Bahrain rocked by fresh protests

Ali Salman says national dialogue must lead to constitutional monarchy
  • AFP
  • Image Credit: AFP
  • Bahraini women shout slogans as they march during an anti-regime rally in solidarity with jailed human rights activist Nabeel Rajab and against the upcoming Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix in Manama on March 29, 2013.
Dubai: Bahraini police used tear gas and sound bombs to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters who took to the streets of Manama on Friday, according to witnesses. The protests came a day after Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq, warned of fresh protests across the kingdom unless a national dialogue with the regime leads to real reforms, namely, a constitutional monarchy.
“A peaceful revolution for reforms is our choice,” Al Wefaq chief Shaikh Ali Salman told a party congress late on Thursday in the village of Saar, near Manama, according to a statement received by AFP on Friday.
Witnesses said hundreds of people, responding to calls issued on social networks, took to the streets. Several protesters were arrested, witnesses said, adding that police used tear gas and sound bombs to disperse the demonstrators.
Clashes also broke out in Shiite villages near Manama, and young demonstrators hurled fire bombs at security forces, resident said.

Egypt satirist Bassem Youssef faces arrest warrant


An arrest warrant has been issued for a popular Egyptian political satirist for allegedly insulting Islam and President Mohammed Morsi.

Bassem Youssef has faced several complaints over his show El Bernameg (The Programme).
He has poked fun at a wide range of figures, from fellow television presenters to well-known Muslim scholars and recently Mr Morsi himself.
The case has highlighted worries about press freedoms in Egypt.
It is also seen as the latest in a string of prosecution actions against opponents of the president and his party, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Earlier this week, Egypt's top prosecutor ordered the arrest of five political activists, among them a leading blogger, on suspicion of inciting aggression against the Brotherhood.
The prosecutor, Talat Ibrahim, was appointed late last year by the president, after he had sacked his predecessor, Abdel Maguid Mahmoud.
However, a court this week ordered Mr Mahmoud's reinstatement, a decision that Mr Ibrahim said on Saturday he would fight.
Witty lampooning
Many journalists have criticised the Islamist-backed constitution which came into force earlier this year, arguing it does not offer enough guarantees for a free media.
The constitution also sparked protests from opponents who say it favours Islamists and does not sufficiently protect the rights of women or Christians.
Bassem Youssef is a doctor who shot to fame after winning a large number of followers with his witty lampooning of public figures in amateur videos posted on the internet following the uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's rule in February 2011.
He became a household name when his satirical show - likened to Jon Stewart's The Daily Show in the US - began to be broadcast three times a week on one of Egypt's independent satellite stations.
But sketches in which he portrayed Mr Morsi as a pharaoh, calling him "Super Morsi" for holding on to executive and legislative powers, and, separately, putting the president's image on a pillow and parodying his speeches angered one Islamist lawyer, whose formal complaint resulted in the investigation.
As well as insulting Mr Morsi and Islam, Mr Youssef is also accused of "spreading false news with the aim of disrupting public order".
In a statement posted on Mr Youssef's Twitter account on Saturday he confirmed the warrant, adding: "I will go to the public prosecutor's office on Sunday - unless they send me a police car and save me [the bother of] getting there on public transport."


Saudi Arabia 'threatens Skype ban'


Encrypted messaging services such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp could be blocked in Saudi Arabia, the telecommunications regulator there is reported to have warned.

It is demanding a means to monitor such applications, but Saudis say that would seriously inhibit their communications.
Saudi newspapers are reporting that the companies behind the applications have been given a week to respond.
No explanation has been given of why the demand has been made.
Ahmed Omran, a Saudi blogger who runs the Riyadh Bureau site, says that Saudi telecom companies may be tempted to go along with the request from the regulator - even though it will upset their customers - because of the loss of revenue they suffer from the free apps, which are hugely popular in the country.
One Saudi source goes further - with an article in the local Arab News suggesting that it may even have been the telecom companies themselves that have been demanding that action be taken against the apps.
The move is similar to attempts to rein in the Blackberry messaging service several years ago.
Simple and affordable
The explosion in social media networks has had a big impact in Saudi Arabia, which has the highest take-up of Twitter in the world, reports the BBC's Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher.
Outside interest in the phenomenon has largely focused on how this has allowed Saudis to express themselves in a public forum on social or political issues in an unprecedented way.
Saudis see this latest threat a little differently, our correspondent says. Any move to monitor or block sites like Skype and WhatsApp would potentially deprive them of what has become an essential means of simply communicating with friends and family.
One Saudi user told the local media that she would feel uncomfortable talking to her relative on Skype without her hijab (headscarf) if she believed someone might be monitoring her.
Expatriate workers have messaged newspapers pleading with the Saudis not to stop their only affordable means of communication to their families back home.
If it did happen, though, one Saudi told the BBC that it would not take long for people to find a new way to communicate for free.

Saudi executes, crucifies Yemeni murderer

Yemeni also convicted of carrying out series of attacks and robberies
  • AFP

Riyadh: Saudi authorities on Wednesday beheaded a Yemeni man and then crucified his body after he was convicted of murdering a Pakistani national, the kingdom’s interior ministry announced.
“The Yemeni citizen Mohammad Rashad Khairi Hussain killed a Pakistani, Pashteh Sayed Khan, after he committed sodomy with him,” said a statement carried by state news agency SPA.
The Yemeni was also convicted of carrying out a series of attacks and robberies.
The execution in the southern city of Jizan was followed by crucifixion, implemented by the ultra-conservative country for serious crimes.
The beheading brings to 28 the number of people put to death in Saudi Arabia so far this year.
In 2012, the kingdom executed 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. The US-based Human Rights Watch put the number at 69.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law.

Kuwait blogger jailed for 2 years

Saudi mufti says microblogs are misused to spread false information
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief

Manama: A Kuwaiti court on Sunday sentenced Rashid Al Hajiri to two years in prison for posting remarks deemed offensive to the country’s emir and encouraging participation in illegal demonstrations.
However, the criminal court ruled that the prison sentence against the blogger would be suspended if he paid 2,000 Kuwaiti dinars (Dh25,778).
In two separate cases, a court adjourned the trial of blogger Hamid Al Khalidi to March 31 while Nasser Al Mutairi, another blogger, saw his court case adjourned to April 28 for further studies.
The two men are facing charges of using their Twitter accounts to undermine the status of the emir.

Kuwaiti authorities had pledged to take legal action against bloggers who “misused” the microblog or social networks to break the law.
The public prosecution meanwhile ordered the release of activist Abdul Hakim Al Fadhli upon the payment of a KD300 bail.
Al Fadhli was last week acquitted by the country’s court of appeals after it dropped the two-year jail sentence pronounced earlier by the criminal court.
The lower court issued its verdict based on the charges of organising outlawed demonstrations, encouraging people to take part in illegal rallies and assaulting the police.
However, Al Fadhli will remain in police custody and will have to answer to charges in another case. He is expected to appear before the judges on Monday.
In neighbouring Saudi Arabia, General Mufti Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh said that microblogging site Twitter has turned into “a platform for the ostentatious and a corruption space for those who post false, misleading and phony tweets.”
“Most of young and not so young men and women and even children as young as five today fill hours with useless activities,” the Mufti said. “They waste their time on smartphones and the Internet, particularly social networks and microblogs that have become a source of misleading and deceptive remarks,” he said, quoted by Saudi Arabic daily Al Watan.
Al Shaikh however did not ban the use of the Internet for other purposes, including online shopping.
Commenting on the Mufti’s remarks, Saadia, a blogger, said that the issue should be placed in the right context.
“There are many social networks and blogs that allow people to make remarks,” she posted. “However, the real issue is not with these social networks, but rather with those who misuse it.”
A survey conducted in December found that Facebook, the social network, was used by 59 per cent of high school girls in Saudi Arabia, a country ranked 33rd in the world for Facebook use thanks to its 5,906,220 users.
According to the study prepared by Saudi researcher Fawzia Al Harbi, social issues dominated the chat and posts, while politics and sports were of the least interest for the teenage girls, mostly aged between 16 and 18.
According to the research, 62 per cent of the students, from government and private schools in the Saudi capital Riyadh, used the social network to chat with friends while only two per cent said they used it to communicate with their teachers, prompting calls to education officials to work on improving the rate for the sake of better learning and teaching standards.

Call to brand Hezbollah terrorist organisation

Lawmakers insist government ratify proposal without delay
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief
Manama: Bahrain’s lawmakers have called for branding Lebanese group Hezbollah “a terrorist organisation.” The move should be coordinated between the Bahraini foreign ministry and the foreign ministries of the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the 15 MPs who launched the initiative said at the weekly session.
“I urge all the lawmakers to endorse the proposal and refer it to the government,” MP Jasem Al Saeedi who led the move said. “We should submit it directly without the need to refer it to the committee or to push for further studies because this is a corrupt and criminal party that is deeply implicated in bloodshed,” Al Saeedi said.
The MP, an independent Salafist, said that the lower house of the bicameral parliament does not have to discuss the proposal with any ministry. “The proposal is very clear and the terrorist activities of this party are also clear. What is needed is to refer it to the government promptly for ratification and the government must take the necessary measures without delay,” he said on Tuesday.
Several countries, including the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and the UK have made such moves against Hezbollah, he said. His proposal was supported by MP Abdul Hakim Al Shimmari who insisted that the parliament adopt it without delay.
“We do not at all need to discuss the proposal or even to listen to the government’s view on the matter,” he said. “Hezbollah is deeply implicated in terrorism, not only in Syria, but also in Bahrain. We need to be straight about the rights of Bahrainis and our views as well as those of the government should not be overshadowed by other considerations to please others. Even Europe has started thinking about branding Hezbollah a terrorist organisation following reports that it was trafficking in drugs to fund terrorist activities in Syria and Bahrain,” the independent MP said.
The head of the Salafist society Al Asala supported the call for an immediate ratification of the proposal. “Our hearts and minds are with this proposal and we will vote for it,” MP Abdul Halim Murad said. “Unfortunately, we do not trust the government’s foreign policy, especially in light of the cordial meetings that have taken place between Bahraini and Iranian officials. They claim they were part of politics, but we answer that politics cannot be at the expense of the sentiments and feelings of Bahraini citizens,” he said.
MP Hassan Al Dossari said that he was “pessimistic about the government’s reaction.” “I will vote for it, but I do know that the government will not ratify it and will tell us to calm the situation and rein in our enthusiasm so that we can ensure we have a positive atmosphere. We reject such a stance and we will not accept it,” he said.
An attempt by a government minister following the debate not to rush into the vote was rejected.

Syria crisis: University of Damascus hit by mortars

Students at University of Damascus (file photo) The mortar fire is reported to have hit the faculty of architecture


Mortar fire has hit the University of Damascus, killing at least 10 students, Syrian officials say.
Syrian state TV blamed rebels for the attack, saying a number of people had also been injured.
It said the mortars had hit the university's faculty of architecture.
The Syrian capital is in the grip of heavy fighting between government and rebel forces, who have recently intensified the use of mortars in the city.
The attack on the university was also reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based activist group, AFP news agency said. It said several rounds had hit but did not give further details.
At least five people have been killed by mortar fire in the centre of Damascus since Monday, AFP said.


Ben Affleck makes the DRC cool again

The New York Times, in its infinite wisdom (it comes with being The New York Times), decided that one of the paper’s reporters, one Brooks Barnes, should write what amounts to a fluff piece (it’s not actual reporting) splintered with quotes in the “Fashion & Style” section about actor Ben Affleck’s supposed maturity and all-round goodness.
Affleck, who we like to refer to as Life President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is held up as “Hollywood’s New Role Model” and as the “new Hollywood paradigm for masculinity.” His qualifications are being a husband, parent, and, yes … “eastern Congo philanthropist.” So the DRC is a prop for “the way to be cool now” in Hollywood. I know someone’s going to tell me this is all good fun. Thank you Brooks Barnes.

By Sean JacobsAfrica is a country

Ben Affleck makes the DRC cool again

The New York Times, in its infinite wisdom (it comes with being The New York Times), decided that one of the paper’s reporters, one Brooks Barnes, should write what amounts to a fluff piece (it’s not actual reporting) splintered with quotes in the “Fashion & Style” section about actor Ben Affleck’s supposed maturity and all-round goodness.
Affleck, who we like to refer to as Life President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is held up as “Hollywood’s New Role Model” and as the “new Hollywood paradigm for masculinity.” His qualifications are being a husband, parent, and, yes … “eastern Congo philanthropist.” So the DRC is a prop for “the way to be cool now” in Hollywood. I know someone’s going to tell me this is all good fun. Thank you Brooks Barnes.

By Sean JacobsAfrica is a country

Iran denies links to spy cell

Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a struggle for influence across the region
  • Reuters

Dubai: Iran’s foreign ministry said the country was not linked to a group of alleged spies arrested in Saudi Arabia, Iranian media reported on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that it had detained an Iranian, a Lebanese, and 16 Saudis for spying. Political analysts and press in Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of being behind the alleged espionage. The two countries are locked in a struggle for influence across the region, backing opposing sides in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
Gulf Arab foreign ministers, meeting in Riyadh last month, issued a statement condemning what they said was Iranian “meddling” in their countries — an accusation Tehran rejects. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, denied that an Iranian national was involved in the alleged spy ring and called the allegations a “repetitive scenario”, according to Iran’s English-language Press TV on Sunday.
“Raising such baseless issues at the media level is merely for domestic consumption,” he said, according to Press TV.
Leaders of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority have also criticised the arrests of 16 members of their community, which they said sought to exploit sectarian tension. The Saudi government has previously blamed unrest among Shiites in the Qatif district of the oil-producing Eastern Province on an unnamed foreign power, which officials privately acknowledge means Iran — a charge local Shiite activists have denied.
Sixteen people have been killed in Qatif in clashes with police in the past two years.

3 more Bahrain schools vandalised

Education ministry says 153 schools came under attack over two years
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief
Manama: Three more schools were targeted in new acts of vandalism in Bahrain, bringing the total number of learning institutions attacked to 153 over two academic years.
“Saboteurs started fires at the gate and wall of an elementary school in Dair,” the education ministry said, referring to a seaside village in northern Muharraq, the country’s second largest island.
“The attacks also targeted a girls’ elementary school in the second assault on the same learning facility in one week. Saboteurs broke the water tanks and pipes in the school. In a third case, the windows of the laboratory in an elementary and middle school for boys were smashed. The intent in this case was to steal the fire extinguishers. However, the school guard foiled their attempt and they fled the scene,” the ministry said.
The police are investigating the new incidents.


GCC slams espionage attempts in Saudi Arabia

These attempts to undermine the security and stability of the member countries are desperate criminal and terrorist moves that reveal animistic intentions by the parties sponsoring them'
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
Al Turki however ruled out a link between the cell members and the “deviant group”, the expression used in Saudi Arabia to refer to Al Qaida organization. According to a report in the London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat, the 18 members were arrested between 8 and 9 am on Sunday.
The daily believed that the members worked for Iranian intelligence agencies. Al Hayat daily said that the cell members included a doctor, a religious figure and two academics.
“One of the members lived in a European country for four years before he moved to an Arab country. He eventually ended up in Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi-owned daily said. “We fully commend the efforts deployed by Saudi Arabia to maintain its security and stability and to ensure the safety of citizens and residents,” Al Zayani said in his statement. “The GCC fully supports Saudi Arabia on all the measures it takes on the issue, based on the premise that the GCC security is common to all members and that targeting the security of one country is a threat to all states,” he said.
The GCC groups together Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It was formed in 1981 in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

BAHRAIN: 16 get 15 years over bid to kill policemen

Bahrain Parliament wants tougher sentences to curb assaults on servicemen
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief
Manama: A court in Bahrain on Thursday sentenced 16 people to 15 years in prison for their attempt to kill policemen and to torch their vehicle patrolling near a village to the west of the capital Manama.
The criminal court also ruled that the defendants collectively pay 10,508 Bahraini dinars.
On Tuesday, the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament endorsed a recommendation by the foreign affairs, defence and national security committee to toughen punitive actions against people inciting attacks on security servicemen.
The committee said that the new legal measures would help curb the increasing number of assaults on the police.
Interior ministry officers have said that hundreds of policemen have been targeted in sometimes lethal attacks by demonstrators.

Bahrain urged to free jailed activists to end unrest


A leading human rights organisation has called for the release of Bahrain's "political prisoners" to help stop escalating violence.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the imprisonment of activists will "keep the country imprisoned in conflict".
The Gulf island kingdom, home to the US Fifth fleet, has suffered more than two years of unrest.
Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family but the majority population is Shia.
Shia have long complained of discrimination and have led the call for constitutional change since pro-democracy protests erupted in February 2011
Many leading Shia activists are currently in jail.
Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division told the BBC: "Releasing the activists would be a signal that the government is serious about reform, that the people could have faith in a process of dialogue.
"Without that faith the violence will continue."
Among the imprisoned activists are the human rights campaigners Nabeel Rajab, jailed for three years, and Zainab al-Khawaja who is serving a three-month sentence.
Ms Khawaja's father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is among eight opposition figures sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly plotting to overthrow the state.
They were convicted on evidence widely believed to have been secured under torture.
In January, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) issued a statement condemning "the continued harassment and imprisonment of persons exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression in Bahrain".
The statement also made reference to "the lack of guaranteed due process" in the trials of 13 political activists, including Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.
Hunger strikes
Maryam al-Khawaja, Mr Khawaja's younger daughter, told the BBC that both her father and her sister had started hunger strikes on Monday in protest at what she called continued human rights violations in the country and the treatment of detained activists.
Commenting on the escalating violence, she said that peaceful activists were "losing the footing we stand on".
"They [jailed human rights activists] need to be out. They advocate non-violence. If you make peaceful protest impossible, you make violence inevitable"
Dismissing the ongoing dialogue facilitated by the government as having "no consequence on the ground", she said that Bahrain's Western allies needed to bring more pressure to bear.
"A vacuum is being created and it is being filled more and more by the violence. It is a very dangerous situation."
On 14 February 2011, peaceful protesters took over Pearl Roundabout, an iconic landmark in the capital, Manama. Three days later security forces cleared the site using tear gas, batons and birdshot.
As violence escalated 35 people, including five police officers, were killed, hundreds more were hurt and thousands jailed in February and March 2011.
Since then, opposition and human rights activists say more than 50 people have died, a figure which the government disputes.


EU’s new research mechanism ‘complex and narrow’

Experts have questioned the ability of Horizon 2020 — the new six-year funding mechanism for European research — to foster research partnerships and build capacity in the developing world.  At a conference in Brussels this month (4-8 March), researchers and politicians raised objections to the mechanism’s complex application procedures and its lack of commitment to capacity building and educational outreach projects.
Added to these pitfalls, Horizon 2020, which will be the European Union’s (EU) main instrument for funding research until 2020, saw its proposed €80 billion (around US$100 billion) budget cut by around €9 billion (more than US$11 billion) in February.
Amin Soebandrio, Indonesia’s deputy minister for the International Science and Technology Network, believed that if the framework is to encourage partnerships with developing countries, those behind it must make a greater effort to make the paperwork understandable.
“Researchers can be put off from applying for EU grants as they think the complex process will slow down their work,” he told SciDev.Net at the conference, EU Science: Global Challenges and Global Collaboration.
Zeinab Osman, director of the Institute for Technological Research at the National Centre for Research in Sudan, reiterated this point, saying that a lot more scientists would apply for grants if the process were streamlined.
“The EU needs to take leadership on this issue, but there has not been enough effort to make clear what is involved,” she said.
But leadership is exactly what the EU is showing, argued Maria da Graça Carvalho, a member of European Parliament whose role as rapporteur for the Specific Programme Implementing Horizon 2020 places her at the heart of the process.
The use of lump-sum funding for entire projects and the harmonisation of the rules governing all the funding instruments have streamlined the process, and were carried out with the developing world in mind, she said.
Nonetheless, a certain level of complexity was necessary, she said, adding that developing world scientists could benefit from creating networks with European researchers who have a good understanding of the application process.
Others hoped to increase collaborations. Javaid Laghari, coordinator general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) told the meeting: “I am here to reach out to the European community to ask for help to build our capacity in science and technology for social and economic development … We need cooperation and collaboration to boost our capacity in crucial areas”.
Laghari told SciDev.Net that a lack of political willpower was the only hurdle to fruitful collaborations. But he was hopeful that Horizon 2020 could help to galvanise EU support for capacity building in OIC countries, and urged the scientific and political communities to get behind it.
Beyond the need for political support, others argued that the framework lacked a suitable mechanism for supporting capacity building through outreach activities.
Kevin Govender, director of the International Astronomy Union’s Office of Astronomy for Development, said inspirational outreach activities, where young people are exposed to science first hand, were vital for nurturing the next generation of scientists.
Horizon 2020′s focus on research and innovation was important, but only by encouraging people in developing countries to pursue scientific careers would scientific capacity be secured in the long term, he added.
“I think it would be good if the importance of education and the public understanding of science was explicitly recognised [in the Horizon 2020 framework] as a contributor to research and innovation,” he told SciDev.Net.
Carvalho acknowledged the importance of capacity building and outreach but insisted that they had not escaped the notice of EU policymakers.
Horizon 2020 will not directly fund outreach and capacity building activities, but they will be covered by a dedicated budget within a closely linked financial instrument, the European Development Fund, she told SciDev.Net.
All things considered, Carvalho believed the framework was a “considerable improvement” on the EU’s previous funding scheme: the EU 7th Framework Programme.
“It’s simpler, it has more funding and it’s more ambitious for reaching outside of Europe and fostering international collaboration.”

By Jan PiotrowskiSciDev.Net
Read SciDev.Net‘s blog from EU Science: Global Challenges and Global Collaboration

Africa: Autochthony, citizenship and conflict

The concept of autochthony – that one is entitled to ‘belong’ because of ancestral rights or “this is ours because we were here first” – is in many ways an attractive one when looking at political, economic and military conflict in Africa. Land is and always has been a key factor on a continent where agriculture is still at the heart of most economies and non-urban communities.
Bøås and Dunn have chosen it as their focus for looking at issues of identity in Africa and use it to examine conflicts in Liberia, Kenya, the DRC and Ivory Coast.  In so doing they appear to consciously reject economic factors other than land in explaining motives for competition and violence and also suggest autochthony is more appealing and applicable than ethnicity because it implies a sense of belonging and of being somewhere first.
In this I think there is a level of reductionism that doesn’t work – because if “we were here first” is the crux of the approach then how is “we” to be defined?  Ethnicity is a social political construct that incorporates many factors – not least myth – and is part of how people define themselves, and having done so, seek as a community or social entity to first survive and then thrive.  Land is at the heart of that search but so is water, fuel, shelter and ultimately less tangible forms of wealth than just land.
That is not to say that Bøås and Dunn’s work does not offer interesting insights and provoke a variety of reactions, all of which can lead to analysis, debate and knowledge of what fuels conflict.  But the exclusion of some factors and the reduction to “who was here first” is too narrow and simplistic and ignores a host of factors that affect social, political and economic structures in Africa.  Added to this is a rather redundant and extraneous section attempting to apply Freudian ideas of melancholy to conflict in modern Africa.
Many readers will also find that a jargon-based approach to explanation does little to explain how the ‘autochthony trope’ can be applied to actual case studies.  The authors get bogged down in convoluted sentences that take time to unravel and seem contradictory or just empty. For example, “autochthony discourses appear to provide a sense of primal security and certainty, yet they are inherently unstable and slippery.  The very plasticity of autochthony is one of the reasons for its attractiveness…” (p. 15).  This becomes so slippery that it fails to provide criteria for application that are clear rather than endlessly malleable.
On the next page we find the autochthony trope described as both ‘ubiquitous’ and ‘diverse’ (later it is ‘relative’).  Even less helpful is the idea that groups and individuals employing autochthony are engaged in state-making, the evidence (even in the case studies in this book) suggest rather that autochthony is employed from the top down to gain political power within an existing, if flawed, state structure and to exclude others, and is also used by political leaders to challenge the statist status quo.
The case studies used are interesting but are in many ways too short and so involve the contraction of narratives of politics and conflict that lead to a less than accurate portrayal of events. Take the Kenya study – using an admirable set of sources (Lynch, Anderson, Lochery  and Lonsdale, to name a few) the chapter looks in particular at the 2007-8 post-election violence but misses one of the key points – while there is evidence that groups within the ODM and PNU had prepared for violence and organized armed groups for this purpose and to intimidate opponents during the campaign, the primary violence came in the form of brutal and extensive police repression of demonstrations by the ODM against the fraudulent claim by President Mwai Kibaki’s PNU of victory.  It was this event which acted both as a catalyst and a justification for the violence against Kikuyu and Kisii; this in turn was a justification for Mungiki-led Kikuyu reprisals.
The authors are right that in this conflict the use of land-related grievances and arguments based on autochthony were top down ones, but they ignore the constantly shifting alliances in Kenya.  Kenya’s communities usually vote in blocks, but they do not always vote against the same opposing alliances. In 2002 a Luo-Kalenjin-Masaai-Kikuyu alliance fought against a Kikuyu-Kisii-Embu-Meru one that was nonetheless supported by the former President and Kalenjin leader Daniel arap Moi. The Kikuyu and Kalenjin political leaders were divided – Kibaki v Kenyatta and Ruto v Moi.
In 2007 the Luo-Kalenjin-Masaai fought the Kikuyu-Kisii-Embu-Meru for votes.  In the recent elections, a Luo-Luahya-Kamba alliance fought a Kalenjin-Kikuyu one – the latter being represented by Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who are charged by the International Criminal Court with commanding rival gangs during the post-election violence five years ago. Autochthony does not explain the shifting alliances, the use of fear, atrocity, past conflict or competition over state resources and power of patronage rather than just land.
The authors have produced an interesting book but one that would have benefited from a less reductionist, more easily readable approach and one that took note of the important work of Chris Cramer on civil wars, David Keen on Complex Emergencies and Hobsbawm’s and Ranger’s key work on the invention of tradition. Autochthony is a useful approach but not in isolation or as a rather blunt (but plastic) instrument.  They must, also, lose the obfuscatory jargon.

Morten Bøås and Kevin Dunn, Politics of Origin in Africa: Autochthony, citizenship and conflict, London: Zed, 2013, ISBN 978 1 84813 996 1 pb, pp. 149, index, £18.99
By Keith Sommerville - African arguments

Keith Somerville is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, teaches at the University of Kent and runs the Africa – News and Analysis website (www.africajournalismtheworld.com).

3,000 Saudis urge Shura to debate women driving

A number of women have been arrested in the past for defying the ban
  • AFP

Riyadh: A petition signed by 3,000 Saudis has urged the Shura Consultative Council to debate allowing women to drive in the ultra-conservative kingdom, Arab News daily reported on Monday.
The newspaper, quoting Abdullah Al Alami, a signatory to the petition, said that the human rights committee of the council — also known as Saudi Consultative Council — considered the demand and decided to present it for debate.
But an unnamed member of the council told the daily that he had no information about the petition coming up for debate in the council to which King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz appointed 30 women members for the first time in January.
Saudi Arabia imposes several restrictions on women, including a ban on driving, unique of its kind worldwide.
A number of women have been arrested in the past for defying the ban, including one sentenced to 10 lashes in 2011 but was pardoned by King Abdullah.
A group of defiant Saudi women got behind the wheel of their cars on June 17, in 2011, in response to calls for nationwide action to break the ban on driving.
The call which spread through Facebook and Twitter was the largest mass action since November 1990, when 47 Saudi women were arrested and severely punished after demonstrating in cars.

Kuwait blogger’s sentence increased

Activist acquitted in police assault case
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau chief
Manama: Kuwait’s court of appeals on Wednesday increased the prison sentence against blogger Bader Al Rasheedi to five years from two.
The blogger was put on trial on charges related to undermining the status of the emir and challenging the prerogatives of the emir.
His lawyer said that he can challenge the ruling at the court of cassation.
In a separate case, the court acquitted activist Abdul Hakim Al Fadhli after the criminal court sentenced him to two years in jail.
The lower court issued its verdict based on the charges of organising outlawed demonstrations, encouraging people to take part in illegal rallies and assaulting the police.
However, the court of appeals dismissed the charges.


Protesters, face off against riot police in Bilad al-Qadeem

The New York Times ‏@nytimes

The New York Times @nytimes
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BAHRAIN: Protesters run from riot police in Bilad al-Qadeem

Saudi Arabia arrests 18 for spying

An Iranian, a Lebanese and 16 Saudis have been arrested on spying charges in Saudi Arabia, officials say.

The 18 suspects had been "involved in a spying cell for a state", an interior ministry spokesman told state TV.
"They were gathering information about installations and vital areas in the country and providing intelligence agencies of that state with it," said ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki.
He did not name the country thought to be running the spy network.
The arrests were made four days ago and the suspects were being investigated before being handed over to judicial authorities, Mr Turki said.
The arrests were made in "co-ordinated and simultaneous operations in four regions of the kingdom," including the capital Riyadh and the holy city of Mecca, the ministry was quoted as saying in a separate statement.
Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Sunni Islam, has recently repeatedly found itself at odds with Iran, an overwhelmingly Shia Islam nation.


Iran jet, US military plane nose to nose in Gulf

Iranian jet forced to back off after trying to intercept a US Predator drone
  • AFP
Washington: An Iranian fighter jet tried to intercept a US Predator drone over the Gulf but backed off after encountering two American military aircraft, the Pentagon said Thursday.
No shots were fired in the confrontation Wednesday, officials said, but the United States renewed a vow that it would protect its forces in the region.
The Pentagon initially said one of the US aircraft discharged a flare as a warning to the Iranian plane but officials later said no flare was let off.
The incident, which the Pentagon said took place over “international waters,” highlighted the tensions between the two arch-foes and the risks of an accidental clash escalating into a serious crisis.
At one point the Iranian F-4, an old US-built warplane dating from the Vietnam War era, was within 25km of the unmanned Predator drone, spokesman George Little said.
The unarmed Predator, the workhorse of America’s fleet of robotic planes, was carrying out “a routine classified surveillance flight” over the Gulf when it was approached by the Iranian warplane, he said in a statement.
In November, an Iranian fighter jet fired at a Predator plane, provoking a strongly-worded protest from the United States.
As after the November incident, the Pentagon warned it would keep up surveillance flights over what it deems international waters and to safeguard US forces in the region.
Little said that “we reserve the right to protect our military assets as well as our forces and will continue to do so going forward.”
In December 2011, the Iranians captured a sophisticated Sentinel spy drone after it crashed on Iranian territory, in an embarrassment for Washington.
The United States expanded its military presence around the Gulf over the past year, deploying minesweepers and F-22 fighters to the area.
This came after Iran threatened to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for tough international sanctions imposed over its nuclear program.
US officials and military commanders worry that a misunderstanding or accident involving the two countries could snowball into conflict.
But they are also keen to maintain a robust American military role in the region to counter Iran and to monitor its naval deployments.
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 television released Thursday, US President Barack Obama repeated his warning that all options remained “on the table” should diplomacy fail to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Obama also said it would take “over a year or so” for Tehran to develop an atomic weapon but that “we don’t want to cut it too close.”


Bahrain Human Rights Monitor Meet UN High Commissioner of Human Rights

 Bahrain Human Rights Monitor Meet UN High Commissioner of Human Rights
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - In the meeting, Ms. Navi Pillay, said that Bahrain would be a focus of her office’s attention, speaking to NGO members in Geneva in the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council and during which the High Commissioner held a special meeting with NGOs. Pillay said the meeting was a “valuable opportunity for a direct exchange”.

During the one-hour meeting, two Bahraini women spoke from the floor about the ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain. Ms. Bushra Alhendi and Dr. Nada Dhaif addressed the High Commissioner and raised concerns of violations against freedom of speech and expression, torture and the recent killings of two young men.

The two made requests of a permanent office for the High Commissioner in Bahrain and for feedback on the High Commissioner delegation's visit to Bahrain last December.

In response Ms. Pillay stated that the visit in December was a “first step” in deciding if they wish to have a permanent office in Bahrain, adding that this visit was to assess the situation and meet with officials and members of civil society.

She also made clear her office's concern over the situation in Bahrain and assured that it “will continue to be a focus of attention for my office”. She said that her office is pushing the matter in their “usual way” as confirmed by the Head of the Middle East Section Mr. Hany Megally who said they are engaging with Bahrain officials on a number of issues, including the stripping of nationalities.

Mr. Megally added that accountability for abuses is also a key area of work for the office and said "we want to engage with Bahrain in order to see progress". He also said he was “heartened by dialogue” and hopes that it will continue.

Ms. Alhendi highlighted that although dialogue is currently taking place, the various human rights violations are ongoing in Bahrain.

The High Commissioner also took the opportunity to salute Dr. Nada Dhaif for treating injured protesters and for her brave stand as a human rights defender in Bahrain.

Dozens injured as violence flares in Bahrain


Dozens of people, including police officers have been injured in unrest in Bahrain, on the second anniversary of a Saudi-led intervention in the gulf island state.

The Bahraini interior ministry reported that "domestic terrorists" had blocked roads and burnt cars.
The main opposition group, al-Wefaq, said that at least 35 protesters had been hurt, three of them critically.
The interior ministry reported two police officers injured.
Some of Thursday's worst violence occurred in the towns of Sitra and Sanabis on the outskirts of Manama.
Cars were set ablaze and a major highway was temporarily blocked by protesters.
Witnesses reported heavy clashes as police used tear gas and stun grenades against youth armed according to the Interior ministry with "Molotov cocktails, iron rods and a number of homemade bombs."
Saudi Arabia led a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) force down a causeway that links the two countries on 14 March 2011.
The military intervention was intended to restore order after pro-democracy activists had peacefully taken control of an iconic landmark, Pearl Roundabout, in the capital Manama.
Saudi troops took up positions at key installations while police and the Bahrain Defense Force cleared the roundabout using force.
In the wake of the clearance more than 30 people died, hundreds were injured and thousands arrested. Several thousand more were dismissed from their jobs. The vast majority were Shia Muslim.
'Growing frustration'
Bahrain has a Shia Muslim majority but is governed by a Sunni royal family. Shia Bahrainis have long complained of discrimination, poor housing and high unemployment.
The extent to which Shia were targeted by the government and its security forces after Pearl Roundabout was cleared served to fuel resentment.
As protests both peaceful and violent continued, King Hamad commissioned an independent enquiry. It found that police had used excessive force in subduing dissent. The King accepted the findings in November 2011 and promised change but demonstrations against the government have continued.
Opposition groups, led by al-Wefaq, have repeatedly called for all protest to be peaceful. But they say that the government is not committed to serious reform and is continuing to drag its feet.
That, says the opposition, is causing growing frustration as young masked Bahrainis take to the streets on a near nightly basis, many of them armed with Molotov cocktails. They routinely block roads with burning tyres, breeze blocks and rubbish bins.
The police have responded with tear gas, birdshot and stun grenades, coming under attack as they attempt to clear the barricades.



The European Union Chemical, Biological Radiological and Nuclear Centres of Excellence Initiative


Opening of the Regional Secretariat for South East Asia

Manila, 6 March 2013. Manila, 6 March 2013: Within the framework of the European Union (EU) Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence (CBRN CoE) Initiative, representatives of the Government of the Philippines, EU, the United Nations (UN), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as the representatives of several other countries, will convene on 6 March 2013 at the Malacagñang Palace in Manila for the official opening of the CBRN CoE Regional Secretariat for South East Asia.
Launched in 2010, the CBRN CoE is an initiative of the EU implemented jointly by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), under the aegis of the EU Institutions. The Initiative aims to mitigate CBRN risks of criminal, accidental or natural origin by promoting a coherent policy, improving coordination and preparedness at national and regional levels and by offering a comprehensive approach covering legal, scientific, enforcement and technical issues. It addresses regional CBRN needs through tailored projects and aims at strengthening policies, institutional capacity building at both regional and national levels as well as a regional culture of safety and security.
The Initiative involves over 60 countries in 8 different regions of the world with Regional Secretariat being established in each region, namely: African Atlantic Façade; Central Asia; Eastern and Central Africa; Gulf Cooperation Council Countries; Middle East; North Africa; South East Asia; South East Europe, Southern Caucasus, Moldova and Ukraine. The Regional Secretariats ensure cooperation and coordination with partner countries and are responsible for supporting them with the identification of needs, the formulation and implementation of regional project proposals and the development of national action plans.
As a result of the on-going activities of CBRN CoE for South East Asia, 20 projects – addressing countries’ needs - will be launched in early 2013.
The Official Opening of the Regional Secretariat for South East Asia will include the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Philippines and UNICRI and a Joint Statement by the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs and the European Union Delegation to the Philippines. A live demonstration of the CBRN risk mitigation action will be performed by the Special Rescue Unit (SRU) of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) of the Philippines.

Bahrain police jailed over death of activist in custody


A court in Bahrain has sentenced two police officers to 10 years in prison after convicting them of causing the death in custody of a Shia activist.

Ali Issa Ibrahim Saqer died of shock after being beaten at the Dry Dock Jail in Manama while being held on "national security" charges in April 2011.
But the court cleared the officers of also causing the death of another detainee, Zakaraya Rashed Hassan.
Meanwhile, six men accused of defaming the king on Twitter have been arrested.
Chief prosecutor Nayef Youssef told the state news agency that their posts on the social media website had contravened "the right to exercise freedom of expression".
Under Bahrain's constitution, the king is considered "inviolate".
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights expressed concern about the arrests and noted they had taken place on Tuesday, which also happened to be World Day Against Cyber Censorship.
'Multiple trauma'
Mr Saqer's family said he had turned himself into police in Hamad Town, in the west of Bahrain, on 3 April 2011, weeks after security forces launched a violent crackdown on mass pro-democracy demonstrations led by the kingdom's Shia majority community.
Police had been looking for him in connection with an incident during a protest in which the authorities alleged that he had tried to run over a policeman with his car but hit a protester.
Nothing more was heard from Mr Saqer until 9 April, when the interior ministry announced that he had died in custody. It alleged he had "created chaos" inside the prison, "which led the security forces to bring the situation under control".
Human Rights Watch inspected Mr Saqer's body before his funeral and reported that it showed the signs of severe physical abuse, including large bruises, cuts to his eye, lash marks across his back, blackened feet, and lacerations on his ankles and wrists.
A death certificate issued by the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital given to his family listed the cause of death as "hypovolemic shock", a condition usually brought on by extreme loss of blood. The cause of the shock was "multiple trauma", it added.
On Wednesday, the First High Criminal Court found the two police officers guilty of battery. However, they were acquitted of causing the death of Zakaraya Hassan who, the interior ministry said, died of complications from sickle cell anaemia while in detention on 9 April 2011.
Mr Hassan, a former member of parliament from the main Shia opposition group al-Wifaq and administrator of a blog which carried commentary critical of the government, had been arrested on 2 April in the village of Dair.
His brother, Ali al-Asherri, contested the government's claims about his death, telling Human Rights Watch that although he had had sickle cell anaemia, he had never suffered any ill-effects.
The authorities provided the family with a death certificate saying Mr Hassan had died of shock, Mr Asherri said, and provided a photograph of his body showing a wound on the right shoulder, a gash on the nose and some blood that had issued from the ears and lips.
Sickle cell anaemia is an inherited genetic condition common among Bahrain's population. Named after the distinctive - but abnormal - shape formed by red blood cells, it can cause damage to organs or, in some cases, strokes. If not treated, it can be fatal.
Prosecutors said they were reviewing the "not guilty" verdict in Mr Hassan's case.

Bahrain Refuses UN Presence In National Dialogue

Manama-Mar¬¬13(BNA)The Government of Bahrain has today strongly rejected engaging the United Nations or any other foreign party in the National Consensus Dialogue.

Education Minister Dr. Majid bin Ali Al-Nuaimi voiced the Government’s categorical refusal as he attended the seventh session of the National Consensus Dialogue.

“The National Consensus Dialogue is a Bahraini internal issue and we refuse any external interference”, said Dr. Al-Nuaimi, who represents the Government at the table of dialogue.

The Government underlined the importance of proceeding with the draft agenda, stressing the need to avoid tabling any pre-set conditions at the dialogue session.

It also opposed any backtracking on the issues which have already been adopted by consensus during the previous sessions as it would prevent the dialogue process from moving forward.

Dr. Al-Nuaimi affirmed the Government’s keenness on ensuring the success of the National Consensus dialogue and proceeding with the draft agenda.

The session discussed the points which were approved during the first meeting of the working group, which was convened last Sunday.

The participants agreed to continue discussing the points featuring on the draft agenda when they convene for their eighth meeting on Sunday.

Dr. Al-Nuaimi reiterated the status of the Government as an essential part in the National Consensus Dialogue.

He pointed out that the Justice Minister had been assigned to submit the outcome of the National Consensus Dialogue to His Majesty the King.


Child Sexual Exploitation on the Rise in North Kivu

A street in Goma’s city centre, the capital of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been nicknamed “the ward of death” because of the brutal crimes that frequently occur there.
“You will find every kind of person in this part, gays, lesbians, and unfortunately there are brothels where adults are sexually exploiting underage girls,” Major David Bodeli Dombi, the commander of the special police force for the protection of women and children in North Kivu, told IPS.
Over the last two years, an increasing number of brothels have opened in Goma where under-age girls are being sexually exploited and the illegal trade is on the rise.
“These brothels take in many minors, most of whom come from poor and destitute families in North Kivu,” Faustin Wasolela, the head of the child protection programme at the local non-governmental organisation Development Action for the Protection of Women and Children (AIDPROFEN), which helps young victims of sexual exploitation, told IPS.
The region has been in upheaval since April 2012, as fighting between government forces and rebel groups in North Kivu has displaced some 2.2 million people, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Other brothels have opened up in several other wards in Goma.
“Nowadays, you will find dozens of these brothels in every ward,” Victorine Muhima, the Kasiska ward chief in Karisimbi municipality, told IPS. Like Wasolela, she also said that harsh living conditions, poverty and incessant conflict were driving the trend.
Sixteen-year-old Masika* works at the Memoire ya Nzambe, a small bar with an area of only four square metres. It is also a brothel. “I work as a waitress during the day and as a prostitute during the night to feed myself and my two-year-old daughter. I don’t know who the father of my child is,” she told IPS.
As a waitress during the day she earns 20 dollars a month. But at night she earns five dollars per client.
“I have been working here since 2010. I come from Béni, where my family lives. My parents are poor and couldn’t send me to school. We could barely get enough to eat. So I decided to come to Goma to earn some money,” Masika said.
The Memoire ya Nzambe bar sells spirits, beer and even marijuana. Rooms for clients are located in the backrooms of the bar. “You can get a girl for one or two dollars,” Emmanuel Bisimwa, a 20-year-old regular, told IPS.
However, bar owners deny sexually exploiting children. “I have five employees, but they are all men. I have no young girls working for me,” Riziki Mufiritsa, the owner of Memoire ya Nzambe, told IPS. But his claim could not be verified.
Like Masika, many other young girls between 13 and 17 are being exploited by older men, and women, in order to make easy money.
The young girls say they have no alternatives to sex work. “I don’t have a choice, I have to buy my own underwear, lotion and even sanitary towels, but there is no other work around,” said 15-year-old Rachel*.
It is a common reason that Idelphonse Birhaheka of the United Nations Children’s Fund in Goma, hears often. “Some girls tell us that they resort to sex work to pay for basics like soap, lotion, or sanitary pads,” she told IPS.
“The armed conflict in eastern DRC has impoverished many families making them unable to care for their children,” Birhaheka added.
Dechine Birindwa is one of those fathers who is finding it difficult to support his family.
“Life has become very difficult. It’s hard to afford food, never mind buy clothes and shoes for my daughters. It’s very tough and they have to fend for themselves,” he told IPS.
Though the special force for the protection of women and children has launched an investigation into the increased sexual exploitation of girls, Dombi said that it was no easy task. “It is difficult to find these brothels, but once we do so, we bring in the owners for questioning and close some brothels after our investigation,” he told IPS.
According to Dombi, the police investigated eight brothel owners in 2012, and closed down five establishments.
“We need cooperation from everyone, from the police who need to put in place deterrents, but also churches, schools, parents and even the media to fight this trend,” Wasolela said.
*Names have been withheld to protect the identity of minors.

By Passy MubalamaIps Africa

Zimbabwean Activist Jestina Mukoko ‘Released’

On Sunday, Jestina Mukoko, Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Projectwas ‘released’ from prison. Her defense attorney and fabulous feminist human and women’s rights attorney Beatrice Mtetwa, among others, greeted her.
Yes, it’s springtime in Zimbabwe, as in Zimbabwe Spring … except that it’s not. Friday was International Women’s Day, #IWD2013. To honor that, the Zimbabwean government organized a fake flight and a fake hunt. The government claimed that Jestina Mukoko was on the run. By all accounts, she wasn’t. The government put out an all points bulletin on Jestina Mukoko, organized a full-scale media appeal, pleading with ‘citizens’ to ‘notify the authorities’ if she was spotted.
Not knowing that she was a ‘fugitive’, Mukoko walked into the police station and turned herself in, if that’s the right phrase. And she was held in police custody and interrogated for two days.
Jestina Mukoko is no stranger to Zimbabwean prisons. In 2008, she was held and tortured in prison. She has since sued the government for having tortured her. The Zimbabwean Supreme Court ordered a permanent stay of execution. As the weekend’s events show, ‘permanent’ is a fluid concept.
Some fear the ‘return to terror’, while others hope for something called healing. Others in the media note the use of the media to persecute Jestina Mukoko. Of course, they mean ‘the other media’.
So … happy International Women’s Day, Zimbabwe! Meanwhile, once again Jestina Mukoko is described as ‘released.’ Released? Really?
By Dan Moshenberg – Africa is a Country


Kuwait girl sleepless after losing intimate pictures

Help sought from Kuwait police after loss of memory stick with compromising pictures
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: A girl in Kuwait has solicited help from the local police to locate a flash memory stick that had compromising pictures.
The girl reportedly told the police that she was unable to sleep for three days after she lost the stick and that she was “extremely worried”, local Arabic daily Al Rai reported on Wednesday.
Pressed by the police, the girl who was not identified, said that she had kept the memory stick with the car ignition key on a chain and that she could not recall how or where it was lost.
The stick contained private pictures of the girl in skimpy clothes as well as other compromising photos, she reportedly told the police in Jahra, northwest of the capital Kuwait City.
The police pledged to help and recorded a case of a loss of a personal item, the daily said.
Most readers expressed their sympathy online, but they posted that the incident should serve as “an eye-opener” for those who carry “compromising pictures” in public places.
“I really feel for this girl who is now entangled by this incident,” Faisal, an office clerk, said. “She will live in fear of a scandal for a long time because she cannot be really sure what happened to the memory stick and to her pictures. Maybe a discreet person will simply erase them and it will be over. But also, maybe a not so discreet person will post her pictures on the net or on social networks or use them against her,” he said.

North Kivu Refugees Hope to Find Peace in Uganda

Nyakabande (Uganda) – As dawn rises over Nyakabande, a village in southwestern Uganda, people line up in front of a reception tent, exhausted and carrying only the few belongings they could bring across the border. Most of them have walked for days after fleeing the various rebel groups operating in Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu region, crossing the border to the Nyakabande Transit Centre in search of a better life – one without war.
“The conflict in eastern DRC will never end. We’re looking for a better future here in Uganda,” Ndagigimana Ndayambaje told IPS after he, his wife, and their two children just arrived at the centre in this East African nation.
It is not an easy journey for most. According to Dr. Bruce Murray of Medical Teams International (MTI), a Christian global health organisation based at the Nyakabande Transit Centre, women who arrive here “suffer mostly from sexual violence and rape.”
“Children suffer mostly from malnutrition, respiratory and diarrhoeal diseases. The rate of children infected with chicken pox is very high,” he told IPS.
Since April 2012, fighting in the DRC’s North Kivu province has displaced some 2.2 million people in the country and caused almost 700,000 to flee to neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
On Tuesday, Mar. 4, the UNHCR appealed for almost 70 million dollars in donations to help these Congolese citizens who have been displaced by fighting between government forces and various rebel groups, but predominantly the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the March 23 Movement (M23) and the Mai-Mai.
During December 2012 and February 2013, the number of new arrivals was quite stable at the camp, with on average of 50 to 100 people arriving per day. But on Mar. 1, between 1 am and 5 am internal fighting within the M23 rebel group resulted in another influx of refugees. The first of about 4,000 refugees arrived at 2 am, crossing over from the nearby border post in Bunagana. The UNHCR, Ugandan Red Cross and MTI struggled to provide assistance to such a large number.
Here, fighting takes place mostly during the night, and refugees arrive at the Nyakabande camp in the morning after crossing the Bunagana border post.
A border officer, who referred to himself only as Mr. Patrick, told IPS: “People are free to cross the border from both sides during the day.”
When Patrick was asked if the police performed security checks on the arrivals, and if officials feared the smuggling of minerals and weapons, he answered in the negative.
Patrick said that occasionally M23 rebels crossed the border into Uganda – unarmed and in civilian dress – to go shopping or to visit relatives.
According to a U.N. interim report from the Group of Experts on the DRC, released in June 2012, this leaves open the question to what extent the Ugandan government is involved in activities beyond their border lines.
Recovering in Uganda
At the transit centre, the asylum seekers are registered with the Ugandan Red Cross and the UNHCR. Afterwards, they gain official refugee status and can claim the same services that are available for nationals, including free health services and a work permit.
“The M23 rebels came every day and requested food and money, threatening to kill us if we didn’t give them what they wanted. But here, in Uganda, I can even get my own plot of land to farm,” David Byirangiro, a refugee from eastern DRC, told IPS.
Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) is struggling to keep up with food supplies, as the conflict in North Kivu appears to continue unabated.
A spokesperson for WFP Uganda, Lydia Wamala, told IPS: “Even though we have had some contributions from the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom this year, WFP still has a funding shortfall for refugees in Uganda. Most of the world’s attention is on Mali, Syria and others, but we need the world to know that political instability continues also in DRC.”
The organisation has already started to cut food supplies down by up to 50 percent within the refugee settlements. If the numbers of asylum seekers keep rising, the situation could worsen.
And there is no indication that it will end soon. On Saturday, Feb. 23, one day before the official signing of the peace agreement in Addis Ababa, there were reports of renewed fighting in North Kivu.
On Feb. 24, leaders of 11 African nations and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to bring an end to the war in eastern DRC. The delegation also discussed the deployment of an intervention force under U.N. command. However, the major stakeholders in this conflict – the rebel groups, particularly the FDLR and M23 – were not invited to the peace talks.
And the talks do not offer those caught in the conflict much hope.
“The peace talks are completely useless. We’re fed up with this conflict which never seems to come to an end,” refugee Florence Mahirwe told IPS.
She is not hopeful that the conflict in her country will end soon, but she hopes to find peace in Uganda. “I’m not planning to go back to DRC. I’m desperate for peace, security and stability.”

By Bastian SchnabelIps Africa
Credit picture: Flickr.com/Ars Electronica

Bahrain: On International Women's Day (8th March) / Videos

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) -

Bahrain has the highest women arrests ratio among all Arab Spring countries
· More than 230 females arrested since the beginning of the demands movement
· More than 14 female martyrs as a result of the regime's brutality
· Over 200 female students suspended from Bahraini universities
· Over 380 female staff dismissed in Bahrain
· Bahraini women suffer outrageous abuses perpetrated by the regime
· Tens of male detainees have been threatened with the rape of female family members

As the International Women Day passes, Bahraini women live their ever worst conditions and violations perpetrated by the Bahraini regime. Many violations have been documented after the eruption of the revolution and the demands movement  in Bahrain which witnessed a systematic escalation in attacks against women.

Numbers and documentations made by human rights organizations in Bahrain show  that more 230 Bahraini females were arbitrarily arrested,  including children. 72 of which were arrested from their work places, 65 women were summoned and 58 female medics  were arrested. Records also show that some female prisoners are still behind bars, a number of were abducted from their houses after midnight.

More than 14 women are reported to have been martyred due to the official violence and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters. Bahya Al-Aradi is one martyr who was killed  by direct targeting with live ammunition, while other female martyrs died of asphyxia caused by toxic gas fired excessively at houses. Amina Sayed Mahdi, 36, was the last victim of toxic gas suffocation who died in her home town Abu Saibe'a.

The Bahraini women are also terrorised during frightening house raid conducted by the regime forces in different areas around Bahrain.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report revealed in paragraph no.1190 that a number of detainees were "threatened with the rape of female family members", and this was documented in 'Annex B: Summary of Torture Allegations' in cases no. 7, 18, 26, 37, 52 and others.

Over the past two years, more than 2500 homes have been raided by the regime forces, sometimes backing civil militias. In most home raids the inhabitants are verbally abused, and the females are humiliated.

Paragraph no. 1126 of the BICI report states, " The women in the household were asked to stand in their sleeping garments and were not permitted to cover their bodies. These women were embarrassed and degraded, particularly in light of their religious beliefs", the report adds in the same paragraph "In all reported cases, the hooded security forces broke into the houses and through internal closed doors, thus terrorising the inhabitants, including women and children," and, "The hooded security forces were armed and the display of their weapons added to the terrorising effect on the inhabitants of the household".
According to statistics, 70% of home raids -mostly illegal- included security forces looting of personal belongings of the inhabitants, most of which were women's.

In some of these home raids, women were arrested in a humiliating and degrading way and subjected to killings, arbitrary arrests, torture in detention, harassment, verbal and sexual abuse and threats of rape. The BICI report has documented a number of cases in which women were subjected to appalling crimes committed by the security forces in checkpoints, house raids, during arrest and in streets, violating the law and international covenants.

Bahraini females have also been subjected to unfair dismissal from jobs and universities alongside their male colleagues in the politically-motivated retaliation which included 200 female students and more than 380 female staff in the public and private sector. 

As 8th March marks International Women's Day, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society is proud to praise the Bahraini women who have endured a heavy burden and played a vital role in the pro-democracy revolution in Bahrain. The Bahraini women have always proven their wide presence in the ongoing peaceful pro-democracy protests exceeding the presence rate of women in protests among all Arab Spring countries.

While women around the globe celebrate International Women's Day, the Bahraini women are suffering under a brutal regime and forced to say goodbyes to a killed son, brother or father, Al-Wefaq added.

The Women Affairs Department in Al-Wefaq said, "Today, the world is honoring women, however, the people of Bahrain are honoring the struggling Bahraini women who have remained steadfast in the face of repression and abuse which violated all international covenants. The Bahraini people stand in gratitude for the Bahraini active women who have proven their readiness to endure the pain for the sake of freedom and democracy and until the rightful demands to make the people the source of all powers are fulfilled," adding, "this brutal regime which has constantly showed its absolute disrespect to women is waiting the day when all abusers who've violated women rights will be held accountable and no one shall escape accountability".     

Attachments: links of videos shows attacked women in Bahrain by regime forces

Video 1: Paragraph 1132 of the BICI report on night house raids and humiliation of women by security forces

Video 2: An officer kicks and beats a woman

Video 3: Security forces beat sisters of an arrested boy

Video 4: security forces attack girls directly with arms

Video 5: Targeting woman with her child in her car

Video 6: Attack Bahraini women

Video 7: Direct shot and attack a woman in front of her House

Video 8: torture citizen on the street and an attack on women

Video 9: prosecuting women and direct shot

Video 10: regime forces assault on women

Video 11: Attack on Bahraini woman

Video 12: attempt to run over people and targeting women by direct shot

Video 13: A woman tells the story of batterer her by regime forces in the capital Manama