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Tunisia candidate refuses to concede

December 22nd, 2014 No comments

Caretaker leader Moncef Marzouki refuses to admit defeat in Tunisia’s presidential election after exit polls suggest a win for Beji Caid Essebsi.
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Palestinian man arrested after foiled attack on soldier

December 22nd, 2014 No comments

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israel military says a Palestinian man has been arrested after a foiled attack on a soldier in the West Bank.
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Morocco’s transgender dancer courts acceptance

December 22nd, 2014 No comments

FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, file photo, Moroccan transvestite, actress and dancer Noor poses for photographers as she arrives at the Marrakech International Film Festival in Marrakech, Morocco. In this conservative Muslim country where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to three years in jail, a transgender woman like Noor is not only accepted but is a celebrity. Her ability to seemingly transcend the restrictions of her culture speaks both to her star power and to a certain kind of tolerance toward sexual minorities in this North African nation, and even in the wider Middle East. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar, File)CASABLANCA, Morocco (AP) — It was a slow night on the red carpet at the opening of the Marrakech film festival for the photographers and everyone was complaining over the lack of celebrities.

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Qatar and Egypt still at odds despite GCC reconciliation

December 22nd, 2014 No comments

David Kirkpatrick reports in the NYT:

CAIRO — Shaking hands and kissing foreheads, the monarchs of the Persian Gulf came together this month to declare that they had resolved an 18-month feud in order to unite against their twin enemies, Iran and the Islamic State.

But the split is still festering, most visibly here in the place where it broke out over the military ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president. “Nothing has changed — nothing, nothing,” said a senior Egyptian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential diplomacy.

. . . 

But government officials on both sides of the gulf split now acknowledge privately that Qatar scarcely budged. Instead, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates suspended their anti-Brotherhood campaign against Qatar because of the more urgent threats they saw gathering around them.

A senior Qatari official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the joint communiqué supporting Mr. Sisi’s road map was merely a “press release” that carried little significance.

“We will always support the population of Egypt,” the official said. Al Jazeera was “editorially independent,” he said, adding that the other states “should not create political issues just because a channel is broadcasting what is happening.”

Although Qatar asked some Brotherhood members to leave Doha because of their political activities, only 10 or fewer have done so, according to Brotherhood leaders and Qatari officials. “We have not asked them to leave in any way, and we have not bothered them in any way,” the official said.

So what’s really happened here, then, is that the the part of the al-Saud family that was very critical of Qatar because of Egypt got overruled by the part that’s more concerned about Iran and Daesh, Qatar agreed to reduce the media infighting in the Gulf and perhaps participate to some extent in Saudi Arabia’s calls for greater economic and military unity, and Abu Dhabi had to accept it because Riyadh said so. But I doubt they’ll even be able to keep the media wars at bay for that long, so maybe it’s more simply that the Saudis are finally learning to prioritize and not pick fights with everyone at the same time.

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Tunisia veteran claims election win

December 22nd, 2014 No comments

Beji Caid Essebsi claims victory in Tunisia’s first free presidential election, with exit polls suggesting he won more than 55% of the vote
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This is hilairous: This Israeli center calls a writer anti-Semitic because he has an Arabic name not knowing that he is a Jewish Zionist

December 21st, 2014 No comments
“British Arab journalist ‘Adel Darwish wrote in the London daily al-Sharq al-Awsat about Iranian President Ahmadinejad “he only caused damage to his country, which is [going through] a difficult period in [terms of] its foreign [relations]. He also caused severe damage to the Muslims by creating a political-cultural climate in which feelings of hate drown out the Muslims’ noble and humane sentiments.” This criticism, which once again focuses on the damage of this strategy to the Arab or Muslim cause, and not on its inherent ethical problems, was put also forward by others.[31]”

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Notice how polite Amnesty International and HRW are about 11 wholesale executions by the Jordanian regime

December 21st, 2014 No comments
“Jordan executed 11 men in Suwaqa prison today“.  You bet that Western governments will not express concern.

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This is how propaganda works: the story by Sam Dagher

December 21st, 2014 No comments
So Sam Dagher published this story in the Wall Street Journal which is based on the “hunches” of Syrian opposition people.  So today, all the Syrian exile and rebel opposition websites are circulating the story as: The Wall Street Journal publishes a sensational story, etc.  I mean, they are the origin of the story but then they make it as if it originated with the “respected” Wall Street Journal.

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Cairo’s moral panic

December 21st, 2014 No comments

On December 7, the police raided one of Cairo’s few working hammams, a run-down bathhouse in the center of the city where gay men sometimes cruised. They marched over twenty nearly naked, cowering patrons out into the street. A female reporter, Mona El Iraqi, and her investigative team instigated and filmed the raid for a program called “El Mustaghabi” (”The Hidden”). She defended her actions by saying she was trying to raise awareness on World HIV Day. The men have been subjected to anal examinations, which supposedly can determine if they are gay. They have been charged with prostitution and debauchery. 

This is just the latest, most shocking instance of what has now become the biggest crackdown in years on gay and transgender people. 

The authorities have also shut down some noisy street-side cafes in Downtown. A month after one venue was closed an official described it as an “atheists’ café,” whose customers also allegedly worshipped Satan.  Presumably said this was said to aggrandize the raid and to justify it. It also sustains a politically useful narrative about the kids hanging out Downtown — those same “revolutionary” ones — being troublemakers and worse. Some of the local media was happy to expand on the theme. A special report by El Watan about “The Street of Apostates’” in Cairo was sub-titled: “Violence and Drugs and Politics and Atheism.” Meanwhile, inviting (presumably terribly naive) atheists on TV only to yell at them, threaten them, kick them off the platform, call their mothers, or diagnose them as psychologically imbalanced remains prime entertainment. Men of religion recently got in on the act, announcing their concern over Egypt’s alleged 886 atheists (a mysteriously precise number that elicited a certain amount of skepticism and hilarity). 

When I was in Cairo recently I also heard that the Greek Club, a Downtown institution, has lost its liquor license. There are rumors that Horreya, a historic bar where in patrons drink Stella beers under high whitewashed ceilings, will be raided soon. 

Some have suggested that President Sisi and his men are trying, through these moral clean-up campaigns, to bolster their religious credentials — to appeal to pious Muslims and show that the persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t born of anti-Islamic animus . But I’m not convinced this regime needs to compete for that sort of legitimacy. And there’s nothing particularly Islamist about targeting gays or atheists; this kind of bigotry in Egypt is deep and cuts across social classes and political ideologies. 

There are other explanations. First of all, the mercenary ones. What happened to the wallets and cell phones of the men arrested in the raid on the bathhouse? I would bet you they never saw them again. What does a cafe or bar in Downtown Cairo have to pay in bribes to operate freely, to take over the sidewalk, to have the noise complaints of neighbors ignored, let alone to keep a liquor license? Businesses that exist on the edge of social approval are easy pickings for extortion. 

Furthermore, the way I see it, in the summer of 2013 a terrible mechanism was put into motion. In this mechanism, the media generates hysteria, and the security sector produces repression. This mechanism now continues to run, although its primary target — taking the Muslim Brotherhood out power, putting the military into it, and undermining the aspirations of January 25 2011 — has been accomplished. But journalists still have to report about something, and the country’s economic problems, human rights abuses, and the conduct of its war on terrorism are all out of bounds. Other kinds of headlines are needed. Meanwhile, the police has a dangerously free hand. Officers want to show their zeal, to assert their presence, and to seize opportunities for advancement and profit. And the entire political zeitgeist requires threats. If these happen to be imaginary threats, or even in fact the opposite of threats — society’s most vulnerable minorities and “deviants” camouflaged as threats— all the better. It makes trumpeting the state’s efforts to fight them and its victories against them all the easier.   

There is a moral crisis in Egypt today: It’s the way the powers that be are encouraging and empowering all of society’s lowest, worst tendencies.


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Kurds ‘take’ part of Sinjar from IS

December 21st, 2014 No comments

Kurdish authorities say their forces have taken control of a “large area” of the Iraqi town of Sinjar, which was captured by Islamic State in August.
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