Analysis: Girl child soldiers face new battles in civilian life

JOHANNESBURG, 12 February 2013 (IRIN) - Girl child soldiers are often thought of only as “sex slaves”, a term that glosses over the complex roles many play within armed groups and in some national armies. This thinking contributes to their subsequent invisibility in the demobilization processes - in fact, girls are frequently the most challenging child soldiers to rehabilitate.

The broad categorization of girl soldiers as victims of sexual abuse obscures the fact that they are often highly valued militarily. While sexual abuse is believed to be widespread, girls’ vulnerability may vary, as attitudes toward women differ extensively across militias: In Colombia, the Marxist-leaning groups the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) treated female soldiers as equal to males, while right-wing paramilitary groups were known to embrace gender stereotypes.

Some have argued that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes (DDR) are ill-equipped to address the needs of girls. DDR was designed for adult male combatants, and over the years has incorporated female combatants, followed by boy soldiers and then girls.

A January 2013 World Bank briefing, Children in Emergency and Crisis Situations, says: “The use of girls [by armed forces] has been confirmed in Colombia, DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], East Timor, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda and West Africa. There are some 12,500 in DRC. However, girls are generally less visible and up to now have hardly benefited from demobilization and reintegration programmes for child soldiers.”

“No one knows what has happened after a DDR process to the large majority of girls associated with the armed groups,” the briefing said.

About 40 percent of the hundreds of thousands of child soldiers scattered across the world’s conflicts today are thought to be girls, but the numbers of girls enrolling in child soldier DDR programmes dwindles to five percent or less.

Girls often conceal their association with armed groups, Richard Clarke, director of Child Soldiers International, told IRIN. In traditional societies, enrolling in DDR could confirm a past that imperils their future: “In contexts of entrenched gender discrimination, and in situations where a girl’s ‘value’ is defined in terms of her purity and marriageability, the stigma attached to involvement in sexual activity, whether real or imputed, can result in exclusion and acute impoverishment,” he said.

Seeking gender equality

Then there is the uncomfortable reality that some conflicts may actually fast-track gender emancipation.

A 2012 report by Tone Bleie of the University of Tromsø’s Centre for Peace Studies (CPS) explores this issue. During Nepal’s civil war, when Maoists conscripted “one member per house”, some parents offered their daughters to spare “sons whom they considered as their life insurance.” Of the Maoists’ 23,610 combatants at the cessation of hostilities, 5,033 were female, and of them 988 were girls.

"Female combatants developed a new sense of pride and dignity due to personal sacrifices, military courage, feats in the battlefield and prospects of promotion in the ranks"
“Female combatants developed a new sense of pride and dignity due to personal sacrifices, military courage, feats in the battlefield and prospects of promotion in the ranks,” the report says.

In the wake of Nepal’s 2006 ceasefire, during the cantonment of Maoists rebels and the subsequent reintegration process, girls and women were returned “to [the] very low position of women in traditional Nepalese feudal society,” Desmond Molloy, a panellist at the International Research Group on Reintegration at the CPS, told IRIN.

“Inter-cast marriage, and marriage in general, was encouraged in the cantonment. This is taboo in Nepali society and proved a major obstacle for reintegration of young girls back into society, especially when they have children, as many do. Further there is in [Nepal’s] society a perception of a promiscuous environment in the cantonment. So many young girls were viewed with suspicion by their families, rejected by their new in-laws or ostracized by the community,” Molloy said.

Abdul Hameed Omar, programme manager for the UN Development Programme’s Interagency Rehabilitation Programme, told IRIN that acceptance of inter-cast marriages was particularly problematic. “Children have been denied birth certificates, and women have been denied their citizenship certificates. When the community knows that a woman has been part of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army], these women sometimes face a stigma,” he said.

He said attitudes of male Maoist ex-combatants “vary widely” but that “many voiced opinions that were not in line with their previous [gender equality] beliefs during the conflict. Other male ex-combatants who played traditionally female roles during the conflict, i.e., cooking or childcare, no longer feel that these are appropriate roles for men outside of the PLA.”

Loss of power

Many Colombian girl soldiers, who fought as equals to their male counterparts, struggled with the double standards of civilian life.

“For some girls, belonging to an illegal armed group gives them a sense of power and control that they may not otherwise experience living in a relatively conservative, ‘machista’ [chauvinist] society,” said Overcoming Lost Childhoods, a Care International report about rehabilitating Colombian child soldiers. 

By the end of Eritrea’s 30-year-long liberation war, in 1991, females comprised between 25 and 30 percent of combatants. The gender-equality ideals espoused by the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front’s (EPLF) had proved an attractive lure for female recruits, including some who were teenagers or younger.

"Many Eritrean female ex-fighters experienced the years of war as preferable to the time that came afterwards"
But “many Eritrean female ex-fighters experienced the years of war as preferable to the time that came afterwards… They had felt respected, equal and empowered, but this was all lost after the war when women were pushed towards traditional gender roles,” said the 2008 report Young Female Fighters in African Wars, Conflict and Its Consequences.

Eritrea’s DDR programmes initially tailored economic opportunities for women to traditional gender roles - basket weaving, typing and embroidery - but this did not provide a sustainable livelihood. Training women in traditionally male trades also proved fruitless because society’s norms ultimately dictated who could get which jobs.

“Furthermore, female ex-fighters had a hard time getting married after the war as men usually claimed that these women had lost their femininity during the war. Many male ex-fighters also divorced their fighter wives for this reason and married civilian women,” the report said.


Girl soldiers’ versatility - they serve as combatants, spies, domestics, porters and “bush wives” - makes them highly valued among armed groups, which can also increase their difficulty reintegrating into civilian life.

Despite this, punishments for girls in northern Uganda, such as whipping or caning, were meted out for the smallest infractions, Linda Dale, director of Children/Youth as Peacebuilders (CAP), told IRIN.

“There is a strong tendency to force a kind of passivity on girls while at the same time they are expected to be combatants. This duality, as well as the effect of sexual violence, makes their rehabilitation more complicated, in my view,” she said.

The length of captivity also differed between the sexes; average internment period for girls in northern Uganda was six to seven years, while boys faced about three years, Dale said. “Because of that, the effects of the experience, and therefore the need for more assistance in re-integration, will be higher. For example, many girl returnees are illiterate because they have been out of school so long.”

Shelly Whitman, executive director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative told IRIN that some girls can be seen as suffering from Stockholm syndrome, where captives develop a sympathetic association with their abusers.

“Girls were raped but then given to or chosen by a commander to be a ‘wife’. They are confused about their experiences, their guilt, their families’ expectations and religious beliefs. Additionally, many have children fathered by their captors. They are often rejected when they return home and viewed as non-marriageable material, damaged goods. With this kind of a homecoming, it creates confusion about your identity and your self-worth,” she said.


The assumptions and expectations of people operating DDR programmes may also affect girls’ reintegration.

Girl soldiers are often assumed to be “‘following along’, rather than girls who have been recruited and used, however informally, for military purposes… These assumptions have resulted in tens of thousands of girls being literally ‘invisible’ to DDR programmers, although the situation has improved somewhat in recent years,” said Clarke of Child Soldiers International.

"Boys with guns are easier to see and easier to fear"
Phillip Lancaster, former head of the DDR programme for the UN Organization Mission in DRC, told IRIN, “Boys with guns are easier to see and easier to fear.” DDR programmes might “ignore girls on the assumption that they don't present the same threat.”

“My own experience is that girls are often invisible to DDR programmes that draw narrow categories around the notion of combat,” he said. “It's tricky to avoid getting caught up in categories as soon as one starts trying to define parameters of qualification for DDR programmes, and most of the decisions tend to have a somewhat arbitrary flavour simply because of the complexity of the subject matter.

“Most of the Congolese armed groups… draw on local community resources… The definition of girl child soldier in this setting could, in theory, extend over all the young females in a community who were supporting, supplying, informing or directly fighting with a relevant armed group.”


Bahrain police acquitted in protester death cases

Bahraini police fire tear gas (18/02/13) Police are often accused of using excessive force in dealing with unrest
A court in Bahrain has acquitted two policemen charged in the shooting death of a protester.

7 amazing gaming & animation companies in Africa

By Miguel HeilbronVC4A

What is Africa’s gaming and animation industry up to? At Venture Capital for Africa, the largest online community connecting African entrepreneurs and investors, we’ve put together a list of great ventures in gaming and animation on VC4Africa, including video’s. Check them out and follow the ones you like.

Maliyo Games – Nigeria 
“At Maliyo Games, we have a simple philosophy; to share the experiences of everyday Africa with the world through interactive multimedia content, published for web and mobile distribution.” See their VC4Africa profile

Bino and Fino – Nigeria
“We want to cater to a global market that’s crying out for good quality African animation.” Bino and Fino is a cartoon series about a brother and sister named Bino and Fino who live with their grandparents ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’ in a modern day city in Africa. Bino and Fino have many adventures where, with the help of their friend Zeena the Magic Butterfly, they discover and learn things about the world. See their VC4Africa profile

Bongotoonz Animation Studio – Tanzania
Bongotoonz is the first Animation studio in Tanzania. Our services include 2D and 3D animation for Tv commercials, cartoon series,3d visualization,3D movies,games and educational programs. See their VC4Africa profile

Smids Animation Studios – Nigeria
Smids Animation Studios Limited is a Lagos based design studio into computer animation, motion graphics, visual effects, etc. Smids Animation Studios produces high-quality creative media solutions. We offer concept, development and production of cartoon series, television commercials, architectural visualization, presentation, visual effects and more. See their VC4Africa profile

SkillPod Media – South Africa
SkillPod Media is a South African based game solutions provider. The business has a global reach with clients in South Africa, Netherlands, India, United Kingdom, United States of America, Luxembourg, Belgium, Croatia, Portugal, United Arab Emirates and a number of other regions. The primary focus of the business is the development of various online, mobile and social games platform solutions and the development and customisation of games titles for online, Facebook, mobile, including for: Android, Apple iOS and Symbian. See their VC4Africa profile

Seeds – Kenya
The last two listed ventures work on gaming with a twist. Seeds (Farmville meets Kiva) is a social game and API for mobile microlending from the developed to the developing world, and in your own backyard. Because the average social gamer is a 43-year-old woman, microlenders skew female, and women are the largest beneficiaries of microloans, Seeds is a high tech mobile startup for women that will also benefit them, merging gaming and microlending: two multi-billion dollar industries. See their VC4Africa profile

eLimu – Kenya
eLimu is an award-winning interactive, engaging and fun application for children in the Kenyan Primary School education system to learn and revise for their exams. “We incorporate animations, videos, songs, music, games and quizzes into the content from a leading local textbook publisher. The application can be deployed on any Android smartphone or tablet with 3G or Wireless connectivity in order to facilitate Q&As; with teachers and collaborative learning”. eLimu hopes to make a significant and positive long term impact on the Kenyan youth by improving their: test scores, cognitive thinking skills, social/environmental consciousness and IT literacy. See their VC4Africa profile

Bahraini forces arrest rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja amid protests

Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - The activist was reportedly arrested by the Saudi-backed forces at a demonstration held in capital Manama on Wednesday.

Similar protests were also held in the villages of Diraz and Dar Kulaib, and the town of Sanad.

The protests were staged over the Bahraini regime’s refusal to hand over the body of Mahmoud Issa al-Jaziri, an anti-regime activist killed at a demonstration in mid-February.

Jaziri was hit in the head by a tear gas canister on February 14 after security forces attacked anti-regime demonstrators in Nabi Saleh, south of Manama, as they were marking the second anniversary of the uprising.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have staged numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on the peaceful protesters.

According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested.

Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown

Anti-protest: Bahrain bans import of plastic Guy Fawkes masks


The Kingdom of Bahrain’s Industry and Commerce Minister, Hassan Fakhro, issued an unusual decree this week: he banned the importation of a plastic face mask. Anyone caught importing the V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask now faces arrest, as anti-government protesters in the country have been using them to stay anonymous.
The stylised visage of Guy Fawkes became popular among protesters after the 2005 Hollywood film depicted thousands marching on Parliament wearing them.
Yet, while it has became an icon for protesters from members of the Occupy Wall Street movement to London demonstrators taking on the Church of Scientology, it has also been a key part of protests in the Arab Spring  and Middle Eastern protests that have continued since the heady days of 2011.
Sadly, though, it is but a mask.  And the thing about a masks is, you can print them, paint them or draw them yourself. Unless the minister plans to ban all such activity it seems an action as futile as the real Guy Fawkes’s.


Next two years crucial for Gulf union

No rift within the bloc over Syria, Bahrain foreign minister says
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief

Manama: Bahrain’s foreign minister has predicted that the next two years will be crucial for a proposed Gulf union.
Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz in December 2011 called upon the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to move “from the phase of cooperation to the phase of union within a single entity”.
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE welcomed the proposal although, at subsequent meetings, they said that more time was needed to look at the details.
“We are waiting for reports from each of the member states that will be discussed at a special session in Riyadh,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said. “I believe that 2013 and 2014 will be crucial for the Gulf union,” the minister told Qatari daily Al Arab.
Shaikh Khalid said that the reports that Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were planning to go ahead with a two-state union ahead of the other members were attributed to the enthusiasm expressed by Manama for the Saudi King’s proposal.
“This was an interpretation of Bahrain’s pronounced stance at a time when the other GCC member countries had varying attitudes towards the proposal,” he said. “The daily coordination between Saudi Arabia and Qatar on various issues and on international politics is much deeper and wider and yet no one is talking about a core union between Doha and Riyadh. There is no two-state union. The objective of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz is to achieve integration between the six member countries and there is nothing outside the GCC. The aim is to improve the current council and build upon its achievements and not replacing the current structure,” he said in the remarks published on Monday.
Shaikh Khalid who was on an official visit to Doha where he held talks with the Qatari emir and prime minister, denied the existence of rifts within the GCC towards the developments in Syria.
“There is no rift and the GCC position is part of the Arab League initiative. We did not put forward a new plan since the Arab League has adopted the initiative. We did not dispute any statement issued by the pan-Arab organisation. Some of the GCC countries played a bigger role than others, but this does not mean there are differences. We all agree on assisting the people of Syria,” he said.


Mali conflict: US deploys 100 troops to neighbour Niger


French soldiers running in Gao, Mali 21 February 2013 France intervened in Mali amid fears militants would take over Bamako


The US has deployed 100 troops to Niger to assist French forces in neighbouring Mali, the US president has said.

The armed troops will provide intelligence support, President Barack Obama informed Congress on Friday.

France deployed troops to Mali in January to counter al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants.

The US and Niger signed a status of forces agreement last month, and the US is weighing a base for surveillance drones there, US media have reported.

A senior Niger official said in January that US Ambassador Bisa Williams requested permission to establish a drone base in a meeting with Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, the Reuters news agency reported.

Last month, the US and Niger struck an agreement on the status of US forces as the two nations "define precisely what kind of military presence we may have in Niger in the future", a spokeswoman for the US state department said.

The new deployment of US forces are stationed in Niger with the government's consent, Mr Obama said in his letter to Congress.

Their mission will focus on "intelligence sharing", the president said. They will be armed for their own protection, he said.

Thousands of troops from France and African nations have been sent to Mali to oust Islamist militants.

They have recaptured the major towns in northern Mali.

Dialogue continues amid violence


Talks are aimed at building consensus after two years of political crisis
  • By Mick O’Reilly, Senior Associate Editor

Manama: The fourth round of National Dialogue talks was scheduled to get under way in Al Areen late Sunday evening with two Bahraini political societies ending their token boycott of the sessions over continuing street violence.
The National Dialogue is the latest political initiative on building consensus in the country which was rocked by two years of violence and continuing protests.
The twice-weekly talks are trying to build a way forward between anti-government Shiites who are demanding greater political and social reforms from the government.
Wednesday’s session was boycotted by Al Menbar Islamic Society and Al Saaf Islamic Society, who wanted a written commitment from opposition representatives condemning street violence that has escalated since February 14, the second anniversary of an occupation by protesters of Pearl Roundabout in central Manama.
Over the past week, a 16-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man died from injuries sustained in the violence, with scores of Bahraini police officers injured.
Over the weekend, doctors performed a complicated two-hour operation to remove a sharpened 15cm steel dart from the right eye of a police officer who was injured during rioting in Sanabis on Friday. The operation saved the Pakistani officer’s sight.

On Saturday, hundreds of police and security force officers fired tear gas and bird-shot rounds to break up widespread rioting after a series of illegal anti-government protests in Sanabis, Daih and Jedhafs.
Official numbers of the injured are hard to obtain as injured protesters refuse to attend medical centres, preferring instead to receive treatment when and where they can. It’s a practice that is alarming police, with Major General Tariq Al Hassan, head of Bahrain Police, saying the practice is dangerous.
“Whenever a person is seriously injured, it is vital that they receive proper professional medical care by trained paramedics at the scene,” he said in a statement. “If warranted, seriously injured persons should immediately be taken to a hospital where the individual will be treated in a sanitised environment. A delay in hospital can exacerbate injuries and cause death.”
Authorities say that the events surrounding the most recent death, that of 20-year-old plumber Mahmoud Eisa Mohammad from Daih, were complicated by his family taking the seriously injured man to hospital a full 24 hours after the injury was sustained during a violent street protest.
Two attempts to organise a funeral for Mohammad failed as his family dispute an official report into his death. And those two attempts at a funeral turned into illegal protest marches and then violent clashes between the marchers and police and security forces.
It’s against this violent backdrop that the talks in Al Areen are taking place, with real headway difficult to achieve. Sunday’s session, the fourth in the current round, is focused on trying to set the agenda for future sessions.
“Violence on the streets should stop as it is not right when all political parties are engaging in talks,” Dr Yousuf Mashal, a senior official in AL Saaf Islamic Society, said on Saturday.
But the National Dialogue talks mean little to those taking part in the illegal street protests.
“They are just window dressing,” Halawi Jamal told Gulf News. “It is an attempt to show the west that the government is doing something. The talks mean nothing, khalas.”


Bahraini dies after being struck by tear gas canister


A protester who was struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired by police in Bahrain last week has died, opposition officials say.

Mahmood Aljazeeri, 20, died in hospital on Thursday, seven days after being injured, according to a statement released by the Al Wefaq society.

Mr Aljazeeri is the third person to be killed during anti-government protests in Bahrain in the past week.

Violence flared during demonstrations marking two years of protests.

Another member of Mr Aljazeeri's family was shot and killed by police, and a police officer died after being attacked, during unrest on 14 February, the anniversary of the occupation of Pearl Roundabout in the capital Manama by pro-democracy activists.

Mr Aljazeeri was wounded in his home village of Nabi Saleh.

His relative, Hussain Aljazeeri, 16, was killed after being struck in the abdomen with birdshot pellets fired at close range on the same day.

Police officer Mohammed Asif died after being hit by what was described as a projectile hurled at him by rioters.
'Direct shots'
Al Wefaq has released what it says is video footage of the incident involving Mahmood Aljazeeri. It shows him bending down to pick up a missile to throw at a line of police approximately 12 metres (40ft) away.

He then collapses after being hit by a canister fired from the police line. Other demonstrators are seen rushing forward to carry him away.
Opposition activists have often stated that police in Bahrain use tear gas guns inappropriately, firing directly at protesters rather than arcing the canisters so as to avoid serious injuries.

Al Wefaq says that Mr Aljazeeri is the fifth person to have died after being struck by a tear gas canister. More than a dozen have suffered serious eye and head injuries since the unrest began.

Former Miami police chief John Timoney was hired by the Bahraini government two years ago to improve policing methods. When asked last year about the rules of engagement for tear gas, he told the BBC that police in America are trained not to fire head-high and to either arc the canister into the air or roll it on the ground.

He said that the purpose for using tear gas in Bahrain is to keep the protesters at a distance and added "the police do not purposefully hit people with it".

Mr Timoney said that a tear gas canister could be a lethal weapon but it was not intended to be used that way.
'Warning shots'
Regarding the death of Hussain Aljazeeri the Chief of Public Security Maj-Gen Tariq Hassan al-Hassan issued a statement saying that police had come under attack from rioters "with rocks, steel rods and Molotov cocktails.

Warning shots were fired but failed to disperse the advancing crowd who continued their attack. Officers discharged birdshot to defend themselves".

According to the general, it was at that point "at least one protester was injured" and subsequently died of his wounds at the country's main hospital, the Salmaniya Medical Complex.

However a photograph released by Al Wefaq and seen by the BBC appears to cast doubt on that version.

In the photograph a man said to be Hussain Aljazeeri is seen just after being hit by the birdshot. Two or three other protesters are seen running towards him from an alleyway. The officer who shot him is seen at the corner of a building, firing at a distance of not more than 10 metres.

On 14 February 2011, peaceful protesters took over an iconic Bahraini monument, Pearl Roundabout. Three days later security forces cleared the site using tear gas, batons and birdshot.

At least two protesters died and hundreds were injured.

As violence escalated 35 people, including five police officers, were killed, hundreds more were hurt and thousands jailed in February and March 2011.

The vast majority were Shia Muslims in a country ruled by a minority Sunni royal family.

Since then, opposition and human rights activists say nearly 50 people have been killed, a figure which the government disputes.

Bahrainis decry “terror”


Issues of violence main topic of National Dialogue
  • By Mick O’Reilly Senior Associate Editor

Manama:An estimated 20,000 Bahrainis turned out on Thursday evening to condemn street violence and protests that have plagued this island kingdom for the last two years.
Centred on the Islamic Education Society in Arad near Manama’s airport, police and security forces imposed a tight cordon around the National Unity Assembly (NUA) event to prevent any disruption by counter-protesters. Police faced riotous crowds and disturbances in a number of villages around Manama where anti-government sentiment and sectarian differences run deep.
The Bahrain branch of the Open University was targeted by a group of teens who vandalised vehicles and broke windows. But more troubling for police was the detonation of a small bomb in front of the Creditmax building around 7pm Thursday. No one was injured by the crude device -- but the incident shows that anti-government protesters are gradually evolving from street protesters into more violent activists.
NUA president Dr Shaikh Abdul Latif Al Mahmood said that the violence had to stop before real political and social progress could be made.“We are here to discuss the future of Bahrain and to tell everyone that we are one nation with no differences,” he said. “All of Bahrain and all Bahrainis have been affected by the political situation. We admit that there are some who are trying to exploit our country and external forces are trying to control the political situation as in Lebanon. We will never let them control us. Our teenagers and youngsters are intelligent enough to understand right from wrong. We totally condemn violence.”
Since a terrorist cell was unveiled by police last week, tensions are running high over fears that Iran may be more than a noisy neighbour across the Arabian Gulf. Four Iranians including a Revolutionary Guard are still at large while eight others are under arrest for their roles in organising the cell and carrying out subversive acts including preparing stores for arms caches and monitoring security force movements and identifying potential targets for terrorist attack. During the NUA rally, many carried placards reading “Bahrain Without Terrorism”, “Hands Off Bahrain” and “No to Iran and America”.
Ibrahim Al Jabri told Gulf News that he was taking part in the rally to declare his love for the Royal Family of Bahrain and the government.

“I don’t want my sons to live in a kingdom that is ripped apart and where teens defy parents and riot every night,” Al Jabri said.
“We must have the rule of the law not the rule of the street. For the last two years all we have had is violence. Most Bahrainis want peace and to be left alone.”
The next session of National Dialogue talks gets underway Sunday. The issue of continuing violence is dominating the sessions with a coalition of Sunni political societies wanting anti-government Shiite societies to denounce the near-nightly disturbances. That’s a move the anti-government side is unwilling to do, instead preferring to denounce all violence by all parties -- including the use of force by security and police forces.

Man stabbed by masked youths


Habib is in critical condition at Sulmaniya Hospital
  • By Mick O’Reilly Senior Associate Editor
Manama:A 30-year-old Bahraini man is clinging to life at the island’s main hospital here after being stabbed multiple times by street protesters.
Hussain Mohammad Redha Ahmad Habib was attacked outside his home in Bani Jamra on Tuesday night when he tried to stop a gang throwing petrol bombs at security forces. Habib was stabbed by the masked youths and was left unconscious. Medical officials at Sulmaniya Hospital say he faces weeks of treatment there.
In a similar incident, a Pakistani national was seriously injured when he was attacked by a gang of youths rioting near Imam Hussain Road earlier in the week. A news photographer for an Arabic publication was also attacked by youths who were throwing bricks and petrol bombs at security forces then.

Tech firms set sail to solve world’s problems through innovation

By Richa Malhotra – SciDev.Net  
Eleven start-up firms with novel technologies for solving social and environmental problems have set off on a voyage around the world to find new markets where their innovations could improve people’s lives.
The entrepreneurs will sail to 13 countries, including stops in China, Ghana, India, Mauritius, Morocco, Myanmar, South Africa and Vietnam, as part of the mentor-driven Unreasonable at Sea programme that aims to support a select group of technology companies and their founding members.
Along the way, the companies will be presented to local businesspeople, government officials and investors, and receive mentoring from 20 established entrepreneurs and investors.
Several technology companies from the developing world are also on board MV Explorer, which set sail last month (9 January) from San Diego, United States.
The founder of the project, Daniel Epstein, tells SciDev.Net that the 13 countries being visited during the 100-day voyage are booming entrepreneurial hubs or have underdeveloped markets.
His objective is to help scale up technologies dedicated to solving social and environmental challenges.
“On the environmental side, we have the world’s most-efficient solar concentrator on the ship, the world’s most-efficient charcoal cooking stove in emerging markets, a company that is currently providing clean drinking water to more than 300,000 people every day across five countries and another that is using nanotechnology to profitably sequester carbon out of the atmosphere,” Epstein tells SciDev.Net.
Deaftronics is one of the 11 firms on board. The Botswana-based company manufactures solar-powered hearing aids, called Solar Ears.
Tendekayi Katsiga, the firm’s co-founder tells SciDev.Net that he likes the idea of having entrepreneurs involved in the project, which he sees as a platform to exchange ideas.
“It is giving us an international exposure on how to run a self-sustainable business. Added to that are networking, marketing and distribution, and an opportunity to establish international relations and investments. It will help scale up our operations,” Katsiga tells SciDev.Net.
Damascus Fortune, based in Mumbai, India, is another company that was selected for the voyage.
The firm’s technology converts carbon emissions from industry and vehicles into carbon nanostructures that can be used to construct cars, buildings, laptops and mobile phones.
“It’s an excellent experience because we are interacting with mentors who help us design our business models,” Venkatesan K. R., the company’s chief operating officer, tells SciDev.Net.
The project is a collaboration between the Unreasonable Institute, which provides residential support to potentially world-changing entrepreneurs; the Institute of Design at Stanford University in the United States; and the Semester at Sea programme, a study-abroad initiative run on a ship as it sails around the world.
Link to the Unreasonable at Sea project


Kuwait helped foil terror plot in Bahrain

Eight terrorists trained in weapons and explosives arrested
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau chief

Manama: Kuwaiti media on Monday said that Kuwait was the Gulf country that helped foil a terror plot in Bahrain last week.
On Saturday, Bahrain’s interior minister Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa said the authorities arrested a cell of eight terrorists who received training in using weapons and explosives. The cell had connections with Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.
“These arrests were made with the cooperation of a fellow brotherly country,
” he said. “The eight individuals obtained training in weapons and explosives and also received funding from outside Bahrain,” the minister said during an address on Bahrain TV.
Kuwaiti daily Al Jareeda quoting sources it did not name said Kuwait was the country mentioned by Shaikh Rashid.
Another Kuwaiti daily Al Anba, quoting senior security sources said that “Kuwait and Bahrain were coordinating their efforts and that high-level security channels were open between Manama and Kuwait City following the busting of a terrorist cell by Bahraini authorities”.
However, the sources could not confirm or deny claims that Kuwaiti nationals were involved in the cell.
“The investigations are continuing and we are at this stage dealing with leaks to the media that may not be accurate,” the source said. “Bahrain and Kuwait are exchanging notes on the case for the sake of security in both countries.”
In Manama, Tariq Al Hassan, the head of public security, said that details about the busted cell would be announced on Tuesday.
Two deaths, scores of injuries, explosions and clashes have marred the end of the week for Bahrainis as anti-government protesters marked the second anniversary of the February 14 demonstrations.
Thousands of mourners, including the interior and justice minister, on Sunday attended the funeral of Mohammad Asif Khan, the policeman who was shot and killed by rioters on Thursday evening.
His mother and two of his brothers flew in from Pakistan for the funeral of the 23-year-old man killed by a projectile fired in the Manama suburb of Sehla.
He was buried one day after thousands of people attended the funeral of Hussain Al Jaziri, 16, who was killed in a morning clash with police in the nearby suburb of Daih.
Two policemen were subsequently referred to an investigation committee set up to look into the incident.
On Sunday afternoon, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonated near a shopping mall off a major highway northwest of Manama. No one was injured in the attack reportedly targeting security forces in the area.
“Rioters blocked roads and committed acts of vandalism,” the interior ministry said on its Twitter account. “The police restored order.”
Despite the tense situation engulfing the country, none of the societies taking part in a multi-lateral national dialogue has formally said that it was pulling out of the talks.
The dialogue was launched on February 10 to help find a way out of a frustrating political deadlock that has gripped the nation for almost two years following deep divergences over the events that unfolded in February 2011.
“We are still discussing the merit of continuing the dialogue,” Ahmad Juma, the spokesperson for a coalition of ten political societies, said. “We will look at all the options when we meet again on Tuesday,” he said at the end of a meeting on Sunday evening to consult on the latest developments in the country.
The third session of the dialogue attended by 27 participants, including politicians, parliamentarians and government ministers, is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Bahrain blames Iran for ‘terror cell’


Bahrain says Revolutionary Guard member masterminded terror cell
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau chief

Manama: A member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard masterminded the 12-member terror cell that was recently busted, said Bahrain’s police chief.
An Iranian national codenamed “Abu Nasser” was in command of the cell whose members, eight Bahrainis and four foreigners, were enlisted by a Bahraini recruited by two other Bahrainis living in the Iranian city of Qom during a visit there, Major General Tariq Al Hassan, the head of Public Security, said.
The cell targets in Bahrain included attacks on civilian and military installations as well as public figures, taking pictures and collecting information about sensitive areas and sites, setting up armed groups to fight and attack security staff and mobilising people to join the groups, the police chief said at a press conference on Tuesday evening.
Training conducted in camps run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Iran and by the Iraqi Hezbollah in Karbala and Baghdad included the use of light and medium guns and explosives, including C4, data collection, picture taking and recruitment, he said.
According to Al Hassan, the cell was a prelude to setting up Jaish Al Imam (The Imam’s Army) to carry out acts of terror in Bahrain. The cell members were also asked to prepare stores for the weapons to be smuggled into Bahrain. They moved between Iran, Iraq and Lebanon and were given around $80,000 (Dh293,764), he said.
The police chief said that the cell had already taken photos of civilian and military sites belonging to the interior ministry as well as the airport and other important installations.
Five suspects were arrested in Bahrain and three in Oman, he said. Oman responded to the Bahraini request to arrest them under the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) security pact signed by all six member countries.
On Saturday, Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the interior minister, said that a fellow brotherly country helped with the arrest.
“These arrests were made with the cooperation of a fellow brotherly country,” he said during an address on Bahrain TV.
Kuwaiti media speculated that the country that the minister did not name was Kuwait.
The eight suspects, all Bahrainis, were referred to the public prosecution last month. The other four, known only by their nicknames and believed to be Iranians and Iraqis, are on the run.
Al Hassan said that Bahrain’s security agencies became aware of the cell in May, and have been shadowing its members since then.
“I cannot reveal more facts because the case is now with the public prosecution,” Al Hassan said.

Terror Plot Foiled, Public Security Chief said

Manama-Feb19(BNA) Public Security Chief Major General Tariq Hassan Al-Hassan has today held a press conference to reveal details of the terror cell which was first announced by the Interior Minister last Saturday.
The National Security Agency had information about a group which was planning to form a terror cell with the aim of attacking highly-sensitive civil and military sites and targeting public figures.
The Interior Ministry and the National Intelligence Agency decided then to set up a joint undercover taskforce to collect further intelligence information about the nature the group, regarding its affiliates, sources of financing and training.
Intensive security coordination revealed that the group was plotting to set up a terror cell which would serve as a nucleus for the so-called Al-Imam Army -an armed military organisation bent on terror activities.
The organisation includes several Bahrainis who are based inside Bahrain and abroad, in addition to other accomplices from different nationalities.
The accused terrorists who have been arrested appeared before the Public Prosecutor to be interrogated and face charges.
The security agencies are now tracking down four other accomplices, who are still at large, to bring them to justice and face charges.
The terror cell members who have been arrested have admitted that they had been recruited by Mirza Mohammed and Aqeel Jaafar – two Bahrainis based in Iran.
Investigation has also revealed that a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard codenamed "Abu Nasser" has masterminded the whole terror operation.
The terror cell was trained on the use of firearms, high explosives, collection of intelligence information and photographing sensitive sites.
The training of the terror cell took place in camps operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Islamic Republic, in addition to training sites belonging to Iraqi Hezbollah, located in both Karbala and Baghdad.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard member codenamed "Abu Nasser" supplied the terror cell with overall $80,000.
The terrorists had been assigned to collect intelligence information, photograph sensitive sites and military locations and stock the weapons which would be smuggled inside Bahrain under the supervision of Iranian "Abu Nasser".
Public Security Chief Major General Tariq Hassan Al-Hassan reiterated commitment to the constitution and law provisions, vowing zero-tolerance against any attempt to subvert national security.


Pistorius: After the murder, a time for introspection


Reeva Steenkamp, a lively, well-liked young woman with a promising career, was allegedly killed by Oscar Pistorius on Valentine’s Day. It is a horrible, surreal story. The discovery that a national hero and global poster-boy for inspiration may also be a murderer is devastating. But we cannot allow Pistorius’s status to prejudice our response to what seems – based on scanty available evidence – like a gruesome act of domestic violence.
If this is what it was, to downplay it would be to betray Anene Booysen and countless others.
Ahead of Pistorius’s court appearance on Friday, there are very few concrete facts about the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp in the public domain. We know that the shooting occurred in the early hours of Thursday morning, reportedly between 4:00 and 5:00. We know that Steenkamp was shot several times in the head and upper body. We know that neighbours reported hearing a disturbance before the shooting, and that police had previously been called to Pistorius’s house because of what police spokesperson Denise Beukes called “previous allegations of a domestic nature”.
Importantly, we know that it was a neighbour, and not Pistorius, who called the police to the scene after hearing shots ring out.
We know that the police will oppose bail during Pistorius’s Friday hearing. Although it is apparently common practice for police to oppose bail in cases like this one, Beukes gave a hint that there might be something more to motivate their opposition. She told journalists: “One of the reasons we will be opposing bail will be disclosed when he appears.”
We may also assume that it is definite that it was Pistorius who killed her. Police are not pursuing other investigations. We are not clear where the story emerged that Pistorius had mistaken her for an intruder – a suggestion dismissed by Beukes. It may have been an assumption of the Beeld journalist who broke the story. It may have come from Pistorius himself, or it may have been suggested to journalists by someone with an interest in protecting Pistorius. Whatever the source, it played a critical role in directing how Steenkamp’s murder was initially framed: as an accidental shooting. Consequently, there was much initial sympathy directed towards Pistorius.
As the day progressed and facts were clarified by police in a way which strongly suggested an intentional shooting, this sympathy began to wane. Journalists began digging in Pistorius’s background, and unearthed a number of unsavoury incidents. There was the hissy-fit he threw after being beaten in the 200 metres at the Paralympic Games last year, which suggested a man capable of anger and resentment in a way that was quite at odds with his shiny public image. There was a boating accident on the Vaal River in 2009 in which it appeared likely that alcohol was involved. In the same year, there was a night in police custody after Pistorius was accused of assaulting a 19 year-old girl.
There was also the testimony of Pistorius’s ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor, who told City Press last year that the athlete has a wandering eye. “Oscar is certainly not what people think he is,” Taylor said – a statement that seems eerily prescient in light of current events.
Last year a New York Times journalist spent time with Pistorius and reached some interesting conclusions. “Hanging out with Pistorius can be a great deal of fun,” wrote Michael Sokolove. “You also quickly understand that he is more than a little crazy.” Sokolove painted a picture of a man prone to recklessness – he reported that Pistorius drove at 250km/h. He also portrayed him as jittery and gun-crazy: Pistorius whipped him off to the shooting range upon hearing that the journalist had never shot a gun before. Tellingly, Sokolove wrote: “Suddenly, I felt like one of those characters in a movie who must be schooled on how to be more manly”.
Pistorius, on his Twitter account, boasted of his shooting prowess in November 2011, writing that he had spent the afternoon at the shooting range. “96% headshot over 300m from 50 shots! Bam!” Pistorius tweeted. The athlete, Sokolove concluded, had the disposition “of a person who believes himself to be royalty of a certain kind – a prince of the physical world.”
Sokolove’s piece (which was by no means universally negative) was unusual in presenting an even mildly negative account of Pistorius, because his standard media coverage has been so uniformly glowing. And how could it be otherwise? His is a tale of endurance and inspiration; a triumph in the face of adversity. Pistorius is a reminder not to be constrained by physical limits; to follow one’s dreams; to not take no for an answer. It is heady stuff. He has done more than anyone in history to raise the profile of both disabled athletes and the Paralympics. He has carried out extensive good works to improve the situation of other disabled people.
It is totally understandable that the media would canonise Pistorius in the face of this. When someone operates so successfully as a symbol for so long, who cares about the man himself? Pistorius was a good news story, which is why advertisers love him – he is visual shorthand for “inspiring”, a metaphor on blades. It doesn’t hurt that he is extremely good-looking. In South Africa, he has made us proud. At the Olympics, he put us on a global stage: one of our own done good. To be asked to give this up and replace it with a profoundly ugly narrative, one of violence and death, feels traumatic.
In South Africa, we find it hard to let go of heroes. Hansie Cronje was still voted the 11th greatest South African of all time in 2004, despite having been disgraced and banned for life from professional cricket. And Hansie didn’t have half the inspirational cachet that Pistorius does. Sportsmen often get imbued with undeserved moral virtue – part of an aeons-old tendency to conflate physical prowess and external attractiveness with inner goodness.
In reality, though, they often do much to counter this perception. South African sportsmen have a particularly bad track record when it comes to violence against women. Cricketer Makhaya Ntini was found guilty of rape in 1999, though the conviction was overturned on appeal. Springbok Percy Montgomery spent a night in the lock-up in 2009, after his wife laid an assault charge against him, subsequently withdrawn. James Small, a 1995 World Cup winner, was outed as a wife-beater by the father of his former fiancée Christina Storm, who claimed to Fair Lady in 2001 that Small beat Storm “at least half a dozen times”. His compadre James Dalton also had his day in court in 2007, charged with having tried to drown his wife.
These incidents make news – unlike countless others – because of the public profile of the men involved. But there’s no sense that they are particularly career-limiting for the men involved. South Africa is famously sports-crazy, and the adulation meted out to successful sporting personalities seems to result in a high degree of immunity. Sportsmen are also prized on some level because they are the “manliest” men, in a country where aggressive, testosterone-driven masculinity is rewarded in arenas from schools to boardrooms to bedrooms.
Anene Booysen and Reeva Steenkamp lived very different lives. Steenkamp was well-off, professionally successful and from a stable home. None of those factors ultimately protected her from harm. Like Booysen, it would appear that she ended her life at the hands of a man she trusted.
In a terrible, poignant irony, Steenkamp had paid tribute to Booysen in an Instagram post earlier this month. “I woke up in a happy safe home this morning,” Steenkamp wrote. “Not everyone did. Speak out against the rape of individuals in SA. RIP Anene Booysen.”
In any other country in the world, a death like Steenkamp’s would provoke a vigorous national conversation about gun ownership. In South Africa, that’s unlikely to take place to any meaningful extent: too many citizens exist in a siege mentality, and too many people live in fear. But even if we’re not going to talk about guns, we have to keep talking about violence against women. We have to acknowledge that the problem pervades every echelon of South African society: that it touches the leafy estates of Pretoria as well as the construction sites of Bredasdorp. We have to work on developing alternative masculinities: ones that prize virtues other than being able to run the fastest or hit the hardest.
We have to do these things now. It is literally a matter of life and death. For Anene Booysen and Reeva Steenkamp, it’s too late.

By Rebecca DavisThe Daily Maverick

Communications Minister Condemns Acts of Sabotage

Manama-Feb19(BNA)Saboteurs have targeted 15 telecommunications masts out of 1200 across Bahrain.
Minister of State for Communications Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa strongly condemned acts of sabotage which disrupted the internet and communications services in parts of Bahrain.
He expressed his confidence in the ability of the Interior Ministry to track down terrorists and saboteurs who are compromising the security of the country and its citizens.

The minister was speaking as he inspected the sites of sabotaged telecommunications masts in the presence of officials representing internet services providers.

He paid tribute to Interior Minister Lieutenant-General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa and the security forces for their dedication and efforts to protect vital facilities, including telecommunications sites.

He also hailed the telecommunications companies for quickly restoring services in affected areas and reviewing security measures.

"The installation and operation of a telecommunication mast costs an average BD200,000", Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) Licensing and Spectrum director Abdulrahman Hisham Al-Soweidi said.

The TRA has so far licensed 180 telecommunications companies, employing 3000 Bahraini officials, employees, administrators and technicians. According to the annual TRA report211, Bahrain's overall revenues from the telecommunications sector topped BD400 million.



Mogadishu is happening; guess who’s rushing there?

Well, there have been stories of Mogadishu, the war-weary capital of Somalia, rising miraculously from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix. It is not hot air. After more than 20 years of madness, and with the African Union peacekeeping force Amisom having trounced Al Shabaab and enabled a new Constitution and election, Mogadishu is happening.
New building and renovation are all over the place, but an interesting piece of news recently caught my eye. After years in which they were out of work — or moonlighted as pirates — Somali fishermen are working overtime.
They are struggling to meet the surge in demand for fish from mushrooming restaurants and returning middle class Somalis who were in the diaspora.
However, three other surprising factors are also driving the Mogadishu boom. One of them is South Sudan. In the past six years many East Africans, especially Kenyans and Ugandans, streamed to South Sudan to work and set up business.
And for a while they did very well. Then petty economic nationalism set in, and in the past two years South Sudan has become hell for small-time Kenyan and Ugandan traders, even ordinary workers.
Kenya and Uganda played critical roles in South Sudan’s Independence. Despite that, anecdotal evidence suggests that South Sudan rejects more visa applications from Kenyans travelling to Juba, than for example Ethiopia and Djibouti do.
This hostility has forced adventurous Kenyan and Ugandan workers to look to Mogadishu. There are hundreds of them employed there now.
Secondly, several Somali businessmen and contractors have told me that Somalis are very enterprising, make very good traders and truckers, but have been corrupted by the prolonged crisis of the past 20 years and have a “lousy work ethic.”
They tell me they can’t employ fellow Somali to repair a road, or build a three-storey building that doesn’t fall over in a month. As a result, they are having to bring in workers from Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan.
Thirdly, a few months ago the Kenya government issued a directive that all Somali refugees must return to the Dadaab camps. Over the years, several Somalis left the camp, set up businesses in Kenyan towns, and grew rich.
To do so, most partnered with Kenyans, as they didn’t want to expose themselves. With the recent directive, fear has spread among these refugees that their Kenyan partners could take advantage to rob them of their investments. So they are cashing in and shipping back to Mogadishu with bags full of money.
Similar movements have been seen in South Africa, where Somali traders are regularly targeted and beaten or robbed in xenophobic attacks.
A new confidence is beginning to stir among the Somalis. The Somalia Economic Forum is organising an investment conference in Nairobi starting June 12. Also, British Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced a Somalia economic conference for May.
In the past, all such meetings on Somalia were either peace or humanitarian conferences. It would have been a waste to hold an investment conference then. It would be a miss not to do so today.

Continue reading on East African
By Charles Onyango-Obbo


Bahrain: regime forces arrest 3 press photographers

Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - The Bahraini regime forces have arrested three press photographers working for international news agencies while they were doing their job in the village of Daih, west of the capital Manama.

The three photographers were Mazin Mahdi who works for the German news agency, Mohammed al-Shaikh, working for the French news agency and Hasan Jamali who works for the American Associated Press.

However, this is not the first time the regime forces arrest journalists and photographers, as this comes within the its attempts to hide the truth and its excessive force and violence against the citizens as well as the brutal practices of its forces against pro-democracy protesters.

Second day of protests rocks Bahrain


Teenager killed in Bahrain anniversary protests


The Bahraini government has announced an investigation into the death of teenage boy during protests marking the second anniversary of a failed uprising.




Security Crackdown Failed to Silence the People's Demands

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency)
The national opposition parties in Bahrain said, "The regime's security crackdown in dealing with the ongoing crisis in Bahrain have proven its failure over the last two years. This repressive approach must stop. The crisis is political and needs an inclusive and serious political solution that can meet the demands of the political pro-democracy majority in Bahrain".

"Merging both approaches; political and repressive; is not possible. If the call for dialogue is serious about achieving positive results, all security measures and human rights violations perpetrated by the regime forces must be stopped. Also, the hatred and incitement against pro-democracy activists in official; and semi-official media must be stopped", the opposition stressed.

In the final communiqué of the mass protest on Tuesday (12th February,2013) titled " No for dictatorship" in Sanabis area , west of the capital Manama, the opposition said that arms and violence will not silence the people of Bahrain nor prevent them from calling for their fair and legitimate demands. The people have spent tens of years fighting and striving to achieve these demands and they will never give in until real democracy is achieved in Bahrain.

The opposition stressed that any political solution should be agreeable to the people of Bahrain and the decision should be made by the political majority of the people, and any decision or step not proven by the people will be illegitimate. Any solution should meet the aspirations of the people as the international community has been affirming since 2011. Not to mention its demands that any dialogue be meaningful and serious, otherwise it is a waste of time.

The opposition parties expressed their deep concern over the prisoners of conscience who are reported to have been on hunger strike inside detention- some stopped drinking water- protesting against the mistreatment and poor conditions in detention and depriving them from their basic humanitarian rights. The regime takes full responsibility for their situation and its outcomes.

The opposition parties stressed that abandoning the legitimate demands is not possible under any circumstances. The right to an elected government that represent the people's will cannot be abandoned, a transparent, independent and fair electoral system, fair electoral constituencies that fulfill the international principle "one-man one-vote", an elected council with full legislative and regulatory powers, a fair and independent judiciary, security services for all, these are demands that will never be abandoned whether in the dialogue or other.

The opposition parties emphasized that the world has acknowledged that the demands raised by the people of Bahrain are legitimate and humanitarian. It is not reasonable to let our beloved homeland to be left behind because of tyranny and dictatorship. The people of Bahrain refuse to be marginalized or to let a small group of people dominate the country's wealth and decision.

12th February 2013 –Bahrain

The opposition parties:
Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society
National Democratic Gathering Society
National Democratic Action Society
Unitary National Democratic Assemblage
Ekhaa National Society

Bahraini forces attack protesters in Manama

Saudi-backed Bahraini forces have fired tear gas at anti-regime demonstrators as they tried to march toward the former Pearl Square in the capital.

The rally was held as part of anti-regime rallies to mark the second anniversary of the popular uprising in the Persian Gulf state.

A similar protest was also held in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama, where demonstrators called for political reforms.

Bahrainis have been holding protest rallies across the country for more than a week ahead of the anniversary.

On Tuesday, opposition groups, including al-Wefaq and the February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition, called for protests this week to mark the 2011 popular uprising against the rule of Al Khalifa dynasty.

Explosion hits Bahrain shopping center

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - The blast went off in a busy shopping mall on Tuesday, leaving no casualties. The explosion, however, shattered the windows of the shops and forced the people to evacuate the location, Interior Ministry sources said.

"A domestic terror act of remotely detonated explosion targeted lives at a shopping center in Isa Town that led to limited damages," the Interior Ministry confirmed.

The incident coincided with anti-regime protests in the capital, Manama, where the demonstrators took to the streets to mark the second anniversary of the popular uprising in the Persian Gulf state.

Meanwhile, the coalition of Bahrain’s opposition groups urged Bahrainis to go on strike and take to the streets on Thursday and march to the site of the iconic Pearl Square, the former epicenter of Bahrain's revolution, on Friday.

They also urged the opponents of the regime to boycott shopping malls and banks in order to paralyze the economy.

Bahrainis have been staging demonstrations since mid-February 2011, demanding political reform and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its crackdown on popular protests.

Italy's ex-spy chief convicted over 2003 CIA rendition

Italy's former intelligence chief Nicolo Pollari has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the rendition of a terror suspect.

The court in Milan also sentenced his former deputy Marco Mancini to nine years in jail over the 2003 kidnapping.

Italy's courts have already convicted in absentia 22 CIA agents over the same case. The abducted Egyptian cleric said he was flown to Egypt and tortured.

Pollari and Mancini are expected to appeal against their convictions.

Defence lawyer Nicola Madia says he has not been able to properly defend his clients because the Italian government has declared the case covered by state secrecy laws.

The Italian trials, which began in 2007, were the first in the world to bring to court cases involving extraordinary rendition, the CIA's practice of transferring terror suspects to countries where torture is permitted.

Extraordinary rendition - launched by the administration of US President George W Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks - has been condemned by human rights groups as a violation of international agreements.
Earlier trial
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, an Egyptian cleric better known as Abu Omar, was living in Milan when he was snatched off the street in daylight and flown to two US bases in Europe before being transferred to Egypt.

He claims he was then tortured for seven months, and held for years before being released without charge.

Pollari was acquitted when the first trial ended with the conviction of 23 Americans - all but one of them CIA agents - in 2009.

The CIA's Milan station chief at the time, Robert Lady, was given an eight-year term, while the other 22 Americans convicted - one of them a US air force colonel - were sentenced to five years in prison.

All of them are believed to be living in the US and are unlikely to serve their sentences.

Pollari, who was head of Sismi military intelligence agency in 2003, insisted during the trial that he had known nothing about the kidnapping, but that documents proving he was not involved were classified under secrecy laws. He resigned over the affair.

Last September Italy's highest court upheld the guilty verdicts on the 23 Americans, and ruled that Pollari and four other senior Italian secret service agents be tried again for their role in the kidnapping.

Tuesday's hearing, in Milan's court of appeals, also saw six-year sentences handed to three other Italian agents.

All five are expected to appeal and are unlikely to go to jail until the judicial process has been exhausted.

'Politicised' court cases anger Kuwaiti Bedouin


The sentencing in Kuwait of three former MPs and the ongoing case against another has angered the leaders of several of the gulf country's Bedouin tribes.
The Bedouin represent approximately 50% of the indigenous population and have become increasingly vocal about their anger at electoral reforms pushed through last year that they say favour pro-government politicians.
Bedouin and other opposition MPs made good on a threat to boycott last December's election after the emir approved a new voting system. Many voters joined the boycott making turnout the lowest in a Kuwaiti election.
A former MP and leading opposition figure Musallam al-Barrak told the BBC that "tribal leaders are moving away from the al-Sabahs".
"They see a failed government, they see bribery, they see wealth in a country where the infrastructure is not growing."
Mr Barrak, who is a member of one of the largest tribes, the Mutari added: "This is not just a tribal issue, this is a problem for the whole society but what is happening with the tribes is significant. It takes the debate into a new political dimension."
Christopher Davidson a Gulf expert and author of After The Sheikhs described the Kuwaiti Bedouin tribes as the "third player" in the opposition movement.
"The Islamist opposition is well placed, young Kuwaitis are using social media and now the Bedouin are coming out against the ruling family."
Noting Bedouin unhappiness with a lack of services, ongoing corruption and what they see as growing state repression, Mr Davidson said: "The al-Sabahs are breaking the social contract with the tribes... tribal discontent has always been there but nothing close to this as ever happened before."
'Early days'
Others argue that Musallam al-Barrak and his supporters are over-playing the strength of opposition to the ruling family.
David Roberts the director of the Royal United Services Institute in Qatar notes: "These are early days. While undoubtedly substantial, the protesters have never had the numbers in the streets they claim to have."
"The opposition made a big mistake boycotting parliament. They've lost the power to challenge and block legislation."
Mr Roberts added: "They are left with the street protests as Mr Barrak overestimated his ability to derail the elections."
Mr Barrak's comments to the BBC follow the sentencing last week of three other former-MPs - Falah al-Sawwagh, Bader al-Dahoum and Khaled al-Tahous - to three years for statements they made about Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah in October.
The three men are reported to have spoken at a diwaniya, a traditional social gathering, where they warned that any changes made to the electoral system might lead to widespread protests.
On Sunday a court of appeal suspended their sentences and the three were released on bail and ordered to return to court on 10 March.
Like the others Mr Barrak has been charged under article 25 of the country's penal code which until last year had been very rarely used.

Under the clause, insulting the Emir or criticising him in public is a state security offense punishable by up to five years in jail.

The former MP told the BBC that the language of the article was not clear.

"Anything you say can be taken as a criticism of the emir because it doesn't say what actually constitutes criticism."

Although Kuwait allows more freedom of speech than some other Gulf states, the emir is considered "immune and inviolable" in the constitutionSo far, the courts have given jail terms of between two and five years to at least three opposition tweeters for allegedly insulting the emir. Many more are on trial on similar charges.

'Politicising the judiciary'

Observers say that as criticism of the emir grows the courts are at risk of becoming politicised.

Jamie Ingram a Middle East specialist with Jane's Defence Weekly said: "I'd be very surprised if court decisions, including the most recent one to suspend charges against the three ex-MPs, are not influenced [by the government]."

Former opposition MP Khaled al-Sultan warned that "politicising the judiciary" might trigger a violent response for which the government would be responsible.

However, the ministry of information insisted last week following the conviction of the three former MPA that Kuwait had a "transparent and independent judicial system", in which all citizens receive a fair trial.

But Mr Barrak described the case against him and the conviction of the others as proof that the judiciary was "clearly politicised".

"The law is being used in a bid to silence dissent in Kuwait," he said.

Last week, following the earlier verdict, thousands of Kuwaitis took to the streets in protest and a senior Bedouin leader condemned the decision, reportedly warning that Kuwait was in danger of becoming another Egypt or Yemen.

Christopher Davidson argues that with every arrest and every conviction of opposition activists and politicians "the window of opportunity for the emir to retreat to a constitutional monarchy is narrowing".

"The al-Sabahs are the most vulnerable of the six Gulf monarchies and we may be seeing the beginning of the end for them."

However citing Kuwait's parliament and its partial democracy he added: "The irony is that of all of those monarchies Kuwait is the only one with the flexibility to be able to reform. So the al-Sabahs may survive after all".

An online activist who asked not to be named told the BBC that the conviction of Mr Barrak would ignite further street protests: "Everyone is waiting for a spectacular moment. If he is convicted Kuwait will explode in a bad way against the Emir."

Mr Barrak told the BBC: "The people will not accept a politicised decision. Their reaction will match the process. If it is not proper, their reaction will not be good."

Asked if he was concerned about facing a lengthy jail sentence, Mr Barrak replied: "I am not worried at all. It is the fate I chose so let it be. The movement will only grow bigger. Democracy is what the people want."

He appeared in court on Monday amidst what was described as extremely tight security measures. Another court date was set for 11 March.


European NGOs warn against cutting EU external spending 0

The European Union needs a strong aid budget to maintain its global anti-poverty efforts outline European Development NGOs of Concord ahead of the 7-8 February EU budget summit. In November 2012, EU Council President Van Rompuy suggested a €13bn cut for EU external spending compared to the European Commission’s proposal, reducing the Heading 4 proposal by 13% and the proposed amount for European Development Fund by 11%. Now it seems that future European aid spending could be under greater threat.

CONCORD, the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs, would like to remind EU leaders the impact of cuts will be most felt by poor people in developing countries.
EU response to global challenges
“The last few years have seen a variety of global challenges including the Arab Spring, widespread and longstanding drought in East Africa and the Sahel, a number of Earthquakes and severe storms, and now the instability and conflicts current in Syria and the Sahel. We should not bind our hands and prevent collective responses to such challenges up to the distant date 2020. We have already asked our leaders, including Chancellor Merkel, to ensure the EU and its budgets enable European global leadership across the period from 2014 to 2020” said Kathrin Wieland CEO of Save the Children Germany.
Impact of cuts – women and girls hardest hit
“If member states go ahead with drastic cuts to the proposed EU aid budget, it’s likely to have a disproportionately negative effect on girls and young women. New research shows, for example, that family poverty has more impact on a girls’ survival than boys. Shockingly, a one per cent fall in GDP increases infant mortality by 7.4 deaths per 1000 births for girls versus 1.5 for boys. Austerity budgets that hit children and young people the hardest risk sacrificing future prosperity for short term goals,” said Karen Schroh, Head of Plan EU Office.
EU aid is effective
“EU humanitarian and development aid is deemed one of the most efficient, impactful and transparent in the world. It has stopped 50 million people in more than 50 countries from going hungry in the last 3 years; it has provided access to primary education for more than 9 million children and ensured access to safe drinking water for more than 31 million people. Europe can be proud of what EU aid has and can achieve. Leaders must not use the life-saving aid budget as a bargaining tool in this week’s talks,” said Ben Jackson, Chief Executive of Bond, the UK NGO network.
Notes to editors
1.The European Development Fund (EDF) is the main instrument for providing Community development aid in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the overseas countries and territories (OCTs).
2.Support for EU aid remains strong among European citizens. The results of a Eurobarometer survey released in October show that 85% of EU citizens believe that Europe should continue helping developing countries.
3.Report by Plan and the Overseas Development Institute: “Off the balance sheet: the impact of the economic crisis on girls and young women”
4. Leaders from developing countries have joined calls for an ambitious EU aid budget. Representatives of African, Carribbean and Pacific states said on 29 November 2012 that “we do not believe that now is the time to be cutting back on development finance. To do so is rather short-sighted. Vulnerable communities in ACP countries are the worst hit by the global economic crisis” http://www.acp.int/content/press-release-acp-group-calls-eu-council-honour-commitment-world-s-poor
Media contacts
CONCORD Communications officer, Daniel Puglisi on +32 2 743 87 77, Daniel.Puglisi@concordeurope.org

Kuwait court suspends jail term for three ex-MPs —lawyer

The lower court has ordered that the three be jailed immediately but police did not arrest them
  • AFP
Kuwait City: Kuwait’s appeals court on Sunday suspended the implementation of a three-year jail term for three former opposition MPs sentenced last week for insulting the emir, their lawyer said.
“The court set them free until their case has been settled,” Mohammad Al Jumia wrote on his Twitter account.
When the lower court handed down the jail term on Tuesday it ordered that the three politicians be jailed immediately, but police did not arrest them and the appeals court agreed to set a quick date to review their case.
The three former lawmakers attended Sunday’s court hearing at which the judge detained them briefly before issuing the ruling.
However, the court asked the three — Khalid Al Tahus, Falah Al Sawwagh and Bader Al Dahum — to pay bail of $17,850 (Dh65,564) each and set March 10 for the next hearing.
The former MPs were charged with undermining the status of the emir during an address at a public gathering on October 10 in which they warned that any amendment to the electoral law could lead to street protests.
Kuwait later saw protests at which demonstrators said an amendment to the electoral law allowed the government to influence election results and elect a rubber-stamp assembly.
The opposition boycotted a December 1 general election in protest at the amended law.
The lower court sentence sparked peaceful street protests and dozens of youth activists have staged sit-ins every night since in protest against jail terms on Twitter users and activists.
So far, Kuwaiti courts have given jail terms of between two and ten years to at least four opposition tweeters for allegedly insulting the emir. Many more are on trial on similar charges.
Opec member Kuwait, which produces around 3.0 million barrels of oil per day, has been rocked by ongoing political disputes since mid-2006 that have stalled development despite abundant surpluses.