Archive for December 11, 2013

October 06, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian jetfighters are staging celebratory flights over Cairo, ushering in a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the nation’s last war with Israel on a day when rival rallies by supporters and opponents of the ousted Islamist president carry the potential for violence.

Security forces are deployed across much of the Egyptian capital in anticipation of clashes. Sunday’s rallies in Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak, are likely flashpoints. Authorities have vowed not to allow supporters of the ousted Mohammed Morsi into the square.

The possibility of bloodshed on an occasion revered by most Egyptians is seen as a sign of the schism that began soon after Morsi’s narrow election victory in 2012. He was ousted in a July 3 coup.

October 05, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian politician who has opposed the military crackdown that has killed or jailed hundreds of Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi was surprised to find himself under a violent attack when he accidentally drove through a pro-Morsi protest march in Cairo.

Khaled Dawoud, the spokesman for the liberal al-Dustour party, was pulled out of his car and stabbed after one of the protesters recognized him, shouted his name and accused him of being in favor of the clampdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The 46-year-old politician couldn’t escape because he was stuck in a traffic jam.

Friday’s assault highlights the complexity of the political situation in Egypt, which has suffered from two and a half years of turmoil and chaos following the 2011 revolution that forced autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power. It also raised concerns that the Arab world’s most populous nation is falling into a cycle of revenge attacks and random violence as the Brotherhood organization is frayed with its top leaders in prison or on the run.

“Those who resort to violence and killing fail to understand the lessons of history,” Dawoud told The Associated Press from his hospital bed Saturday, where his left hand was wrapped in layers of bandages after his attackers tried to cut his wrist. His face bruised, Dawoud described how one man from the angry mob in the protest also stabbed him in his side, slightly missing his heart, twice.

Dawoud served as the main speaker for the National Salvation Front, the opposition grouping that had rallied against Morsi in the lead up to the massive protests against the Islamist leader that led to the military coup that toppled him on July 3.

But while he supported the military’s intervention, Dawoud publicly opposed the decision to violently raze two pro-Morsi sit-in camps in Cairo, a move that killed more than 600 protesters and sparked nationwide clashes that left hundreds more dead.

He resigned in mid-August as NSF spokesman after the group praised the security agencies for their role in the violent dispersal of the camps. Egypt’s vice president at the time, Mohammed ElBaradei, and the founder of al-Dustour party, also resigned over the bloodshed.

Dawoud has continued to speak out in weekly columns in favor of reconciling with the Brotherhood and integrating them into Egypt’s political road map, backing initiatives calling for it. He also makes regular TV appearances despite a backlash, with Islamists still threatening him on social media sites

“I was told several times … ‘Whatever you do, your hands will always be covered in Muslim Brotherhood blood,” he recalled. “It is a big sin in itself for them” that he backed removing Morsi. He said Friday’s attack will not change his stance.

“I still don’t approve of resorting to arbitrary violence” against any political forces, he said. “We want the rule of law. Human blood is precious. This is why we did our revolution. We want Egyptians to live for the sake of the country, not to die for it.”

The Brotherhood political arm, the Freedom and Justice party, condemned the attack, denouncing “all acts of violence, even against those who supported the military coup.” Dawoud rebuffed the condemnation, and questioned the peaceful nature of the pro-Morsi protests, adding that the attack against him was “a clear attempt to kill me.”

A group of 10 young men started smashing the car’s windows before one stabbed his left side with a 15-centimeter (6 inch) dagger. “Another guy told me ‘we will cut off your hands’ and started sawing my left hand back and forth”, Dawoud added.

A few bystanders came to his rescue, breaking up the mob and capturing the man with dagger. “It was a miserable day. There was no ambulance and I had to walk for 10 minutes to the hospital,” Dawoud said. “Every step I took I thought I was going to die. I was bleeding from everywhere.”

December 10, 2013

LAAYOUNE, Western Sahara (AP) — Police clashed with stone-throwing demonstrators in a city of Western Sahara on Tuesday during a protest against a new fishing accord that gives EU boats access to rich coastal waters.

At first, only a few dozen people were able to gather at a time, chant anti-accord slogans and display banners before riot police chased them away in Laayoune city, knocking many people down. Protesters calling for independence from Morocco were chased through the streets of the city, and some Spanish activists were arrested.

By nightfall, the demonstrations had spread to other neighborhoods of the city and degenerated into stone throwing clashes between youths and police. Local hospitals said at least 90 protesters were injured, and the governor’s office said 35 members of the security force were hurt.

A foreign journalist on the scene was stopped several times by police to prevent him from covering the protests and nearly had his camera taken away. Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the extreme northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

The European Union parliament recently approved a four-year agreement giving its fleet access to Moroccan waters for 40 million euros ($55 million) a year. The richest fishing waters are off the coast of the Western Sahara, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975.

Activists in the disputed territories say Morocco has no right to enter into treaties concerning their national resources and lobbied against the accord, which was approved by the EU parliament in a 310-to-204 vote, with 49 abstentions.

In December 2011, the parliament let lapse an earlier fishing agreement, partly over concerns about the situation in the disputed territories. Morocco declares the Western Sahara an integral part of its national territory, but the U.N. is supposed to organize a long-delayed referendum to allow the inhabitants to vote on their fate.

The desert region is also rich in phosphates, and international companies have started looking for off-shore oil deposits. Unlike in the rest of Morocco, demonstrations are not tolerated in the restive towns of Western Sahara, which are under heavy security.

October 1, 2013

Cairo: Egypt halted tourism activities with Iran on Tuesday citing security concerns, a Tourism Ministry spokeswoman said, further distancing itself from Tehran after former Islamist President Mohammad Mursi tried to improve ties.

“At the moment the security situation does not allow the ministry to support travel with Iran, including flights and tourist visits,” spokeswoman Rasha Azaizi said, without giving details.

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Cairo in February, the first visit by an Iranian leader in more than three decades.

The first commercial flight between Egypt and Iran in 34 years took off in March as Mursi tried to normalize ties broken after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Diplomatic relations remain severed. The state news agency said 43 Iranian tourists visited Egypt in April. But regular commercial flights never got underway.

Mursi, elected in 2012, was overthrown by the army in July after street protests against his rule. Azaizi said Mursi’s government’s plans to increase tourism with Iran had been put on hold.

Relations between Egypt and Iran broke down in 1979 when Cairo gave sanctuary to the deposed shah. Many in Egypt, a majority Sunni country, still harbor strong feelings against Shiite Iran.

The army-backed government views Tehran with deep suspicion.

In July, Egypt accused Iran of “unacceptable interference” in its domestic affairs for criticizing the military’s removal of Mursi. Iran called the ousting of Mursi a “cause for concern” and suggested “foreign hands” were at work in the Arab state.

Egypt historically has much stronger ties with Gulf Arab states, who have vied with Iran for regional influence.

Source: Gulf News.

Friday, 27 September

The Secretary General of the Al-Wasat Party, Mohamed Abdul Latif, revealed that during the rule of elected President Mohammed Morsi an agreement had been reached between party members to nominate Egypt’s Defense Minister General Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi as prime minister instead of Hisham Qandil, however Morsi had refused.

According to Abdul Latif, at the time General Al-Sisi was a national figure that everyone could agree upon.

Abdul Latif described the army’s involvement in the political process as “unjustified”, pointing out that to overcome the current political crisis all parties should agree to an unconditional dialogue.

The Secretary General of Al-Wasat Party also asserted that the party is still intact, despite the arrests of its President, Eng. Aboul-Ela Madi, and Vice President, Essam Sultan, stressing that Al-Wasat is still active. Abdul Latif denied claims of splits within the party or dismantling it due to a few members’ resignations, saying that, “the resignations do not affect the party’s work”.

According to Abdul Latif, the new constitution currently being drafted only reflects one political persuasion and therefore it might not survive even if it is approved in a referendum. He explained that, “the chances for a boycott of the referendum or a vote of ‘no’ are high”. Abdul Latif pointed out one article in particular that indicates the country’s President can appoint the Defense Minister only with the approval of the armed forces, saying that this establishes the basis for an “armed forces dictatorship.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

December 10, 2013

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnia’s most popular musician — a man whose international career has been built on music inspired by Balkan and Gypsy tunes — is searching for talented Roma children to help them get an education in music.

Goran Bregovic, a 63-year-old former rocker, started his quest Tuesday with a visit to Sarajevo’s biggest Roma settlement of Gorica. That’s the same name he has given his new foundation, which will provide scholarships to Roma kids who wish to study music but can’t afford to.

“Roma are very talented in music but most have no education,” Bregovic said. Centuries-old prejudices and hostilities against Roma, also called Gypsies, have turned them into Europe’s most underprivileged minority. Nearly half of the tens of thousands of Roma in Bosnia are illiterate and most live in extreme poverty on the margins of society.

“I cannot solve their huge problems, but as a neighbor to a neighbor, I can try to help as much as I can,” Bregovic said. That’s why the residents of Gorica were so excited about his visit. “No public figure has ever done something like this for us,” said Zineta Hasanovic, 58. “We are so grateful.”

Hours ahead of the artist’s arrival, some of Gorica’s 100-plus residents started a barbeque. When the children screamed “He’s here!” a band begun playing. Bregovic quickly grabbed a guitar and joined in.

A turkey someone brought to the party interrupted the singing when it escaped from the man holding it. The crowd chased the bird around the square, eventually locking it up in an old car, before continuing the song. A group of young dancers shivered for a bit in light costumes as someone searched for an extension cord to play their music.

All these glitches were accepted by residents with good humor. “(Roma have been) present in Europe for six or seven centuries and they have left a beautiful musical trace,” Bregovic said, adding that many European composers — from Beethoven to Liszt — had been influenced by Gypsy music.

He urged others to also help Roma walk a path to a better life. “To light a path that leads somewhere, you need a lot of little lights,” the artist said. “If the foundation manages to educate a few little Roma, those will be a few little lights on their path.”