Archive for the ‘ Arab ’ Category

Beyond Gaddafi, America Turns its Attention to Pakistan

By Peter Hoskin for The Spectator

It’s hard to recall a more grisly complement of newspaper covers than those this morning. Only the FT refrains from showing either Gaddafi’s stumbling last moments or his corpse, whereas the Sun runs with the headline, big and plain: “That’s for Lockerbie”.

The insides of the papers are more uncertain. There are doubts about the details, such as what has happened to Gaddafi’s infamous son Saif. And there are doubts about the general tide of events too. Several commentators, includingPeter Oborne, make the point that the passing of Gaddafi is only the first phase in Libya’s struggle towards democracy — and it is a struggle that might easily be forced off course by various factions, splinter groups and madmen. As the New York Times puts it, “The conflicting accounts about how [Gaddafi] was killed seemed to reflect an instability that could trouble Libya long after the euphoria fades…”

As significant as all this is, however, we should also alight on the news from another area of instability: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hillary Clinton visited Kabul yesterday, where she not only heard about the Gaddafi’s death in photo montage-friendly fashion, but took some very clear swipes at Pakistan for being the Taliban’s favourite holiday destination. Here are some extracts from the full transcript of her speech and Q&A here:

“We will be looking to the Pakistanis to take the lead, because the terrorists operating outside of Pakistan pose a threat to Pakistanis, as well as to Afghans and others. And we will have ideas to share with the Pakistanis. We will certainly listen carefully to the ideas that they have. But our message is very clear: We’re going to be fighting, we’re going to talking, and we’re going to be building. And they can either be helping or hindering, but we are not going to stop our efforts……So my message will be as it just was to you: We have to deal with the safe havens on both sides of the border. It is not enough to point fingers across the border; we must work together to end the safe havens. We must send a clear, unequivocal message to the government and the people of Pakistan that they must be part of the solution, and that means ridding their own country of terrorists who kill their own people and who cross the border to kill in Afghanistan.I think that how we increase that pressure, how we make that commitment, is the subject of the conversations that President Karzai and I have had, and that I will have in Pakistan. But we’re looking to the Pakistanis to lead on this, because there’s no place to go any longer. The terrorists are on both sides. They are killing both people. No one should be in any way mistaken about allowing this to continue without paying a very big price. So I will deliver the message on behalf of the mothers of Afghanistan andon behalf of my own country.”

Just words, perhaps. But these words are some of the firmest that Obama’s adminstration has directed towards Islamabad since the death of Osama Bin Laden. In a news interview last night (do watch it if you’ve got two minutes), Clinton suggested that “something has changed” in the relationship between the two countries, and that Pakistan needs to “make some some serious choices”. That change could well define much of what lies ahead for Afghanistan and the wider region.

With Gaddafi Dead, The Arab Spring Has Finally Sprung

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

In the end, it does not matter whether Muammar Gaddafi was executed due to an order by members of the Libyan Transitional National Council leadership or whether he was killed at the hands of a vigilante mob in the run up to his capture and death. There is no question that initially there was confusion Thursday when unconfirmed reports out of Libya stated that Gaddafi was captured. However within a few hours news came that he had been killed during a battle between the rebels and forces loyal to Gaddafi . Sure enough, within another hour it was confirmed that Gaddafi was killed as mobile phone videos appeared showing a bloodied Gaddafi dazed and confused as rebels jostled all around him to get a piece of the brutal dictator that they had known for more than 42 years.

Exact details are presently murky in regards to his capture and death but it appears that during a battle in Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte on Thursday morning, Gaddafi’s convoy was spotted by NATO drone aircraft and surveillance and was reportedly fired upon by French air strike on a road fighter jets killing a few dozen fighters. Gaddafi escaped with a few of his bodyguards and was found hiding in a sewage pipe with a couple of his bodyguards by a huge mob of rebels. Hours later, the world saw footages of a severely wounded Gaddafi being held up and surrounded by rebels begging for mercy. Reports sate that he was shot and killed during the crossfire between rebels and his loyalists. And yet there is a sense that he was executed either by those that captured him or by order of the ruling Transitional National Council.

Regardless of how he was killed, more important questions need to be asked. What happens next in Libya? How will a government be formed for a country that is effectively starting over from scratch? This after all is a country that had been held hostage by a dictator for nearly half a century and it is going to need lots of international assistance in transitioning into having an effective and competent government, one that is far better that what the people of Libya have lived under for so long. And how will the Arab Spring and this momentum affect the tenuous situation in several other Arab capitals dealing with their own unrest and near civil wars.

Gaddafi’s graphic last few days were not unlike those of Saddam Hussein of Iraq. His last few hours being injured and captured hiding in a large sewage pipe must have been a far cry from the life he had led for so long as one of the longest serving heads of state and richest people in the world. Saddam too was found near his hometown of Tikrit as he was hiding like a common criminal in a spiderhole when he was caught. In the last few moments of their capture, neither men could not have believed that their worst fears had been realized and their long reign was coming to an end. More rulers across the Arab and indeed Muslim world today must be cognizant of the consequences of their actions as rulers.

The revolts of the Arab Spring have now succeeded in changing repressive governments in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya. Further east still in Syria an even more brutal dictator in Bashar al Assad must know that his time is coming near and his day of reckoning is a day closer when his countrymen stand up to brutality, repression, and mass murder at the hands of those who are supposed to be their leaders.

To be consistent, NATO and Western nations must remain vigilant and oppose the brutality presently happening in Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain and all other nations of the region and world regardless of strategic and mineral importance simply on the basis of principles and what is right. Only exerting pressure or using force against countries that are either strategically important like Egypt for its Suez canal or oil rich nations like Iraq and Libya for their natural resources will only send the wrong message to many other people in the region who are also yearning to be free. How this change in power happens is not as important as the fact that power changes hands in these long repressive regimes. It does not matter how Gaddafi died, what is important is that he is dead and his death could help gain momentum for the Arab Spring that has now clearly sprung far and wide.

Qaddafi Is Dead, Libyan Officials Say

By Kareem Fahim for The New York Times

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the former Libyan strongman who fled into hiding after rebels toppled his regime two months ago in the Arab Spring’s most tumultuous uprising, was killed Thursday as fighters battling the vestiges of his loyalist forces wrested control of his hometown of Surt, the interim government announced.

Al Jazeera television showed what it said was Colonel Qaddafi’s corpse as jubilant fighters in Surt fired automatic weapons in the air, punctuating an emphatic and violent ending to his four decades as a ruthless and bombastic autocrat who basked in his reputation as the self-styled king of kings of Africa.

Libyans rejoiced as news of his death spread. Car horns blared in Tripoli as residents poured into the streets to celebrate.

Mahmoud Shammam, the chief spokesman of the Transitional National Council, the interim government that replaced Colonel Qaddafi’s regime after he fled Tripoli in late August, confirmed that Colonel Qaddafi was killed, though he did not provide other details.

“A new Libya is born today,” he said. “This is the day of real liberation. We were serious about giving him a fair trial. It seems God has some other wish.”

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, the leader of the Tripoli military council, said on Al Jazeera that anti-Qaddafi forces had Colonel Qaddafi’s body.

It was not clear precisely how he died. Mohamed Benrasali, a member of the national council’s Tripoli Stabilization Committee, said fighters from Misurata who were deployed in Surt told him that Colonel Qaddafi was captured alive in a car leaving Surt. He was badly injured, with wounds in his head and both legs, Mr. Benrasali said, and died soon after.

Colonel Qaddafi had defied repeated attempts to corner and capture him, taunting his enemies with audio broadcasts denouncing the rebel forces that felled him as stooges of NATO, which conducted a bombing campaign against his military during the uprising under the auspices of a Security Council mandate to protect Libyan civilians.

Libya’s interim leaders had said they believed that some Qaddafi family members including the colonel himself and some of his sons had been hiding in Surt or in Bani Walid, another loyalist bastion that the anti-Qaddafi forces captured earlier this week.

There was no immediate comment on the news of his death from American officials. .

Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Afghanistan, said the department was aware of the reports “on the capture or killing of Muammar Qaddafi.”

There was also no immediate comment from Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the interim government’s top official. But he had said that the death or capture of Colonel Qaddafi would allow him to declare the country liberated and in control of its borders, and to start a process that would lead to a general election for a national council within eight months.

Libyan fighters said earlier on Thursday that they had routed the last remaining forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi from Surt, ending weeks of fierce fighting in that Mediterranean enclave east of Tripoli.

A military spokesman for the interim government, Abdel Rahman Busin, said, “Surt is fully liberated.”

The battle for Surt was supposed to have been a postscript to the Libyan conflict, but for weeks soldiers loyal to Colonel Qaddafi, fiercely defended the city, first weathering NATO airstrikes and then repeated assaults by anti-Qaddafi fighters. Former rebel leaders were caught off guard by the depth of the divisions in western Libya, where the colonel’s policy of playing favorites and stoking rivalries has resulted in a series of violent confrontations.

Surt emerged as the stage for one of the war’s bloodiest fights, killing and injuring scores on both sides, decimating the city and leading to fears that the weak transitional leaders would not be able to unify the country.

The battle turned nearly two weeks ago, when the anti-Qaddafi fighters laid siege to an enormous convention center that the pro-Qaddafi troops had used as a base.

The interim leaders had claimed that the ongoing fighting had prevented them from focusing on other pressing concerns, including the proliferation of armed militias that answered to no central authority.

Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and J. David Goodman and Rick Gladstone from New York.

Bahrain Doctors Tried For Treating Protesters

As Reported By CBS News and PBS

The U.N. condemned Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters Friday. Human rights groups say that since March, 34 people have been killed and more than 1,400 arrested. And now, Bahrain has put doctors on trial — just for treating injured protesters. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips spoke with one doctor who faces a long prison term.

The wave of the Arab Spring peoples’ revolutions that had rolled across Tunisia and Egypt, crashed when it hit the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain. The government quashed the demonstrators. And the people who had failed in their challenge to the authorities are still paying the price.

Dr. Nadu Dhaif was one of many health workers who treated the injured in makeshift clinics and supported their cause. Now, as she explained in a Skype interview, a Bahraini court has handed down its judgement.

“I was sentenced for 15 years in prison,” she said. “It was a complete total shock.”

The World Medical Association has called the sentences handed down to 20 doctors “totally unacceptable.” The convictions were based on confessions — some broadcast on TV, and some, as in Dhaif’s case, extracted under duress. “I was given an abundance of papers to sign while I was blindfolded,” she said.

“You were given papers while you blindfolded and told to sign them?” asked Phillips. “Yes, yes.” “Why did you sign those papers if you couldn’t see what you were signing?”

“I was threatened,” said Dhaif. “I had to sign them. They would beat me, torture me if I don’t go ahead and sign those papers.”

Dhaif is out on bail now, but expects to be re-arrested — separated from her children again and sent to prison at any moment. Going public, she said, is her only hope.

U.S.: Al-Awlaki Believed Dead in Attack

As reported by the Detroit News

American forces targeted al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki’s convoy with a drone and jet attack and believe he’s been killed, a U.S. counterterrorism official said Friday.

The U.S.-born cleric known for fiery anti-American rhetoric has been suspected of ties to the Fort Hood attack and the attempted Christmas Day airliner bombing in 2009.

The counterterrorism official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Word from the U.S. comes after the government of Yemen reported that al-Awlaki was targeted and killed Friday about five miles from the town of Khashef, some 87 miles from the capital Sanaa. He would be the most prominent al-Qaida figure to be killed since Osama bin Laden.

U.S. officials have said they believe al-Awlaki directed, led and planned attempted attacks on the U.S. He was believed to have inspired the Fort Hood shooter, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, and to have played a more direct role in the Christmas 2009 attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner. Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Texas.

On Sept. 13, an FBI Special Agent testified in Detroit that al-Awlaki played a key role in the radicalization of so-called “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Abdulmutallab spent hours listening to al-Awlaki’s video clips posted on the Internet, Special Agent Timothy Waters testified.

Abdulmutallab faces up to life in prison if convicted of a host of charges stemming from his alleged attempt to blow up the plane from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

Al-Awlaki’s death “will especially impact the group’s ability to recruit, inspire and raise funds as al-Awlaki’s influence and ability to connect to a broad demographic of potential supporters was unprecedented,” said terrorist analyst Ben Venzke of the private intelligence monitoring firm, the IntelCenter.

But Venzke said the terror group al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula will remain the most dangerous regional arm “both in its region and for the direct threat it poses to the U.S. following three recent failed attacks,” with AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahayshi still at large.

Venzke said al-Awlaki was due to release a new article in the next issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine justifying attacking civilians in the West.

“The article, which may already have been completed, was announced by AQAP on Tuesday as being entitled, ‘Targeting Populations of Countries at War with Muslims,'” he said.

Saudi Arabia to Allow Women to Vote

By Jeffrey Fleishmam for The Los Angeles Times

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia surprised his ultraconservative nation Sunday by announcing bold reforms that for the first time will give women the right to vote, run for local office and serve on the Shura Council, the king’s advisory board.

The measures by an aging monarch who has battled Islamic hard-liners for years will marginally improve the standing of women in a country that still forbids them to drive or leave the house without their faces covered. The moves appear likely to enrage religious conservatives while advancing at least a veneer of change in one of the world’s most repressive states.

“Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with sharia [Islamic law], we have decided … to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from the next term,” the king said in a five-minute speech to his advisors.

He added: “Women will be able to run as candidates” in the 2015 municipal election “and will even have a right to vote.”

The announcement suggests that the ailing 87-year-old king seeks a legacy as a reformer, despite making only modest inroads on human rights. Abdullah built the country’s first coeducational university and has granted 120,000 scholarships to students, many of them women, to study outside the country. Each move was opposed by clerics and religious ultraconservatives in the royal family.

Allowing women to vote is “hugely significant,” said Lubna Hussain, a Saudi writer. “The king is implementing the reform promises he made when he became leader. It shows he is not willing to pander to religious fundamentalists … who are quite weakened and don’t seem to have the voice they used to.”

The new rights for women come as Saudi Arabia has bristled at demands for political freedoms that have sparked spirited rebellions across the Arab world and toppled such longtime allies of the king as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. When rumblings of revolt echoed in Saudi Arabia, the government, whose security forces are omnipresent, promised $130 billion in salary raises and spending for social and religious programs.

Such largesse and attempts at modernization have kept Abdullah popular even as challenges to the royal family have been quickly crushed. Saudi dissidents and human rights groups have condemned the government for crackdowns that have occasionally damaged the king’s image and led to criticism that his family’s reliance on religious conservatives to stay in power makes him too cautious a reformer.

The king is the counterbalance to influential anti-reformist forces, including Prince Nayif ibn Abdulaziz, the interior minister, who many believe may succeed Abdullah. Nayif is sympathetic to fundamentalist Wahhabi clerics who uphold the segregation of sexes and have resisted the monarch’s attempts at modest reforms to ease religion’s grip on schools, courts and other institutions.

Yet discriminatory laws, such as those preventing women from driving, have become an international embarrassment for the kingdom, a key U.S. ally that relies on oil wealth to expand its diplomatic stature. A number of women were arrested over the summer for defying the driving ban. Analysts predicted that by allowing women to vote the king has opened the possibility for wider rights debates.

But others said the latest reforms were diversions that did little to change the plight of women in a country where they can be flogged for adultery and cannot travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian.

“It’s a mixed feeling. On one hand he opens the door for her and on the other hand she is still banned from driving,” said Mohammad Fahad Qahtani, a college professor and human rights advocate. “It doesn’t save her from horrible treatment by government agencies and the courts. It’s a symbolic gesture, but it is in no way enough to improve the lives of women.”

He added: “These rights to vote are still, if you see how it’s worded, are contingent on Islamic jurisprudence. So we’ll have to see in coming years what happens. The devil could be in the details. But maybe it’ll get some international praise for the regime.”

Sunday’s announcements “represent an important step forward in expanding the rights of women in Saudi Arabia, and we support King Abdullah and the people of Saudi Arabia as they undertake these and other reforms,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council.

The change will not alter the Saudi power structure. Municipal councils have little authority and only half their members are elected. The Shura Council, a body akin to a parliament but with no legislative power, advises the king on economic, social and international affairs.

But liberals and activists believe that even a little nudge forward in the kingdom is significant.

“It’s almost like a watershed,” said Hussain, who has written eloquently over the years on women’s rights. “You’ll now have women in [the Shura Council] taking up women’s causes. Before it was men talking for us. It’s quite revolutionary and it will open up a Pandora’s box.”

Park 51 Photo Exhibit Features American Children From All Over The World

BY Jessica Jenkins for Groundswell

NYChildren, a new photo exhibit at the Park51 community center in downtown Manhattan highlights the diversity of American identity by featuring New York City children from all parts of the world. A slideshow in the New York Times highlights a dozen portraits from the NYChildren exhibit. The photographer, Danny Goldfield, says he was inspired by a 2004 encounter with the brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi, the Sikh man who was murdered at his Mesa, Arizona gas station on September 15, 2001. That encounter led Mr. Goldstein to think about what constitutes American identity, and his project to photograph a child from each country of the world. So far Mr. Goldstein has photographed children from 171 different countries, all living in New York City.

It’s been a year since the Park51 community center was besieged by Islamophobic attacks from across the nation for its proximity to Ground Zero. Park51 has since scaled back its plans to build a new community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan but nevertheless has continued to offer events and faith services to the local community in its existing building. On its website, Park51 says about the exhibition: “We live in a world with far too much fear and misunderstanding. This exhibition is about finding the courage to meet and get to know neighbors to build trust and friendship.” We can’t think of a better way to set a tone of resilience, tolerance and hope.

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