5/30/2013

Bahrain: Maryam Alkhawaja

  1. Maryam Alkhawaja @MARYAMALKHAWAJA ora
  2. 10 ppl arrested in total since last night without warrants in , , and via
  3. Security forces raided home in of victim of extra judicial killing Isa AbdulHassan approx an hour ago

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks @wikileaks ora
Who is Kissinger's secretive "Mr. Z"? Too secret even for a SECRET cable?

BAHRAIN: 7 Policemen Injured in Terror Blast in Bani Jamra

:MOI

The General Director of Northern Governorate Police announced on Wednesday an explosion in Bani Jamra that targeted on-duty policemen.  The blast injured 7 policemen, including one officer who is in critical condition.   Two other officers sustained serious injuries.  All 7 were referred to the hospital for treatment.
The General Director reported that investigators immediately responded to the scene and launched an investigation to identify the guilty parties and bring them to justice. The bomb was a homemade device thought to have been placed by terrorists.
Anyone with any information is asked to call the police hotline at 80008008.  All calls are treated as anonymous. For further updates and information, follow the Ministry of Interior Twitter account at @moi_bahrain.

5/29/2013

Bahraini jihadist killed in Syria


GULFNEWS

The 19-year-old was the son of a well-known preacher
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief

Manama: Syria loomed particularly large in Bahrain this week following the death of a Bahraini teenager and the parliament’s call to raise funds and to adopt a staunch stance against militant militia Hezbollah.
On Monday, Bahrainis were informed through social networks and microblogs that Abdul Rahman Adel Al Hamad, 19, had been killed in Syria as he was fighting alongside the anti regime rebels.
His young age and his status as the son of a well-known religious figure in the country have augmented the impact of the news on the people.
Abdul Rahman was branded a martyr and a hero by those who supported the presence of Islamist fighters in Syria alongside the local rebels against the regime of President Bashar Al Assad.
His father, the imam and Friday preacher of a mosque, is known for his Salafist tendencies and his support for an all-out war to remove the Syrian leader and put an end to his regime.
On Tuesday, he held a one-day gathering to receive condolences from relatives, supporters and friends. However, for most of those present, the occasion was to congratulate the father on the “martyrdom” of his son, and not to mourn.
Messages sent around Bahrain and beyond referred to Abdul Rahman as a martyr and congratulated his parents on his martyrdom.
“The body will not be flown to Bahrain and he will be buried where he was martyred,” Abdul Aziz, a Bahraini familiar with the Salafists, said. “That is what Abdul Rahman wanted and that is exactly what God gave him.”
Witnesses said that Abdul Rahman, a devout young man who was starting university, had been to Syria once before.
“When he returned to Bahrain, he did not feel at ease and was heavily preoccupied with what he saw. He simply could not bear to remain here and wanted to go back to Syria. He did not inform many people about his plans, but he left Bahrain and managed to slip into Syria where he joined a group fighting the regular army until he was martyred,” they said.
They said that they were not aware he had received proper training in using weapons.
“Maybe they trained him in Syria before they allowed him to go to the field,” they said.
Several Bahrainis said that they were “elated and overjoyed” over the new status of Abdul Rahman as a martyr and used their social network accounts to praise him and congratulate his father and mother.
However, the blogosphere was also filled with comments saying that he had been wrong to go to Syria to join the rebels and criticising the parents for encouraging him directly or indirectly to get involved in the Syria conflict and take up arms.
In the parliament on Tuesday, lawmakers used the weekly session to praise the government for banning contacts, under any form, between local political formations and the Lebanese group Hezbollah.
The parliament had earlier pushed for considering Hezbollah a terrorist organisation, a step they deemed necessary to block contacts with its members.
Two lawmakers used the session this week to call for raising funds for the Syrian people, saying that they were being slaughtered by the regime and needed all the care and attention they could get.
A fund-raising event was held at a mosque and the bisht — the formal overall worn by men — of a Syrian religious leader Shaikh Adnan Al Aroor fetched 15,000 dinars (Dh145,232)in an impromptu auction as people collected money for the residents of the strategic Syrian city of Qusayr where fierce battles are being fought.

Saudi cleric faces backlash over harassment tweet

BBCNEWS


Saudis on social networks have called for legal action against a writer and cleric who urged his Twitter followers to harass women cashiers.

Abdullah Mohamed al-Dawood, who has almost 100,000 Twitter followers, used an Arabic hashtag on Sunday which read: "sexually harass female cashiers".
He advocated harassment as a way of discouraging women from working.
Recently Saudi women have been allowed to work in public in shops, provoking a backlash from conservatives.
Hundreds of Saudis and other Arab tweeters attacked him, some asking him what right he had to stop women working, others accusing him of inciting sexual attacks.
Others have defended him, arguing that his tweet was aimed at preserving the country's deeply conservative Islamic identity.
One of Mr al-Dawood's arguments is that letting women work is tantamount to human trafficking - he claims they are being exploited to attract business.
But a number of Saudi women have tweeted to contradict him.
Conservative anger
Traditionally Saudi women have worked as professors, teachers or doctors in all-female workplaces.
It is a sign of changing times in the country that women have not only been permitted to work with men, but that many have also seized the opportunity for jobs that once would have been seen as too menial.
But this has not gone down well with the powerful religious elite, which has shown its displeasure with similar moves, such as granting women the vote in the next municipal elections and letting them serve on the influential Shura Council.
But in defending the conservative position, Mr al-Dawood has gone out on a limb. It is not the least of the ironies of his position that it appears to transgress the deepest social and religious taboos in Saudi Arabia.
It is not, however, the first time he's courted such controversy - he has previously suggested that babies should be veiled to protect them from being sexually molested.
Another irony is that he has used Twitter to make his point, although in recent weeks the site has come under sustained attack from leading Saudi clerics for corrupting and misleading young Saudis.
To lighten the debate with a touch of humour, tweeters have been sharing a recent cartoon in a local newspaper. It shows a huge, authoritative Saudi man holding out his hand to deny entry to a veiled woman.
She, however, has already walked straight through him, leaving him looking surprised - and with a gaping hole in the middle of his body.

AU: 50 years to give corruption cultural status, another 50 to make it genetic?

I’ve been to Addis Ababa yet again, but this time it has been for a big celebratory party that the African leaders and their friends have been enjoying on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU.
Gatherings called for celebration seldom allow themselves space for cerebration, especially when they are organised around birthdates, which can easily give rise to illusions of childhood with its attendant insouciance.
Yet, even for birthdays, the number 50 does call for some thought, and Africans from all walks of life have been investing in this area this past week.
Indeed, I am tempted to dub the total sum of all the seminars, workshops, symposia and colloquia a veritable “thinkfest,” a festival of thought and reflection, a meeting place of ideas and experiences, a multilateral interface of perspectives and outlooks.
There was no shortage of lamentation over all the things Africa has failed to achieve in the past half century, and many a delegate was eager to point out that in many areas the continent has not lived up to the tasks it set itself, especially after the struggle for political liberation was symbolically brought to its conclusion in 1994 in Pretoria.
The obvious focus was, and should be, on what the new stage of the struggle should be after fulfilling Kwame Nkrumah’s famous clarion call of the 1950s: Seek ye the political kingdom first, and the rest will be added unto you.
Put in other words, the question — and it need not be wholly rhetorical — could be, Now that we’ve found freedom, what are we gonna do with it? The way a lot of us have been behaving for the past 50 years, this is a real question that needs a real answer or a set of real answers.
Under this question-in-chief, a number of subsidiary ones can be subsumed: What was Independence for? Did all those who fought for it fully comprehend what it meant, or were some of them caught up in the whirlwind of emotions that gripped Africans at the mere thought of being rid of our white masters?
How many leaders of the Independence movement came to power having removed the white colonialists and, in turn, became black colonialists, lording it over their peoples, plundering their countries and generally negating the very notion of our people’s dignity and right to a decent life?
When we look around at the so-called leaders of African countries, do we see individuals who have our best interests at heart, or do we see a bunch of marauders who are bent on enriching themselves and their families without a care for the rest of the African people?
Why is it that African “leaders” are among the most avaricious and incompetent in the world, and why do Africans allow the worst elements among themselves to be their governors? Have we so totally given up on ever getting the right people to lead us that with every cycle we must descend still lower in terms of quality of leadership, as if we had not already plumbed the depths?
Now that corruption amongst African rulers and their acolytes has acquired cultural status, are we sure we want to continue perfecting it till it attains genetic expression?
What can we do to extricate our countries and continent from the clutches of these gangsters and their external sponsors, whose growing interest in our natural resources will spell doom for us unless we stand up to them?
Why is exclusion still the preferred mode of governance, against the youth, women, the weak and disadvantaged? Why are we so scared of inclusion when we know that it can be a source of strength if our goal is to build, not to devour what is there?
The wording may have been different, but these were some of the issues that were on delegates’ minds as they evaluated the past 50 years, observed the present and worried about the future: there was hope, to be sure, but it was hope tinged with genuine trepidation.

 By Jenerali UlimwenguThe East African

5/28/2013

On its golden anniversary, the AU at a crossroads


AL JAZEERA

What will be the legacy of the African Union as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary?

African leaders attend the opening of the 5th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union  at the African Union Summit Monday 04 July 2005 in Sirte, Libya.

On the one hand you have unresolved conflict, alleged corruption and a dishonest broker. On the other you have peacekeeping missions, government accountability and community engagement. As the African Union prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, debate over its triumphs and failures grows. So what will be the legacy of the AU? And what role has it played in fostering Pan-Africanism? Join us at 1930GMT.

In this episode of The Stream, we speak to:

Semhar Araia @Semhar
Founder, Diaspora African Women’s Network
dawners.org

Daniel Adugna @AUYouthProgram
African Union Youth Officer
www.africa-youth.org

Also on Google+ Hangout: Nanjira Sambuli @ninanjira, Nkosi Chris Dube @ChrisNqoe, and Zika Amalu @wata4yamynd.

Syrian TV reporter killed covering conflict

Syrian TV reporter killed covering conflict

Government blames death of Yara Abbas, war correspondent for state-owned Al-Ikhbariya, on rebel attack in Qusayr.


AL JAZEERA

Government blames death of Yara Abbas, war correspondent for state-owned Al-Ikhbariya, on rebel attack in Qusayr.

Yara Abbas, a prominent female war reporter for state-owned Al-Ikhbariyah TV, was attacked by rebels near the town of Qusayr in Homs province, the ministry said in a statement carried by Syrian state television.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group also reported her death on Monday, saying she "was killed by a sniper close to Dabaa airport", north of Qusayr.
The group said other members of Abbas's crew were wounded, without providing further details.

Syrian TV flashed a breaking news alert which read: "The ministry of information ... announces that colleague Yara Abbas has been added to the ranks of the martyrs, killed by terrorists near Dabaa airport."
The Syrian army, backed by fighters from the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, began an assault nine days ago on Qusayr, where rebels hold sway.
Both the rebels and the regime view the town as a key strategic prize, because it lies near the Lebanese border and by the road connecting Damascus to the coast.
Journalists targeted
Abbas was a common sight for Syrian television viewers. She frequently reported alongside Assad's forces from the frontline of Syria's conflict.
Dozens of journalists have been killed, wounded or kidnapped since Syria's crisis began in March 2011.
Over that time, more than 94,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations.
Journalists covering the conflict, on both the government and rebel sides of the front lines, have been caught in the crossfire - or targeted - on several occasions.
Syria's state-run Al-Thawra daily reported last week that nine journalists and 23 other crew members working for state-run media have been killed in the country over the past two years.
Syria's state-run Al-Thawra daily reported last week that nine journalists and 23 other crew members working for state-run media have been killed in the country over the past two years.
Several foreign reporters also have lost their lives covering the conflict, including award-winning French TV reporter Gilles Jacquier, photographer Remi Ochlik and Britain's Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin.
Anthony Shadid, a correspondent for The New York Times, died after an apparent asthma attack while on assignment in Syria.
Journalists have also increasingly become targets for kidnapping. In August last year, a crew from Al-Ikhbariyah was abducted by anti-government forces before being later rescued by Syrian troops.
In December, Richard Engel, NBC correspondent, and his crew said they were detained by pro-regime fighters in northern Syria.
James Foley, an American journalist, has been missing in Syria since late last year.
UK-based rights monitor Amnesty International said in May that Syria's government and elements of the rebel movement were deliberately targeting journalists, releasing a report which doled out blame for both sides in the country's conflict.

Fun and games help communicate disaster science



http://www.afronline.org/?p=29230#more-29230
 
Geneva – Playing games is helping to engage communities with the complex scientific information used to forecast natural disasters, as well as encouraging people to take steps to mitigate future risks, experts say. Tools ranging from simple probability-based role play scenarios to state-of-the-art digital apps that model the Earth’s changing environment were presented to the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, this week (19–23 May).
“What we see is communities engaging with games about disaster risk whereas traditionally the scientific information on the same issues has flowed right off them,” says Maarten van Aalst, the director of the Red Cross’s Climate Centre.
“Games are a great way to convey the often complex messages of scientists and can lead to real change,” he adds.
In Kenya, for example, communities have played dice games to model probabilities of the El Niño and El Niña cycles that can drive droughts and floods. By assigning rewards and penalties for action or inaction, the games consistently show communities that pursuing preventative measures is a better strategy in the long term than waiting for disasters to hit, says van Aalst.
The games have sparked a considerable increase in engagement between communities, scientists and policymakers, and are an invaluable way of starting conversations about disaster management, he adds.
But van Aalst admits that the very nature of disaster management — interventions are proved to be successful only in the wake of a disaster — make it difficult to measure the impact of such games.
Other efforts to make scientific data fun, such as the Tangible Earth project, use cutting-edge technology.
The 3D digital globe, which was released as a free smartphone app this month (16 May), provides an intuitive interface for the large amount of disaster-related data — about tropical storms, droughts and crop losses, as well as population and infrastructure changes, for example — in the 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.
Manipulating single or multiple variables is not only fun, but makes it easier for people to see how a changing climate could affect them in the future, says David d’Heilly, a researcher for Tangible Earth.
“Imagine if instead of telling a farmer that the risk of a disaster is increasing, he could see it with his own eyes,” he adds.
The tool also represents a great opportunity for scientists’ work to reach a wider audience among people who work in managing disaster risks, he says.
But concerns were raised during the meeting that games must consider factors, such as social structure and gender, if they are to be successful. Van Aalst says adapting games in this way needs skilled facilitators, the training of whom is holding back the scale up games, he adds.
Furthermore, he says, encouraging communities to take action to prevent disasters using games is effective only if they have the necessary resources. This would need the donor community to shift its focus from disaster relief to disaster prevention, says van Aalst.

5/25/2013

Raid on Bahrain cleric's home draws thousands to sit-in

BBCNEWS

Tens of thousands of Bahrainis have participated in a sit-in in protest at a raid on a senior Shia cleric's home.

The sit-in was called by al-Wefaq, Bahrain's largest opposition political society, after a late night raid on the home of Sheikh Isa Qassim.
Last week's raid provoked anger in the Shia Muslim community.
Sheikh Qassim is the most senior Shia cleric in the Gulf state. Bahrain has a majority Shia population but the ruling royal family is Sunni Muslim.
Shia have long complained of discrimination and formed the largest group when thousands of pro-democracy protesters took over a prominent roundabout in the capital Manama in February 2011.
The protesters were cleared from the roundabout with force and in the ensuing unrest more than 50 people died, hundreds were jailed and thousands lost their jobs.
Virtually all of those affected were Shia Bahrainis.
The government of King Hamad promised reforms in the wake of the violence but critics including Wefaq say that human rights violations and police brutality against protesters continue.
Jasim Husain, a senior al-Wefaq member, told the BBC that the raid on Sheikh Isa Qassim's house had "deeply offended" the Shia community.
"He has a huge number of followers. People were shocked that security forces had raided the home of the most senior religious figure in the country at one o'clock in the morning."
The sheikh was not present at the time of the raid. The security forces were said to have seized documents but no arrests were made.
Friday's sit-in took place in Diraz near Sheikh Qassim's mosque. An observer told the BBC that police had made no attempt to stop protesters entering the town.
Al-Wefaq had called for a peaceful demonstration and there were no reports of violence.
Earlier in the day three Sunni political societies issued a statement denouncing a meeting Sheik Qassim had on Thursday with Rashad Hussain, a senior US state department official.
The societies claimed the meeting, the first ever by a high ranking US official with Sheik Qassim, was evidence that "with this (meeting), the position of the state department and the American government is increasingly exposed in its support for terrorist operations in Bahrain".
The societies and their supporters have long claimed that Sheikh Qassim, acting on Iran's behalf, is responsible for the ongoing unrest in the country.

BAHRAIN: Mahmood al Yousif


#Bahrain @YouTube_Bahrain ora
I liked a @YouTube video http://youtu.be/WB0p6iAueaI?a  Mahmood al Yousif wins an International Media Award
Mahmood al Yousif wins an International Media Award
Ian Black presents Mahmood Al Yousif with the Outstanding Contribution to New Media Award at the International Media Awards in London, 2013 
 

AFRICA: MALARIA

Nicholas Kristof @NickKristof ora
Turns out #malaria parasites hone a mosquito's sense of smell, help it find humans to bite http://b-gat.es/19XsP2h

AFRICA: WorldBankAfrica

World Bank Africa @WorldBankAfrica
VIDEO: Pres Kim & @UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon outline development goals in the Great Lakes region of #Africa: http://bit.ly/122eSSW
United Nations

5/24/2013

Iran Dismisses Saudi Arabia's Espionage Claims

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian foreign ministry rejected Riyadh's claims that it has arrested a number of people involved in espionage operations for Iran.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Araqchi dismissed Saudi Arabia's false allegations that the Islamic Republic has links to a spy cell recently arrested in the Kingdom.

"We expect the Saudi government to pursue the issue through correct channels instead of creating media hype," he said on Wednesday.

Saudi state media reported that those detained include 24 Saudi nationals, one Turk, two Lebanese citizen, and allegedly one Iranian.

"It was alleged (by the Saudi Arabia) that a network of spies, who were arrested in late March last year, were connected to Iran. At the time, we stressed the fallacy of this claim," Araqchi added.

He noted that the Foreign Ministry summoned the Saudi Arabian chargé d'affaires in Tehran and protested the allegations in March 2012, requesting a formal explanation from the Saudi side.

Araqchi said Iran had requested consular access to the Iranian national two months ago but "unfortunately there has been no response from Saudi officials."

Call to alert defaulters about travel bans in Bahrain

GULFNEWS
 
Short messages should be sent to ensure debts are paid, Bahrain lawmaker suggests
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
        Manama: A Bahraini lawmaker has called for adopting a system to alert people barred from leaving the country.
      “It is extremely embarrassing for some people about to travel to find that their names are on the list of those who cannot leave the country,” MP Adel Al Assoomi said on Tuesday. “The travel ban is often linked to a trivial fine that has not been paid but that had been forgotten. So, the best thing is for the concerned authorities to alert people about the fines they have to pay to make sure that they are aware of them. They can for instance use short messages on mobiles to alert people,” he said as he was reviewing the ban issue with the justice minister at the weekly parliamentary session.
      Dozens of people have been barred by the courts from leaving the country for failing to pay debts or financial dues.
      The measure is used to ensure that defaulters cannot flee the country.

      Iran Rebuffs Claims of Violating Bahrain's Airspace

      TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Foreign Ministry dismissed the Bahraini government's claims that a drone owned by Iran has violated the airspace of the tiny Persian Gulf Arab country.

      An informed source at the Iranian foreign ministry on Thursday strongly refuted the allegations made by a Bahraini official that an Iranian drone had violated Bahrain's air space.

      Bahrain's Interior Minister on Wednesday claimed that an Iranian drone was spotted in Bahrain's airspace in the Northern part of the country near Saudi Arabia.

      The Iranian foreign ministry official also advised the Bahraini government to respect the legitimate rights of its people instead of raising baseless allegations.

      Anti-government protesters have been holding peaceful demonstrations across Bahrain since mid-February 2011, calling for an end to the al-Khalifa dynasty.

      Violence against the defenseless people escalated after a Saudi-led conglomerate of police, security and military forces from the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) member states - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar - were dispatched to the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom on March 2011, to help Manama crack down on peaceful protestors.

      So far, tens of protesters have been killed, hundreds have gone missing and thousands of others have been injured.

      Iran rejects Bahrain claim about drone find

      GULFNEWS
      Manama draws links between covert surveillance and spy cells in region
      • AFP

      Tehran: Tehran on Thursday denied a Bahraini claim that it had recovered an Iranian drone from the sea, and urged Manama to refrain from making “baseless accusations”, the Isna news agency reported.
      It cited an unnamed Foreign Ministry source as denying Bahrain’s assertion that the downed aircraft was Iranian.
      “Instead of making baseless claims, it would be better to respond to the legitimate demands of its people,” the source said referring to Bahrain.
      On Wednesday, Bahrain government spokeswoman Samira Rajab said the unmanned aircraft “was found in the sea in north Bahrain, mainly between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, two weeks ago”.
      She added: “It has been proved that this is a drone used by Iran and could be linked to the Iranian spy cells discovered in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.”
      It was unclear if the aircraft had crashed into the sea or was brought down.
      The US navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, and Iran, Washington’s arch-foe, has fleets of drones it says can be used for attacks as well as for surveillance.
      On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia said its authorities had arrested 10 more suspects in an alleged Iranian spy ring unveiled two months ago. Tehran has denied links to the cell.
      Bahraini interior minister Shaikh Rashid Al Khalifa on Wednesday urged “further cooperation and collaboration between security services in the region and with friendly states to face these threats” by Iran.
      Arab states in the Gulf have long had strained ties with Iran. Relations deteriorated further in early 2011 after a Gulf security force helped bring anti-government protests in Bahrain under control.

      Bahrain: Al-Wefaq suspend attending the dialogue with regime

      (Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - "After its long forbearance to the deliberate delay and absence of positive responce by the official party on the dialogue table, and after the esclated repression and which has reached its peak by attacking Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Qassim’s house, and given the unfair and harsh sentences being passed down to the prisoners of conscience, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, and in coordination with the national democratic opposition parties, declares it will temporarily stop attending the dialogue’s preparation sessions for two weeks.

      Al-Wefaq also declares that it’s options are open on different levels, taking into account the just demands of the Bahraini people and the good of the country with all its factions".

      Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society
      Wednesday 22 May 2013

      On May 17, the country’s Saudi-backed security forces attacked the sheikh’s house in the village of Diraz near capital Manama.

      Born in 1937, Sheikh Issa Qassem is often referred to as the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s main opposition party.

      Six opposition groups have been holding talks with regime officials since February.

      The Bahraini uprising began in mid-February 2011, when the people, inspired by the popular revolutions that toppled the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt, started holding massive demonstrations.

      The Bahraini government promptly launched a brutal crackdown on the peaceful protests and called in Saudi-led Arab forces from neighboring states.

      Dozens of people have been killed in the crackdown, and the security forces have arrested hundreds, including doctors and nurses accused of treating injured revolutionaries.

      A report published by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in November 2011 found that the Al Khalifa regime had used excessive force in the crackdown and accused Manama of torturing political activists, politicians, and protesters.

      Bahrainis say they will continue holding demonstrations until their demand for the establishment of a democratically elected government is met.

      5/20/2013

      Expatriates in GCC ‘vulnerable to HIV/Aids risk’

      GULFNEWS
       
      UNFPA carries out awareness programmes and counselling
      • By Sunil K. Vaidya, Bureau Chief

      Muscat: A group of expatriates, especially labourers, are considered a high risk group for contracting HIV/Aids in GCC countries, according to Asr Ahmad Toson, a United Nations Population fund (UNFPA) Representative.
      “Part of our programme deals with HIV/Aids awareness, prevention and counselling vulnerable groups,” the UNFPA Representative at the sub-regional office for the GCC states said during an interaction with media on Monday.
      He said that the UNFPA was trying to create a discreet awareness programme about the risks of HIV/Aids. “We are targeting particular groups using social messages,” he said without elaborating.
      “We are trying to remove the stigma regarding HIV/Aids. People are afraid to come forward for testing. So we are reaching out, especially to expatriate groups,” he said.
      He added that certain expatriates were identified as vulnerable. “Most of them [the vulnerable group] are here in the GCC countries without their families,” he pointed out, adding that the single labourers are tempted to indulge in high-risk activities.
      “So,” the UNFPA Representative added, “we are trying to figure out the best way to reach out and do counselling.”
      Toson revealed that UNFPA had already implemented a successful awareness programme with Dubai Police about HIV/Aids awareness.
      In Oman, he said that they were carrying out similar awareness programmes in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Social Development Ministry.
      On Oman’s birth spacing programme that started in 1994, he said: “We have asked the Sultanate to conduct a national assessment of the birth spacing programme. We are in the middle of conducting a review of the birth spacing programme in cooperation with WHO and Ministry of Health.”
      “It has been successful but there’s scope for improvement,” he said in reply to a question.
      Toson also added that as part of the joint effort by UNFPA, WHO in Oman, a consultant has been asked to submit a report on the birth spacing programme in Oman.
      He praised Oman’s health system, particularly for infants and the children. “Oman is showcased as a model in the rest of the world by the WHO for success in eradicating polio and for its lowest infant mortality in the world,” he pointed out.
      “Thanks to the efforts of the Omani government, health services have reached every corner [of the country] and are extremely accessible. It has excellent coverage,” he said.
      He also said that Oman was moving in the right direction. “Oman is in the process of developing a report to capture all the development and submit it to the review committee during the Cairo international conference on Population and Development (ICPD) from June 24-26,” he said.

      Bahrain police set off massive manhunt for fugitives

      BBCNEWS
       
      Thugs ambush vehicle transporting three detainees on the way to court
      • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

      Manama: Police in Bahrain have arrested three men who had escaped in an attack on the vehicle transporting them to a court.
      Citizens helped in the arrest of the fugitives as the police set off the massive search operation, said Major-General Tariq Hassan Al Hassan, the Public Security Chief.
      “The security forces had launched a manhunt to track down the thugs who laid an ambush and bumped their cars into a vehicle that was taking some Dry Dock detainees involved in security-related cases to court and helped them escape,” he said in a statement.
      “Police have also tracked down and arrested an accomplice who laid the ambush and help the detainees escape.”
      The men were to face trial in the court for their alleged involvement in an attack on a police station in the town of Sitra, south of the capital Manama.
      The attack on the police vehicle occurred early on Sunday morning, minutes after it left the Dry Dock detention centre near Hidd, a small coastal town on the island of Muharraq.
      Reports said that the attackers who wore masks and carried iron rods and sticks used two vehicles to block the police minibus and help the detainees escape.
      The attackers in their bid to flee the scene stormed a nearby school as they made their way away from the main highway and into residential areas.
      They reportedly attacked a student before the school guards chased them away. Two people, a fugitive and an attacker, were arrested as they tried to hide on the top of a building, witnesses in Hidd said.
      The police are now searching for the other fugitives and three outlaws who had been identified to bring them to justice to face charges, Al Hassan said.
      “An inquiry has been launched to investigate the circumstances of the detainees’ escape and assess any shortcomings and laxity for necessary measures to be taken,” he said.
      Al Hassan paid tribute to citizens and residents for helping the police and urged the public to report any information on the fugitives by calling a hotline.
      As the drama unfolded on the roads and in the school, concerned parents expressed anger and called for stringent action to help keep the area “safe and peaceful.”
      The lawmaker representing the area in parliament, Sameer Khadim, called upon the interior ministry to launch an investigation and determine responsibilities.
      He said that the town could not tolerate the attacks on schools and assault on students and that residents had become very concerned about the situation.
      “The ministry should now contemplate ways to move the Dry Dock detention centre away from the town to another area where there are no residents,” he said. “This is a very dangerous development and the whole matter should not be taken lightly. The residents of Hidd will look after the security of their homes, properties and areas as part of the community partnership to preserve security,” he said.

      Bahrain top Shi’ite cleric’s home raided by security forces


      GULFNEWS
      Forces ‘looking for fugitives’ at house of Ayatollah Shaikh Isa Qassim
      • Agencies
      • Published: 16:56 May 17, 2013

      London: Bahraini security forces raided the house of top Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Shaikh Isa Qassim on Friday, the opposition said.
      Bahrain has been in violent turmoil since the opposition-led pro-democracy protests erupted in 2011.
      Protests continue and often end in clashes between demonstrators and police. At least two people have died this year.
      Security personnel forced open the door of Shaikh Isa’s home in the village of Duraz in the early hours of Friday morning and searched the house, Bahrain’s main opposition bloc Al Wefaq said on its website.
      Women and children from the shaikh’s family were in the house at the time of the raid, but the shaikh was not at home, Al Wefaq said. No one was hurt.
      The statement said the teams searched the home and left, but police helicopters patrolled the area for hours after.
      A Bahraini government official had no immediate comment.
      A leading Bahrain human rights activist said the reason for the raid was not known, but he believed security forces had entered the shaikh’s house in pursuit of some fugitives who had fled there from a neighbouring house.
      “This is the first time (his house was raided) and it’s hugely offensive for a huge number of Shi’ites in Bahrain,” said Mohammad Al Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.
      “People see him as a red line. I expect that this will cause a big reaction.”

      5/19/2013

      Syria crisis: Refugee total now more than 1.5m - UNHCR

      BBCNEWS

      The UN's refugee agency has said that more than 1.5 million people have fled the conflict in Syria.

      Most have fled to Jordan and Lebanon, but not have all been registered yet, meaning the true total is likely to be far higher, according to the UNHCR.
      The situation inside Syria has deteriorated dramatically over the past four months, according to the agency.
      The UN estimates that 80,000 people have died in the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
      It says some 4.25 million have been displaced within the country.
      "Refugees tell us the increased fighting and changing of control of towns and villages, in particular in conflict areas, results in more and more civilians deciding to leave," UNHCR said in a statement.
      The UNHCR says it has registered a million refugees since the beginning of this year alone, and that "the widening gap between the needs and resources available is a growing challenge".
      Early next month, UNHCR and non-governmental organisations are due to launch a "revised funding appeal" for the Syrian crisis.
      Last month, children's charity Unicef said it would have to scale back "life-saving" support in Jordan's Zaatari camp if more money was not forthcoming.
      'Show of force'
      Meanwhile, US media reported that Russia had sent sophisticated anti-ship missiles to Syria.
      The New York Times quoted unnamed US officials as saying missiles sent by Russia to Syria could be used to counter any potential future foreign military intervention.
      Top US military commander Gen Martin Dempsey said supplying the missiles was "an unfortunate decision".
      The shipment "will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering," said Gen Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
      Without confirming details, Russia's foreign minister said Russian supplies did not break any international rules.
      It comes amid growing alarm that chemical weapons may be being used in Syria, something US President Barack Obama has said would be "a red line".
      Russia is one of Syria's few remaining allies and its major arms suppliers. Over the years, in contracts worth billions of dollars, it has sold thousands of tanks, artillery units, aircraft, helicopters and defence systems to Damascus.
      Another US newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, reports that Moscow has deployed at least a dozen warships to patrol waters near the Russian naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus.
      It quotes a senior US defence official as saying the deployment is a "show of force" by Moscow to demonstrate its commitment to the region.
      Although there have been growing calls for arms to be channelled to the rebel fighters in Syria, there has so far been very limited enthusiasm in the West for outright military intervention.
      But there is concern that the presence of sophisticated Russian-supplied weaponry will make it much harder to agree and carry out such intervention, implement a blockade or conduct targeted airstrikes in the future.
      Israel is also concerned such weapons could fall into the hands of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which could use them to either attack Israel or defend itself against any Israeli assault.
      In other developments on Friday:
      • The campaign group Human Rights Watch said in a report that abandoned government security installations in the city of Raqqa contain evidence indicating arbitrary detention and torture was practiced there when it was under government control
      • UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met Mr Lavrov in Sochi on Friday to discuss the plans for an international conference to try to find a way of ending the Syrian conflict, which would aim to bring together the Syrian opposition and members of President Bashar al-Assad's government
      • The man in charge of the UN's plans for reconstruction in Syria after the conflict, Abdullah al-Dardari, has told the BBC that he estimated $60-80bn (£40-50bn) would be needed to rebuild what has been destroyed so far and to compensate for damage to the economy.

      5/16/2013

      Bahrain court jails 6 tweeters for a year

      Accused of ‘undermining the values and traditions of Bahrain’s society towards the king’
      • AFP

      Dubai: A Bahraini court on Wednesday sentenced six tweeters charged with insulting King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa to one year in prison, the public prosecutor’s office announced.
      The six were charged by the lower criminal court with “misusing the right of free expression”, it said in a statement.
      They were accused of writing remarks “undermining the values and traditions of Bahrain’s society towards the king on Twitter,” according to the statement.
      Activists in Bahrain, the scene of an opposition-led protest that began two years ago, use Twitter as a platform to report what they describe as government “violations” against them.
      Prominent activist Nabeel Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, has been in custody since June 6 on charges of insulting people via Twitter.
      The avid tweeter was also accused of insulting the security forces in postings that he admitted came from his account on the microblogging website.
      A total of 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since the protests erupted in February 2011, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.
      Strategically located just across the Gulf from Iran, Bahrain is home base to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and is also a major offshore financial and services centre for its Arab neighbours in the oil-rich Gulf.

      Saudi religious police boss condemns Twitter users

      BBCNEWS

      The head of Saudi Arabia's religious police has warned citizens against using Twitter, which is rising in popularity among Saudis.

      Sheikh Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh said anyone using social media sites - and especially Twitter - "has lost this world and his afterlife".
      Twitter was the platform for those who did not have any platform, he said.
      His remarks reflect Riyadh's concern that Saudis use Twitter to discuss sensitive political and other issues.
      The conservative kingdom is believed to have seen the world's fastest increase in the uptake of Twitter, says the BBC's Sebastian Usher.
      'Losing battle'
      The sheikh's comments echo those of the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in April who used his sermon - seen by millions on TV - to warn that Twitter was a threat to national unity, our correspondent says.
      Earlier, Saudi Arabia's grand mufti, the kingdom's most senior Muslim cleric, had dismissed Twitter users as "fools".
      These rhetorical attacks are part of a concerted offensive by the Saudi establishment on the social network site, our correspondent says.
      Many Saudis have seized on Twitter as the most immediate and effective way to open little windows into a traditionally opaque society.
      Recent protests in the Eastern Province have been tweeted and images of human rights activists on trial have been uploaded directly from courtrooms, challenging many taboos.
      In response, the authorities have mooted moves that could inhibit Twitter users by linking their online accounts to their Saudi ID numbers.
      A number of web activists have been detained, including at least one for the alleged apostasy, a charge that could carry the death penalty.
      However, some elements of the Saudi elite have also warned against moving too hard on social network users.
      Billionaire businessman Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who presents himself as a reformist, has described attempts to restrict social media as a losing battle.

      5/14/2013

      Minister of State for Information Affairs explores furthering of media cooperation and exchanging of news with the Associated Press

      Manama: May 14 -- (BNA)-- The Minister of State for Information Affairs and Government's Official Spokesperson, Her Excellency Mrs. Samira Ibrahim bin Rajab, explored ways and means for boosting media cooperation and exchanging of news with the US-based Associated Press (AP), to promote the mission of the Bahraini media and keep abreast of latest developments of the media and IT and communications technology.
      The Minister of State for Information Affairs received in her office the Information Affairs Authority (IAA)'s Director for Operations, Mr. Jassim Hassan, and the AP's Business Development Director , Mr. Kamal Jum'a; and explored scopes for bilateral cooperation in the area of news, technical and technological training, exchanging of expertise pertaining to videographic arts, audio-visual transmission and the exchanging of news service via modern communications and multimedia.

      The Minister stated that the IAA, represented by the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) and the News Department seek to benefit from the expertise of the Associated Press as one of the most prestigious international news agencies that was founded in May 1848AD which is well-known for its pioneering service in political, economic and sports news , multi-lingual radio and TV broadcast and advanced programs up to the latest contemporary developments in the realm of technology and business management.

      The Minister emphasized that international news agencies assume a considerable responsibility in communicating the whole truth through accuracy, subjectivism, balance showcasing of variety news and reports, professional coverage of events and functions, and putting rumors and unethical immorality on novel mass media to an end specifically on social media networks.(IY)

      UK company's spyware 'used against Bahrain activist', court papers claim

    • guardian.co.uk,

    • Human rights groups hope email evidence can force review of export controls on surveillance equipment

      Spy technology from a UK-based company was used to target a British citizen who became a leading light in Bahrain's Arab spring, according to documents filed in the high court.
      The witness statement of Dr Ala'a Shehabi is seen by human rights groups as crucial in their attempt to force the government to examine the export of surveillance equipment.
      They want to secure a judicial review of the government's alleged failure to provide them with information on what action it is taking to establish whether the sale of the technology to repressive regimes is in breach of export-licence controls.
      Shehabi, who studed at Imperial College London, and has both Bahraini and British citizenship, is one of the founding members of Bahrain Watch, set up following the country's security crackdown in February 2011. Her father is the leader of the Bahrain Freedom Movement. Following the crackdown her husband was arrested and jailed having, she claims, been beaten. He was freed last year. Shehabi herself was arrested in April 2012, during the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain. She was later released.
      According to her witness statement, a few weeks after her arrest Shehabi received a series of emails, the first purportedly from Kahil Marzou who was the deputy head of Bahrain's main opposition party, including one containing a virus. Other emails that claimed to be from an Al Jazeera journalist were also infected. Research found that the emails contained a product called FinSpy, distributed by a British company, Gamma International.
      The witness statement claims that when a person's computer is infected with FinSpy, "it allows access to emails, social media messaging, and Skype calls, as well as copying the files saved on the hard disk. These products also enable whoever is doing the targeting to commandeer and remotely operate microphones and cameras on computers and mobile phones."
      Shehabi, who has been forced to relocate to Britain, states: "I have real concerns about the Bahrainian regime having effective unfettered access to my computer, reading my emails and monitoring my calls. Not only is this a gross invasion of my privacy, I am concerned that it could put in danger from the Bahraini authorities myself, my family members and other activists."
      Last November, the campaign group Privacy International provided a dossier of evidence against Gamma International to HM Revenue and Customs, urging it to investigate whether there had been any breach of the export control regime.
      According to Privacy International, Gamma's technology has been deployed by secret police in 25 countries, many with a history of human rights abuses. The campaign group warns: "This is part of a growing global trend, where human rights defenders, political dissidents and other vulnerable groups around the world are being targeted by increasingly sophisticated state surveillance."

      Gamma's managing director in Germany, Martin J Muench, did not respond to requests for comment. However, in the past, he has said that Gamma co-operates with UK, US and German export controls, adding: "It appears that during a demonstration one of our products was stolen and has been used elsewhere."

      Shehabi's witness statement provides vivid testimony of the effects she claims the secret surveillance of her computer system has had on her mental health. "I found it very disturbing that an attempt was being made to spy on me through this medium," she explains. "It upset me a lot, scared me and made me feel quite paranoid. I am very concerned that it appears that a product of a British company is being exported in breach of export controls to be used to attempt to spy on pro-democracy activists such as myself."
      Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, said the government needed to come clean on whether it was permitting surveillance technology to be exported.
      "It is critical we understand what if anything it is doing to hold Gamma to account," King said.

      5/12/2013

      BAHRAIN

      the.trainer @TheTrainer76 1h

      Tahrir Square youth leader arrested in Cairo

      BBCNEWS

      Ahmed Maher, a co-founder of the April 6 youth movement, held after addressing US conference


      A leader of one of the youth movements behind Egypt's 2011 uprising has been detained by security forces, officials have told reporters.
      Ahmed Maher, co-founder of the pivotal April 6 movement, was held at Cairo airport "based on the orders of the general security department at the interior ministry", a security official told the AFP news agency.
      He had just returned from Washington, DC, where he had addressed a New America Foundation conference entitled "Egypt in transition".
      His passport was confiscated before he was taken for questioning, according to the official MENA news agency.
      Maher stands accused of encouraging Egyptians to protest outside the home of Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, a ministry official told MENA.
      Four of the movement's members were arrested after the March demonstration, said spokesperson Amal Sharaf.
      "I think they are punishing us and trying to stop us from what we are doing but of course they will not succeed because we will continue," she said.
      Hailed as heroes in the aftermath of the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak, members of the youth-led April 6 group have since reportedly split into two factions.
      Analysts say that Maher's detention may provoke a reaction among youth groups, as tensions continue between activists and authorities.
      April 6 had supported President Mohamed Morsi during the June presidential elections, but it has since become increasingly vocal in its opposition to the country's leader - who they accuse of pursuing Mubarak's policies and
      betraying the revolution that brought him to power.
      Two years after Mubarak's ousting, Egypt is still trying to find its footing in a declining economy and often violent protests that have kept away much needed tourist revenues and foreign investments.
      A myriad of charges and complaints have been levied in recent months against activists, journalists and TV personalities, including well-known satirist Bassem Youssef, for insulting President Morsi.
      Earlier this month, authorities arrested Ahmed Douma, a leading activist, and referred him to court for allegedly insulting the president in a TV interview.
      The United States sends $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt each year. Washington officials in March expressed concern that arrest warrants had been issued for political activists.

      Persia, Turkey and Israel, Three players to carve up the arab world

      Letter for the Corriere della Sera

      Dear Editor,

      Speaking about Middle East forecasts, I just doubt that Obama will take the bull by the horns, needless to remind his lack of empathy for the palestinians. So he is not going to compel the government of Israel to choose the path of peace.under such circumstances the Israeli rule will stay from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river. Equality cannot be granted to the Arabs, the theory or the dream of Israeli peaceniks and I think at one time Edward's Said idea ,to have equal citinzenship in one country.
      So in this respect Israel is more and more destined to be an apartheid system, but its main problem is increasing Arab demography a situation that will upset the Jewishness of the Israeli state. People like Netanyahu, Lieberman or Bennett will do anything to avoid the only alternative for peace, meaning, land in exchange of peace, the famous two state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital and a vague formula of compensation for the refugees. And this is why in case of renewed negotiations it will again drag on and on without any result.

      But things are drastically changing in the Middle East. From Iraq to Syria the trend of dislocation is going on. The Kurds of Irak have already their semi independence. The Sunnis of Iraq are on the verge of a new bloodshed with the Shiites, and Maliki is a new Saddam Hussein but a Shiite version. As for Syria the ethnic and sectarian cleansing is at its peak. The recent massacres of Sunnis in the Allawite coastland named the Sahel is the prelude of bigger massacres in the cities of Banias and later on Lattakie. Added to that is the reluctance of the so called friends of Syria to arm the opposition, that allows the regime of Bashar to displace the Syrian people mainly the majority meaning the Sunni, to displace them, inside Syria and outside, towards Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The other minorities Christians and Armenians already fleeing to the western world. As for the druses the Allawite regime is using them as mercenaries like the druses of Israel to fight the Palestinians, in Syria the Sunnis.
      Out of this nightmare scenario comes the conflict of interest or the future demarcation lines between Israel and the advancing Persian empire already present on the shores of the Mediterranean, through Hezbollah. But what I wanted to say is that the borders of Sykes Picot are crumbling and the Arab world is being totally crippled by sectarian and ethnic divisions. In such a transitional situation, there are three main powers concerned about the new boundaries of the Fertile Crescent: Persia, Turkey and Israel. The Persian will do anything to preserve their dominance over Irak, a fragmented Syria with a link from the Syrian Sahel to Lebanon, mainly Hezbollah strongholds.
      The Turks are fully engaged in normalysing their relations with the Kurds. The Kurdish Turks rights of citizenship will be granted in the new constitution, Erdogan cannot but abide by the fact that he has to offer concessions in exchange of the withdrawal of the Kurdish Pkk fighters to northern Irak. Later on the Turks have to settle the Syrian Kurdish issue, already autonomous in their areas, bordering Turkish borders. As for Syria I just predict a long endless civil war, with the old French mandate scenario of four so called states, Aleppo, Damascus, the Druze canton and the Allawite or nussairi enclave backed by the Persian and the the Russians with their base of Tartous. Up till now the Russian-Iranian axis did its best to support Bashar's regime and will continue to do so even if Syria is partitioned, their main concern is to fight the jihadists or al Quaida, the common slogan adopted by every body for not arming the syrian people.
      As for Israel, in this coming scenario, the best alternative to avoid peace and the two state solution is to drive the Palestinians out of the Israel of 1948, the old idea or concept of transfer to transjordan and enforce the settlements as a part of the Greater Israel. I might be pushing my imagination too far, but with a fragmented Irak and a partioned Syria, Jordan could be the alternative for the surplus of Palestinians in their ghettos in the West Bank or from inside the green line. By the way some news that I have heard are mentioning the enlargement of the Gaza Strip towards Sinai, a project that could be financed by Quatar, another possible destination to deport the Palestinians . How to achieve it? Maybe a bloody suspicious massacre of jews by hired terrorists that could trigger massive deportation. Bashar's massacres are beyond imagination and could make people forget about Deir Yassine.
      I do not want to add more pessimism, but gone are the days of Andalousia where Jews and Moslems had a remarkable history of coexistence, offering the whole world an incomparable heritage in culture in architecture, in all fields another kind of inquisition is coming to the Arab world. The inquisition of intolerance, of illiteracy, of sectarianism and tribalism, the cycle predicted by Ibn Khaldoun. The inquisition of the never ending dispute, between Sunnis and Shiites, basically a political dispute about the succession of the prophet Mouhammad, but fully exploited by the lack and inability of Arab mind or Moslem mind to settle down this dispute ,and look for the future ,for development, for education, for settling an Arab common market, for enhancing the rule of law, away from the rule of medieval backward Islamic theocracy, based on unbelievable interpretations of the Coran.
      The big challenge is how to modernize Islam. I personally do not have an answer, but I think it is possible through critical thinking that could challenge and destroy inherited obsolete dogmas. As for the future of Israel in this possible nightmare approach that I just described, the rulers of Israel might think that they are safe, maybe for some time, but even by deporting Palestinians they will just add more frustration and hate, that could trigger more instability. I do not see elite people and talented people from Israel able to live in «fortress Israel».

      5/11/2013

      Kuwait launches sports clubs for women


      More football leagues for girls popping up in the GCC
      • AP

      KUWAIT CITY: Muneera Al Shatti has loved playing basketball since she was a child but it wasn’t until Thursday that she had a chance to show off her skills at a public arena in Kuwait.
      As part of a new initiative launching sports leagues for women, Muneera and her team mates from Salwa Al Sabah club downed Qadsiya club 63-13 in a game that attracted several hundred men and female fans. The initiative to launch basketball, table tennis and athletic leagues for the first time in Kuwait illustrates how the landscape for women athletes is improving across the Gulf where hard-liners have long opposed women playing sports.
      Several of the players, in deference to the conservative Muslim culture that is common across the Gulf, wore leggings and covered their heads with the hijab. Others, however, wore shorts and T-shirts.
      “A competition like this should have happened a long time ago,” said Muneera, who has played in tournaments overseas and only heard about the league in her home country while playing in neighbouring Bahrain. “But I am glad it finally took place. We’ve been trying to do this for a long time and they have promised that more sports will be included in future leagues.”
      Helped by government support, increased education and erosion of traditional values, football leagues for girls in the Gulf have started up in Qatar and the UAE. Saudi Arabia — which long barred girls from playing any sports — recently announced it would allow sports in private schools as long as they abide by the rules of Sharia, or Islamic law.
      Saudi Arabia’s decision is part of a wider package of reforms targeting women with the aim of ending discriminatory practices that have contributed to a host of health problems, including obesity and diabetes. The private schools’ announcement also follows a decision last year in the kingdom to allow two female athletes to compete in the London Olympic Games following months of intense pressure from the International Olympics Committee.
      Still, women’s sports remain nearly an underground activity in the kingdom, which is home to Islam’s holiest site in Makkah. Only the largest female university in the kingdom — Princess Noura Bint Abdul Rahman University — has a swimming pool, tennis court and exercise area for its students. No other university in Saudi Arabia has sports facilities for female students and staff.
      Women are also bound by strict rules when it comes to their attire, so they cannot, for example, be seen by men while jogging in sweat pants. Female athletes cannot register for sports clubs or league competitions. They are banned from entering national trials, making it impossible for them to qualify for international competitions.
      Kuwait is typical of the struggle women have endured in the Gulf.
      The 1970s were described as the golden era where women were allowed to freely participate in sports in Kuwait, according to Naeema Al Sabah, the head of the Women’s Sports Federation. But in the ensuing decades, the influence of Islamic hard-liners grew in the country and sports for women all but disappeared. Hard-liners believe that sports will promote immoral behaviour and uniforms inappropriately reveal female bodies.
      The low point came a few years back when a Kuwaiti women’s football team was publicly denounced after returning from playing a regional tournament in neighbouring UAE.
      “We’re taking baby steps towards progress,” Naeema said. “As with any society that is religiously strict, we need to test the waters and take small steps. Everyone in Kuwait now values sports. You see people walking and jogging every day. There is this increasing interest in playing sports in general.”
      Muneera said the best sign that things are changing was the number of women and girls who turned out for the basketball game. A music teacher who also cycles and jogs with her husband, Muneera is only hoping to get more chances to play.
      “It felt like the first step towards a better future for sports for us here in Kuwait,” she said after her team’s victory.

      Qatari delegation survives Somalia car bomb

      Eight Somalis were killed in the bomb targeting the interior minister’s car
      • Reuters 5.5.2013

      Mogadishu: A car bomb hit a convoy of cars carrying Qatari officials through the centre of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Sunday, killing at least eight Somalis, officials said.
      The visiting delegation of Qataris, who were travelling in the Somali interior minister’s bullet-proof vehicle, were “safe”, a security officer said, without going into further detail. The minister was not in the car at the time.
      No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast but it bore the hallmarks of Al Qaida-linked rebels who have kept up a campaign of guerrilla-style attacks since the army and peacekeepers pushed them out of bases in the city.
      The blast tore through the busy ‘Kilometre 4’ road junction in the centre of Mogadishu’s commercial and administrative district.
      Gunfire rang out immediately after the explosion as the convoy’s security guards fired into the air to disperse onlookers.
      Qatar has been forging closer political ties with Somalia in recent years as it seeks to expand its influence in the Horn of Africa region.
      “The car bomb targeted delegates from Qatar. They are safe,” Hassan Othman, a security official, said, adding that the minister’s car was damaged in the blast.
      The chairman of Mogadishu’s Hodan district, where the blast occurred, told reporters at the scene eight people had been killed and five wounded, most of them civilians.
      Sunday’s bomb was a stark reminder of two decades of civil strife in a country where the central government depends heavily on a 17,600-strong African Union peacekeeping force for its survival.
      While there has been a significant improvement in the coastal capital since African Union peacekeepers drove the Islamist Al Shabaab group out of the city in 2011, the attack showed the relative ease with which the militants can still strike.
      Some of Mogadishu’s major roads were closed last week after security officials received a tip-off about an imminent attack, but were re-opened on Saturday.
      The state of Somalia’s security forces will top the agenda at a conference in London on May 7. Britain and Somalia are hoping to use the event to drum up more international support at a time when Al Shabaab are weakened as a fighting force but can still inflict devastating strikes.
      Civil war after the fall of dictator Mohammad Saeed Barre in 1991 left Somalia without effective central government and awash with weapons. The turmoil opened the doors for piracy to flourish in the Gulf of Aden and deeper into the Indian

      Bahraini blogger Ali Abdulemam flees to UK

      BBCNEWS


      Ali Abdulemam, a prominent blogger in Bahrain, has been smuggled out of the troubled Gulf kingdom and taken refuge in the UK, the BBC has learned.

      Abdulemam, known as the "Bahraini Blogger", had been sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges that he was part of a terrorist organisation.
      He spent two years in hiding after a royal pardon was revoked.
      Abdulemam escaped in a secret compartment of a car up a causeway that joins Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
      According to Atlantic Magazine, from there he was smuggled along the Gulf in a fisherman's boat to Kuwait.
      He crossed into Iraq and took a regularly scheduled flight to London, where the magazine says he was granted asylum.
      A source close to Abdulemam's family confirmed to the BBC that he had arrived in London.
      Critical blogs
      Abdulemam's troubles began when he started to write articles critical of the ruling Al Khalifa family.
      The Al Khalifas are Sunni Muslim in a country with a Shia Muslim majority. Shia have long complained of discrimination.
      Abdulemam worked as an IT specialist for the Bahraini airline Gulf Air. In his spare time he blogged.
      But he was sacked from the airline after he was arrested in September 2010 and accused of being part of a terrorist organisation.
      He was charged with spreading false information and linked to Bahraini opposition figures who had been arrested in August of that year.
      Like Mr Abdulemam, all of the arrested men were Shia. Academics, a dentist, a geologist, and several clerics were among those held.
      They all protested their innocence and were in fact pardoned by King Hamad and released in February 2011.
      But following the crushing of the pro-democracy movement in March 2011, orders went out to re-arrest the men.
      Ali Abdulemam went into hiding in Bahrain and managed to escape capture.
      In an interview with the BBC in December 2010, his wife Jenan al-Oraibi told the BBC:
      "Ali does not belong to any political party. He just writes his opinion. He has a free pen. That is exactly his crime. He has a free pen".
      Mr Abdulemam's flight from the kingdom will cause the government there some embarrassment.
      Along with other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, Bahrain has cracked down hard on internet activism.
      Now one of its critics, a hero among online activists, has slipped out of their grasp.

      5/10/2013

      Syrian refugees 'sold for marriage' in Jordan

      BBCNEWS



      Before the war began, Kazal was in love with her neighbour in Homs. "He was 20 years old and I dreamed of marrying him one day," she says. "I never thought I would marry someone I didn't love, but my family and I have been through some hard times since coming to Amman."

      Kazal says she is 18 but looks much younger. She has just got divorced from a 50-year-old man from Saudi Arabia who paid her family about US $3,100 (UK £2,000) to marry her. The marriage lasted one week.
      "I lived with my husband in Amman, but we weren't happily married. He treated me like a servant, and didn't respect me as a wife. He was very strict with me. I'm happy that we're divorced."
      Her huge, blue eyes fill with tears when she talks about the marriage.
      "I agreed to it so I could help my family. When I got engaged I cried a lot. I won't get married for money again. In the future I hope to marry a Syrian boy who's my own age."

      'Survival sex'

      Andrew Harper, the Representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Jordan, is concerned that some of the 500,000 Syrian refugees in the country are increasingly turning to such desperate measures.
      "We don't have enough resources to give aid to all those who need it. The vast majority of refugees are women and children. Many of them are not used to going out to work, so survival sex becomes an option."
      His office in central Amman is surrounded by hundreds of newly arrived refugees, waiting in long lines to register for aid. He says the UNHCR has intervened with some families who have been offering their daughters up for early marriage.
      "I can't think of anything more disgusting than people targeting refugee women… You can call it rape, you can call it prostitution, you can call it what you want but it's preying on the weakest.
      "The government and people of Jordan are doing what they can but people are poor and we have to get more resources into the community so families aren't forced into something that deep down I believe they don't want to do."
      Short-term marriages between men from the Gulf and Syrian girls reportedly happened before the war began. But Kazal's mother Manal, who dresses conservatively like her daughter in an abaya and headscarf, says she would have never considered such an arrangement in the past.
      "Life here is very hard and we receive very little aid. We have a baby who needs lots of milk every day, and we can't afford to pay the rent. So I had to sacrifice Kazal to help the other members of the family."
      She says that the marriage was arranged by an Amman-based NGO called Kitab al-Sunna, which gives cash, food and medicines to refugees. It is funded by donations from individuals across the Arab world.
      "When I went for help at the NGO they asked to see my daughter. They said they would find a husband for her."
      Syrian matchmaker
      The director of Kitab al-Sunna, Zayed Hamad, says that he is sometimes approached by men who want to marry Syrian women.
      "They ask for girls who are over 18. They're motivated by helping these women, especially those whose husbands died as martyrs in Syria. Arab men see Syrian women as good housewives, and they find them very pretty, so traditionally it is desirable to marry one."
      Um Mazed is a 28-year-old Syrian refugee from Homs who has started earning money by arranging marriages between Syrian girls and Arab men.
      In a grubby room covered with mould, she fields phone calls from prospective brides and grooms.
      "The men are usually between 50 and 80, and they ask for girls who have white skin and blue or green eyes. They want them very young, no older than 16."
      She says she has presented more than a hundred Syrian girls to these men, who pay her a fee of US $70 for an introduction, and about US $310 if it results in a marriage.
      "If these marriages end in divorce after a short time, that's not my issue, I'm just the matchmaker. As far as I'm concerned it's not prostitution because there's a contract between the groom and bride."
      Um Mazed means "Mother of Mazed", one of her three children. She doesn't want her identity known because she's ashamed of what she is doing for a living, but claims she has no choice.
      "How are we supposed to live when the NGOs give us so little help? How are we supposed to pay our rent? We're not getting enough help to live decently, that's why I'm doing this - so my family and I can survive."

      Bahrain | Demistan

      Modamer News ‏@ModamerNewsEN 8 Mag
      #Bahrain | #Demistan : video of the operation "Resistance option" #may8 #HRW #Ireland #CNN #gcc #UK #UN... http://fb.me/39f4GipiY
      دمستان : عملية (خيارنا المقاومة) 8.5.2013م https://www.facebook.com/Free.Dumistan