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July 17 2013

Digital Citizen المواطن الرقمي 1.0

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Digital Citizen is a monthly review of news, policy, and research on human rights and technology in the Arab World. This is our first edition.

Jordan

In early June, shortly after hosting the World Economic Forum and the International Press Institute’s annual conference, Jordanian authorities initiated a ban on unlicensed news sites that activists had feared would come. According to Jordanian media organization 7iber, amendments made to the Press and Publications Law in September 2012 required Jordanian news websites to register with authorities or face censorship. The amendments also included articles that would “hold online news sites accountable for the comments left by their readers, prohibiting them from publishing comments that are deemed “irrelevant” or “unrelated” to the article,” a change that caused several sites to turn off their comments sections.

Over 300 sites are now blocked as a result of the ban, including several that fall outside of the parameters of the regulation, among them Al Jazeera (based in Qatar) and Penthouse Magazine. On July 1, 7iber found its own website added to the list, and stated on Facebook:

If the Press and Publication Department decided that 7iber.com needs to get licensed – which is against all their public statements about blogs – they were supposed to officially inform us of this decision and give us 90 days before blocking the website, according to their law (Article 49, paragraphs A-1, and A-2).

7iber was blocked today by a simple memo from the Press and Publication Department to the Telecom Regulatory Commission, which in turn gave its directives to ISPs. This happened without any due process or formal notification to 7iber, in yet another demonstration that this law serves as a tool for the government to arbitrarily stifle freedom of expression online.

The Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA) has spoken out against the ban:

JOSA calls on the government to reverse its decision, and to review the modified Press and Publications law, and has implored decision makers to preserve the integrity and the inherent openness of the Internet, keeping it free of all forms of censorship and surveillance.

JOSA has also published a helpful infographic detailing the history of Jordanian Internet censorship.

Several Jordanian groups are making a concerted effort to fight back against the new regulations. 7iber has issued a guide to circumventing the blocks. A civil society collective has begun work on the Jordanian Internet Charter, a comprehensive bill of law aimed at protecting human rights online, inspired by Brazil's Marco Civil.

The Telecom Regulatory Commission sent an informal inquiry to ISPs asking them about their technical ability to block the IM application Whatsapp, but later denied any plans to ban its usage.

In other news, the Guardian recently reported that Jordan is among the top five countries surveilled under the United States National Security Agency's Boundless Informant program.

Tunisia

In June, Tunisia hosted the third meeting of the Freedom Online Coalition, a group of governments committed to respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms (as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) in the digital realm.

Photo credit: Jillian C. York

Photo credit: Siwar Horchani, CC BY 2.0

Leading up to the conference, the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI)—which under the Ben Ali regime was the home of the country’s Internet censorship and surveillance apparatus—opened its doors to the public as #404Lab, an innovation and hackerspace. As Jillian York wrote at PBS MediaShift:

The ATI, once Tunisia’s censorship and surveillance apparatus, has aimed to become the country’s neutral Internet exchange point (IXP), pushing back against numerous attempts over the past couple of years to force it to censor. The ATI’s commitment to openness was made concrete in the run-up to the conference when its doors were opened to hackers to create the #404Lab, a space for innovation. Those present were invited to investigate the 2007-era censorship equipment left over from the Ben Ali regime.

The conference occurred shortly after the revelation that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was conducting widespread surveillance through platforms such as Facebook and Google, making surveillance a hot topic of discussion. From a side event (video) held at Tunisian media organization Nawaat.org emerged a statement presented in the final plenary of the conference. The statement urges Freedom Online Coalition governments to adopt the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance:

The explosion of digital communications content and information about communications, or “communications metadata,” the falling cost of storing and mining large sets of data, and the provision of personal content through third party service providers make State surveillance possible at an unprecedented scale. Broad collection of such information not only has a chilling effect on free expression and association; it threatens confidence in the internet as a safe platform for personal communications. It is therefore incumbent upon FOC members to extend and defend fundamental rights in ways that respond to this changing environment.

Although the Freedom Online Coalition meeting gave a boost to Tunisia’s burgeoning image as a leader in protecting free expression online, the country still has a long way to go. Just weeks before the conference, blogger Hakim Ghanmi faced trial for comments he made criticizing the management of a military hospital in the southeastern city of Sfax. And just two days before the conference kicked off, rapper Weld15 was sentenced to two years in prison for a song in which he insulted police. After a formidable international campaign for his freedom, the rapper was released on July 3 and given a suspended sentence of six months in lieu of imprisonment. Article 19 issued a report in July on restrictions to online freedom in Tunisia.

Syria

Telecomix released findings that 34 Blue Coat servers “dedicated to intercepting communications and data circulating on the Internet” were operational in Syria as of May 22. This is not the first time that servers from the US-based surveillance technology firm have been found in the embattled country: In 2011, Citizen Lab detected the use of Blue Coat devices in Syria. Shortly thereafter, intermediary sales company Computerlinks was fined for selling devices to Syria, a violation of US sanctions. Reporters Without Borders has named Blue Coat a corporate “enemy of the Internet,” calling on the company to “explain the presence of 34 of its servers in Syria and their use by the regime to track down its opponents.”

Photo credit: Niki Korth, CC BY

Photo credit: Niki Korth, CC BY

In late May, activists around the world celebrated Bassel Safadi Khartabil’s birthday, the second the Syrian software engineer and open-source enthusiast has spent behind bars. In honor of Bassel’s birthday, Index on Censorship asked his friends to submit birthday messages, which they posted on their blog.

Lebanon

In Lebanon, a popular campaign to ‘take back parliament’ has been organized largely online. The campaigners describe themselves thus:

We are tired of the polarization of March 8/14 and the total disconnect and inefficiency of the Lebanese Parliament from our daily lives. We are tired of sectarianism and its paralyzing effect on social justice demands. We are young and we want to change this country. Odds are, we’re just like you.

The campaign crowdsourced their platform, and used Facebook to mobilize participation.

Frustrated by the statistic that nearly 70% of mobile phones are smuggled into the country, Lebanese officials have instituted a regulation that only phones with International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers registered at the customs office would be able to access local networks.

In early June, Telecommunication Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui began an online campaign to #FreeTheBandwidth. The campaign is directed at Abdel Minem Youssef, an executive at local telco Ogero (majority owned by the government) who has held positions at both Ogero and the Ministry of Telecommunication. In a press statement, Minister Sehnaoui accused Youssef of limiting the development of Internet infrastructure in the country. Minister Sehnaoui provided numbers to prove that the Lebanese government is losing $750,000 each month due to decisions made by Youseff.

The campaign stirred up the Lebanese online sphere for a week, but has yet to lead to any tangible outcome.

Palestine

In early May, Google took a step toward recognizing Palestine as a state, changing “Palestinian Territories” to “Palestine” across its many platforms. The decision angered Israeli officials, who stated that the company’s action “pushes peace further away.” Google, however, has stuck with its initial decision.

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 10.41.32 PMThe Internet Society (ISOC) in Palestine has been working to establish the Palestine Internet Exchange Point (PIX), hosted at Birzeit University. Right now, seven out of Palestine’s 11 ISPs have connected as peers, while the Palestinian National Research and Education Network (NREN) will connect universities to the service. The project recently received equipment from Google to host a copy of their global cache, increasing access speeds to Google services.

Egypt

In late May, nearly a month before the June 30 protests that resulted in the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, Europe’s Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes met with Egypt’s Telecommunications Minister Atef Helmy to discuss Internet governance. Soon thereafter, they issued a joint statement calling for “openness, inclusiveness, accountability, effectiveness, coherence and respect for applicable laws.” The statement read:

We agreed that it is of the utmost importance to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform, that all attempts to fragment it into national “Intranets” are resisted and that all discussions and decisions concerning the “rules of the game” are based on a multi-stakeholder approach ensuring openness, inclusiveness, accountability, effectiveness, coherence and respect for applicable laws.

In this context, we agreed that in order to ensure broader participation and diversity in these debates, it is necessary to find “smart” ways to develop capacity and expertise on these complex issues, especially among less-resources stakeholders…

The Egyptian Blog for Human Rights recently published a report on ICT indicators in Egypt. The report includes data on the intersections of Internet usage and education, age, and gender.

The Cairo-based Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) has released a legal guide to digital security for Arab human rights activists. The guide emphasizes legal aspects of digital security and offers suggestions on using tools for digital safety.

As in Jordan, leaked information about the NSA’s ‘Boundless Informant’ program shows that Egypt is among the top countries under surveillance by the US agency, with 7.6 billion reports on the country allegedly generated by the program. The Wall Street Journal reported that Egyptians were said to not be surprised by the program, just “disappointed.”

Coinciding with the June 30 protests was the launch of Mada Masr, a new online publication. According to the site's creators, Mada Masr aims to focus on investigative and data-based reporting. On July 4, the site published a scathing piece by Sherif Elsayed-Ali about the NSA’s global surveillance efforts. In it, Elsayed-Ali writes:

Internet access is integral to human rights because of its importance to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, education, and other widely recognized human rights. It is now clear that internet access, free from unlawful interference, must be protected as a legally enforceable right if our privacy is to mean anything in the 21st century.

We need a dedicated legal instrument that codifies our digital rights and clarifies the obligations of governments and responsibilities of service providers in relation to internet access. This is too important to be left to the whims of unaccountable agencies and repressive regimes.

Following the ouster of Morsi, the army shut down several Islamist media outlets, prompting a statement signed by seven human rights organizations, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre. The organizations state that Egyptian authorities “must respect principles of media freedom as stipulated by international law.”

Qatar

Qatar, which has generally been the most open of the Gulf States in terms of online speech, has proposed a new cybercrime law that would—among other things—punish anyone who:

…infringes on the social principles or values or otherwise publishes news, photos, audio or visual recordings related to the sanctity of the private and familial life of persons, even if they were true, or infringes on others by libel or slander via the Internet or other information technology means.

Jan Keulen of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom stated that the law “raises questions over why a cybercrime law is now dealing with issues which were initially intended to be covered by the draft media law” and that online freedom of expression should be protected.

Kuwait

So far, 2013 has seen dozens of arrests relating to online speech in the Gulf nation of Kuwait, including the one-month imprisonment of the editor of online publication al-Aaan; the imprisonment and deportation of Egyptian blogger Abdullah Aziz al-Baz; and the two-year prison sentence of an online activist for remarks made on Twitter. The apparent crackdown has been condemned by Human Rights Watch and other organizations.

Most recently, 37-year-old teacher Huda al-Ajmi was handed an 11-year prison sentence for remarks made on Twitter deemed “insulting to the emir and calling for the overthrow of the regime.” It is the longest known sentence ever to have been issued for online dissent in Kuwait. Notably, Kuwait is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which it ratified in 1996. The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression, including peaceful criticism of public officials.

Bahrain

In early May, digital rights advocates rejoiced as Ali Abdulemam—a Bahraini blogger sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in 2011—came out of hiding, making his first public appearance at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Global Voices Advocacy conducted an interview with Abdulemam in which the blogger stated that in Bahrain:

The situation is not developing…attacks on peaceful demonstrations continue. There is no moving forward for reforming, or giving the people their universal rights, there [are] no individual rights, there is no freedom of speech, there is no free press. So the situation is just like a state living 200 years back.

In June, it was reported that Bahraini authorities had expressed intent to restrict the use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Skype and Viber. The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights expressed concern over the move, stating that “these restrictions will contribute [to] restricting digital rights in Bahrain and will increase the control of Internet users.”

High school student Ali Al Shofa was sentenced to a year in prison for allegedly tweeting insulting comments about Sheikh Hamad Al-Khalifa on the news account @alkawarahnews, which the young man denied. The month prior, six Twitter users were charged with “misusing the right of free expression” and sentenced to a year in prison.

Saudi Arabia

In early June, popular messaging and VoIP client Viber was blocked in Saudi Arabia following threats from the government to block such clients if they refused to follow “rules and regulatory conditions” (which, according to Wired, is “commonly taken to mean access for the security services to monitor calls and texts”).

In May, security researcher Moxie Marlinspike reported being contacted by Saudi telecom Mobily and asked for help with a surveillance project being undertaken in the country. Marlinspike refused the offer and published the email exchange on his website.

On June 24, seven citizens were convicted of “inciting protests” and “harming public order” on Facebook and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 5 to 10 years. The men were held in pre-trial detention for a year and a half at the General Investigations Prison in Damman.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates has also gone after Twitter users recently, sentencing Abdullah al Haddidi to ten months in prison for “spreading false news” about an ongoing trial of activists. Al Haddidi was charged with violating Article 265 of the Penal Code, which essentially criminalizes the dissemination of false news, with police and courts determining what communication is “truthful.”

In another case, Salah Yafie, a Bahraini national, was allegedly detained at Dubai International Airport for a “controversial” tweet. Little has been reported about Yafie, but a recent article from Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News reports that human rights groups in the country are urging Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry to secure Yafie’s release.

Iraq

Iran, which according to reports has been plotting to cut itself off from the world’s Internet, has allegedly offered its services to Iraq for the same purpose. Earlier this year, Iraq revoked the controversial proposed Cyber Crime Law, showing initiative to protect certain fundamental rights online.

The Iraq Network for Social Media, which was instrumental in campaigning to revoke the Cyber Crime Law, organized the first Iraqi blogger conference last year.

Oman

According to Zawya, Oman ranks second highest amongst GCC countries in terms of smart phone usage. The same report found a 2000 percent increase in Internet usage in the region.

Blogger Diab Al Amiri was reportedly detained in late May, but released just two days later, pending formal charges. No further information has been reported on his case.

Morocco

Morocco will soon be launching 4G services. According to recent reports, the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT) will invite bids for 4G licenses by year's end. Morocco's Internet penetration is just shy of 50%.

E-Joussour, Morocco's first online community radio project launched in June. The project will reportedly function as an advocacy tool for free expression and will offer broadcasts in Amazigh, Arabic, and French.

Mauritania

In Mauritania, where only an estimated 3 percent of the population has access to the Internet, a hacking community has emerged. A recent report from Lebanon’s Daily Star profiled hacker Mauritania Attacker, who “[targets] websites worldwide in the name of Islam.”

Deutsche Welle’s Best of Blogs competition has yielded a winner this year from Mauritania. Ahmed Ould Jedou, a Global Voices contributor, won this year’s award for Best Arabic Blog. In a recent interview, Jedou stated that: “Blogging for me is a space for electronic resistance and for the spread of a culture of human rights. It is the victory of humanity and stands in the face of tyranny…”

Sudan

Recent research found that devices made by Blue Coat have been found in Sudan, possibly in violation of US sanctions. The devices, which can be used for monitoring network traffic, have also been found in Iran, Syria, and other countries.

Popular blogger Amir Ahmad Nasr (formerly known by the pseudonym ‘Sudanese Thinker’) released his first book, entitled My Islam: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind—and Doubt Freed My Soul. Nasr was the subject of a recent piece in The Wall Street Journal.

Algeria

A report by Good Governance Africa details Internet censorship and social activism in Algeria which—although its Internet penetration rate is nearly 15 percent—is rarely reported on by digital rights advocates.

Yemen

Yemen recently launched a satellite Internet service that will provide access to previously unconnected villages in the country. The country’s Internet penetration currently sits at roughly 14.9 percent.

Other News

  • A new report from Hivos entitled “Internet Governance: The quest for an open Internet in the Middle East and North Africa” [PDF] looks at the state of Internet governance in six countries: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Tunisia.
  • A new UNESCO report looks at how ICTs are being used in education across five Arab countries: Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Palestine (West Bank only) and Qatar.

Digital Citizen is brought to you by Global Voices Advocacy, Access, EFF, and Social Media Exchange. This month’s report was researched, edited, and written by Reem Al Masri, Hisham Almiraat, Nadim Kobeissi, Katherine Maher, Mohamad Najem, Mohammed Tarakiyee, and Jillian York with editorial support from Ellery Roberts Biddle.

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July 16 2013

PHOTO: Muslim Brotherhood Surrounds National Security in Cairo

Netizens and journalists are reporting that thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters are heading towards the National Security building in Nasr City now.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters surround the National Security headquarters in Nasr City, Cairo. Photograph shared by @amrsalama on Twitter

Muslim Brotherhood supporters surround the National Security headquarters in Nasr City, Cairo. Photograph shared by @amrsalama on Twitter

Amr Salama El-qazaz shares this photograph.

آلاف المتظاهرين يحاصرون مقر مباحث أمن الدولة الآن بمدينة نصر #رابعة_العدوية pic.twitter.com/oxBFRmzYrN

@amrsalama: Thousands of protesters are surrounding the National Security headquarters in Nasr City now

Artists Capture a Bloody Ramadan in Syria

Mubarak, (blessed) kareem (generous) or peaceful, are the usual words that come to mind during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting when families and communities joyfully come together to pray and break their daily fasts.

But for artists depicting the holy month in Syria – blood, violence and helplessness are the only words that seem to fit. Since protests first began in March 2011 during the Arab Spring, Ramadan in Syria has not been mubarak, or kareem, and especially not peaceful.

What is really going on in Syria? Nobody can really tell. But what everyone can see are the countless people being killed, dozens kidnapped and hundreds forced to flee their homes everyday.

Ramadan in Syria according to Osama Hajjaj

Ramadan in Syria according to Osama Hajjaj

The UN recently said that the Syrian conflict is “drastically deteriorating” with up to 5,000 people dying every month. And it seems Ramadan this year will be no different than any other month. It might even be worse. Both camps seem to have turned a deaf ear to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's plea to stop violence. To add insult to injury, food and medicine prices are soaring. According to The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA):

@Sana_English: #Syria‘s Health Minister: Decision to raise medicine prices intended to preserve medicine security

Homs is under siege, so is Aleppo and many other cities across the war-torn country.

Syrian Amal Hanano summarizes the situation in one of her tweets:

@AmalHanano: On the 1st day of Ramadan, #Aleppo is starving. Dollar is up to 300 Syrian Pounds. No food or medicine to be found. #Syria

Even religious buildings have not been spared.

@GotFreedomSYA Mosque I could once see from our balcony in Syria is now burning to ruins. One of many Mosques the Assad regime is destroying in Ramadan.

Syrian artists also to depict the situation through many works of art, available online.

Here's how Tammam Azzam draws the famous Ramadan Crescent or moon:

Ramadan Kareem from Tammam Azzam

Ramadan Kareem from Tammam Azzam

And here's sad Suhoor (the meal people have before they start their fast at dawn) by artist Hicham Chemali posted on “Syrian Revolution Caricature” Facebook Page:

There is no one left to wake up for the Suhoor in Syria

There is no one left to wake up for suhoor (meal at sunrise before the daily fast) in Syria

 

A Ramadan Crescent dripping blood along side a full moon made of the names of Syrian towns. Photo posted on Art and Freedom Facebook Page

Maher Abul Husn sees a Ramadan Hazeen (Sad) in Syria. A Ramadan Crescent dripping blood alongside a full moon made of the names of Syrian towns. Photo posted on Art and Freedom Facebook Page.

See how Bashar [Syria's president] is distributing Food for the Iftar.

During the month of Ramadan a Cannon is used to remind people it is time to break their fasting and have their iftar meal.

During the month of Ramadan cannons are fired to indicate to people the time to break their fast and have their meal. In this caricature, posted on Basma Souria Page (Syrian Fingerprint), Bashar is seen bombing Syrian towns and cities

From Jordan, caricaturist Osama Hajjaj also sympathizes with the plight of his Syrian neighbors and brothers.

But despite everything, Syrians still resort to humor, even if it is black, to carry on with their lives. This photo is going viral on Twitter and on Facebook.

We apologize this year from the Arabs for not broadcasting "Bab Al Hara" The Neighborhood's Gate" series (one of the post popular Series in the Arab World, usually aired during Ramadan) because Bachar hasn't left any Hara (Neighbourhood)

We apologize this year to Arabs for not broadcasting “Bab Al Hara” [The Neighborhood's Gate] series (one of the popular series in the Arab world, usually aired during Ramadan) because Bashar hasn't left any Hara (Neighbourhood)

All photographs in this post are used with the permission of the artists.

Revolution or Coup: The Ousting of Morsi

Many are continuing to debate whether the ousting of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was the result of revolution or a military coup. Mohamed El Gohary shares his two cents in this post.

Bassem Yousif vs Sandmonkey discuss Egypt

On Twitter, satirist Bassem Youssef and activist and blogger Mahmood Salem (Sandmonkey) had a discussion on the Egyptian political scene today.
Noon Arabia collects their exchange in this post [ar] on Storify.

VIDEO: Historic Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque Bombed in Syria

Protect Syrian Archaeology posted photographs on its Facebook page [en, ar] and videos on YouTube, recording the moment the historic Khalid ibn al-Walid mosque (7th century) was bombed in Homs, Syria.

Homs – Results of the bombing of Khalid ibn al-Walid mosque#حمص – أثار القصف الذي تعرض له مسجد الصحابي خالد بن الوليد”

This 5-minute video takes you inside the mosque as a fire rages in some parts of the building and this 8-minute video captures destruction from outside, with smoke rising from the building:

The video is dated July 9, 2013.

Iran: A Female Blogger was Jailed

Jonbeshe Sabz reports that Fariba Pajooh,a reformist journalist and blogger, was jailed last week. Her father hopes “she gets released soon”.

July 15 2013

Iran: Will the New President's Key Unlock Any Doors?

A key, the symbol for Rouhani's campaign

A key was the symbol for Rouhani's campaign. Photo via Mashreghnews

The campaign symbol of president-elect Hassan Rouhani was a key. Now, Iranian netizens are discussing whether Rouhani will actually be able to open any locks. Rouhani promised a government of “hope and prudence”, and thousands of Iranians celebrated his victory hoping for a better future.

In Omid Dana's blog we read:

Which lock will Rouhani's key open? Mostafa Tajzadeh [a jailed reformist] says releasing political prisoners is not in the hands of Rouhani. Doesn't Khatami say that we should lower our expectations? People often say, with good reason, that the key to nuclear negotiations, relations with the US, and the Syria crisis are in the hands of the Supreme Leader… With all this said, Rouhani's only keys are those to his house or his office.

Jaleboon writes:

Some, like Omid Dana, ask which locks Rouhani can open. The answer is that he already opened the lock of the election that had become illegitimate with the 2009 crisis.

Several netizens metion problems and locks that Rouhani's key might open.

Mahsa tweeted:

 I don't want freedom to wear the veil or not, I want the day to come when inflation and unemployment rates are lowered and marginalized people do not need to sell drugs.

Negar Mortazavi tweeted:

 ”Sources close to #Rouhani say he is planning to send special envoys to some countries to repair broken ties & start a new chapter with Tehran.

In the meantime several campaigns also asked Rouhani to fix the Iranian internet and end filtering. A Facebook campaign asked Rouhani to end the filtering of Facebook, and a group of bloggers and cyber activists wrote a letter to the President-elect asking him to increase Internet speeds. They also complain about filtering and remind Rouhani that he himself used the Internet to promote his campaign.

July 11 2013

France Sees Shades of its Revolutionary Past in Turkey's Revolt

The recent unrest in Turkey has left eight dead and more than 4,000 injured as well as exposed political divides and ineptitudes in the country that straddles Europe and Asia.

But the consequences of the massive protests, which grew from a movement to stop the destruction of Istanbul's Gezi Park for a redevelopment project in Taksim Square, have extended far beyond the borders of Turkey.

Members of the European Union, led by Germany, have used these clashes as an excuse to postpone negotiations on Turkey's entry into the European Union from late June until autumn. The website Cameroonvoice [fr] specified:

La chancelière Angela Merkel a déclaré la semaine dernière que les événements en Turquie ne correspondaient pas aux “notions européennes de la liberté de réunion et d’expression”.

The Chancellor Angela Merkel declared last week that the events in Turkey do not correspond to “European ideas of freedom of assembly and expression.”

At the same time, the events in Turkey seem to have generated questions about identity in France and throughout Europe tied to the prospect of Turkey's entry into the European Union. The French are asking themselves variations of, “Do we share the same values?”

Erdogan Twitter

Erdogan: The demonstrations are Twitter's fault, by khalid Albaih on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa/2.0

Not so different? 

Many French media outlets have based their analyses of the EU matter on the events of June in Turkey, trying out a number of different analogies. As if this large neighbour, who might soon become part of the family, and its revolts offered the French a mix of complete exoticism and familiar reality. As Henri Goldman writes on his blog [fr]:

Un peu partout, on compare Taksim à Tahir, le Printemps turc au Printemps arabe. Sur les images qui circulent, ce sont les mêmes couches sociales,– étudiants, classes moyennes instruites… – qui tiennent le haut du pavé. Celles-ci nourrissent leurs aspirations à partir du kit culturel cosmopolite qui se diffuse par internet et constitue désormais le bagage commun des courants « branchés » des sociétés en transition. Le mode de mobilisation aussi les rapproche : des mots d’ordre lancés à travers la toile et qui essaiment en réseaux sans quartier général où n’importe quelle consigne est reprise pour autant qu’elle réponde à l’attente, indépendamment de qui la lance.”

Everywhere, Taksim is being compared to Tahir, the Turkish spring to the Arab spring. In the images making the rounds, we see the same social groups – students, educated middle classes… – leading the field. They feed their ambitions with the cosmopolitan cultural kit spread over the Internet and which now forms the stock ideas of the “fashionable” schools of thought in societies in transition. The means of mobilisation brings them together too: slogans begun on the Internet which spring up in networks without headquarters, where any instructions are repeated so long as they correspond to expectations, no matter who starts them.

Others, particularly in France, have seen the protest as a new “May '68“, referring to the Paris social revolution of 1968, sometimes in a desire to identify with the protesters. Chems Eddine Chitour's blog [fr] does just that:

“Les médias occidentaux pensaient et pensent  que le dernier «domino» allait tomber. Ils ont présenté cette colère comme celle d’une Turquie ultralaïque qui en a marre de l’AKP et tout est fait pour forcer l’analogie avec les places Tahrir et partant avec les tyrans arabes. Pas un mot d’une analogie avec mai 1968 en Europe au sortir des trente glorieuses bâties sur la sueur des émigrés. Quand Daniel Cohn-Bendit et ses camarades avaient mis à mal le gouvernement de De Gaulle ce n’était pas pour du pain comme la plupart des révoltes dans les pays arabes, mais c’était pour secouer un ordre ancien en interdisant d’interdire…”

Western media outlets thought and think that the last ‘domino’ was going to fall. They have presented this anger as that of an ultra-secular Turkey, fed up with the AKP, and the analogy with Tahrir Square and the doing away with Arab tyrants is pushed to its limits. Not once has the analogy been drawn with May 1968 in Europe, at the end of the so-called golden years, built on the sweat of immigrants. When Daniel Cohn-Bendit and his fellow students took action against De Gaulle's government, it was not because they were starving, like most of the uprisings in Arab countries, but to shake up an old order by not allowing it to suppress them…

The European Parliament officially condemned the brutal repression of the demonstration. But Ex-Expat [fr] commented on a France 24 article which describes the ongoing demonstration:

Les seuls Européens en Turquie sont ceux au Taksim et leurs sympathisants!”

The only Europeans in Turkey are those in Taksim Square and their supporters!

A video showing the protesters in Taksim Square singing “Do you hear the people sing?” taken from the musical Les Misérables about the Paris uprising of 1832, demonstrates the link between the protesters and Europe:

From Gezi Park to Turkey's EU integration

Taksim ist überall

“Taksim ist überall!” – “Taksim is everywhere!” Hamburg, Germany, 8 June, 2013. By Rasande Tyskar on Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

The “European values” Angela Merkel spoke of are the values picked up by online media outlets, sliding almost systematically from the subject of the Gezi and Taksim demonstrations to that of Turkey's integration into the EU. Franck Proust [fr], a member of the European Parliament for the French UMP Party, reiterated the position of the French right-wing. Coralie Morallet explains [fr] on the regional  news website Objectif Gard (Southern France):

Un accord de partenariat: oui, mais l’adhésion à l’Europe : Non! La Turquie n’a rien d’européenne. Nous ne partageons pas la même culture, ni les mêmes racines judéo-chrétiennes, ni les mêmes aspirations politiques“

A partnership agreement: yes, but accession to Europe: no! Turkey is not European. We don't share the same culture, nor the same Judeo-Christian roots, nor the same political aspirations.

A comment from Joël Toussaint [fr] responded:

L’Europe partage des racines judéo-chrétiennes qui ont été plantées… en Turquie! Le premier Concile de Nicée date de 325 et le premier Concile de Constantinople fut tenu en 381. (…) L’arrogance trouve sa racine dans l’ignorance… M. Proust saute à pieds joints sur le prétexte que lui fournit Erdogan et met ainsi le pied dans le plat. Il procède à un exercice d’amalgame entre le peuple turc et ses dirigeants. La démagogie politique dans toute sa splendeur!”

Europe shares Judeo-Christian roots which were sown… in Turkey! The first Council of Nicea was in 325, and the first Council of Constantinople took place in 381. (…) Arrogance is rooted in ignorance. Mr. Proust jumps feet first into the pretext given by Erdogan, and ends up putting his foot in it. He is conflating the Turkish people with their leaders. Political grandstanding in all of its glory!

The majority of comments were very pessimistic [fr] as to the outcome of the integration process:

(…) Vouloir absolument européaniser le digne successeur de l’empire ottoman est une vue de l’esprit, une vision idyllique de la future Union européenne. Ce n’est pas parce 5% de la population adhère aux idées et valeurs de l’UE que les 95% d’anatoliens vont le faire, ni parce que Constantinople est devenu Ankara que la mentalité des dirigeants ottomans  – kémalistes ou islamistes (modérés ?), a changé.”

solidarity occupygezi Wroclaw

Demonstration of solidarity with #OccupyGezi in Wroclaw, Poland. By David Krawczyk on Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

(…) Insisting on europeanising the worthy successor of the Ottoman Empire is an illusion, an idyllic vision of the future of the European Union. Just because 5 percent of the population adhere to the ideas and values of the EU doesn't means that 95 percent of Anatolians will do so. Just because Constantinople has become Ankara, it doesn't means that the mentality of the Ottoman leaders – whether Kemalist or (moderate?) Islamist – has changed.

But there are some who turn the spotlight on the values shared with the protesters themselves across European borders: against police violence, arbitrary detention of protesters and journalists, and for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. As Cameroonvoice [fr] affirmed:

De l’Azerbaïdjan au Sénégal tout le monde compatit avec les manifestants de la place Taksim, pas avec Erdogan”, conclut Hakan Günes, professeur de politologie à l’université de Marmara.”

“From Azerbaijan to Senegal, everyone sympathizes with the protesters in Taksim Square, not with Erdogan”, concludes Hakan Günes, Professor of Political Science at the University of Marmara.

And the more that Turkey's Prime Minister's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan turns to conspiracy theories [fr] to denounce the influence of the European Union, Western media, social networks (especially Twitter), the more he risks isolating himself on the world stage. It is ironic, then, that it it is precisely with regards to the fear of the other and conspiracy theories that Sema Kaygusuz, a Turkish writer [fr], sees similarities between Turkish and American societies:

La Turquie est un pays où tout le monde a peur de l’autre. Les Kémalistes ont peur des islamistes, les islamistes ont peur des laïques, les femmes ont peur des hommes, les enfants ont peur des adultes… C’est la mentalité américaine : on est toujours en danger.”

Turkey is a country where everyone fears the other. Kemalists fear Islamists, Islamists fear secularists, women fear men, children fear adults… It's the American mentality: we are always under threat.

July 09 2013

Saudi Families of Detainees Mark ‘Third Detainees Day’

Families of Saudi detainees marked the Third Detainees Day to protest the arbitrary detention of their loved ones, who have been behind bars for years without access to a fair trial. The day, on July 7, was called for by anonymous advocacy groups @e3teqal [arrest] and @almonaseron [the supporters].

Saudi Arabia is one of the few remaining absolute monarchies in the world and has a devastating human rights record which includes arbitrarily detaining over 30,000 people.

Across the kingdom, families of detainees hung pictures and signs demanding the release of their relatives. They made videos and distributed flyers to publicize the cause. Unlike the first and second detainees day, this time bridges were guarded by security forces to make sure no one hangs signs on them. Also, walls that had any sort of expressions demanding the release of the prisoners were painted right away.

The family that got the most attention was that of Abdullah Al-Ayaf. Al-Ayaf has been in jail for six years now. He was tried and acquitted, but he still remains in jail. His picture was hung outside their home in Qassim. image

The house was soon surrounded by police and Mabahith (secret police) cars. A member of the Mabahith talked to Maha Al-Dhuhaian – Al-Ayaf's wife – during the day and cursed her. Later, a police officer came to talk to her demanding the photograph be taken down. She told him about the Mabahith member.

“I don't think any member of the security forces would say those things,” the officer replies. “That sign is the only reason we're here in the first place, it's better you take it down,” he adds.

“The sign means I want my husband back. Don't send me your thugs. The sign is staying,” she tells him.

The conversation was being videotaped by Yasser, Al-Dhuhaian and Al-Ayaf's son. The officer asks him if he is shooting and Yasser answers “Yes, I am.” The officer makes an immediate phone call while the mother tells him “are you calling about my son? Don't. I told him to shoot this.”

As soon as the video was uploaded to YouTube, it went viral. Saudi tweeps started a hashtag demanding that Mabahith member be held accountable for slander.

At dawn, police officers threatened Saleh,Yasser's brother, saying they would crash his cars if he doesn't give them Yasser's ID.

Maha Al-Dhuhaian tweeted:

@cczz1000: الناس في صلاة الفجر تذكر الله ورجال الشرطة عند بابنا يطالبون تسليم ابنائي لهم والا سيعدم سيارتنا ..اي امن يتحدثون عنه حسبي الله وكفى

People are performing dawn prayers while police are at my door demanding I hand in my sons or they will crash our car. What security are they talking about?

The next day, July 8, police came to surround the house again demanding the family hands in the son who shot the video. At the same time, an employee from the ministry of interior called the family asking them to delete the video and promising they will get what the want.

The last time I spoke to Yasser, he told me:

“My father will be released sooner or later. I'm not doing this for my father. I'm not a hero, but the path is dark. And so, if we do not burn, who else will light the way?”

July 08 2013

Al Jazeera Accused of “Biased” Egypt Coverage

This post is a part of our Special Coverage Egyptians Overthrow Morsi

Al Jazeera has come under fire in Egypt for what many describe as its “biased” reporting during and following the ousting of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi on July 4. The Qatar-based channel is being accused of siding with the Muslim Brotherhood and being its mouthpiece.

After Morsi was removed from office by the Army, Al Jazeera's Live Egypt service, Al Jazeera Mubasher, was immediately taken off air. The network announced:

Al Jazeera's live Egypt service have been taken off air along with several other TV channels.

Reports from our correspondents say this happened during a live broadcast when security forces stormed the building and arrested the presenter, guests and producers.

Two days later, the Downtown Cairo prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for the channel's news director Abdel Fattah Fayed. Fayed is being charged with “threatening public peace and national security through broadcasting incendiary news.” He was detained for two days and then released on bail.

And today saw mass resignation of 22 staff members of staff over what they claimed to be “coverage that was out of sync with real events in Egypt.” Other reports [ar] say that 26 Egyptian employees have resigned, http://www.emaratalyoum.com/egypt-latest/2013-07-08-1.590061?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter , including four in the main Doha office.

One of the reporters, Wesam Fadhel reportedly resigned in a Facebook post [ar]. The note reads:

I resigned from Al Jazeera today. It's lying openly. They are showing old footage from an empty Tahrir and saying it was taken a short while ago and they are airing the scenes for hours. When I asked Ahmed Abu Al Mahasen for the reason he said that I should mind my own business. Al Jazeera cameras are in Tahrir live now. Sadly I used to work in a place which I thought had credibility but [I now realise] its credibility is based on a despicable political stance.

On Twitter, Elijah Zarwan comments:

@elijahzarwan: Al-Jazeera Egypt staff resign after ‘biased coverage’: Resigning June 1 wld have been courageous http://tinyurl.com/mjculx8

And Nezar AlSayyad adds:


@nezar:
Al Jazeera Cable has recently become to Islamists in Egypt what Fox News has been to fundamentalist Republicans in the US for many years.

In another development, Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera's reporter in Cairo, tweets photographs of threatening flyers dropped outside Al Jazeera's Cairo offices today:

A threatening leaflet dropped outside Al Jazeera office in Cairo. Photograph shared on Twitter by @RawyaRageh

A threatening leaflet dropped outside Al Jazeera office in Cairo. Photograph shared on Twitter by @RawyaRageh

@RawyaRageh: Threatening leaflets dropped near AlJazeera's offices in Cairo – bloodied hand & line ‘lies & other lies’ #Egypt

A lying camera kills a nation reads a flyer thrown outside Al Jazeera office in Cairo. Photograph shared by @RawyaRageh on Twitter

A lying camera kills a nation reads a flyer thrown outside Al Jazeera office in Cairo. Photograph shared by @RawyaRageh on Twitter

@RawyaRageh: ‘A bullet may kill a person, a lying camera kills a nation’ on flyer dropped near AlJazeera's offices #Egypt

This post is a part of our Special Coverage Egyptians Overthrow Morsi

July 06 2013

Egypt says: “It is NOT a Coup”

This post is a part of our Special Coverage Egyptians Overthrow Morsi

The US meddling in Egyptian affairs – and the coverage of news networks, particularly CNN, of the political developments in Egypt – came under fire last night. The ousting of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi after a year in office ushered celebrations across the country, as well as a bout of violence between pro- and anti-Morsi supporters.

While Morsi supporters say that the removal of Morsi from power was a military coup, the anti-Morsi camp insists it was the will of the people, with the support of the powerful military establishment that has made the ousting possible.

Many also are angry over what they call as the US meddling in Egyptian Affairs. They say that the “provocative statement” by US president Barak Obama ignored the masses who took the streets to reclaim their freedom and waved the aid card instead. The US statement, issued on July 3, reads:

The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.

Following this reaction, CNN, which was covering the developments live, started what many netizens call “a vapid campaign to support the ousted Muslim Brotherhood President and his legitimacy by describing the pro-Morsi rallies as “peaceful”, calling the popular demand a “coup” and denouncing the military action against the “peaceful” MB protestors:

@:CNN Violence erupts as Morsy supporters denounce coup http://on.cnn.com/11nnpPL

The new logo of the CNN - Photo Posted by  ‏@aelsadek

The new logo of the CNN – Photo Posted by ‏@aelsadek

Sadek's new logo, for CNN, includes the Muslim Brotherhood emblem. The writing in Arabic is their motto [ar]: Arm Yourself.

Wael responded with pictures to their twisted facts:

@Waelucination Peaceful demonstrations? Stop lying @CNN pic.twitter.com/y9AamNfKXF

The Muslim Brotherhood "peaceful" rallies. @Waelucination argues that the CNN is lying in its portrayal of the pro-Morsi protestors

The Muslim Brotherhood “peaceful” rallies. @Waelucination argues that the CNN is lying in its portrayal of the pro-Morsi protestors. This photograph shows armed militia among the protestors

On the CNN network's objectivity while airing the clashes instigated by MB supporters, May Kamel highlighted:

@MayKamel Now that #MBareterrorists are attacking people in #Tahrir with live ammo, CNN Live is not interested to air. #CNN_STOP_Lying_About_Egypt

Aggravated by the US Administration and media response, netizens started the hashtags #not_a_coup & #MindYourOwnBusinessUS on Twitter.

not a coup

Waleed Says:

@WilloEgy 33 million civilians in the streets urging #Morsi to step down and you still call it military coup? You are deliberately twisting facts.

While Ahmed Sabry said:

@A_M_Sabry #we never elected #Obama to run #Egypt .. I think #MindYourBusinessUS

Baheya added:

@Baheyah: #EgyptianRevolutionNotMilitaryCoup egyptians went out to get rid of #morsi using their weapon of mass distraction = their VOICE

In her post, entitled June 30: The Real Deal, Yusra Badr says the Muslim Brotherhood's one-year rule has deprived the Egyptian Nation of its long awaited celebrations and turned them into funerals. She adds:

I am not a political activist, I am not a reporter and I am not an expert analyst, but I am one of the millions of Egyptians who wanted Morsi out of their presidential palace. I am also one of the millions whose hearts are breaking at being deprived of the victory we achieved on June 30th by having the truth distorted and confusing the world into looking down at us.

She then concludes:

So here you have it, in very simple words, perhaps even naive, because I am writing this in the middle of the night and did not use any references. But references are unnecessary for me because I have been living in this nightmare for a year, and I am proud of what we have done on June 30 and of the support of our military.

That’s it; the real deal. This is not a coup, this is the will of the nation coming to life in an unconventional manner

This post is a part of our Special Coverage Egyptians Overthrow Morsi

July 05 2013

Morsi Supporters Face-off with Anti-Morsi Protestors across Egypt

This post is a part of our Special Coverage Egyptians Overthrow Morsi

The much anticipated face-off between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and protesters who called for the ousting of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi took place today [July 6, 2013]. The drama unfolded live on television, and was broadcast by local and international channels. At least 17 people were killed and more than 400 protesters injured in clashes across Egypt today, which many on social media described as “expected” and “surreal.”

Ayman Mohyeldin, Foreign Correspondent for NBC News based in Egypt, tweets:

@AymanMThousands of pro-morsi protestors moving across October 6 bridge towards tahrir. Military helicopter flying above

The frontline of clashes on the Nile corniche. Photograph shared by @SherineT on Twitter

The frontline of clashes on the Nile corniche. Photograph shared by @SherineT on Twitter

Al Jazeera correspondent in Cairo Sherine Tadros adds:

@SherineT: Total mayhem here at Maspero. Thousands against thousands. Street battles. People injured lying on the ground

Maspero is the Egyptian state television and radio building in midtown Cairo, and is a few metres away from Tahrir Square, where anti-Morsi protestors are continuing to celebrate Morsi's ouster.

And Andy Carvin notes:

@acarvin: Surreal footage on aje now – over a dozen guys throwing rocks, each lit up by a green laser to be target by opposing side

All this was inside Cairo alone. Outside Cairo, clashes were also reported.

Mostafa Hussein writes:

@moftasa: Street wars still going on in Alexandria. Live coverage on Al Arabiya.

Thousands of pro-Morsi protestors cross the October 6 bridge. Photograph shared by @AymanM on Twitter

Thousands of pro-Morsi protestors cross the October 6 bridge earlier today. Photograph shared by @AymanM on Twitter

Mohamed Fadel Fahmy adds:

@Repent11: A journalist in Suez just called me saying intense clashes between army and pro-Morsi protesters. Gunshots and many injuries.

And Ahmed Mwaheb, from Ismailia, asks [ar]:

احا الجيش فين #الاسماعيلية في حرب شوارع و الاخوان معاهم كل انواع الاسلحة

@AhmedMwaheb: Where is the army? There is a street war in Ismailia and the Brotherhood have all sorts of weapons

The clashes, expected and feared by many, happen two days after Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who became president a year ago, was ousted by the military following massive protests calling for his resignation and an end of the brotherhood's rule of Egypt.

Many point fingers at the military, the old regime and the Muslim Brotherhood for the clashes.

Philip Rizk notes:

@tabulagaza: Military/ old regime + brotherhood r to blame for the sick gun battles near tahrir. The hatred increases on both sides w every shot fired

And Mohammed Maree concludes:

الإخوان لن تقوك لهم قيامة بعد ذلك ، بعد هذة الدماء التى سالت ستحل جماعتهم ولن يمارسوا العمل السياسى

@mar3e: The Muslim Brotherhood will not have a future anymore. The blood spilled will dissolve their brotherhood and they will be banished from political life

The clashes continue at the time of filing this post.

July 03 2013

The Story Behind Morsi's [Fake] Arrest Video

A video showing what is being described as the arrest of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi is making the rounds online. The same video was posted on YouTube on May 21, 2013 under the title “The moment President Mohamed Morsi and his son were arrested.”

Morsi was ousted today [July 4] by the Egyptian military today after serving as president for a year. Millions gathered across Egypt from June 30, the first anniversary of his rule, to demand that he — and his Muslim Brotherhood — leave power. Today, the Egyptian army named a new interim president, suspended the constitution and promised new presidential and parliamentary elections will be held soon.

The new video, entitled “In Video, the Arrest of Morsi”, has been uploaded on YouTube and starts with an argument between people [ar] saying that “he” should be handcuffed and “treated like any other criminal.”

This video, and the timing of his release which coincided with reports that Morsi was under house arrest, has made many confused.

Iyad El-Baghdadi notes:

@iyad_elbaghdadi: Reportedly #Morsi arrest video. Someone is saying over & over “he should step out in handcuffs”. http://bit.ly/12mCD28 #Egypt

And he adds:

@iyad_elbaghdadi: I don't understand the context of #Morsi arrest vid. Some army officers, but what are civilians doing there? http://bit.ly/12mCD28 #Egypt

Journalist Jenan Moussa first shared the video link on Twitter and then removed it. She explains:

@jenanmoussa: I am deleting the video of alleged arrest of Morsi. Not confirmed at all. Apologies.

And Egyptocracy tweets:

@Egyptocracy: There is an false video circulating now of alleged “#Morsi arrest”, he was never arrested, he was under republican guard protection. #Egypt

Meanwhile, Cairo-based Egyptian journalist Amira Howeidy notes:

@amirahoweidy: Morsi under house arrest. Not one single MB figure is accessible. All religious channels switched off. Islamists r silenced. What next?

Egypt: Fighting Sexual Terror in Tahrir Square

Millions of Egyptians held mass rallies on the first anniversary of former President Mohamed Morsi to protest his rule. As Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the Egyptian revolution in downtown Cairo, began to fill up, anti-sexual harassment groups geared up to stand up to sexual violence against female protesters. Previous mass rallies have been witnessing a rise in mob sexual assaults, particularly in Tahrir Square.

In a press release by Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault (OpAntiSH), 46 cases of sexual assaults were reported on June 30, the first day of protests. OpAntiSH was established in late 2012 to rescue survivors of mob sexual assaults and provide health response in the wake of increasing reports of violence. OpAntiSH cast the blame on the government for its failure to act on those incidents, accusing the presidency of faking concern of women's rights for achieving political gains. They added:

The increasing seriousness of sexual assaults on female protestors is a reflection of the increasing sexual violence against women in general, perpetrated by both society and the state, which negatively impacts women's participation in the public sphere.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement condemning all parties’ laxity towards sexual violence. “The rampant sexual attacks during the Tahrir Square protests highlight the failure of the government and all political parties to face up to the violence that women in Egypt experience on a daily basis in public spaces,” said Joe Stork of HRW. They also produced a video entitled “Egypt: Epidemic of Sexual Violence” including testimonies of survivors of the assaults.

In an effort to highlight the systemic use of sexual violence by different regimes; former president Hosni Mubarak, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Muslim Brotherhood, rights groups produced a video entitled “Sexual Torture is systematic: from Mubarak and SCAF to the Muslim Brotherhood”. A joint statement by rights groups reads:

The aim of this sexual torture is not to extract confessions or information, but to humiliate, terrorize and silence voices of dissent. Sexual torture does not discriminate between men and women, the old or the young. It happens in many places, both inside and outside the walls of the prisons and police cells of the country. Sexual torture has even reached the building of the High Court itself, where Ahmed Taha was raped only meters away from the judges that were supposed to protect his rights.

The reports of sexual assaults elicited angry reactions on social media outlets. Activists denounced the silence from the government and political groups on the matter. With increasing political tension, some members and supporters used the reports of the assaults to tarnish the image of Tahrir Square and delegitimize the protesters. The Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El Haddad responded to an invite to go to Tahrir by saying:

@gelhaddad: Its a pity how low #Tahrir square has sunk. 7 cases of gang rape, dozens of sexual harassment incidents & acts of thievery, …

While some activists directly accused the Muslim Brotherhood of sending thugs to harass women to limit their political participation, others disagreed, arguing that the problem goes deeper. Activist Mostafa Bahgat shared a note on Facebook, directing his criticism to both the State and opposition and revolutionary forces [ar]:

لما حصلت حالات الاعتداء و الاغتصاب يوم 25 يناير اللي فات كانت في حملة في كل حته يعني اﻻحزاب” المدنية و اليسارية و القومية” و كمان عليها الصحف و القنوات. عماله تصرخ وتقول الاخوان عاوزين يرهبوا الستات و بيستخدموا نفس اساليب النظام السابق ودية مجموعات منظمة و كلام كله انتوا عارفينة.
ومات الكلام علي كدة
و بالرغم من محاولات كتير من ناس انها تحاول تشرح للمعسكر “بتاعنا ” ان الموضوع اكبر من عصابات منظمة و ان دة بيحصل عادي كل يوم وفي كل حتة ومفيش يوم بيعدي من غير خبر في جرنان عن حادثة اغتصاب وان في اﻻعياد بيحصل كدة.
اللي ان كلهم تعاملوا معانا باعتبرنا مجانين

للاسف كتير منهم بيشوف ان قضايا الستات اصلا مش مهمه و النسوي منهم شوية بيقول مش وقته قضايا الفقراء و النظام الظالم اهم و محتاج تركيز و مش مفيد اننا نشتت نفسنا في قضايا الستات “المهمه” بس فرعية

المشكلة انهم مش شايفين مشاكل الستات اصلا ولو شافوها هيشوفوها اما مصلحه شخصية او مصلحة سياسية
اسف هنفضل في الحال دة لحد ما المعسكر “بتاعنا” يعترف اصلا ان الحوادث دي بتحصل و يعترف ويصرح بيها و يقتنع ان مشاكل الستات في نفس اهمية الخناقة علي السلطة.

When assaults happened on last January 25th, there was a campaign by civilian, leftist and nationalist parties alongside the media crying out that the Muslim Brotherhood want to terrorize women and are using the old regime's tactics by organized mobs. That was the end of it. Many of us tried to explain to ‘our camp’ that the issue is larger than organized mobs and that harassment is a common daily occurrence everywhere; that everyday papers have news of rape incidents; and that it even happen during feasts. They all dealt with us as we are mad.

Why is the situation this shitty on our side?
Many of them see that women issues are unimportant. Those who are slightly feminist say it's not the right time; dealing with poverty and the unjust regime are more important. It's not useful to distract ourselves in ‘important’ yet marginal issues.

The problem is they don't see women problems and if they do it's either for personal or political gain. We're going to remain the same until ‘our camp’ acknowledges that those incidents take place and get convinced that women problems are as important as the power struggle.

Activist Engy Ghozlan reflects on the dilemma of sharing news on sexual violence:

النهاردة 44 حالة إعتداء على فتيات في ميدان التحرير، مع الأسف إحنا بين طرفين، طرف خايف من مواجهة الحوادث دي “حتى لا تشوه قضيته” وطرف بيستغل المواقف دي عشان يعلم على الطرف الأولاني، وفي النهاية في 44 إنسانة (النهاردة بس) الشعب الجميل انتهك أجسادهن الحرة. مفيش ثورة مع إغتصاب مفيش ثورة مع أجساد منتهكه.

44 cases of mob assaults on girls in Tahrir Square today. Unfortunately, we're stuck between two parties. One is afraid of facing the incidents so that their cause is not tarnished. The other take advantage of the situations to defame the other. In the end, the free bodies of 44 human beings today were violated by the beautiful people. There's no revolution with rape. There's no revolution with violated bodies.

There is a growing number of initiatives combating street harassment and assaults such as Tahrir Bodyguards, Imprint Movement and others. Yasmin ElRifae shared her thoughts about being part of those initiatives in a post entitled “No Apologies”:

I am immensely encouraged by the men and women who time and time again have dropped everything to combat these sexual assaults, risking their psychological and physical safety and being creative, resourceful, and intuitive. I have to hope that there are enough people who see the process of social change as multi-faceted, more complex and more difficult than demanding the departure of a president or a government.

Former Egyptian President Morsi Rants on Twitter

President Mohamed Morsi is no longer the president of Egypt. Instead, he is ranting on Twitter on his verified Twitter account @EgyPresidency.

Morsi's one-year reign was cut short, after massive protests across Egypt calling for him to resign started on June 30.

Head of the Egyptian Armed Forces General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said in an announcement broadcast live minutes ago that the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court Adly Mansour will be the new interim president and that a technocrat national government will be formed.

Al Sisi also announced that the Egyptian constitution has been suspended and that preparations will be made for both presidential and parliamentary elections.

In a series of tweets, in English, Morsi described the action taken by the Army represents a full coup:

@EgyPresidency: Pres. Morsy: Measures announced by Armed Forces leadership represent a full coup categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation

He adds:

@EgyPresidency: Pres. Morsy: Armed Forces announcement is rejected by all free men who struggled for a civil democratic Egypt.

And notes:

@EgyPresidency: Pres. Morsy urges civilians and military members to uphold the law & the Constitution not to accept that coup which turns backwards

Morsi also calls for avoiding bloodshed:

@EgyPresidency: Pres. Morsy urges everyone to adhere to peacefulness and avoid shedding blood of fellow countrymen.

Egyptians Overthrow Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood Rule

Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood senior member, is no longer the president of Egypt. Morsi's one-year reign was cut short, after massive protests across Egypt calling for him to resign started on June 30.

Head of the Egyptian Armed Forces General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said in an announcement broadcast live minutes ago that the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court will be the new interim president and that a technocrat national government will be formed.

Al Sisi also announced that the Egyptian constitution has been suspended and that preparations will be made for both presidential and parliamentary elections.

Many are happy to see the end of the Muslim Brotherhood's days at the helm of Egyptian politics. Rasha Abdulla states:

Al Sisi announcing the end of Morsi's rule. Screen grab from CNN International

Al Sisi announcing the end of Morsi's rule. Screen grab from CNN International

@RashaAbdulla: EGYPT BRINGS ABOUT THE DOWNFALL OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD. HISTORY IN THE MAKING.

Egyptian Hossam Eid exclaims [ar]:

مافيش اخوان تاني

@EidH: There will be no [Muslim] Brotherhood again

And on the suspension of the constitution, blogger Eman AbdElRahman sarcastically says:

الى مزبلة التاريخ ياأعظم دستور في العاااااالم

@LastoAdri: To the garbage of history, the greatest constitution of the world

Reporting from Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the Egyptian revolution in downtown Cairo, reports:

@Beltrew: I have never seen anything like this before: Beladi beladi beladi song filters through roar of crowd & explosion of fireworks #Egypt

On the flip side of the coin, the announcement angered the pro-Morsi. Mosa'ab Elshamy reports:

@mosaabrizing: So much anger at MB sit-in. Hearing distant gunshots.

Arabs too closely followed the unfolding events in Egypt.

Yemeni Abdulkader Alguneid tweets:

@alguneid: #Egypt Army is sacking Morsi, right now

Bahraini Salma exclaims:

جميلة يا #مصر

@salmasays: Egypt is beautiful

Mansoor Al-Jamri, also from Bahrain, notes:

المصريون يصححون المسار وينهون حالة الاختطاف التي تعرض لها الربيع العربي. تحي مصر.

@MANSOOR_ALJAMRi: Egyptians correct the path and end the hijacking of the Arab Spring. Long live Egypt!

And Moroccan Ahmed had a different view:

مصر في طريقها لتصبح باكستان.. إنتخابات ونقلاب .. إنتخابات وإنقلاب … إنتخابات انقلاب.. والنتيجة: كفر بالديموقراطية وتطرف ديني وسياسي

@blafrancia: Egypt is on its way to become Pakistan. Election and coup. Election and coup. Election and coup. The result is a total disbelief in democracy and religious and political extremism

July 02 2013

Light Weapons: Moving Pictures From Syria

Over 500,000 videos have been uploaded to the Internet from Syria during the past two years. Many document the course of protest and conflict, while others promote the views and perspectives of combatants, protesters, peace movements, and ordinary citizens who are witness to events. Despite this profusion of eyewitness perspective, the Syrian conflict has been poorly covered by media outlets worldwide. In part, this is because narrative descriptions of the war do not easily fit into a framework of good and evil, right and wrong. It is also because many videos that emerge are created with an absence of context, editing, or explanation.

While many of the uploaded videos are created by individuals, collectives and organizations have been active in curating, vetting, subtitling and promoting the content. Several groups function as virtual news agencies, both investigating and guaranteeing the sourcing of content, and syndicating the videos to mass media outlets and through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and especially YouTube, as well as livestream sites such as Bambuser and UStream. Emergent Syrian organizations distributing citizen video include the ANA New Media Channel and Shaam News Network. Syria Deeply tracks and organizes coverage of Syria, and also produces original analysis. Syria Untold documents the under-reported peace movement, which has continued despite the escalating war. Global Voices has ongoing special coverage of Syrian citizen media. The New York Times produces an ongoing compilation of material called Watching Syria's War.

Following are two compilations of recent citizen video from Syria, produced in an effort to isolate and highlight several aspects of this flood of imagery. These videos are on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, running concurrently with the exhibition War/Photography: Photographs of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermathorganized by the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and in Washington through September 29, 2013. They were produced in collaboration with Global Voices and Witness.

The first video, Light Weapons, reveals details of life during wartime: the uneven flight of a helicopter, a car creeping through the stillness of night, the swaying of a crowd, and people hurrying through the street. These scenes not only show the protests, police sweeps, shelling, and daily terror that have come to define daily existence for so many in Syria, they also reveal the incidental, the atmospheric: the sensations of war as well as the facts.

The second video, The Law of the Powerful Over the Weak, excerpts testimonials and interviews. These clips represent the many ways that individuals seek to understand their experiences. Here we find narration, retelling, interpretation, interrogation. A child recounts the destruction of his neighborhood; a nervous, laughing man describes how a sniper terrifies a community; a man mourns the death of his brother, a photographer. These accounts allow us to approach the war through the perspective of individual stories rather than the abstract language of geopolitics and national interest. They remind us that this war is foremost a vast tragedy for hundreds of thousands of individuals and families, and that the few stories represented here are emblematic of countless others.

Protestor Asks Morsi to Leave in Code

Massive protests calling on Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi to step down continue across Egypt for the third day.

An innovative protest sign. Leave written in 14 languages coded in QR. Photograph shared on Twitter by @AssemMemon

An innovative protest sign. Leave written in 14 languages coded in QR. Photograph shared on Twitter by @AssemMemon


(more…)

Videogame: Zaytoun, the Little Syrian-Palestinian Refugee

This post is cross-posted from Syria Untold and translated by Global Voices Arabic.

Zaytoun, the little Syrian-Palestinian refugee, is the leading character of a videogame created by a group of Syrian, Palestinian and Spanish activists.

Through the obstacles Zaytoun faces, the choices he makes and the people he meets, the players of this videogame are meant to get an understanding of the background of both Palestine and Syria and the current situation of their people.  The project includes a website with an archive that will collect information about the different Palestinian refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon, the story of the Syrian uprising and reports on human rights in the region. The creators ask for everyone´s contributions to complete the work.

Here's five-minute video preview of the project:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=c8qY8Ir310g

The video game shares the story of Zaytoun, the little boy refugee, who was forced to flee after the Syrian regime destroyed his house in the Yarmouk refugee camp and killed many of his Syrian friends. On his way out of the camp, the players will share his journey, the friends he will meet and the stories he will experience. With the help of documents and maps of the state of the roads, cities, streets and hospitals in Syria, he will make decisions on where to go next and how to interact with the people he meets. Whether he reaches certain locations or not will depend on him being able to answer questions concerning the history of Syria and Palestine.

Zaytoun and his little Syrian brother

Zaytoun and his little Syrian brother. Source: “Zaytoun, from border to border” website

The story of Zaytoun is the story of many Palestinians who left their land after they were expelled by the Israeli occupation and settled in Syria, where Yarmouk and other camps became their homes. During the beginning of the uprising, Yarmouk became a welcoming space to anyone fleeing from other areas of Damascus, where the regime was cracking down on demonstrators, and arresting, torturing and killing activists. Solidarity with the revolution and those suffering persecution emerged within the camp, which in the end led to it being bombed by regime forces.

In the words of Mokha, a Syrian-Palestinian designer, the Syrian revolution has reconciled many Palestinians with their Syrian identity.

“We are not only Palestinians, we are also Syrians and we suffer what Syrians suffer. For many years I wondered why Syrians did not rise against their tyrants, and now that they have, I feel proud of my Syrian people, just like I do of my Palestinian people.”

zaytoun-poster-2

Zaytoun, the little Syrian-Palestinian refugee. Source: “Zaytoun, from border to border” website

According to Syrian photographer Huss:

“It is important to understand that the Palestinian and the Syrian struggle go hand in hand and are equally legitimate. Both peoples have been oppressed and are fighting for freedom, justice and dignity. Supporting the right of Palestinians to self-determination and freedom while justifying crimes committed by Assad is a sign of either ignorance or dogmatism.”

In the words of Sara Carrasco, from Spain:

I support the right of every people to self-determination and autonomy, in every form. Both Syrians and Palestinians live under a monopoly of power directly connected to colonial and tyrannical interests. I am also concerned about our little knowledge of the struggles of our neighbors. In order to understand our own struggles in Spain and Europe, we need to be aware of those happening in the rest of the world. The image of Arabs and the Middle East and North Africa as a whole has been misrepresented by our media, and is it important to create alternative channels and projects to challenge such misrepresentations.”

This post is cross-posted from Syria Untold and translated by Global Voices Arabic.

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