Archive for June 17, 2012

Thu Sep 8, 2011

A young anti-government protester has defied tight security in the Bahraini capital of Manama in a symbolic move against the regime’s persisting brutal crackdown on popular protests in the kingdom, Press TV reports.

The young boy ran to the iconic Pearl Square carrying Bahraini flags and continued to protest even when he was arrested.

The Saudi-backed Bahraini forces finally detained the young man and took him away.

Protests against the despotic rule of Al Khalifa regime in the Persian Gulf kingdom have recently flared up in different parts of the tiny state despite the continuing crackdown on any dissent by the regime’s forces.

The Bahraini king has recently admitted that security forces have indeed abused anti-regime protesters, saying that compensation would be paid to abuse victims as well as the families of those killed during demonstrations.

Bahrainis, however, have rejected the monarch’s apparent concession, insisting that he was personally responsible for ordering the brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators.

Massive protests broke out in Bahrain in February, with people taking to the streets and calling for a constitutional monarchy — a demand that later turned into calls for the ouster of the monarchy.

Scores of protesters have been killed — many under torture — and numerous others have been detained and transferred to unknown locations during the regime’s crackdown.

Source: PressTV.

Thu Sep 8, 2011

Reports indicate a rise in sexual abuse of Iraqi women following the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, saying female trafficking has become a growing business.

In her article, published by Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency on August 27, Rebecca Murray noted how prostitution and sex trafficking have become “epidemic in Iraq” during the post-invasion military occupation of the country by US-led forces.

In the past eight years, the country has been witnessing unrelenting violence and deadly terror attacks which smashed “national institutions, impoverished the population and torn apart families and neighborhoods.”

“Wars and conflicts, wherever they are fought, invariably usher in sickeningly high level of violence against women and girls,” Murray cited an Amnesty International statement as saying.

The article told the story of Rania, who fell victim of Iraqi officials’ sexual assault at 16, during a 1991 brutal crackdown on Iraq’s Shia south by executed dictator Saddam Hussein.

Outcast Rania escaped to Baghdad and ended up as a sex trafficker’s deputy after living and working in Baghdad’s brothels for a while.

She describes female trafficking a lucrative business in Iraq, saying many virgin teenage girls are sold for around 5,000 dollars, and trafficked to destinations like northern Iraq, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.

After being arrested six years ago by US forces on charges of abetting terrorism, Rania was sent to jail in Baghdad’s al-Kadimiyah detention and finally ended up as an undercover researcher for a women support group she got to know in prison.

In one of her harrowing findings, Rania and two other girls discovered a house in Baghdad’s al-Jihad district, where girls as young as 16 were held to cater exclusively to the US military personnel.

The brothel’s owner told Rania that an Iraqi interpreter employed by the Americans served as the dealer, transporting girls to and from the US airport base.

Before the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Iraq enjoyed the highest female literacy rate across the Middle East, and more Iraqi women were employed in skilled professions, like medicine and education, than in any other country in the region.

Norwegian Church Aid report last year highlighted “the US-led war and the chaos it has generated” among other factors giving rise to mounting prostitution in Iraq.

Source: PressTV.

Thu Sep 8, 2011

Thousands of people in Yemen have staged yet more anti-regime demonstrations in the southern flashpoint city of Taizz and the central city of Bayda, Press TV reports.

The protesters took to the streets on Thursday to renew the call for the downfall of the regime of Yemen’s embattled ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.

They were chanting slogans in support of the popular revolution in the country, vowing to continue their peaceful protest gatherings until they braced victory.

The rallies come latest in the months-long popular revolt against the rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh since January.

Hundreds of thousands of people have turned out for regular demonstrations in Yemen’s major cities, calling for an end to corruption and unemployment and demanding Saleh’s ouster.

Hundreds of people have been killed and many more injured during the unrest as a result of the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests by military forces and loosely-organized individuals loyal to Saleh.

On Thursday, media reports said the Yemeni opposition called for massive protests against Saleh’s rule after Friday Prayers, urging people to pour into the streets of the capital, Sana’a and other cities across the country to protest “lies by the Yemeni regime.”

Saleh has been receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia since early in June for the wounds he sustained in a rocket attack on his palace by tribal fighters siding with the opposition.

Meanwhile, there have been ongoing talks with the Saleh regime to negotiate a power-transfer plan in a bid to end months of anti-regime protests. But a defiant Saleh, who has been in power in Yemen over the past 33 years, has refused calls to give in to popular demands.

Source: PressTV.

Thu Sep 8, 2011

Palestinians have launched their campaign to join the United Nations as a full member state by marching on the United Nations office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Scores of Palestinian officials and activists gathered at the UN building on Thursday, saying they would stage peaceful events ahead of the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting later this month, the Associated Press reported.

They also handed a letter addressed to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, urging him to add his “moral voice in support of the Palestinian people.”

The document was delivered by Latifa Abu Hmeid, a 70-year-old woman who Palestinian officials said symbolizes the plight of oppressed Palestinians.

Abu Hmeid has lost a son to Israeli aggression and has seven others held in Israeli prisons. A resident of a West Bank refugee camp, she has seen her house demolished twice by Israeli forces.

“Families of the tens of thousands of victims of Israeli occupation, including those martyred, wounded and imprisoned, and countless others who were expelled from their homes or lost their homes and their property, hope that you will exert all possible efforts toward the achievement of the Palestinian people’s just demands,” the letter read.

Meanwhile, the executive committee of the Palestinian Authority has met for the last time before going to the UN for a vote on full sovereignty.

The Palestinian Authority decided to seek recognition of an independent state after Israel refused negotiations.

A round of US-brokered talks between the two sides also broke down in 2010, after Tel Aviv refused to halt settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land.

Source: PressTV.

Thu Sep 8, 2011

Turkey has announced that last year’s Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid convoy would not be repeated since Ankara intends to deploy navy patrols and warships in the Mediterranean to accompany and protect next Gaza-bound aid vessels.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday in an interview with the Al Jazeera TV network that Turkey has taken steps to stop the Israeli regime from unilaterally exploiting natural resources in the Mediterranean, Reuters reported.

“Turkish warships, in the first place, are authorized to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Erdogan said.

He added, “From now on, we will not let these ships to be attacked by Israel, as what happened with the Freedom Flotilla.”

Relations between Turkey and Israel have been at their lowest ebb since Israeli forces attacked the Mavi Marmara, the flagship of the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 in international waters, leaving nine Turkish activists dead.

Last week, Ankara suspended its military ties with the Israeli regime and downgraded its diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to apologize to Turkey over the killing of its citizens.

In addition to an apology, Turkey has demanded that Israel end the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, where Tel Aviv has besieged 1.6 million Palestinians in a 360-square-kilometer coastal territory.

Erdogan said that Turkey will boost its naval presence in eastern Mediterranean to challenge Israel’s domination in the sea.

In a reference to Israeli plans to exploit huge gas and oil reserves found beneath the Mediterranean Sea that are claimed by Lebanon, Erdogan said Turkish forces will stop Israel from exploiting natural resources in the area.

On July 26, Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah also warned Israel to keep its hands off Lebanon’s offshore gas and oil reserves in its territorial waters.

“We warn Israel against extending its hands to this area to steal Lebanon’s resources from Lebanese waters,” he said. “Until Lebanon decides to exploit this area, Israel must be warned against extending its hands to it.”

The Turkish prime minister stated, “You know that Israel has begun to declare that it has the right to act in exclusive economic areas in the Mediterranean.”

“You will see that it will not be the owner of this right, because Turkey, as a guarantor of the Turkish republic of north Cyprus, has taken steps in the area, and it will be decisive and holding fast to the right to monitor international waters in the east Mediterranean,” he added.

Source: PressTV.

London (AFP)
Sept 9, 2011

Britain’s army chief said the death of an Iraqi detainee in Basra had cast a “dark shadow” over its reputation, after an inquiry found he had suffered “gratuitous violence” at the hands of soldiers.

Hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, 26, was hooded, beaten and held in stress positions along with nine other Iraqis following their detention by 1st Battalion the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment (1QLR) in September 2003, the inquiry found Thursday.

Mousa, a father of two, died 36 hours after he was arrested, having sustained 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

The three-year inquiry, led by retired judge William Gage, said numerous soldiers were involved in the abuse and he accused others of a “lack of moral courage” in failing to report what was happening.

It also said the the Ministry of Defense was guilty of a “corporate failure” to prevent such mistreatment, saying it had no proper doctrine on interrogation methods when Britain joined the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

General Peter Wall, the head of the army, offered an unreserved apology.

“The shameful circumstances of Baha Mousa’s death have cast a dark shadow on that reputation and this must not happen again,” he said.

Some soldiers had already been suspended from operational duty and military service, he told Friday’s Guardian newspaper.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the inquiry detailed a “truly shocking and appalling incident” and he raised the possibility of further prosecutions in the case, something Mousa’s family have called for.

Seven soldiers were charged over the abuse in 2005, but six were cleared in a court martial. Cameron said: “If there is further evidence that comes out of this inquiry that enables further action to be taken, it should be taken.”

However, he stressed that the abuse “is not in any way typical of the British army that upholds the highest standards”.

Defense Secretary Liam Fox promised the government would use the inquiry’s findings “to see whether more can be done to bring those responsible to justice.”

The inquiry found Mousa’s death had been caused by a combination of his injuries — many of them inflicted by one soldier, Donald Payne — and his weakened physical state caused by his mistreatment, the extreme heat and a lack of food and water.

Payne had a “particularly unpleasant” method of assault which included punching or kicking detainees to make them groan in an orchestrated “choir”, Gage said.

The soldier pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians and was jailed for a year in 2007, becoming the first member of the British armed forces to be convicted of a war crime.

A year later, the Ministry of Defense agreed to pay Mousa’s family and the other detainees a total of 2.83 million pounds ($4.5 million, 3.2 million euros).

Although Britain banned the use of hooding and painful stress positions in 1972, Gage found a lack of knowledge of this prohibition, which he blamed on “corporate failure” by the Ministry of Defense.

While such practices were “standard operating procedure” among Payne’s regiment in Iraq, they were “wholly unacceptable”, he added.

Gage concluded that the abuse “constituted an appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence on civilians”, adding that “they represent a very serious breach of discipline by a number of members of 1QLR”.

Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Europe and central Asia director, called for those responsible to be “held accountable for their actions and brought swiftly to justice, including in criminal proceedings.”

The inquiry strongly criticized the regiment’s former commanding officer, Colonel Jorge Mendonca, one of those cleared at the court martial.

While accepting Mendonca’s claim that he did not know about the abuse, Gage said: “As commanding officer, he ought to have known what was going on in that building long before Baha Mousa died.”

About 46,000 British troops were deployed to Iraq at the height of the conflict, with the vast majority withdrawn in 2009.

Source: Space War.

By Serene Assir | AFP
(17th of June 2012, Sunday)

The rebel Free Syrian Army has grown from a rag-tag force into a popular guerrilla insurgency buoyed by civilian fighters who still lack weapons and structure to defeat the regime, experts and rebels say.

Over the past months more and more civilians have volunteered to take up arms alongside army deserters against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as deadly violence escalates across the country.

“The Syrian army has one million men in reserve, civilians with military training, and many of them are joining the revolt now,” said Riad Kahwaji, who heads the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA).

According to the Dubai-based Kahwaji, the FSA has “thousands” of members across Syria and is growing in both capacity and coordination. “They have become more organized,” he told AFP.

The FSA announced in March the formation of a military council grouping rebel chiefs and chaired by Syria’s most senior army deserter, General Mustafa al-Sheikh.

While Turkey-based Colonel Riad al-Assaad, one of the first officers to defect, officially leads the FSA, in practice operations are planned and executed at a grassroots level, independently from any exiled leaders, Kahwaji said.

Over the past months more efforts has been made to shore up the rag-tag rebel army into a more cohesive force, activists say.

“Small groups of armed rebels with no communication with other units are being replaced by larger umbrella squadrons to better organize the insurgency,” said Damascus-based activist Ahmad al-Khatib.

Thus fighters from key rebel bastions have been grouped together under one commander each, added Khatib, who participates in efforts to unite the FSA and encourage defections.

“There is no unified leadership, but now units in different parts of Syria are communicating with each other,” he told AFP via Skype.

“The more coordinated the FSA, the more effective it becomes, and the better the support its fighters are given by civilian opponents to the regime.”

For Kahwaji the FSA is a “popular army, which enjoys the increasingly broad support of the Syrian population.”

But he admitted that the rebel fighters are ill-equipped with only medium and light weapons that are no match for the firepower, tanks and helicopters available to the Syrian army.

“The FSA fighters are not well armed, but the population feeds them and gives them cover,” he said. The rebels are “operating in a hospitable environment” unlike the regular army which is faced with “hostility.”

Support from the civilian population may help keep morale up for the rebels but they, too, recognize their shortcomings.

“Every day of resistance is a success, but Assad’s army remains superior,” said Nasser Nahhar, a rebel unit commander operating around the restive Baba Amr neighborhood of the flashpoint central city of Homs.

“The Syrian army has tanks and helicopters, whereas we have light weapons. If it weren’t for that, we would have won already,” he told AFP via Skype.

According to Nahhar, what begun as a peaceful uprising against a ruthless dictatorship turned into an armed struggle with “the majority of anti-regime fighters now being civilians.”

“We wanted to take down the regime peacefully, but it was impossible,” said the well-spoken civilian-turned-rebel commander in his late 20s. “The only way to defeat the regime now is militarily.”

As deadly violence escalates across Syria, the FSA has opted for new tactics drawing from a history of guerrilla warfare to make up for its equipment shortcomings.

“The FSA’s main goal right how is to try and harass the army to the point of fatigue,” said Elias Hanna, a Lebanese ex-military officer and professor of geopolitics at the American University of Beirut.

“The more we exhaust the regular troops, the more we weaken their morale and force defections,” he added.

But Hanna warned that the rebels “cannot go on like this much longer” and described them “an army on the run.”

“Without a clear regional decision to provide the FSA with the means it needs to continue fighting — such as safe routes and a base — the rebels cannot take fighting onto the next level,” Hanna said.

Energy-rich Arab nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia have repeatedly called for arming the Syrian rebels but Western powers are still resisting any military intervention in the 16-month crisis.

And while the rebels initially hoped for a speedy intervention, Nahhar explained that the prime choice now is to rely on hit-and-run tactics. “We don’t need to win, we just need the army to lose,” he said.