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Entries in Michael Posner (10)


Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Is There Any Hope in the "National Dialogue"?

1918 GMT: Bahrain. The Information Affairs' Authority --- deliberately or unwittingly --- has built on a pro-regime disinformation campaign --- to warn about "direct threats" by an opposition which it calls "terrorist gangs and saboteurs".

Opposition groups, including Al Wefaq, have called for Bahrainis to refrain from shopping, banking, and fuelling their cars. Pro-regime activists have used that to put out fake flyers, in the name of the opposition, threatening people if they do not join the boycott.

A women's "Noise March" in Bahrain on Tuesday

See also Syria Live Coverage: Insurgents Take Another Airbase --- Next, a Major City?
Tuesday's Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Protesters Block Key Building for 3rd Day

1918 GMT: Bahrain. The Information Affairs' Authority --- deliberately or unwittingly --- has built on a pro-regime disinformation campaign to warn about "direct threats" by an opposition which it calls "terrorist gangs and saboteurs".

Opposition groups, including Al Wefaq, have called for Bahrainis to refrain from shopping, banking, and fuelling their cars. Pro-regime activists have used that to put out fake flyers, in the name of the opposition, threatening people if they do not join the boycott.

Now the IAA has put out the statement:

Some internet webpages and social media accounts in Bahrain circulated news about direct threats being sent by terrorist gangs and saboteurs to various individuals, groups, families, workers, shops and companies intended to compel citizens and residents to stay at home and refrain from going to work or business as usual on Thursday February, 14, 2013 in a desperate bid to forcibly impose a de facto public strike in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

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Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Opposition Rejects Morsi's Referendum

See also US War on Terror Feature: Preparing for Military Operations in Africa
Syria Live Coverage: "A Political Process to End the Crisis is Still Possible"
Sunday's Egypt, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Morsi Gives Back His Expanded Powers

2047 GMT: Libya. The trial of Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, the last Prime Minister in the Qaddafi regime, opened today, with charges including "abusing public funds" and "committing acts aiming to unjustly kill people".

Al-Mahmoudi sat in a caged section of the courtroom and spoke only once during the one-hour hearing, saying "yes" when asked to confirm his presence.

The next hearing was set for 14 January.

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Bahrain Special: The Killing of Hussam AlHaddad and the Unanswered Questions

Left: Hussam AlHaddad, killed by police Friday night. Right: Hussam's father says his final goodbye

Late Friday night, news began circulating on social media that 16-year-old Hussam AlHaddad was in critical condition after he was shot by security forces in Muharraq. Soon word came through that he had died in hospital from his injuries.

The circumstances of Hassam's killing remain murky, with allegations that he was beaten by citizens in civilian dress following the fatal shooting. Footage of Hussam's corpse shows that he was shot in the back and side, challenging the police narrative that the shooting was in self-defence. Marks on his back and shoulder also support the claim that he was hit as well as shot.

Late Saturday, the main opposition party AlWefaq announced a three-day state of mourning, with pleas to the people of Bahrain to abandon all joyful celebrations during Eid in respect to the martyr Hussam AlHaddad", adding that it will be lowering "flags to half-staff". The February 14 Youth Coalition called for further protest under the heading, "Our martyr Hussam ... Revenge will come".

The following account traces twenty-four hours in a country that US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner recently described as "in a number of ways more stable than it was a year ago".

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Bahrain Special: 9 Reasons Why The Regime Gave Human Rights Activist Nabeel Rajab a 3-Year Sentence

Nabeel Rajab leading a march in April 2012

Whilst much of the Bahrain regime's ongoing repression is relatively free from international scrutiny, Thursday's sentencing of leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab to three years --- on three separate charges of instigating and participating in "illegal gatherings" --- will not go unnoticed. In recent weeks, many international NGOs and even 19 members of the US Congress have called for the immediate release from detention of Rajab, who is also serving a three-month sentence for his messages on Twitter.

So why would the Bahraini regime, which has been desperately seeking to convince the international community that it is committed to reform, hand down the lengthy sentence, an act bound to create questions about its commitment?

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Bahrain Opinion: US Needs More Than Words About the Regime

US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner after a visit to Bahrain, 14 June 2012

The only leverage the White House has is a real threat to withdraw support --- the support of arms sales and other political and military links --- from their regime. Its alternative is no more than persisting in "suggestions"...and hoping Bahrain's police runs out of tear gas.

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: 217 Die Amid Question, "Where's Bashar?"

Insurgents take over a post on the Turkish border on Thursday

See also Syria Opinion: "Insurgency, Not Diplomacy, Will End This Conflict"
Syria Feature: Alawites Flee to the Coast
Thursday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Regime is Shocked and Awed

2030 GMT: Syria. At least initially, the greatest threat that the Syrian crisis poses to the region has nothing to do with terrorism or chemical weapons or cross-border firefights, but has everything to do with the massive amounts of refugees flooding some countries, particularly Turkey and Lebanon, but also Iraq and Jordan. As fighting is heating up in Damascus, the amount of refugees in Lebanon has rapidly risen to an extraordinary number:

Between 8,500 and 30,000 Syrians have crossed into Lebanon in the last 48 hours, an agency spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said at a news briefing in Geneva. The new flood adds to an exodus of more than 112,000 who have already registered as refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, and many thousands more who have fled but not registered. United Nations relief agencies say three-quarters of them are women and children, often arriving in a desperate state with no more than the clothes they are wearing. Internally, as many as a million people have been displaced, according to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

1942 GMT: Syria. The Free Syrian Army has engaged the Assad military in heavy fighting in the city of Zabadani, northwest of Damascus (map), for the second day in a row today...

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Bahrain Propaganda 101: How the Gulf Daily News "Stitched Up" the US Ambassador

How did the US Ambassador allow himself to be manipulated by the Gulf Daily News?

The answer probably lies in last week's regime upset that Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner had expressed Washington's "deep disappointment" at the renewed, if reduced, sentences on 11 medics last week. Some regime figures, including the Minister of Defense, have accused the US of trying to undermine the monarchy, and Posner's statemet led to headlines like "US Double Standards in Human Rights Criteria Are Rejected by the Bahraini Community".

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Bahrain Opinion: Why Younis Ashoori's Imprisonment Points to Repression Rather than Reform

Last Thursday, the US State Department's reaction to a Bahraini court's verdicts on 20 doctors and nurses --- "we are deeply disappointed" --- made headlines.

Beyond those headlines, however, that reaction appears to have had little impact on the regime. On Sunday, Younis Ashoori, a 61-year old hospital administrator, did not receive the final verdict in his trial. Instead, the hearing was postponed for a fortnight.

Ashoori, an administrator at Muharaq Maternity Hospital, has been held in prison for more than a year, serving a three-year sentence. The initial charge was "inciting hatred against the regime", but this has been dropped. His alleged crimes now are that he took oxygen cylinders to a medical tent and replaced pictures of Bahrain's leaders with Shia religious symbols.

Yesterday's postponment extends not only Ashoori's imprisonment, but also his physical suffering: he has been seriously ill with kidney stones and an enlarged prostate since he was seized by security forces last March. In his last court hearing, Ashoori stated that, following torture, he began urinating blood and was taken to a military hospital. When he told the doctor that it was his kidney causing him pain, the doctor allegedly responded by punching him in the spot. Today, he is in need of specialist treatment, but is only receiving basic painkillers and visits from a general doctor.

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A National Day in Bahrain Special: Protests, The Arrest of Zainab Alkhawaja, A Death, & Tear Gas Everywhere

The arrest of Zainab Alkhawaja

See also Friday's Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Beat Goes On --- Anticipating Friday's Protests
Thursday's Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Developments in Bahrain

This morning the regime's Bahrain News Agency runs the banner, "Happy National Day", with the headline, "Wise Leadership Congratulated", citing the "cables of congratulations from leaders of Arab, Islamic and friendly countries marking the National and Accession Days".

No doubt there will be the perfunctory statements today --- perhaps we will even see them from Washington and London, who are dedicated to a strategy of "regime adjustment" to ensure that vital links with Bahrain are not strained --- but when National Day formally opened in Bahrain at 12:01 a.m., it did so to continuing protests and clashes in the kingdom's villages.

Zainab Alkhawaja is still in prison, along with many other political detainees, and Ali Alqassab will join the list of "martyrs" as he is buried. And the smell of tear gas --- which, according to an EA correspondent was "over most of Bahrain, except Rafa' and parts of Moharraq" --- lingers.

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The Real Net Effect: Top 10 Lessons from the Internet and the "Arab Spring" (Salatan) 

I thought Arab bloggers began with grievances and turned to the Internet to address them. But sometimes, apparently, it's the other way around. Al Omran said he started blogging just to practice his English. Once online, he met bloggers outside Saudi Arabia, learned about politics, and developed an interest in human rights. He said the same thing has happened to other bloggers in the region. Merlyna Lim, a scholar of social transformation at Arizona State University, described a similar dynamic in Egypt: Young people went online to keep up with their friends and youth culture. In doing so, they became politicized.

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