Archive for November 6, 2013

November 03, 2013

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The head of Bahrain’s main opposition group was charged Sunday with insulting authorities through an exhibition that showed alleged abuses against anti-government protesters, a lawyer said, in a move that could sharply raise tensions in the violence-wracked Gulf nation.

The charges against Ali Salman, the head of the Shiite bloc Al Wefaq, came just hours after a court sentenced four suspects to life in prison for alleged ties to Shiite militant factions and acting as spies for Iran. Bahrain accuses Iran of aiding the 32-month uprising by the kingdom’s majority Shiites against the ruling Sunni dynasty.

Iran denies the accusations and no firm evidence has been produced. But the claims by Bahrain’s Western-backed leading have been echoed by other Gulf Arab nations that fear Iran seeks to destabilize their networks of ruling clans.

More than 65 people have been killed in Bahrain’s Arab Spring-inspired protests seeking a greater political voice for Shiites on the strategic island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Some rights groups place the overall death toll higher.

It’s unclear whether Salman will face trial, which could touch off wider clashes. Prosecutors have the option of not bringing the case to court. Al Wefaq’s lawyer Abdullah al-Shamlawi said Salman was not jailed after being charged and was allowed to return home following questioning. Across the Gulf, courts have issued prison terms as long as 15 years for perceived insults against rulers on social media or other forums.

Riot police last week raided the museum-style hall opened by Al Wefaq that included depictions of alleged torture and attacks against protesters since the uprising began in February 2011. Authorities said the displays incited “hatred” even though most of the scenes had been reported in international media or in a government-backed report on the unrest in late 2011.

Earlier Sunday, a criminal court issued life sentences against four Shiite activists and 15-year prison terms against six others who were charged with links to Iranian intelligence agencies and plotting attacks in Bahrain, lawyer Zainab Zwayed said. Fourteen defendants were cleared.

October 23, 2013

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The funeral for a 17-year-old boy in Bahrain who authorities said died while carrying explosives descended into chaos Wednesday as mourners clashed with police in the troubled Gulf kingdom.

Plumes of tear gas rose over the cemetery where mourners buried Ali al-Sabagh, who authorities said died Tuesday night after an explosion about 10 kilometers (six miles) west of the capital, Manama. Hundreds of anti-government protesters and mourners faced off with police, as an Associated Press reporter saw some set fire to tires in the street and others throw gasoline bombs. Police responded with tear gas and stun grenades, as officers closed the main highway into the city because of the fighting.

The official Bahrain News Agency said Wednesday that officers found a gun and ammunition near al-Sabagh’s body. Authorities said he was wanted in connection with previous attacks. Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled nation, has been locked in nonstop unrest since an uprising by the country’s Shiite majority began in early 2011. Bahrain has expanded crackdowns on so-called “terrorist” cells suspected of bombings targeting security forces and others in the strategic kingdom, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

As the protests raged, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa addressed the new session of parliament, saying he appreciated its “stance against terrorism, extremism and their instigators, as well as your refusal of any foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Bahrain.”

“Reform, development and achieving a better life for everyone in this country should remain our constant and paramount goal,” he said. “Never losing sight of it, no matter the circumstances.”

October 07, 2013

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain says nine people have been sentenced to life in prison after trial on charges of bomb-making in the restive Gulf nation.

Monday’s verdicts mark the latest in a series of recent court decisions that have raised tensions in the strategic kingdom, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Sunni-ruled Bahrain has been locked in unrest since early 2011, when majority Shiites started an uprising for greater political rights.

The official Bahrain News Agency says life sentences and fines were handed down to four suspects in custody and five in absentia. The charges also include attempts to target police with attacks. Violence has risen in Bahrain with recent bombings. Last week, Bahrain set an Oct. 24 trial date for a prominent Shiite political figure, Khalil al-Marzooq, on “terrorism” charges.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ahwazi Arabs are stepping up the campaign to Save the Karoun River, calling on the intervention of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque.

Dr Karim Abdian, director of the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO), first raised the issue of the Karoun’s diversion  at the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in May-June 2005, warning of the consequences of dams along the Karkhe and Karoun rivers on the indigenous Ahwazi Arab inhabitants.

Last year, he met with UN Special Rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque and provided details of the impact of the dam program, which caused the forced displacement of thousands of Ahwazi Arabs and destroyed their farms and fisheries.

Ahwazi groups are calling on Special Rapporteur de Albuquerque to support the voice of the many hundreds of Ahwaz residents who are now demonstrating regularly along the river banks.

The destruction of the Karoun has brought together environmentalists, Ahwazi rights activists, scientists and others in opposition to the Iranian regime’s pillage of natural resources in the Al-Ahwaz region.

Source: Ahwaz News Agency.

Tuesday, 05 November 2013

Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood has revealed that its members have now finished their deliberations about launching a political party to represent the Brotherhood, deciding to do so under the name of “The Promise” and commissioning Dr Mohammed Walid to act as chair.

The Brotherhood will announce the official launch of the party from Istanbul on Tuesday, 12 November rather than on Saturday, which coincides with the first meeting of the National Coalition for the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

The Brotherhood summarized the Party’s principles as follows: respecting the principles of freedom, dignity, and justice; adopting democracy, equality and Islamic reference to achieve the revolution’s goals; preserving the unity of the Syrian people and the Syrian territory; adopting just causes, especially the Palestinian issue; maintaining Syria’s best interests; and supporting Syria’s sovereignty.

The new party will adopt a parliamentary model for achieving justice and development at all levels of society and vowed to ensure the separation of powers as well as the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. The party also pledged to cater to women and focus on youth issues.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

October 24, 2013

BEIRUT (AP) — Activists say the Syrian government has released a total of 48 women detainees as part of a three-way prisoner exchange.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday the women were freed over the past two days. It said the figure of 48 included the 13 women whose release was previously reported. There was no immediate comment from Syrian officials.

The Observatory says the release was part of a complicated hostage swap last week brokered by Qatar and the Palestinian Authority that saw Syrian rebels free nine Lebanese Shiite Muslims, while Lebanese gunmen simultaneously released two Turkish pilots.

Lebanese officials have said a third part of the deal called for the Syrian government to free a number of women detainees to meet the rebels’ demands.

20 October 2013

The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) issued a new statement on the situation in the town of Azaz in the province of Aleppo, where a fierce fighting took place between Mujahideen and secular rebels linked to the “national coalition”. UmmaNews presents the translation of the ISIS statement posted on their website:

– Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. Peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his companions. And then:

Verily, Allah favored the Mujahideen of the Islamic State and made it easy for them to eliminate the last stronghold of criminals from the so-called “Northern Storm” in Azaz and the surrounding area.

By the grace of Allah, they were driven out, and we have cleaned every place, every checkpoint, every camp, where they were stationed all the times.

Not even the alliances helped them, which they concluded with apostates from the PKK (communist Kurdistan Workers Party), the Alawite regime and Western intelligence agencies, which have encouraged them for war against the Mujahideen.

There is an important fact, which we would like to report here: indeed, the Islamic State did not attack these wrongdoers until they started spreading harm and oppression, to abuse their power against Muslims and their honour, to implement agreements with the US and its allies, namely – to attack the Mujahideen, spy on them and eliminate their leaders.

That is all what is known to the Islamic State, for sure. After they went to war against the ISIS, people saw with their own eyes their true nature, as they captured two Mujahideen in Azaz and delivered them to a dirty spy.

Their alliance with apostates from the PKK and the Assad regime in war against the Islamic State is apparent to all.

They did not even hesitate to blow up the market in Azaz, they shelled its areas with rockets and mortars, after the situation got out of their control.

Allah turned their intrigues against them, and they reaped what they sowed … Allah helped the Mujahideen in these blessed days of Dhul-Hijjah, after they were left without help by those who encouraged them to earlier acts against the Mujahideen.

Allah divided their ranks, broke their ranges, and it ended with Allah’s pleasure with the Muslims. Praise be to Allah.

“Have you not considered those who practice hypocrisy, saying to their brothers who have disbelieved among the People of the Scripture, “If you are expelled, we will surely leave with you, and we will not obey, in regard to you, anyone – ever; and if you are fought, we will surely aid you.” But Allah testifies that they are liars. If they are expelled, they will not leave with them, and if they are fought, they will not aid them. And [even] if they should aid them, they will surely turn their backs; then [thereafter] they will not be aided”.
(The Holy Koran, Chapter 59. “The Exile”, verses 11-12)

And here we want to inform the rest of the warring groups, such as “Liwa al-Tawhid” and others, that the Islamic State clearly demonstrated its policies in these events. It lies in the fact that the Islamic State does not start a war against all comers until they begin to act out against the ISIS, The Islamic State seeks to resolve any conflict, whatever it may be, and opens a way for a direct dialogue, leaving aside dirty media, which does not cease to fan the flames of discord and take every opportunity to distort the image of Mujahideen, so that people would leave them.

And we want to instruct those who listen – be they scholars, or students, or journalists: Fear Allah in your attitude to Mujahideen and to your Muslim community: be the ones who stop fitna and strife, who spread the word of peace and understanding- exactly what Allah wants you to convey to others.

How many times we utter a word without thinking about consequences, how many times we say the words without that they could cause bloodshed among the Muslims?

“O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful”.
(The Holy Koran, Chapter 49. “The Chambers”, verse 6)

And to Allah belongs [all] honor, and to His Messenger, and to the believers, but the hypocrites do not know.

Allahu Akbar!

Ministry of Information, ISIS

Department of Monitoring
Kavkaz Center

Source: Kavkaz Center.



Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is feeling strengthened as international pressure on his regime appears to ease amid growing Western fears of an Islamist takeover and unwavering Russian support, analysts say.

Only a few weeks ago, the United States was threatening military strikes on Syria, but there has been a major shift since then.

Much of that is due to a US-Russian deal on destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, apparently giving Assad the confidence he needed to announce on Monday that he would be willing to stand for re-election when his current term ends next year.

Assad also said he did not feel the situation was yet ripe for the peace talks that the United Nations is trying to organize in Geneva next month with Russian and US support.

“It’s no mistake he’s feeling more confident than ever,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research for the Brookings Doha Center.

“Any previous talk of regime change on the part of the international community has been pushed to the side and now Assad is a partner for the international community,” he added.

Hamid was speaking before a meeting in London of Arab and Western governments that support the opposition which issued a joint statement renewing their insistence that the Syrian leader could have no future political role.

But that statement was seen as part of a wider effort to persuade at least some of the opposition to take part in the planned Geneva peace conference.

While much of the West supported the rebels’ demand that Assad must go, “you don’t hear people talking about regime change any more,” Hamid said.

Fearing the growing influence in rebel ranks of hardline Islamist groups, some of them loyal to Al-Qaeda, the United States has opted to push for a political settlement, rather than giving all-out support to the revolt.

At the same time, Assad “continues to enjoy the full support of (key backers) Russia and Iran”, Hamid said.

In the West, “I think there’s a real concern that the strongest and most dominant factions are people the international community does not want to win”, he said.

“Assad feels that that kind of development helps his narrative.”

When the uprising against his rule erupted in March 2011, Assad’s regime claimed it was a foreign-funded “terror” plot, despite ample evidence of extensive domestic support for change.

But Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups entered as the protest movement escalated into an armed rebellion and have gained ground militarily, particularly in the north and east.

At the same time, the opposition is deeply divided, not only militarily but politically.

Hamid said “the political opposition is totally irrelevant, so the people who are going to Geneva do not represent the fighters on the ground,” who are now mostly Islamist.

‘This has definitely gone in his favor’

Another factor strengthening Assad’s hand has been the deal struck by Moscow and Washington after a sarin gas attack near Damascus on August 21.

The deal led to a UN Security Council resolution that orders the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal and urges peace talks to end the conflict that has already killed more than 115,000 people.

“Things have definitely gone in (Assad’s) favor in the past two months, ever since the chemical weapons attack,” Hamid said. “You might have expected that that would be his downfall but actually it turned out to be a major boost.”

When the deal was first proposed, Assad quickly volunteered to cooperate, and Hamid said there was a “real shift” when US Secretary of State John Kerry commended the Syrian leader’s commitment to a swift implementation of the deal.

The arms deal “was a victory for Assad, plain and simple. Ever since then, he’s in some sense been rehabilitated,” he added.

Hilal Khashan, who heads the political science department at the American University of Beirut, said “the overall balance is still tilted in (the regime’s) favor, even though it cannot win… The Syrian regime’s backers are faithful to their stance, and they know what they’re doing.”

Syria expert and former Dutch ambassador to several Arab countries Nikolaos Van Dam said Assad’s refusal to deal with any opposition groups with links to the outside “is not new.”

But “whether it is realistic for President Assad to want to exclude the main Syrian opposition groups with substantial military forces inside considerable parts of Syria is another thing.”

For Khashan, Assad’s refusal to negotiate with the main opposition National Coalition shows he is pressing to increase his bargaining power.

“His gains on the ground allow him to do this,” he said.

Author of the “Struggle for Power in Syria,” Van Dam said Assad is unlikely “to make serious concessions as long as his regime is the main dominant force on the ground.”

“He wants presidential elections to be held in 2014, but might in the end be willing to accept an alternative candidate, preferably from within the regime,” he said.

Source: Middle East Online.

October 20, 2013

COVENTRY, England (AP) — He’s practically a one man band, but Rami Abdurrahman’s influence extends far beyond his modest home in this small English city.

The bald, bespectacled 42-year-old operates the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights from his house in the cathedral city of Coventry — and a review of recent media coverage suggests its running tally of killings and clashes is the most frequently cited individual source of information on Syria’s civil war for the world’s leading news organizations.

“He’s just everywhere,” said Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “He’s the go-to guy for figures. … I can’t think of anybody who comes close.”

Abdurrahman, who says he makes his living from a local clothing shop, says the Observatory relies on four unnamed activists in Syria and a wider network of monitors across the country to document and verify clashes and killings. But as the Observatory has increasingly found itself at the center of Western reporting on Syria’s civil, some say his figures — and his sources — need more scrutiny.

Opponents say Abdurrahman is in cahoots with the opposition forces bankrolled by Gulf Arab states, skewing casualty figures to keep the spotlight off rebel atrocities. Others contend that Abdurrahman is in league with the Syrian regime. They accuse him of overplaying incidents of sectarian violence to blacken the reputation of those trying to topple President Bashar Assad.

Abdurrahman sees the competing allegations as evidence that’s he’s being fair; “You know you’re doing a good job when all the sides start to attack you,” he said in a recent interview. Still, one prominent critic says it boggles the mind that a man living in Coventry is somehow able to count and categorize the dead in Syria hour by hour, every day of the week.

“Something is going on which is quite fishy,” said As’ad AbuKhalil, a professor of Middle Eastern politics at California State University Stanislaus. BUSY MAN Abdurrahman was working on four hours’ sleep when he met The Associated Press at Coventry’s drab-looking train station earlier this month.

He’d planned to get to bed by 10 p.m. the previous night, but rebel infighting in the Syrian border town of Azaz meant he stayed up until 2 a.m. monitoring developments. He got up again at 6 a.m. to check for overnight updates.

“It’s not a nine-to-five job,” Rami said as he drove across the city, a white dove-shaped air freshener dangling from his rear-view mirror. By his own account, Abdurrahman operates as a kind of human switchboard, fielding calls round-the-clock from Syrian activists, international journalists, and human rights workers. Particularly intense news days had seen up to 500 calls, he said.

Suspicions have long dogged Abdurrahman. Is the self-exiled Syrian really who he says he is? Who’s behind his organization? And is he accurate enough to justify the world’s reliance on his reporting? Switching from English to Arabic and often speaking through a translator, Abdurrahman — whose real name is Ossama Suleiman — defended his decision to use a pseudonym as part of the Arab tradition of the nom de guerre.

He said he received money from a European human rights group, but declined to name it. Only after prodding did he say he had been receiving less than 100,000 euros ($137,000) a year since 2012 in support of his work.

“We’re in a state of war,” he said. “It’s difficult to be completely transparent.” SYRIAN NETWORK Abdurrahman, born in the Syrian city of Banias, says government harassment of his family first sparked his interest in human rights work. He left for Britain in 2000, moving to Coventry, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of London, where the revenue from the clothes shop helps support him, his wife, and their young child.

He launched the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in May of 2006, saying the activists he met while in Syria formed the group’s core. Counting the words out with his hand, Abdurrahman said his modus operandi was: “Document, verify, and publish.”

That methodology has been put to the test in Syria, where both sides stand accused of peddling misinformation. Abdurrahman said his work was like navigating a “sea of lies.” Abdurrahman boasts 230-odd informants on the ground, ranging from Syrian journalists who leak him stories on the sly to employees of military hospitals who fill him in on army casualties. He said he sticks to the journalistic gold standard of only accepting a story once it had been confirmed by a second source.

He claims to have rarely gotten it wrong, saying he could think of only two cases in which he overstated casualty figures. Other mistakes, such as confusing a car bombing with a mortar strike, were more common, but in every case he insisted errors were corrected.

“We’re human, we make mistakes,” he said. “But it’s our intention not to repeat them.” A LEADING NEWS SOURCE Abdurrahman’s accuracy matters because so many news organizations use his reporting. A review of stories published by three major newswires, including The Associated Press, over the past year show he’s cited more often than SANA, Syria’s government-run news agency.

Experts attribute the exposure to Abdurrahman’s non-stop publication schedule, and the fact that so many observers are barred from Syria and that others are at risk of kidnapping or worse. That means journalists, human rights groups, and even the United Nations — which put out its own death toll at more than 100,000 back in July — have to rely at least in part on his figures.

That level of prominence worries those who harbor doubts about his organization. “Let’s assume good faith,” said Nadim Shehadi, with London’s Chatham House think tank. “Let’s assume he’s genuine, and qualified, and everything. He relies on too many sources to be able to check.”

The problem with checking what’s going on in Syria is that few people can gain access to the areas involved, said human rights researcher Cilina Nasser, who has collaborated with Abdurrahman in compiling casualty figures on several mass killings.

Nasser, who works for London-based Amnesty International, described Abdurrahman as careful and “usually accurate.” Her opinion was largely seconded by Lama Fakih, a researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch.

“In broad strokes, the reporting is solid,” she said. Nasser said it was important to keep in mind that everyone — from Abdurrahman to the journalists charged with following up on his figures — labors under the same handicap.

“There’s always something missing,” she said, “which is us being on the ground.”

Tuesday, 05 November 2013

A Palestinian prisoner from an Israeli jail died on Tuesday at dawn after spending 20 days in a serious condition at al-Afoula hospital in Israel.

The prisoner was identified as Hassan al-Torabi, 22. He was from Sorra, west of Nablus.

Al-Torabi was admitted to hospital on October 16 2013, after experiencing deteriorating health conditions.

Relatives and human rights organizations pointed out that his health condition had deteriorated after he had been denied proper medical treatment.

He had initially suffered from cancer and an inflation of the spleen, as well as acute internal bleeding of the esophagus.

In a letter previously disclosed by the Palestinians ministry of prisoners’ lawyer, al-Torabi said:

“I have been suffering severe headaches and strange mass swelling in the belly. I went to the prison clinic; they gave me only painkiller tablets. They did not help me. Four days later, I started vomiting blood and went to the clinic again. They did nothing.”

He then fell unconscious and was admitted to hospital. His parents were allowed to accompany him. He was pronounced dead this morning.

Meanwhile, Israeli occupation forces invaded several Palestinian cities and neighborhoods in the West Bank.

Palestinian sources said that a number of homes had been inspected and seven Palestinian citizens were arrested. No information about the location of the detainees has been released.

Source: Middle East Monitor.