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Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: "All Rallies and Gatherings Are Illegal"

See also Yemen Opinion: Questioning Washington's Model of Drones and Permanent War
Monday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A "Ceasefire" Ends

2121 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees claim that 134 people have been killed today, including 50 in Idlib Province --- most from shelling of insurgent-held Ma'aret Al-Numan and attacks on Saraqeb and Kafar Batekh --- and 43 in Damascus and its suburbs.

1929 GMT: Bahrain. Russia Today discusses the banning of all protests in Bahrain:

British Under Secretary of State Alistair Burt has released a statement concerning the situation in Bahrain:

Protests have happened today, and tonight, and they have in fact been met by more police suppression:

But the regime views all protests very differently:

Still, while violence has been used against police officers, many protests that occur in Bahrain are peaceful, and there is no evidence that any of the major parties or rights organizations are supporting violence. In fact, most have condemned the attacks on police.

Some video from tonight's protest:

1914 GMT: Syria. EA Correspondent Wladimir van Wilgenburg reports:

The FSA has released a statement about clashes against Yezidi Kurdsin Aleppo province, admitting that clashes do not benefit the FSA. In the statement, the FSA promises to launch an investigation and vowed to punish those involved in attacking Yezidis in rural (Kurdish)areas of Aleppo, again focusing on territorial integrity, but also on 'building Syria for all' ethnic groups, religious groups, and sects.

The statement even goes so far as to call the attacks against the Kurdish groups "criminal acts."

1441 GMT: Qatar. John Horne reports:

Amnesty International has called for poet Mohammed al-Ajami to be released "immediately and unconditionally". Al-Ajami was arrested in Doha on 16 November, 2011 and charged with "inciting to overthrow the ruling system" and "insulting the Amir". The former charge is punishable by death in Qatar. He has been held in solitary confinement ever since, with his trial being held in secret.

The case against him reportedly stems from a poem written in 2010 which criticised the Emir, however activists suspect the real cause was his "Jasmine Poem", written in 2011. The poem accused "all Arab governments" of being "indiscriminate thieves", and contained lines like: "we are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite".

1355 GMT: Syria. As of an hour ago, 61 people have been killed nationwide, according to the Local Coordination Committees:

29 were reported in Idlib most of them due to the shelling of Maaret Al-Nouman; 11 in Damascus and its Suburbs; 8 in Aleppo; 6 in Homs; 6 in Daraa and 1 in Hama.

Some of the most intense fighting is near Ma'arrat al Nouman, where regime forces are trying to move ground forces into the city, and Assad's airforce is punishing the city from above. The Guardian reports an escalation there today, as regime forces try to win back the city that has evoided their capture for weeks.

1329 GMT: Syria. EA's John Horne reports:

Colonel Riad Al Assaad, a commander in the Free Syrian Army, has accused Russia and Iran of smuggling weapons to the Syrian regime through seaports. In an interview with Saudi owned AlWatan, AlAssaad called the two countries ""enemies of the Syrian people", adding that rebels "are not counting on any political [initiative] that was made, or will be made".

Riad al Assad's comments should be viewed in a wider context. He continues to struggle to be relevant while the Free Syrian Army continues to advance deeper into regime territory, and without his direct leadership in the field. Also, it's not clear that a large quantity of Russian and Iranian weapons are making it to the Assad regime. Still, there is a widespread belief that Russia and Iran have helped the Assad regime financially, and there is more evidence that some Iranian fighters have even directly assisted the Assad regime in combat, training, and intelligence operations.

But really, these comments, and similar ones coming from both the Syrian opposition and those in the international community, are more bluster than substance. Even if Iran and Russia have been aiding Assad materially, it is a small impact. The larger impact comes from Russia and China's sheltering of the Assad regime in the international political realm, especially in the United Nations.

1318 GMT: Syria. An Australian aid worker has been killed in Syria, apparently by crossfire, though the exact circumstances are unclear:

Islamic Society of Victoria vice-president Baha Yehia said Abbas, 23, went to Syria alone, through the Turkish border, to volunteer as an aid worker last month.

Yehia said there were conflicting reports as to how he had died.

"We believe he was caught in the crossfire while he was doing aid work," he said.

It is unknown exactly where or when Abbas died, but it is believed to be in recent days.

1310 GMT: Turkey/Syria. Turkey's Foreign Secretary has ruled out any dialogue with Syria. Speaking to journalists, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said:

There is no point in engaging in dialogue with a regime that continues to carry out such a massacre against its own people, even during (the Muslim festival of) Eid al-Adha.

This follows a call yesterday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for "dialogue with the [Syrian] government", saying it was "the only problem that remains in the path towards a political process".

Davutoglu however said that such dialogue would "be legitimising the existing regime as the violence continues".

1306 GMT: Qatar/Syria. John Horne reports:

The Emir of Qatar today accused the Syrian regime is waging "a war of extermination" against its citizens. Speaking to Al-Jazeera Arabic, the Emir said:

"What is happening in Syria is not a civil war but a genocide, a war of extermination with a license to kill by the Syrian government and the international community.

1259 GMT: Syria. EA correspondent Wladimir van Wilgenburg reports:

Pro-regime media claims Ammar al-Dadikhi, a.k.a. Abou Ibrahim --- the alleged abductor of Lebanese Shia this summer and head of the Northern Storm Brigade --- has been killed by the militia of the Kurdish faction PYD in clashes in Aleppo Province.

The Northern Storm Brigade has been fighting in Efrin with the PYD, who accused the brigade of attacking Yezidis, a non-Muslim minority, and of being supported by Turkey.

The pro-Kurdish news agency Firat News Agency reported that Northern Storm attacked the Yezidi villages of Yazidag, Qitme, and Qestel Cedo, in two attacks. Subsequently, two Northern Storm fighters were killed and two wounded, while one Kurdish combatant was wounded.

According to Syrian activist Ammar Abdulhamid, al-Dadikhi led a group of 200 fighters. His critics have called him a smuggler and a Salafist “who proclaims his disdain of the Syrian people to his visitors and calls for the establishment of an Islamic State. He is also the man believed to hold most Hezbollah prisoners in Aleppo.”

1249 GMT: Israel-Palestine. EA's Scott Lucas reports:

A coalition of 22 non-governmental organisations have issued a report highlighting that the European Union imports fifteen times more from Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian Territory than from Palestinians themselves.

The report notes that EU states have declared that “settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace, and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible”, but that most have failed to ensure products are correctly labelled in stores, leaving consumers unaware of the products’ true origin.

“Europe says settlements are illegal under international law and yet continues to trade with them. Consumers are unwittingly contributing to the injustice by buying products that are inaccurately labelled as coming from Israel when in fact they are from settlements in the West Bank,” said William Bell of Christian Aid UK and Ireland.

1242 GMT: Turkey. EA's John Horne reports:

The Public Prosecutor's Office in Ankara has announced it is launching an investigation into a banned rally, marking Republic Day, held on Monday. An official rally took place in Ankara's hippodrome. Police unsuccessfully used checkpoints, then later tear gas and water cannons to try and control the movement of those on the banned rally. Turkish paper Today's Zaman reports:

Waving Turkish flags and carrying banners portraying the country's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a group of nearly 20,000 people gathered for the rally in front of the first parliament building in defiance of a ban imposed by the Ankara Governor's Office on the grounds that “some groups may seek to incite anarchy in the country.”

The alternative, unofficial celebration was organized by a group of more than 30 civil society organizations led by the Youth Union of Turkey (TGB), known for their ideological proximity to the socialist Workers' Party (İP). The rally, which was also attended by main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and people from some minor leftist parties, highlighted the longstanding division between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and secular opposition groups including the CHP.

Speaking at the parliamentary group meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on Tuesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed the CHP leader for attending the banned rally instead of the official celebrations held in Ankara's hippodrome and accused the protestors of terrorizing the city's streets.

1226 GMT: Turkey/Syria. Sorting the "Kurdish angle" of the story in this region is becoming more of a nightmare every day. On one hand, the Kurds in northern Syria have become more autonomous, independently carving out a land which has been largely spared both the wrath of the Assad regime and the interference of the largely-Sunni opposition. Kurds have increasingly taken to the streets to voice their opposition to the Assad regime, and in many Kurdish areas the Assad forces have been evicted or are confined to checkpoints, with little fighting. This independence was gained for several reasons. Clearly, Assad was careful to not provoke the Kurds more than he felt was necessary. Also, the Kurdish territory is in the remote northern edges of the country, area that, thanks to the advance of the Free Syrian Army further south, would be hard for Assad to control.

The National has featured the story of this new wave of Kurdish independence:

The sense of liberation is tinged with apprehension and awareness that it could be taken away in an instant. Sitting on some of the country's most valuable oil reserves, there is a fear that the fighting will inevitably move to Al Hasaka.

The Kurds have at times enjoyed sporadic periods of de facto autonomy under the governments of Baghdad, Tehran, Damascus and Ankara, but they have also often paid dearly for attempts to grab freedom, including Saddam Hussain's genocidal Al Anfal campaign, which destroyed thousands of Kurdish villages and culminated in a poison gas attack on the city of Halabja in 1988.

But Syria's Kurds are attempting to learn from past mistakes, quietly building an armed militia which it hopes will be able to protect Kurdish interests in a post-Assad era, whatever form the government takes.

The Kurdish relationship with the Syrian insurgency has been complex at best. On one hand, many Kurds have been happy to oppose the Assad regime. Many Kurds have also joined the ranks of the Syrian opposition leadership groups like the SNC. There are even Kurds in the armed opposition, though this is more rare. Mostly, the relationship between the two has been cautious.

And contentious. Some Kurdish groups are more weary of the insurgency than others. In particular, the Kurdish PKK has been very reluctant to join the insurgency, with many in the PKK even voicing support for the Syrian government.

In the end, each Kurdish group is trying to ensure that it comes out stronger and more empowered after the fall of the Assad regime, whenever that may be.

This formula is made even more complex by the fact that the PKK and the Turkish government have been openly fighting for more than six months. Recently, that fight has intensified even further. Today, Ivan Watson is in Kurdistan, and is reporting on the clashes between Kurdish youth and opposition members and Turkish security forces.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish PKK and it's affiliates the PYD have fought several open gun battles with Syrian insurgents in Aleppo in the last week. Even more concerning, this fighting was, according to many sources in Aleppo, a kind of betrayal. FSA units advanced into Kurdish neighborhoods, with the permission of the Kurds, and in less than 24 hours that arrangement broke down, resulting in as many as 30 deaths.

The World socialist Web Site gives us the sense of how this incident was viewed by some Kurds:

The incursion triggered a demonstration by Kurdish residents of the district, who marched on the positions taken by the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), demanding that its fighters leave the neighborhood. According to reports, the FSA fighters fired on the demonstrators, killing five and wounding 10 more.


In the course of the fighting, the Islamist forces kidnapped at least 120 Kurdish civilians in an attempt to force the area to submit to their occupation.

Ashrafiya has become a key objective of the Western-backed forces seeking to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It is on the main route leading from the northern outskirts of the city to its center and occupies the high ground of Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital.

In the face of a growing challenge from the so-called rebels, increasingly dominated by Islamists and foreign fighters armed and funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with Washington’s collaboration, the Assad regime had relinquished control of Ashrafiya as well as of predominantly Kurdish areas in northern Syria.

In fact, some in the PKK have even threatened to militarily intervene in the Syrian conflict in order to oppose the FSA which is seen by some Kurds as being too closely tied to the Trukish government:

There are deep tensions between the PYD, which has been seen as doing the regime's bidding, and the rebels, seen by the Kurds as being influenced by an Islamist agenda. In a statement carried on Sunday by the Firat News Agency, a PKK mouthpiece, a Kurdish umbrella group led by the PKK said the Arab groups involved in the fighting in Aleppo had launched attacks "trusting the Turkish state".

"If they are insistent in these attacks, they should know that we, as the Kurdistan Freedom Movement, may be obliged to make a stand for our people in West Kurdistan and send military support," said the statement by the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), in reference to northern Syria.

Officially, the PKK is neutral in this fight, but it's increasingly clear that true neutrality, in a crisis as all-encompassing as the one playing out in Syria, is unrealistic or perhaps completely impossible, and any involvement of the Kurds will greatly complicate Turkey's role in Syria's civil war.

James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started today.

1115 GMT: Kuwait. Authorities have arrested a prominent opposition figure, Musallam al-Barrak, over his criticism of the Emir.

Al-Barrak, ex-legislator and leader of the nationalist Popular Action Bloc, was arrested late on Monday following a news conference at his house.. The detention of comes days before a mass rally protesting the regime's position on political reforms.

Al-Barrak has been charged with criticism of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, during an opposition rally on 15 October, when he said the ruler should avoid sliding towards “autocratic rule”. Kuwait['s Constitution proclaims the emir "immune and inviolable" from public critique.

Before his arrest, Barrak called on his supporters to turn up for a new protest rally on Sunday, saying he would be with them spiritually, if not in person.

Last week Kuwait arrested three other opposition figures on similar charges. They have been released on bail after five-day detention and await trials in mid-November.

The opposition has been angered by the Emir's changes in electoral law ahead of a 1 December election, prompted by the dissolution of the Parliament in which the opposition held a majority. Several opposition factions said they would boycott the poll under the new rules.

0615 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report that 115 people were killed on the final day of the Eid al-Adha "ceasefire", including 53 in Damascus and its suburbs and 27 in Aleppo Province.

0555 GMT: Bahrain. The Ministry of Interior has declared that any rally or gathering is now against the law:

The state has strived in the previous phase to protect freedom of expression by allowing rallies and gatherings, but the repeated violations by organizers of those events and lack of commitment of participants to the legal regulations....

It was decided to stop all rallies and gatherings until ensuring that security is maintained through achieving the targeted security to protect national unity and social fabric to fight extremism....

Any illegal rally or gathering would be tackled through legal actions against those calling for it and participants. Anyone that would have a connection with such irregularities would be held accountable.

The Ministry emphasised that the ban applies not only to the marches in villages organised by local groups such as the February 14 Coalition but to those demonstrations arranged by recognised opposition societies, notably Al Wefaq.

In recent months, Al Wefaq has been allowed to stage rallies which have drawn tens of thousands of peoples, but its requests have increasingly been denied by officials. On Sunday, an Al Wefaq demonstration in the besieged AlEker village was deemed illegal because a permit had been rejected.

On Sunday, the Information Affairs Authority described the right to freedom of expression as a "catch-phrase" used by "human rights activists".

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