Archive for June 19, 2013

June 19, 2013

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The new form of resistance that is spreading through Turkey has received a nod of approval from the country’s deputy prime minister.

Bulent Arinc told reporters Wednesday that the protest by hundreds of people standing motionless for hours in streets and squares were peaceful and “pleasing to the eye.” He urged protesters, however, not to obstruct traffic and not to endanger their health.

It was the first government comment on the passive protest that was started by a lone protester who stood still for some eight hours on Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Monday. A police crackdown that began May 31 against environmentalists and other activists in Taksim Square set off more than two-weeks of anti-government protests.

Police dispersed pockets of protesters who set up barricades in two cities overnight Tuesday.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ahwazi Arab websites and blogs were hacked and brought down by Iran’s cyber army during election day. In the run-up to the election, the websites of the Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz and the National Resistance of Al-Ahwaz were disabled by cyber attacks. On election day, the DSPA’s website was brought down once again along with the Ahwazi Arab People’s Democratic Popular Front by a group called the “Iran Cyber Army”. The attacks were not confined to the Ahwazi movement, but also struck sites belonging to the Green Movement.

Although such attacks are illegal, the Iranian government has openly declared them to be part of its ‘soft war’ strategy. Deputy of the Supreme Leader’s representative at the IRGC Brigadier General Mohammad Hossein Sepehr boasted earlier this year that Iran had the world’s “fourth largest cyber army” whose remit includes “stop and foil cyberspace activity by opposition elements and opponents of Iran, for whom cyberspace is a key platform for communicating, distributing information, and organizing anti-Iran activities.”

Opposition websites were offline for only a few hours, indicating that while the attacks were well-coordinated they were merely disruptive rather than fatal to website operations.

Source: Ahwaz News Agency.



World Exclusive: US urges UK and France to join in supplying arms to Syrian rebels as MPs fear that UK will be drawn into growing conflict

Washington’s decision to arm Syria’s Sunni Muslim rebels has plunged America into the great Sunni-Shia conflict of the Islamic Middle East, entering a struggle that now dwarfs the Arab revolutions which overthrew dictatorships across the region.

For the first time, all of America’s ‘friends’ in the region are Sunni Muslims and all of its enemies are Shiites. Breaking all President Barack Obama’s rules of disengagement, the US is now fully engaged on the side of armed groups which include the most extreme Sunni Islamist movements in the Middle East.

The Independent on Sunday has learned that a military decision has been taken in Iran – even before last week’s presidential election – to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against the largely Sunni rebellion that has cost almost 100,000 lives in just over two years. Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad’s regime, according to pro-Iranian sources which have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic’s security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new ‘Syrian’ front on the Golan Heights against Israel.

In years to come, historians will ask how America – after its defeat in Iraq and its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan scheduled for 2014 – could have so blithely aligned itself with one side in a titanic Islamic struggle stretching back to the seventh century death of the Prophet Mohamed. The profound effects of this great schism, between Sunnis who believe that the father of Mohamed’s wife was the new caliph of the Muslim world and Shias who regard his son in law Ali as his rightful successor – a seventh century battle swamped in blood around the present-day Iraqi cities of Najaf and Kerbala – continue across the region to this day. A 17th century Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbott, compared this Muslim conflict to that between “Papists and Protestants”.

America’s alliance now includes the wealthiest states of the Arab Gulf, the vast Sunni territories between Egypt and Morocco, as well as Turkey and the fragile British-created monarchy in Jordan. King Abdullah of Jordan – flooded, like so many neighboring nations, by hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees – may also now find himself at the fulcrum of the Syrian battle. Up to 3,000 American ‘advisers’ are now believed to be in Jordan, and the creation of a southern Syria ‘no-fly zone’ – opposed by Syrian-controlled anti-aircraft batteries – will turn a crisis into a ‘hot’ war. So much for America’s ‘friends’.

Its enemies include the Lebanese Hizballah, the Alawite Shiite regime in Damascus and, of course, Iran. And Iraq, a largely Shiite nation which America ‘liberated’ from Saddam Hussein’s Sunni minority in the hope of balancing the Shiite power of Iran, has – against all US predictions – itself now largely fallen under Tehran’s influence and power. Iraqi Shiites as well as Hizballah members, have both fought alongside Assad’s forces.

Washington’s excuse for its new Middle East adventure – that it must arm Assad’s enemies because the Damascus regime has used sarin gas against them – convinces no-one in the Middle East. Final proof of the use of gas by either side in Syria remains almost as nebulous as President George W. Bush’s claim that Saddam’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

For the real reason why America has thrown its military power behind Syria’s Sunni rebels is because those same rebels are now losing their war against Assad. The Damascus regime’s victory this month in the central Syrian town of Qusayr, at the cost of Hizballah lives as well as those of government forces, has thrown the Syrian revolution into turmoil, threatening to humiliate American and EU demands for Assad to abandon power. Arab dictators are supposed to be deposed – unless they are the friendly kings or emirs of the Gulf – not to be sustained. Yet Russia has given its total support to Assad, three times vetoing UN Security Council resolutions that might have allowed the West to intervene directly in the civil war.

In the Middle East, there is cynical disbelief at the American contention that it can distribute arms – almost certainly including anti-aircraft missiles – only to secular Sunni rebel forces in Syria represented by the so-called Free Syria Army. The more powerful al-Nusrah Front, allied to al-Qaeda, dominates the battlefield on the rebel side and has been blamed for atrocities including the execution of Syrian government prisoners of war and the murder of a 14-year old boy for blasphemy. They will be able to take new American weapons from their Free Syria Army comrades with little effort.

From now on, therefore, every suicide bombing in Damascus – every war crime committed by the rebels – will be regarded in the region as Washington’s responsibility. The very Sunni-Wahabi Islamists who killed thousands of Americans on 11th September, 2011 – who are America’s greatest enemies as well as Russia’s – are going to be proxy allies of the Obama administration. This terrible irony can only be exacerbated by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adamant refusal to tolerate any form of Sunni extremism. His experience in Chechnya, his anti-Muslim rhetoric – he has made obscene remarks about Muslim extremists in a press conference in Russian – and his belief that Russia’s old ally in Syria is facing the same threat as Moscow fought in Chechnya, plays a far greater part in his policy towards Bashar al-Assad than the continued existence of Russia’s naval port at the Syrian Mediterranean city of Tartous.

For the Russians, of course, the ‘Middle East’ is not in the ‘east’ at all, but to the south of Moscow; and statistics are all-important. The Chechen capital of Grozny is scarcely 500 miles from the Syrian frontier. Fifteen per cent of Russians are Muslim. Six of the Soviet Union’s communist republics had a Muslim majority, 90 per cent of whom were Sunni. And Sunnis around the world make up perhaps 85 per cent of all Muslims. For a Russia intent on re-positioning itself across a land mass that includes most of the former Soviet Union, Sunni Islamists of the kind now fighting the Assad regime are its principal antagonists.

Iranian sources say they liaise constantly with Moscow, and that while Hizballah’s overall withdrawal from Syria is likely to be completed soon – with the maintenance of the militia’s ‘intelligence’ teams inside Syria – Iran’s support for Damascus will grow rather than wither. They point out that the Taliban recently sent a formal delegation for talks in Tehran and that America will need Iran’s help in withdrawing from Afghanistan. The US, the Iranians say, will not be able to take its armor and equipment out of the country during its continuing war against the Taliban without Iran’s active assistance. One of the sources claimed – not without some mirth — that the French were forced to leave 50 tanks behind when they left because they did not have Tehran’s help.

It is a sign of the changing historical template in the Middle East that within the framework of old Cold War rivalries between Washington and Moscow, Israel’s security has taken second place to the conflict in Syria. Indeed, Israel’s policies in the region have been knocked askew by the Arab revolutions, leaving its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hopelessly adrift amid the historic changes.

Only once over the past two years has Israel fully condemned atrocities committed by the Assad regime, and while it has given medical help to wounded rebels on the Israeli-Syrian border, it fears an Islamist caliphate in Damascus far more than a continuation of Assad’s rule. One former Israel intelligence commander recently described Assad as “Israel’s man in Damascus”.  Only days before President Mubarak was overthrown, both Netanyahu and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called Washington to ask Obama to save the Egyptian dictator. In vain.

If the Arab world has itself been overwhelmed by the two years of revolutions, none will have suffered from the Syrian war in the long term more than the Palestinians. The land they wish to call their future state has been so populated with Jewish Israeli colonists that it can no longer be either secure or ‘viable’. ‘Peace’ envoy Tony Blair’s attempts to create such a state have been laughable. A future ‘Palestine’ would be a Sunni nation. But today, Washington scarcely mentions the Palestinians.

Another of the region’s supreme ironies is that Hamas, supposedly the ‘super-terrorists’ of Gaza, have abandoned Damascus and now support the Gulf Arabs’ desire to crush Assad. Syrian government forces claim that Hamas has even trained Syrian rebels in the manufacture and use of home-made rockets.

In Arab eyes, Israel’s 2006 war against the Shia Hizballah was an attempt to strike at the heart of Iran. The West’s support for Syrian rebels is a strategic attempt to crush Iran. But Iran is going to take the offensive. Even for the Middle East, these are high stakes. Against this fearful background, the Palestinian tragedy continues.

Source: The Independent.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Electoral fraud has denied Arab candidates a majority on the Ahwaz municipal council, Ahwaz News Agency can reveal in an exclusive report.

With most of the vote counted on Sunday morning, 17 Arab candidates – 12 of which belong to the “Al-Mowahada” list – were clear winners of the 21 seats up for election. In a highly unusual move and without explanation, the electoral authorities decided to postpone announcing the result until Monday. The mayor and provincial governor are alleged to have intervened to manipulate the results. The outcome is that just five Arabs have been elected in a clear attempt to politically marginalize the indigenous ethnic Arab population, which represents a majority in the provincial capital.

The following Arab candidates were declared winners of the Ahwaz poll: Sayed Mahdi Alboshokeh (20,550 votes), Kazem Sawari (19,452), Ashour Sawari Pour (16,731), Ebtesam Albaji (15,461) and Naji Sawari (14,627). Although they were clearly ahead in the results on Sunday, the following Arab candidates from the Al-Mowahada list were denied seats in the Ahwaz city council: Rahim Kaab Omayer, Ali Naseri, Saham Saki, Khaled Lowaimi, Abdullah Abiyawi, Sayed Karim Saeed, Touran Hamid and Mousrafa Ramazan Ahmadi.

Intelligence services harass popular female Arab candidate

Arab candidates were also subject to harassment. Sana Salemi, who stood for election to the Fallahiyeh (Shadegan) municipal council, was arrested and detained for hours by the Iranian intelligence services on 8 June for speeches she gave in Arabic.

She had participated in an Arabic poetry and cultural event in the town, which was attended by leading Arab poets and intellectuals. She was released following the intervention of respected figures from the community and after she had signed a declaration that she would desist from giving speeches in Arabic. She won a seat with the second highest number of votes in the election.

Mrs Salami was among a relatively large number of Arab women standing for election at a municipal level. Seventeen Arab women were elected to local councils in Arab-majority towns and cities in the region.

Conspiracy of electoral fraud

Regime supporters had openly voiced concern over the potential success of Arab candidates in the run up to the elections. Ahead of the election, Eng. Falsafi, the secretary of Khuzestan committee of the conservative Islamic Society of Engineers, published an article on the Shooshan news agency website stating that it was unacceptable for elections to promote ethnic identity, which indicated his objection to Arab candidates campaigning on an anti-discrimination platform. He said that one particular race must not dominate municipal authorities, although Arabs remain a majority in many towns in the province, and called for lists comprised of one ethnicity to be examined carefully.

Ahwazi activist Abu Mousa told ANA: “Falsafi’s demand as well as his suggestion that non-Persian ethnic lists are the result of potentially subversive activity contrasts with pledges by some presidential candidates, including president-elect Hassan Rouhani, that non-Persians should be appointed to managerial positions in non-Persian areas and that seats in cabinet should be reserved for members of non-Persian ethnic groups.

“The demands Falsafi made of Arab candidates are not made of ethnic Persian lists in areas where Persians are a majority. He questions the loyalty of Arab candidates, yet like all candidates they are subjected a vetting procedure to judge their loyalty to the regime before they are allowed to stand for election.

“The regime is confused. It knows the rising strength of the non-Persian ethnic movements inside and outside Iran and is adopting their political language, but at the same time wants to repress non-Persian voices, particularly Ahwazi Arabs, because it does not trust their loyalties.”

Doubts over Rezaee’s success

The results cast doubt on the authenticity of the presidential election vote in the province, which gave Mohsen Rezaee 46% of the vote, up from just 7% in the election four years ago, and put him ahead of Hassan Rouhani who won the poll nationally. Although the hardline “principalist” touched on issues such as ethnic discrimination, poverty and environmental destruction in his campaign, Rezaee is largely unpopular among ethnic Arabs.

Aside from electoral fraud, Rezaee’s high proportion of the vote could also be explained by an Arab boycott of the presidential election and the number of polling stations in Arab districts was halved, ensuring a lower turn-out for Arabs as well as long queues for the press cameras. Official figures suggest that the turn-out was higher for the municipal elections (over 80%) than the presidential election (officially 74%) as Arabs rallied in support of Arab candidates standing in local authorities.

Rezaee is an ethnic Lor from Masjed Soleiman and has been accused by Arabs of enabling Lors from outside the province to settle on land confiscated from indigenous Arabs. He was also involved in the Black Wednesday massacre during the 1979 Arab uprising in Mohammerah (Khorramshahr).

Source: Ahwaz New Agency.


Monday, June 17, 2013

President-elect Hassan Rouhani created high expectations among Ahwazi Arabs and other ethnic groups after he promised to end discrimination and enforce linguistic rights during his election campaign.

Official results show that Rouhani came second in the Ahwaz region with 34% of the vote, compared to Mohsen Rezaee on 46%, although these results are now in doubt due to evidence of electoral fraud by the regime.

The election contest offered the clearest sign yet that the Iranian regime is aware of Ahwazi Arab grievances. Presidential candidates spoke on issues that the Ahwazi movement has been raising for over a decade, but has faced persecution and accusations of separatism and foreign-inspired terrorism. Linguistic rights, poverty, discrimination in the workplace and environmental destruction were the top themes of the election debate in Arab districts as candidates tried to woo local support.

Raising hopes among some Ahwazis not already disillusioned with the political system could foment conditions for unrest in the future. The failure of the “reformist” administration of President Khatami to address grievances and instead sustain a program of ethnic cleansing against Ahwazi Arabs led to civil unrest in April 2005, a period known as the Ahwazi intifada. Many Ahwazis who had supported Khatami’s administration and formed cultural associations seeking to boost Arab rights became disillusioned and were subsequently imprisoned with some sentenced to death.

Rouhani’s 10-point plan for non-Persian ethnic groups

Rouhani attempted to win over several Arab sheikhs who were invited to meet him in Tehran and voice their concerns. At the meeting, he appeared to accede to their demands for a 10 per cent share of cabinet seats for members of the Arab minority. Already, his cabinet appointments appear to have fallen well short of this target.

Hailing from the north of Iran, the ‘pragmatic conservative’ sought to attract non-Persian vote with a list of 10 pledges to address ethnic discrimination, in accordance with neglected constitutional provisions. These included the right to learn in the native tongue, as stated in Article 15, and promoting a meritocratic economy based not on ethnicity or religion but personal strengths in order to leverage the best local human resources. Rouhani has also promised to promote local people into managerial positions.

The president-elect has failed to address some of the more urgent development issues that concern ordinary Ahwazi Arabs who feel increasingly estranged from their co-opted tribal leaders, namely the region’s man-made environmental crisis and political issues. Rouhani’s failure to engage with ordinary Arab workers and farmers indicates that his administration will continue to seek to use political and financial patronage to win the allegiance of tribal elites with little attempt to engage with the masses.

Candidates note problems, offer no solutions

Other presidential candidates appeared to have a greater understanding of the problems facing Ahwazi Arabs, although provided few policy solutions. In his rhetoric, Rezaee had made a notable ideological transition from a hardline principalist stance to a platform that stressed the economic and social marginalization of non-Persian ethnic groups. He also attacked those who referred to the indigenous population as “Arab-speakers”, a term regarded as offensive by Arabs for playing down their ethnic identity. Chief among his vocal concerns was the destruction of the local ecology, particularly the province’s controversial dam and river diversion program that has caused hardship and displacement for hundreds of thousands of local Arabs.

On a visit to Mohammareh/Khorramshahr, Mohammad Ghalibaf said that “Years after freeing the city, I feel ashamed of the failure… Khuzestan suffers from basic problems relation to water, the environment, employment and industry.”

In a side-swipe against institutional racism, he said “considering ethnic groups as a threat is an unforgivable sin… When management and decision-making is centralized, there is a lack of appreciation of local capacities” and as a result it is a threat to national prosperity and security. However, Ghalibaf was short on answers.

Source: Ahwaz News Agency.


June 19, 2013

(Reuters) – Jordan’s hopes of a first World Cup finals appearance remain alive after they beat Oman 1-0 at home on Tuesday to book a qualifying playoff against Uzbekistan in September.

Striker Ahmad Ibrahim scored the winning goal in the 57th minute, stooping low to head home a cross from Khalil Bani Ateyah that drew wild celebrations at the King Abdullah Stadium in Amman.

The victory, in the last of the Asian group stage matches, meant Jordan leapfrogged Oman into third place in Group B on 10 points, one ahead of Paul Le Guen’s side.

Jordan will now take on Uzbekistan, who finished third in Group A, with the first leg to be played on September 6 and the second on September 10.

The winners advance to play another two-leg playoff against the fifth-placed South American side in November for a place at the finals.

Few predicted Jordan would still be in contention after they were hammered 6-0 away to Japan in their second group match last year, but they defied their FIFA ranking of 75th with strong performances at home.

Having dispatched Australia and Japan in Amman, Jordan knew another three points were required against Oman to claim the playoff berth but they started Tuesday’s match in scratchy fashion.

With Jordan guilty of defensive lapses, Oman failed to take advantage wasting numerous chances to score in an open first half.

Oman forward Abdulaziz Al Muqbali ran wide instead of shooting when clear on goal in the sixth minute, while Qasim Hardan saw his far post shot blocked by Jordanian goalkeeper Amer Sabbah.

Jordan’s Mohammad Aldmeiri came close to snatching the lead for the home side in the 29th minute, but his flicked header from a quickly taken corner flashed just over the crossbar.

Further chances came and went for Oman before halftime with the Jordanians taking a grip of the match in the second period before Ibrahim’s goal.

Oman’s desperation for an equalizer led to some sloppy approach play with Sabbah making routine saves in the final stages as Jordan hung on for another famous home win.

(Reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by Mark Pangallo)

Source: The Star.


June 18, 2013

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s prime minister on Tuesday brushed aside international criticism over his government’s crackdown on widespread demonstrations and vowed to increase the police’s powers to deal with the unrest. Meanwhile, more than 90 people were detained in police raids linked to the protests.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s defiant stance appeared aimed at shoring up his conservative base in Turkey, where the rallies have exposed fissures between urban and largely secularist Turks and the more religious classes. But Erdogan’s bellicosity has dented his global reputation; EU officials on Tuesday nixed a visit due to some of his comments.

Anti-government demonstrations sprouted across Turkey after May 31, when riot police brutally cracked down on peaceful environmental activists who opposed plans to remove trees and develop Gezi Park, which lies next to Istanbul’s famed Taksim Square.

The crackdowns have continued since as protests have spread and attracted a range of groups unhappy with the 10-year rule of Erdogan, whom many believe is trying to gradually impose his religious and conservative views in Turkey, which has long had a secular democracy.

Four protesters and one police officer have been killed, and Turkey’s doctors association said an investigation was underway into the death of a fifth person who was exposed to tear gas. More than 7,800 people have been injured; six are in critical condition and 11 lost their eyesight after being hit by flying objects.

Police on Tuesday raided homes and offices in the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul, detaining at least 92 people suspected of involvement in violence. The state-run Anadolu news agency said the suspects were detained for allegedly destroying public property, inciting people to revolt or attacking police.

Addressing lawmakers belonging to his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party, Erdogan declared that riot police had acted with restraint and that their powers would be increased, giving them more leeway in dealing with future demonstrations.

“Our security forces put up a successful and extremely patient struggle against the acts of violence by remaining within the limits set by democracy and the law,” Erdogan said. In response to the ongoing confrontations, some protesters have adopted a special maneuver to get their point across: standing still.

The trend was launched by performance artist Erdem Gunduz, who stood silently for hours in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square on Monday night as others joined him and replicated the protest in other cities.

As the numbers swelled to a few hundred, police broke up the demonstration in Taksim late Monday, but by Tuesday evening dozens of protesters could be seen standing motionless in the square. The United Nations and New York-based Human Rights Watch have both expressed alarm over reports that tear gas canisters and pepper spray were fired directly at demonstrators and into closed spaces, actions that significantly increase the danger posed to the individuals targeted.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said law enforcement bodies must be held accountable, and that “the government must also provide adequate reparation to victims of excessive use of force and other serious human rights violations by security forces.”

Erdogan did not mention the reports of tear gas being fired into closed spaces or directly at protesters, but told lawmakers it was police officers’ “natural right” to fire tear gas. Also Tuesday, a United Nations spokesman said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was saddened by the deaths and injuries in Turkey and urged “maximum restraint and the pursuit of constructive dialogue in order to resolve differences and avoid further violent confrontation.”

“He believes that stability is best assured through such dialogue and when the rights to peaceful assembly and the freedom of expression are fully respected,” said the spokesman, Eduardo del Buey. Turkey has long aspired to join the European Union, but the events of recent weeks have strained its relations with the bloc.

EU lawmakers said they’d be scrapping a Wednesday visit to Turkey after Erdogan last week issued stinging criticism of an EU resolution that expressed concern over the “disproportionate and excessive use of force” by Turkish police against the demonstrators.

Erdogan had declared that he “won’t recognize the decision that the European Union Parliament is going to take” and asked them, “Who do you think you are by taking such a decision?” European parliamentarian Elmar Brok said the Turkish government “should understand how to deal with criticism.”

__ Edith M. Lederer in New York contributed.

Gaza, June 15 : Islamic Hamas movement Saturday called for unity and ending the internal Palestinian feuds and division on the sixth anniversary for its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, reported Xinhua.

The Hamas movement, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since June 2007, said in a statement that six years had passed “while the world still imposes its unfair requirements on the movement,” referring to international conditions that the militant group recognizes Israel and renounces violence if it wants to open to the world.

“Hamas reiterates that unity and reconciliation are strategic and the movement is looking forward to finalize it in order to devote more time to the conflict with the occupation,” said the statement.

The statement blamed Israel on hindering any chance for Palestinian unity, saying that: “For six years, the crimes of the (Israeli) occupation against our people have been going on, and these crimes mount every time we are getting close to achieve unity and reconciliation.”

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum slammed the security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, which is based in the West Bank.

“The policy of the security coordination with the occupation caused and would cause lots of harms to our just Palestinian cause,” Barhoum said, adding “the Palestinians should exert more efforts to unite and resist the occupation.”

Hamas won the last legislative elections held in the Palestinian territories in January 2006.

As it could not agree on a partnership with the mainstream Fatah party, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, it routed pro-Abbas forces and ousted Fatah, keeping them confined to the West Bank and deepening political split between the two territories.

Over the past six years, Egypt and then Qatar have been mediating between Hamas and Fatah to end their division and form a transitional unity government that prepares for new presidential and legislative elections.

So far, the Arab efforts to end the Palestinian split have all but failed due to substantial differences on security issues, general elections and unity government.

Source: New Kerala.