“Jasmine Revolution”
Symbol of peace: Flowers placed on the barrel of a tank
in very much calmer protests than in recent days in Tunisia

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011
Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi. "Mohammed suffered a lot. He worked hard. but when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity." (Peter Hapak for TIME)

1 - TUNISIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

How eyepatches became a symbol of Egypt's revolution - Graffiti depicting a high ranking army officer with an eye patch Photograph: Nasser Nasser/ASSOCIATED PRESS

2 - EGYPT Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

''17 February Revolution"

3 - LIBYA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

5 - SYRIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

"25 January Youth Revolution"
Muslim and Christian shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
(Subjects: Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" (without a manager hierarchy) managed Businesses, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)
(Subjects:Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)

"If an Arab and a Jew can look at one another and see the Akashic lineage and see the one family, there is hope. If they can see that their differences no longer require that they kill one another, then there is a beginning of a change in history. And that's what is happening now. All of humanity, no matter what the spiritual belief, has been guilty of falling into the historic trap of separating instead of unifying. Now it's starting to change. There's a shift happening."

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

African Union (AU)

African Union (AU)
African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ Zacharias ABUBEKER)

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Few words can describe Nelson Mandela, so we let him speak for himself. Happy birthday, Madiba.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Palestinian engineer kidnapped in Ukraine appears in Israeli court

Dirar Abu Sisi denies knowing whereabouts of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, abducted by Hamas in 2006

guardian.co.uk, Conal Urquhart in Jerusalem, Thursday 31 March 2011

Palestinian engineer Dirar Abu Sisi, who is believed to have been
kidnapped from Ukraine by Mossad. Photograph: Ariel Schalit/AP

A Palestinian engineer who is believed to have been abducted from Ukraine by the Israeli secret service, Mossad, denied he had done anything wrong when he appeared in court on Thursday .

Prosecutors asked the court in Petah Tikva in central Israel to allow the continued detention of Dirar Abu Sisi for five days after which he would be charged. No charges have been made public.

Abu Sisi, who has not been seen since his abduction on 19 February, told the court that he had been abducted and that he denied all allegations against him. Referring to an Israeli solider abducted by Hamas in 2006, he said: "I don't know anything about Gilad Shalit. I don't know anything. I'm an engineer."

Reports suggest Abu Sisi was taken forcibly from a train in Kharkov then flown to Israel. It later emerged that he was being held in Ashqelon prison in southern Israel.

Abu Sisi works as an engineer for a power company in the Gaza Strip and is married to Veronika, a Ukrainian national with whom he has six children. His family said that he was in the Ukraine to apply for citizenship to enable his family to leave Gaza.

While no charges have been made against the engineer, the German magazine Der Spiegel claimed that he was kidnapped because he had knowledge of the whereabouts of Gilad Shalit. However, Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, said there was no direct link between Shalit and Abu Sisi.

"He didn't organise the abduction or guard Shalit but he is a person with intimate internal information on Hamas. This has value," he told Israel army radio.

Smadar Ben Natan, Abu Sisi's lawyer, said that she had general knowledge of the charges against her client which were out of proportion to the efforts made to bring him to Israel. "He is not a member of Hamas. He has a public position in the electricity distribution company. No one has said he is an essential person to any organisation, only that he has information. It's impossible to live in Gaza and not have some knowledge of Hamas," she told the Guardian.

In a telephone conversation made public on Thursday, Noam Shalit, the father of the Israeli soldier held in Gaza, asked Veronika Abu Sisi to help get his son released. She told him: "Your son is the same as my husband. Your son was kidnapped without foundation and my husband was kidnapped without foundation."

In Kiev, Mohammed al-Assad, the Palestinian envoy in Ukraine, told a news conference that Abu Sisi "was not a member of any organisation".

Describing Abu Sisi's disappearance as a "terrible act of piracy", Assad urged the Ukrainian authorities to put pressure on Israel to ensure his safe return to Ukraine.

"At the moment there is no proof that Mossad officials seized him, but the fact is that he is there," Assad said. "We consider his disappearance and relocation ... as an international crime for which someone must bear responsibility."

The abduction of Abu Sisi happened one year after suspected Mossad agents killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a member of Hamas, in his hotel room in Dubai. Dubai police issued arrest warrants for at least 26 agents who were travelling with British, Irish and other European passports. It later emerged that some of the passports had been copied from Israeli citizens who had dual nationality.

Gaza: Palestinian relatives of Dirar Abu Sisi (portrait) attend a
solidarity demonstration calling for his release from an Israeli
jail (AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)

Human rights film festival bestows awards

RNW, 31 March 2011

The Movies that Matter festival in The Hague, successor to the Amnesty International film event, has attracted three thousand more visitors than last year. Some 17,500 people flocked to see more than 70 human rights films and documentaries or to attend daily talk shows and debates with international guests.

At the prize ceremony on Wednesday, a Golden Butterfly was awarded to the directors of the documentary Sarabah - who followed Senegalese rap singer Sister Fa on her campaign against genital mutilation - and to Palestinian activist Ayed Morrar.

Subjected to mutilation herself as a child, Senegal’s queen of hip hop endeavoured to protect other girls from a similar fate. Maria Luisa Gambale and Gloria Bremer followed her back to her native village to try to put an end to this grievous tradition through music and education.

Ayed Morrar’s campaign showed that non-violent resistance can bear fruit. Israeli authorities had planned to build a segregation wall in the activist’s native Budrus, a small Palestinian village northwest of Ramallah, which would have deprived the Palestinian residents of their main source of income – the centuries-old olive trees. Thanks to Morrar’s unrelenting efforts, uniting Fatah and Hamas, the security barrier was eventually constructed outside the village.

The documentary Impunity by Juan José Lozano and Hollman Morris, which investigated the horrific violence within Colombian paramilitary groups, was awarded the Silver Butterfly. The winner of the MovieSquad All Rights Award for films about today’s youth was Neukölln Unlimited, which follows Lebanese break dance refugees in a Berlin district.

Gaddafi cannot be tried in The Hague court

RNW, 31 March 2011

The Palestinian-Bulgarian doctor Ashraf el Hagoug Gomma, who spent eight years in a Libyan jail on trumped-up charges, cannot sue Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for damages in a court in The Hague.

According to Dutch Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten, the Libyan leader is an incumbent head of state and therefore immune from persecution.

The doctor wants to sue Muammar Gaddafi and 12 officials of his regime for compensation for the suffering they inflicted upon him. His lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld says she will press ahead with the lawsuits against the twelve Libyan officials. She hopes to file a lawsuit against Gaddafi after his downfall.

El Hagoug Gomma, whose parents live in the Dutch town of Woerden, was released after a diplomatic offensive by the European Union and France. The doctor and five Bulgarian nurses were sentenced to death in 2004 on charges of intentionally infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus.

Is this the worst branding ever? GoDaddy boss filmed shooting elephant before hungry villagers wearing company logo hack into the carcass

Daily Mail, by DAILY MAIL REPORTER, 31st March 2011

This is the shocking video of GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons shooting an elephant in Zimbabwe.

In the disturbing holiday movie, internet entrepreneur Mr Parsons is seen shooting a bull elephant before having his picture taken as he perches on the carcass with a rifle in one hand and a smile on his face.

The video then cuts to the next day as hungry villagers wearing orange GoDaddy hats hack away at the dead elephant while a raucous rock soundtrack plays in the background.

Filmed: Bob Parsons smiles proudly over the corpse of the dead
bull elephant

Poor taste: Villagers are seen the next day hacking into the corpse
wearing the company logo

The shooting happened on March 8, and according to the video was meant as a gesture to help farmers who were having their crops destroyed by the marauding elephants.

As tense music plays in the background, scrolling text reads: 'For the second year in a row I spent ten days hunting problem elephant in Zimbabwe.

'Of everything I do this is the most rewarding.'

At first the team demonstrate the damage caused by the elephants.

After a few minutes the scree goes black, as the 'team' wait for the bull elephants to return to the crops.

A gun is then fired, which the film attributes to Mr Parsons.

Justified: Mr parsons said he shot the elephant because it was
eating the villagers crops

Captured: The elephant was shot by Mr parsons at night

The next day villagers are captured hacking into the carcass and carrying off the meat.

Several are wearing orange GoDaddy baseball caps.

The video has sparked angry exchanges between Mr Parsons and website change.org.

Petitioners on the site have rubbished Mr Parson's suggestion that non-lethal alternatives could be used to fend off destructive elephants such as beehives on poles or chili-infused string fences.

In response, Mr Parsons wrote on his blog that the petitioners: 'have no idea what they're talking about'. He wrote: 'The people there [Zimbabwe] have very little.

'Many die each year from starvation and one of the problems they have is the elephants, of which there are thousands and thousands, that trash many of their fields, destroying the crops.

'Should the folks at Change.org go to Zimbabwe with their bee hives and chili pepper lines, my guess is they'll return with a tusk in their ass and some very pissed off villages and farmers in their wake.'


Related Articles:

The Jakarta Post | Fri, 04/01/2011

A Thai customs official displays seized elephant tusks smuggled into Thailand from Kenya during a press conference at the customs headquarters in Bangkok on Friday. Thailand has confiscated two tons of African elephant tusks worth millions of dollars being smuggled through a Bangkok port, in what authorities said Friday was the country's largest ivory seizure. (AP/Sakchai Lalit)

S.Africa: Ivorian army chief seeks refuge

The Jakarta Post, Associated Press, Johannesburg | Thu, 03/31/2011

South Africa says the Ivorian army chief of staff has sought refuge at the home of the South African ambassador to the troubled West African country.

A statement issued by the foreign ministry Thursday said Gen. Phillippe Mangou, his wife and five children arrived at the ambassador's home in Abidjan, Ivory Coast Wednesday night.

South Africa says it is consulting with unnamed parties in Ivory Coast, West African regional leaders, the African Union and the U.N. on Mangou's move.

Mangou sought refuge as rebels fighting to install Ivory Coast's democratically elected president began besieging Abidjan after seizing a key seaport and the hometown of the country's entrenched ruler.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Libyan foreign minister defects, arrives in Britain

Reuters, LONDON | Wed Mar 30, 2011

(Reuters) - Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa arrived in Britain on Wednesday to seek refuge after quitting the government in protest against leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces attacks on civilians, a friend told Reuters.

Libya's Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa speaks
to the media at a hotel in Tripoli, Libya.
"He has defected from the regime," said Noman Benotman, a friend and senior analyst at Britain's Quilliam think tank.

"He wasn't happy at all. He doesn't support the government attacks on civilians," he said.

"He's seeking refuge in Britain and hopes he will be treated well," Benotman said.

Koussa is one of Gaddafi's key officials and the architect of a dramatic shift in Libya's foreign policy that brought the country back to the international community after years of sanctions.

(Reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Related Articles:

Libyan opposition set to launch TV channel from Qatar

Libya TV scheduled to start broadcasting tonight with fewer than 20 staff recruited via Facebook and funding from diaspora

guardian.co.uk, Jason Burke, Wednesday 30 March 2011

Libyan rebels are preparing to launch a television channel, broadcasting from Qatar.

The channel, named simply Libya and calling itself "the new channel for all Free Libyans" had been scheduled to start transmissions this evening, according to local media reports, though it is unclear whether that deadline will be met.

There was frenzied activity this evening at the Doha compound here the channel is based. Qatari police prevented journalists approaching the offices where technical staff appeared to be working.

A spokesman for Libya's Interim National Council, the hastily formed western-backed rebel leadership body, said that the timing was ideal.

"This is the first time in recent history that the Arab world is willing to listen to the west," Mahmoud Shammam, a Washington-based exile, told the Guardian. "This is a good opportunity for the west to reconnect with the East. Up to now, the west has supported every Arab dictator."

Shammam said the channel would focus on the humanitarian issues across Libya and would aim to "have a correspondent in every ... city."

Staff were apparently recruited via Facebook over recent weeks. Hundreds of applications for fewer than 20 posts were received. One new recruit arrived without even a change of clothes, direct from the war-torn Libyan city of Ajdabiya.

Mohamed al-Akari, the channel's manager, told Foreign Policy magazine that Libya TV was setting up studios in Benghazi and London, in addition to its headquarters in Doha.

Qatar, as well as agreeing to host the channel, has turned over the facilities and technical staff of a local network previously focused on cultural programming, the magazine said. The wealthy Gulf state, which has a population of 1.4 million, has strongly supported the coalition's military action in Libya, even sending its own warplanes to take part in operations.

Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based news channel, has played a leading role in the protests of recent months, while local analysts said the stance taken by the country's hereditary ruler, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, reflected the views of the Qatari public.

"Qataris were so happy to see our participation in removing the Libyan dictator Gaddafi who doesn't think twice before killing his own people," said Abdullah bin Hamad al-Athbah, a respected newspaper columnist in Doha. "Libya isn't similar to Iraq. We support the [UN security council] resolution all the way. We wish Arab states could handle the issue themselves but when it comes to reality this can't be done without UN intervention."

To start with, Libya TV aims to broadcast around four hours of original programming a day, including a 20-minute news bulletin and a half-hour talkshow. Foreign Policy reported that the channel was being funded primarily by donations from the Libyan disapora, including a single contribution of nearly £200,000 by a businessman living in the UK.

Namibia's President Pohamba declares floods emergency

BBC News, 30 March 2011

Related Stories

Namibia's President Hifikepunye Pohamba has declared a state of emergency following serious flooding in the north of the southern African country.

More than 20 people are reported to have drowned and some 10,000 displaced, many from the town of Oshakati.

The BBC's Frauke Jensen in the capital Windhoek says livestock have been lost, crops destroyed and roads washed away.

There has been heavy rainfall since January, causing water levels to rise in the Zambezi and Okavango rivers.

Two years ago, more than 90 people were killed by floods in Namibia.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Amnesty International details 'enforced disappearances' in Libya

CNN News, By the CNN Wire Staff, March 29, 2011

Among the missing in Libya are "those suspected of being
rebel fighters or supporters of fighters," says Amnesty International.

  • Amnesty International looks at more than 30 disappearances
  • It appears to be a "systematic policy," it says
  • There likely are many more unreported cases, the organization says

(CNN) -- Atef 'Abd al-Qader Al-Atrash is a 32-year-old Libyan blogger, government critic, and a father of two young children. He has not been seen since a February 18 gathering near Benghazi.

Amnesty International said in a briefing paper issued Tuesday that Al-Atrash is one of many people who have vanished in what they say is a "campaign of enforced disappearances" -- a practice by pro-Moammar Gadhafi forces trying to squelch the opposition movement.

The paper -- titled "Libya: Detainees, Disappeared and Missing" -- explores more than 30 cases of people who have disappeared since protests started in the war-torn North African nation. Among those missing are political activists and "those suspected of being rebel fighters or supporters of fighters."

"It appears that there is a systematic policy to detain anyone suspected of opposition to Colonel al-Gaddafi's rule, hold them incommunicado, and transfer them to his strongholds in western Libya," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa. "Given the circumstances of their enforced disappearance there is every reason to believe that these individuals are at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment."


Smart called on Gadhafi to "halt this outrageous campaign and order his forces to abide by international law."

Amnesty says the documented cases "are believed to represent only a small proportion of the total number of people who have been detained or have disappeared" recently in Gadhafi's custody.

Recent video indicates the extent of the problem. It shows prisoners roughed up and taunted by Gadhafi forces. Some of them say there were demonstrators and others deny it.

"The true number is impossible to establish, as the authorities in Tripoli generally do not divulge information about detainees they are holding and because many areas of the country are not accessible for independent reporting. Some relatives of detainees are also unwilling to publicize their names for fear of possible reprisals," Amnesty said.

Libyan officials did not immediately respond to efforts to obtain a response to the Amnesty International report.

The cases include "three broad categories," the report says:

  • Government critics, pro-democracy activists, writers and others detained in the days before the February 17 "peaceful demonstrations" across Libya.

    They appear to have been arrested by the authorities as a pre-emptive strike in an effort to nip the protests in the bud following the public protests that had caused the downfall of longstanding repressive governments in Tunisia and Egypt, two of Libya's neighbors."

  • Anti-government protestors and youths who went missing on February 20, when the Kateeba al-Fadheel, a pro-Gadhafi special forces unit, was forced to evacuate from a military compound in Benghazi after violent clashes with protesters.

    "Amnesty International has documented the cases of nine men and boys who have not been seen since they went to the Kateeba compound area on evening of 20 February 2011, including four teenagers under 18."

  • People captured in or near Ben Jawad, where there had been "intermittent fighting."

    "Amnesty International has obtained information about a number of individuals who went missing in the area between Ajdabiya and Ben Jawad, west of Benghazi. Some are believed to have been fighters, others to be civilians who went to the area in order to assist the wounded, and still others people who may have been onlookers."

Amnesty said foreign journalists who had been detained and released "have reported that they were beaten and assaulted and threatened with execution, in some cases even being subjected to mock execution, and have expressed concern about Libyans who they saw being mistreated in detention."

It said there are fears too that some detainees may be held "as bargaining chips or to put pressure on their relatives and friends to deter them from joining the opposition."

The agency said its concerns "are heightened by the long pattern of gross and widespread human rights violations" that have marked Gadhafi's rule. "These include enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, prolonged arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, as well as severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the rights to freedom of assembly and association."

Amnesty is urging the government to release peaceful protesters, ensure than any alleged captured fighters be treated humanely and given access to the Red Cross, and grant "unhindered access" to humanitarian groups.

As for Atef 'Abd al-Qader Al-Atrash, his family fears for his safety. One relative told Amnesty that "he has simply disappeared," and speculates he was taken to areas under the control of pro-Gadhafi forces.

"We kept trying to call his phone but never got through, until some days later when a man who spoke with a western (western Libyan) accent answered and said: 'this is what happens to those who throw stones at us'. But Atef had never even thrown stones," the relative said.

Egypt Asks for Indonesia’s Help in Implementing Democracy

Jakarta Globe, Ismira Lutfia | March 29, 2011

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, right, walking his
Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd, prior to their meeting in Jakarta
on Tuesday. Marty is expected to visit Egypt next month to share Indonesia’s
experiences on its successes and failures during its ongoing transition to a
democracy. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Related articles

Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa is slated to visit Egypt next month to share Indonesia’s experiences on its successes and failures during its ongoing transition to a democracy.

“They have requested our assistance on the process of organizing an election and [setting up] regulations on political parties,” Marty said on Monday. “The process is ongoing now but we have to do it wisely so that it doesn’t seen seem as though we’re preaching to them.”

Speaking during a meeting with House of Representatives (DPR) Commission I for foreign relations, Marty said Tunisia had also sought the same assistance.

He said the correct approach to sharing information of the transitional process for Middle East countries was necessary to ensure that it was “measurable.”

“If we look back to 1998, we would not have wanted other countries telling us what to do regarding our democratization process here,” he said.

Marty added that a number of countries had sought to advise Egypt on its transition process, with Indonesia invited to join a Western-led group to assist Egypt in implementing democracy.

Indonesia, however, had declined the offer knowing that Egypt would not agree to it, he said.

“We used the bilateral approach, which was more acceptable and they opened up to us and invited us to come to share our experience,” he said.

“But we must ensure that we do it cautiously without giving the impression that we are lecturing them.”

Related Articles:

Syrian cabinet to resign: official

The Sydney Morning Herald, AFP, March 29, 2011

The Syrian government will resign on Tuesday and a new cabinet will see the light within 24 hours, a high-ranking official in Damascus said.

"The government will tender its resignation today and a new cabinet should be formed within 24 hours," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, thousands of supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have poured into central Damascus in a show of support for their leader, who is facing unprecedented domestic pressure amid a wave of dissent.

All roads leading to Sabeh Bahrat ("Seven Seas") square in Damascus were cut off by police armed with batons, as men, women and children raised Syrian flags and pictures of Assad and his father, late president Hafez al-Assad.

"The people want Bashar al-Assad," they chanted in unison, under a massive picture of their blue-eyed president that had been hoisted on Syria's central bank.

"We are here to show the real will of the Syrian people, and that is to protect and supporter their president, may God protect him," said a young woman named Raghad, who turned out early for the rally with her sisters.

"This rally is to stop the plot to destroy Syrian unity," said a man who identified himself as Abu Khodr.

"Bashar al-Assad is the spine of Syria. Without him, our country will be pushed into chaos."

The rally comes after a pledge by the authorities to lift the state of emergency in force since the ruling Baath party took power in 1963, sparked by two weeks of increasingly violent protests against the rule of Assad.

Assad, who came to power in 2000, is expected to address his people in the days to come and announce a string of reforms.

Syria has been gripped by a wave of deadly dissent since mid-March which has put President Bashar al-Assad under unprecedented pressure as protesters call for reforms.

Assad, who rose to power in 2000, is expected in the days to come to address his people to announce the end of a state of emergency in Syria, in force since the ruling Baath party took power in 1963.

Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri formed his government in 2003 and it was last re-shuffled in April 2009.

Related Article:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Syrian president's old friend appeals for reform

CNN News, March 27, 2011, by Steven Jiang, CNN

Ayman Abdel Nour still remembers Bashar al-Assad fondly as a friend with whom he went to dinners and hung out on the campus of Damascus University in the 1980s.

Ayman Abdel Nour (above) went to college with
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"I studied engineering and he wanted to be a doctor," recalled Abdel Nour, founder of Syria's leading independent online news bulletin, All4Syria. "He was very modest and humble."

Now, Abdel Nour lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates. In 2007, he fled what he considered the increasingly intolerant reign of President Assad, who was elected to a second term that year with 97% of the vote.

As a presidential confidant turned voice of dissent, Abdel Nour fears for his life.

"We are the most targeted," he said.

Amid news of violent anti-government protests and the state's ruthless crackdown in Syria in recent days, Abdel Nour says his fellow countrymen are suffering the consequences of Assad's decision to expand the power of security forces.

"Under the law, they are immune," he said of the security forces. "This was decreed by the president in 2008."

In 2000, Assad succeeded his late father, who ruled Syria with an iron fist for nearly three decades. When he first took office, Assad loosened some state restrictions on the Syrian people, but observers say that he has since slowed -- even reversed -- that move toward political reform.

Abdel Nour says many Westerners held unrealistic expectations of Assad because of his personal background. The 45-year-old Assad studied to be an ophthalmologist in London, but became Syria's heir apparent after the death of his older brother.

"This is a problem of the Western media that portray him as a Westerner using iPad, married to a British national and speaks English," he said. "But as he said many times, it doesn't mean I am a Westerner in my thinking -- for sure I'm Syrian!"

Despite their shattered friendship, Abdel Nour remains somewhat torn about Bashar the man -- "he was great, really" -- and Assad the president.

"It depends on the room he is in and who he is with," he said. "If he is the president, he has no heart."

Recent clashes in Syria only reinforced Abdel Nour's notion that Assad squandered an opportunity to launch political reform. He says most protesters -- including the dozens killed by security forces -- likely voted for the president's re-election only four years ago.

Abdel Nour says Assad has been receiving wrong advice from his inner circle to blame the protests on foreign interference, instead of addressing root causes like social injustice.

Reminiscing about their college days when the two constantly talked about Syria's future -- "politics was our drug" -- Abdel Nour has a simple suggestion for Assad.

"Listen to the people," he said, "And you will enter history."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Egyptian PM's visit to Sudan achieves fruitful results

English.news.cn, by Fayez el-Zaki Hassan, 2011-03-28

KHARTOUM, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf visited Sudan on Sunday and singed a series of agreements to boost bilateral ties.

Sharaf met with Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha in the Friendship Hall in Khartoum and inked nine agreements and memorandums of understanding, included a cooperation agreement between the Social Insurance Fund in Egypt and the Sudanese Chamber of Zakat (alms) and Development, as well as a framework agreement between Cairo University and the Sudanese Ministry of Higher Educations regarding the return of the mission of Cairo University-Khartoum Branch to operate in Sudan.

The two sides also singed two memorandums of understanding in the fields of administrative reforms and exchange of banking information and data.

The Egyptian prime minister said during the talks that it is important to double the volume of bilateral trade which stood at 622 million U.S. dollars in 2010.

He expressed hope that the Egyptian investments in Sudan would rise from the current figure of five billion dollars.

Egypt is the third largest investor in Sudan, Sharaf said, urging the Egyptian private sector to enter into joint investments in Sudan and expand fields of cooperation.

Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, for his part, said that Sudan and Egypt would focus in the coming period on food security projects, and working to establish companies in the vital fields, particularly "wheat, oil, sugar and meat" to achieve self- sufficiency of these strategic crops.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation and Planning Fayza Naga cited a number of barriers hampering the flow of commercial exchanges between the two countries, including the certificates of origins and transport.

Fayza Naga urged the Sudanese authorities to exempt the Egyptian companies operating in field of exportation from the Value Added Tax (VAT), resolve the problem of air transport, particularly regarding entry of the Egyptian aviation into the Sudanese air space, and activate the freedom of ownership for the Egyptians in Sudan.

Regarding the Nile water which concerns both Sudanese and Egyptian government, Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hussein al-Atfy held separate talks with his Sudanese counterpart Kamal Ali Mohamed.

Al-Atfy told reporters that his talks with his Sudanese counterpart reviewed the important role of the joint committee for developing the joint higher authority for the Nile.

He said the two countries were looking forward that the authority would play an important role in the coming period to face the challenges and reflect the visions of the two countries in this respect.

Editor: Mu Xuequan

Madagascar opposition groups reject new unity government

Three groups, led by former presidents, refuse to initial road map aimed at ending two-year impasse

guardian.co.uk, Reuters, Sunday 27 March 2011

Madagascar's new government includes 23 new ministers.
Photograph: Gregoire Pourtier/AFP/Getty Images

Three opposition groups in Madagascar have rejected a new unity government named as part of a road map to end a two-year impasse.

The government, named on Saturday, has 23 new ministers while nine members of the previous administration retain their posts – including the ministers of finance, mines and hydrocarbons, justice, defence, and the environment and forests.

The groups, led by former presidents Marc Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, declined to initial the plan, which allows Andry Rajoelina, who grabbed power with military support in 2009, to remain president until free and fair elections are held.

Rajoelina did, however, include some members of the party founded by Ravalomanana and some dissidents within his movement.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) had long called for Rajoelina to go so Ravalomanana could return to power, but it shifted its stance earlier this year by approving the plan to leave Rajoelina in office until elections.

The prime minister, Camille Vital, said he thought the new government was inclusive and that SADC would accept it.

A member of Zafy's group, however, said the government had been formed unilaterally by Rajoelina's transitional administration to buy more time.

An official in Ravalomanana's movement said that until the road map had been signed, the current administration had no business appointing a new government.

The political deadlock has hurt Madagascar's economy after donors froze budgetary support worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Government spending dried up and private investment slowed sharply after the power grab.

An independent electoral commission and UN representatives will agree a date for the election based on evaluations of how soon a credible vote can be held.

Related Article:

CNN cameraman faces gun, has camera smashed in Libya hotel

CNN News, March 27, 2011

CNN photojournalist Khalil Abdallah recounted his
experience to CNN.com writer Ashley Fantz for this story.

  • CNN journalist sees woman burst into hotel saying Gadhafi supporters raped, beat her
  • Khalil Abdallah understood her cries in Arabic: "Look at what Gadhafi's brigades did to me!"
  • Abdallah says government minders violently blocked journalists, broke his camera
  • Abdallah saw one minder with a gun in his hand, so the photojournalist backed away

TRIPOLI, Libya (CNN) -- CNN photojournalist Khalil Abdallah was having breakfast Saturday in a Tripoli hotel which houses foreign press, when a woman burst into the restaurant, screaming that she had been raped and beaten for days by Moammar Gadhafi's brigades.

CNN photojournalist Khalil Abdallah, far left,
holds his camera tight while a man tries to snatch it.
Her sudden entrance startled the group of international journalists, who were about to begin another day covering the crisis in Libya.

The woman's face was heavily bruised, a long bruise running down the left side of her cheek. She walked around, sobbing, shouting, lifting her dress to show a bloody thigh. Her ankles and wrists were bloody where she said she had been bound.

One of the few present who spoke Arabic, the photojournalist understood her pleas.

"She was saying, 'We are all Libyans! Why don't you treat us the same?'" Abdallah recounted Sunday for CNN.com.

The woman told the journalists that she had been picked up at a government checkpoint east of Tripoli, tied, beaten and raped for two days.

Her name was Eman al-Obeidy, she said.

Woman alleges Libyan forces raped her


"Look at what Gadhafi's brigades did to me!" she screamed. "My honor was violated by them!"

Reporters gathered around her, trying to calm her, Abdallah recalled.

He and other photojournalists dashed for their cameras.

"We were all in shock," Abdallah said, trying to keep a steady hand.

He knew that minders -- the men Libya's government assigns to foreign journalists to monitor their every move -- were nearby.

Reporters had barely asked a few questions before those minders were on them, pushing and shoving reporters to the side, trying to jerk the woman away. Some of them were wearing their distinctive red badges, Abdallah said, while others were in plain clothes. They threw punches.
Journalists tried to defend themselves and keep the woman away from the minders.

"It was like a rugby pileup," Abdallah said.

A correspondent for Britain's Channel 4, Jonathan Miller, tried to push one of the minders back.
The woman was trying to fight back as well, Abdallah said.

"She is pushing him (a minder) back saying, 'Don't touch me, leave me alone!'" he said.

"From that point on, everybody in this hotel was against us (the journalists)," the photojournalist recounted.

Minders ran after journalists, jumping on them, beating them, he said.

At one point a bag was placed over the woman's head and she was led out to the hotel garden.

She was questioned for about 40 minutes, and then minders came back inside. They announced that the woman was crazy and that she was being taken to the hospital.

"All the minders were telling us she was drunk or had mental problems," Abdallah said.

A short while later, the woman was led through the lobby. Journalists followed, protesting, shouting for the men to let her go.

A journalist can be heard on video asking her: "Are you OK?"

"No," the woman answers, her voice shaky.

She yells into a camera: "If you don't see me tomorrow, then that's it!"

The woman is forced into a waiting car. She shouts that she is being taken to jail.

The minders told reporters that they could see the woman again, later.

"We have been told that we'd see people again, but we never do," said Abdallah.

An image he captured shows a minder pointing his finger at Abdallah just before snatching his camera and breaking it.

"He ripped the microphone off, the viewfinder, his nails sunk into my arm," said Abdallah. "I was pulling the camera one way; he was pulling it the other way."

While wrestling for his camera, Abdallah saw a minder standing nearby holding a 9 mm handgun. The photojournalist let go and slowly began to back out of the restaurant.

Then Abdallah heard something from the minders that he has come to expect, but that never fails to sting him.

"'He is Arab!' they were shouting. 'Why is he doing this to us?'"

"Once you're labeled like that, it doesn't matter what your citizenship is," he said.

"But what I felt more was terrible for this woman and how the government is going to deal with her.

"That is the thing that is most disturbing."

Get the latest news about Libya and check out an interactive map explaining the conflict. A photo gallery can be viewed here.

A Ministry of Information official, left, yells at the press to stop filming as he
grabs Iman Al-Obeidi, who said she spent two days in detention after being
arrested at a checkpoint in Tripoli, Libya, and was sexually assaulted by
up to 15 men while in custody, in Tripoli Saturday March 26, 2011, after
storming into the hotel's breakfast room to show her wounds to foreign media.
A scuffle between hotel employees, information ministry officials and plain clothed
police trying to grab her and stop the press for filming on one side and foreign
media representatives followed. Two cameras were smashed on the ground
and at least one reporter was beaten and kicked. Al-Obeidi was later taken in
a car to an undisclosed location. Left and top right are unidentified foreign journalists
. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)