“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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Afghan girl's 'horrifying abuse' exposed by video

BBC News, by Caroline Wyatt, Kabul, 29 December 2011

Related Stories 

The 15-year-old says her hair and her nails
were pulled out by her mother-in-law
A video given to the BBC shows the extent of the injuries suffered by a 15 year-old Afghan child bride who was locked up and tortured by her husband.

The girl was left starving after being detained by him and his family for several months.

The case came to light this week when police rescued the teenager, Sahar Gul, who had been locked up in the basement of her in-laws' house.

Police say that she had had her nails and clumps of hair pulled out.

In addition they say she had chunks of flesh cut out with pliers.

Windowless room

Sahar Gul was married off to a 30-year-old man around seven months ago, when she was just 14 years old. Her parents contacted police after not being able to see her for several months.

She was rescued from a dark, windowless room in her in-laws' house, according to Baghlan police official Jawid Basharat.

In the video, as Sahar is taken to hospital in a wheelchair, she is asked who beat her. She names her father-in-law, her husband, her sister-in-law, her brother-in-law and her mother-in-law. The 15-year-old says her hair and her nails were pulled out by her mother-in-law.

The authorities in the northern Baghlan province said they were aware of reports that the girl was tortured after she refused to be forced into prostitution, but could not confirm that was the case.

Rahima Zarifi, director of the Women's Affairs Department in Baghlan, said Sahar had been severely tortured, both physically and mentally, and that the psychological scars were likely to endure.

The police have managed to arrest Sahar's in-laws, but her husband had already fled.

Women in many parts of Afghanistan continue to suffer domestic abuse, often at the hands of their own family or in-laws.

Human rights activists worry that the plight of many women here, especially in rural areas, is being sidelined as the international community focuses on its military drawdown, and puts less emphasis and less pressure on the Afghan authorities over human rights.

In the second quarter of this year alone, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission registered 1,026 cases of violence against women, compared with a total last year of 2,700.

Those are only the cases that come to light.

Under Afghan law, the earliest age for marriage for girls is 16. However, almost half of Afghan women are married when they are younger.

Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat retrains his fingers

RNW, 30 December 2011, by Jannie Schipper   

(Photo: Ali Ferzat)

"Once my fingers have healed, I'll go back," says the renowned Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat. In a physical attack in August his hands were severely injured, making it temporarily impossible to draw cartoons. Earlier this month Mr Ferzat won the European Sakharov Prize for freedom of speech.

Born in 1951, Ferzat Ali has been working for thirty years as a cartoonist in Syria. He has won several prizes for his work, including the Dutch Prince Claus Award in 2003. Until early 2011 his cartoons used symbols to represent the powerful. But since April, he has drawn recognizable caricatures of the president and other leaders.

"Times have changed," says Mr Ferzat by telephone from Kuwait. "Before, people had time at home to think about the symbols that we used. Since the people have taken to the streets, we should be more direct."

Wall of fear

''Fear dominated the people, including me, "continues Mr Ferzat. However, a year ago he decided, 'to break the wall of fear.' "I was the first person who had drawn caricatures of the president, security officers and ministers since 1963."

That courage nearly cost him his life on 25 August 2011. Mr Ferzat left his office as usual and got into his car. On his way home, a car with tinted windows blocked the road. He knew that type of car was used by the security services. The men kidnapped and assaulted him, aiming specifically at his face and hands. According to Mr Ferzat they had batons with them "like the police use."

Eventually he was thrown out of a moving car on the way to the airport, about fifty miles from his home in Damascus. "Nobody stopped to pick me up because I looked so gruesome and bloody." When a truckload of workers stopped with a flat tyre, he was able to get back into town. At the moment Ali Ferzat is still recovering in Kuwait.

Old friends

Mr Ferzat and Bashar al-Assad are old friends. The cartoonist has worked for various state media and knows the president personally. "Before Bashar al-Assad came to power, he had discussions with intellectuals and artists. We could propose solutions to the problems we encountered."

When Bashar took over the reins from his deceased father Hafez al-Assad in 2000, according to Mr Ferzat he talked about freedom and modernization. Encouraged by the president, the cartoonist started the independent magazine Al-Domari (the lamp igniter), which is considered as the first independent magazine since the Baath Party came to power.


But the fun was soon over. "The same president who had encouraged me to tackle the economic mafia in the country, was absent when they declared war on me." When the regime realised after a few months that Al-Domari was not afraid of publishing sharp criticism, the censorship got worse.

"Sometimes we published white pages instead of the censored articles," says Mr Ferzat. With some irony, he adds: "The white copies sold better than the printed ones." The distribution was taken over by the regime, "so that they had the freedom not to publish the magazine." After two years Al-Domari came to an end.

Mr Ferzat is convinced that the insurgents in Syria will win. "The response of repression and security that the regime has chosen, has failed. Now, people face the deadly weapons with bare chests."

Return to Syria

Mr Ferzat is busy retraining his fingers. Once he has recovered, the cartoonist will return to Syria. That's not a choice, he says. "I don't own a supermarket that I can freely open and close. Drawing cartoons is my only profession. The art is a gift from God, and I must continue to bring my message."

This article is a co-production with PRI's The World.

Related Articles:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Report: Bahrain adopts zero tolerance torture policy

CNN News, by the CNN Wire Staff, December 29, 2011

A Bahraini man protests Tuesday at a rally of employees who lost
their jobs for "free speech activity" in Isa Town.

  • Bahrain's government is adopting recommendations made by an independent commission
  • The commission found that police tortured civilians arrested during a crackdown on protests
  • Additionally, Bahrain is reinstating government workers fired for "free speech activity"

(CNN) -- Bahrain is adopting a zero tolerance policy toward "torture, inhuman treatment and degrading detention" practices toward political prisoners -- one of a number of recommendations made by an independent commission looking into claims of abuse during a crackdown on protesters earlier this year.

The government announced the policy in a statement released by the state-run Bahrain News Agency on Wednesday evening.

The moves follows last month's report by an independent commission that found police tortured and used excessive force against civilians arrested during a crackdown on the protests that followed successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

The oil-rich kingdom, according to the statement, is committed to implementing the recommendations "in their entirety."

The government plans to reinstate all government employees who were fired after they were charged with "free speech activity," the statement said.

The government also is ordering that all pending cases of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" be transferred to its top judicial office for investigation.

Additionally, Bahrain is ordering the use of audio-video equipment during interviews with suspects, witnesses and detainees, the statement said.

The move follows news over the weekend that Bahrain plans to drop charges related "to speech protected by the right to freedom of expression," the news agency said. Forty-three cases applying to 343 people will benefit from the announcement, it said.

Demonstrations demanding political reform and greater freedoms in Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority Bahrain began February 14 before authorities -- backed by troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- cracked down in two waves, first in February and later in mid-March.

Thirty civilians and five security officers were killed during that time, the commission said.

Opposition groups say more than 1,000 people -- mainly Shiites -- have been detained for allegedly taking part in the demonstrations.

CNN's Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

Related Articles:

US 'deeply concerned' after Egyptian forces raid NGO offices in Cairo

State Department urges government to 'resolve this immediately' as US-Egyptian relations threaten to sink to new low

guardian.co.uk, Peter Beaumont and Paul Harris in New York, Thursday 29 December 2011

The IRI said it was 'dismayed and disappointed', while the NDI said the
raids sent a 'disturbing signal'. Photograph: Mohammed Asad/AP

Relations between Egypt's military rulers and the United States threatened to hit a new low after Egyptian security forces launched unprecedented armed raids on a series of high profile human rights and pro-democracy organisations.

The raids included targeting the US-government funded National Democratic Institute – founded by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright – and the International Republican Institute, whose chairman is Republican senator John McCain. Both organisations are affiliated with the two major US political parties.

The orchestrated move by Egypt's generals, apparently keen to play up to anti-US and nationalist feelings in the country, will be seen as highly provocative in Washington, which underwrites military aid to Egypt to the sum of $1.3bn (£843m) annually.

"We are deeply concerned," a State Department official told the Guardian.

The raids prompted a stern response from the organisations targeted. The IRI immediately condemned the raids, claiming they were worse than took place under Egypt's former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

"IRI is dismayed and disappointed by these actions. IRI has been working with Egyptians since 2005; it is ironic that even during the Mubarak era IRI was not subjected to such aggressive action," the group said in a statement.

Meanwhile, NDI president Kenneth Wollack urged Egyptian authorities to allow the centre to reopen and to return any confiscated property. "Cracking down on organisations whose sole purpose is to support the democratic process during Egypt's historic transition sends a disturbing signal," Wollack said.

Security forces also raided the offices of Washington-based Freedom House.

During the raids riot police confined staff to their offices and forbade them from making phone calls. Seventeen Egyptian and international groups were targeted as part of a widespread investigation into foreign funding of Egyptian civic society groups.

The State Department official said US authorities had been in touch with senior Egyptian figures at "high levels" and that ambassador Anne Patterson had been in contact with the prime minister, Kamal al-Ganzouri.

"We call on the Egyptian government to resolve this issue immediately and to end harassment of NGO staff as well as return all property," the official said.

In recent months, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has accused local non-governmental organisations of receiving money from abroad, and has argued that the recent unrest in the country is by "foreign hands".

Hana el-Hattab, an NDI staffer trapped inside her office, tweeted: "We're literally locked in. I really have no idea why they are holding us inside and confiscating our personal laptops." In other tweets she wrote: "I was on the balcony, dude with machine gun came up and told us to go in and locked it … we asked if they had a search warrant, they said the person who issues warrants is in building & doesn't need to issue one for himself. They're even taking history books from people's bags."

The National Democratic Institute is supported in its work by the US State Department, USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Heba Morayef, who works with Human Rights Watch in Egypt, said she had received a message from an NDI staffer confirming they had been confined inside their offices by riot police. Images posted on Twitter showed armed police in body armour stationed outside.

The Egyptian news agency Mena said the 17 "civil society organisations" had been targeted as part of an investigation into foreign funding of such groups.

"The public prosecutor has searched 17 civil society organisations, local and foreign, as part of the foreign funding case," Mena cited the prosecutor's office as saying. "The search is based on evidence showing violation of Egyptian laws including not having permits."

Security forces, both uniformed and plain-clothes, forced their way into the offices, where employees were informed that they were under investigation by the public prosecutor. According to witnesses, laptops and other documents were also seized during the raids.

The raids follow a far-reaching investigation into the foreign funding of human rights and civic advocacy groups launched under the aegis of the country's ruling generals earlier this year.

Ironically, the law being used to pursue the groups is one from the era of Mubarak, which the government had said it intended to repeal.

During the Mubarak era, groups such as NDI and IRI and others had existed in a grey area, unable to obtain permission to operate in full legal compliance.

Other groups reportedly raided, according to activists, include the Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung, which supports political dialogue, Freedom House, and the Egyptian Public Budget Observatory.

Morayef condemned the raids, and the investigation that led to them, as "entirely inappropriate", adding: "This is part of a wider crackdown on civil society groups in Egypt using Mubarak-era laws. They are using these pre-revolution laws as a broadbrush investigation that could result in wholesale shutting down of human rights and other groups that have been at the forefront of criticism of the army.

"This is very selective and really, really serious. It has huge potential implications for human rights in Egypt."

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said: "The NDI, IRI and Freedom House have been previously investigated by the ministry of justice on charges of receiving foreign funding, while the Arab Centre for the Independence of Justice and Legal Professions has not been yet investigated."

The army has pledged to step aside by mid-2012. "In Mubarak's time the government never dared to do such a thing," said prominent human rights activists Negad el-Bourai on his Twitter account.

Political experts said the groups raided on Thursday have taken a neutral political stance, focusing on fostering democracy in Egypt by training members of nascent parties. "The National Democratic Institute has been training new parties … in how to participate in elections," a leading member of a liberal party said on condition of anonymity. This has been with the full knowledge of authorities and was not clandestine."

The NDI and IRI say they take a neutral political stance, fostering democracy in Egypt by training members of nascent parties in democratic processes.

Related Articles:

Elephant poaching: 'Record year' for ivory seizures

BBC News, 29 December 2011

Elephants tusks are in huge demand in Asia

Related Stories 

More elephant tusks were seized in 2011 than in any year since 1989, when the ivory trade was banned, international wildlife trade group Traffic says.

The group said elephants have had a "horrible year", with 23 tonnes of ivory seized - representing at least 2,500 dead animals.

Trade in ivory was banned in 1989 to save elephants from extinction.

But it has continued illegally because of huge demand in Asia, where some believe ivory has medicinal properties.

This is despite ample scientific evidence to the contrary.

"The escalating large ivory quantities involved in 2011 reflect both a rising demand in Asia and the increasing sophistication of the criminal gangs behind the trafficking," said a statement from Traffic, which monitors the trade in wildlife products.

"Most illegal shipments of African elephant ivory end up in either China or Thailand."

Shifting smuggling route

The group said there had been at least 13 large seizures of ivory this year, amounting to more than 23 tonnes, compared to six last year of less than 10 tonnes.

"In 23 years of compiling ivory seizure data... this is the worst year ever for large ivory seizures. 2011 has truly been a horrible year for elephants," Traffic's elephant expert Tom Milliken said.

Traffic said the smugglers appear to have shifted away from using air to sea - in early 2011, three of the large scale ivory seizures were at airports but later in the year most were found in sea freight.

"The only common denominator in the trafficking is that the ivory departs Africa and arrives in Asia, but the routes are constantly changing, presumably reflecting where the smugglers gamble on being their best chance of eluding detection," it said.

In six of the large 2011 seizures, Malaysia was a transit country in the supply chain, Traffic said.

In the most recent case on 21 December, Malaysian authorities seized hundreds of African elephant tusks worth about $1.3 million (£844,000) that were being shipped to Cambodia.

The ivory was hidden in containers of handicrafts from Kenya's Mombasa port, Traffic said.

Mr Milliken said despite the seizures, there were generally few arrests.

"I fear the criminals are winning," he said.

Some environmental campaigners say the decision to allow some southern African countries, whose elephants populations are booming, to sell their stockpiles of ivory has fuelled the illegal trade.

Those countries - South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe - however, deny this and argue they should be rewarded for looking after their elephant populations.

Saudi women to run, vote without male approval

The Jakarta Post, Abdullah Al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,  Thu, 12/29/2011

Free to choose: In this April 29 file photo, a Saudi woman
 attends a traditional Arda dance, or War dance, during the
 Janadriyah Festival of Heritage and Culture, on the outskirts
of the Saudi capital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A Saudi official
says for the first time, women in the conservative kingdom will
not need a male guardian's approval to run or vote in municipal
elections in 2015. (AP/Hassan Ammar)
Women in Saudi Arabia will not need a male guardian's approval to run or vote in municipal elections in 2015, when women will also run for office for the first time, a Saudi official has said.

The change signifies a step forward in easing the kingdom's restrictions against women, but it falls far short of what some Saudi reformers are calling for.

Shura Council member Fahad al-Anzi was quoted in the state-run al-Watan newspaper on Wednesday saying that approval for women to run and vote came from the guardian of Islam's holiest sites, the Saudi king, and therefore women will not need a male guardian's approval. 

The country's Shura Council is an all-male consultative body with no legislative powers.

Despite the historic decision by the king to allow women the right to participate in the country's only open elections, male guardian laws in Saudi Arabia remain largely unchanged. Women cannot travel, work, study abroad, marry, get divorced or gain admittance to a public hospital without permission from a male guardian.

The country is guided by an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism.

Hatoun al-Fasi, a women's history professor in Riyadh, said just the announcement that Saudi women can run for office and vote without permission will stir debate.

"It's being brought up out of the blue and could open doors to discussions that we have enough of already," al-Fasi said.

While King Abdullah has pushed for some changes on women's rights, he has been cautious not to push too hard against ultraconservative clerics, who have in the past challenged social reforms. Saudi's ruling family draws its legitimacy from the backing of the kingdom's religious establishment.

The male guardianship laws are particularly stifling for women, Saudi female activist Wajeha al-Hawidar said.

"These laws make the woman like a child in all aspects of her life. She is not dealt with as an adult with a fully developed brain," al-Hawidar said.

The restrictions are practically all-encompassing.

Saudi women cannot study abroad unless a male guardian approves and accompanies them throughout their studies. Government-run hospitals are allowed to perform surgery on women only with approval from a male guardian, except in emergencies. Male guardians in Saudi Arabia are allowed to remove their daughters or sisters from school at any time. In the case that a father, uncle or brother is not available, mothers turn to their sons for approval to work or travel.

"Male guardianship laws are a problem that the Saudi woman has been dealing with for years. 

It's our number one demand that these laws be revoked," al-Fasi said. "It goes against the social rights that Islam gives women."

Al-Fasi and other Saudi women have been pushing the Saudi government for social reforms and greater rights for women, including allowing women the right to drive and for the dissolution of male guardianship laws. Saudi women have staged protests defying the ban.

Al-Hawidar said Wednesday's announcement means another barrier for women in Saudi Arabia has been lifted. However, she said the government might not see it through, because of expected resistance by those opposing such reforms.

"There are people in the government willing to listen reasonably, but people in society are not," al-Hawidar said. "They will hate you just for being different, and with these people there is no common language."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Qatar flexing muscle in changing world

BBC News, by Michael Buchanan, Doha, 28 December 2011

Qatar's military joined the Nato-led intervention in Libya, training the rebels

Related Stories 

On a recent Sunday afternoon, the normally sober, orderly centre of Doha was transformed into a triumphant melee of noise and colour as thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate Qatar's National Day.

This year has been something of a coming of age for this small Gulf nation.

It strongly backed the rebels in Libya and has led regional criticism of the crackdowns on protesters by Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"We have to contribute with whatever we have - politics, money or by supporting military action, whatever it takes to support other nations," said one Qatari reveller.

At the state-of-the-art studios of Libya TV in Doha, they know all about support from Qatar. 

Libya TV is funded by Qatar's government
The station was set up in the early days of the Libyan conflict to counter the propaganda being broadcast on Libyan state TV by Col Muammar Gaddafi's supporters; it is still being completely funded by the Qatari government.

Qatar also joined the Nato-led military action in Libya, helped train the rebels, flew the injured to Doha for medical treatment and provided humanitarian aid.

It is estimated to have spent hundreds of millions of dollars so far on Libya.

Huda al-Srari, the general manager at Libya TV, denies the Qataris have any say in the channel's editorial output, and takes their support at face value.

"I have no proof that they are looking for something from Libya," she says. "They are looking for money? They are very rich. Maybe they are not looking for anything, just to help their sisters and brothers in Libya."

Region in transition

Unburdened by any threats or major concerns at home, Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani has been willing to step into the role usually occupied by other Arab leaders, and to use his time and money to reshape the region.

Qatar is one of the world's richest nations and its economy, heavily dependent on oil and gas, is expected to grow by about 18% in 2011.

"Some of the key big powers in this region - Egypt, Saudi Arabia - are in transition, so Qatar has found itself with the ability, the leadership and the money to play a role," says Salman Shaikh, an analyst at the Brookings Institute in Doha.

"I've often heard the lament in Qatar that the Arab world has fallen behind in terms of human development, in terms of technological advancement. So the hope is that we'll be moving towards a more stable and more development orientated region than it currently is." 

Qatari women have been allowed to
vote and stand for office since 1999
In one of Doha's most distinctive districts, Souk Waqif, about 20 women were selling delicious homemade food one recent evening - stews, curries, spicy crepes and Arabian coffee.

All the women wore abayas - a traditional, long black Islamic garment - and most wore shaylas - a long scarf that is wrapped around the head - as well, a reminder that despite Doha's image as a glitzy centre of Western-style skyscrapers, Qatar is still a conservative Muslim society.

Like neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the royal family of Qatar and most indigenous Qataris follow the ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam, but society is Qatar is more accepting of the role of women, says newspaper columnist Reem al-Hamri.

"I can drive; I can hold any position I want. Everyone is equal, women can be leaders," she says.

"For me wearing this - the abaya and the shayla - if it's going to cover my body and my hair, it's not going to cover my mind, my ideas."

Long-standing relationships

Still, there are concerns in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt that Qatar is using the unrest to support and finance Islamist parties.

Following elections in Tunisia, won by the moderate Islamist party, Ennahda, a demonstration was held outside the Qatari embassy in Tunis bemoaning Doha's influence. 

Qatar is one of the world's richest nations and its
economy is expected to grow by about 18% in 2011
Some members of Libya's National Transitional Council have criticised Qatar's influence in the country, while in Egypt, Qatar has been accused of helping fund the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Shaikh, however, warns against reading too much into the connections, saying Qatar is not embarking on some ideological push.

"Qatar for the last 20, 30 years has been providing a home for a lot of the individuals who had to run away from places like Libya and Tunisia. These invariably have come from Islamist backgrounds. As these people get elected, Qatar has long-standing relationships with them."

Qatar ended its recent National Day celebrations with a spectacular fireworks display, a further sign of the confidence and optimism that permeates the entire nation.

With its neighbours in turmoil and the West distracted by economic woes, this tiny emirate has the money, the connections and willingness to play a much greater role on the world stage in the coming years.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Beit Shemesh ultra-Orthodox Jews clash with police

BBC News, 27 December 2011

Related Stories 

Disputes between ultra-Orthodox and secular
Jews have been becoming more frequent
Ultra-Orthodox Jews have clashed with police in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem.

One police officer was slightly hurt and a number of Orthodox Jews detained, say reports.

The town has become a focus of friction between secular Jews and ultra-Orthodox men demanding strict gender segregation and "modest" dress for women.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday to end attempts to enforce segregation of the sexes.

The latest clashes came as police attempted to remove one of several signs in the town ordering segregation between the sexes.

Some 300 ultra-Orthodox residents pelted the police with stones and eggs, slightly injuring one officer, and rubbish bins were set on fire.

A television crew attempting to film in the town were also surrounded and harassed - the second alleged attack in two days on journalists.

On Sunday, a crew from Channel 2 news were attacked as they were filming, say reports, with rocks allegedly thrown at their van.

The alleged assault came days after Channel 2 aired a story about an eight-year-old American girl, Naama Margolese, who said she was afraid to walk to school because ultra-orthodox men shouted at her.

The broadcast has inflamed secular opinion, with activists planning to hold a rally in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday to counter what they say is intimidation by sections of the ultra-orthodox community. 

The case of Naama Margolese has shocked
many Israelis
Some ultra-Orthodox Jews will also reportedly be joining the rally in an effort to distance themselves from "extremists".

Unnamed ultra-Orthodox activists from Beit Shemesh issued a statement condemning the violence, but also accusing the media of initiating "deliberate provocations in order to make the peaceful, quiet and tolerant residents, who live their lives according to their beliefs, look bad".

Such clashes have become more frequent in Israel in recent years as the authorities have challenged efforts by ultra-Orthodox Jews to segregate women in public places.

Other recent points of contention include demands for separate seating areas for women on buses and a recent case of some soldiers who refused to remain at a performance by female singers.

Mr Netanyahu has ordered a crackdown on segregation, saying harassment and discrimination have no place in a liberal democracy.

Ultra-orthodox Jews make up 10% of the population in Israel. The community has a high birth rate and is growing rapidly.

The ultra-Orthodox make up 10 percent of Israel’s population of 7.5 million,but are increasing rapidly amid a growing backlash to the privileges and subsidies long granted to the ultra-religious.
(Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times)

Guinea-Bissau coup attempt: Navy chief arrested

BBC News, 27 December 2011

Related Stories 

Rear Admiral Na Tchuto is accused of
masterminding the attempted coup
Guinea-Bissau's navy chief has been arrested after an attempted coup on Monday, the West African nation's army chief and defence minister have said.

The army said there were more clashes overnight in the hunt for suspects, the AFP news agency reports.

President Malam Bacai Sanha is in France, where he has been receiving medical treatment since early December.

Last year, navy chief Rear Adm Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto was named by the US as a "drug kingpin".

In recent years the tiny West African nation has become a major transit hub for cocaine smuggled from Latin America to Europe and suffered much political unrest as a result.

Embassy refuge
The unrest began in the early hours of Monday morning in the capital, Bissau.

Correspondents say it was initially unclear what was behind the trouble, which saw Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior briefly take refuge at the Angolan embassy in the city.

Some reports suggested it was soldiers attacking the army head quarters, demanding more pay. 

Bissau-based journalist Alberto Dabo told the BBC's Network Africa programme that there was also speculation that it was two factions of the armed forces fighting for control of the drug-smuggling trade.

But at joint press conference on Monday evening, army chief of staff Gen Antonio Injai and Defence Minister Bacrio Dja said it was an attempt by a group of soldiers to overthrow the government.

They said that 30 people had been arrested including Rear Adm Na Tchuto - who denies US accusations that he has played a key role in international drug trafficking.

A source within the military said that many soldiers had been injured in Monday's fighting, including two generals and a lieutenant, Mr Dabo said.

An army captain told AFP on condition of anonymity that he had lost a soldier in more skirmishes overnight as his men attempted to make further arrests, including those of politicians.

"They took advantage of the exchange of fire to vanish. We are actively looking for them," he said.

Vladimir Monteiro, the UN spokesman in Guinea-Bissau, said the coup attempt did not come as a surprise.

"Within the army, there's a need to professionalise the institution," he told the BBC.

Mr Dabo said that residents of the capital were not happy about the latest unrest.

"People here are angry because of the behaviour of the military, who have been involved in bloody events since the 1980s. Citizens who have been interviewed say they want peace and stability in this country," he told the BBC.

The country has endured repeated military coups, assassinations and political unrest since it became independent from Portugal in 1974.