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Entries in Arab Spring (27)


Iran Analysis: 4 Reasons Why Supreme Leader is Still Open to Direct Talks with the US

The Supreme Leader addresses Air Force officers, 7 February 2013

So why is the Supreme Leader maintaining the opening for direct talks?

1. Khamenei may see the recent, serious political crisis as a distraction which allows him to slip in the possibility of negotiations with the US>
2. The international sanctions are starting to hurt.
3. The Syrian regime will not be able to survive the current crisis, and its fall will be a huge strategic blow to the Islamic Republic --- last week, the head of the Basij militia said Syria is more important to the regime than the province of Khuzestan, in defence of which many thousands of Iranians died during the war with Iraq in the 1980s.
4. The Islamic Republic had hoped that the Arab Spring would bring it new allies in the region. Indeed, the movements have isolated the regime even more.

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Video and Transcript: President Obama's Speech to the UN

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.

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Southeast Asia Feature: Maher Zain, Technology, and Modern Islam (Foley)

Maher Zain, with Fadly 'Padi', sings Insha Allah live on Indonesian television

Zain's songs clearly reflect a wide-spread feeling of discontent and a desire for a different future among Islamic and secular activists in the Arab world. His awareness of that discontent and of the need for hope is an element of his popularity—epitomized by an Egyptian fan who stated at his Cairo concert in March 2010 that she loved the "revolutionary" feel of his music, which was neither materialistic nor in line with classical religious sermons.

Zain tapped into this same feeling of discontent and the need for hope in the first song he released after the start of the Arab Spring, "Freedom." He premiered the song, which is entirely in English, in Malaysia in February 2011. The song thanks God for giving friends and neighbors the strength to hold hands and demand an end to oppression. It presents a vision for a new Arab Muslim society in which people will no longer be prisoners in their homes or afraid to voice their opinions in public. While Zain acknowledges that the dream of a new Arab society has yet to be fulfilled, he promises his listeners that they are on the verge of achieving it, that God is with them, and that he will not let them fail. In the background as Zain sings, there are images of Arab flags and protestors of all ages peacefully challenging their governments in the Arab World.

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MENA Feature: Made in China --- The Arab Spring's Mobile Technology (LeVine)

Arab activists could not have achieved their stunning successes without Blackberries, iPhones, laptops and the other weapons of contemporary revolution. But what few have noticed - or at least wanted to think about --- is that the spread of these technologies across the Arab world is the result of intense and often crushing exploitation of the millions of workers on the other side of Eurasia who produce the devices that have enabled the revolutions. The economies of scale and efficiencies in production technologies that have put prices for computers, HiDef video cameras and smart phones within the reach of middle and working class Arabs have pushed the workers that produce these products to the edge.

Mohamed Bouazizi was the last of three Tunisians who committed suicide in 2010 in protest against a life without hope. In Egypt, four self-immolations preceded the call to Tahrir on January 25, 2011. In China, 18 workers at just one Apple production complex attempted suicide in 2009-2010. Many more have threatened suicides, and hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers have staged labour actions to protest on-going violations of workers’ rights throughout the country.

Of course, millions of workers have little choice but to go to that edge - according to numerous reports by Chinese and foreign activists, journalists and human rights groups, workers will grudgingly accept mandatory and unpaid overtime, 18-hour days spent standing until legs swell, the use of toxic chemicals and other violations of international (and often Chinese) labour laws. They do so because the wages, however low by Western standards, are better than what could be earned in other jobs. But this doesn't justify the conditions under which they are forced to work, or the fact that they suffer as corporations like Apple are making unprecedented profits from the devices these workers build.

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Tunisia and Beyond Feature: Remembering Mohamed Bouazizi 

A year ago last Saturday, Tunisian market-seller Mohamed Bou'azizi doused himself in gasoline and set himself alight. He died 18 days later from the burns.

Mohamed's death has been perceived as the starting point of subsequent uprisings, not only in Tunisia but across North Africa and the Middle East. If the symbolic weight of Mohamed's act has yet to be fully realised, the tangible outcome of his sacrificial act was both the coalescence of anger and despair with the Ben Ali regime and the capacity to spark and inspire multitudes within and beyond national boundaries.

Central to Mohamed's death were his material conditions as father and family breadwinner, a situation which left him feeling bereft of any alternative but a profound public wail of rage through self-immolation. In a post-Ben Ali Tunisia, and a Middle East and North Africa fraught with uncertainties, that must not be lost in the search for narratives to explain the so-called Arab Spring. There are some straightforward causes at its core: the fundamental wish of people to live and work and earn --- and simply be --- with the guarantee of certain basic freedoms and opportunities, rather than to suffer under unelected tyrannies and to endure systems of repression.

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Syria Video Special: Today's Protests Across the Country

Anadan, Aleppo:

Sanamein in the south:

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Tunisia (and Beyond) Opinion: Can West Stop Worrying and Accept the Islamist Movements? (Karon)

Time Magazine's Tony Karon asks whether, as Tunisia and Libya enter this next phase of this pro-democracy movement, the West will be able to accept that Islam is not fundamentally at odds with democracy.

Tunisia's election and Libya's celebration of the overthrow of Col. Muammar Gaddafi won't have made for a happy weekend among those fevered heads in Washington who believe the West is locked in an existential struggle with political Islam: If anything, the Islamist tones of the Libyan celebrations, coupled with the Islamist victory in the Tunisian polls will have evoked the collapsing dominoes of Vietnam-era anti-communist metaphor.

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Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: 360 Degrees of Homs on Fire

The Bab Amr District of Homs, Syria, is targeted by heavy machine guns, tank shells, and anti-personnel shells that explode overhead See Also, Syria Video Essay: The Military Assault on Homs

1933 GMT: James Miller posts a video essay evaluating the assault by the Syrian military on the city of Homs and its aftermath.

1921 GMT: EA's source in Bahrain writes this report of what happened today:

Just came back from my last round in Bahrain. On my way out I saw groups of protesters (men and women) marching in Sitra, 7 villages, police vehicles chasing some of them. The roads looked like a war zone, sounds of horns honking the famous tune, "Tn.Tn.Ttn," AKA "down down Hamad" could be heard all around from protesters who were in the streets or up the roofs of the houses.

After managing to find a way out, I took the highway leading to the Saudi causeway. Police jeeps and traffic officers where all parking on both sides of the highway & at some checkpoints in the entrances to the villages. I noticed that the turn leading to Budayeh road (north of Bahrain) was open so I took it, and tried to get inside some of the villages there, like Karanah or Janosan, but it was no use. They were either blocked by police or by barriers that had been placed by protesters. So I had to go back from where I came.

I went back and took another road leading to east the of Bahrain. On my way I saw a group of protesters blocking the other lane of the highway near Athari village (police jeeps were just about 300m away!!). They used bricks, wood plats and 1 of them was pouring on the ground some kind of liquid -I think it was used car oil- they were fast and ran away immediately once they completed!

So I just contined on my way. I saw police SUVs heading toward the blocked road. I reached Juffair village, and I noticed the remainings of the roadblock that was done early this morning. There was a police SUV parked next to the scene, seems it was there to prevent protesters from doing it again, I continued until I reached Seef area (the place where protesters were determined to reach and gather). It was full, but with police thugs, not with protesters.

It's the last day of the weekend, people usually go out, malls are suppose to be full, but two main malls, Bahrain mall & Dana mall, were closed, and the other 2 big ones, Seef & City Center, the parking lots were almost empty!

That's when I decided to get back home, it's true that we couldn't reach the center point which we planned to gather in, but for sure and thanks to the huge security presence in all around Bahrain roads I can say with certainty that the Bahrain revolution is still alive and people are defiantly not going to give up. Government fears us, it fears our existence and fears our truthful movement for freedom and dignity.

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Reflecting on 9-11: Why It Was Not a Turning Point for the World

There has already been a cascade of commentary for the 10th anniversary of 9-11, much of it centred on what it has meant for the US. 

EA will have a few selected pieces to prompt discussion --- the first, by David Dunn, has just been posted. I did not intend to write anything for the occasion; however, I was asked to send a few paragraphs to news services on what I thought was the lasting significance of 9-11 for the US. Amending this to "the US and the world", I offered the following:

For me, the most significant lesson of 9/11 is where it was NOT a turning point for people across the world. 

I should be clear. 9/11 was a tragedy, with the loss of thousands of lives. And it led to other tragedies --- a war within Afghanistan that continues to this day, a US-led intervention in Iraq that killed many more thousands of people, the misguided belief that force, torture, and rendition could win a "War on Terror". The response to 9/11 helped undermine the American economy, with consequences for the economies of other nations, and it tried to remove the notion of a fundamental 'civil liberty' that should not be sacrificed in the name of 'security'.

See also Reflecting on 9-11: What the War on Terror Has Cost the US...and Us (Dunn)

But, in the end, 9/11 has not been the catalyst for the most significant changes in our world a decade later. Al Qa'eda --- if it ever had any appeal --- is a spent force. The dream of some Americans, notably within the Bush Administration, for an era of "unipolar" US super-power is dispelled. In that sense, if you want to talk about a significant turning point in the last decade, it was not 11 September 2001, but the long, drawn-out failure of the Bush Administration in its invasion of Iraq.

The quest for freedom and democracy would not be embodied in that misguided adventure. Instead, the quest for freedom, democracy, and rights is embodied in movements which --- while drawing lessons from the response to 9/11 --- have been devoted to dealing with their local conditions, concerns, and aspirations. From Iran to the "Arab Spring" to Latin America to Asia, we are witnessing political, economic, and social change which does not depend upon Washington or its enemies for its motivation, hopes, and objectives.


Latest from Iran (4 September): Shrinking Lake, Growing Protests

1710 GMT:Environment Watch. Associated Press' coverage of the Lake Urmia protests is taken entirely from the summary of Mehr, which claims demonstrations have ended with no casualties.

Mehr --- and thus AP --- assert that the protests ended Saturday night.

1410 GMT: Protest Watch. Peyke Iran reports that the strike of cloth merchants in the Tehran Bazaar, complaining about the Government's policies on value-added tax, is continuing despite talks with MPs.

1405 GMT: More claimed footage from Saturday's protests in Tabriz over Lake Urmia:

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