Global Voices

Thursday, February 28, 2013

In Burning Rage for Water, Iran Farmers Take On Security Forces

An anonymous video on YouTube shows angry farmers from eastern part of Isfahan in Iran on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 among burning busses in ongoing protests against water shortages. There are credible reports of clashes with security forces, but detailed information is limited and official media is silent.

Another video shows that only days earlier, farmers busted open a water pipe carrying water from Zayanderood to Yazd as part of their protest for access to water which is vital to the survival of their crops.

Iranglobal reports that the farmers had been protesting for at least one month about their lack of resources, but received no official response to their demands.

Angry farmers burn busses in Isfahan

Angry farmers burn busses in Isfahan. Screenshot from video.

There are some photos and video from the farmers protest on Zayanderood on Facebook.

Burned busses

Five dead?

Sasemadehy says unconfirmed reports speak of five deaths and several injured in clashes with security forces. The government has allegedly cut off communications from Khurasgaran in Isfahan and has sent more security forces to repress farmers.

Breaking the water pipe

Protests appear to have become more forceful after February 22 when the water pipe was broken.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Women Protesters Call for the Fall of the Saudi Interior Minister

A group of women and children who are relatives of uncharged prisoners managed to organize a small sit-in in Saudi Arabian city of Buraida, challenging the strict ban on demonstrations in the absolute monarchy. In the past, families of uncharged prisoners managed to organize a 24-hour sit-in, but they had not been able to stay for more than that, until now. Independent human rights sources say that there are over 30,000 arbitrarily imprisoned people, many of whom were arrested in the massive, post-9/11 “war on terrorism”.

This week's sit-in had an unprecedented, explicit demand: the fall of the Interior Minister.

It all started when anonymous activism group @e3teqal, that has been responsible for organizing many small protests and sit-ins during the past two years, announced on Monday, February 25, [ar]:

إعلان اليوم حدث مميز ،، سيكسر حاجز الخوف عند الكثير من الشباب نقول للداخلية ،، أعمالنا سلمية و ستبقى سلمية و نظامية

@e3teqal: Today's announcement will be extraordinary. It will break the walls of fear for many young people, that's what we say to the interior ministry. Our activism has been peaceful and it will remain peaceful and legitimate.

At 4:49 PM local time, a tweet by a detainee's sister, al-Ruzni, followed:

عاجل أعتصام الآن ببريدة أمام الدوار الزراعي..

@jare7h: Breaking news: there is a sit-in in front of Agriculture Roundabout

A photo of the Interior Minster. "Go away." via @acapra

A photo of the Interior Minster. “Go away.” via @acapra

Protesters held signs demanding the release of their relatives and, in an unprecedented occurrence, the dismissal of the Interior Minster, Mohammad bin Nayef. Others said: “Mohammad bin Nayef is killing our sons in General Investigation prisons,” and “Bin Nayef, the coward, get your hands off women.

Sixteen minutes later, she tweeted a series of photos of the police force closing the roundabout, surrounding them, arresting pedestrians and filming what was happening.

وبعدكل هذا الحشدمن القوات أحببت أن أقول يامحمدبن نايف أعلم أن الأعتقال لن يثنيناعن المطالبة بأسراناالذين سلبت حرياتهم وأرواحهم

@jare7h: With the presence of all these forces, I would like to tell Mohammad bin Nayef that detainment will not stop us from demanding the release of our prisoners whose freedoms and souls you took.

Journalist Iman al-Qahtani was in live contact with the protesters. She tweeted:

إحدى المعتصمات الآن من قلب الحدث: تم اخلاء مركزين تجاريين يحيطان بالمنطقة التي نعتصم فيها كما تم إخلاء الحارات المحيطة بنا #اعتصام_بريدة

@ImaQh: One of the protesters just said: Two nearby shopping centers were evacuated, so were nearby [blocks].

The police asked the protesters to leave, but they refused unless all forces are dismissed. This did not happen and secret policemen with civilian cloths remained around the area. When some protesters tried to leave, they were chased by those policemen so they decided to spend the night where they were. Young men managed to bring blankets and firewood to the protesters. Furthermore, al-Ruzni reported:

حاولنا نذهب لدورة مياه المسجد القريب منا فطاردونا المباحث ..

@jare7h: When we tried to use the toilets of a nearby mosque, secret police forces prohibited us.

The roundabout was open by the next morning and young men managed to bring breakfast and lunch to the protesters. Then tents were brought for the first time in any recent sit-in. Those who provided the protesters with food, blankets and firewood were chased and arrested. According to Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association member, Abdullah al-Saidi:

الموقوفين بشرطة الشمالية ثلاث قضايا .. الأولى احضار بطانيات والثانية جلب فطور وخبز حار والقضية الثالثة توفير حطب للمعتصمات . حقيقة وليس مزاح

@abdulllah1406: The detainees in the northern police [station] have three cases: First, bringing blankets. Secondly, bringing breakfast and hot bread. Third, providing firewood. This is the truth, I am not joking.

Later, a group of bearded men came to ask the women to leave:

عاجل//قدوم رجأل ملتحين رفضوا اﻹفصاح عن الجهة الرسمية التي تتبعهم ويطلبون منا اﻷسماء وخلفهم رجال مباحث

@2Arrashed: Breaking news: Bearded men who refused to disclose their identities asked us for our names. Behind them are secret policemen.

Shortly after that, a protester tweeted:

عاجل/ حضروا قوات الطوارئ

@2Arrashed: Breaking news: Emergency forces arrived.

الرجاء عدم المراسلة عبر الخاص سوف أسجل خروج من تويتر و أحذف الحساب ..وصية أخيرة معنا أطفال ونساء كبيرات بالسن ومرضى..السلام عليكم ورحمة الله

@2Arrashed: Please do not send me any direct messages. I will sign out and delete the account. Last thing: among us are children and elderly and sick women. Salam Alikum.

All women and children were arrested and they remain under detainment.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Iran's New Stealth Fighter Soars Across Fake Sky

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.


News photo of Iran's Qaher-313 flying across a photoshopped sky.

Iranian bloggers revealed earlier this month that an official photo showing Iran’s recently unveiled stealth fighter, the Qaher-313, in flight is in fact a fake photoshopped image. Despite claims by the Iranian government that the aircraft is patrolling the skies, sharp-eyed bloggers spotted that the image was taken from the unveiling ceremony in Tehran and superimposed onto a different background.

While many Iranians (possibly including the military) have taken to Facebook to excitedly promote the Qaher-313, many bloggers view the image as an opportunity to mock the Tehran regime. Adding substance to their mockery are allegations that the photograph of a monkey that Iran supposedly sent into space is also a fake.

After the monkey scandal broke, Freedomseeker wrote that Iranian news outlets were starting to report about the Defense Ministry’s successful production of a very modern fighter plane. The blogger found it ‘weird’ that the aircraft was being unveiled at an indoor sports stadium since usually airplanes are usually shown in flight. Freedomseeker also noted that the dimensions were smaller than other comparable planes, prompting the following response:

We cannot trust the Islamic Republic’s claims until we see this fighter in flight, because the government has a very bad reputation for making fake photoshopped photos and presenting models instead of the real thing.

Some bloggers reminded that there are far more important concerns for the country rather than building a new fighter aircraft.

Xcalibur published a photo of the aircraft and estimated the costs, saying:

People want bread, not fighters. If only we could feed hungry people with missiles and bullets!

666Sabz published several photos and compared the Qaher-313 with foreign models, noting that Qaher’s cockpit is very small.

Tweatter wrote that after the glorious return of the space monkey, the Islamic Republic is now looking for a stupid monkey to become the pilot of Qaher-313.

Accordingly, the Qaher-313 has provided bloggers and skeptics alike with further opportunities to mock the Iranian government’s self-declared military might. Indeed, the following video demonstrates that the mockery goes beyond Tehran’s alleged fifth-generation fighter.

ISN logo This post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Indonesia’s New Law on Mass Organizations Ignites Protest

The Indonesian Parliament is set to approve a bill that would amend the law governing mass organizations but human rights groups and experts have warned against its repressive provisions.

The latest draft requires mass organizations to adhere to the country’s 1945 Constitution and the principles of Pancasila, a state philosophy about the belief in one God.

Meanwhile, local groups are worried that the bill would give broad powers to the government which might be used by corrupt authorities to undermine the independence of various mass organizations, especially those which are critical to government policies.

Groups like the Red Cross will be affected by Indonesia's new Bill on Mass Organizations. Photo by Jefri Tarigan, Copyright @Demotix (5/8/2012)

Groups like the Red Cross will be affected by Indonesia's new Bill on Mass Organizations. Photo by Jefri Tarigan, Copyright @Demotix (5/8/2012)

The initiative to replace the 1985 Mass Organizations law was actually initially supported by many people who wanted the government to regulate local groups such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) which often uses violent methods to promote its advocacies.

Indonesian legislators quickly dismissed the opinion of UN experts and hinted that the Parliament might approve the controversial measure next month.

Pollyandra supports legislators in opposing the views of UN experts:

For once I stand by the government's stance to dismiss the “experts'” warning/claim. As much as I appreciate the values of western ideas of human rights & democracy, enforcing foreign ideologies into a society has never worked nor will the effect last. Change has to be gradual and come from the inside.

Amir Effendi Siregar, a member of the Independent Coalition for the Democratization of Broadcasting, warns against the negative impact of the regulation on media groups:

This regulation is dangerous for media, press and journalism organizations. How can journalists not mention ideologies, which are against Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution, in their publications?

In a democratic system, media and professional journalists have an obligation to give the audience comprehensive information seen from different angles.

Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, urges Indonesia to pass laws that would not violate the principles of ‘pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness’:

The State must ensure that any restriction on the rights to freedom of association, expression, and religion is necessary in a democratic society, proportionate to the aim pursued, and does not harm the principles of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness

Associations should be free to determine their statutes, structures and activities and to make decisions without State interference

The UN expert also reacted to the proposal to suspend organizations even without a court order:

Let me stress that suspension of associations should only be sanctioned by an impartial and independent court in case of a clear and imminent danger resulting in a flagrant violation of domestic laws, in compliance with international human rights law

Colson called the bill a ‘legal dragon’ in the making:

A special committee of the House of Representatives is busy creating a legal dragon. It’s gonna hit civil organizations. They will be banned if authorities label them as a threat to the “unity and safety of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia”. Criteria which are extremely vague and prone to arbitrariness.

This legal dragon in the making will seriously restrict fundamental liberties of freedom of association & assembly and freedom of thought & expression in Indonesia. For instance it potentially will effectively prevent civil organizations from revealing, denouncing, let alone charging, criminal practices, including human trafficking or corruption. Moreover administrations of these organizations will be under permanent surveillance and control of government.

What would be the impact of strictly implementing the Pancasila philosophy? Colson thinks several global NGOs would be banned in the country:

Strictly interpreted Red Cross and Care will be off limits. Just like Oxfam and Save the Children. Let alone the Swedish Humanistic Association or any of it’s sister organizations. Labour unions based on a social-democratic philosophy will also be forbidden.

Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights is also opposing several provisions of the bill. Meanwhile, a coalition of local organizations published a joint statement last February 18 entitled ‘The State Again Attempts to Put a Leash on Freedom of Association and Organization.’ The coalition recommends the following:

1. Revoke Law No. 8 year 1995 on Mass Organization and restore the regulation of mass organizations to the appropriate and relevant legal construct, namely to a Law on Association for membership‐based organization and the Law on Foundation for non-membership‐based organization.

2. Cease the deliberation and enactment of the Bill on Mass Organization and prioritize the deliberation of the Bill on Association, which has been included in the National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) for 2010‐2014. The Bill on Association has stronger legal basis but has been placed as a lesser priority to the Bill on Mass Organization, which is a misguided and lack of clarity draft bill.

But Pahala Nainggolan, executive director of Yayasan Bina Integrasi Edukasi, appreciates the provision stipulating a government review of financial records of organizations:

The registration of non-profit organizations to the government is not a mechanism of control. Each organization needs to register to be assisted with its accountability measures in the long term. Then the Home Ministry can establish a database and website containing financial and operational reports of all registered organizations.

This can lead to better mechanisms to enforce regulations. Organizations that do not submit their reports can be removed from the list. Society can get guarantees of the legitimacy of an organization by accessing the website and the government can provide assurances of transparency and accountability for each organization listed there.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

India at the Forefront of One Billion Rising

The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

One in three women will experience violence in her lifetime, which means one billion women alive at this moment will be facing some form of violence which is a more prevalent problem than any other disease, according to U.N statistics. ‘One Billion Rising’ was an event conceived by Eve Ensler, who is famous for her play ‘The Vagina Monologues’ 15 years ago.

Women take part in the One Billion Rising Campaign at Guwahati Assam, India. Image by Reporter#21795 Copyright Demotix (14/2/2013)

Women take part in the One Billion Rising Campaign at Guwahati Assam, India. Image by Reporter#21795 Copyright Demotix (14/2/2013)

India is one among the worst in G20 countries for many forms of violence against women including child marriages, female feticides, honor killings, war, domestic violence and suicides. In some cases, their deaths are not even counted for. P.Sainath writes:

One group that is not counted is women farmers who do the bulk of the work in the fields, and are driven to suicide by poverty and loans they could never repay. They are not considered farmers because the land is not in their name, and in most States they do not have land rights.

Reports from the online and mainstream media show Indians participating in huge numbers across the country and India trending at the forefront of the global campaign.

The One Billion Rising event encouraged women to gather at some place to strike, dance, and rise against violence. There were many videos circulating online encouraging women to participate . Singer Anoushka Shankar’s video on why she was rising on Feb 14th went viral on social media sites.

Video Volunteers posted a story of a 19 year old for the rising.

One Billion Rising: Rise to support Chanchal:

On 21/10/2012, four men threw acid on Chanchal, 19 and her sister,15 while they were asleep. This was a direct result of Chanchal’s bold move to oppose continuous sexual harassment by these men. In the above video, Chanchal’s family has given a public statement seeking justice from Chief Minister Mr. Nitish Kumar and DIG Weaker Sections, Arvind Pandey.

Indianhomemaker had pages of pictures on Guragon rising.

On the same day in Kerala a woman was harassed by eve teasers and she took it upon herself to thrash the eve teasers. Amrita, the brave girl tells the media that she would have felt worthless if she didn’t react when everybody else was silent, especially after participating in the one billion rising event.

Every now and then, the rally would pause and the women and men would laugh raucously for a minute or so. It's all about freedom of expression and reclaiming public space, said an organiser.. Image by Lois Kapila. (14/2/2013)

Every now and then, the rally would pause and the women and men would laugh raucously for a minute or so. It's all about freedom of expression and reclaiming public space, said an organiser.. Image by Lois Kapila. (14/2/2013)

Piyasree Dasguptaa on First Post comments that the campaign could turn into a fancy carnival:

For example, the NCRB report points out that city or town where the number of crimes went up the most in 2011, almost by 87 percent, is Asansol – an industrial town in Bengal, far away from Kolkata where the One Billion Rising campaign was unfurling in full force.

So what’s the answer? Should we stop protest – of the elaborate kind that uses the most popular aspects of our culture? No. But we also have to find a way to make it not look like a carnival that not everyone has a taste for.

Kamayani writes on her blog why the event in Mumbai is unique:

In Mumbai what it is unique about this is event is being ‘ most diverse and inclusive”, we have women representing variosy marginalized sections of our society- the disabled, dalit, sexual minorities, muslims ,participating to say no to violence, and to also give a message that women with different needs have different rights

Subhajit das writes about why he thinks such gender exclusive movements might not find the desired results especially in Kolkata:

Gender exclusive movements, are in essence, problematic, because a) they fail to recognize that a particular social problem is limited to (a “definitive” interpretation of) one gender. In this case, the organizers seem to be in denial of the fact that sexual violence in Calcutta is not limited only to women, or rather, the concept of women that has been biologically “pigeonholed”, thus categorized as the female sex, or those identifying as women; judging from personal experiences, “males” of varying gender expressions get sexually harassed, too.

A picture with a different perspective to the rising was circulating on Facebook with the tag line:

Because “sex workers also have rights, just like you and I”

Balu Menon writes on Facebook:

I also agree..Women's awakening is the only way to have better MEN!

Jo Stroebel shared a picture of women drumming for the one billion rising event in Kochi:

Students of Kamla Nehru College in an enthralling choreographed performance in the OBR event at Parliament Street, New Delhi. Rajeev R Singh. Copyright Demotix (

Students of Kamla Nehru College in an enthralling choreographed performance in the OBR event at Parliament Street, New Delhi. Rajeev R Singh. Copyright Demotix

Below are some interesting tweets about the One billion Rising campaign across the country:

‏@EsteKelvaredhel (Likla): Mumbai rose in a way @eveensler would have been proud!

‏@The_AK_84: (Ashutosh Kumar ‏@The_AK_84) OneBillionRising looks like a success only on twitter and virtual world. Not more then 1000 ppl at spot in Delhi including media, organisers

‏@RuchiraSingh (Ruchira Singh): Women of age groups and from all walks of life are walking in. Some greeting each other ‘Happy OBR', delhi is celebrating #onebillionrising!

‏@tetisheri (Lily ) Headed to parliament street. Blank noise doing a clothes installation to say “I never ask for it”. #onebillionrising #delhi

shahid ‏@shahidnissar(shahid ‏@shahidnissar) @sardesairajdeep sir its day 6 of curfew sponsored by state, kashmir cannot be a part of #onebillionrising @BDUTT

‏@davidpakh (David Pakhuongte) One billion rising : kashmir to kanyakumari, kutch to kolkata. Where is the North East on your map? #onebillionrising #ndtv

‏@caslet (Cassandra Wright):

Was just at the #onebillionrising rally in Chennai, India. Great to feel the solidarity across the globe. It's horrible what women here face

‏@parveendusanj (Parveen Dusanj) #OneBillionRising in India we have women that inflict violence (physical & mental) on other women. That's the worst kind. Must STOP

Zena's message on twitter sums up the rising:

‏@zenacostawrites (Zena Costa‏) #OneBillionRising Let's create a society where women are not killed for honor, but honored for life ! #JusticeForWomen #India #VDAY #VAW

via Global Voices » Feature

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Australian Senator Deported for ‘Interfering’ in Malaysian Politics

Australian Senator Nick Xenophon was detained for 15 hours at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia before being deported after he was accused of being an ‘enemy of the state.’ Malaysian officials said Xenophon “could cause disorder and could be a danger to the community.”

Xenophon was scheduled to meet with Malaysia’s Opposition leaders and to prepare as election observer this year. He participated in the Bersih rally a few months ago, a massive street demonstration attended by Opposition personalities.

Xenophon is reported to be the first Australian MP to be deported from any country. The Australian government has expressed disappointment over the decision of Malaysia to deport Xenophon.

Senator Nick Xenophon. Image from Wikimedia

Senator Nick Xenophon. Image from Wikimedia

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim condemned the decision to deport Xenophon:

I would like to remind Prime Minister Najib Razak that he has no right to treat visitors as enemies of the state merely because they are critical of his UMNO led administration. Malaysia does not belong to UMNO. It belongs to all Malaysians regardless of political affiliation.

While it is true that Senator Xenophon has raised concerns about the probity of our coming general elections, he has neither violated any written law nor conducted himself in a manner which may be constituted as a threat to our security.

Tholu asks how a democracy like Malaysia can’t even tolerate criticism:

If PM Najib Razak's regime can't even tolerate a comment made in disfavour of our government's running of the country by a national of a foreign country, how can we trust it to transform Malaysia into a modern, developed and truly democratic nation with their attendant attributes of free speech and expression and an impeccable human rights record?

Is the government hiding something, writes Tan Zhong Yan

Maybe Xenophon is right in saying that the Malaysian government is being authoritarian as this has again proves that the government is not able to accept criticism.

The deportation of Xenophon also casts doubt as to what the government is trying to hide as the government need not be afraid if everything is transparent.

Aliran echoes the view that the deportation is unjustified:

Was the deportation related to the senator’s honest criticism of the government’s unwarranted ‘authoritarian’ treatment of Bersih? If that is the case, it is indeed deplorable especially coming from the Najib administration, which once proudly claimed that Malaysia was the best democracy in the world. Surely, any criticism in a thriving democracy, as opposed to a dictatorship, doesn’t warrant the unjustified deportation of critics

But Xenophon was also criticized for interfering in the domestic affairs of Malaysia. Rocky's Bru publishes a piece written by RL who reminds Xenophon that he violated Malaysia’s domestic law when he participated in a rally a few months ago:

…if Xenophon sought to participate as an international observer in Malaysia’s elections, he should have not taken part in illegal street rallies in this country, and he should have adhered to the stipulations required within Malaysian law by applying to be a recognized observer.

Malaysians should also not forget the long reach of deportation power in Australian law, which routinely grants persona non grata status to non-Australians for minor offences. Xenophon’s deportation is an unfortunate incident, but foreigners are required to abide by Malaysian law if they wish to have some kind of presence observing elections or staying in the country, otherwise, it is perfectly acceptable for the authorities to take action in safeguarding political affairs from intrusive foreign elements.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Secret Life and Death of Australian-Israeli Mossad Spy ‘Prisoner X’

Revelations by Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) progamme Foreign Correspondent on 12 February, 2013 have fired up Australian onliners. The mysterious Prisoner X who allegedly committed suicide in an Israeli gaol in 2010 was not only a dual citizen of Australia and Israel, but also a Mossad agent.

J-Wire, Jewish online news from Australia and New Zealand, responded the next day:

The ABC program was careful to point out that certain issues which could be interpreted as facts are in fact mere speculation.

They say they “understood Zygier had been recruited by Mossad”. The ABC correcty points out that countries such as Australia and New Zealand are quiet and “innocent”.

There is no doubt that Ben Zygier “disappeared” in 2010 and human rights activists have criticized the Israeli government for the secret imprisonment of Prisoner X.

Israeli media has been silenced by powerful laws which impact on the nation’s security.

In Australia, messages left for the Zygier family remain unanswered.

Was Ben Zygier “Prisoner X”… perhaps only time will tell, and perhaps a substantial amount of time.

They underestimated the power of the media. The Israeli government tried to continue its censorship but has now come clean apparently:

Israel has confirmed the reported suicide of an Australian prisoner who had worked for the Israeli spy agency Mossad, according to Al Jazeera.

Israel broke its silence on Wednesday after Australia's ABC news network first revealed the identity of Prisoner X, a 34-year-old man who had used three different names, including Ben Zygier, Ben Allen, and Ben Alon.

Prisoner X

Ben Zygier, Prisoner X – Image by Mahmoud illean copyright Demotix 13 Feb 2013

The Australian government also admitted knowledge of his mysterious life and death, after initial denials. What and when they knew will be an ongoing debate no doubt.

Asher Wolf wants answers now:

‏@Asher_Wolf: Prisoner X never stood trial, was jailed for crimes unknown & died alone. The diplomats & politicians who abandoned him must face an inquiry

It’s not the first time that Mossad's use of Australian passports has caused tension between the two normally friendly nations. Fake passports were used in the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in 2010.

Amelia Freelander is following connections between the events:

‏@MiaRubySydney: The plot thickens RT @JamalDajani Prisoner X arrest is related to the Mossad's assassination in Dubai using stolen Australian passports

Prominent Australian author and blogger Antony Loewenstein tweeted a link to Richard Silverstein’s blog Tikun Olam:

‏@antloewenstein: Will #Australian media ask necessary questions about #Zionist community after exposure of another likely spy?

According to Silverstein:

Back in 2010, I reported that Israel had arrested an unidentified individual, and imprisoned him in total secrecy in an Israeli jail. The cell he occupied had once housed Yigal Amir Even his jailers didn’t know who he was.

Wmmbb of Duckpond asks the big questions in the post PRISONER X, MURDERED?:

Speculation around the death of Ben Zyglier will now be rife. What could he have done?

The Happy Antipodean is concerned that speculation soon becomes fact in the media:

In early stories doubt was cast over the way Zygier died but today suicide is being stated as a fact…

Surprising amid all of this media scrutiny is the silence of Zygier's Melbourne family, which is prominent in the Jewish community. No media organisation has so far been able to extract new information from any of its members.

Abalinx, a supporter of the opposition Liberal Party in Australian, is concerned about support of citizens overseas:

It is bad enough when an Australian dies alone in his own country. It is worse when he or she dies alone in a foreign country, forgotten even by his own government. Even though Prisoner X (now identified as Ben Zygier) took on a dual Israeli citizenship does not absolve the Australian Foreign Affairs Department for failing to pass on the information up higher for further discussion.

Dr Ben Saul of the Sydney Centre for International Law canvasses many of international law questions at the Drum:

The Israelis are masters of all the dark arts: assassination (from Munich), abduction (from Eichmann onward), torture (of Palestinian prisoners), pre-emptive military strikes (from Iraq to Syria), violent interception of civilians at sea (the Gaza flotilla), and colonising foreign territory (the juiciest parts of Palestine).

He finishes by reflecting on local Jewish sentiment about the case:

Australia's Jewish communities are also aghast at this episode and deserve better. After giving so much to support to Israel, one would hope that Israel would treat Australian Jews serving their other homeland with greater dignity, whatever they have done.

You know you’re on a winner with an exclusive scoop like this one. Mark Scott, Managing Director of ABC, tweeted:

‏@abcmarkscott: Huge twitter reaction to tonight's Foreign Correspondent on Prisoner X. Up now on iview. @ForeignOfficial

The #prisonerx hashtag has plenty more…

via Global Voices » Feature

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Monday, February 11, 2013

From Whispers to Outcry: Sexism in Germany

[All links lead to German language websites]

On January 25, 2013 an #Aufschrei (outcry) rang out through the German-speaking blogosphere in response to an article in Stern, a weekly German news magazine. Journalist Laura Himmelreich reported on an encounter with Rainer Brüderle, a politician from the Free Democratic Party (FDP), who allegedly made remarks about her buste and approached her inappropriately. Himmelreich's experience is just one of many examples of sexism that exists in everyday life.

Using the hashtag #aufschrei (#outcry), female Twitter users have been reporting their experiences of similar cases of everyday sexism, sexual harassment and, in some cases, even of sexual abuse. Below are some of the tweets:

@terrorzicke: Der Prof, der mir auf der Erasmus-Party zuraunte “I want to see you naked!” #aufschrei #England

@terrorzicke: The lecturer who whispered to me at an Erasmus party: “I want to see you naked!” #aufschrei #England

@Ine_12e: Ich näh die Dammnaht enger als vorher, da wird ihr Mann sich sicher drüber freuen. Arzt nach Geburt #aufschrei

@Ine_12e: I’m sewing up the perineal suture tighter than it was before, your husband should be pleased with that. A doctor after giving birth. #aufschrei


Street Art in Karlsruhe. Photo from Flickr by theodoritsis (CC BY-ND 2.0)

@KatiKuersch: Der Vorgesetzte, der mir sagte, ich müsse nur mal flachgelegt werden, dann ginge es mir psychisch sicher besser. #aufschrei

@KatiKuersch: The supervisor who told me I just needed to get on my back to feel psychologically better. #aufschrei

@marthadear: der vater einer schulfreundin, der auf ihrer geburtstagsfeier all ihren freundinnen poklappse gab. ich habe mich immer versteckt. #aufschrei

@marthadear: My friend's dad who smacked all the girls on the bum at her birthday party. I spent the whole time hiding. #aufschrei

@Wendelherz: Wie ich anfangs das Gefühl hatte, gar nix beisteuern zu können, und dann nach und nach alles hochkommt und ich kotzen möchte. #aufschrei

@Wendelherz: Feeling, at the beginning, that I couldn't add anything at all and then bit by bit, everything came up and I wanted to throw up. #aufschrei

hanhaiwen: Und all die Leute die auf solche Vorfälle jemals mit einem verständnislosen „ja und?“ reagiert haben. #aufschrei

hanhaiwen: And to anyone who has ever responded to such an incident with an unsympathetic, “So what?” #aufschrei

@sincerelyjurs: Und immer wieder das Gefühl, sexistische Situationen nicht als solche benennen zu dürfen, um nicht als Spaßbremse dazustehen. #aufschrei

@sincerelyjurs: And always feeling like you’re not allowed to label these situations as sexist, without being branded a killjoy. #aufschrei

MmeCoquelicot: Es geht nicht darum, dass ich mich nicht wehren KANN. Es geht darum, dass ich es nicht ständig müssen sollte. #aufschrei

MmeCoquelicot: It’s not that I can’t fight back, it’s that I shouldn’t always have to. #aufschrei

In the eyes of many Germans, sexism is not a problem that exists in today’s society. However, the tweets posted with the hashtag #aufschrei (outcry) show that this is not an accurate view and that sexism is in fact a common problem, even now. Journelle tweets:

Was ich an #aufschrei mag,ist,dass dieser “Minisexismus” in der Masse mal sein ganzes hässliches Gesicht zeigt und nicht runtergespielt wird.

What I like about #aufschrei (outcry) is that it’s bringing much-deserved attention to these abhorrent cases of casual sexism that might otherwise be ignored or trivialized.

Antje Schrupp writes about the newsworthiness of sexism and investigates the causes of this debate:

Auch viele Männer, die sich selbst gegenüber Frauen völlig korrekt verhalten, dachten bis vorgestern: Das ist zwar nicht schön, aber doch keine Nachricht – und suchten deshalb nach “Nebengründen”, die diese Veröffentlichung erklären könnten.

Es braucht aber keine weiteren Gründe, um so eine Story zu veröffentlichen, denn es gibt inzwischen massenweise Frauen und auch Männer, die das durchaus für eine Nachricht halten. Die sexuelle Belästigung keineswegs für eine Lappalie halten, auch dann nicht, wenn sie sich auf “niedrigem Niveau” abspielt.

Despite the unpleasant nature of these incidents, up until the day before yesterday, a number of men would not have considered them to be newsworthy, even those who treat women with dignity and respect. As a result, they have been trying to come up with additional reasons to justify the publication of these incidents.

But reports of this kind are considered newsworthy by masses of women, as well as men and so do not need any further justification in order to be published. Sexual harassment in any shape or form is by no means an insignificant matter.

Unfortunately, as so often happens in such debates, the uninformed and ignorant also feel the need to speak out and be heard. Below is one of the more friendly comments made by Twitter users criticising or ridiculing the campaign:

@robby_eberlein: #aufschrei Wie langweilig und trostlos muss der Alltag sein wenn man sich über solchen Nonsens dermassen aufregen kann…..

@robby_eberlein: #aufschrei (outcry) How boring and dull your life must be to get upset about this nonsense…

Meike Lobo took to her blog to criticise, among other things, the vagueness inherent in the terms ‘sexism’, ‘abuse’ and ‘sexual violence’:

Die Vermischung dieser Schlagworte überdramatisiert das Eine und — weitaus schlimmer — bagatellisiert das Andere. Die Grundhaltung mag bei allem eine ähnliche sein, nämlich die Objektifizierung des Gegenübers, aber das ist nach meinem Empfinden auch alles.

Kindesmissbrauch und Vergewaltigung sind schwerste Verbrechen und allein schon dadurch ganz klar zu trennen von Sexismus, der zwar oft unangenehm, schmierig und geschmacklos, aber eben kein Verbrechen ist. Solche schlimmen Verbrechen für die Lösung eines sozialen Problems zu missbrauchen, empfinde ich als Ohrfeige ins Gesicht aller Opfer sexueller Gewalt (sie selbst mögen das freilich anders empfinden).

For one thing, by using these catchwords together, the situation tends to be overdramatized and, far worse, trivialized. The main idea behind using each of these words may well be similar, namely, the objectification of the person subjected to it, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s also all it is.

Child abuse and rape are the most serious of crimes and are automatically differentiable from sexism, which, although often unpleasant, sleazy and tasteless, is not in itself a crime. In my opinion, misemplying such grave crimes in an attempt to solve what is essentially a social problem, is a slap in the face to all victims of sexual violence (who, of course, may well feel differently).

Sensitive Men

Some men have shown themselves to be rather more discerning and have vowed to react more sensitively to these issues in the future:

John tweets:

@einbequemesbrot: Schon krass, dass es heute noch so zugeht. Werde in Zukunft aufmerksamer sein. #Aufschrei

@einbequemesbrot: Disgusting that this is still happening in this day and age. Will be more considerate in the future. #Aufschrei

Alf Frommer reports on the change in attitudes triggered by this discussion on his blog

Es steckt eben in jedem ein Brüderle. Eine Zoten-König oder ein Blicke-Belästiger. Ich sollte mein Verhalten überprüfen, auch wenn ich von mir selbst niemals annehmen würde, ich wäre ein Sexist. Aber vielleicht ist das gerade die Gefahr: ich halte mich für einen modernen Mann, der Frauen ernst nimmt und für die Gleichberechtigung und die Frauen-Quote eintritt. Trotzdem bin ich in einigen Dingen nicht besser als ein Ol’ Dirty Brüderle oder ein Franz-Josef Wagner, der eine Bildungsministerin zunächst mal nach dem Äußeren bewertet.

Daher bin ich froh über die Diskussion – weil ich darin in erster Linie eine Aufforderung sehe, mich selbst zu überprüfen.

There is a Brüderle [the FDP politician] hiding in everyone. A master of dirty jokes or a pervy old man. I should really look at my own behaviour, even though I would never consider myself to be sexist. But maybe that is where the danger lies. I consider myself to be a modern man, who takes women seriously and supports gender equality. Nevertheless, as someone who, at least initially, judged the Education Secretary based purely on her appearance, I am in some ways no better than an Ol’ Dirty Brüderle or a Franz-Josef Wagner [German tabloid columnist known to be sexist].

That is why I am pleased about the ongoing discussion. I see it as a prompt to reevaluate myself and my own behaviour.

By January 25, the Twitter debate had even reached the mainstream media:

Handelsblatt (a leading German language business newspaper) and Spiegel (a weekly German news magazine). In the meantime, the debate has spread to every type of media, including television. The main news programmes on public television have reported on the matter, while sexists and feminists took to political talk showa to debate the terminology being used, and whether sexism is even a problem.

The debate on sexism has escalated to such a height of publicity so quickly, primarily because it exposes the ongoing existence of a cultural phenomenon believed to have been long since overcome. As members of a modern society, Germans seem to think that sexism, gender stereotypes and the like have been left firmly in the past, but the reports surfacing on Twitter give powerful evidence to the contrary. Consequently, this has led to a passionate and emotionally-charged debate, that is, at times, lacking in respect and sensitivity to the subject matter.

Since then, the Twitter hashtag has gone global. See: #outcry and #assez.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Dignity, Courage and Hypocrisy: Egyptian Man Stripped Naked by Police

Hamada Saber is the name of an Egyptian man, who was seen in a video which went viral and was even featured on CNN, while he was being beaten and stripped of his clothes by police forces. The incident brought about a wave of shock and disbelief and shook the nation in disgust. Interestingly, many people on social media started contrasting what happened to this man and the nation’s reaction to it with the extreme sexual harassment and rape Egyptian women are subjected to.

First, here's the video:

On Twitter, Ghada Elsayeh wrote [ar]:

بس الفرق بين حمادة إل اتسحل والبنات ال اتحرشو بهم واغتصابهم كبير لأن الناس تعاطفت مع حمادة الجبان ولم تهتم بالبنات الشجعان! محتاج علاج نفسي!

@Ghadaelsayeh: The difference between Hamada who was beaten and the girls who were sexually harassed and raped is great because people sympathized with Hamada the coward while they didn’t pay attention

to the brave girls! [They] need psychological treatment.

The reason Saber was called a coward by some is his initial statement to the media that he had been stripped of his clothes by the protesters, not the security forces. Reactions were divided when it came to this testimony: although some called him a coward, others felt the man might have been under threat to deny the truth, like journalist Rasha Azb, who tweeted:

اوعوا تلوموا علي حمادة صابر .اوعوا تلوموا علي واحد قضي ليلة من الذل والخوف واحنا نايمين في بيوتنا.اوسخ حاجة انك تيجي ع الضحية..ارحموا الضعيف

@RashaPress: Don’t blame Hamada Saber, don’t blame someone who spent a night of humiliation and fear while we were sleeping in our homes. The worst thing you can do is to blame the victim… have mercy on the weak!

Another interesting contrast made is that between Sabry’s generation (he is a middle-aged man) and the generation of his daughter. The latter had spoken out against what her father initially said, calling his statements ‘lies’. The blog The Arabist mentioned her saying:

In the most surreal part of this sad episode, Hamada Saber and his daughter Randa ended up arguing about what happened to him on a major satellite TV talk show, with Hamada accusing Randa of having taken money from satellite channels to lie about him.

Ahmed Talaat added:

لسه الناس مش قادرة تصدق أن فيه فرق بين جيل حمادة و جيل بنته ! جيل حمادة لسه بيخاف من أمين الشرطة ! جيل بنته مابيخافش من رئيس الجمهورية ..

@AhmadTal3t: People are still not able to believe that there is a difference between Hamada’s generation and that of his daughter! Hamada's generation is still afraid of a police officer! The generation of his daughter is not afraid of the president of the republic..

Later on, Saber, after hearing the reactions of his own family and the Egyptian people to his initial statements, decided to change his testimony. He apologized for blaming the protesters, claiming security forces were the ones who beat him and stripped him of his clothes. He also stressed that he hadn’t received any money to make the statements he initially made.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Dreams Come Alive, Baseball Player José Contreras Returns to Cuba

[All links lead to Spanish language pages unless otherwise noted]

In April 2012, the young journalist, Lenier González, editor of the Cuban magazine Espacio Laical [Social Communication Project forming part of the Archdiocese of Havana], concluded the prologue to the compilation “By Consensus for Democracy” with the following words:

El intenso debate sociopolítico que está teniendo lugar en la sociedad cubana, y su capacidad demostrada de impactar sobre la opinión pública insular, constituyen una muestra irrefutable de que Cuba está viva.

The intense sociopolitical debate that has been taking place in Cuban society, and its clear ability to impact on insular public opinion, constitute irrefutable evidence that Cuba is alive.

The vibrancy of the Caribbean nation, as evidenced in the recent discussions surrounding the Internet [en] and the Migration Reform [en], amongst many others, has been expressed through blogs and social media.

The arrival, just over a week ago, of José Ariel Contreras to Cuba, a Cuban baseball pitcher based in the US since 2002, has moved the habitants of his native province, Pinar del Río, and also fans of Cuba's national sport: baseball.

Las últimas modificaciones de la Ley migratoria, que finalmente “pusieron” a mi primo en Miami y en Belice a mi mejor amigo, trajeron a José Ariel Contreras al Capitán San Luis. ¡Demasiado para el aburridísimo pueblito de Pinar que José Ariel, en el castellano que casi olvidara antes de “irse”, hubiese intercambiado con su pueblo!, cuenta desde su perfil en Facebook el periodista Carlos Díaz.

The most recent modifications to the Migration Law, which finally “put” my cousin in Miami and my best friend in Belize, brought José Ariel Contreras to the stadium Capitán San Luis. So much for the boring town of Pinar, which José Ariel (in nearly forgetting his Castilian before leaving), had exchanged for his new town!, recalls the journalist Carlos Díaz from his Facebook account.

The Migration Reform, which has been in place since January 14, allows visits from those who are health professionals or high performing athletes “that left their country after 1990, if they have spent more than eight years of this time away, except in cases where they have been tending to humanitarian work where their entrance to the country will be dealt with within less time”, relays a note from the Inter Press Service agency.

Aliet Arzola, makes an evaluation from her Facebook page:

Esto era un sueño hace muy poco, pero finalmente se hizo realidad… Como mismo René Arocha rompió el hielo y desertó, ahora José Ariel Contreras se convierte en el primer pelotero cubano en regresar a la Isla… Ojalá detrás puedan venir muchos más, deseos no les faltan, de poner sus pies en Cuba y de enfundarse en la camiseta de las cuatro.

Only recently this was merely a dream, now finally it has become reality… In the same way that René Arocha broke the ice and left, José Ariel Contreras has become the first Cuban baseball player to return to the Island… I hope that following this, many more will come and with no shortage of wishes to set foot on Cuban soil and squeeze into their number four shirts.

Carlos Manuel Álvarez, a journalism student and blogger, who carried out the interview with Contreras, joined the celebrations. Álvarez travelled to Las Martinas- Contreras birthplace- late on the 30th January in order to ask him about his experience of Cuba more than 10 years later, along with other questions, which the sportsman was happy to answer.

Carlos Manuel Álvarez interviewing José Ariel Contreras. Photo: Courtesy of Carlos Manuel Álvarez

Carlos Manuel Álvarez interviewing José Ariel Contreras. Photo: Courtesy of Carlos Manuel Álvarez

According to Álvarez, Contreras’ exit from the national selection during 2002 caused a great shock. “Many players had split beforehand, but Contreras stayed a while. Your return has created a way back in, in some respects it has built a bridge. Can you imagine those baseball players who left, playing once again for Cuba?”, he enquired.

To which Contreras responded:

Antes que todo somos cubanos. Donde quiera que estemos y haciendo lo que hagamos. Jugando beisbol, o barriendo una calle en cualquier lugar del mundo, seguimos siendo cubanos. De hecho, yo tengo una cláusula, que firmé en 2002 con los Yankees, donde dice que en contra de Cuba no juego. Si juego en un evento internacional, es con mi equipo. Y ese es mi sueño, tener la oportunidad de jugar por Cuba antes de retirarme.

First of all we are Cubans, regardless of where we are or whatever we are doing. Be it playing baseball, or sweeping a street in any place in the world, we continue being Cuban. In fact, I signed a clause in 2002 with the Yankees that states that I won't play against Cuba. If I play in an international event, I will play with my team. This is my dream, to have the opportunity to play for Cuba before I retire.

Throughout this month, Cuba has also reformed the programming of state television channels. As part of these changes, it was announced that a weekly transmission of baseball games from professional foreign leagues would be shown, satisfying the long-standing demand of the people, that could make possible the dream of watching the New York Yankees on screen.

The professionalisation of baseball is another pending matter for sports in Cuba. According to Contreras, “the best baseball in the world is in the US, but the Japanese, Korean, Domincans and Venezuelas all play there. The Cubans will also have to join and the quality will rise, indisputably”.

For the readers of OnCuba, the magazine that got the scoop on the interview, it is important that “the Cuban baseball players can get involved in the major leagues, and that Contreras’ dream of playing for Cuba in the World and Classic Leagues may come true”.

via Global Voices » Feature

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