Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
Posted by vmsalama on April 29, 2013
Children fear “planes that shoot” as communities grieve lost loved ones.
APR 29 2013
A small house, once made of large cement blocks, is reduced to rubble in a sea of untouched homes and shops in Jaar, a town in South Yemen’s Abyaan governorate. There are no signs of life where that house once stood — no photos, furniture, and certainly no people left behind. In May 2011, the house was struck by a drone — American, the locals say. Some believe the sole occupant, a man named Anwar Al-Arshani, may have been linked to Al Qaeda, although he kept to himself, so no one knows for sure. As Al-Arshani’s house smoldered from the powerful blow, townspeople frantically rushed to inspect the damage and look for survivors. And then, just as the crowd swelled, a second missile fired. Locals say 24 people were killed that day, all of them allegedly innocent civilians.
Eighteen-year-old Muneer Al-Asy was among them. His mother Loul says she knows nothing about America — not of its democracy or politics or people or values. All she knows is that it killed her son. She cannot read and does not own a television. Like many in her village, she says Al-Qaeda is “very bad,” but the thought of her youngest son being killed by an American missile haunts her dreams at night. She screams in fury at the people who took her son: “criminals!” She rocks anxiously back and forth on her sole piece of furniture — a long cushion in her single-room home — recalling the day her son was “martyred” by a U.S. drone. “I am like a blind person now,” says Loul. “Muneer was my eyes.”
Anwar Al-Arshani’s home/Photo by Vivian Salama
Thousands of miles from Washington, where the debate rages on over the moral and legal implications of using unmanned aerial vehicles for lethal targeting, the names and faces of many of the victims paints a somber picture. Some are fathers who can no longer buy food and medicine for their children. Some are kids whose only crime in life was skipping out on studies to play soccer with friends. Some are expectant mothers who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the U.S. focuses attention on the successful targeting of names on the notorious “kill list,” the number of innocent civilians killed by U.S. drones on the rise — threatening to destroy families, spark resentment, and fuel Al-Qaeda recruitment.
While strikes in Pakistan have been recorded since at least June 2004, drones have become more common in Yemen in recent years, used to weed out and eliminate members of Al Qaeda’s notorious Arabian Peninsula network (AQAP). AQAP has been linked to recent schemes including the foiled 2012 underwear bomb plot, as well as for parcel bombs intercepted before reaching synagogues in Chicago in 2010. The drone program has seen some successes, including strikes on high-profile targets like Saeed al-Shihri, a Saudi citizen who co-founded AQAP, and senior operatives Samir Khan and Anwar al-Awlaki. The latter was a preacher who often delivered his provocative sermons in English and, like Khan, was at one time an American citizen.
However, with the growing use of so-called “signature strikes” — attacks against suspected but unidentified targets — there have been increasingly troubling signs that many victims are deemed guilty by association. Having committed no crime, their names not part of any list and in some cases, not even known. (click here to read more….)
Posted in Abyaan, Al-Qaeda, American, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Awlaki, C.I.A., corruption, Drones, Economy, Elections, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Guantanamo Bay, Human Rights, Insurgency, Islam, Jihad, Ma'rib, Middle East, military, Politics, PTSD, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Signature Strikes, South Yemen, Terrorism, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on March 17, 2013
(I LOVE the photo linked to this article — courtesy: Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty)
By Vivian Salama
Mar 17, 2013
The Daily Beast (click here for original link)
Two years after the Arab Spring’s protests and Saudi intervention, opposition groups are again clashing with security forces in the fragile kingdom. Are the king’s reforms too little too late?
Pearl Roundabout was once the pulse of the Bahraini opposition—like Cairo’s Tahrir Square or Mohammad Bouazizi Square in Tunis. In the earliest days of the Arab Spring uprisings, it was a vibrant center for self-expression, and saw a wave of protests—and bloodshed—as Bahrainis joined in a regional call for democracy and freedom.
Two years later, Bahrain’s iconic square is lifeless—sealed off by security forces and torn apart by bulldozers. The pearl monument that once stood majestically at its center is gone, demolished and paved over, with the government saying it was “desecrated” by “vile” protesters. It was even renamed Al Farooq Junction—a tribute to Omar ibn Al Khattab, a historical figure viewed negatively by Shias, the sect of Islam to which the majority of Bahrainis belong.
Despite efforts by the government to erase evidence of any challenge to its authority, Bahrainis spilled into the streets to mark the second anniversary of Saudi-led Gulf forces entering Bahrain to help their ally, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah, suppress a wave of dissent. Dozens were reportedly injured in clashes with security forces Thursday, according to Al Wefaq, the country’s leading opposition party. Police fired tear gas at protesters as a group of youths confronted them with Molotov cocktails. Protests dubbed “Never Surrender” kicked off again Friday.
The government described the unrest as “acts of domestic terror, including the theft and torching of cars, and the street blockades,” according to an Interior Ministry statement. Several policemen were injured in the clashes, the government said.
Bahrain, a staunch American ally and home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has lent a unique story in the Arab Spring narrative. King Hamad, a Sunni in the Arab Gulf’s only Shia-majority nation, maintains his authority, often through harsh crackdowns, with the solid support of the West and surrounding Gulf states, which assert that Iran is using Bahraini Shias to infiltrate the Arab world. Saudi Arabia, which is connected to Bahrain via a causeway, has been especially fearful, as it is home to a restive Shia population in its Eastern province. Bahrain, a tiny island in the Persian Gulf, is not wealthy from natural resources like fellow Gulf Cooperation Council nations Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates; it has had to rely on aid from its neighbors since turmoil began in 2011. (click here to read more…)
Posted in Allies, Arab, Arab Spring, Bahrain, discrimination, Dubai, Economy, Education, Employment, Foreign Policy, Iran, Islam, Middle East, military, Mohamed Bouazizi, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on January 27, 2013
Jan 27, 2013
By Vivian Salama
Daily Beast (click here for original link)
Egypt’s president has set a curfew and declared a state of emergency amid nationwide violence sparked by an Egyptian court ruling against ‘ultra’ soccer fans. Vivian Salama on the rising power of the young group of men.
Egyptian demonstrators hurled rocks and clashed with security forces in the early hours Monday, many in defiance of a 30-day state of emergency issued by President Mohamed Morsi in three governorates amid escalating violence following the sentencing of soccer fans in the Mediterranean city of Port Said.
The Egyptian courts handed down a ruling against almost two dozen soccer fans Saturday—known locally as the “ultras”—igniting a wave of chaos in the streets nationwide and opening a new chapter in Egypt’s volatile revolution. A day after the two-year anniversary of Egypt’s popular uprising, the courts announced the first in a series of verdicts in Egypt’s deadliest-ever soccer riots, sentencing 21 fans of the Port Said team to death.
The response nationwide was instantaneous. Family members and devout soccer fans, outraged by the sentences, stormed the prison holding the defendants and set fire to buildings and cars around Port Said. Ultras rushed the Suez Canal port, threatening to shut down the waterway. They set fire to local Muslim Brotherhood offices—a slight to the president who is a member of the group. The death toll has topped 50 in two days of violence mainly in Port Said, according to the Health Ministry.
The curfew is effective from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., in the governorates of Port Said, Ismailiya, and Suez. “I always said I’m against any exceptional measures, but I also said I might resort to such measures if I had to. I may even do more for the sake of Egypt—it’s my duty,” Morsi said in a late-night televised address Sunday. “There is no going back on freedom, democracy, and the supremacy of the law.” (click here to read more…)
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, Port Said, Religion, Salafi, State of Emergency, Suez, United States | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on January 25, 2013
Newsweek Magazine (click here for original link)
January 25, 2013
Ismail Ahmed passes much of the day sitting on a small wooden chair outside his grocery–cum–souvenir shop in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, watching the cars drive by while smoking Cleopatra cigarettes, which crackle loudly with each drag. Gone are the days when busloads of tourists would pour into his shop near the Pyramids to pick up bottled water and $3 statues of the Sphinx. Since his fellow countrymen rose up against President Hosni Mubarak in January 2011, Ahmed’s business has dwindled. Gone are his hopeful expansion plans for the tiny shop, and his son Mohammed, who used to work alongside him, is looking for other jobs, because income from the store has become but a trickle. “Now if I see two tourists in a day, it means it’s a good day,” Ahmed says as he lights another cigarette. “The tourists are too scared to come to Egypt now. My store is not receiving enough income to support the family.”
Two years after revolutions unsettled and redrew the political map of the Arab world, the hope that inspired so many has not brought the desired change. Across the region, economies are unraveling, opposition groups splintering, and promises for establishing democratic secular governments now seem like a pipe dream.
War rages on in Syria, with more than 60,000 people killed so far. On one single day recently, more than 100 people were shot, killed, stabbed, or burned to death by the brutal security forces taking orders from President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrians lucky enough to have survived the fighting are on the run, and with no end in sight, the 22-month-old conflict threatens to reshape the region. Some 2 million people—more than half of them children—have already fled Syria for Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and beyond. Already there has been trouble in Lebanon, which has its own bloody history, easily recalled and ignited, and regional observers fear political and sectarian grievances will follow the flow of refugees.
Gomaa, a 35-year-old restaurant owner who prefers to go by one name for security reasons, believes his country was better off before the uprising, and certainly his family was. His hometown of Idlib, an opposition stronghold, has been battered hard by the government, and after snipers moved into his apartment building, his family’s life turned into a nightmare punctuated by volleys of gunshots. Fleeing to Egypt with his wife and two young boys, he found that work was scarce and impossible to come by for a foreigner, though eventually he found a lead on a job as a restaurant busboy in Morocco, where he’ll be living with a large group of men in an apartment in Rabat. With little money to his name, he has arranged for his wife and kids to stay for free with family friends in Algeria. “Of course, I wish to be with my family, but I thank Allah that we are alive.”
In Tunisia, where, in despair over government injustice, vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself, inspiring the wave of protests that came to be known as the Arab Spring, demonstrators flooded into the streets earlier this month. Marking the two-year anniversary of the ouster of former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, this was no celebratory gathering, but rather a show of frustration by people who fear their new government is corrupt, religious, and self-serving. “Where is the constitution? Where is democracy?” they chanted, as police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. Tunisia has recently been rocked by a scandal dubbed Sheratongate, which centers on allegations that Tunisia’s foreign minister, Rafik Abdessalem, abused public funds to pay for rooms at the five-star Sheraton hotel in Tunis, where he would meet his mistress for illicit trysts. “There are fewer jobs, and corruption and crime is worse than before,” complained Yazid Ouerfelli, 19, a university student from Tunis. “The country is also more divided now because of religion—it didn’t used to be like that.” (click here to read more…)
Posted in Algeria, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Arab, Arab Spring, Bashar Al Assad, corruption, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Europe, Foreign Policy, Hosni Mubarak, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Bouazizi, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Newsweek, North Africa, Oman, Persian Gulf, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Salafi, Saudi Arabia, State of Emergency, Succession, Syria, Tourism, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Nations, War, Yemen, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on December 23, 2012
The Daily Beast (click here for original link)
by Vivian Salama
Egypt has a new constitution—but there is little fanfare in the streets. There are no celebrations in Tahrir Square or fireworks or singing and dancing. The country’s first constitutional referendum unofficially passed after a second round of voting Saturday, but not without claims of fraud and voter intimidation to the same tune as those against the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak. For the Muslim Brotherhood, the results legitimized their claims of widespread support, even as reports circulated of government resignations while votes were still being tallied.
Today’s Egypt is beleaguered from a tumultuous transition and jaded from the tottering pace of change. For the opposition, who took their grievances from Tahrir Square to the doorstep of the presidential palace and vehemently reject this constitution, the battle isn’t over. For as much as the Egyptian street has grown empowered these past two years, they claim that those who govern them haven’t changed at all.
In the weeks leading up to this highly contested vote, the country, which in 2011 united to overthrow a dictator, cycloned into a nation bitterly divided, with deadly feuds brewing between supporters and opponents of Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. A November decree passed by Morsi granted him sweeping powers and immunity from judicial interference—and sparked fury across Egypt. The decision also prevented the courts from dissolving the committee drafting the constitution, widely criticized for its Islamist majority. After secular committee members walked off in protest, the remaining Islamist members scrambled to wrap up the draft constitution and submit it to the president for approval. The promise by members of the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, is that the decree will be scrapped now that the constitution has passed.
“We will be calling for a sincere dialogue with others to bridge the gap and relieve tensions,” said Amr Darrag, secretary-general of the constitutional committee and a senior member of the Freedom and Justice Party. “We have always been calling for this, and I hope they get sensible enough to get seriously engaged this time.” (click here to read more…)
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Hosni Mubarak, Islam, Middle East, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Newsweek, Politics, Religion | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on December 14, 2012
The Daily Beast (click here
for the original link)
by Vivian Salama
A burly wall of a man in a leather jacket and traditional ankle-length jellabiya stood guard outside the city council headquarters in Mahalla El-Kubra, a large industrial city along Egypt’s Nile Delta. As we approached the two-story complex, the poker-faced, no-nonsense guard asked for a visa—that is to say, a traveler’s document for entering the city of Mahalla, located two hours north of Cairo. Like any perfectly timed comedian, he waited just long enough for concern to peak on our faces before letting out a thunderous laugh.
“You don’t need a visa!” he said, his belly still jiggling from laughter. “Our independence is a concept, but Mahalla is open to all Egyptians!”
As Egypt’s latest political crisis over an Islamist-proposed constitution threatens to tear the country in two, several of its largest cities have found unity online once again, triggering a sovereignty campaign in which several cities—including Alexandria, the country’s second largest—would secede from the nation, albeit satirically. It began after hundreds of protesters enclosed around the Mahalla City Council, hanging signs for the “Front of Revolutionary Salvation” around town and, on city buses, for “Mahalla Airlines.” The photos went viral within days and a secession campaign was born, with photo-shopped images later circulating on Twitter of men carting in the chair for “The Republic of Mahalla” into the U.N. General Assembly. And on Friday at protests outside the Presidential Palace in Cairo, a sign on one tent reads: “temporary headquarters for the embassy of Mahalla.”
Mahalla, a city of about 450,000, was home to the first “April 6″ secular revolutionary protests and has been the scene of several uprisings and labor protests since the fall of Hosni Mubarak last year.
The six-month old regime of President Mohamed Morsi has come under fire in recent weeks, after the president shocked Egyptians with a decree granting him sweeping powers and immunity from judicial interference. The constitutional committee, which had been toiling on a revised version of the country’s political framework these recent months, is also protected under the new decree. After almost three dozen committee members walked off in protest, the Islamists who remained wrapped up the draft constitution in haste and presented it to the president. Egyptians will vote “yes” or “no” in a referendum that begins on Dec. 15. (click here to read more…)
Posted in Arab Spring, Arabic, dictatorship, discrimination, Economy, Education, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Hosni Mubarak, Internet, Islam, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Newsweek, Politics, Religion | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on December 3, 2012
Newsweek International (click here for original link)
by Vivian Salama
December 3, 2012
Amr Darrag is on a call when a second phone in his Cairo office begins to ring. He’s been awake since 6 a.m., and the stack of papers on his desk swells with every passing minute. A leader in Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, Darrag is also part of the 100-member committee scrambling to draft the country’s new constitution—a pending document that has hit every possible bump in the road since Egyptians toppled President Hosni Mubarak last year.
“We have a couple more days until we finish our mission,” says Darrag, secretary-general of the Constituent Assembly. “Those who are not interested in stability in Egypt or want to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out of the scene are trying to stop us from issuing the constitution. The courts want to dismantle the assembly. The president had to stop these tricks or the country would fall into chaos.”
On Nov. 22, as Americans sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, Egypt’s first post-revolution president, Mohamed Morsi, issued a decree exempting all of his decisions from legal challenge. The move was a stunning power grab that quickly earned him the nickname “Egypt’s new pharaoh”—a title once bestowed upon his defunct predecessor. Hundreds of thousands of disbelieving Egyptians flooded city streets from Alexandria to Aswan with a familiar cry: “The people want the fall of the regime!” Tahrir Square came alive once again with tents and bullhorns and a howl so loud—so impassioned—that it was dubbed the “19th Day” of last year’s revolution. Angry female protesters returned in masses to Tahrir, resilient after months of deteriorating security that included repeated incidents of harassment and sexual assault.
Morsi also declared that the courts cannot dissolve the Assembly, which many say is unfairly dominated by his fellow Islamists. As tensions built nationwide, the Assembly slammed together the first finalized draft of the constitution last week—a text that could set the course for Egypt’s future and that few have been privy to see.
“He shot himself in the foot,” says Steven A. Cook, the Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Perhaps ‘new pharaoh’ is an overstatement, even though Morsi is no democrat. Somewhere within the councils of the Muslim Brotherhood, someone thought this decree would play well in Tahrir.”
Play well it didn’t. As antagonized protesters violently clashed with pro-Morsi demonstrators, the president defended his decision, insisting it is temporary and geared toward eliminating the bureaucratic hurdles obstructing Egypt’s unraveling transition. The comment inspired the snarky headline in independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm: “Morsi is a ‘temporary’ dictator.” The Brotherhood brushed off the protests as merely “politics,” distinguishing it from the 2011 revolution, when “united Egyptians revolted against autocracy.” The organization warned, via Twitter, that a revolution without the Muslim Brotherhood is no revolution.
But that was a tough sell to make to those who descended on Tahrir, driven by lingering memories from 30 years of Hosni Mubarak’s chokehold. Less than two years after Egyptians earned their first taste of democracy, the country once again has a president with near-absolute power and no constitution to dictate otherwise (the decree was ironically introduced as a “constitutional declaration”). There is no Parliament, since the military generals dissolved it in June. Then the generals were replaced by Brotherhood loyalists—as were the heads of most state-run media organizations.
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Cairo University, Coptic, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Inflation, International Monetary Fund, Islam, Israel, Journalism, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Newsweek, Politics, Protests, Religion, Salafi, United States | Leave a Comment »