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Sunday
Oct092011

The Latest from Iran (9 October): The Battle Within

Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai and his spiritual mentor, Ayatollah Hadi Ghazanfari Khansari, reportedly sentenced to 10 years in prison

See also Iran Opinion: Is Tehran Immune from the Arab Spring?


2205 GMT: Reformist Watch. Former President Mohammad Khatami has demanded a strong Parliament to oppose dictatorship and to ensure elections for all people.

2145 GMT: Promise of the Day. Iran Police Chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, "If information about 80% of youth having sexual relations and 20% drinking alcohol are true, I will resign."

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Sunday
Oct092011

US Feature: The Secret Memo Justifying The Assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki (Savage)

A personal note on this story by Charlie Savage of The New York Times --- on Saturday, I heard a well-placed US official express pride that the Obama Administration had abolished the phrase "War on Terror" and then, moments later, declare that Washington fought itself in an ongoing wars with extremists and terrorists.

The official then proceeded to lay out the rationalisation summarised below for drone strikes from Pakistan to Yemen and the killing of Anwar al-Awalki, though he insisted that this was not "assassination": anyone "taking part in the war between the United States and Al Qaeda and posed a significant threat to Americans" is a legitimate target.

Note, however, this sentence in the article --- a point which was not addressed by the official I heard --- "the memorandum does not independently analyze the quality of the evidence against" someone marked out for death....

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Sunday
Oct092011

Iran Opinion: Is Tehran Immune from the Arab Spring? (Metghalchi)

Iran has so far remained relatively unaffected by the winds of change that have swept through the Middle East and North Africa. Yet this was not a foregone conclusion. Given the opposition’s ability to build on a recent wave of mobilisation to revive the calls for protests triggered in 2009, why has it not taken advantage of the regional domino effect?

The Green Movement, too often over-emphasised by outsiders as a panacea for Iran’s democratic future, failed to draw its lessons from the crushed 2009 protests. Today it remains too divided and ambiguous to constitute the key driver of change from within. Instead, Iran’s potential for democratic change may largely depend on ongoing regional developments. In particular, the fall of the Assad regime in Syria would weaken the Iranian regime by isolating it regionally and fostering further splits within its leadership, thereby enhancing the prospects of political change.

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Sunday
Oct092011

Bahrain Special: Zainab Omran Tells Her Story of Abuse in Detention

On Friday, we published the first part of Zainab Omran's story of her detention during protests at City Centre Mall in Manama on 23 September. This is the second part of her testimony, as she and 44 other women endure abuse in several police centres:

After three hours [waiting on the road outside City Center Mall] the bus arrived to take us. They kept us in a single row. we were forced to raise our heads to be shown by one of the television broadcasters while we went in the bus.

One of my relatives and I could not believe what was happening and began to laugh when they insulted us. One of the policewomen pointed at me and said: "What is wrong with this girl? Why, she smiles a lot."

The bus accommodated 15 people. We were 21 women in addition to seven policewomen, so they sat on top of some women with children .

Women police officers began to beat us, focusing mainly on the head and the face. We received a tremendous amount of slaps and beatings. The bus was for them a  court where they can step and move on our feet and our bodies.

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Saturday
Oct082011

The Latest from Iran (8 October): Declaring an Awakening

Mehdi Karroubi & His Granddaughter1920 GMT: Environment Watch. Minister of Energy Majid Namjoo has said basic studies for construction of a dam near Lake Urmia (Oroumiyeh) have been halted.

Activists have claimed that Iran's dams have contributed to the drying-up of Lake Urmia, which has lost more than half of its volume in recent years, but Namjoo said around 85% of problems in the lake's problems are from the "natural, inevitable phenomenon" of drought.

After widespread protests this summer over the situation, the Iranian Government finally agreed to allocate $900 million to measures to protect the lake, and Namjoo said recently that Iran had agreed with its northern neighbors to transfer water from its sector of the Araz River.

1910 GMT: Karroubi Watch. Radio Zamaneh sets out the story of the visit of opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, held under strict house arrest since mid-February, with his son Hossein's family.

Hossein Karroubi wrote on his Facebook page that, while his family was celebrating his daughter’s entry into university, which coincided with Mehdi Karroubi’s birthday, six security officials brought his father to their home and allowed him to stay with the family for an hour.

Hossein Karroubi said his father’s morale was high but he appeared thinner. Mehdi Karrobui said he had lost weight from pacing up and down in the small apartment where he is being held.

Radio Zamaneh also posts an undated photograph of Mehdi Karroubi with his granddaughter (see inset picture).

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Saturday
Oct082011

Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) LiveBlog: A Celebration in Yemen, A Killing in Qamishli

1945 GMT: One of many "We are All Meshaal Tammo" demonstrations tonight in Syria, commemorating the Kurdish activist who was killed yesterday. In the Bab Amr section of Homs, a large crowd chant "Azadi (Freedom)" and "The Syrian people are one":

1845 GMT: Al Jazeera English shows footage of security forces firing on marchers at the funeral of Kurdish activist Meshaal Tammo. Up to five people were killed, according to activists (see 1610 GMT):

And video of gunfire in the Damascus suburb of Douma after the funeral of Osama Al-Shayfouni:

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Saturday
Oct082011

US-Afghanistan Feature: Why the Arms Deal for Uzbekistan is Wrong

Islam Karimov and Hillary ClintonChanging the supply route from Pakistan to Uzbekistan does not change much on the ground. Pakistan will continue to send Taliban insurgents into Afghanistan. The Afghan government will continue being corrupt. The warlords will continue enjoying their free rein. The only thing that changes is that Islam Karimov will have American weapons to oppress Uzbeks.

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Saturday
Oct082011

US Feature: Occupy Wall Street and "A Possible Seismic Shift" in Politics

I am not sure if that old paradigm of political protest, with a set of concrete demands to be fought for at the ballot box every two years, works any more. It is not just this  burgeoning movement from the  left --– if it is even as simple as that to characterise –-- but the emergence of the Tea Party as well that is leading to a possible seismic shift in the way politics is conducted in the United States.

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Friday
Oct072011

Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Death of Ahmed Jabber Al Qattan

2020 GMT: We close this liveblog with video from a very large protest in Qamishli, Syria, where a leading Kurdish activist and opposition spokesman was killed earlier today. Combined with the beating of a former member of parliament, turned activist, the Syrian opposition is more active tonight than they have been, arguably, since Ramadan.

In Bahrain, the opposition is also energized by a new martyr, as police broke up a funeral procession for 16 year old Ahmed Jabber al Qattan, and raids are continuing into the night.

In both locations, these new actions by the regimes are likely to have a far-reaching ripple effect on the opposition movements, and they are already becoming fresh symbols for Arab Spring, both inside Bahrain and Syria, and beyond.

1953 GMT: According to multiple sources, the Bahraini opposition did not go "quietly into that good night" after the funeral for 16 year old Ahmed Jabber al Qattan was broken up by police. Protests, and police raids, have lasted well into the night.

An activist Tweets this video, and according to the voice on the recording, this is the scene in Sitra tonight. Gunfire (or flash grenades, or perhaps tear gas) can be hear, and police vehicles can be seen moving into the vehicle, while protesters honk out a warning to the rhythm of "down down Hamad."

1940 GMT: And now we've finally started to see the first videos from some of the very large protests reported this evening in memory of Meshaal Tammo. This video was taken in Amouda, where thousands reportedly took to the streets when news of the assassination broke:

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Friday
Oct072011

Yemen Feature: Nobel Prize Winner Karman "Our Revolution is Uniting Yemen"

We cannot let the bogeyman of al-Qaida and extremism be used to stall historic change in our country. President Saleh invokes this threat in an attempt to cling to power, as if he is the only one capable of bringing stability and tackling terrorism. It would be foolish to believe his lies. .

Let us be clear: the Yemeni revolution has already brought internal stability to a state riddled with war and conflict. I call on the global community to support the peaceful revolution as it did in Tunisia and Egypt. I call on the United States and the European Union to tell Saleh that he must leave now, in response to the demands of his people. They should end all support for his regime, especially that which is used to crush peaceful opposition – tear gas canisters have "Made in America" on them. They should freeze the Saleh family's assets and those of Saleh's henchmen and return them to the people.

If the US and Europe genuinely support the people, as they say, they must not betray our peaceful revolution. It is the expression of the democratic will of the overwhelming majority of the people of Yemen.

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