Syrian Government Wants Opposition to Shut Up

January 31, 2008 § Leave a comment

(The above image of Talal abu Dan is from al-Arabiya.net)

The Syrian security apparatus has continued a campaign of arresting members of the Syrian opposition, specifically targeting members of the Damascus Declaration (‘alaan dimashq). Twelve members of the group, which formed in 2005 and demands basic human rights for Syrian citizens and a democratic government, have been arrested in one month. The Damascus Declaration recently held a conference which triggered this crackdown.

Most recently, al-Arabiya reports 55-year-old Syrian artist Talal abu Dan, who is a member of the Damascus Declaration was arrested in Aleppo, according to to the Syrian Human Rights Committee. Here is the Committee’s website in English. Talal had previously spent ten years in prison for his involvement with the Syrian Communist Party.

I’m really optimistic about Africa, but what about Natalee?

January 31, 2008 § Leave a comment

(Image of rebels in Chad as they approach the capital from al-Jazeera.)

I’ll be the first to admit that I have no fucking clue what is happening in Chad or Kenya. But I do know that al-Jazeera delivers a constant stream of breaking news from the ground, and these stories are never buried and always at the top of the page. This leads me to believe that al-Jazeera places a great deal of importance on what is happening in Africa. I think this is a reflection of al-Jazeera’s more global take on news. Of course, Arab-related issues will always take precedence, but it is rare that any issue of truly global importance will be overlooked.

I don’t recall the last time I looked at CNN’s home page and saw a story on Mauritania, but there’s a story on Mauritania nearly every day on al-Jazeera. Do I read these stories? Not all the time, but I do appreciate a more encompassing news approach.

I went to the “World” or “International” news pages of several English-language and Arabic-language news sites to see how these outlets define “Global.” The top stories are:
English

Fox News: Aruba (1); Al-Qaeda (1, not a geographic area, but according to Fox it is); Turkey (1); Great Britiain (4)

CNN: Kenya (1); Turkey (1); Afghanistan (1); China (1). Their international page allots three stories for every region, but these are the top stories separate from this section. And apparently an explosion at a fireworks factory in Turkey is enough to be top news on Fox, CNN, and the NY Times.

NY Times: Kenya (1); Israel (1); Canada/Kazakhstan (1); Turkey (1); China (2); Afghanistan (1)

Arabic

Al-Jazeera: Kenya (2); Chad (1); Sudan (1); Pakistan (1); Afghanistan (1); US (1); Malaysia (1) — Note: The “Arab” news, including Iraq, is separate from the “International” news. On the Arab news page, here is the breakdown: Gaza/Egypt (2); Iraq (1); Lebanon (1).

Al-Arabiya: Iraq (1); Palestine (1); Saudi (1); Syria (1); Afghanistan (1). There is no international page, so these are the main stories.

What is the central difference between the English-language and Arabic-language news sources’ concepts of international news? Apparently, Iraq is a total non-issue in the Western-language coverage. Not one Iraq story was at the top of the page (or really, anywhere on the page) in any of the Western news sources I checked.

May his Shadow Remain

January 31, 2008 § Leave a comment

The first time I read the name of Iraqi Ayatullah al-Sayyid al-Hasni was during the clashes between the Shi’i fringe group Jund al-Samaa and Iraqi security forces in Basra and al-Nasiriyya. Al-Hasni denied having any role in the clashes or of supporting Jund al-Samaa. But I was curious why al-Hasni would even be implicated in the clashes. English-language sources detailing his life are slim to none, so I’ve compiled some information on his political stances in an attempt to better understand his role in Iraq. (In the future, I hope to give a biographical and doctrinal overview of al-Hasni.)

My first impression of al-Hasni is that he is a younger marja’ and that he is somewhat arrogant. On his own site, his name is not mentioned without a praise afterward. For example, there will be a reference to his name and then immediately after, it will say Dam Dhillu al-Aali or May his Shadow Remain. I interpret this as arrogant because Sayyid Fadlallah, who is undoubtedly more accomplished, refrains from such self-praising on his website, demonstrating a more humble and confident attitude.

I came to the following conclusions based on an interview he did with the newspaper al-Ilaf which was then re-published (and probably re-edited) on al-Hasni’s personal website:

  • Based in Karbala
  • Opposes US occupation in all its forms — economic, land, political. Claims that he would refuse a Muslim or Kafir (non-believer) occupation; foreign countries or neighboring countries
  • Relationship with Sistani is somewhat rocky
  • Opposes the division of Iraq
  • Definitely not in an alliance with Iran since his followers occupied and burned the Iranian consulate in Basra
  • Does not express support for the government of Nuri al-Maliki
  • Seemingly not affiliated with the group Jund al-Samaa since in the interview he says he does not give their beliefs much “credibility” or saha
  • Many of his followers have been arrested and kidnapped in southern Iraq
  • Calls for the end of US occupation by way of exposing its corrupt implementors and politicians. People should do this by supporting the Resistance. Note: He calls the Resistance “al-quwa al-wataniyya al-munahidda” or the national resistance forces.

There’s more to Sudan than Darfur

January 31, 2008 § Leave a comment

The al-Jazeera program al-Rai’dat profiles prominent females in the Middle East — the program is a good thing because much of the Arabic-language media (and pretty much all-language media) is very male-focused. Al-Jazeera is apparently aware of this weakness and has decided to take action. This week, the Sudanese activist and first female member of the Sudanese Parliament Fatima Ahmad Ibrahim got some attention.

Her story is pretty amazing and it’s sad that the Western media has engaged in such one-sided coverage of Sudan. I am not saying that the Darfur issue is not important, but when one issue comes to represent a country — and an issue as serious as genocide — then we end up with skewed negative perceptions of a country. We forget that Sudan lived under British occupation for years and has witnessed two civil wars. We also forget that the population of Sudan is so diverse that the issues of “Darfur” or the “English teacher sentenced to death because of a teddy bear named Mohammed” should not cloud the deep history of the country.

Ahmad was born in 1933 in Sudan and lived under the British occupation. Her father taught in an English school and got in trouble with the Brits for refusing to teach in English. Ahmad herself would later be arrested several times and put under house arrest for her activist activities. In 1949, she helped organize the first female student strike in Sudan. In 1952, she helped for the Sudanese Women’s Union to demand more equal rights, after this, she became editor of the journal Sawt al-Mara (Woman’s Voice). Almost ten years after the Sudanese liberation from British rule, Ahmad was elected the first female member of the Sudanese Parliament in 1965. A year later, she would marry.

When Jaafar al-Nimari came into power in the 60s, the situation of women in Sudan did not improve. After a failed Communist coup in 1971, Ahmad’s husband was executed and she was put under house arrest. Ahmad is very critical of the West’s history in Sudan. She said that the Sudanese must realize that they colonized our lands and have attempted to co-opt our revolutionary movements.

Iraqi Turkmen seek protection from possible “collective genocide”

January 31, 2008 § Leave a comment

(Image of the Iraqi Turkmen Front flag.)

Al-Arabiya reports that the Iraqi-Turkmen Front — a group which represents the largest Turkman parties in Kirkuk — has demanded that the Iraqi government establish a Turkman unit in the Iraqi army in order to protect the Turkmen from a “collective genocide” (al-ibaada al-jamaa’iya).  There are no official counts of the Turkmen population in Iraq, but it is estimated to be between three million and 800,000.

Police discovered the decapitated heads of two Turkmen in a city in northern Iraq and the police say that the Turkmen have been the target of numerous kidnappings in the area — more specifically, over 300 individuals kidnapped in a given amount of time, most of them are killed.

Here’s a semi-informative wikipedia entry on the Turkmen in Iraq. Here is an album of photos from Kirkuk.

Hezbullah issues statement on the recent deaths in Lebanon

January 28, 2008 § Leave a comment

Hezbullah released a statement via al-Manar on the recent clashes in southern Beirut (al-Dahiyya) between security forces and demonstrators, many of whom were followers of Hezbullah and the more secular Shi’i party, Amal. (Yeah, it’s a secular and sectarian.) Here is my rough translation of the statement:

A number of citizens gathered in protest of the continuing cutting of their electricity and their continued difficult living situations. A force from the Lebanese Army arrived to disperse the demonstrators. Representatives (a commission) arrived from Amal and Hezbullah to remove the demonstrators and shots were fired that led to the martyrdom of Ahmed Husayn Hamza…several more were later martyred by gun fire. Hezbullah considers this to be a great crime against those who were demanding their basic living rights.

Later in the statement, Hezbullah places the responsibility for this crime on the current ruling government. Amal has issued a statement calling for its followers not to take to the streets to react.

Just Say No

January 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

Being in charge of graphics at al-Manar must be really fun. The above image ran next to a story about Geert Wilders, a Dutch MP who apparently made some type of anti-Quran film. According to al-Manar, Wilders said that the Quran called for violence and sexual deviancy. I haven’t seen any coverage of this from any other Arabic (or English) language news sources.

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