Archive | June 9th, 2014

Karzai: US Deals for Soldier, But Not for Afghan Peace?

NOVANEWS

Bergdahl prisoner swap reportedly spurs indignation from nation’s president

– Jon Queally

Jani and Bob Bergdahl speak in Boise, Idaho, about the release of their son, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan and held for five years. (Otto Kitsinger / Associated Press)According to a source close to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the U.S. government went behind his back as it made a deal to exchange Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners held at the Guantanamo prison.

Karzai is angry, according to reporting by Reuters, because the deal proves that intense behind-the-scenes efforts were made for the prisoner exchange even as peace talks with the Taliban have continually failed despite nearly thirteen years of war.

“He is asking: How come the prisoner exchange worked out so well, when the Afghan peace process failed to make any significant progress?” said the source, speaking of Karzai.

Reuters adds:

Karzai has backed peace talks with the hardline Islamist Taliban movement, which ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 and has fought a bloody insurgency since then against U.S.-led forces in the country.

But they have come to little so far, and the group has moved swiftly to dash hopes that the prisoner swap would rekindle peace talks between it and the Afghan government.

“It won’t help the peace process in any way, because we don’t believe in the peace process,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Sunday.

The palace official also said Karzai was worried about further deals being cut without his knowledge.

“It indicates that other deals could be negotiated behind the president’s back,” he said.

It was announced over the weeked that Bergdahl had been released in exchange for the Taliban members. Controversy has ensued, with Republicans in Congress accusing Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel of overstepping their authority and “negotiating” with terrorists.

“What does this tell the terrorists? That if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. He called the prisoner swap “very disturbing.”

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Roger Staubach and the USS LIBERTY

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Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 12.03.44 PM

1. Disgusting isn’t it?  But it gets worse, with Zionism it always does.

Here’s a link to a a video where former Dallas Cowboy’s quarterback Roger Staubach pitches the the summit mentioned in the photo above.  Turns out that Staubach is an honorary co-chair of the event.  He is real proud of his role, but I guess just not proud enough to put this disgusting video on youtube.

2. An injured sailor on a table in the mess deck below turned to Seaman George Wilson and told him he was scared. The sailor asked Wilson, injured and stretched out on a table beside him, to pray for them. “Praise be God,” Wilson began as sailors on nearby tables joined him. “All are his servants, and all abide by his bidding!” (Attack on the LIBERTY”, page 70)

As readers of this blog are well aware, the issue of the USS LIBERTY is one that is near and dear.  If you were to just read one of my posts about it, read this one.  This is a good link too.

June 8th, 2014 is the 47th anniversary of  the story of the USS LIBERTY;  an utterly Byzantine tale of war crimes, murder, lies, deceit, treachery and treason.  Yes, treason.

Did I mention treason?

I think I did mention treason, but just in case I didn’t,  treason.

And why did 34 men on board the USS LIBERTY have to die that day?

Here’s why.

Oh and here’s why too Oh, and here’s why as well. And here and here and here and here and here.

And uh, oh right here:

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 12.27.08 PM

 

Damn, did I mention treason?

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3. Well it’s video time again. The video below is quite well done.  Haunting. . . as it should be.

“. . . all US-selected frequencies were jammed.”  Not doubt just a coincidence.

 

 

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G4S Meets Critics With Contempt

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The security firm failed to avoid censure over its role in Israel’s occupation despite a legal smokescreen

By:AMENA SALEEM

Thursday’s annual general meeting of G4S, the global security company which provides services to Israeli prisons where Palestinians are held illegally and often tortured, revealed its underlying attitude to international law.

The AGM was attended by campaigners, including executive and staff members of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who bought shares in order to interrogate the board about G4S’s complicity in Israel’s occupation and its involvement in wider human rights abuses around the world.

Following harsh questioning on its contracts with the Israeli Prison Service at last year’s AGM, G4S published a 16-page summary the day before this year’s meeting of a report entitled Human Rights Review of G4S Israel: Human Rights Report and Legal Opinion. The report unsurprisingly concluded that G4S “has no causal or contributory role in human rights violations.”

If the report was intended to fend off criticism of G4S’s role in the Israeli occupation, it failed spectacularly. Instead, it laid bare G4S’s contempt for the Palestinians and for international law.

In one extraordinary exchange during the AGM, G4S chair John Connolly appeared to claim that the legal opinion contained in the report carries more weight than rulings by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

During questioning by one campaigner, the board was told: “According to the ICJ, the wall is illegal and therefore the provision of services to it is a breach of international law, so how do you reconcile that with the values you set out in your corporate social responsibility report?”

Referring to the company’s own report, Connolly replied: “We have taken professional legal advice which is contained in our report, and that contradicts your analysis. The report hasn’t found G4S involvement in any breaches of human rights.”

Connolly’s dismissal of the ICJ advisory opinion on the wall, made in 2004, was all the more astonishing because the “professional legal advice” taken by G4S was highly selective and sought from two academics with a strong pro-Israel stance.

The G4S report was co-authored by Dr Hugo Slim, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, and Professor Guglielmo Verdirame, professor of international law at Kings College London.

In November 2012, near the end of Israel’s eight-day assault on Gaza, Verdirame wrote an article for BBC Online in which he defended Israel’s vicious attack on a refugee population in legal terms.

A month earlier, he had presented the same arguments, justifying Israel’s right to “self-defence” against the stateless Palestinians to a Zionist Federation “knowledge seminar for Israel advocates” in London.

Slim, at the end of Israel’s three-week massacre in Gaza in December 2008/January 2009, wrote an opinion piece for Open Democracy in which he questioned the “disproportionate degree of outrage” the suffering of the Palestinians “seems to provoke.”

Despite these seemingly zionist credentials, both Slim and Verdirame were referred to throughout the G4S AGM by Connolly and G4S chief executive Ashley Almanza as “independent,” “credible” and “respectable.”

In their report for G4S, Slim and Verdirame blame the Palestinians for their own occupation and oppression. In a section headlined Palestinian Responsibility for Human Rights Risks, these “experts” write: “Many of G4S’s critics overlook the high level of Palestinian responsibility for the conflict and its security dynamics.”

Meanwhile, Slim and Verdirame produce the zionist accusation of delegitimisation in an attempt to remove credibility from pro-Palestinian campaigners, writing: “Campaigns against companies form a key part of a wider strategy by the Palestinian solidarity movement to delegitimize the state of Israel.”

Slim and Verdirame appear to have been carefully chosen by G4S to write this report, and Connolly’s dismissal of the ICJ in favour of his company’s “respectable” and “independent” experts is indicative of G4S’s callous attitude towards the human rights of Palestinians.

G4S refused to categorically confirm or deny whether or not it would be pulling out of all its contracts in Israel and the West Bank on Thursday. However, the pressure on the company over its involvement in Israel’s illegal occupation is now immense.

At the beginning of this week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development announced that it would be investigating G4S over whether it has breached the human rights of Palestinians as a result of its Israeli prison contracts. And the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said last week that it would be significantly divesting from the firm.

G4S’s AGM, which was dominated by the issue of Palestine and Israel, will only have added to this pressure.

 

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Altaf Hussain arrested in London for money laundering

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KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain was arrested on Tuesday in London on suspicion of money-laundering as thousands of people in his home city of Karachi staged a sit-in calling for his release.

The London Metropolitan police confirmed that a 60-year-old man had been arrested from a northwest London property on charges of money-laundering, but they declined to disclose the exact identity for “legal reasons.”

The police said a Specialist Operations unit was currently carrying out a search operation at the property in northwest London.

DawnNews quoted the Scotland Yard as saying that the investigation would continue for 24 hours.

Moreover, London police has said that an audio-video statement has been recorded of the arrested man.

How the case unfolded`

Moreover, a spokesman for the British High Commission said that the UK’s consulate in Karachi has been temporarily closed down.

“We deployed extra security at the British High Commission in the southern part of Karachi as soon we learnt about Altaf Hussain’s arrest in London through media,” Deputy Inspector General Abdul Khalique Shaikh told Reuters.

“We have increased police patrolling and we are making further deployments at sensitive spots in the city,” he added.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that the issue of Hussain’s arrest was of an extremely sensitive nature, adding that the government would take all legal angles into account.

The premier has directed parliamentarians and members of the PML-N not to comment on the news.

MQM leaders confirm reports, call for calm

After initially denying reports of Hussain’s arrest, the MQM Rabita Committee confirmed that Altaf Hussain was taken to the police station for interrogation and later to a local hospital.

In a press release, the committee said Altaf Hussain was undergoing medical checkups at the hospital.

“Doctors have seen him and asked for blood tests. The fasting blood test will be carried out tomorrow, Wednesday, at around 11am,” said the press release.

“Mr Hussain will remain in the hospital overnight. The doctors will decide after looking at the fasting blood test report if he is medically fit to be interviewed by the police or not,” it added.

Earlier, addressing media representatives via telephone from London, MQM’s Nadeem Nusrat had said that Hussain was at his residence and in touch with Nusrat.

The MQM leader said that Hussain had been ill for some time, adding that he was scheduled to be shifted to a hospital today when the police arrived at his residence.

Nusrat advised all party members inside and outside Pakistan to control their emotions and not do anything that may go against the teachings of their leader.

Nusrat insisted that Hussain was not under arrest but at home.

Moreover, MQM leader Farooq Sattar also appealed to party workers to remain calm and pray for Hussain.

“We should stay calm, we should not become impatient in any condition. The workers must be aware with the developments, keep in touch with the party office, stay united and also look around you,” said Sattar.

“We should act on the teachings of Altaf Hussain. We should pray for his health, we should say that he should be given medical treatment and his medical tests should be conducted,” he added.

MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi said it was the prime responsibility of the activists not to resort to violence and remain peaceful.

It is time for party activists to be composed and avoid spreading rumours, he said, adding that those who were trying to create panic among the citizens were not MQM activists.

Our activists are one who follow Altaf Hussain’s teachings of peace and unity, he said.

Situation in Karachi

Within minutes of his arrest, panicked shop-keepers and market stall owners rushed to close their businesses for fear of violence, residents said.

Mohammad Moosa, a resident of Karachi, told Reuters: “All shops and markets are shut. Even small cigarette shops are closed. Petrol station operators have also closed down, fearing violence.”

According to DawnNews, “namaloom afraad” or unknown persons had taken to the streets and the city was in a state of frenzy with a number of neighbourhoods experiencing traffic jams.

Three people were injured in firing in Baldia Town, Gulshan-i-Iqbal and Natha Khan areas.

Three buses and a dozen cars were also set alight in Shafiq Mor and Gulshan-i-Iqbal.

Many rushed to stock up on groceries in anticipation of a prolonged shutdown while office workers left for home early, clogging up roads.

“We don’t know for how long the shops will remain closed and I want to store as much groceries as I could,” Razia Begum, 45, said as she jostled for space in a packed shop.

A spokesman for Pakistan Railways told AFP that all trains leaving Karachi had been temporarily halted.

Moreover, the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE-100 index) fell 780 points immediately after the news came and commercial centres across Sindh’s provincial capital started to shut down.

In the wake of the frenzy engulfing the city, the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) demanded that the provincial capital be handed under military control, adding that if the government failed to establish peace in the next 24 hours, a strike will be held.

Meanwhile, the federal government, on the instruction of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed its high commission in London to immediately provide counselor services and legal assistance to the MQM chief.

Expressing his annoyance, however, over the reaction in Karachi soon after the arrest of Altaf Hussain, a government spokesman said those actions were not justified and against the law.

 

Hussain’s supporters gathered outside the party’s headquarters, Nine Zero, chanting slogans in favour of Hussain.

They said they would continue protesting until Hussain was freed.

Later in the day, MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi said that the protest sit-in outside Nine Zero had concluded and now supporters and workers of the party would hold a sit-in at Numaish chowrangi.

Rizvi added that MQM workers would continue the protest sit-in at Numaish until Hussain addressed them.

Hussain was being investigated for money laundering worth at least 400,000 pounds as well as for incitement to violence and MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq’s murder.

MQM leader Farogh Naseem however said that Hussain had not been arrested and Scotland Yard only needed him for a statement in relation to a case.

Last week, senior MQM leader Farooq Sattar had disclosed at a public meeting that Hussain’s bank accounts in London were being frozen and had asked party workers and supporters to continue their ‘peaceful struggle’ against the British government.

Hussain, who has been living in London for over two decades and is now a British citizen, did not address that meeting held to condemn money-laundering investigations against him by UK authorities.

Search, questioning and possible arrest

Speaking to DawnNews, London-based journalist Farooq Shah said Hussain had been arrested and the police was searching his house.

He added that the British High Commission had told the Pakistani government that if they take action against Hussain, it would be with full evidence.

Shah moreover said that if proven guilty for committing a crime in the UK, the guilty person would not be able to leave the country and would be penalised in Great Britain only.

He, however, insisted that evidence against the accused must be strong enough to merit action.

Jaffer Rizvi of the BBC said if people arrests someone, it’s a long process. They may even have arrested him for a statement only and may let him go after 24 hours.

He said he is trying to find out if Hussain was called for a statement only or if he had indeed been arrested.

Rizvi said the police hadn’t named Hussain and had only said that a 60-year-old man had been arrested.

He said the police in London must have strong evidence on Hussain, adding that the development would have a strong impact on Pakistan’s politics and economy.

n July 2013, the London Metropolitan Police had confirmed that investigations against Hussain had been initiated on charges of money laundering and incitement to violence.

The Metropolitan Police had confirmed that ‘a considerable amount of money’ had been found during raids on Hussain’s residence and office in London.

The reply had said that the cash was found when a counter-terrorism unit of police raided Hussain’s office on Dec 6, 2012 under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act in connection with the investigation of Dr Imran Farooq murder case.

Police had at the time said that the money was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

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Syria 20: Assad has won civil war, Zionist diplomatic official says

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syrian2

Regime has secured ’70-80 percent of essential’ territory in the country and benefits from mass refugee exodus, source says.

Most of the regime’s territorial goals and effectively won the civil war against the Sunni rebel forces, an Israeli diplomatic official told The Times of Israel on Thursday.

“Assad has secured 70-80 percent of essential Syria,” the official said, sketching a line from Aleppo in the north down through Hama, Homs, Damascus and the southern areas near Jordan and the city of Dara’a – a Syrian city where the war began and, currently, a channel through which Sunni extremists enter Syria from Jordan.

The capital, too, he said, remains very much in the hands of the regime. “The existential threat on Damascus has been lifted.”

Only the Kurdish regions have slipped irretrievably beyond Assad’s control, he added.

The official’s depiction of the situation in Syria contradicts an assessment given by a top defense official, who in May told several journalists that Assad’s forces have lost the entire Golan Heights, aside from Quneitra and one enclave, and that, “In Aleppo, in Damascus, in the north near the Turkish border, in the Golan Heights – in all of these places he is losing.”

The war in Syria has claimed some 165,000 lives since its outbreak in March 2011 and forced millions of Syrian’s to flee their homes and their country. Lebanon, for instance, has been radically altered by an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees who currently constitute 25 percent of the Lebanese population.

The diplomatic official said that the Sunni exodus from the country has “changed the demography in Assad’s favor,” and suggested that Assad, who has the support of most of the Druze and Christian minorities in Syria, did relatively poorly in this week’s national election, if one takes into account, among other factors, the nearly seven million displaced people and refugees who were not able to reach the ballot boxes. Assad ostensibly won over 88% of the votes, with more than 10 million in his favor. The official said he did not believe the figures, and also cited a survey suggesting that 88% of the refugees would have voted against him if they’d had the chance.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, noting that voting booths were stationed only in government-controlled areas, called the election “a great big zero,” because “you can’t have an election where millions of your people don’t even have an ability to vote.”

The Iranian influence in Syria, the Israeli diplomatic official said, was unaltered by President Hassan Rouhani’s rise to power, and a nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers, he added, will only encourage Iran to act more aggressively in pursuit of its goals in Syria.

The war effort is largely coordinated by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officers, he said, and carried out by loyalist troops and the 3,000-4,000 Hezbollah guerillas in Syria. A Baseej-like force of citizens loyal to the regime, the National Defense Army, has been established at the local level and is 60,000-people strong.

An indication of Hezbollah’s success, he asserted, was not merely the strategic territory held in places like Qusair, but the fact that in Lebanon the dominant concern today is the threat of Sunni jihadist fighters and not Hezbollah’s involvement in the civil war next door.

The official alluded to some of the difficult choices made by Hezbollah in recent years – the unpopular decision to fight in Syria, revealing the depth of its ideological ties to Iran and largely forsaking the fight against Israel – and said that while the Shiite terror organization is close to emerging victorious from the conflict, Israel remains very much ambiguous about its goals in the regional war. “We know what we don’t want,” he said, “but not what we do want.”Czech

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Diaspora to I$raHell: We Need You To Change

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catfight

Damning Reports on How Jewish State Impacts World Jewry

Forward

Just a few hundred yards separate the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and cabinet room from the Jerusalem headquarters of the Jewish People Policy Institute, the clumsily-named think tank set up in 2002 by the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency for Israel. Judging by a pair of recent blue-ribbon reports from the two offices on Israel’s relationship with the Jewish Diaspora, they might as well be on different planets.

The cabinet voted June 1 to approve a $53 million allocation as the government’s one-third share in a planned $160 million partnership with Jewish organizations around the world, aimed at bolstering the attachment of young Jews to Judaism and Israel. The plan goes by the catchy name of the Government of Israel-World Jewry Joint Initiative.

Diaspora affairs minister Naftali Bennett, the government’s point man on the initiative, has been describing it as a revolution in Israeli thinking: the first time Israeli officialdom has viewed the Diaspora as something beyond a source of cash, political support and immigrants. This is not a small thing.

The plan is to invest in teacher training, unspecified “content” and various “transformative immersive experiences” and “interlinked Jewish ecosystems,” which apparently is new-speak for summer camps and teen travel. By year four they expect to spend $230 million per year, coming in equal thirds from Israeli taxpayers, Jewish organizations and individual philanthropists. This will “enable Jewish youth and young adults to author their life trajectories as active participants in Jewish life with a strong engagement with Israel,” the plan declares.

Twelve days earlier, on May 21, the Jewish People Policy Institute released the results of a six-month, six-continent study of what Diaspora Jews would actually like to hear from Israel. Not a word there about “ecosystems” or “immersive” anythings. Instead it focuses on values like democracy and pluralism. Those words never appear in the Joint Initiative document.

Let’s stipulate that comparing the two documents is unfair in a certain sense. But only in a sense. The Joint Initiative discusses how to get Israel’s message across. The JPPI report explores what the message might be.

The JPPI report has two other limitations worth noting. First, the institute was asking a very specific question: What should it mean for Israel to be, as it calls itself, a “Jewish and democratic state”? This wasn’t a free-floating discussion of possible themes in Jewish education. It was a leading question.

The second limitation: JPPI consulted a very select group of Jews. It convened dozens of day-long seminars around the world, involving Jewish organizational leaders, scholars and public figures, several hundred people in all. The 81-page report summarizes their views. This is the Jewish establishment speaking, not the grass roots.

And yet, that limitation only makes the report’s challenge all the more striking. After consulting hundreds of people — heavily weighted toward advocates for Israel’s cause — the institute found repeated emphasis on three fraught themes. One was near-unanimous objection to Orthodox domination of Israeli religious life and the lack of Jewish religious pluralism. Participants felt the Jewish state excludes them personally as Jews. A second was concern over democratic treatment of minorities. The report notes a tendency among Diaspora Jews to “conflate” Jewish and democratic values, so a shortcoming in one becomes a deficiency in the other.

The third theme, perhaps most alarming, was fear that Israel isn’t sufficiently alert to the damage its behavior does to its standing in the world — and, consequently, to Jews’ own standing and security in the countries where they live.

If this is what Israel’s strongest advocates are thinking, what can the mood be among ordinary folk who only know what they read in the papers?

Here’s a particularly striking passage: “One of the world Jewish community’s strongest messages in this report: If Israel wants to be ‘Jewish and democratic’ in a way that speaks to non-Israeli Jews, it needs to first modify its understanding of what being ‘Jewish’ means to many millions of Jews today — and find a way to be more inclusive of them.”

Here’s another: A “chief finding of our report is that a majority of Diaspora Jews expects Israel to uncompromisingly deploy Jewish and universal humanitarian values with respect to the rights of its minority citizens.”

One entire chapter (out of eight) discusses “The Impact [of] Israel’s Decisions on World Jewry.” It cites “clear evidence that periods of tension between Israel and its neighbors raise the frequency and severity of harassment attacks on Jews in locations around the world.”

Moreover: “When Israel is seen by other nations — as it is by some today — as a country that endangers the world, Jews around the world, whether they want to be associated with Israel or not, bear some of the consequences.”

It’s important to note that the principal author of the report, journalist and JPPI fellow Shmuel Rosner, is a moderate political conservative. It can’t have been easy for him to write these things. The findings must have been extremely strong for his draft to speak so unequivocally.

Unfortunately, the report’s impact is diluted by its executive summary. It focuses heavily on Jewish pluralism and the philosophical interplay of Judaism and democracy. These occupy three of the eight chapters. As a result, the sharpness of the policy challenge is largely lost. That seems to have influenced much of the press coverage. Government policymakers — to whom the seminar participants thought they were addressing their comments — probably never heard the heart of the argument.

It might have fallen on deaf ears anyway. The Diaspora affairs ministry is headed by Bennett and his Jewish Home party. Pluralism? They’re umbilically tied to the Orthodox chief rabbinate.

Democracy and minority rights? They’re among the main sponsors of the wave of anti-democratic legislation that has the Diaspora leaders so alarmed.

Israel’s image in the world? They’re the settler party. Fuggedabout it.

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Egypt 7: 23 school pupils in Sohag arrested for sexual harassment

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Mass sexual harassment assault in Tahrir sq
The boys were allegedly harassing their female classmates during exams
Ahram Online

Nearly two dozen male school pupils  were arrested Tuesday in the southern city of Sohag for sexually harassing female classmates, Al-Ahram’s Arabic website reported on Tuesday.The 23 pupils harassed the girls during end-of-year examinations taking place at their secondary school.

Sexual harassment is a widespread problem in Egyptian society.

Out of hundreds of women surveyed, more than 99 percent across seven of the country’s 27 governorates reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment, ranging from minor harassment to rape, according to an April 2013 report by the United Nations along with Egypt’s Demographic Centre and the National Planning Institute.

Last month, the cabinet approved a new anti-sexual harassment law, which criminalises harassment and sets penalties including prison sentences and fines for offenders.

Previously there had been no specific law proscribing sexual harassment in Egypt, although three articles in the penal code were sometimes applied to punish offenders.

 

 

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Egypt 6: Investigations opened into mass sexual assault in Tahrir Square

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Celebrations on Sunday night for President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s inauguration were marred by accounts of mob attacks on women
Ahram Online
Mass sexual harassment assault in Tahrir sq

File Photo: Mass sexual harassment incident in Tahrir square in 2011 (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Egypt’s prosecutor-general has launched an investigation into incidents of mass sexual assault – including a video of an alleged mob attack on a woman – that took place in Tahrir Square on Sunday night in celebrations to mark the inauguration of newly-elected President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. 

The prosecution is currently interrogating a number of suspected harassers who were arrested by security forces on Sunday night, Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website reported on Monday.

The interior ministry announced on its Facebook page that it has arrested seven suspects accused of sexual harassment. The news is considered one of the first incidents of police arresting alleged sexual harassers in the square on the same day as the assault.

Several accounts of sexual harassment in the iconic square were reported on Sunday night across Egyptian news websites and privately-owned satellite channels like Tahrir TV and Al-Hayat TV.

The square was eventually closed off by security forces in the early hours of Monday morning, with all citizens evacuated, due to what private media reports said was both the sexual assault cases and fights between street vendors.

Video: mob sexual assault

By Sunday night around 10pm, a video began circulating on social media sites of an alleged mass sexual attack on a woman in the square. The news was soon picked up by Masrawy news website, which said that the incident took place in Tahrir Square during the El-Sisi celebrations and that the victim was eventually rescued by security forces.

The victim has since been transferred to nearby Al-Helal Hospital and is in critical condition, according to a security source at Cairo’s security directorate, speaking with Masrawy.

The security source told Masrawy that police had arrested two men who had allegedly participated in sexually assaulting and raping the woman.

The woman’s rape cannot be verified. The video clip shows a naked woman with visible bruises on her back encircled by a group of men, including a policeman, who escort her to a nearby ambulance.

The date of the video, which does not show the victim’s face, has not been yet verified – some say that it was shot on Saturday during other El-Sisi celebrations and then uploaded on Sunday. Others claim that it is old footage from 2012.

An informed source told the Reuters’ affiliated Aswat Masriya website that the video was authentic, meaning that it had taken place, but did not specify the time. The source also confirmed that the prosecutor-general has begun an investigation into the incident, demanding all CCTV videos from Tahrir as well as a list of the names of the officers and soldiers assigned to secure the square.

According to Aswat Masriya, the El-Nadeem Centre for the Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence – an Egyptian NGO – is currently following the case and has confirmed that the prosecutor-general’s office is also investigating incidents of mass harassment that took place on Saturday as well.

‘Shameful behaviour’

The National Council for Women (NCW) condemned the incident and in a statement released on Monday accused the assailants of trying to “spoil” and defame Sunday night’s “democratic festivities” in front of the whole world.

“That shameful behaviour is not the behaviour of the millions who led the 25 January and 30 June revolutions, where millions occupied Egypt’s square with no single recorded sexual harassment incident,” the NCW statement said.

While the statement’s anger is likely to reverberate, its claim that no sexual harassment took place in Tahrir Square during the 2011 and 2013 uprisings is unfounded.

Incidents of mob sexual assaults have become enough of a problem during protests in Tahrir over the last three years that activists have formed anti-harassment groups to confront the endemic behaviour.

Around 46 accounts of sexual assault in Cairo were reported by Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment during the 30 June 2013 protests that led to the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

Women’s rights activists have called for an anti-sexual assault protest in Tahrir Square on Friday, 20 June.

But sexual harassment has also been a growing problem outside of Tahrir Square and protests in the last decade.

More than 99 percent of women surveyed across 27 governorates said they’d experienced some form of harassment, from minor incidents to rape, according to a 2013 report by the United Nations and Egypt’s Demographic Centre and the National Planning Institute.

Last week, former interim president Adly Mansour issued a sexual harassment law that activists praised for stipulating tougher penalties and jail terms for offenders.

However, activists still expressed hope that the law will be enforced in public and lead to more sexual harassment cases being successfully prosecuted.

 

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Egypt 5: Sexual violence in Tahrir condemned by NGOs and activists

Anti-Morsi_June 30_Protest in front of a gas station that witnessed major queues during the recent gas crisis.

Photo by: Nadia Ahmed
By: Mada Masr

Human rights groups have condemned the government’s failure to address the “epidemic” of continuing sexual violence against women taking part in demonstrations in Tahrir Square and surrounding areas.

“The rampant sexual attacks during the Tahrir Square protests highlight the failure of the government and all political parties to face up to the violence that women in Egypt experience on a daily basis in public spaces,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“These are serious crimes that are holding women back from participating fully in the public life of Egypt at a critical point in the country’s development,” the statement read.

On June 30 alone Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault (OpAntiSH), a group of volunteers who run a hotline for sexual assault victims, patrol demonstrations and attempt to rescue women from attacks, reported 46 incidents of mob sexual assaults on women in Tahrir Square. The group was formed in the wake of sexual violence at demonstrations in January of this year.

“The seriousness of the assaults ranged from mob sexual harassment and assault to raping female protesters using knives and sharp object,” OpAntiSH said in a press release that they also tweeted on their Twitter account. The responsibility, they say, is shared also by those who organize and call for protests, without taking steps to secure them.

A total of 91 women have been attacked in the four days since protests began on June 30, Egyptian anti-sexual harassment groups say.

Pro-Mohamed Morsi media and demonstrators have attempted to discredit the anti-Morsi protests taking place in Tahrir Square by pointing to the attacks, and the absence of similar incidents at their own protests.

Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault calls this, “a further violation of these women,” saying it “cannot be believed that they have developed a sudden concern for women’s physical safety or their full right to protest, when their position on issues of equality and women’s rights is well known.”

Along with other rights groups, they are critical of the Morsi administration’s response to the problem, pointing to how it “has placed responsibility for the assaults on the women who were attacked.”

“The Egyptian government’s response has typically been to downplay the extent of the problem or to seek to address it through legislative reform alone,” Human Rights Watch said. “What is needed are concerted efforts to improve law enforcement’s practice in protecting victims and effectively investigating and prosecuting the attackers, as well as a comprehensive national strategy on the part of the government.”

Amnesty International researcher Diana Eltahawy writing in a blog published on the rights group’s website notes that statements and promises of action by government officials that are not followed up on “seem to be nothing more than an attempt to deflect criticism, including from the international community.”

Stork describes the government’s “piecemeal and ad hoc” responses as “grossly inadequate to prevent sexual violence.”

Eltahawy adds that the government “has failed to address the deep-seated discriminatory discourse and attitudes reverberating across society that blames women for the attacks.” In February 2013, Eltahawy notes, Shura Council members said that women had brought the attacks on themselves by attending the protests.

The OpAntiSH press release puts sexual violence in a social and political context, suggesting that the Morsi administration “continues in the tradition of the Mubarak regime and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) to use sexual violence as a means to torture and terrify men and women in prisons and police stations.”

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Egypt 4: Initiative calls for harsher punishments after woman run over by harasser

An anti-sexual harassment initiative has called for a law criminalizing any kind of violence or harassment against women after a young woman was run over and killed by her harasser in Gharbiya.

The initiative, called Shoft Ta7rosh or ‘I saw harassment’ and comprising several human and women’s rights organizations as well as prominent academic and media figures, urged interim President Adly Mansour to take action.

Shorouk al-Torby, 18, was crushed under a microbus after she stood up to its driver for harassing her and another girl. Torby blocked the driver’s way as she tried to call her brother to help her, but the driver ran her over and fled the scene.

Torby died before reaching the hospital.

The Gharbiya Security Directorate arrested the driver, who confessed to the crime.

A recent report by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women showed that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is usually at its height during Eid when the streets are flooded with crowds out to celebrate. Shoft Ta7rosh reported several cases between August 8 and 10 in Cairo’s downtown area, where it deployed volunteers to combat harassment.

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