Saturday, December 6, 2014

US hostage killed in Yemen raid

American hostage Luke Somers, who was held by al-Qaeda in Yemen, has died during a rescue operation in the southern province of Shabwa, a senior official in the president's office has said.
Somers, 33, who was abducted in September 2013 while he worked as a freelance photojournalist forYemen Times, died from injuries sustained during the operation.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed Somers' death and that of a non-US hostage, reported to be South African, saying they had been "murdered" by al-Qaeda during the rescue attempt.
Hagel said there were "compelling reasons" to believe Somers' life was in danger before the rescue operation was launched.
"Yesterday by the order of the president of the United States, US special operations forces conducted a mission in Yemen to rescue a US citizen Luke Somers and any other foreign nationals held hostage with him," Hagel said, speaking from Kabul.
"There were compelling reasons to believe Somers' life was in imminent danger."
The New York Times said Somers was shot at by his captors as the joint raid by US and Yemeni forces unfolded and was badly wounded when the commandos reached him. He died while being flown to a US naval base in the region, the paper reported.
Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee told Al Jazeera the fighters originally tried to escape with Somers. He was apparently shot after his captors found themselves surrounded.
At least ten al-Qaeda fighters were also killed in the raid.
Somers appeared in a video released by al-Qaeda on Thursday in which he pleaded for help. His captors said in the same video that "he would meet his inevitable fate" unless the group's demands were met within three days.
His sister, Lucy, was quoted by AP as saying that she was informed by the FBI of his death. “We ask that all of Luke’s family members be allowed to mourn in peace,” she said.
The South African hostage who was killed in the failed raid was due to be released on Sunday, charity Gift of the Givers, the group that had been negotiating his release, said on Saturday.
"We received with sadness the news that Pierre [Korkie] was killed in an attempt by American Special Forces, in the early hours of this morning, to free hostages in Yemen," the NGO said.
"The psychological and emotional devastation to Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by al-Qaeda tomorrow."

'Ultras' fuel Egypt's campus protests

Protests continued on university campuses across Egypt following the court verdict that cleared ousted President Hosni Mubarak of charges of killing protesters during the January 25 uprising.
The protesters comprise a broad mix of Islamists, liberals, leftists, independents and other non-affiliated students. The scale of protests prompted state-owned news website Al-Ahram to describe it as Egypt witnessing "a university uprising". 
But it was one group of activists that has given a sharper edge to many of the ongoing protests on university campuses across Egypt since the new academic year began on October 11: Ultras Nahdawy.
Ultras are generally known as hard-core football fans, but "Nahdawy" activists are not linked to any team. Most of their original members came from ultras groups supporting Cairo sporting clubs, al-Ahly Club and Zamalek Club.
According to its spokesperson, they formed a new ultras movement during the 2012 presidential campaign to support the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, who later won the election. "We were the first political ultras in Egypt," the Nahdawy's spokesperson said.
But it was the escalating repression against students that brought the ultras and students, from across the spectrum, together.
Students have rebelled against a raft of government measures, which include pre-emptive arrests of students, and the banning of political activities and "insulting" the president on campus.
Universities have been given a military makeover, with the installation of steel walls, barbed wire, metal detectors and CCTV, backed by a heavy-handed security presence in and around campuses.
The new measures were designed to prevent a repeat of the anti-government protests that occurred during the last academic year, in which at least 16 students were killed and hundreds arrested.

OPINION: The undone revolution in Egypt

Ultras in Egypt are renowned both for their fanatical support of their clubs and for their willingness to confront the guns and batons of the security forces.
"We took the culture of the ultras in the stadiums and tried to copy and paste it into the street," said Zizou, a supporter of al-Ahly who declined to give his real name for security reasons.
The majority of Nahdawy members are in high school, but many of the more senior members are university students.
Ultras Nahdawy members have been a small, but prominent, part of many protests. Their chants, songs, flares and fireworks have been particularly notable during demonstrations, particularly at al-Azhar and Ain Shams universities. They are also active in regular Friday protests in their own neighbourhoods.
"Nahda", meaning "renaissance", is the term used to refer to the Muslim Brotherhood's economic and political project. 
The creation of Ultras Nahdawy was controversial among football fans and many chose to keep their membership hidden after some were booted out of their original ultras groups when their Nahdawy alliances were discovered.
They claim to put aside their footballing rivalries within their group to focus on the political collective.
They were involved in the protests that followed the military's ousting of Morsi in July 2013.
Following the violent dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa al-Adaweya on August 14, 2013, they were forced underground and began operating secretly to evade the authorities and occasionally pop-up at demonstrations.
We took the culture of the ultras in the stadiums and tried to copy and paste it into the street.
- Zizou, an ultras activist
Many have been arrested under the Protest Law, which effectively outlaws demonstrations that are not sanctioned by the authorities.
From an estimated membership of between 1,500 and 2,000, they claim that around 350 have been arrested and 14 killed since the military ousted Morsi.
Ultras Nahdawy activists claim that they no longer have any official link with the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, although their core demographic still appears to be Islamist. They say that their membership has widened.
"During the January 25 revolution we had our demands and they are still the same: bread, freedom, justice," Zizou said.
"But now we are also calling for an end to military rule, freedom for the prisoners of conscience, and democratisation - because SCAF [the military leadership] violated democratic principles when they kicked out Morsi."
Morsi, currently imprisoned and facing multiple charges, is reviled by many Egyptians for his perceived authoritarianism and economic mismanagement while in power.
The Nahdawy are part of a diverse mix of student protesters, many of whom are secular and oppose the Nahdawy's call for Morsi to return. Yet, repression is forging a degree of solidarity as students and ultras across the political spectrum call for academic and political freedom.
Reem Khorshid, a student at Cairo University, in a recent article for the independent media online platform, Mada Masr, wrote that she knows students who are politically indifferent but who would side with Muslim Brotherhood-supporting colleagues against the security forces.
"The state's vendetta against the student body doesn't only include supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi," wrote Khorshid. "All students feel chafed at the new draconian procedures on campus."

RELATED: Egypt: 'The counterrevolution is at its peak'

In his address at Cairo University in late September, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared: "I love Egypt's youth and consider them my children," before warning students against engaging in "malicious" activities and urging them to view the university as solely for education.
Yet, at least one student has died in ongoing confrontations and at least 230 have been arrested so far in this academic year as students vent their anger at the security measures.
The authorities' repression of student dissent is part of a wider crackdown on secular activists, the media, NGOs, and other ultras groups.
A Cairo court is currently considering a lawsuit to ban Zamalek Sporting Club's Ultras White Knights (UWK) group following a series of clashes in the past few months.   
As one of the few groups to regularly confront the security forces in the streets during Mubarak's era, ultras were active beyond the stadiums long before the formation of Ultras Nahdawy. When the January 25 uprising broke out in 2011, ultras were at the forefront of protests that toppled the dictator.
"Spectators have been banned from attending football matches for much of the last three and a half years and certainly since the Port Said incident in February 2012, which tells you to what degree the regime views the ultras as a problem or a threat," says James M Dorsey, author of a forthcoming book on football in the Middle East.

Analyst: Egypt protests 'beyond the Muslim Brotherhood'
Dorsey recently wrote that "protesting students backed bymilitant football fans have turned university campuses into the new stadia", battling with the authorities over public space.
Some analysts believe the restriction on students, ultras and other groups, may encourage some to become more politically active, and may push others into radicalisation.
"The crackdown will help to nurture violence among young people in general and especially among the ultras," says Yasser Thabet, author of several books on Egyptian ultras and football.
He believes that some may be tempted to join more radical groups. "Due to the violent confrontations, especially in the universities or at protests, some may move from direct to indirect confrontation which might include even more violence."
Ultras Nahdawy claim to follow non-violent principles of protest, although Gandhi might not approve. According to Zizou: "If the police attack us, we defend ourselves with fireworks."
But they also concede that some members are losing patience with "peaceful" protest, especially due to the level of violence they are facing from the authorities.
" Against the political ultras [such as Nahdawy], the police use live ammunition and birdshot," claimed Zizou. "With the sporting ultras, they just arrest them to scare them or teach them a lesson, to make them bite the bullet. For us it is tougher."
The targeting of students and ultras is nothing new in Egypt, analysts argue, but the scale of the recent repression is perhaps unprecedented. "We should assume that if attacks from the police continue, the youth will eventually explode," said one ultras activist.
Al Jazeera

A fierce battle for control in Libya's desert

South Libya - In Libya's southwest Saharan desert, near the vast el-Sharara oil field and the borders with Niger and Algeria, a fierce struggle for control of the small oasis town of Ubari and its surrounding area has dragged on since September.
This desert conflict illustrates the shift of tribal allegiances in the country's post-revolution fight over resources and power, now cast within the larger national context of Libya's two competing governments and their agendas as the country slides deeper into civil war.
"We are taking out dead bodies. Our challenge is how to get help inside the town, and to get people out," Mahmoud al-Araby, head of the Red Crescent Society in Ubari, told Al Jazeera. Along with his volunteer emergency health staff, he has been exiled to the nearby town of al-Ghoraifa.
"We have brought out nine dead bodies so far," he said. "And they were decomposed when we got them."

RELATED: Libya's Benghazi sees battles for control

The battle of Ubari is between the historically semi-nomadic Tuareg and Tebu tribes, both indigenous to Libya's southern desert, with kin stretched across neighbouring countries. Both peoples coexisted under a truce called "Midi-Midi" as they found themselves marginalised by Muammar Gaddafi's favouritism towards Arab tribes.
During the 2011 revolution, many Tuareg fighters backed the regime, which had promised them rights and rewards upon victory, while the Tebu supported the rebellion. But Tuareg and Tebu guns were never turned on each other.
Today, the truce has been broken, with the tribes violently pitted against each other in Ubari. On the Libyan Tuareg side, their kin from countries such as war-ravaged Mali and groups like Ahmed al-Ansari have joined the fight, with support from the Misratan Libyan Dawn forces. Meanwhile, there are claims that Tebu from Chad have joined the Libyan Tebu, which has support from the Libyan Dignity government in Tobruk, based in the far northeast.
Misrata, currently in control of the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC), has a military presence now stretching through Libya's west and to the south. With the Misratans changing their alliance to the Tuareg, there are accusations that external forces with their own larger motives are at play. On November 5, local Tuareg fighters, backed by Misratan forces, wrested control of Libya's largest operational oil field, el-Sharara, from the Zintan and Tebu security guards who had patrolled the perimeter over the past three years. The Spanish consortium Repsol operates from there.
Armed Tuareg militias stormed the facility. They looted equipment, they fired shots, they were intimidating towards staff, and the facility subsequently closed because of the attack. They then left in a number of vehicles and drove towards the Algerian border. Some members returned, and the Misratan 'Third Force' claimed they had control of the Sharara facility.
Geoffrey Howard, analyst with Control Risks
"Armed Tuareg militias stormed the facility. They looted equipment, they fired shots, they were intimidating towards staff, and the facility subsequently closed because of the attack," Geoffrey Howard, an analyst with Control Risks, told Al Jazeera. "They then left in a number of vehicles and drove towards the Algerian border. Some members returned, and the Misratan 'Third Force' claimed they had control of the Sharara facility."
The fight in Ubari has blocked the pitted road past the installation, and goods and workers can only be flown to the enormous desert site. White plumes of smoke rise above Ubari near the oil site now heavily guarded by Tuareg fighters and the Misratan military; the tall oil flares have been extinguished by members of the Zintan tribe, who blocked a valve to the pipeline hundreds of kilometres closer to the sea.
Oil comprises 95 percent of Libya's economy. Before the revolution, production was about 1.6 billion barrels per day (bpd), and after Gaddafi's overthrow it bounced back to 1.4 billion bpd.
But last year, as Libya's political fortunes worsened and heavily armed groups ruled the streets, oil production took a sharp tumble when disgruntled workers and federalists, led by Ibrahim Jadhran, took control of three of Libya's largest oil terminals in the east. This past summer, Jadhran sided with Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani's government, and output has risen again to 800,000 bpd.
However, el-Sharara remains offline. The largest oil refinery at Ras Lanuf is shut, with the other, at Zawiyah, gravely affected by fighting. This translates to long lines of cars at petrol stations throughout Libya, and skyrocketing gas prices on a lucrative black market.
"The last few months have been a surprise mainly because Libya has managed to produce so much oil despite all of the political insecurity," Richard Mallinson, an analyst with Energy Aspects, told Al Jazeera. "The oil numbers and the rest of Libya, with its politics and violence, have gone on opposite trajectories.
"What seems to happen is that all the various factions are still able to draw government salary payments, whatever side they are on, and thus have an incentive to allow oil production to continue, so the revenue can continue," he added. "Then the victorious would take it all."
The southern Libya border is ripe for smuggling people, gasoline, food, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs; it is suspected that weapons and fighters also flow across. "The French are worried about the strengthening of terrorism in south Libya - it is kind of a Club Med for terrorists," one western diplomat told Al Jazeera.
After the Libyan revolution, many Tuareg fighters moved south into Mali with weapons, and fought alongside the group Ansar Dine. Now many of these young men are returning to Libya. Concerned French troops have moved closer to the Libyan border, and the United States has built two drone bases in neighbouring Niger. One concern is the possibility of weapons flowing to extremist groups like Ansar al-Sharia in towns in Libya's northeast.
"All the fighters in Benghazi and Derna belong to tribes," said rival Prime Minister Omar al-Hassi, who acknowledged an "uneasy alliance" between his government and Ansar al-Sharia. "Many tribes fight because they lost their boys. Now they are united because they fight [against retired Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, allied with the 'Dignity' government]. You will find very few extremists - most are very normal and have nothing to do with extremism."

RELATED: Libya: The war nobody can win

Issa Senussi, a Tuareg political activist who appears to advise the Misratan command in Sebha, echoes Misratan complaints about their former revolutionary allies, the Tebu, and their control over checkpoints and Libya's lucrative border trade.
"We need to drive the Tebu out of Ubari. This is the only way to make peace," Senussi told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, Misratan intelligence agents and fighters have gathered in a dilapidated former safari hotel in Germa, down the road from Ubari. "We will move into Ubari to keep the peace between the two tribes," one of the men said.
Rejab Agey, a Tebu elder from the nearby town of Murzuq, has been present at recent tribal negotiations in the Ubari valley. "We have no problem with the Libyan Tuareg. They are in their houses, and in valleys where they keep their camels. All southern tribes went to Ubari to broker a peace," he said. "But the Libyan Tuareg have no control over extremist groups like Ahmed al-Ansari, and the Misratans refuse to talk."
Adam, a Tebu policeman from Ubari, agreed: "We were discussing how to stop the war. The Tebu were offering to get rid of all battalions, and that citizens should be in the police and the army, no matter if they are Tebu or Tuareg. The Tuareg refused."
One Tuareg elder trying to forge peace is Mohammed from al-Aweinat, close to the Algerian border. "We are killing and destroying each other for nothing," he said. "Everyone has a different agenda. Myself, I am looking for an open dialogue, looking to bring back an agreement that was signed many years ago, and trying to protect the south in general.
"The Tuareg and Tebu can once again become two hands in the desert," he said. "This is our goal."
Al Jazeera

Seven sentenced to death in Egypt

An Egyptian court has sentenced to death seven men, including well-known fighter Adel Habara, for killing 25 policemen last year in an attack in Sinai near the border with Israel, judicial sources said.

The attack took place in August 2013, six weeks after the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, and days after hundreds of his supporters were killed when police broke up their protest camps in Cairo. 
The violence was part of a spike in attacks by armed groups against security forces and military personnel, who were seen as targeting Islamists.
Saturday's ruling came after the Grand Mufti endorsed the sentence.
Those sentenced were accused of stopping minibuses carrying the victims, forcing them to get off and then shooting them. 

450 Days in Jail

Following Ibrahim Halawa’s case,  Three  month ago, the trial of Mr Halawa was deferred and transferred to a new venue and a new judge, without a date being fixed. Referring to his trial on August 12 last, which was dramatically abandoned mid-hearing, Ibrahim writes: "I didn't get to talk to my lawyer and the court cage was sound-proof (the one I didn't even enter) which is also illegal. We refused to leave until we get to see a judge as a result we were beaten up, dragged down the stairs, handcuffed in threes, we were spat on and all this just because we refused to leave until we were to see a judge."

Tineke Harris, a director at Reprieve, said: “This ‘mass trial’ is a mockery of justice and Ibrahim Halawa’s inclusion in it must be stopped. Ibrahim’s life is in grave danger.”
Ibrahim Halawa prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression , an Irish citizen, only 17 when arrested – a minor according to Egyptian law. When first detained, Ibrahim was brutally beaten and shot in the hand. He was subsequently denied medical treatment, which has resulted in a permanent deformity.  Ibrahim has been repeatedly denied access to his lawyer and denied the right to a proper court hearing. This is clearly a violation of his basic civil and human rights.

While in jail, Ibrahim says he has been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment including electrocution, being stripped half naked, being beaten with whips and chains, and being held in solitary confinement,” the letter states. “No evidence has been provided to show that Ibrahim was ever involved in any illegal activity – instead he has been arrested for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.”

Ibrahim’s family is concerned that he will become locked into a continuous cycle of solitary confinement extensions without ever having fair legal process. The Halawa family Urge the government to demand for Ibrahim’s immediate release.
Ibrahim's birthday is on the 13th of December, this is the second time Ibrahim has to spend his birthday far from his home and family. His last trial was postponed for the third time without even getting to see a judge.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Report: Syria army kills dozens of rebels

Syrian troops have killed 50 fighters in an ambush in the largely rebel-controlled countryside east of Damascus, according to state media.
"An army unit killed 50 terrorists in an ambush while they tried to flee Mediya village," SANA news agency reported on Wednesday, using the standard official term for the rebel fighters.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 30 people, all of them men, had been killed in the operation, which was backed by fighters of Lebanon's Hezbollah.
But the Observatory also added that it could not confirm whether all of the dead were rebel fighters.
A Hezbollah source confirmed that their group's fighters had taken part in the operation and said 30 rebels had been killed.
The Shia group has deployed thousands of fighters to Syria to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government against the mainly Sunni rebels.
The countryside east of Damascus known as Eastern Ghouta has remained largely in the hands of rebel fighters, despite repeated efforts by the army to oust them.
In August 2013, the area was hit by a string of chemical weapons attacks that killed hundreds of people.
The attacks sparked US threats of military action that were defused only by the Syrian government's agreement to dismantle its chemical arsenal.

Libyan women struggle to join the workforce

Despite experiencing significant political and social instability in recent years, Libya is a country in which women are continuing to achieve above-average rates of higher education when compared to countries across the Middle East and North Africa.
However, even when acquiring what is necessary to "make it", Libyan women still struggle to attain the same levels of employment, pay and access to senior positions as their male counterparts.
Above all else, one thing is clear: Libyan women are highly educated. The majority of college graduates in the country are women, with 77 percent pursuing higher education courses, compared to 63 percent of men, according to a September 2013 report by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

OPINION: Libya: The war nobody can win

However, the problems seem to arise after graduation, with only 43 percent of women gaining official employment.
"The issue is not education, it's that following on from education, we have this drastic decrease where a lot of women are not entering the formal workforce," said Alaa Murabit from her home in Zawiyah, a city in northwest Libya.
Murabit is the founder of The Voice of Libyan Women, a non-profit organisation that works to improve political participation and economic empowerment for women.
Murabit, a doctor, says there are a few reasons for this decrease, one of which is that many women choose to work from home in order to accommodate their families' needs.
"Most women will choose jobs that allow for them to have a family life - they will start at-home businesses. Those who start these businesses, where they are making sweets or have a sewing business, that's not seen as part of the formal economy; they are not officially part of the Libyan work force. And it's a large group of women who choose to work that way," explains Murabit.
According to recent figures, only 20 percent of women in Libya take part in civic or political activity of any kind.
Of Libya's working women, 73 percent choose careers in education or medicine. Hikmat Kmishi is the coordinator of Women for Democratic Transformation (WDT), a Tripoli-based network that encourages prospective female politicians. She affirmed that women tend to work in two main sectors.
"Most women become doctors or teachers. We certainly don't have many female politicians," explains Kmishi, who holds cultural factors responsible for this trend.
A lot of times when customers have issues, they will say 'I want to talk to the manager,' but they don't realise I am the manager, and it's usually satisfying for me to tell them that.
- Assia Amry, manager, Aramex
"Women are not traditionally in the public sphere, and while they are given jobs, rarely are they put in decision-making positions. It's the mindset, people still think women can't do a lot."
Kmishi is one of many women who think that cultural practices are negatively affecting the female workforce, and it's a factor that arises for Libyan women in various sectors.
Assia Amry works for Aramex, a global logistics and transportation provider. She is the manager of their Tripoli branch. She grew up in the US but moved to Libya in June 2012 with her father, who had been part of an anti-Gaddafi dissident movement.
"My team are all men," says Amry. "At first I think they were amused at the idea of being led by a woman, but [they] eventually accepted it … and it's great."
Amry explained that while there are some women in managerial positions in Libya, senior roles are overwhelmingly awarded to men. As a result, female employees can at times be overlooked. "The biggest challenge is with customers," she said.
"A lot of times when customers have issues, they will say 'I want to talk to the manager,' but they don't realise I am the manager, and it's usually satisfying for me to tell them that."
The number of women working in Libya's private sector is low at nine percent, but not necessarily because women are actively being discouraged to enter the work force, according to Amry.
"It's not because in Libyan culture, women are taught not to achieve, or work; I just think Libya, in all aspects, is evolving… Libyan women are go-getters, they are looking for opportunities."
Beyond pre-existing social factors, Libya's ongoing political turmoil has restricted freedom of movement for women across the country and in turn, discouraged women from entering politics.
Noor El Huda Gleasa, 23, is a communications manager for Creative International Associates, an NGO that facilitates voter education and promotes civic engagement.
She works across 16 different cities in Libya. "If a woman wants to work in politics or in a job that's in the spotlight, the security issues they face are much more severe than men," Gleasa told Al Jazeera. "It puts women in an incredibly difficult position."
Similarly, Hanan Salah, the Libya Researcher for Human Rights Watch, pointed out that the ongoing conflict and lack of security across the country is the main issue affecting Libyan women's ability to work.
Inside Story - Is Libya heading for chaos?
"There have been several instances this past year where, due to the complete lack of law and order in parts of Libya, various militias and individuals are taking matters into their own hands by trying to prohibit women from travelling on their own without a male companion," Salah told Al Jazeera.
"Some militias have been harassing women on university campuses. We have examples of women who have been forced to stop their studies because of the impunity that these militias and individuals are benefiting from."
In short, the instability that has spread across Libya means that women's basic physical access to employment has been affected and this impacts the careers they pursue.
"The reason a lot of women choose to be teachers isn't because they all had a particularly strong desire to be teachers, but it's because schools are everywhere and are easily accessible," Murabit said.
"For women who don't have a husband or brother who will drive them everywhere, it's very difficult for them to have a corporate job downtown, because they would need transportation and Libyan public transportation is very poor."
Murabit said this issue could easily be solved if the Libyan government invested in safe public transportation for women as well as establishing more locally based occupations.
"There is a heavy reliance on what is a local and safe job, and these are primarily as educators, which is great for our future generations - but Libya now has an influx of teachers and not many women working in other fields."
Women in Libya are now looking ahead to a new constitution that is currently being drafted by the parliament in Tripoli and is scheduled to be issued in December.
While women's rights groups are pushing for a quota system to ensure they have a significant presence in the new parliament, the country's younger generation is determined to secure their place in Libya's future.
"I really hope the new constitution is up to our standards," said Gleasa. "And if it's not, well, I know Libyan women won't stay quiet about it for long."
Al Jazeera

Women blast Erdogan over 'hate crime'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again sparked outrage among women's rights groups by declaring that men and women are not equal. However, unlike similar statements made in the past, his comments mostly sparked angry words, as opposed to the mass protests that traditionally would follow.
"You cannot put women and men on an equal footing … it's against nature. They were created differently," Erdogan said in the now-infamous address he gave on Monday in Istanbul.
The speech, ironically made to Turkey's Women and Democracy Association, has caused great offence, particularly within the country's secular community.
"How can a president of a country legitimately say these things? What he said is a crime. It's a crime according to our legislation and it's a crime according to universal laws," Erdogan Erdogan, a women's rights activist, told Al Jazeera while en route to an anti-sexism rally in Istanbul.
Aylin Nazliaka, an MP from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), took to Twitter to denounce Erdogan's speech as a "hate crime" against women.

RELATED: Turkish women struggle with Erdogan legacy

The late 1980s, early 1990s, saw an emergence of women's rights groups in Turkey that had not existed before.
In 1993, Women for Women's Human Rights was created to rally for women's equal participation in Turkish society. However, in 2014, the feminist movement seems to have lulled with many of the women Al Jazeera spoke to saying they were unsurprised by Erdogan's comments, and felt disheartened by his re-election.
The energy and enthusiasm from past decades had withered. 
Erdogan was equally adamant about women in the workforce, saying: "You can't get a woman to work in every job that a man does, like they did in communist regimes in the past… You can't put a pickaxe and a shovel in their hand and get them to work. "
Erdogan has been criticised in the past for being too involved in the private lives of his citizens. His declarations about motherhood, for example - stating that women should have at least three children - have been viewed as an infringement on women's basic rights to make choices about their bodies and families.
I think we need to clarify what the president said. I think he has mixed two things up, sameness and equality. Okay, men and women are not the same, but equality is different from sameness... I deeply believe that President Erodgan thinks women and men have the same rights... he's just a little confused, that is all.
- Fatma Bostan, lecturer, Mus Alparslan University
"There are those who understand this [and] those who don't," Erdogan said. "You can't tell this to feminists, because they do not accept motherhood." Erdogan has also expressed his staunch opposition to abortion.
Zeynep Banu Dalaman, a political scientist and expert in women's studies, told Al Jazeera: "Mr Erdogan wants to make the private lives of women in Turkey a public matter. At the same time, he wants women to be kept away from public spheres of work."
Dalaman said Turkey's opposition parties must play a bigger role in tackling sexism of this magnitude.
"They can help hugely by increasing women's political participation and therefore, give women greater influence in positions of power," she said. 
But not all Turkish women are on the same page. While educated women in urban areas are furious about what the president said, others are comfortable with Erdogan's assumptions, professor Yildiz Ecevit, who specialises in gender studies at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, told Al Jazeera. 
"[Some women in rural communities] receive social benefits for being stay-at-home mothers and while they might not be happy, as long as the economy is good, and they live a comfortable lifestyle, they are okay with voting for Erdogan," Ecevit said.
Fatma Bostan, a lecturer at Mus Alparslan University in eastern Turkey, said Erdogan may have mixed up two distinct concepts.
"I think we need to clarify what the president said," Bostan told Al Jazeera. "I think he has mixed two things up, sameness and equality. Okay, men and women are not the same, but equality is different from sameness."
Bostan, who used to work as a volunteer in the social affairs branch of Turkey's ruling AKP party, was dismissed from her post in 2002 after her husband became a member of parliament. This was because of Turkish legislation stating that only one spouse could work in parliament at any given time - even though Bostan's position was unpaid.
Bostan said she supports this rule, noting: "Politics should not be a family affair."
"I deeply believe that President Erdogan thinks women and men have the same rights … he's just a little confused, that is all," she added.
Al Jazeera

Behind 28 November Calls

Calls of the Salafi front to protest on next 28 November entitled "Muslim Youth Intifada",face harsh media campaigns from all the channels,newspapers and radios pro the regime.
Tanks ,army vehicles and police men are everywhere now in Cairo streets and squares  ,especially Tahrir square,Mostafa Mahmoud square and Rabaa Adawya squares.All the pre mentioned squares were closed today so as not to allow any protester to be in these squares.
The Salafi front front asked the Muslim youth to protest carrying in their hands the Holy Quran,that made AlAzhar issue fatwas condemning these protests as its goal is create chaos and call for violence.
There was another fatwa justifying the killings that will take place tomorrow by the army soldiers and police saying "Salafi guys trying to decive the soldiers by carrying the Holy Quran,so the soldiers shouldnt care about them carrying the Holy Quran and should shot them".
The Muslims Brotherhood ,Legitimacy coalition,Asala party,students anti coup  and many other Islamic movements  announced their support for these protests and their participation in it.
The Salafi front considers tomorrow's protests as a continuation to the protests that will last to 25 January revolution anniversary and wont end till they get rid of the military junta .

All the regime's supporters consider tomorrow's valueless and will end without any action.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Love Matters, “Without Barriers”: Pioneering sexual and reproductive health website goes offline to collaborate with Egypt’s graffiti movement


The taboo breaking website Love Matters Arabic celebrates the launch of a unique exhibition,“Without Barriers” (الحب ثقافة: بصراحةوبلاحواجز),on Wednesday 22nd October.The exhibitionis collaboration with members of the Egyptian street art movement. It explores themes around intimacy and relationships through the medium of graffiti andis a visual response to the sensitive topics addressed by Love Matters Arabic,

Comprising the work of 13 artists, led by Egyptian creative Mohammed Khaled, “Without Barriers”opens at Darb 1718 in Old Cairo. The opening willfeature a special performance by Aya Metwallialongside live painting and speeches by Love Matters representatives. The exhibition will then be free and open to the public from23rd October to3rd November.

Love Matters Arabic is a multimedia platformdelivering information on safe and satisfying relationships in areas where this information is censored or not available,. Developed in response to the lack of reliable online resources for young adults in the Arab world, itis the first website of its kind available in Arabic. Itwas officially launched in Egypt in March 2014, is designed to provide young people in the region with unambiguous and reliable information in their own language on sex and intimacy. Talking openly and without shame, Love Matters Arabic takes into consideration the cultural and religious values of the target audience, creating safe spaces onlinefor young people to engage on sensitive topics.

The “Without Barriers” exhibition is the first time Love Matters has extended its digitially based project to incorporate offline activity in the Middle East. The completedartwork will be hosted on the site and promoted via a social media campaign, encouragingpeople to share their experiences of the exhibition and the themes around it using the hashtag #No_Barriers (بلا_حواجز#).

“Since 2011, the street art movement in Egypt has been gaining momentum, addressing not just political but also social issues”, saysLove Matters Content Strategist Michelle Chakkalakel. “As we work to raise awareness around the Love Matters Arabic project as an important resource for young people, we saw the relevance of collaborating with local graffiti artists.”

“We're very excited to be working with artists on this project,” agrees the global head of the Love Matters project, Michele Ernsting. “The goal of Love Matters Arabic is to make it possible for people talk in an open and honest way about love, sex and relationships. Street art is such a powerful way to express and share ideas. It's a great way for us to bring online and offline conversations together, to strengthen each other's work.”

Since the Love Matters Arabic site went live seven months ago, it has received a positive response from its growing community of users, accumulating more than 2.6 million page views and 4,000 Twitter followers. The platform’s YouTube channel has meanwhile totaled over three million views, with the most popularvideo being “First night sex” كيف تستعدان لليلةالزفاف؟ .

Our site reaches out to youth and talks openly about many topics they are searching for online,” explains Love Matters’editorElise Aghazarian. “They reach out to our professional consultants, who respond to the questions and needs of users.”

The opening night of “Without Barriers”on October 22nd is by invitation onlyFor press accreditation to the event please contactiQ Group PR ( Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Artists and members of the Love Matters Arabic team are available for interview upon request. For further information regarding the Love Matters Arabic project, contact coordinatorAbir Sarras ( or partner representativeHannah Wallace Bowman(   

Saturday, September 6, 2014

US calls for coalition to 'destroy' IS group

The United States has called for the creation of a broad international coalition to go after and "destroy" the Islamic State group, and build a plan by the time the UN General Assembly meets later this month.
US secretary of state John Kerry and defence secretary Chuck Hagel, pressed a core coalition of 10 nations at a NATO summit in Wales on Friday to go after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militarily and financially.
"There is no time to waste in building a broad international coalition to degrade and, ultimately, to destroy the threat posed by the Islamic State," Kerry and Hagel said in a joint statement.

In a private meeting with the foreign and defence ministers from the UK, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark, Kerry said there were many ways each country could contribute in the fight against IS.
"We need to attack them in ways that prevent them from taking over territory," Kerry told the meeting.
While noting that there would not be many willing to engage in military strikes, he said countries could instead provide intelligence, equipment, ammunition or weapons.
The session focused on the Islamic State group in Iraq, but Kerry said there are obviously "implications about Syria in this'' and suggested they could discuss that later in the day.
The US has launched air strikes against IS targets in Iraq, and has been accused by the Syrian opposition of applying double standards as it has not yet intervened against the group in Syria, where it also controls large areas in the north.
International support
Al Jazeera's diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from the NATO summit, said no one was talking about military action but focusing on international condemnation of the IS and intelligence sharing between countries.
"I think all the NATO countries agree that they are opposed to IS, they want its destruction and they will sign up to this coalition. The effort then is to get partners in the region, particularly Gulf states, involved."
British prime minister David Cameron appeared to rule out launching immediate air strikes on the IS.
"Let's be clear, what is required is not some Western intervention that leaves others in the region to pick up the pieces," he said.
"What is required is action on the ground, from the Kurds, from the new Iraqi government, from the neighbouring states."
He stressed that the UK is already playing a role: "We're arming the Kurds, we're helping the Iraqi government, we're flying missions over Iraq, we're supplying humanitarian aid."

French president Francois Hollande said France would join a military coalition to help battle Islamic State fighters in Iraq if asked by the government there, but did not provide specific details.
In another act of support, Canada announced it would deploy military officials to Iraq to advise government forces.
"The fanaticism of the [Islamic State] terrorist group is a real threat to regional security and millions of innocent people in Iraq, Syria and beyond," Canada's rime minister Stephen Harper said at the NATO summit.
Germany, which has also decided to aid Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State group, has already sent a plane carrying the first shipment of military aid for Iraq.
The plane that left Germany on Friday was stocked with protective vests, helmets, night vision telescopes, communications equipment and devices for mine search and disposal, a military officer said.
IS, formerly known as ISIL, grew out of the US-led war in Iraq, and entered the civil war in Syria last year.
The group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared himself the leader of a caliphate earlier this year after seizing control of vast swaths of territory straddling the borders of Iraq and Syria.

Dozens killed in fighting north of Sanaa

At least 50 people have been killed in fighting between Yemeni troops and Houthi rebels north of Sanaa, as supporters of the Shia group continue to rally against the government in the capital.
Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Sanaa, said the deadly clashes have been ongoing in the province of Jawf over the last few days, in what is seen as a crucial fight for both groups.
At least 20 of those killed were from the army and armed pro-government groups, while 30 were from the Houthi side. 
Our correspondent said: "The fighting has intensified over the last few hours.... Both sides are trying to consolidate their presence near the capital Sanaa. Both are fighting to control a strategic junction on the main road that link the capital to Jawf and Maarib provinces."
"There was a truce earlier but suddenly it broke and the fighting resumed…There is loads of anxiety and a very charged political atmosphere in Sanaa."
Analysts said the rebels are trying to establish themselves as the dominant political force in the northern highlands, where Shia are the majority community.
'Psychological warfare'
Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in Sanaa on Friday in support of the beleaguered government, as a large number of its opponents held a counter-demonstration vowing to intensify their protests until the cabinet resigns.
The rebels called for further action against the government, who they accuse of corruption and whose resignation they have been demanding.
Protesters called for an escalation of the situation, and a senior member of the Houthis politburo called for "civil disobedience" and urged supporters to join in new protests on Sunday and Monday to keep up the pressure on the government.
As protesters step up pressure for the government to resign, Ahelbarra said that the Houthis and their supporters have threatened to block roads leading to the capital, and move closer to the airport.
"They are waging some sort of psychological warfare. It's quite tense tense here," he said.
Yemen has been locked in a protracted transition since long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from power in February 2012 after a deadly 11-month uprising.

Morsi charged with passing documents to Qatar

Deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi is to be tried on accusations that he handed documents relating to national security to Qatar, the state prosecutor has announced.
Morsi is already facing the death penalty in several trials, and his supporters, including top ranking members of the Muslim Brotherhood, have been the target of a deadly crackdown by authorities since his ousting in July 2013.
No date has yet been set for the new trial facing Morsi, who is accused of providing the sensitive documents to the energy-rich Gulf state during his single year of turbulent rule.
Relations between Qatar, a key supporter of Morsi's government, and Egypt have been tense since mid-2013, when then-army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi toppled Morsi.

Sisi blames outages on lack of investment

Egypt's president has blaming widespread power outages in recent days on years of lack of investment, while warning people were trying to cripple his government's efforts to rebuild the country and seeking to try take advantage of the crisis.
In a TV address on Saturday, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said that the outage were "the most significant incident over the last three decades", adding that the country needs to invest at least $12bn over the next five years to generate sufficient amount of electricity for its population.    
"This is a battle for our existence," Sisi said in the special address to the nation, three months into his presidency. "We need to carry out a huge power generation development."  
"We should be aware that such a crisis cannot be remedied overnight," the president added. "We as Egyptians are facing huge insurmountable obstacles and no one, the president nor the government, will be able to overcome them individually without your support."
On Thursday, a huge power outage blacked out most of Cairo causing major disruption across the capital city of some 20 million people at the height of the morning rush hour.
Services were completely suspended on one of the city's three metro lines and heavily disrupted on a second.
Power was gradually restored several hours later as temperatures rose towards 40 degrees Celsius in the middle of the day.
The power disruption also left parts of the capital without running water, and hit telecommunications, knocking out 2,000 mobile phone signal boosters.
The outage has forced authorities to impose rolling power cuts neighbourhood by neighbourhood.
Thursday's outage was the most extensive in years, as investment in generation has failed to keep up with rising population numbers amid the economic woes plaguing the country since the Arab Spring of 2011.
Al Jazeera and agencies

Egyptian jail causes Al Jazeera journalist to miss birth of son

Jailed Al Jazeera journalist Baher Mohamed will become a father again . His unjust imprisonment has however meant that he could not be at his wife Gehan’s side when she gave birth to a baby boy.
From his jail cell, Baher released a letter to the new arrival, to be named Haroun. The letter is a mix of sadness and hope for the child’s future, as well as some valuable wisdom for his two other children four year old Hazem, and three year old Fairouz.
Baher begins with sharing his hopes that there are better days ahead for Egypt:
Sorry because you were born where free people are behind bars, including your father. Sorry too because you have come to a society where its freedom’s restricted. But I promise you I will always fight for liberty. I don’t want you to give up on this society…because I am sure that soon everything will change for the better
He goes on to  share his life lessons to his children:
My dear children; there are things I learnt and I want to share with you. I was always fighting for the truth in my career, and that was not easy. Whatever it takes; keep looking for the truth and never be afraid of it. I want you all to maintain your dignity. It is one of your most precious values. Always be patient because you will face lots of obstacles in your path. Always be good to all, even to those who treat you badly. Feel the pain of the others and keep trying to help them. If you feel you can help and make someone happy never hesitate. If you can draw a smile on someone’s face…then take the action to draw this smile.
My dear children…keep smiling because behind the clouds the sun always shines.”
Finally, Baher tells of the close bond between the families of the three imprisoned journalists, who will be there to support each his wife and child at the hospital:
“Finally Haroun, I want you to ask your Mama to forgive me because I couldn’t be with her the moment you arrived. I want you also to take it easy on her. And by the way…the moment you will arrive you will meet two great Australians; the parents of Peter Greste, who is in prison (with) me, as well as The great Egyptian family of Mohamed Fahmy my colleague. Together we are sharing this struggle; and together we will celebrate your birth. They are your family and their sons’ are your father’s brothers.
So don’t be shy of them.
Love you Haroun..your father: Baher Mohamed”
Baher’s wife Gehan was admitted to hospital today, to deliver her son. Without his father, the parents of Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy’s family gathered to support her at this time.
Follow #FREEAJSTAFF for more shots of the family gathered for the birth of Haroun.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Irish prisoner of conscience on Hunger Strike in the Egyptian Prisons and silence from Ireland

A year has passed on Ibrahim Halawa (18) ,an Irish teenager  was arrested with his sisters Somaia (28),
 Fatima (23) and Omaima (21) during the clashes between supporters of Morsi and security forces on 16 August,2013 .
Ibrahim and his three sisters were among those arrested after taking refuge in Al Fath  mosque. He was shot in his hand when the security forces stormed the building, but was not given access to medical care for his injury, and the only treatment he received was from a cellmate who happened to be a doctor. He was held in detention with adults contrary to Egypt’s Child Law which provides that children must be held in juvenile detention centres and be separated from adults.
The three sisters were released three months later and Ibrahim still in detention.
Ibrahim  was only 17 years old at the time of his arrest. He has since turned 18 .A year in prison without charge is against all international principles of justice and humanity," said Somya Halawa.
Amnesty International has concluded that Ibrahim Halawa is a Prisoner of Conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. The organization is calling for him to be released immediately and unconditionally, with all charges against him dropped.
Ibrahim was expected to appear before one of Egypt’s courts on July 16th,but the hearing was postponed until August the 12th for no reason where the judge recused himself that means the case will be back to zero point again.
“This trial was set to be little more than a pantomime. In recent months Egyptian courts appear to have been handing out mass death sentences based on flimsy evidence and following deeply flawed proceedings. These show trials followed by mass death sentences are becoming Egypt’s grim trademark,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“Ibrahim’s case is just one of many cases of injustice being meted out in Egypt’s courts. It shows the government’s determination to flout its obligations under international law,” said Said Boumedouha
Ibrahim also described how he was taunted by prison guards, who told him: "'Do you think the EU are going to save you? The passport is nothing, you are not someone important. They will not come and take you out.' But I know I am important, I am human and that is enough," Ibrahim said.
In a recent letter ,I got a copy of it ,Ibrahim wrote "I had a court hearing yesterday ,I didn’t even see the judge which is illegal .Also ,I didn’t get to talk to my lawyer and the cage was sound proof ".
Ibrahim and the other detainees refused to leave the court and as a result they were beaten. He wrote "we were beaten up, dragged down  the stairs ,handcuffed in threes, we were spat on".
Ibrahim and the other detainees came back to the prison angry and started a hunger strike. "Today is day one in the hunger strike and I will continue till we are released "He wrote.
The Irish government told us they work on providing Ibrahim with fair trail which is not out request. "We want him to be released immediately and unconditionally, with all charges against him dropped" said Somia Halawa.