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December 03 2013

Five Arab Countries Among Top 10 Corrupt Worldwide

Five Arab countries have been named among the top 10 most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International's newly released annual Corruption Perceptions Index.

Egyptian Amro Ali reacts:

And Sudanese Usamah Mohamed comments:

July 01 2013

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April 23 2013

Car Explosion at the French Embassy in Libya

Explosion at the French embassy in  Libya via @Eh4b10 on Twitter

Explosion at the French embassy in Libya via @Eh4b10 on Twitter

Twitter user @Eh4b10 has posted several photos on twitter of a car explosion near the French Embassy today around 6:50 am local time in Tripoli, Libya.

March 13 2013

Arab World: Pope Alert, White Smoke

Arab netizens joined the rest of the world today in awaiting news of a new pope, who will replace Benedict XVI.

As soon as the white smoke bellowed from the Sistine Chapel, Lebanese Nada Akl quipped:

@Nada_Akl: Pope alert, white smoke

Libyan Ismael wondered:

@ChangeInLibya: That's alot of white smoke. Are you sure it's just the ballots they're burning in there? #Suspicious

Syrian Karl Sharro said:

@KarleMarks: Once again, the cardinals have defeated us. They managed to elect a new pope before we managed to come up with a single funny pope joke.

And Egyptian Alyaa Gad joked:

@AlyaaGad: White smoke from the Sistine Chapel indicates that the cardinals finished having their (burned) dinner and now it's time for a joint. #Pope

Arab netizens also played guessing games on the name of the new pope, which has not been announced at the time of writing this post.

Lebanese-American Asad Abukhalil announced [ar]:

تسرّب إسم البابا الجديد: جورج دبليو بوش. مبروك.

: The name of the new pope has been leaked: it's George W. Bush. Congratulations.

And Free Tunisian noted:

فاليري سئلت عن هوية البابا الجديد فأجابت نازحة ” أكيد قطري … أنهم يشترون كل شيئ

@tounsiahourra: Valerie [a reader] asked me about the identity of the new pope so I answered joking: “It is certainly a Qatari. They buy everything.”

March 11 2013

Should Alcohol be Legalised in Libya?

Libyan netizens are debating whether alcohol should be allowed in the country – after more than 50 people have died from drinking methane-tainted home-made alcohol in Tripoli. Another 470-plus people have been taken to hospitals for treatment, prompting a heated discussion on why lifting the alcohol ban would introduce legislation, which will in turn prevent such wide-scale tragedies from happening again.

Both drinking and the sale of alcohol are prohibited in Libya but a locally brewed concoction called bokha is sold on the black market. According to the Libya Herald:

Instances of people dying as a result of drinking bokha, often distilled from figs, or being blinded are not uncommon although rarely reported. There were several deaths last year.

Bokha is sometimes laced with methanol to increase its alcoholic content.

On Twitter, Khadija Ali writes [ar]:

إذا كان هناك أي شيء لنتعلمه من الحوادث المثيرة للقلق مع الكحول هو أننا لا يمكن أن نستمر في الهروب من مشاكلنا #ليبيا

@KhadijaMAli: If there was anything we should learn from the incidents which raise concern regarding alcohol is that we cannot continue to run away from our problems

Nairouz says:

كارثة التسمم والموت بسبب الكحول كارثه وطنية دفع ثمنها الغالي شباب وشابات فى مقتبل العمر #ليبيا

@Rouznai: The alcohol poisoning and death is a national tragedy which young men and women are paying the price for

And Mohamed Mesrati adds:

@MohamedMesrati: Among people who died by the poisoned alcohol in #Libya rebels fought against Gaddafi during the revolution! Shame!

Talk online is that some doctors have refused to treat patients because drinking alcohol is un-Islamic – and those who consumed the alcohol deserved to die. On those, Mojahed Bosify says:

الاطباء الذين رفضوا معالجة متسممي الكحول هم اطباء الموت وعار على المهنة ويجب فصلهم طال الزمن او قصر..#ليبيا #طرابلس #كحول

@mojahedbosify: The doctors who refused to treat those who were effected with alcohol poisoning are doctors of death and a shame on the profession. They should be sacked

Rana Jawad opens a can of worms when she asks:

@Rana_J01: Is it time / is there social&political willingness to openly discuss alcohol consumption in #Libya? Wld legalising prevent deaths? Discuss..

Suilman Ali Zway responds:

@ILPADRINO0: The Hypocrisy (whether it was religious or social) of our society will prevent us from having an honest open debate about the matter

And Mohamed Eljarh explains:

@Eljarh: Majority in #Libya will refuse any form of legalization of alcohol consumption in #Libya even those who consume it & have always done.

Omar Mukhtar provides a solution:

@Libyan_Republic: Legalize alcohol. tax it and put these criminals out of business.

The criminals he refers to in this tweet are the manufacturers and peddlers of the home-brewed alcohol – bokha.

Further Reading:

Mohamed Mesrati published a two-part article on alcohol in Libya last month in online Libyan newspaper Al Kaf, in Arabic, which is available here and here.

British Security Firm Profits from Mali War

Ramzy Baroud writes [fr] about the conflict in Mali on Pambazuka:

British security firm G4S will rake in enormous profits due to the crisis taking place in Mali, Libya and Algeria. Recognized as the biggest security firm in the world, the group was downgraded at the time of the Olympic Games in London last year, as a result of its inability to meet the terms of a government contract. However, with the growing instability in Northern and Western Africa, it is expected that the firm will make a strong recovery in the near future.

March 04 2013

The Conflict in Mali: Who is Fighting Whom, and Why?

Since the bloody conflict in Mali began one year ago, the crisis has evolved in fits and starts, all the while immersed in a historical framework that the mainstream media too often oversimplifies. Here we will try to unpack the complexities of the conflict by putting into context the violent fighting currently engulfing the northern African country.

The conflict in the north of Mali pits the Malian army and its allies against many rebels groups fighting for greater autonomy or independence in the region. These groups include Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in Western Africa, and Ansar Dine, and Tuareg nomads who belong to the political and military Azawad National Liberation Movement.

Let's try to look at what the real causes of the war in Mali are [fr]:

Tout était en place pour que le Mali s’effondre et que le Sahel explose. Affaibli par les politiques d’austérité du FMI, longtemps paralysé par la Françafrique, victime du réchauffement climatique et de multiples sécheresses, le Mali est devenu l’une des pièces centrales du nouveau grand jeu sahélien. Revendication touarègue, djihadistes enrichis par le narcotrafic, déstabilisation libyenne et ambiguïtés algériennes, financements occultes saoudiens, stratégie à court terme des États-Unis et de l’Union européenne… Voici toutes les raisons de la guerre.

Everything was ripe for Mali to collapse and for Sahel to explode. Weakened by austerity policies that had been imposed by the IMF [fr], paralyzed for so long by the policies of Françafrique, and a victim of global warming [fr] and multiple droughts [fr], Mali became one of the key players in the great new Sahelian game. The Tuareg demands; the Jihadis who had become powerful from drug trafficking; the destabilization of Libya and the uncertainty in Algeria; hidden investments from Saudi Arabia; short-sighted strategies of the United States and Europe… These are all the reasons for the war.

Timbuktu residents protest against extremism on Wikpedia CC-License

Timbuktu residents protest against extremism on Wikipedia CC-License-2.0

How did modern Mali come to be? Mouhamadou el Hady Ba and Pierre Amath Mbaye in their work “The Malian crisis and lessons for Senegal” [fr] explain how Mali emerged from the post-colonial failure of a federation in the region [fr]:

Conscients des risques liés à une fragmentation de la région et suivant leur idéal panafricaniste, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Mamadou Dia, Modibo Keïta et d’autres dirigeants avaient pourtant formé l’idée de reprendre l’ensemble constitué par l’administration coloniale, l’Afrique Occidentale Française, en le portant vers l’indépendance sous la forme d’une fédération. … l’opposition marquée des autorités françaises de l’époque associée à celle de Félix Houphouët Boigny futur Chef de l’Etat ivoirien, réduiront cette fédération à un face à face entre le Soudan français (aujourd’hui Mali)  et le Sénégal, au sein de la Fédération du Mali . Cette tentative échouera sur fond d’options politiques différentes et de compétition pour le pouvoir, avec, en arrière-plan, l’engagement du Mali aux côtés des partisans algériens, lors de leur guerre d’indépendance. Le 20 aout 1960, voit donc s’éteindre avec la dissolution de la Fédération du Mali …

Keenly aware of the risks tied to a fragmented region, and following their Pan-African ideals, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Mamadou Dia, Modibo Keïta and other leaders still had the idea to carry on with the group that had made up the colonial administration known as l’Afrique Occidentale Française, by pushing for independence as a federation. …However, there was strong opposition from the French authorities, which at the time were linked to Félix Houphouët Boigny — an eventual Head of State of Côte d'Ivoire. This gave rise to a power struggle between French Sudan (today Mali) and Senegal, within the Mali Federation. This attempt at federation would eventually fail based on various political options and power struggles, while the Malian engagement in support of Algerian independence played out in the background. August 20, 1960, ends with the dissolution of the Federation of Mali…

Eros Sana on continues in his article, Mali : les véritables causes de la guerre (Mali: the Real Causes of the War [fr]) describing how Mali then experienced a brief window of socialism before a military coup brought a dictator to power:

Nous sommes en 1960, le Mali accède à l’indépendance. Le premier président malien, Modibo Keïta, instituteur et panafricaniste, élu démocratiquement, a à peine le temps d’entamer une profonde réforme agraire avant d’être renversé en 1968 lors d’un coup d’état mené par Moussa Traoré, soutenu par la France. [Les vingt-trois ans de règne seront sanglants]. Moussa Traoré ne se contente pas d’appauvrir et d’affamer son peuple, il mène aussi une forte répression contre la minorité Touareg du Mali. Les Touaregs représentent environ 2 % de la population malienne. Ils sont également présents au Niger, au Burkina-Faso, en Mauritanie, en Libye et en Algérie.

We are in 1960, Mali is gaining independence. The first president of Mali, Modibo Keïta, teacher and Pan-Africanist, democratically elected, barely has time to begin sweeping agricultural reforms before being overthrown in 1968 during a France-backed coup d’état orchestrated by Moussa Traoré. (The 23 years of rule that followed would be bloody). Moussa Traoré was not happy with simply impoverishing and starving his people, he also carried out powerful repressive measures against the Tuareg minority group in Mali. The Tuaregs represented about 2 percent of the Malian population. They are also present in Niger, Burkina-Faso, Mauritania, Libya and in Algeria.

Mouhamadou el Hady Ba and Pierre Amath Mbaye add another important factor to the equation: the rise of drug trafficking [fr]:

L’Afrique de l’ouest est ainsi devenue un espace stratégique de négoce des stupéfiants, à la suite du renforcement de la répression aux Etats-Unis et au Canada. Cette situation va amener les narcotrafiquants à se redéployer vers l’Europe en trouvant de nouvelles routes, et à exploiter le potentiel de corruptibilité de l’Administration des Etats de la région pour assurer leur tranquillité. En 2009, la drogue était expédiée de Colombie, du Venezuela et du Brésil, et arrivait par les ports de Guinée Bissau et du Cap-Vert au Nord, et ceux du Ghana au Sud. Les cargaisons étaient ensuite réparties entre le Nigéria, la Guinée, le Sénégal, la Mauritanie, puis, remontaient vers le Maroc et l’Algérie. En novembre de la même année, le monde entier découvrait l’atterrissage clandestin dans le nord du Mali d’un triréacteur Boeing 727 chargé de cocaïne, l’évènement donnant lieu à une affaire popularisée sous le nom d’Air Cocaïne, avec des ramifications en Amérique du sud et en Europe. Un symbole stupéfiant d’insertion de l’Afrique dans l’économie mondialisée, pourrait-on dire avec malice, si la situation n’était à ce point inquiétante.

And so, West Africa became a strategic point for the drug trade, following heightened efforts to snuff it out in the US and Canada. This situation would eventually cause drug traffickers to focus their efforts more on Europe by finding new routes, and to exploit the state administrations of the region that were susceptible to corruption, in exchange for guaranteeing peace. In 2009, drugs were exported from Colombia, Venezuela, and Brasil, and arrived at ports in Guinea-Bissau and Cape-Verde in the north, and at those of Ghana in the south. The cargo was then split up between Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, and reassembled once again near Morocco and Algeria. In November of the same year, the entire world would come to know of the clandestine landing of a three-engine Boeing 727 loaded with cocaine. The event gave rise to a scandal popularly known as Air Cocaine, which had repercussions in South America and Europe. A confounding symbol of Africa's insertion in the world economy, one may say mischievously, if the situation had not been so perplexing.

With respect to Saudi influence, Sahel expert Maurice Freund explained in an interview on website that Islamic extremism began to take root more than two decades ago when Saudi-financed organizations helped Malian people where their government failed them. “It's too late for Mali, we should have acted 20 years ago!” he said:

Il y a déjà plus de 20 ans, je rencontrais des Pakistanais et des Soudanais financés par les Saoudiens qui prêchaient le wahhabisme sous forme d’organisation humanitaire, en effectuant la construction de puits, de mosquées. Ils comblaient les carences des autorités dans le domaine social. D’où la prolifération des djihadistes. Le développement du wahhabisme dans le nord-Mali a commencé il y a déjà 25 ans.

More than 20 years ago now, I met Pakistanis and Sudanese people financed by Saudis. They preached [ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam] Wahhabism through humanitarian organizations by building wells and mosques. They made up for the shortcomings of the authorities on the social level. Hence the proliferation of the Jihadist movement. Wahabbism in the north of Mali began 25 years ago.

While trying to trace the genesis of the Djihadi movement in Sahel,  Abou Djaffar explains on his blog that:

En 1996, pourtant, il ne s’agissait même pas d’un front secondaire, mais simplement de l’arrière-cour de la guerre civile algérienne.

In 1996, however, it wasn't even a question of a being secondary front in the Algerian civil war, but it was in fact the Algerian civil war that just extended in the backyard.

Repercussions [fr] of the overthrow of Muammar Kadhafi, who supplied Mali with large amounts of funding, during the Libyan Civil War in 2011 added to the volatile situation brewing in Mali, Eros Sana writes:

En plus d’investissements lourds, Kadhafi multiplie les financements à petite échelle : écoles, dispensaires ou routes dans l’ensemble du Mali. Lorsque Kadhafi et son régime disparaissent, ce sont d’un côté de très nombreuses armes et des centaines d’hommes aguerris qui s’exilent dans le Sahel ; et de l’autre, des flux de plusieurs centaines de milliers d’euros qui se tarissent. Pour un pays dont plus de la moitié de la population vit avec moins d’un dollar par jour, c’est une importante manne qui s’envole. Après avoir appuyé militairement le renversement du régime libyen, les puissances de l’Otan auraient dû prévoir ce vide causé par la chute du colonel et le combler. Cela n’a pas été fait.

Aside from large investments, Kadhafi increased financing on the smaller scale: schools, health centers, roads throughout all of Mali. When Kadhafi and his regime disappeared, there was, on one side a large number of weapons, and hundreds of hardened men who were exiled in the Sahel region; and on the other side the evaporation of several hundred thousands of euros that had once flowed in. For a country where half of the population lives on less than one dollar a day, it is an important source of bread and butter that disappears. After having lent military support to the overthrow of the Libyan regime the NATO forces should have foreseen this vacuum that was was caused by the fall of the Colonel and worked to address it. That was not done.

Twitter user @Abdou_diarra foresaw on his blog the creation of new regions [fr] in northern Mali prior to the military coup that would overthrow President Amadou Toumani Touré in March 2012:

Blogger ASKIAMOHAMED writes about the Tuareg [fr] and their demands::

Elle commence le 17 janvier 2012 soit 2 mois avant le coup de force à Bamako, les rebelles attaquent Menaka, Tessalit et Aguel’hoc avant d’y être chassés par l’armée malienne.
Un véritable jeu de chaises musicales a lieu durant près de un mois dans les villes à la frontière algérienne entre l’armée, le Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) ainsi que le groupe Ansar Dine et leurs alliés d’ al Qaida au Maghreb islamique.

Le massacre de militaires maliens par les rebelles et leurs alliés à Aguel’hoc, à l’arme blanche va profondément choquer le peuple malien et mettre à jour les failles de l’armée et l’animosité de cette rébellion.

Début avril le coup d’état consommé le MNLA et leurs alliés islamistes contrôlent les deux tiers du Mali, l’armée malienne désorganisée par le coup ayant déserté.

En effet le coup d’état a désorganisé la chaine de commandement de l’armée et a mis à jour la fragilité de cette dernière et a donc conduit à cette débandade ou « retrait stratégique ».

Le MNLA proclame l’indépendance de cette zone le 6 avril 2012 car elle considère que c’est le berceau de la civilisation touareg, un fait inédit dans l’histoire car aucun peuple nomade ne s’est jamais réclamé d’un territoire avec des frontières bien dessinées.

De plus historiquement sur cette terre il y avait l’empire Songhaï fondé à Koukia au 7ieme siècle, par les Sonrhaïs, et les Berbères et dirigés par le chef Za el-Ayamen, qui fuyaient devant l’invasion arabe.

Ce métissage entre Sonrhaïs et Berbères donnera la dynastie des Dia. Puis vint la dynastie de Sonni ali ber et des Askia avec Gao pur capitale, avant de sombrer au 16ieme siecle sous l’invasion marocaine. Il y a également eu l’empire peul du Macina et l’empire toucouleur au 19ieme siècle. De plus de nombreuses tribus, Bozos (pécheurs) et dogons peuplaient cette zone.

Donc il n’y a aucune légitimité historique à cette demande.

It begins on the January 17, 2012, about two months before the showing of force at Bamako, the rebels attack Menaka, Tessalit, and Aguel’hoc before being driven out by the Malian Army.

A bonafide game of musical chairs takes place for almost one month in the towns on the Algerian border between the army, the National Azawad Liberation Movement (MNLA) as well as the group Ansar Dine and their Al-Qaeda allies from the Islamic Maghreb.

The massacre at knifepoint of Malian soldiers by Malian rebels and their allies at Aguel’hoc, severely shocks the Malian people and bring to light the failings of the army and the bitterness of this rebellion.

At the start of April, the coup [against President Amandou Toumani Touré] already executed, the MNLA and their Islamic allies control two-thirds of Mali. The Malian army, having been taken by the surprise by the coup, have deserted.

In fact, the coup ambushed the chain of command within the army and highlighted its vulnerability thereby driving this disbanding or “strategic withdrawal”.

The MNLA proclaims the independence of this zone on the April 6, 2012 because it believes that the region is the cradle of the Tuareg civilization, an unprecedented act because no nomadic people have ever claimed a territory with precisely defined borders.

Moreover, historically in this region there was the Songhai empire founded at Koukia in the 7th century by the Songhai and Berbers and led by chief Za el-Ayamen. They fled before the Arab invasion.

The mixing of Songhai and Berber people would eventually give rise to the Dia dynasty. After this came the Sonni Ali Ber dynasty and the Askia with Gao being the capital, before succumbing, in the 16th century to the Moroccan invasion. There was also the Massina Empire and the Toucouleur Empire of the 19th century. Not to mention various tribes, Bozos (a tribe of fishermen) and Dogons inhabited this zone. Therefore, there is no historical legitimacy to this demand.

It is in this context that France is intervening [fr] in its former colony to oust the Islamists, a move known as Operation Serval.

Though some think that France's intervention in Mali is driven purely by self interest, such as the author of this article entitled Nouvelles de la turbulence (News of the Unrest) [fr], such speculation [fr] should be treated with caution:

… il y aurait plus d’uranium au Mali qu’au Niger, et après avoir sécurisé les ressources libyennes (en excluant les émergents), les Français chercheraient à faire de même dans le Sahel. … qu’on ne fait pas de guerre pour des ressources qui ne sont encore que spéculatives, puisqu’on n’en connaît pas la quantité réelle et qu’on n’en voit pas encore la couleur. Arguments assez naïfs mais peut-être corrects pour le cas d’espèce.

Supposedly, there could be be more uranium in Mali than in Niger, and after having secured the Libyan resources (not counting those currently being currently explored), the French would be seeking to do the same thing in the Sahel region. …We wouldn't go to war for “potential” resources unless we knew the real quantity and quality of these resources. The resource-speculating arguments might be naive at first but perhaps not entirely off-base in this case.

Wirriyamu responds in this article Ne pas laisser dire (3) [fr] (Do not let it be said):

Je suis convaincu désormais que certains trouvent totalement anormal le soutien de l’opinion malienne, et au-delà africaine, à cette intervention. Ils mettent cette adhésion le plus souvent sur le dos de la naïveté ou de l’ignorance, c’est selon. Ce qui montre que beaucoup, trop nombreux à mon goût, pensent encore que les Africains n’ont pas leur place sur le chemin de l’histoire qui se fait sans eux, hors d’eux. Bref, ils subissent tout.

I am now convinced that some find the support of the Malian public, not to mention African support for this intervention, to be completely abnormal. They usually place the blame for this support squarely on the back of naivete or ignorance, as the case may be. This shows that many — too many for my taste — still think that Africans have had no active role in the course of history [fr]. It happens without them. In sum, they are victims.

February 18 2013

A Second Revolution in Libya?

On February 15, 2011, two days before the scheduled ‘Day of Anger', Libyan women relatives of the prisoners of Abu Salim correction center, staged one of their usual protests in Benghazi to demand answers to the disappearance and/or death of their loved ones in this infamous Muammar Gaddafi prison. The notorious prison was a place reserved for activists, political prisoners and other individuals Libya's former strongman deemed detrimental to the ‘Jamahiriya’ system.

Having as its backdrop the Tunis and Egypt overthrow of dictators in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring,’ the Libyan Revolution was unlike any other. The rest as they say is history as Libya descended into an armed revolution, heavily supported by NATO forces from the air.

The ride to democracy has been quite bumpy, though we have had three governments without bloodshed in less than two years. Also against all odds, Libya held a model election in July 2012, which carried with it a message of hope having been won by non-Islamist parties as Asma from @LibyanBentBladi says:

@LibyanBentBladi: Trend setters, that's what we Libyans have always been.Election Results in Libya Break an Islamist Wave

Ben Ghazi celebrates the second anniversary of the Libyan revolution. Photo credit: Libyan Youth Movement Facebook page

Benghazi celebrates the second anniversary of the Libyan revolution. Photo credit: Libyan Youth Movement Facebook page

However, on the second anniversary of the February 17 Revolution as it is now known, the promises of the revolution of turning New Libya into a prosperous democracy have not been achieved. The Libyan government, shunning external aid, has failed to secure the borders and arms stockpiles, making the country the largest smuggling place on earth and Libyans the biggest arms dealers.

Mishandled priorities, the continued shunning of justice and reconciliation and evident gross corruption has put a damper on the euphoria, exacerbating the grievances from various groups and regions. Exiled in Libya's sorrowful rendering of his/her experience as a displaced person is a prime example of unresolved issues:

“Farewell my beloved home,
someday I will return
abode of my happiness – my dignity
solace of my white-haired years
sanctuary of my weary body
will my hand ever turn the key in your door again?
Will my bare feet walk in your fields
sinking into the cool soil once more?
Shall I find the carob tree standing strong
in defiance of the wild winds?
The roses I nurtured against the odds,
the jasmine fluttering in the breeze,
will they be there to welcome me?
the hoopoe at my window- will it remember me?
“I miss you! I miss you,” I cry
The knowing , the belonging
the beauty of the morning lights
the azure of the early nights
I am bereaved, I have lost my home
Uprooted and exiled,
how long must I wander?
How far must I roam?”

Libyans, like Sarah from @LibyafromFrance, were also shocked for example to see that the Supreme Court was able to speed through a law allowing Libyan men to take a second wife without the permission of the first thus repelling the Gaddafi era law which controlled polygamy, yet we are still waiting for a transitional justice law.

@LibyaFromFrance: What a title “@AlArabiya_Eng: Time for men in #Libya to look for a second wife: Supreme Court

The growing take over of the Islamists in public spheres and their pandering to militias allowed them to pontificate more and more culminating in the assassination of the US Ambassador to Libya in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. This marked a turning point with increased political kidnappings and killings in Libya, anchoring firmly the view that the elected government was impotent, slow and disconnected from the real Libyan problems. The voices calling for federalism were now stronger till they reached their crescendo a couple of months ago with a planned second revolution on February 15 in Benghazi with the logic that they started it and so could do it again to correct the wrong. The list of demands ranged from the resignation of political figures to installing a federalist system.

Having foreigners warned from traveling to Libya was the last straw it seemed as expressed by Highlander here.

The latest travel advice to Libya makes even me who live there to be scared to travel in Libya

All these negative emotions and disappointments and the increasing security fears from Gaddafi loyalists succeeding in hijacking this planned protest for their own counter revolution had an enormous toll on Libyans with many like Hanan Saeed from Romana writes not feeling very celebratory.

“What exactly are we celebrating? Seriously?
Chaos maybe?
I do not know, let's see, lack of law and order?
Or perhaps new instilled terror and not being able to leave our houses after Margreb prayers?
Profound hatred for anyone publicly holding a gun?
Or better yet, the new norm of seeing guns in broad daylight?
hmmm I struggle at finding things to add to this list….[...] Until then, for me at least, the 17th of February is nothing but a sad reminder of what we were hoping to be, not what really is.”

Libyans were wondering where had that special mood of unity and victory over evil gone in the run up to the anniversary of the revolution which will be stretching over a long weekend? But somehow preparation for celebrations started earlier than anticipated and moved to proper celebrations in Tripoli in various districts.

As Ruwida Ashour from Omar Almokhtar's Daughter has posted:

“everyone without any alarm remembered how we acted those days 2 years back and trying to make their best to make the city safe and happy, I was really a bit worried about my city , not from anything but from those who tries to make the black picture about Benghazi , but with today I'm not just happy , i'm hyper , and again not worried about the great heroes (Benghazi Citizens ) “

Hundreds of young men rose up to the occasion across Libya ensuring security of the cities during in anticipation of the anniversary and earned the gratitude of the population like here from Maimuna of @fcukruna who tweeted:

@fcukruna: Hats off to all shabab bladi [young men of my country] standing at checkpoints on this cold night, all my love and appreciation to you <3! #Libya

It seems that only when the Federalist Party confirmed they would not be joining the February 15 planned demonstration in Benghazi that the country heaved a collective sigh of relief and went crazy as witnessed by the Libyan Youth Movement @Shabablibya in this tweet:

@ShababLibya: Just Skype'd in to our admin in #Benghazi Shara3 Jamal Street; crazy celebrations!! #libya #feb17 RT

“In a surprise announcement on Al-Ro’ya TV last night, Wednesday, the Cyrenaica federalist block announced that it would not be taking part in demonstrations tomorrow that it had originally instigated. It called on its supporters not to turn up. It had made the decision, it said, “for the safety of our communities, the preservation of national unity, our social harmony and to avoid the public getting involved in conflicts at the behest of various political entities and groups.”
The last point refers to concerns that other groups either opposed to the revolution or with different agendas might try to use the occasion for violence”


I will conclude that yes we are still a long way from human rights for men and women, freedom of speech, reconciliation, justice in all its forms and economic prosperity, but so far we have managed to stave off civil war despite being flooded with arms and kept the unity of the land pulling off a last minute show of solidarity regaining that special adrenaline charged feeling post revolution when all dreams were possible. Could this be the real second revolution?

January 21 2013

Blame Jihadis Financial Incentives, not Gaddafi's Fall, for Troubles in Mali

Jihadis venture capitalism extended to an even more lucrative business: kidnapping western hostages all over the Sahara yielded over 90 Million Euros over a decade [..] The modus operandi was very simple: why get killed trying to create an Islamist emirate in “apostate-ruled” neighboring countries when you can build your own sanctuary AND have the West pay for it?

Nasser Weddady unpacks the reasons for the current troubles in Mali. He opines that the roots of the problem are more complex than the existing narratives in the media lead us to believe.

January 18 2013

Gabon to Mali: History of French Military Interventions in Africa

[All links forward to french articles unless otherwise stated] 

The French military intervention in Mali, known as Operation Serval [en] started on January 11, 2013 following the advance of terrorists groups towards Bamako. Lauded by a substantial part of the Malian population [en] and many outside observers, the military intervention diverts, however, from the non-interventionist line professed by French President Hollande in Africa.

View L'intervention militaire étrangère au Mali in a larger map
Google interactive map of the Malian conflict by Jeune Afrique

Francis d'Alençon wonders why French interventions in Africa do not raise protests around the world:

Bizarre, bizarre… L’intervention française au Mali ne dérange personne alors que des actions américaines similaires soulèveraient des tempêtes de protestation… De l’avantage de ne pas être une super puissance.

This is odd… The french intervention in Mali does not bother anyone whereas similar actions by the USA would have raised a storm of protests.. There are perks to not being the world's top super power.

To illustrate his point, he quotes from the Cech newspaper Lidové noviny :

Les Français sont intervenus plus de 50 fois en Afrique depuis 1960. Ils ont combattu au Tchad, dans la guerre non déclarée avec la Libye, protégé les régimes de Djibouti et de République Centrafricaine des rebelles, empêché un coup d’état aux Comores, sont intervenus en Côte d’Ivoire. Que ce soit pour préserver des intérêts économiques, protéger les ressortissants français ou démontrer le statut de grande puissance du pays, les locataires de l’Élysée, de gauche comme de droite, ont fréquemment manifesté leur penchant pour les actions unilatérales. … Pourtant personne n’a jamais protesté. … Si les États-Unis intervenaient avec une telle véhémence, il y aurait des protestations interminables en Europe. Et les ambassades américaines verraient défiler des diplomates fâchés, à commencer par les Français.

The French have now intervened more than 50 times in Africa since 1960. They fought in Chad, in the war with Libya, protected regimes in  Djibouti and the Central African Republic from rebels, prevented a coup in the Comoros and intervened in Côte d'Ivoire. Whether to preserve economic interests, protect French nationals or showcase the still imposing power of France, the main tenants of the Palais de l'Élysée, either from the left or from the right wings, have frequently expressed their penchant for unilateral action. But … nobody has ever protested. If … the United States intervened in such a manner, there would be an endless sequence of protests in Europe. U.S. embassies would see angry diplomats coming through their doors, starting with the French ones.

Carte de la rébellion touareg au Azawad, au nord de Mali indiquant les attaques des rebelles au 5 avril 2012

Map of the Tuareg rebellion in Azawad, Northern Mali showing rebel attacks as of April 5, 2012 (CC-BY-3.0)

Below is a chronology of these interventions [There are indeed quite a few of them but contrary to what the Cech newspaper stated, there were less than 50 french interventions in Africa ]. It is based on two articles:  one is a review written by  Nestor N’Gampoula  for Oeil d'Afrique and  another one by Jean-Patrick Grumberg for Dreuz Info. Grumberg adds that most of the French interventions in Africa took place on former colonial soil :

In 1964, airborne french troops landed in Libreville, Gabon after an attempted coup against the regime back then.

From 1968 to 1972, French troops took part in the fight against the rebellion in the Tibesti region in northern Chad.

In 1978 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), 600 French legionnaires went into the town of Kolwezi, in the south-east to help thousands of Africans and Europeans threatened by Katangan rebels. The mission was in response to a call for help made by President Mobutu Sese Seko to help his country. The operation cost the lives of five legionnaires, but allowed the evacuation of 2700 Westerners.

In 1979 in CAR, Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa is removed by French paratroopers during the Operation Barracuda.

From 1983-1984 in Chad, France undertook Operation Manta, a 3,000 men strong operation to face armed rebels supported by Libya. Two years later, another French military action, composed of mostly aerial attacks called “Operation Epervier“, was deployed after an anti-government attack.

In Comoros in 1989, after the assassination of President Ahmed Abdallah and the takeover of the country by the French mercenary Bob Denard, about 200 French soldiers arrived in the country to force them to leave the country.

In 1990, Paris sends troops to Gabon in Libreville and Port-Gentil in reinforcement of the French contingent after violent riots erupted. The operation allowed the evacuation of some 1,800 foreigners.

In 1991 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), the Belgian and French troops managed to evacuate foreigners after violent riots and looting occurred in the country.

In 1991 still, French troops based in Djibouti help the Afar rebellion to disarm Ethiopian troops that had crossed the border following the overthrow of Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam.

In 1994, French and Belgian soldiers evacuate Europeans while Rwanda Hutus massacred hundreds thousands of Tutsis. Later in the year, some 2,500 French soldiers, supported by african troops, launched “Operation Turquoise“, described as a humanitarian effort, in Zaire and in eastern Rwanda.

In 1995, a thousand men involved in Operation Azalea ended another attempted coup against Comorian President  Said Mohamed Djohar by Bob Denard.

In 1996 in the Central African Republic (CAR), operation Almandin secured the safety of foreigners and the evacuation of 1,600 people after the army mutinied against President Ange-Félix Patassé. The following year in 1997, specifically after the murder of two French soldiers, a French operation against the mutineers was mandated in Bangui (Central African Republic).

The same year, 1997, some 1,200 French soldiers rescued French and African expatriates during fighting between the Congolese army and supporters of the military leader Denis Sassou Nguesso, now President of the Republic of Congo.

In 2002, French forces undertook Operation Licorne to help Westerners trapped by a military uprising that effectively divided Côte-d’Ivoire in two regions.

In 2003, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), Operation Artemis in Ituri  secured the area and put an end to ongoing massacres. This was followed by the deployment of 2,000 peacekeepers,  80% of which were French.

In 2004 in Côte-d’Ivoire, France destroyed the small Ivorian airforce after government forces bombed a French base.

In 2008 a new French intervention strengthens the regime of Chadian President Idriss Deby and evacuated foreigners while rebels from neighboring Sudan attacked.

In March 2011 in Libya had the French airforces were the first to bomb Gaddafi forces after the vote at the United Nations authorized intervention in Libya to protect civilians caught up in the rebellion against Gaddafi. NATO took command of the overall mission on March 31, a mission that helped the Libyan rebels to defeat the forces of the government and take power.

In 2011 in Côte-d’Ivoire,  French forces alongside UN forces tip the balance in favor of Ouattara during the civil war. The war broke out after the refusal of Laurent Gbagbo to resign and accept the verdict of the election that pronounced Alassane Ouattara as president.

France had decided to break with his role as “policeman of Africa” by refusing to intervene again in the Central African Republic  where François Bozizé (former army chief who came to power by overthrowing the elected president Ange-Félix Patassé on March 15, 2003) faced a rebellion uprising. Little did he know that the events in Mali would force his hands :

In 2013 in Mali,  French bombarded Islamist rebels after they tried to expand their powerbase  towards the Malian capital, Bamako. France had already warned that control of the north of Mali by the rebels posed a threat to the security of Europe.

At the same time, France has mounted a commando operation to try to save a French hostage held by al Shabaab militants in Somalia, also allied with al-Qaeda. The hostage was  killed by the militants.

December 29 2012

MENA: Acclaimed Authors’ Favorites of 2012

M. Lynx Qualey, blogger, who is interested in Arab and Arabic literature, wrote a series of posts introducing acclaimed Arab poets, novelists, and short-story writers’ favorite Arab reads of 2012. She started with a list of nonfiction books, then followed by a list for poetry [En] and fiction [En].

November 24 2012

Made in Libya: Blogger Ahmed Ben Wafaa

Ahmed Ben Wafaa is a science teacher who started blogging in 2000 in order to express himself on the state of things in his country and through his blog “Made in Libya” [ar] he succeeded in becoming a source of information during the Libyan revolution.

On his blog, Ahmed introduces himself as follows [ar]:

اسمي أحمد علي بن وفاء ، ليبي ، ولدت بقرية “أبوروية” في مدينة مصراته سنة 1981، أحمل شهادة بكالوريوس من كلية العلوم (قسم علوم الحياة). عندي شغف كبير بالتدوين – لكنه الكسل!

My name is Ahmed Ben Wafaa. I am Libyan. I was born in the village of Aburuya in Misratah in 1981. I hold a BS from the Faculty of Sciences (Life Sciences department). I am very fond and passionate about blogging but it is laziness [which prevents me from blogging more].

I interviewed Ahmed following many attempts to contact Libyan bloggers due to the weakness of means of communication in Libya nowadays. It took him a month to respond, he said, because he was unable to get access to a good Internet connection.

Photo of Ahmed posted on his blog “Made in Libya”.

GV: When did you start your activities on the Internet and what attracted you to the blogosphere?

أحمد بن وفاء: بدايتي مع الإنترنت كانت عام 2000، وقتها كان التدوين العربي يتعثر في خطواته الأولى، وقد أعجبتني فكرة أن يكون للمرء صفحة خاصة - خلال بضع دقائق - يعبر فيها عن أفكاره واهتماماته المختلفة (سياسية، تقنية، فنية الخ) بحرية، بعيداً عن جمود واحتكار وسائل النشر التقليدية.

Ahmed: My story with the Internet dates back to 2000. Back then, blogging in the Arab World was still in its first steps. I liked the idea of having one's own and private page where he can express his ideas and various interests (political, technical, artistic …) freely, away from the monopoly of mainstream media.

GV: Can you tell me a bit about the dangers that faced Libyan bloggers during [former Libyan dictator Muammar] Gaddafi's regime?

أحمد بن وفاء: كان التدوين عن السياسة أمراً شبه مستحيل لأن أي انتقاد تفسره الأجهزة الأمنية - ضيقة الأفق - كتهجم على رأس النظام (القذافي شخصياً) فيتم قمعه بشكل فوري، ومازلت أذكر ما تعرض له الصحفي ضيف الغزال عام 2005 حين كتب مقالاً على الانترنت ينتقد فيه الفساد والقمع الذي يتعرض له المواطن، فتم اختطافه وعثر على جثته لاحقاً وعليها آثار التعذيب (ومبتورة الأصابع) في إشارة واضحة لا تحتاج إلى تعليق!

Ahmed:Blogging about politics was almost an impossible thing because any criticism interpreted by the narrow vision of the security apparatus as an attack on the head of the regime (Gaddafi in person) and is met with an immediate crackdown. I still remember what journalist Daif el Ghazal went through in 2005 when he wrote a piece on the net criticizing corruption and oppression faced by people. He was kidnapped and his body was found later on with marks of torture (his fingers cut) in a clear sign that needs no comment.

GV: Everybody knows that the blackout in Libya and the banning of foreign channels to enter the country, made the bloggers the most important source of news during the Libyan revolution. Could you tell us about experiences which reflect this reality?

أحمد بن وفاء: بصراحة لم يكن للمدونات دور كبير أثناء الثورة لأسباب كثيرة ربما من ضمنها خشية المدون من اكتشاف هويته من قبل النظام، فلجأ معظمهم للكتابة بأسماء مستعارة والانتقال لمخاطبة الشريحة الأكبر التي تستخدم فيسبوك بالإضافة لسرعة انتقال المعلومات هناك وسهولة مشاركتها، وأذكر أنه في يناير الماضي قام بزيارتي صحفي اسمه عبد الله السالمي من قسم (BBC Monitoring) -وهو قسم مهتم بالحصول على الأخبار من مصادر إعلام المواطن كالمدونات وتويتر وغيرها - وأخبرني أن مدونتي كانت ضمن 3 مدونات ليبية كانوا يحرصون على زيارتها بشكل يومي أثناء الثورة الليبية، وأعتقد أن عدد المدونات النشطة أثناء الثورة لم يتجاوز 10 مدونات (من داخل البلاد).
وقد كانت مهمتنا في غاية الصعوبة بسبب سيطرة النظام على قطاع الإنترنت بشكل كامل وقيامه بقطعه على كامل البلاد بعد وقت قصير من اندلاع الثورة! مما جعل من دخولنا للانترنت (عبر وسائل بديلة) في غاية الصعوبة، بالإضافة لانشاء مخابرات النظام ما يسمى “بالجيش الالكتروني” الذي كان مهمته حجب واختراق المواقع وصفحات فيسبوك المؤيدة للثورة.

Ahmed:Honestly, blogs didn't have much of a role during the revolution for many reasons, like, for instance, the bloggers fear that their identity is discovered by the regime. So most of them started using fake nicknames or addressed the biggest segment which uses Facebook, in addition to the speed of information transfer on this platform and the easiness of sharing it. I remember last January, I got a visit by BBC monitoring journalist (a department which looks for information through citizen media such as blogs, Twitter and more), Abdullah Al Salemi, who told me that my blog was among three Libyan blogs they visited on a daily basis during the Libyan revolution. But I think that the active blogs during the revolution didn't exceed 10 (from inside the country) and our mission was really difficult because the regime had a complete monopoly and control on the Internet and it blocked it shortly after the start of the uprising. This made our access to the net (through alternative means) very difficult, in addition to the creation by the intelligence service of the regime to what was called “the electronic army” which was tasked with hacking sites and Facebook pages that supported the revolution.

GV: Gaddafi's regime fell and so did dictatorship. Did the situation change? Are bloggers safer now in Libya or there are still redlines and taboos which should not be crossed?

أحمد بن وفاء: لم تعد هناك خطوط حمراء أو تابوهات، وأصبح انتقاد الحكومة والسخرية منها بالكاريكاتير أو المقال أمراً عادياً، لكن الكاتب بات يخشى عمليات الانتقام الفردية بسبب عدم تشكل الجيش واستتباب الأمن في البلاد بشكل كامل وانتشار السلاح.

Ahmed: There are no longer redlines or taboos. Criticizing and mocking the government through cartoons or articles is something quite ordinary now. But the author now fears individual retaliation because there is still no army or security entirely in the country and there are still arms all over the place.

GV: How do you perceive the future of blogging and citizen media in Libya?

أحمد بن وفاء: متفاءل طبعاً، فقبل حقبة القذافي كان الدستور يكفل حرية التعبير وكانت تجرى سجالات فكرية ساخنة في عشرات الصحف اليومية قبل أن يختزلها القذافي في بضع صحفحكومية بائسة لا يشتريها أحد.

Ahmed: I am optimistic of course, because prior to Gaddafi the constitution guaranteed the freedom of expression and there used to happen intense debates in the newspapers on a daily basis before Gaddafi put an end to all this and started public newspapers which no body would buy.

You can also follow Ahmed on Twitter and on Facebook.

October 24 2012

Arab World: Salafi Awkward Moments

Recognised by their long beards, and short garbs (thobe), Salafists, who follow a strict interpretation of Islam, were the butt of jokes on Twitter under a new hash tag #SalafiAwkwardMoments.

Following the ousting of Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and the murder of Libya's Muammar Al Gaddafi, Salafists, who were operating underground, rose to prominence, becoming more visible and vocal in public life. In Egypt, Hazem Abu Ismail, a Salafi leader, even ran for the Egyptian presidential elections - for a short while at least - before being disqualified, after it emerged that his mother was a US citizen. In Libya and Tunisia, they stormed the US embassies after the release of a trailer of a movie, which was insulting of Islam and Prophet Muhammed.

While the West ponders on how to deal with them, let's tune into Twitter to see how funny netizens think they are.

That Salafi has a number of jokes under his sleeve. He tweets:

@ThatSalafi: When you find out that your new boss is a female #SalafiAwkwardMoments

A rally for Salafist former Egyptian presidential elections candidate Hazim Abu Ismail in Cairo's Tahrir Square

A rally for Salafist former Egyptian presidential elections candidate Hazem Abu Ismail in Cairo's Tahrir Square on April 6, 2012. Photograph by Jonathan Rashad, shared on flickr under (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

@ThatSalafi: When your thobe is the longest one in the group #SalafiAwkwardMoments

@ThatSalafi: When your son asks you to teach him how to shave #SalafiAwkwardMoments

@ThatSalafi: Just saw an Orthodox Jew with a bigger beard than mine #SalafiAwkwardMoments

Aly Galal quips:

@alycature: When you can't have some soup without soaking your beard into the dish. #SalafiAwkwardMoments

And Egyptian SuperWoman adds:

@Super_Egypt: When a Salafiya gives you the You're-not-Salafi-enough-for-me look and tells you to choose martyrdom #SalafiAwkwardMoments

October 20 2012

Libya: Is Khamis Gaddafi Really Really Dead?

This post is part of our special coverage Libya Uprising 2011.

Is Khamis Gaddafi dead? Really really dead that is. The question is still making the rounds exactly a year after the fall of his father Libyan dictator Muammar Al Gaddafi.

Journalist Mary Fitzgerald tweets:

@MaryFitzgeraldIT: After day of rumours #Libya national congress spox has told local TV channel Gaddafi's son Khamis was captured injured today & died later

And she adds:

: Given Gaddafi's son Khamis reported captured/dead several times over past 20 months, not surprising many are waiting to see evidence #Libya

The LibyanYouthMovement remarks:

@ShababLibya: We will wait for pictures and continue to update everyone on the story. We all thought Khamis was dead! #Libya

And Huda notes:

@hudduh: Khamis has died more times than Kenny. Waiting for the inevitable mobile phone footage to confirm his capture/death. #Libya

NPR senior strategist Andy Carvin tweets:

@acarvin: Show us Khamis Gaddafi. Prove it. Until you do, he'll remain Kayser Soze. #libya

Meanwhile, Iyad El-Baghdadi predicts:

@iyad_elbaghdadi: Some douchebag creates & circulates a photoshopped image of dead Khamis #Gaddafi in 3… 2… #Libya

And Libyan AletheiaLibya comments:

@AletheiaLibya: If #Gaddafi “lives forever in the heart of Libyans”, it's only fair that Moussa Ibrahim & Khamis should live forever in #Libya's prisons.

Moussa Ibrahim was Gaddafi's spokesman. News reports today say he was captured in Tarhouna, south of the capital Tripoli.

Journalist Jenan Moussa calls for reason:

@jenanmoussa: Guys guys stop spreading rumors. I confirm that no one in #Libya can confirm news right now about Khamis Gaddafi

Only time will tell if Khamis Gaddafi will meet his father's fate anytime soon.

This post is part of our special coverage Libya Uprising 2011.

October 19 2012

Lybia: Bani Walid under violent siege

Almost one year after Muammar Gaddafi's death, his former stronghold and heart of the Warfalla tribe, the town of Bani Walid, seems about to fall under the attacks of the Lybian army. Some sources [it] define its two week bloody siege as a 'small genocide'. The operation is lead by armed militias and Islamist forces of Benghazi and Misratah, long time enemies of the Warfalla. It seems that medical and other essential supplies are now being prevented from entering the city, which is under rocket and mortar fire with some reports of toxic gas use. Twitter updates are under the #BANIWALID hashtag, while the International community seems unaware and/or disregarding this “cleansing” operation, which is clearly causing severe suffering to local population.

October 10 2012

Arab World: The Plight of Syrian Refugee Girls

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

As the Syrian Revolution continues, its consequences continue to effect refugees who have fled the violence in the country, especially women who are paying a double price as victims of violence in these armed conflicts. In a patriarchal and male chauvinist culture that constantly abuses the weakness of the woman for its own interests, Syrian refugee girls in Jordan, Libya, Turkey and Lebanon are subject to the pressures of forced marriages from Syrian or other Arab nationals under the pretext of protecting their virtue at any price.

Within this context, news on Syrian refugee girls forced marriages or even campaigns to marry them off to “protect their virtue” have gone viral on social media.  The Facebook Page “Syrian Women with the Revolution”, created originally to support the revolution in Syria, has received many “marriage demands” from young Arabs wishing to tie the knot with a Syrian refugee so as “to protect her honor.”

For example, Rami from Jordan posted:

مرحبا انا رامي من الاردن عمري 25 وارغب في اازواج من فتاة سورية ونا واللة جاد جدا وارغب في الستر والحمدلله عندي بيت وراتبي منيح والحمدلله

Hello, I am Rami, 25 years old from Jordan. I'd like to marry a Syrian girl. I swear I am very serious and I wish to protect the honor. Thanks to God, I have a house and my salary is good. Thanks God

In response, many Syrians revealed their extreme irritation and anger over the abuse of the conditions of refugee families through such marriage contracts and bargains. On the other hand, the phenomena reached Libya, where Syrian refugees talked about Libyans knocking on their doors, looking to marry girls in exchange for money.

Taken from “Syrian Women with the Revolution Page” where we can read: Is this is how we are being rewarded? By you buying our sisters from the refugees camps? Shame on you and on your sense of honor. The Liberated Kfarnabl 04/09/2012

Helal Samarqandy wrote on Facebook:

أقلها هلا ركزت في دعمهن للحصول على ضروريات الحياة ثم اطلب يدها حرة إن أردت، أما استغلال تشردهن وفقدان ضرورات الحياة لديهن فلست بخير من بشار.
لعن الله من لا يحركه الا فرجه.

The least you can do is support them to have the basics of life and then propose to her when she is free if you want but as to exploit their displacement and their lack of the basics things for life, you are no better than Bashar. May God curse the one whose brain is between his legs.

Nbares Blog asserted the existence of secret bureaus for “honor marriages” with Syrian girl in Benghazi, where Syrian refugees speak of Libyans knocking the doors of Syrian families looking to marry from young girls in addition to the existence of offices working discretely. Meanwhile, Libyan Affairs entitles its post “A double suffering for Syrian Refugee Girls …. a war tearing the homeland and marriage proposals that are closer to forced marriages”:

…دكاكين أبو حمد، [ وهو رمز لـ”تاجر نساء” في الأردن والجزائر وليبيا والعراق اختاره أحد الكتاب السعوديين الذين انتقدوا ظاهرة استغلال السوريات اللاجئات من قبل خليجيين وعرب] العربي المتدين الذي يتاجر بالنساء معززا بفتاوى الفقهاء، بدأت انتشارها مع اشتداد الحرب في سوريا، وسرعان ما وجدت زبائنها من الشباب والشيوخ راغبين في الزواج بالسوريات، “لسترهن” أو للتكفل بهن من منطلق أنهن لاجئات لا عائل لهن….. وغالبا ما يتم الزواج بالسوريات اللاجئات بمهور زهيدةحيث لاتملك عائلة العروس إلا القبول نظرا لظروفها الصعبة وبحثا عن “السترة” وحرصا على شرف البنات والعائلة.

We shall not accept humiliation or disgrace. This is opportunism. From “Syrian Women with the Revolution” Facebook Page and the dialogue translates into: - Marry me in Halal and I shall take you and your family from the camp - You left everything and brought victory to Islam by abusing Syrian refugee girls

The shop of Abu Ahmed [” Symbol of the pimp” in Jordan, Algeria and Iraq named by a Saudi writer who criticized the abuse of Syrian refugee girls by Gulf and Arab nationals … ], the Arab patriotic, the religious who trade women based on the fatwas [religious edicts] of clerics, started to spread with the intensification of the war in Syria and quite soon, it found its clients among youth and old men desiring to wed to Syrians so as to protect their honor or to take care of them because they are refugees without any provider. Very often, these women are married with quite a cheap dowry and the family of the bride can only but accept given their dire conditions and looking for “protection” of the girl's honor and her family.

Within the framework of a campaign to support Syrian refugee women in Syria's neighboring countries, some young Syrians created a Facebook page entitled ” Refugees … not captives” whose mission is summarized as follows:

لحماية حقوق المرأة السورية..
لمحاربة امتهان قيمة المرأة السورية..
لدعوة المجتمع الأهلي ورجال الأعمال لدعم المرأة السورية..
لاجئات لا سبايا.. لأن السوريات انتفضن لأجل كرامتهن لا ليكونوا بضاعة رخيصة في سوق النخاسة تحت مسيمات الزواج والسترة..
شاركونا في دعم حملة ” لاجئات لا سبايا

For the protection of the Syrian women rights
For fighting the humiliation of the value of Syrian women
To call the civil society and businessmen to support Syrian women
Refugees not captives, because Syrian women have rebelled for their dignity so not to become cheap goods in the slave markets under the names of marriage and honor. Join us in supporting “Refugees not captives Campaign”

Moayad Skaif, one of the campaign's founders, wonders on his Facebook Page:

دعوات الخليجيين للزواج من سوريات تعني أنهم ينظرون إلى نسائنا كسبايا ولكن بالمال.. إنه سوق نخاسة.. لإرضاء نزواتهم الجنسية وتحسين نسلهم على حساب كرامتنا وبعناوين فضفاضة..
أيها السوري اليتيم.. صرت قشة في قلب الريح..

The calls of Gulf nationals to marry Syrian women means they look at our women as captives but with money… it is a slave market, to satisfy their sexual impulses and enhance their lineage on the expense of our dignity and with bright titles … ohhhh you poor Syrian orphan … you have become a straw in the heart of history

Interviewed by the electronic magazine “Zaman al Wasl” (The times of communication), he wonders:

إذا كانت النخوة والرغبة في المساعدة هي الدافع الحقيقي لدى راغبي الزواج فلماذا لم يهب هؤلاء إلى ستر الصوماليات أو السودانيات من أهل دارفور؟….وإذا كانت الدوافع انسانية بحتة كما يزعمون فليدعموا الشباب السوري الذي أجبرته الظروف على أن يظل أعزبا وهو لاجئ لا يجد قوت يومه.

Cover Page of “Refugees … Not Captives” Facebook Page

If chivalry and the desire to help is the true motive of the marriage seekers, why don't they protect the honor of Somali or Sudanese women in Darfur as well? If the motives are purely humanitarian as they claim, let them support young Syrian males whose conditions have forced them to stay single being refugee and unable to find his daily bread.

Abdelhak on his blog debdoupress insists on the importance of that campaign:

…تهدف الحملة التي أطلقتها الناشطة السورية مزنة دريد تحت شعار( لاجئات لا سبايا) إلى توعية أهالي الفتيات ضد مخاطر هذا الزواج المغلف بعناوين دينية وقيمية اجتماعية، وتوجيه رسالة لبعض الشباب الخليجي والعربي ممن يعتقدون أن الزواج من سوريات طريقة معقولة للمساعدة بأن السوريين يرفضون المساعدة بهذه الطريقة، لأن المخاطر التي قد تترتب على هذا النوع من الزواج تتطلب رفضه.

The campaign launched by the Syrian activist  Mazna Duraid under the title “Refugees not Captives” aims to raise the awareness of the girls parents on the risks of such a marriage covered with religious titles and social values but also to address a message to some of the young people in the Gulf and the Arab World who think that marrying Syrian women is a way of helping, that the Syrians reject such a help because the incumbent risks of such a marriage requires its refusal.

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

October 09 2012

Libya: Blackberry Services Back

Journalist Jenan Moussa tweets from Libya:

@jenanmoussa: Wut a great surprise! Blackberry services have been resumed in #Libya. I am tweeting for first time since rvltn from my phone.

October 03 2012

Libya: One Copy of Proposed New Cabinet

Journalists take photographs of the one copy listing proposed members of the new cabinet today. Photograph shared by @mathieu_galtier on Twitter.


September 17 2012

In Censoring Anti-Islam Video, Did Google Do the Right Thing?

This past week, a video apparently made with the sole purpose of inciting Muslim anger by an American Coptic Christian was shown on Egyptian television, sparking protests outside the US Embassy in Cairo that have been replicated throughout several countries in the region. The response to the video caused several countries, including Afghanistan, to block the video on YouTube, while YouTube itself chose to block access to the video in Egypt and Libya and later India and other countries, though the latter were in response to legal requests.

YouTube's decision to block the video in Egypt and Libya was not the result of a legal order, rather, it may have been in part due to a request from the White House, which has raised concerns amongst free expression advocates, including the ACLU, EFF, and Access, as well as amongst writers such as the Nation's Ari Melber and the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald.

This case is about as complicated as it gets. YouTube's decision, even absent of White House pressure, was a difficult one, but their decision ultimately represents a slippery slope: If they choose to censor in this case, will they do the same in similar cases in the future or does their decision here represent an exceptional circumstance?

Indeed, YouTube does censor other content under the parameters of their Terms of Service (ToS). Nudity is not allowed, nor is the depiction of violence or drug use, though both are allowed in certain contexts (i.e., when deemed to be “documentary” or “educational” in nature). YouTube (and parent company Google) also remove or geo-block content at the behest of a legal request, as they did with this video in India and other countries. But in this case, the video was deemed not to have violated the ToS and was therefore left up in most countries and only blocked in those where violence had occurred (or where there was a legal request). This was, in fact, an unprecedented move on the part of Google.

Image courtesy Ahmad Gharbeia

Also problematic is the fact that, for the first twenty-four hours that the video was blocked in Egypt, Egyptian users were treated to a message stating that the video had been blocked by legal request, which turned out to be false. Google later stated that this was an “error” on their part.

Although it is well within Google's legal right to choose what content is within their Terms of Service, it is problematic for Google to be the arbiter of appropriateness for foreign countries, as I wrote in an op-ed for CNN. And though there have been many calls for censorship around the world, there are also brave individuals and groups standing up for free expression in Egypt, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

Ultimately, Google's decision will have an impact on future decisions not only by that company, but by others as well.

September 11 2012

Libya: A Project to Support Blogging

Libyablog is a website that shares what Libyan bloggers write. The group blog is run by a team, from France24, along with l’Atelier des Médias. Some Libyan bloggers are also involved in editing.

The first phase of the co-operation extends for six month, from July 2012 to January 2013. During this phase, the site will hold workshops in journalism and blogging.

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