“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.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Twitter chief Jack Dorsey announces plans to move to Africa

The Guardian, Victoria Bekiempis, 29 Nov 2019

Tech executive declared plan to move temporarily in 2020 following a month-long visit to entrepreneurs on the continent

Jack Dorsey on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, on 5 September 2018.
Photograph: José Luis Magaña/AP

Twitter chief Jack Dorsey said this week that he plans to move to Africa for up to six months next year. The tech executive announced the planned move following a month-long trip visiting entrepreneurs on the continent.

“Sad to be leaving the continent … for now. Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!),” Dorsey tweeted from Addis Ababa on Wednesday. “Not sure where yet, but I’ll be living here for 3-6 months mid 2020. Grateful I was able to experience a small part.”

Asked for comment, Twitter said in an email: “We’ve nothing to share beyond Jack’s initial tweet.”

Dorsey began traveling Africa on 8 November and visited Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa, CNN reported.

In Ethiopia, he listened to startup pitches. In Nigeria, he had meetings with entrepreneurs and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Twitter board member who formerly worked as managing director of the World Bank.

Software developer Dara Oladosu, who created the Twitter bot Quoted Replies, which aggregates comments on tweets, received a job offer after meeting company executives, CNN said.

Dorsey also met bitcoin business owners in Ghana. Dorsey has expressed plans to integrate bitcoin use on Twitter and the payment app Square, according to CNN.

Africa’s tech industry is presently experiencing rapid growth. GSMA, a mobile services industry group, said there were 618 “active tech hubs” on the continent this year, up 40% from 2018. According to GSMA, Nigeria and South Africa have the most, with 85 and 80, respectively.

The Kenyan tech entrepreneur John Karanja launched BitHub, an incubator for cryptocurrencies, in 2015. Ethiopia’s government reportedly hopes that a tech-centric economy could create 3m jobs.

Dorsey’s African tour comes as social tech giants continue to face criticism over the spread of hate speech and misinformation online. Dorsey announced in October that Twitter would ban political advertising, putting pressure on Facebook to enact a similar policy.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Sudan cabinet scraps law abusing women's rights: state media

Yahoo – AFP, Paul MAROUDIS, November 26, 2019

Sudanese women marched in Khartoum on Monday to mark International Day
for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a day ahead of the cabinet
reportedly scrapping a restrictive public order law (AFP Photo/Ashraf SHAZLY)

Khartoum (AFP) - Sudan's cabinet Tuesday scrapped a controversial law that severely curtailed women's rights during the 30-year tenure of deposed autocrat Omar al-Bashir, state media reported.

Thousands of women were flogged, fined and even jailed during Bashir's rule under the archaic public order law.

"The council of ministers agreed in an extraordinary meeting today to cancel the public order law across all provinces," the official SUNA news agency reported.

The cabinet's decision is still to be ratified by the ruling sovereign council, which is an 11-member joint civilian-military body.

Bashir seized power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, severely restricting the role of women in Sudan for decades.

During his rule, authorities implemented a strict moral code that activists said primarily targeted women, through harsh interpretations of Islamic sharia law.

Bashir was deposed by the army on April 11 after months of protests against his rule.

Women were at the forefront of the demonstrations.

In February, Bashir had acknowledged in a briefing with reporters that it was the public order law that had angered younger generations, especially women.

Activists say security forces linked the public order law with article 152 of the Sudanese penal code, which stipulates punishment for "indecent and immoral acts".

Under the law those who consumed or brewed alcohol -- banned in the northeast African country -- were punished, while activists said security forces used the legislation to arrest women for attending private parties or wearing trousers.

Sudan's new government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has assured citizens it will uphold women's rights.

"The government has delivered what it had promised. This is a real win for us, for the feminist movement in Sudan and for women's rights," said prominent Sudanese activist Tahani Abbas.

"Many women were flogged and humiliated because of this shameful law. With this decision, Sudan is now moving toward a new life where women can enjoy dignity."

A senior member of Bashir's ex-ruling National Congress Party contended that it had been implementation of the law by individual actors -- rather than the law per se -- that had created problems.

"Some policemen were using this law to harass women," said Mohamed al-Amin, who is also a defence lawyer for Bashir.

"What we need is to precisely define under article 152 the dress code for women."

On Tuesday, the cabinet also decided to "restructure the country's judicial system in order to prepare it for the new era," SUNA reported without elaborating.

The cabinet also agreed to form a committee to review all appointments made during the Bashir era that are suspected of having been made on the basis of questionable personal connections or favours.

Bashir, who is in prison in Khartoum, is on trial for allegedly illegally acquiring and using foreign funds.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Namibia's first female candidate vows to 'restore dignity'

Yahoo – AFP, Sofia CHRISTENSEN, November 24, 2019

Esther Muinjangue, Namibia’s first woman to run for president, told AFP of her
bid 'restore dignity' to the southwest African country (AFP Photo/HILDEGARD TITUS)

Windhoek (AFP) - Calm and confident, Esther Muinjangue, Namibia’s first woman to run for president, says she feels a "wind of change" softly blowing through the southwest African country which goes to the polls on Wednesday.

From her modest home in a quiet suburb of the capital Windhoek, Muinjangue spoke to AFP about her bid to "restore dignity" to the country's 2.45 million inhabitants -- struggling through an economic recession after nearly 30 years of independence from South Africa.

"You hear a lot of people complaining about the (ruling) SWAPO-led government," she said on Saturday, before heading into the final day of campaigning for her National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) party.

"There was apathy among the youth," added the 57-year-old former social worker. "But now you see at every rally... more and more young people coming on board."

Namibia's South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) has remained in power since its founder Sam Nujoma won the first democratic election in 1990, after decades of guerrilla war against colonial rule.

But President Hage Geingob, elected in 2014, has faced increasing disgruntlement amid SWAPO's inability to redistribute wealth to the majority black population.

Supporters of Namibia's National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) wear 
traditional Herero dress at a presidential campaign rally in Windhoek (AFP Photo/

'Empty glass'

Namibia "was like a full glass of water," said Muinjangue, but "the first president brought it down half, the second drank further"

"So when Hage took over we were already in the mess that we are in today."

Despite vast mineral wealth, abundant fish reserves and a growing tourist industry, Namibia remains the world's second most unequal country after South Africa, according to the World Bank.

Low commodity prices and drought caused the economy to slump in 2016, and Geingob has come under fire for expanding his cabinet at the expense of other sectors.

Muinjangue is campaigning on a promise to cull the bloated government and invest more in education, health and affordable housing.

She said Namibia has resources to take care of its needs, but corruption has taken root.

"Top leaders... are selling the land, they are selling the country, they are selling mines to foreigners."

NUDO won just two percent of the vote in 2014, when SWAPO's Geingob swept to victory with more than 87 percent.

But Muinjangue was confident her party would perform better this time and that disgruntlement with the regime could drive more voters towards the opposition and break SWAPO's two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Namibian President Hage Geingob, elected in 2014, has faced increasing
disgruntlement amid the ruling SWAPO party's inability to redistribute wealth
to the majority black population (AFP Photo/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

'Expecting miracles'

"We are expecting a lot of miracles to happen this year," said Muinjangue.

As a member of Namibia's minority Herero group and daughter of an exiled politician, Muinjangue learnt to challenge the status quo against a backdrop of tradition.

"I have never been conforming to the norms of my community," she said, describing it as an environment "where women are expected to have their places in the kitchen".

Wearing a traditional Herero dress, Muinjangue spoke of women's empowerment, gay rights and legalising abortion in Namibia.

Her ascent to the NUDO presidency touched off a "paradigm shift" that prompted members of the majority Herero party to question "their old way of thinking".

Namibia's National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) presidential candidate 
Esther Utjiua Muinjangue (C) campaigns on the streets of Windhoek (AFP Photo/

'Same as the Holocaust'

Aside her new role as party leader, Muinjangue continues to fight for reparations for the German-led slaughter of thousands of Herero and Nama people who rose up against colonial rule in 1904-08.

Germany -- which controlled Namibia before South Africa took over in 1915 -- has so far failed to officially apologise for the massacre and refused to pay any compensation.

Muinjangue, whose grand-father was "the product of a German soldier" and a Herero woman, said the case deserves "exactly the same" treatment as the Holocaust.

She blasted SWAPO for being soft-handed in its negotiations with Germany.

While Germany formally handed back Herero and Nama remains to Namibia in 2018, it maintains bilateral aid makes up for compensation.

"Being a social worker, social work is a value-based profession, and one value of social work is social justice.

"So for me it’s more about social justice. It’s more about why is the German government treating our issue different from the issue of the holocaust - which is exactly the same."

Friday, November 22, 2019

Chagos islands: The fight over Africa’s last British colony

DW, 22 November 2019

A piece of Britain lies between Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. To date the Chagos Islands are still under British control and their inhabitants live in exile. But the UK has missed a deadline to return them.

The anger in his voice is clearly audible. There is a lack of goodwill on the side of the British government, Olivier Bancoult says. The fight over the Chagos archipelago has been dragging on for too long. "We are continuing to put pressure [on the British government]," Bancoult told DW. As a young boy, Bancoult was one of the Chagos residents who were forced to resettle. Today he lives in Mauritius and as a lawyer has been fighting for the people of Chagos and their descendants to return to the islands. On Friday, November 22, the United Nations deadline for the return of the islands to its people. Bancoult is amongst the organizers of a demonstration outside the British High Commission in Mauritius.

Mauritius, which had once been part of the same colonial territory as the Chagos islands, gained its independence in 1968. Between 1968 and 1973, up to 2,000 residents of the Chagos archipelago were forced to move to Mauritius, the Seychelles and UK in order to establish a military base on the main island, Diego Garcia. In the meantime, the UK has leased it to the US until 2036. Chagos served as a military base for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The largest island, Diego Garcis, serves as a US military base

Geostrategic importance

"We were poor people who are living in peace and harmony until they made the decision to giv one of the largest islands to America to make a military base. Since that time our nightmare started. Many of us were forcibly removed from our native land to live in Mauritius and the Seychelles," Bancoult told DW. In February the International Court of Justice in The Hague, ruled that the archipelago is legally a part of Mauritius. The court said that Britain had illegally separated the islands from Mauritius and should give them back.

The British government rejected the ruling. "The UK has no doubt as to our sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), which has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814," read a statement by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The statement, however, alleged that Britain had pledged  to hand over the islands to Mauritius when they are no longer needed for defense purposes.

In May, the UN General Assembly also called on the UK to handover the islands. The deadline for the handover expired on November 22, but the resolution is not binding and the UK seems to have no intention to make such a move in the near future.

The strategic location and the military role of the island, make the very calls for its independence very difficult.  Philippe Sands, a British lawyer who advises the Mauritian government on the Chagos matter, believes that talks between the UK, the US and Mauritius will continue to take place. "Mauritius has indicated that the military base could even remain on the island," Sands told DW.

Read more: The Commonwealth: Still relevant for Africa today?

The archipelago belings to the same island group as Mauritius which
gained independence from Britain in 1968

Clinging onto the last African colony

Sands believes that Britain's reluctance to bow to international pressure lies in the fact that it is still coming to terms with its new place in world politics. "[The UK] is a diminished power. It has lost its judge at the International Court of Justice, it has lost a series of resolutions at the UN General Assembly. I think its just taking time to come to the realization, that ist legal situation and is very different, but ultimately I think the UK will comply with the court," Sands said.

The UK, Sands explained, is paying a high price for its political losses. "They're in the process of leaving the European Union, and they have to negotiate new trade agreements and political agreements with several countries. The government is in real trouble and I think that is why it is clinging on to its last colony in Africa," Sands said.  For him, keeping the islands under British control amounts to a crime against the people of Chagos.

Chagossians celebrate the news of the UN resolution calling on the
UK give up control of the islands (February 2019)

Hopes set on upcoming UK elections

According to Sands, the UN is already preparing new maps which show the Chagos islands as part of Mauritius. Additionally Mauritius is the only country that can have legal rights to fishing and overflying rights of the area.

Sands and Bancoult have the hope that the upcoming UK elections set for December 12 could make a difference. "The Labour party has promised to respect the ruling of the International Court of Justice," Sands said. "If the next government is under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn that would be very good,” Bancoult said. "He already supports us."

According to Bancoult, 596 Chagossians who were forced to leave the islands are still alive today. All in all, he said, they have 9.800 descendants who identify as Chagossians. Bancoult himself finds the thought of growing old away from his homeland difficult. "Most old people want to die where they were born," he said.

Ethiopia PM praises referendum for new state as votes tallied

Yahoo – AFP, November 21, 2019

With apparently overwhelming support among Sidamas to form their own state,
excitement is high on the streets of the regional capital Hawassa (AFP Photo/
Michael TEWELDE)

Hawassa (Ethiopia) (AFP) - Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Thursday praised the conduct of a referendum in the ethnic Sidama region, that many expect will approve the creation of a new federal state.

Abiy's comments came as votes were tallied a day after the ballot seen as a critical test in a nation already struggling with community tensions.

With apparently overwhelming support among Sidamas to form their own state, the backing of Abiy is an important indication of the central government response ahead of the official release of results.

Analysts say it could inspire other groups to push for autonomy and redraw boundaries in Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous country with more than 100 million people.

"Congratulations to citizens and institutions involved in holding a peaceful and democratic referendum for Sidama statehood," a statement from Abiy's office said.

"The voting process is demonstrative of our capacity for taking our differences to the ballot and allowing democratic processes to prevail."

Map of Ethiopia locating the Sidama region which voted on Wednesday in 
referendum that could carve out a new federal state (AFP Photo/Jochen GEBAUER)

The Sidama autonomy push gained fresh momentum after Abiy, winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, took office last year and enacted a series of reforms that have encouraged more freedoms.

But his drive to open up Ethiopia's authoritarian one-party state has also unleashed ethnic violence as different groups and regions jostle for power and resources.

Ethnic divisions

Desta Ledamo, chief administrator of Sidama, said the election "shows the world that a civilised power struggle can take place in Ethiopia".

Local election observers and voters also reported no major issues during Wednesday's ballot.

If approved, the new state would be largely based on ethnic divisions, handing tax-raising powers and control over schools, police, health and other services to the Sidamas, who would be in the majority in the state.

Excitement is high on the streets of the regional capital Hawassa, roughly 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Addis Ababa.

Results are expected by Friday, said Soleyana Shimeles, spokeswoman for the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia.

The vote is seen as a critical test in a nation already struggling with community 
tensions (AFP Photo/Michael TEWELDE)

But there is also concern among non-Sidama people in the would-be state, especially in Hawassa, for whom the city is home.

The Sidama push for autonomy triggered days of unrest in July that left dozens dead and prompted the government to place Ethiopia's southern region under the control of soldiers and federal police.

Armed soldiers and police remained on the streets of Hawassa on Thursday, patrolling the city in pickup trucks.

The referendum on autonomy springs from a federal system designed to provide widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country.

At present, Ethiopia is partitioned into nine semi-autonomous regional states -- with the Sidama voting for a potential tenth.

The constitution requires the government to organise a referendum for any ethnic group that wants to form a new entity.

Not 'created overnight'

The Sidama -- who number more than three million -- have agitated for years to leave the diverse Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region.

The referendum on autonomy springs from a federal system designed to provide
widespread ethnic self-rule in a hugely diverse country (AFP Photo/MICHAEL TEWELDE)

If the people in Sidama choose to form a new state, the implementation of the referendum is expected to raise a host of thorny issues.

The city of Hawassa is ethnically diverse -- only about half the population is Sidama -- and up to now has served as the administrative centre for the entire southern region.

In the short term, tensions may be defused by a recent agreement that will allow the regional government to stay in the city for two five-year election terms.

"Celebrations may well be due, but a new region will not be created overnight -- this is just one key part of a process," said William Davison from the International Crisis Group.

"And during no part of that process should Sidama statehood harm non-Sidama residents or businesses."

With more than 10 other ethnic groups potentially keen to hold their own referendum on autonomy, the Sidama referendum is being watched closely across Ethiopia.

The "key question now is how Wolayta, Hadiya, Gurage, Keffa and other zones seeking statehood referendums will react", Davison said.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Many pitfalls in reform of Africa's CFA franc

Yahoo – AFP, Pierre DONADIEU with David ESNAULT in Abidjan, November 17, 2019

CFA banknotes issued by the Central Bank of West African States -- but the
currency's pegging to the euro is controversial and politically sensitive, prompting
moves to introduce a new currency, the eco (AFP Photo/ISSOUF SANOGO)

Paris (AFP) - Calls to overhaul the West African CFA franc, a currency tied to the euro and historically rooted in French colonial rule, raise a host of thorny problems, analysts say.

Eight countries use the euro-pegged West African CFA franc, which enjoys unlimited convertibility with the euro.

This is brought about by the countries depositing 50 percent of their reserves with the Bank of France, which guarantees payments into euros even if a CFA member state cannot cover import payments.

The link to France and the euro provides an important measure of financial stability -- but is politically sensitive in countries that have been independent from France for nearly six decades.

Earlier this year the 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed to adopt a single currency, the "eco", as early as next year.

As ECOWAS includes the eight members of West African Monetary Union (WAMU), the eco would supplant the CFA franc for those countries.

But prospects of earlier changes to the region's currency dramatically surfaced this month when Benin leader Patrice Talon said the WAMU states planned to pull their reserves from the Bank of France.

"We are all agreed, unanimously, that we should put an end to this model," Talon told French broadcasters RFI and France 24 on November 14.

He said there was a "psychological problem" with the CFA franc rather than a "technical" problem.

Fixed rate reduces risk

Ruben Nizard, an economist with export insurance firm Coface who focuses on Africa, sounded a loud note of caution.

"Withdrawing exchange reserves (from French supervision) would call into question one of the pillars of the franc zone," notably the convertibility guarantee offered by Paris, Nizard said.

If the guarantee is scrapped, this would open the door to questioning the franc's fixed exchange rate, of 655.96 CFA to the euro.

"Fixing the rate reduces the exchange risk for investors and exporters -- that's a great benefit," Nizard told AFP.

Africa's financial interests would be better served by severing the
fixed euro link and depositing reserves in Africa instead of France
as currently, say the proponents of reform (AFP Photo/

But critics of the CFA franc in its current form complain that the peg with the euro puts the economies of the CFA franc zone in a straitjacket.

They are tied to the eurozone's monetary policy, which is unsuited to their needs, they argue.

"It requires our central banks to follow very restrictive monetary policies," said Demba Moussa Dembele, a Senegalese economist and director of the Forum for African Alternatives think tank.

"The priority of African economies is not the fight against inflation -- they need investment and jobs."

But there are other factors in the debate, beyond management of monetary and economic policies.

"Changing the location of where reserves are held is above all a political and symbolic issue," said Noel Magloire Ndoba, a Congolese economist, consultant and former dean of Brazzaville's Faculty of Economic Sciences.

"Why not deposit these reserves with an African central bank? We are in the 21st century, Africa must take over management of its own central bank and currency," Ndoba argued.

Currency basket?

By severing the chain to the euro, West African countries would then be able to link the CFA franc to a basket of currencies, which would better suit the region's exporters, Ndoba said.

"We need to move to fixing it against a basket of currencies, the euro, the dollar, the yuan, which corresponds to Africa's trade partners -- Europe, the United States and China," he said.

Despite the unity proclaimed by Benin's president about pulling their reserves, it is unclear if all WAMU states are ready to make the move.

Ivory Coast, the leading economy among the eight countries that use the West African CFA franc, has refused to comment.

Withdrawing the reserves would appear a prerequisite for the "eco" to ever get off the ground.

Nigeria, whose oil-dependent economy accounts for two-thirds of the region's gross domestic product (GDP), has been sceptical about the benefits of a common currency.

But it has been clear that it wouldn't want the Bank of France to hold the reserves of the "eco".

For Nizard, Talon's statement was "perhaps a means of putting the subject back on the table."

France, for its part, is letting the CFA franc members decide what they want to do.

"If a majority of CFA zone member states wish to advance towards an ambitious reform we would say yes," French Finance Minister Bruno le Maire said.

Monday, November 11, 2019

'Sister protests': Lebanon, Iraq look to each other

Yahoo – AFP, Hashem Osseiran in Beirut and Maya Gebeily in Baghdad, 11 November 2019

A Baghdad street vendor sells flags of Iraq and Lebanon, both gripped by
anti-government protests

A Lebanese flag flutters in the protest-hit Iraqi capital. More than 900 kilometres (500 miles) away, a revolutionary Iraqi chant rings out from a bustling protest square in Beirut.

"Don't trust the rumours, they're a group of thieves," sings a group of Lebanese musicians in Iraqi dialect, referring to political leaders they deem incompetent and corrupt.

"The identity is Lebanese," they continue, reworking the chant by Iraqi preacher Ali Yusef al-Karbalai, made popular during the street movement there.

Such recent shows of solidarity have become a common feature of protest squares in the two countries, where corruption, unemployment and appalling public services have fuelled unprecedented street movements demanding the ouster of an entire political class.

They serve to "shed light on similarities between the two movements and boost morale", said Farah Qadour, a Lebanese oud musician.

"The two streets are observing and learning from each other," said the 26-year-old who is part of the group that adopted al-Karbalai's chant.

In Lebanon's southern city of Nabatiyeh, hundreds brandishing Lebanese flags chanted: "From Iraq to Beirut, one revolution that never dies."

And in the northern city of Tripoli, dubbed the "bride" of Lebanon's protest movement, a man standing on a podium waved a wooden pole bearing the flags of the two countries.

"From Lebanon to Iraq, our pain is one, our right is one, and victory is near," read a sign raised during another protest, outside Beirut's state-run electricity company.

'We're with you'

In Tahrir Square, the beating heart of Baghdad's month-old protest movement, demonstrators are selling Lebanese flags alongside Iraqi ones.

They have hung some on the abandoned Turkish restaurant, turned by Iraqi demonstrators into a protest control tower.

Banners reading "from Beirut to Baghdad, one revolution against the corrupt" could be seen throughout.

Lebanon and Iraq are ranked amongst the most corrupt countries in the region by anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, with Iraq listed as the 12th most corrupt in the world.

Public debt levels in both countries are relatively high, with the rate in Lebanon exceeding 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

"What's happening on the streets in Iraq and Lebanon, they're sister protests," said Samah, a 28-year-old Lebanese demonstrator.

Iraqi protesters stand under a banner reading "From Karbala to Beirut, one 
goal, one trench"

"They're the result of an accumulation" of years of problems.

One video that went viral on social media networks showed a masked Iraqi protester dressed in military fatigues demanding the resignation of Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, one of the main targets of protesters in the small Mediterranean country.

In a video released online, a group of young Iraqi men had filmed themselves singing, "Lebanon, we're with you!"

The two movements also seem to be adopting similar protest strategies.

In both countries, rows of parked vehicles have blocked traffic along main thoroughfares in recent weeks.

University-aged demonstrators wearing medical masks or eye goggles have occupied bridges and flyovers, refusing to believe pledges of reform from both governments.

'The goal is one'

The big difference is that in Iraq, the demonstrations have turned deadly, with more than 300 people, mostly protesters but also including security forces, killed since the movement started October 1.

Lebanon's street movement, which started on October 17, has been largely incident-free despite scuffles with security forces and counter-demonstrators rallying in support of established parties.

The two movements, however, are united in their anger about the kind of political system that prioritises power-sharing between sects over good governance.

The consecutive governments born out of this system have been prone to deadlock and have failed to meet popular demands for better living conditions.

"We are united by a sense of patriotic duty in confronting this sectarian political system," said Obeida, a 29-year-old protester from Tripoli.

He said he had high hopes for Iraqi protesters because the sectarian power-sharing system there is relatively new, having emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"In Lebanon, it's more entrenched," he said of the arrangement that ended the country's 1975-1990 civil war.

On a Beirut waterfront, dotted with luxury restaurants and cafes, a 70-year-old Iraqi man who has been living in Lebanon for five years looked on as demonstrators laid out picnic blankets on the grass.

With a Lebanese flag wrapped around his neck, Fawzi said the protests looked different but reminded him of those back home.

"The goal is one," he said.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Triggered by MP's disgrace, Tunisia's #MeToo breaks taboos

France24 – AFP, 10 November 2019

Tunis (AFP) - Viral images of a Tunisian lawmaker allegedly masturbating outside a high school have sparked the country's own #MeToo moment, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

Discussion of sexual harassment had previously been limited to a few edgy TV shows, but now thousands of women in the North African nation are sharing their experiences from lecherous remarks to paedophilia.

A video showing the moustachioed politician sitting in a car with his trousers dropped to his knees was shot last month by a student who shared it online alongside accusations of harassment.

The newly elected lawmaker denies inappropriate conduct and has said he was urinating due to a medical condition -- even threatening his accuser when pursued by prosecutors.

#EnaZeda -- Tunisian Arabic for #MeToo -- was inspired by the huge global movement that bloomed in 2017 in the wake of sexual assault allegations by multiple women against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

It has given some in Tunisia the confidence to confront their harassers face-to-face.

"Tonight, I have cried all the tears from my body. Tonight, I was harassed and nobody took the trouble to react," wrote one internet user Lina Kaboudi.

But "unlike all the other nights, I dared to respond to the perpetrator. I did not keep walking, pretending I had not heard.

"I stopped, and I held him to account".

Breaking taboos

Tunisia is considered a pioneer on women's rights in the Arab world and was the first predominantly Muslim country to abolish polygamy in 1956.

But the taboo on confronting sexual misconduct remains strong, especially within the family.

It is rare for victims to pursue formal complaints, despite sexual harassment in public places being punishable by a one-year prison term and a fine of 3,000 dinar (around 1,000 euros) since July 2017.

To catalogue the avalanche of testimony, Tunisian activists have set up private Facebook groups including one simply named #EnaZeda, which has more than 20,000 members.

Poignant accounts, some anonymous, are shared daily in the group -- ranging from rape and incest to inappropriate behaviour by teachers or celebrities and molestation on public transport.

Activists say they have been surprised by the volume and variety of the stories, and NGO Aswat Nissa (Voice of Women) says it has collected more than 70,000 testimonies.

"Then women, and sometimes men too, shared their stories, so now we are trying to organise workshops with psychologists."

Bouattour said she has received messages from parents who have "broken the family taboo by talking about sexual harassment with their children, after reading testimonies about paedophilia".

'Didn't lift a finger'

Traditional attitudes and apathy among some in power mean the nascent #EnaZeda initiative faces an uphill battle.

Kaboudi -- the woman who called out street harassment -- laments the passivity of the police, who "were a few feet away" and did not "lift a little finger" to help her when she was harassed.

She also despairs of witnesses who similarly "did nothing".

In an attempt to break the silence, in October the Centre for Research, Study, Documentation and Information on Women (Credif) launched an awareness campaign about sexual harassment on public transport.

Dubbed "the harasser #MaYerkebch (does not ride) with us", the initiative includes an app that uses a chat bot to speak to a harasser on behalf of a victim of witness and remind them of the law.

Najla Allani, director of Credif, told AFP the app states out loud the type of sexual misdemeanour and location, in a voice that speaks firmly in local dialect to "intimidate and scare the harasser".

"People dare not speak (themselves) out of fear, but with this voice app, they will be better able to react", Allani said.

An evaluation of the experimental initiative later this month will decide if it continues, so long as "the financial means allow it", she added.

It remains to be seen how big a contribution #EnaZeda will make to Tunisia's battle against sexual harassment, but one thing is sure -- the shroud of silence is no longer so suffocating.

Related Article: