Posts Tagged ‘ Protests ’

Third World Thugs and Dictators- A History of Self Serving Interests

By Manzer Munir, Pakistanis for Peace

What is it about power and its hold on a person? Not just the common man, but even the most noblest and patriotic of men have let its allure defy the loyalty to their county’s best interests. They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The recent events in Egypt have proven this axiom quite aptly as we are witnessing history in the making with the protests against the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

There is a popular, grassroots, and mostly peaceful uprising against the repressive and longtime authoritative administration of President Hosni Mubarak. Only the fourth president in the history of the modern day republic of Egypt, Mubarak was a soldier in the Yom Kippur War against Israel and served as the Commander of the Air Force as well as the Deputy Minister of Defense.

Having served nearly 30 years, he is the only leader most people in Egypt have ever known where more than half the population is under 25. Long seen by the outside world as a model of stability in the volatile neighborhood of the Middle East, Mubarak’s policies of continuing the peace treaty with Israel signed by his predecessor Anwar Sadat, belied the fact that at home in Egypt he had employed many heavy handed and authoritarian tactics to quell dissent at various times in his 30 year rule.

But what may have appeared as strengths to the outside world were weaknesses at a domestic level. Mubarak came to be seen by the average Egyptians as presiding over policies that increased unemployment and also raised the cost of living for many already struggling people. For many, the economic reforms had come to be equated with corruption, as many political leaders were mixing  family business interests with their official roles, and corruption at the highest levels has fully become entrenched in all levels of Egyptian society, much like in many developing countries.

Another example of the measure of cronyism and despotic rule practiced in Mubarak’s Egypt that showed contempt for the democratic aspirations of the common man was his grooming of his son Gamal for eventual leadership of Egypt. It was no surprise in the international community that for the last 8 years Mubarak was exposing his son to more and more official state functions and visits, having most recently brought Gamal to Washington for the opening of Middle East peace talks in the fall of 2010.

Now in the last few weeks, after protests in another North African Arab country of Tunisia that saw the toppling of the 24 year reign of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Mubarak’s iron grip on power seems a lot less secure to Egyptians who have been bolstered by the ouster of Ali, another notoriously corrupt and dictatorial ruler of Mubarak’s ilk.

It has become common place to see time after time, in developing countries across the world, but especially in Africa and Asia, autocratic and corrupt rulers who either seize power in military coups or are initially elected in some democratic way, only to hold on to power any way they can. Whether the ruler be Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who has held power of that country since 1980 and who despite having lost even the last few rigged elections, has remained defiantly in power. One could also point to another African leader, Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast who refuses to step down from power after having lost the elections of his country in November of 2010 to Alassane Ouattara. Despite losing the election he sits in the presidential palace in the capital Yamoussoukro, still refusing to listen to the world community and even personal pleas from President Obama to relinquish power to the victor of the Ivory Coast elections, Alassane Ouattara.

An Indonesian friend mentioned to me that what is happening in Egypt is exactly how the Indonesians got rid of Suharto, who had come to power and control over Indonesia 32 years prior in large part due to his service and rank in the military.

Examples of such greed for power, money and influence as well as the disregard for the health and well being of their nations are more commonplace in the developing world than in the industrialized nations. It is not to say that in European and western countries there have not been cases of greed and corruption.  However, when the stability and very health of a country’s political system was severely tested, as in my homeland of the United States, a president like Richard Nixon resigned from power, however embarrassingly and went off quietly into history, rather than hold on to the last vestiges of power and control over a sinking country and its national spirit.

For Mubarak, the question should be asked how can this soldier of the uniform can look in the mirror the last few days knowing that every passing day that there are riots in the streets of Cairo, he is undermining the sovereignty, nationhood and the very peace of his motherland. A person like this obviously cares more about their place in history than the well being of their people, their institutions, and their country.

Sooner or later, the chants will get loud enough to be heard outside Mubarak’s residence in the presidential Heliopolis Palace and the people will undoubtedly ask: “Oh Mubarak can’t you see? Time to join Ben Ali.”

Manzer Munir is a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, who is a Sufi Muslim and is also the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com and at other websites such as www.DigitalJournal.com, www.Allvoices.com, www.Examiner.com and www.open.salon.com as a freelance journalist and writer. He asks that you join the official Facebook Page of Pakistanis for Peace to be informed of the latest articles  here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Pakistanis-for-Peace/141071882613054

 

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Egypt Restores Internet as Turmoil Escalates

By Cecilia Kang for The Washington Post

Egypt restored Internet access on Wednesday, after a one-week blackout for Web and cell phone users to try to stem civil unrest.

The nation was the second ever to completely shut its citizens off of the Internet. Burma made a similar move in 1997. As the turmoil accelerates, experts say, the move has failed to affect what began as a Web campaign but continued even after the government block.

As of about 11:29 a.m. Cairo time, all major Egyptian Internet service providers appeared to have reopened connection to their domestic customer networks in a global routing table, network expert Renesys Group said in a blog.

Web sites such as the Egyptian State Information Service have been restored. The Wall Street Journal reports that cell phone service MobiNil also is back up.

U.S. Web sites such as social network Facebook were available again to Egyptians.

“We’re pleased that Internet service has been restored and the five million people who use Facebook in Egypt can continue using our service to connect, learn, and share,” said Andrew Noyes, spokesman for Facebook.

The restoration comes as opposition groups and supporters of President Hosni Mubarak have clashed in street confrontations Wednesday. Mubarak said he would not seek reelection, but anti-government protesters have called for him to step down immediately.

“One of big questions is does it work for a government to shut off the network entirely? I think the answer is no,” said John Palfrey, a co-director of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Alaa Abd El Fattah, an Egyptian activist and blogger in South Africa, said at first people organized on social media sites such as the Facebook page “We are Khaled Said.” The page documented the brutal death of a Egyptian blogger who exposed police corruption. There, opposition groups organized initial demonstrations. But predicting a clampdown on networks, Fattah said that anti-government activists, many of whom were young and politically engaged for the first time, switched to proxy technology that would allow them to access the Internet without being identified. They used low-end Nokia phones with Opera browser, which automatically serves as a proxy for users. And they passed along demonstration plans with pamphlets and by word of mouth.

“This movement started online but continued through many other avenues,” said Fattah.

Andrew McLaughlin, former White House deputy chief technology officer, said the shutdown shocked nations who had seen Egypt as a proponent of mobile and Internet technology. It serves as a key regional hub that operates several critical underwater fiber cable systems used for communications for many neighboring nations.

“The implications of shutting down the Internet are huge from an economic point of view,” McLaughlin said. “The idea that transportation grid ground to halt, you couldn’t access your bank or move money around and the entire communications systems was shut down is insane.”

Rejoicing at being given a digital voice again, Egyptians burst back onto the Internet. On Twitter, human rights activist Dalia Ziada wrote that she had over 500 e-mails in her e-mail.

Numerous accounts on Twitter also show that social the networking site and others may still be blocked in Egypt. When the government began to target communications services, they first hit Twitter and Facebook on Jan. 25. Two days later, the Egyptian government, with an Internet adoption rate of about 30 percent, entirely shut down access. Cell phone services were blocked intermittently throughout the last week.

Reports from Twitter indicate that 3G, mobile Web and BlackBerry services are online again for some people. Vodafone Egypt, which released a statement about restoring mobile phone service on Jan. 31, has not commented on its mobile Web service.

With the service restored, Egyptians began to give personal reports of clashes between Mubarak supporters and dissenters, which turned violent in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Egypt Unrest

As reported by the BBC

A massive demonstration is due to be held in Cairo as protesters step up their efforts to force President Hosni Mubarak from power. Organisers say they hope one million will come onto the streets in what is expected to be the biggest show yet. A rally is also planned in Alexandria. Egypt’s powerful army has vowed it will not used force against the protesters.

Meanwhile, new Vice President Omar Suleiman says he will hold cross-party talks on constitutional reform. Mr Mubarak reshuffled his cabinet on Monday to try to head off the protests, replacing the widely despised Interior Minister Habib al-Adly.

But correspondents say that the army’s statement has been a major blow for President Mubarak, and appears to have encouraged protesters.

The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, in Cairo, says that the feeling that change is coming in Egypt is getting stronger. Too much has happened too quickly to go back to the way things were before, he says.

At least 100 people have been killed across the country since protests began a week ago following an internet campaign and partly inspired by the ousting of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia last month.

Egypt has since cut off internet in the country and text messaging services have been disrupted. Google announced late on Monday that it is operating a special service to allow people in Egypt to send Twitter messages by dialing a phone number and leaving a voicemail.

Some protesters defied the curfew and continued to camp out in Tahrir Square through the night, saying they will stay there until Mr Mubarak’s 30-year-long rule ends. 

The protests in Egypt are posing a policy dilemma for President Obama’s administration, which has now despatched an envoy, former US ambassador Frank Wisner, to Cairo

One of them, Tarek Shalabi, told the BBC that groups were camped out in tents or sleeping out in the square, and described the atmosphere as “overwhelming”. “We’re here because we want to make a statement. We’re not going until Mubarak steps down,” he said.

He said a stage had been set up where people could go up and make speeches, read out poetry or sing or chant political slogans. “It has a festive feel to it,” he said. We all have one thing in common. We all hate the current regime,” he said.

Another demonstrator, 45-year-old lawyer Ahmed Helmi, said: “The only thing we will accept from him is that he gets on a plane and leaves”. On Monday, the Egyptian army said it respected the “legitimate rights of the people”.

In its statement, carried on Egyptian media, the military said: “To the great people of Egypt, your armed forces, acknowledging the legitimate rights of the people… have not and will not use force against the Egyptian people.”

Our correspondent says the announcement is absolutely critical because it takes away a huge measure of uncertainty from the mind of any potential demonstrator. Whatever happens next, this will change the Middle East, our correspondent adds. In his statement, Mr Suleiman said the president had ordered new government policy to be outlined “in the next few days”.

The review would include “clear and definite policies” to tackle unemployment, poverty, corruption and the cost of living, the statement said.

There would also be new elections in some districts where there was evidence of irregularities in last November’s parliamentary poll.

Meanwhile, the US state department has despatched a special envoy to Cairo, former ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner.

Concerns have also grown about the economy, as global oil prices on Monday topped $100 (£62) a barrel amid fears of the ongoing unrest.

The Facebook Creed? Racism’s Bad, Bashing Religion Is Good

By Tommy De Seno for FoxNews.com

Recently, in a column for the Fox Forum called “Muhammad Cartoons vs. Piss Christ” I compared the insult Muslims feel when they see a drawing of Muhammad to the hurt Christians felt when an artist photographed a crucifix in a jar of urine, called it “Piss Christ” and received a tax-funded monetary award from the National Endowment of the Arts.

The point I tried to make is that just because the First Amendment allows you to say something doesn’t mean you should say it. Freedom comes with responsibility, which includes tactfulness when discussing the revered symbols of another’s religion.

Sure you are free to hurl insults – but remember the purpose of criticism is persuasion, and no one has ever been persuaded by first being insulted. Criticism can be made of Islam and Christianity without denigrating either’s most sacred symbols.

As Americans we should fight like hell for the right to draw a picture of Muhammad, but then choose not to.

This issue is hot today because some folks short on good criticism and long on juvenile insult declared May 20 “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” I wonder why they didn’t include “Everyone Piss On a Crucifix Day,” too? That they didn’t do just that, suggests that this is not a pro-First Amendment movement, but a purely an anti-Muslim movement.

So here’s my question: Why does Facebook allow a page whose purpose is to spread hate for a religion? After all, Facebook used to ban activity for no other reason than the author was home-schooled (and that’s some weird priorities right there).

A Facebook spokesperson defended the company’s decision to not ban the “Draw Muhammad” page to FoxNews.com earlier this week:

“Groups that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs — even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some — do not by themselves violate our policies.”  

But compare that to this quote from an interview with a Facebook spokesman last year with Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper. Things were different when the topic was not anti-religion pages, but about pages that include racism:

“However, there is no place for content that is threatening, abusive, hateful, or racially or ethnically objectionable on the site and Facebook will remove any such content that violates our Terms of Use when it is reported… We have already removed a number of groups that violated these terms and we are continuing to be vigilant, immediately removing further postings when we become aware of them.”  

I see the Facebook matrix: “Racism is bad, but bashing religion is good.”

Facebook also said this to FoxNews.com about the “Draw Muhammad” page:

“When a group created to express an opinion devolves into threats or hate speech, we will remove the threatening or hateful comments and may even remove the group itself.” 

Hey Facebook – have you seen the two pages today? They are both a cesspool of hateful anti-religious commentary, devoid of useful criticism and swimming with the worst of distance-induced Internet hatred and nastiness.

If these pages don’t violate Facebook’s rules against hate speech, you can’t violate them.

Both pages have been taken over by anti-religious zealots whose purpose is to stir up anger for the sake of eliciting an even angrier response – all heat and no light. The folks posting the hate have the advantage of hiding whatever it is they hold sacred, so that no one can employ their own tactics against them. Cowards.

Both pages are filled with drawings, manipulated photos and commentary showing all religious leaders in acts of bestiality, pedophilia and outrages claims to calamities in history that religion couldn’t possibly be held accountable for.

Even if you’ve read hateful speech, you’ve still probably never read such blind, ignorant rage as is existent on these pages. Both pages should be taken down immediately, but they won’t be.

Facebook has obliterated civilized discourse.

Iran paying for freedom with Blood

Iran Protest Tehran, Iran- Iranians are protesting the results of the recent election they believe was unfairly rigged for the incumbent candidate in President Ahmadinejad and paying for it in blood. At least 17 people have died at the hands of the government forces who are cracking down on the protesters with increasing violence.

A particularly chilling death of a protester happened on Saturday in Tehran when a young girl was shot in the chest by a single sniper shot from a member of the government militia. Her last few seconds of her life were captured on a mobile phone video and then posted on the internet where it has gone viral getting millions of hits on various websites around the world. Her name was Neda, meaning Voice in Farsi, and she has indeed become the voice of this movement of the Iranian people as a symbol for Iran’s pro-democracy movement.

We at Pakistanis for Peace support the men and women of Iran in their quest for real democracy and freedom in their country from the oppresive regime of Ahmadinejad and the ruling Supreme Council and Ayatollah Ali Khameni. The government should realize that Iran will prosper and become stronger only with a more open and fair society that is a real democracy rather than a front for an authoritarian regime. Iran and virtually the rest of the Muslim world needs to realize that although democracy is not the only form of government, it is the best form and one that needs to be embraced across the Muslim world as only it will lead these countries out of the political darkness that they are in with their monarchies, dictatorships, and theocracies.

The citizens of the Muslim world from Morocco to Malaysia are yearning for a true democratic form of government that gives them more rights to participate in their government without fear of reprecussions and real freedom of speech that is missing in far too many of these countries. For the brave people of Iran to stand up and speak out against one of the most oppressive and authoritative regimes in the world is a great sign of hopefully more things to come across the Muslim world!

Reporting by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

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