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Friday
Jan072011

Tunisia Latest: World Starts to Notice as Protests and Detentions Continue

Protest on Friday at a High School

UPDATE 8 December, 1100 GMT: Activists claim blogger and university theatre professor Fatma Riahi was arrested today.

Riahi, who blogged as Arabicca, was also arrested in Novmeber 2009.

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Over the last 48 hours, as protests (see video) over economic conditions and political repression continue in Tunisia, international attention to detentions and censorship has emerged.

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Friday
Jan072011

Belarus Updates: Secretary of State Clinton Meets Activists

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Belarussian and Belarussian-American human rights activists, including the President of "We Remember", Irina Krasovskaya, and Belarus Free Theater co-founder Natalya Kolyada.

According to Washington's official statement, Clinton condemned the conduct of the 19 December Presidential election and the crackdown on political leaders, activists, civil society representatives and journalists. She stressed her concern for detainees and for their family members. Clinton promised, "The United States will continue its support for and engagement with the people of Belarus."

Minsk Central District Court has refused to withdraw the "preventive detention orders" for Presidential candidates Vladimir Neklyaev and Andrei Sannikov.

The state security service KGB has visited the wife of the detained Dmitry Bandarenko, Sannikov's election agent, to ask her “to influence her husband” in cooperating with authorities. Olga Bandarenka said that, if she agreed, her husband would be released on his recognisance and would be sentenced “to a term which would be not as long as Sannikov’s".

University student Yulian Misiukevich was taken for interrogation by the KGB on Thursday after university examinations. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Friday
Jan072011

Egypt Updates: Dispute over Alexandria "Suspect"; Copts Celebrate New Year

2015 GMT: Video of tonight's gathering in downtown Cairo to mourn the victims of the Alexandria bombing. Some chanted slogans against the Government holding it responsible for the tragedy, others held a candle and mourned in silence.

1525 GMT: The family of Sayyad Bilal, who died on Wednesday in Alexandria after he was arrested the previous night, have accused Egyptian police of killing him.

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Friday
Jan072011

Iran Video: Lawyer Mehrangiz Kar "Why I Became An Activist"

Tavaana interviews lawyer and author Mehrangiz Kar in a three-part video about her activism, the issue of "leadership" in civic action, and the political environment in Iran:

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Friday
Jan072011

Egypt-Israel Analysis: Cairo Pushes Against "Threats to Hamas"

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly asked his counterpart representing the European Union, Catherine Ashton, to send a force to stop arms smuggling, to the coast of Gaza, making an Israeli blockade unnecessary. However, Ashton commented, "This is just something that Foreign Minister Lieberman raised at dinner. This is not an issue that we're discussing."

Meanwhile the EU has responded to the Palestinian demand for the recognition of a state of Palestine by saying that they will do this "when appropriate".

On another front, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hosted by Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday. Netanyahu asked Mubarak to put pressure on Ramallah to sit at the negotiating table while Mubarak warned Netanyahu not to use hard power in Gaza. Mubarak said Israel must reassess its policy and "initiate concrete steps to build trust with the Palestinian Authority in a way that would allow negotiations to resume", adding that Israel's threats against Hamas may be detrimental to the peace process and regional stability.

For Cairo, although the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks are still at an impasse, the region cannot sustain another war. Blamed for cooperating with Israel over the blockade of Gaza and criticised for building its own walls to prevent smuggling, the Egyptian Government is pursuing diplomacy to maintain its credibility.

Egypt's balancing act: no boost to Hamas but also a closed door to any prospect of a renewal, two years after the last Gaza War, of Israeli military operations.

Friday
Jan072011

Israel Snapshot: Foreign Minister Lieberman "Turkey Will Be the Second Iran"

Unfortunately,recent events in Turkey are reminiscent of Iran before the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei. Like Turkey, Iran was among Israel’s closest allies and the two nations held good relations between both governments and people....

During the last couple of months, the incitement against Israel has reached new heights. During Erdogan’s visit to Lebanon in late November, he said that Turkey will not “remain silent” while Israel will “kill women and children using modern aircraft, tanks... phosphorus munitions and cluster bombs.”

It is important to note that Erdogan’s visit followed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon a month prior. It was difficult for us to perceive any differences in the vitriol of the two. We had to make difficult decisions concerning how to react to this dangerous rhetoric, and it ultimately was decided the best course of action was to exercise restraint and refrain from a response.

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Friday
Jan072011

Egypt Feature: The Fallout from the Alexandria Bomb (Slackman)

“It is very clear that the government totally lost control --- of everything. The only control they have is on the security of the president, the group around him, and few other party figures. That’s it.”

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Friday
Jan072011

Iraq Analysis: The Return of Moqtada al-Sadr 

On Wednesday, the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, having succeeded for seven years in evading assassination or capture by US forces and spending much of that time in Iran, returned to Iraq. He did so as the leader of a significant faction in Iraqi politics --- its 40 seats in Parliament are second amongst Shi'a parties, surpassed only by the supporters of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki --- and on the Iraqi streets.

US forces may have tried to remove Sadr from the Iraqi scene, but the politics is now far beyond them, as the cleric tries to build on his position.

Next step? A "very important" speech in Najaf on Saturday.

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Friday
Jan072011

The Latest from Iran (7 January): The Closing of the Bookstores

2025 GMT: The Nuclear Talks. A spokesman for the European Union's representative for foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, has confirmed that the next round of discussions between Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, Germany, France, China, and Russia) will take place on 20-21 January in Istanbul.

1815 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, Faezeh Hashemi, has visited the family of the detained reformist leader Feizollah Arabsorkhi. 

1800 GMT: Karroubi and the Detained Journalist. On Wednesday, Mehdi Karroubi visited the family of detained journalist and activist Emaduddin Baghi. Karroubi expressed regret over the recent arrest of Baghi's son-in-law Ali Maghami and said, "Baghi is a man of faith who has remained true to our social ideals. He has never hesitated to sacrifice for his beliefs and for the reform of our society."

Karroubi added, "The political system should encourage our youth to remain engaged in defining their destiny. This type of action, unfortunately only seeks to weaken hope in society. We must of course never give up on our rights and on our hope to achieve sovereignty."

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Friday
Jan072011

Algeria Latest: Second Night of Protests Over Economy (Al Jazeera)

2150 GMT: An 18-year-old, named as Lebza Azzedine by activists, has been killed by police fire in clashes in Msila in northern Algeria.

2033 GMT: The State Department summoned the Tunisian Ambassador today to raise concerns about the handling of political unrest and "interference" with the Internet (more on that in the morning); however, on Algeria, an official cautiously said, "It's frankly too soon to tell exactly what is happening there. We're also looking there about what's the most effective and immediate thing to say and do."

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