeli media. “But do they (the Israelis) punish us for this mistake for 64 years?

Abbas also contended that he and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were “very, very close” to reaching a peace agreement in 2008, before the Israeli leader left office under the cloud of corruption allegations.

“It was a very good opportunity,” he said. “If he stayed two, three months, I believe that time we could have concluded an agreement.”

He confirmed Olmert’s account that the Israeli leader was prepared to withdraw from 93.5 percent of the West Bank. The Palestinians, Abbas added, responded by offering to let Israel retain 1.9 percent of the West Bank.

Peace talks stalled three years ago and last month, Abbas bypassed bilateral negotiations to ask the U.N. to recognize an independent state of Palestine.

In his TV interview, Abbas acknowledged the Palestinians might not be able to muster the necessary nine votes in the 15-member Security Council to approve the statehood bid. But majority support would be a moot point, anyway, because the United States has threatened to veto the statehood petition, which Israel also opposes, reasoning that only negotiations can yield a Palestinian state.

( / 28.10.2011)

Egypt protesters demand that army quit power

A man walks past a graffiti depicting Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), in downtown Cairo, September 23, 2011. The writing on the wall reads: ''No to Military Rule''(top) and ''Donkey''.REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

By Marwa Awad

CAIRO | Fri Oct 28, 2011 2:54pm EDT

(Reuters) – Thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Friday to press the ruling army to speed up the transfer of power to civilian rule, and an Islamist leader said his followers would stage a sit-in if the army does not respond.

Egypt’s army assumed control after an uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, promising to transfer power to an elected civilian government within six months.

But the top generals now say they could remain in power until presidential elections are held at the end of 2012 or early 2013, citing an extended timetable of parliamentary elections and a six-month period to write the new constitution.

Floating in the square were banners accusing the ruling military council’s leader, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, of trying to hold onto power.

“The people demand the fall of the Field Marshal” and “Whether in uniform or in boxers, we do not want army rule” chanted Islamists, mainly Salafists who follow strict Islamic teachings, and ordinary Egyptians.

Sheikh Hazem Abu Ismail, a Salafist leader who said he would run for president, called on his followers to stage a sit-in if the army fails to heed the demands of protesters.

“We refuse the prolonging of army rule,” Abu Ismail told cheering protesters over loudspeakers, urging them to remain in Tahrir until the army council issues a statement Friday.

Alluding to the military council’s pleas for protests to stop on the grounds that they harm the economy, he said: “What hinders production is that the military council suddenly announced it will remain in power for another two years.”

Protesters responded with chants of “We will not go, the council must go.”

Elections for parliament’s lower house are to be held in three stages, with the first on November 28. Voting for the upper house, also in three stages, will start on January 29.

Protesters also demanded that the military council use a law on treason to bar associates of ousted president Hosni Mubarak from politics and keep them out of the new parliament.

“There are businessmen behind the surge of thugs who turn peaceful protests into violent ones,” said Abu Ismail.

The army, initially hailed by Egyptians for siding with the uprising, has come under increasing criticism from politicians, rights activists and youth groups, who accuse it of human rights abuses and clumsy handling of the interim period.

“Nine months have passed since the uprising and we have not seen either an effective government or clear signals that Mubarak’s henchman will be out of the new parliament,” Salem Mesbah, 35, said.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most organized and influential opposition group in Mubarak’s era, did not participate in Friday’s protest.

( / 28.10.2011)

UNESCO to vote on Monday on Palestinian entry

PARIS (Reuters) — UN cultural agency UNESCO will vote on Monday on the PLO’s request for membership, part of a wider Palestinian campaign for recognition as a state within the wider United Nations system.

UNESCO’s executive board decided on Oct. 6 to allow the 193 member countries vote on the application, angering Israel and the United States, which provides 22 percent of the funding of the UN subsidiary and could cut that lifeline as a result.

A UNESCO spokeswoman said the vote was likely to take place late on Monday morning at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters, during an annual gathering that runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 15.

UNESCO is the first UN agency Palestine has sought to join as a full member since applying for membership of the United Nations on Sept. 23.

The bid for a full UN seat, which can be granted only by the Security Council, is destined to fail because Washington has vowed to use its veto in the forum if it comes to a vote.

Washington views the PLO’s quest for UN recognition of statehood as a unilateral move unhelpful to US efforts to revive stalled peace negotiations with Israel, which it says are the only way forward.

The PLO says talks with Israel, which also opposes the Palestinian UN initiative, have brought them no closer to their goal of independence in the two decades since such negotiations began.

( / 28.10.2011)

The future of Ramallah and Gaza appears doomed

Unless Palestinians unite and uphold national interests, Israel and ‘state of colonists’ will very likely have upper hand

The future of Ramallah and Gaza appears doomed

  • Image Credit: Illustration: Douglas Okasaki

Practically, there are four ‘states’ in historical Palestine; the state of Israel, the colonisers ‘state’, and two other states in Ramallah and Gaza.

The first has become fully aware that a ‘Jewish state’ would in effect annihilate the legal reality grounded in the UN resolution 194 which calls for the right of return of Palestinian refugees who were forcibly deported from their lands in 1948. A second dangerous byproduct of a ‘Jewish state’ would be the ‘soft’ eviction (‘transfer’ in Israeli political jargon) of Arab Palestinians of 1948 areas from their cities, villages and homes to ensure the ‘purity’ of a Jewish state.

A third horrible outcome of such a state would be the future ‘transfer’ of all Palestinians living in the West Bank to make way for the ‘super’ Jewish state of the future. Indeed, the Zionist plan envisaged from its very inception the establishment of a purely Jewish state in ‘historic Israel’ without any Palestinian presence within its borders. Many Israelis see now that ‘old age’ syndrome is already having its effect on their own state and consequently undermining its survival. The Israeli extreme political and ideological right wing parties and groups believe that the only solution for the revival of Israel can be achieved by the Judaisation of the state and by attracting ‘new Jewish blood’ to arrest the aging process.

The second new ‘state’, seen as “the essence of Jewish revival” according to die-hard Likudists and other extremist parties, is ‘the state of colonists’ that has and is still being created beyond the Green Line (i.e. the 1948 Armistice Line) in the Occupied Palestinian territories. This new ‘state’ has hijacked the general political process as well as the judicial process in the Israeli Knesset. New fascist laws are being enacted, eroding the democratic process by, officially and legally, making the Palestinian Arabs who are citizens of Israel, citizens with second class status outside the protection of the law. The egotistical superiority complex of the so-called ‘chosen people of God’ has become the driving power of the Zionist state that is practically defying the whole world including international law.

Indeed, the colonisers’ drive has managed to ‘annex’ the state of Israel and its parliament to their state, thus, attempting to cover Israel and all Jews around the world with its ethnic-cleansing policies. This second new state has drawn Orthodox Judaism to its racist doctrine by regarding non-Orthodox Jews who constitute nearly 85 per cent of the world Jewry as non-Jews. The new state has ardent adherents in the street and particularly in all the military and security branches to propagate its goals and even to rebel against the state when needed. Professor Oren Yiftachel who teaches at Ben-Gurion University states that “instead of Israel annexing the colonies in the Judaised areas, the colonies have annexed the state of Israel”. “It is not because colonies and colonists are a majority” he says, “but a small minority who is being fully supported by the Israeli elite in the government, in business and in the highest level of the military in Israel”.

Acceptance of Palestinian state

‘The kingdom of the colonists’ was actually declared by Baruch Marzel whose aim was ‘to cleanse the areas’ of southern Tel Aviv from any Palestinian presence. Along the same line, Israeli commentator, Siver Blokster speaks of a majority of Israelis inclined to accept a Palestinian state beside the Israeli state, “but not different from the present Palestinian National Authority in geographical, political and military terms”. He goes on to say that “very few Israelis support evacuating 150,000-200,000 colonists from the West Bank or establishing a demarcation line in occupied Jerusalem or permitting the occupied Palestinian territories to absorb hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees especially those coming from Lebanon”.

On a different level, Jewish colonies and their population daily experience the presence of the third ‘state’, referred to by many as the state of Ramallah declared in parts of the West Bank and who bear the brunt of attacks by armed colonists. The fourth state is called by many as the Islamic State of Gaza, a besieged ‘mini-state’, but nevertheless holding high the Palestinian slogan of “Liberation of historic Palestine from the River to the Sea.” This state seems to be very efficient in the art of making alliance with regional powers (Syria and Iran) and proposing lasting ‘truce’ with Israel. Tel Aviv University Professor Gideon Biger says “they ask the world to recognise the independent Palestinian state, but the reality of the two Palestinian states negates the establishment of the One Palestinian State”.

Judging by the actual power mustered by all of these four ‘states’, the third and the fourth, in the West Bank and Gaza, appear doomed. Indeed, unless they unite and put the Palestinian national interest and security above all considerations, it is most likely that the state of Israel and the ‘state of colonists’ will triumph and will have the upper hand until further notice.

( / 28.10.2011)

Doodstraf voor bomaanslag Marrakesh

Een rechtbank in Marokko heeft de hoofdverdachte van een bomaanslag in Marrakesh tot de dood veroordeeld. Bij de aanslag op 28 april dit jaar kwamen 17 mensen om, onder wie een Nederlandse reisbegeleider.

Adil el-Atmani was ervan beschuldigd de aanslag te hebben voorbereid en uitgevoerd. Zelf zegt hij dat hij onschuldig is en dat er sprake is van een politiek complot. Een handlanger is veroordeeld tot levenslange celstraf. Zeven anderen kregen celstraffen van 2 tot 4 jaar.

Toen de rechter in de stad Sale het vonnis voorlas, begonnen de vrouwelijke familieleden van de hoofdverdachte te gillen en te schreeuwen. Eentje viel flauw.

Sinds 1992 niet uitgevoerd
Marokko heeft de doodstraf in het wetboek van strafrecht, maar heeft de straf sinds 1992 niet uitgevoerd. De nieuwe grondwet, die in juli is aangenomen in een referendum, waarborgt het recht op leven voor iedere Marokkaan.

De aanslag trof café-restaurant Argana aan het centrale plein Djemaa el-Fna, dat geliefd is bij toeristen. Adil el-Atmani zou vermomd als een hippie met een gitaar, twee bommen hebben neergelegd. De Marokkaanse autoriteiten stelden aanvankelijk dat terreurnetwerk al-Qaeda mogelijk achter de aanslag zat, maar de extremistische beweging ontkende elke betrokkenheid.

De aanslag was de dodelijkste in Marokko sinds de zelfmoordaanslagen in 2003 in Casablanca.

( / 28.10.2011)