Protesters support pro-Morsi detainees


Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been taking to the streets again in Egypt, protesting against the heavy sentences imposed on 21 female supporters of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
The women, who were arrested for taking part in an early morning demonstration in October, received prison sentences of 11 years.
Among the group are seven teenagers under the age of 18 - they are being sent to a juvenile prison.
Orla Guerin reports.




/ بالصور..مصريون أحيوا اليوم ذكرى مرور 100 يوم على مقتل ابنائهم في أبشع شهدها التاريخ المصري المعاصر



The Forgotten Factor in the Fall and Fall of Somali Piracy


In May 2012, a group of pirates hijacked the MT Smyrni, a Greek-owned oil tanker, off the northern coast of Somalia. By this time, the story of Somali militants boarding commercial vessels and holding ship and crew ransom had become a familiar to observers around the world, but at the same time, the dramatic decline in such events had already begun.
According figures from the International Maritime Bureau, there were 237 piracy-related events in 2011, the ‘glory days’ of Somali piracy; in 2012, this dropped rapidly to 75; and this year, as of 22 October, there have been just 11 incidents. The MT Smyrni was eventually released after a ransom was paid in March 2013, and it remains the last large-scale commercial ship to have been seized by Somali pirates. Although two vessels have been hijacked this year, they were much smaller fishing boats.
This drop in pirate activity off the coast of Somalia can be explained in part by the presence of onboard private armed security – which has shifted from being a niche market to a multi-million dollar norm – and the changed tactics adopted by international naval forces – from blanket maritime patrols to more intelligence-led activities. These are important factors and are often pointed to in explanations of Somali piracy’s demise.
However, there is also a third issue that usually goes under-examined, one that is no doubt harder to quantify and less immediately obvious, but one that is arguably more important than improved maritime security – namely, the changing onshore situation and the quietly rising prospects of Somali oil.

Rising oil

One of the main bases for pirates to launch operations used to be from the coast of the autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia. In 2009 alone, some $70 million of ransom payments entered the local Puntland economy due to piracy, according to research by Chatham House. Wages also rose in Puntland’s main piracy areas, and towns such as Garowe almost doubled in size between 2002 and 2009. Meanwhile during this time dozens of hijacked vessels were held close to the main pirate ports of Eyl and Hobyo.
However, under Puntland piracy’s business model, funds largely disappeared into the pockets of individuals. And when there was a return of interest in Somalia’s oil prospects, the previous high-level backers of piracy recognised a potentially new source of income that could be both legitimate and more sustainable. Since the first successful exploration wells were drilled in Puntland in early 2012, the attraction of oil has become a deciding factor in the move away from piracy.
Another important driver in this trend has been the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF), a privately paramilitary force armed and funded by the United Arab Emirates, which celebrated its third birthday in October. Headed by the son of Puntland’s president and allegedly commanded by former South African army officers, the PMPF’s operations up and down the cast have been pivotal in reducing pirate bases on the coast of Puntland; its access to high-tech equipment and audacious rescue missions demonstrate the regional government’s determination to combat piracy.
continue reading on Think Africa Press
By Gary LiThink Africa Press

Bahrain keeps travel ban on prominent opposition member


Manama: A Bahrain court has rejected an appeal to lift a travel ban on a senior opposition figure facing charges of encouraging anti-government violence in the Gulf nation.
Lawyers backing Khalil Al Marzouq also challenged the anti-terrorism codes under which he is charged, which can strip citizenship in some cases. But the court on Monday said the charges stand and set the next hearing for December 12.
The case has deepened tensions in the kingdom, which has faced near-nonstop unrest and bloodshed since the opposition began an Arab Spring-inspired uprising in February 2011 seeking a greater political voice.
Shiite leaders broke off reconciliation talks after the September arrest of Al Marzouq, a top official with the main Shiite political bloc Al Wefaq.
Lawyers backing Khalil Al Marzouq challenge the anti-terrorism codes

Mortar bombs land in Saudi desert


Saudi Arabia and Iraq are investigating an incident in which six mortar bombs landed in a remote area of Saudi Arabia near the border with Iraq and Kuwait.
The Saudis say they do not know who fired the mortars, or from where.
A small Shia militant group in Iraq, known as the Mukhtar Army, has claimed it carried out the attack, although this cannot be confirmed.
The group said it was a warning to Saudi Arabia to stay out of Iraq's affairs.
The militia's commander, Wathiq al-Batat, told Reuters that the goal of the attack "was to send a warning message to Saudis to tell them that their border stations and patrol are within our range of fire".
The mortars fell in an uninhabited area near Hafr al-Batin in the kingdom's Eastern Province.
The mortar fire comes two days after suicide bombers killed more than 20 people outside the Iranian embassy in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
On Thursday Saudi Arabia advised its citizens to leave Lebanon following those bombs.
The continuing civil war in Syria is fuelling increased tensions between nations in the region.
Saudi Arabia, which is largely Sunni, backs the rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, whereas Shia Iran and Shia militias in Iraq and Lebanon back the president.


Fatal blast near Iran Beirut embassy


Seven people have been reported killed as an explosion struck near the Iranian embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut.
Conflicting reports say the blast could have come from rockets or a car bomb.
Several buildings were damaged in the blast on Tuesday morning, eyewitnesses said.
Iran is a major backer of the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to Syria to back the government of Bashar al-Assad.


Africa: Economic giants change places


New trends in trade and finance will change political as well as economic ties on the continent

In the coming weeks, some statisticians in Abuja could shake up Africa’s economic and diplomatic hierarchy. The boffins look set to chart the rise of Nigeria’s economy to become Africa’s biggest by the end of next year. At the same time, this would confirm the relative economic decline of South Africa and more recently, of Egypt. Nigeria, with a population of 170 million compared to South Africa’s 50 million, has been growing at about 7% over the past decade, compared to SA’s average growth rate of around 3.4%.
All the usual scepticism about the composition of statistics is necessary, although the quality of data collection in Nigeria has improved significantly over the past five years. The rise of Nigeria to the position of Africa’s biggest economy, coupled with its long established position as the most populous African state, will have diplomatic and strategic implications. It also points to a new pattern in economic growth and trade relations within the continent. Nigeria’s economic expansion reflects a wider growth trend in the middle of Africa. Historically, the best economic performers were either in North Africa or South Africa itself. Now those economies are seeking to boost their trade with the rest of Africa, which includes its fastest growing economies.
These trends are confirmed by the statistical rebasing exercise which Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics is carrying out with technical assistance from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. That means a recalculation of the sources – such as agriculture, services and information technology – of the country’s economic growth. The statisticians’ report is likely to show a massive upward adjustment in gross domestic product similar to that of Ghana in 2010 which increased the size of its economy by 60%. The centre of the exercise in Nigeria is the rebasing of GDP based on output and consumption patterns being updated from 1990. Two decades ago, the booming service sector, such as mobile telecommunications, the ‘Nollywood’ film industry, financial services and retail, were either far smaller or did not exist.
Nigeria expects to release new figures early next year and early estimates point to at least a 40% rise. This would increase Nigerian GDP in 2013 – US$270 billion in 2012, according to the IMF – to $400 bn., against projected total South African GDP this year of $392 bn. These raw numbers do not detract from the depth and sophistication of South Africa’s financial markets, infrastructure, institutional strength and corporate governance, versus Nigeria’s oil- dominated economy but they do underline that it is losing relative strength.
Jolting the marketsThe revised growth figures may also jolt the markets. Nigeria’s launch this year of a $9.3 bn. oil refinery and petrochemical plant financed by local and international banks serves as an important pointer to the future direction of African economies. For the rest of Africa, it’s not a life-changing development. South Africa and Nigeria will continue to account for about half of all Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy activity. For Nigeria, a larger economy means higher per capita GDP – $2,178, compared to $1,556 in 2012 – but still well below South Africa’s $7,404. It also means lower tax revenue relative to size of GDP. For South Africa, the figures represent a symbolic loss, although it would play the part of Africa’s United States (with a far higher per capita income and more sophisticated economy) to Nigeria as Africa’s China (which is due to become the world’s biggest economy within a decade).
Regardless of the pecking order at the top, intra-regional trade and financial links have grown rapidly in recent years, but the regional economic communities are a long way from achieving integration among their member countries or with each other. The economic as well as political balkanisation of Africa has been a tremendous brake on progress.
South Africa still shapes the structure of trade within Africa. For at least twelve African countries, exports to South Africa represent more than 1% of their GDP. Meanwhile, frustrated by slow growth at home, South African companies are investing in and stepping up trade with the rest of Africa. Growing financial links facilitate this: both South African (still easily the market leaders) and Nigerian banks are expanding their operations throughout Africa. In 2003, there were three Nigerian banking subsidiaries in the rest of Africa. Now there are 44 in 33 countries. South Africa’s Standard Bank, with its Chinese partner, is one of the leading African institutions.
There are budgetary consequences from these cross-border ties. South Africa and its neighbours are in the Southern Africa Customs Union: half of the customs revenue within the SACU zone goes to the neighbouring states. That makes their fiscal fortunes dependent on the health of South Africa’s trade sector. Similarly, Nigeria’s trade with the rest of West Africa is of growing importance. In the regional grain markets, a 3% increase in Nigerian inflation could spark a 1% increase in inflation in its regional trading partners.
Economic performance between South Africa and the rest of Africa has been diverging, with the continent benefiting from stronger macroeconomic management, fast growing trade with Asia and higher inflows of foreign direct investment. Growth in South Africa has averaged a sluggish 3.4% for the decade 2003-12, against 6.1% north of the border. Even these growth figures flatter by including Africa’s fragile states and slow-growth economies. Among stronger performers, eleven are forecast to grow at between 7% and 14% during 2013-14. South Africa is expected to be the fifth slowest growing economy on the continent this year and next. Economic performance, on a downward trajectory, leaves South Africa at risk of being caught in a slow-growth trap of 2-3% per annum as long standing weaknesses become apparent (AC Vol 54 No 20, Political mould starts to break).
Investors say they have taken note of the strikes, the slowing economy and the government’s declining ability to manage social tension. The central bank, the South African Reserve Bank, warned on 29 October that the country’s sovereign credit rating was again at risk: that would curb capital inflows and raise government financing costs. Last month the IMF also warned of a disorderly adjustment to the current account and fiscal deficits due to the escalation of labour and social unrest.
Regional economies are also watching South Africa closely. Botswana and Namibia are working to attract industrial investment into the SACU common market. Even high-cost Mozambique has had some success in attracting companies to Maputo’s Beluluane Free Zone, selling to the South African market. Yet it is competing primarily on more favourable tax terms and market proximity. None of the regionals yet have serious cost or productivity advantages relative to South Africa and rank well below it in the World Bank’s annual Doing Business survey of private sector operating conditions.
Botswana is the most ambitious – improving its global ranking to 56th of 189 countries in the latest Doing Business report, where South Africa ranks 41st – and launching programmes to improve economic competitiveness. A high-profile Economic Diversification Council oversees policies to improve productivity, lower business costs and streamline regulation. It is also works on growth and innovation in the diamond mining, transport and agricultural sectors. This month, South Africa’s De Beers completes the transfer of its London selling operations to Botswana. That involves operations with annual sales valued at $6 bn. The decision to move was announced in 2011 but the transfer starts when the 80-year-old London diamond auctions close, resuming in Gaborone before the end of November. That shows how an African country can extract additional value from natural resources: it also entails workers moving from London’s international financial centre to Gaborone, where new offices have been built.
Some foreign investors are bypassing South Africa in favour of other regional economies. The mature but still lucrative mining sector is losing investment, deterred by policy uncertainty and less favourable mine title and tax terms. The governing African National Congress (ANC) narrowly defeated a grassroots proposal to nationalise mining at its Mangaung party conference last December but did opt to increase state involvement (AC Vol 54 No 8).
More favourable tax treatment and more lucrative exploration prospects have sent mining investment to Congo-Kinshasa, Mozambique and Zambia. Lesotho has taken advantage of lighter regulation and lower wage costs to attract labour-intensive manufacturing at the expense of South Africa’s beleaguered textile sector, benefiting from access to the US market through the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
Long-term prosperity for Southern Africa and the continent requires competing in the global, not regional, market: it is not on Africa’s interest for South Africa to be a weakened economy. The current period of high growth in Africa, the longest and most sustained in decades, has been supported by a commodity boom and more investment in roads, ports and power generation have followed. Gaining a share of global manufacturing – Africa’s long-standing aim of sustainable and diversified growth – is now realistic, although the sector has actually declined as a share of GDP in the past decade. Research by former World Bank economist Paul Collier at Oxford University’s Centre for the Study of African Economies points to wage costs in Ghana being one quarter of those in China.
The loss of China’s cost advantage means that its share of labour-intensive manufacturing is falling and over the next decade, this will shift output to other low-wage areas. The opportunity for African countries is that this might include them, rather than low-wage Asia. Of course, Africa’s increasingly militant trades unions will see things differently: they want more jobs but don’t want to serve as a low-wage alternative to China. Another constraint is that Africa’s non-wage operating costs are still among the highest in the world.
Research by the World Bank and McKinsey Global Institute indicates that African countries remain among the most expensive in which to operate a business. Another risk is that the current commodity boom is eroding competitiveness in other sectors, including through currency appreciation, the so-called ‘Dutch disease’. A more serious threat is complacency, as African leaders, benefiting from higher growth, feel less need to pursue bold or politically risky reforms that could modernise their economies.
The development of African capitalism is still very much a work in progress as the robber barons and monopoly capitalists cautiously eye new opportunities for productive enterprise. This capitalist class, largely protected by the state and the ruling parties, has little appetite for innovation and vision. It has grown fat on the revenue from state capture and weak governance. In this regard, South Africa’s challenges are very much in line with the rest of the continent.


Saudi Tonigt

Saudi: Video of Riyadh tonigt

Eritrea: a people under siege


Eritrea has no oil, gas or strategic minerals. It has no nuclear weapons or remnants of a settler-colonial population. Yet it is one of world’s most repressive regimes whose brutality is highlighted by fleeing refugees losing their lives in the waters off Europe’s southern coast.
The African Union declared 3rd November as a continental mourning day to be commemorated by all its member states for the hundreds of African refugees who perished off the Italian Island of Lampedusa on the 3rd of October. The AU decision is to be welcomed and is in accordance with the African tradition and custom to respect the dead and their spirit. However, it remains to be seen whether the AU will go another step beyond remembering the dead to prevent the lives of thousands of Africans by addressing the root cause of the tragedies. In fact, since the 3rd of October there were already reports of another capsized boat carrying more than 200 refugees, of which the majority were Eritreans. At least 50 people were reported drowned of which were many children whose bodies were seen floating in the Mediterranean Sea. The government of Malta, responding to the growing crisis and deaths, described the Mediterranean as becoming a ‘mass grave’.According to the official report of the Italian Interior Ministry the average age of all those who died or survived was 25 years. The overwhelming majority of them were Eritreans.
The question that many outsiders are not asking is: Why do Eritreans, especially the youth, leave their country in droves? What do they have to flee from in order to go through such dangerous and risky routes in their search for safety?
After a protracted thirty-year war of liberation, Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia in May 1991, as a de facto state, which was formalized by a popular referendum held under the auspices of the United Nations in May 1993 when the people of Eritrea overwhelmingly voted for the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. Those outsiders who happened to be in Eritrea or speaking to an Eritrean in any part of the world, they cannot help but get infected by the confidence and the sense of optimism of the future that Eritreans oozed. Indeed, the optimism was not unfounded and neither was the triumph that resulted from the military success over the mighty Ethiopian army. The New York Times issued an article titled ‘Eritrea: African Success Story Being Written’ on 30 April 1996. In that article it was stated that ‘Five years after winning the war that led to independence, former Eritrean rebels are rebuilding their shattered country with the same tenacity and self-sacrifice that served them well in the longest civil war in recent African history.’
The Eritrean liberation struggle was waged for two main objectives. One objective was the attainment of national independence; another was social transformation. These two objectives were highly integrated and constituted the pillars of the strategy of the Eritrean Peoples’ Liberation Front (EPLF). In fact, one of the slogans of the EPLF was liberating land and people piece by piece with total reliance on the country’s own resources. In accordance to this strategy the EPLF had incrementally built not only a formidable and highly disciplined military force that stood against successive military operations of the Ethiopian army and eventually defeated the latter, but also created a network of mass organizations and administrative structures based on popular participation and mobilization of the people of Eritrea. It was indeed the total support of the Eritrean people that sustained the globally isolated Eritrean revolution for such a long time. The participation of women in all aspects of the revolution was remarkable and was expected to form the basis for the creation of a gender equal society.
continue reading on Pambazuka News
By Adane GhebremeskelPambazuka News 


UN Expert to Meet Eritrean Refugees in Tunisia and Malta


The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth , will undertake an official visit to Tunisia and Malta from 11 to 20 November 2013 to collect first-hand information from Eritrean refugees on the human rights situation in Eritrea.
Since her appointment in November 2012, the Special Rapporteur has made several requests to visit Eritrea, which have so far not been granted. She has repeatedly urged the Eritrean authorities to collaborate with her mandate with a view to addressing its human rights challenges.
Due to lack of access to Eritrea, the Special Rapporteur has decided to collect first-hand information from Eritrean refugees. The Special Rapporteur appreciates that Tunisia and Malta have agreed to provide her access to the Eritrean refugee population residing in those two countries.
During her mission, the Special Rapporteur will interview Eritrean refugees about the situation of human rights in Eritrea to corroborate allegations of widespread and systematic violations of human rights in Eritrea contained in reports she has received from a variety of interlocutors . The result of her findings, which will be strictly limited to the situation inside Eritrea, will be reflected in her second report to the Human Rights Council in June 2014.


Iran FM: Sectarian strife is worst threat in world


Sectarian tension between Shia and Sunni Muslims is probably the most serious threat to the world security, according Iran's foreign minister.
Speaking to the BBC, Mohamed Javad Zarif blamed some Sunni countries for what he called "fear-mongering".
"Some people have fanned the animosity for short-sighted political interests," he said.
Syria, Iraq and Pakistan are among the countries currently grappling with a surge in sectarian violence.
Mr Zarif said conflict between Sunnis and Shias was "the most serious security threat not only to the region but to the world at large".
"I think we need to come to understand that a sectarian divide in the Islamic world is a threat to all of us."
'Fanning the flames'
Sectarian tension between Shia and Sunni Muslims has been a fact of life for more than 1,000 years, says the BBC's Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen.
But upheaval in the Middle East this century, especially since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, has made it much worse.
Around 6,500 civilians have been killed in sectarian attacks in Iraq so far this year - a death toll not seen since 2008.
Meanwhile, the Syrian war did not start as a sectarian conflict but it has become one, our correspondent says.
President Bashar al-Assad, who is from a heterodox Shia sect, is an ally of Shia Iran. Syria's majority Sunni community has been at the forefront of the revolt against the state, and the opposition is backed by Sunni powers, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
A fighter from Tawhid Brigade, which operates under the Free Syrian Army, runs beside a tank in Base 80 area of Aleppo, Syria, 30 November The conflict in Syria has increased tensions between Shias and Sunnis
Mr Zarif said all sides should forget their differences over Syria to oppose sectarianism.
"I think all of us... regardless of our differences on Syria, we need to work together on the sectarian issue," he said.
Without naming countries directly, he accused Sunni Arab leaders of "fanning the flames" of sectarian violence.
"This business of fear-mongering has been a prevalent business," he said.
"Nobody should try to fan the flames of sectarian violence. We should reign it in, bring it to a close, try to avoid a conflict that would be detrimental to everybody's security."
However Saudi Arabia, among other countries, accuse Iran of stirring up sectarian tension, our correspondent says.
Both sides recognise the dangers of what happening, he adds - but neither has come up with a way of stopping a deadly slide towards more religious conflict.

Bahrain: An Island Without Sea


by Dia Saleh

“The sea was neither stolen, nor looted (manhouba).
It was bestowed (mawhouba)”
Perched on a bench next to a rickety wooden fisherman’s hut by the sea, sits a man in his 60s, wearing a grin and traditional white Bahraini headscarf. Only ten years ago, if the bench stayed where it is now, it would have been situated some 2 kilometers off-coast, submerged in the sea. It is now part of the Busaiteen landfill, reclaimed by the Bahraini state for what was originally set to be a housing project.

Clip: Video interview with Jassem (1:30)Image: illustrating the housing crisis
The narrator plays on the two Arabic words with sarcasm. The word mawhouba  – the adjective form of hiba which translates in English to ‘donation’ or ‘gift’ – is commonly used when the King bestows a state-owned plot of land upon a company or an individual. Manhouba however refers to that which is stolen. The demarcation between what is gifted and what is, in fact, stolen, goes straight to the core- the land ownership question. Who does Bahrain belong to and who has the right to bestow it away?
“There’s [also] a difference between stolen and looted land. The one to whom it was given did not loot it,” the man continues, “they give it to him as a hiba, as a reward for his loyalty, support, and pontification!”
The above scene is taken from dozens of hours of footage captured in Bahrain by a group of artists, researchers and journalists who were appalled by the volume of land reclamation undertaken on the tiny island of Bahrain, especially during the last decade. More than 70 km2 of coastal waters have been reconstituted into reclaimed land, and some estimate that the total landmass could increase the island’s total size by up to 25% over the next 20 years. In terms of relative scale, this phenomenon is unique in its size and intensity, and most importantly, appeared too much for the people on this small island state to handle.
Discontent with the limitations of academia and media in raising awareness of the grave consequences of land reclamation, they embarked on a new kind of project. The idea was to turn research into film and short animations, in a visual format accessible via the Internet to a wide range of audience, both within Bahrain and globally. Both documentary and agitprop, it would be unrestricted by the pacifying appetite of funders of culture in the Gulf – from investment banks to royal courts – who would be at the very root of the tragedy. Critical in-depth and subversive work like this are hard to come by in this region, but this pioneering work should set a precedent and will project the core issues back into domestic struggles of justice where base issues of survival and resistance against the security machine have taken over.
Although the project was conceived in 2009 and started in 2010, it was abandoned in 2011, when the February 14th uprising took everyone by surprise. The popular revolt, inspired by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, would embroil them and the tiny nation for many months. A project exposing land reclamation seemed insignificant compared with the magnitude of what was now happening; the killing, imprisonment, and torture of activists, the seeds of sectarian division and persecution, and the general feeling of despair.

Image: map of Muharraq island in the 1960s
Eventually some members of the team would decide to re-group and give the hard drives containing hours of footage – hidden in a drawer for almost two years – to the same fisherman captured in the above-mentioned scene. He would in turn collaborate with range of directors, animators, researchers, and architects to produce a 1-hour partially-animated documentary film, narrated by him. They would agree to call it – as a working title – Difan; the local Bahraini word for land reclamation.
Except the man is not a fisherman per se; he is a veteran political activist from the city-island of Muharraq – this island is now four times its original size due to difan. He now spends his time on the sea either fishing or writing his memoirs. In one of these unpublished memoirs, he writes about his prison experience in 1979:
“The idea of transferring us from Jida prison was to take over the Jida island. This ingenious idea of taking over islands, coral reefs, and lands is not new. It will lead Bahrain to the great abyss, with no going back except for an earthquake which drowns the island of Bahrain into the briny salt water of the sea, returning it cleansed and pure to its people; a land buried for eternity, akin to Gilgamesh’s epic.”

Video clip: animation of Muharraq 1965 revolt (1:40)
The prison on the island was removed to turn it into a private reserve for a member of the ruling family. His narration traverses through a maze of illustrations, one of which take us back to Muharraq in the 1960s:
“I remember Muharraq in 1965. Muharraq was always an arena for intifadas; one of them was in March 1965, which we set off against the British, the government, and the oil company BAPCO – which together controlled the country and its resources. The police chased us between the small alleys, and the people used to hide us in their homes.”
Jida is but one example of the way that land is changed and morphed to the needs and desires of the royal family. The documentary film will not be the first time the issue of Bahrain’s land reclamation would be tackled. In 2006, a PDF was circulated showing – in simple pictures taken from Google Earth – the huge gap in land ownership and distribution on the tiny island. It’s simplicity was a brilliant form of agitation, and the government of Bahrain censored Google Earth for a few days in an impulsive reaction. Modern technology allowed the average citizen to see for example, that the island of Um al-Nisan that houses a private resort, which includes a marina and golf course, is the same size as Muharraq, a densely populated island.
Ironically, the issue was even addressed by the government itself through its participation in the 2010 Venice Biennale. The installation Reclaim, commissioned by Minister of Culture Mai Khalifa, would be widely acclaimed by critics, winning the best national pavilion award at the architecture biennale.[1] The central piece of the installation are the same exact fishermen the film’s narrator took refuge in. Exhibition co-curator and architect Noura Al-Sayeh explains how urban transformations in Bahrain have been most radical along the coastline. She writes:
“An island nation once completely dependent on the sea, through its fishing and pearling activities has today nearly turned its back on it. Nearly, albeit for the high-rises competing for a postcard view of the sea and a few disseminated fishermen’s huts searching for a slice of sea along the temporary coastline.”
Mourning the death of the coastline in this manner is as if its destruction was caused by climate change or some other natural phenomenon. Memorialising the fisherman huts like an extinct species is to avoid the real causes of the disastrous consequences of greed and decadence. Reclaim was incapable of naming the culprit, incidentally at a time when the Bahraini parliament was undergoing its most important investigation since its re-commencement in 2002, culminating in the historic Amlak al-Dawla (‘government properties’) report.[2] In their deliberations, a few MPs – both Shiite and Sunni – would mockingly blame the jinn for stealing lands.
Ramshackle fishermen huts are hardly the stuff of dreams in today’s modernised gulf. Masterplans designed mostly by big Western architecture firms leave the ramshackle and delipidated structures to the mercy of mega sea-front real estate projects in prime locations. These projects are constructed on dreams of grandeur & exclusivity. Completely alien to someone like our fisherman, these projects serve the privileged elites of the world who believe in reconstructing the dream of ‘perfect living’ on the buried reefs of fasht aljarim that used to be the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. Impregnating these new structures in the heart of these closely knitted communities that built their heritage around the culture of sea, had profound social impact. The film, shows how early murmurings of discontent began a long time prior to the infamous day of February 14, 2011, when Bahrain became engulfed in mass protests driven by explosive anger and despair with a system of entrenched inequality and discrimination. Ibrahim Shareef, a political leader, gives one of the most powerful interviews in the film and delves immediately into the inescapable role that a regime enriched itself by selling off the sea to private development. In 2011, Shareef was arrested and sentenced to five years imprisonment. Standing in front of the judge, he talked of a ‘trial of ideas’ and retold the story of a nation struggling to fight for justice.
Very few non-Arabic speakers know that Bahrain, the tiny-island country in the Gulf, is the dual form of bahr (‘sea’), meaning the ‘the two seas’. There are numerous folk etymologies, but one of them is that it refers to the salt and fresh waters that are present above and below the seafloor surrounding the island. Describing the nature of the land, the Sumerian epic ‘Enki and Ninhursag’ tells that Enki, the lord of fresh water, blessed Bahrain with springs, making a harbour of water, crops and infinite health. By the turn of the 20th century, Manama was a bustling trading port, with the sea hitting the famous bab al-Bahrain (‘doorway to Bahrain’). Today, the doorway is 3 km away from the sea.
Video: animation of dredging process (1:45)
But this isn’t just about the disappearing coastline. Reclamation has crushed the sweet water channels under the sea bed, closing the tap of fresh water supplies feeding the fertile land and its palm groves. An index, published by a UK-based consultancy firm in 2011, ranked Bahrain as the most ‘water stressed’ country in the world. Where once, life on the island was self-sustainable, any shock that would stop local desalination plants from purifying sea water, would mean Bahrain has only one day’s supply of water to survive on.  Water is the essence of life. For Bahrainis, as this essence is destroyed and artificially recreated, life itself has changed fundamentally. For this island community, playing, fishing, singing, dancing were defined by the very nature and practises of play, recreation and work in the space provided by the coast, and in the long period of time that fishermen and pearl divers spent in the sea. The artificial beaches gated up in places like Amwaj Islands lie empty, but Bahrainis are not crying over spilt milk. Their struggle is not just about reclaiming the stolen sea; it’s also about reclaiming their past, and future, as one subversive Bahraini song puts it:
He who steals an egg or bread. .. is called a thief
And he who steals the history of a place … what do they call him?
They stole you! Daughter of the sea … sand and rocks
They stole our past … They stole our present … They stole our tomorrow ..
And when we dreamt of a few relics … They stole these relics too!
The coast is gone, and even with the artificial wave breaks, what could save the soul of this island? Maybe Bahrain’s uprising was an attempt to clutch at straws before the island submerged totally in a sea of sand.

The film, ‘Difan’ (working title) and supplemental booklet will be released early 2014.

Saudi Arabia to invest in new rebel force in Syria


Riyadh fighting Al Assad as well as trying to eliminate extremist groups
  • Ian Black Guardian
London: Saudi Arabia is preparing to spend millions of dollars to arm and train thousands of Syrian fighters in a new national rebel force to help defeat Bashar Al Assad and act as a counterweight to increasingly powerful jihadi organisations.
Syrian, Arab and western sources say the intensifying Saudi effort is focused on Jaysh Al Islam (the Army of Islam or JAI), created in late September by a union of 43 Syrian groups.
It is being billed as a significant new player on the fragmented rebel scene. The force excludes Al Qaida affiliates such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Al Sham and Jabhat Al Nusra, but embraces more non-jihadi Islamist and Salafi units.
According to one unconfirmed report the JAI will be trained with Pakistani help, and estimates of its likely strength range from 5,000 to more than 50,000.
But diplomats and experts warned on Thursday that there are serious doubts about its prospects as well as fears of “blowback” by extremists returning from Syria.
The Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, is also pressing the US to drop its objections to supplying anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles to the JAI. Jordan is being urged to allow its territory to be used as a supply route into neighbouring Syria. In return, diplomats say, Riyadh is encouraging the JAI to accept the authority of the US and western-backed Supreme Military Council, led by Salim Idriss, and the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
“There are two wars in Syria,” said Mustafa Alani, an analyst for the Saudi-backed Gulf Research Centre. “One against the Syrian regime and one against Al Qaida. Saudi Arabia is fighting both.”
Saudi Arabia has long called publicly for arming the anti-Al Assad rebels and has bridled at US caution. It has been playing a more assertive role since September’s US-Russian agreement on chemical weapons — which it saw as sparing the Syrian leader from US-led air strikes and granting him a degree of international rehabilitation.
The JAI is led by Zahran Alloush, a Salafi and formerly head of Liwa Al Islam, one of the most effective rebel fighting forces in the Damascus area. Alloush recently held talks with Bandar along with Saudi businessmen who are financing individual rebel brigades under the JAI’s banner. Other discreet coordinating meetings in Turkey have involved the Qatari foreign minister, Khaled Al Attiyeh, and the US envoy to Syria, Robert Ford. In one indication of its growing confidence — and resources — the JAI this week advertised online for experienced media professionals to promote its cause.
The appearance of an “Army of Mohammad” with its equally obvious Islamic resonance appears to be part of the same or related effort proposed by Syrian Sunni clerics to unite disparate rebel groups into a 100,000-strong force by March 2015.
It is too early, however, to see any impact of the Saudi move on the ground. “Militarily it’s not significant,” said one senior western official.
“I don’t see it producing any dramatic change yet. It’s a political step. These new rebel formations seem to be relabelling themselves and creating new leadership structures. It’s part of a quite parochial political game and above all a competition for resources.”
But the Saudis are making an energetic case for their strategy and playing on western anxieties. “The Saudis are saying that if you don’t join the fight against Al Assad you will end up with a much bigger jihadi problem,” said Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “They are being a lot more proactive. That means taking the rebellion a lot more seriously and trying to develop as many proxies and allies as possible.”
Saudi assertiveness has grown along with unhappiness over US policy towards Syria and Iran, the kingdom’s regional rival. Prince Turki Al Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, described Obama’s approach to Syria as “lamentable”.
Last month the Saudis cancelled their annual speech at the UN general assembly and turned down their first election to a security council seat in protest over the Syrian situation. The Saudis, like the Israelis, also fear a US “grand bargain” that leaves Iran free to develop nuclear weapons.
Alani, echoing official Saudi views, warned of the risk from an emboldened Al Qaida unless more moderate forces prevailed in Syria. “Al Qaida is getting stronger,” he said. “It is undermining the Syrian revolution and giving the US an argument for not supporting it. It will backfire against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sooner or later — like what happened in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.”
Other experts argue that the kingdom is taking risks by being so proactive, relying on funding and weapons for influence, concentrating on military pressure on Al Assad without developing a clear political strategy and focusing on strengthening groups with an overtly Sunni character.
“The Saudi leadership should be careful what it creates in Syria,” Yazid Sayegh of the Carnegie Foundation warned in a recent commentary. “Mohammad’s Army may eventually come home to Makkah.”
The effort also faces problems of capacity, coordination and delivery. “The Saudis and Qataris lack the means to shape insurgent groups,” suggested Thomas Pierret of Edinburgh University.
“They have a lot of money but very poor intelligence and human resources and organisational skills. They are very dependent on the western military. They are too used to having relationships with clients and using personal networks.
“That’s why they’ve been forced to turn to Syrian groups which already have military credibility. They are becoming less selective and more realistic and putting aside their reservations about who they support. But I doubt they are able to unify the whole thing. The Saudis say ‘you should unite and we will give you money.’ But some will end up getting more money than others and the coalition will break apart.”


Bahrain Revolution Museum shut down


4 November 2013 Last updated at 03:20 GMT
The leader of Bahrain's opposition party, Ali Salman, has been arrested and charged with insulting the authorities.
The move came after his party, al-Wefaq, opened "The Revolution Museum", including images of what was said to be the torture of pro-democracy campaigners.
BBC Arab Affairs Analyst Leana Hosea reports.

Swiss study: Polonium found in Arafat’s bones


Scientists find at least 18 times the normal levels of radioactive element in late Palestinian leader’s remains.

Coming soon. Al Jazeera takes you through the details of the investigation into the Palestinian leader's death.


The Most Beautiful Photo: Pope Francis Kissing a Disfigured Man


DRC Conflict Hinders East African Integration


Goma – As the majority of East African Community countries signed an agreement paving the way for a single tourist visa in the region from 2014, some believe that Tanzania’s hesitance to agree to this integration is largely due to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The EAC comprises Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. But on Aug. 2 only Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda signed an agreement, which introduces a single visa that can be obtained at any entry point effective from January 2014.
“The visa will cost 100 dollars [for non-citizens of the three signatory countries] for up to 90 days. The country of entry will collect the fee,” Peter Okota, an immigration officer in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, told IPS. Each country will receive 30 dollars from this fee, while the remaining 10 dollars will go towards technical operations.
Currently, a tourist who visits the five EAC countries has to spend 250 to 300 dollars on visa fees, with only Kenya allowing re-entry on the initial visa after a visit to another EAC country.
But Rwanda and Uganda have been accused of supporting the M23 rebels and according to Godefroid Ka-Mana, president of the Great Lakes Pole Institute based in Goma in eastern DRC, “Tanzania’s participation in the new [United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC] brigade against the M23 rebels is for a reason.”
Tanzanian blue helmets, who helped the Congolese army force out M23 rebels from their strategic position 15 km north of Goma in August, lost two soldiers in the fighting.
A third Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed on Oct. 26 in fighting between the Congolese army, the U.N. special brigade and M23. The fighting started on Oct. 25 in the Kibumba, Kiwanja, Rutshuru and Rumangabo districts of eastern DRC, all four of which were reclaimed from M23.
Thomas d’Aquin Mwiti, president of North Kivu’s civil society organisation, told IPS that the loss of Tanzanian soldiers to save Goma would inevitably affect relations between Tanzania and those accused of supporting the war in the DRC.
Diogène Musoni, an economics lecturer at the Rwanda Tourism University College, told IPS that Tanzania was more engaged in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) than in the EAC and remains hesitant about the path of economic integration represented by the introduction of a single visa for other reasons.
He pointed out that the single visa could increase the EAC’s tourist revenue by 50 percent over the first five years of the agreement.
“The single visa will make things easier for those wishing to visit East Africa’s tourist attractions,” Musoni said.
When contacted by telephone, the spokesperson’s office at the Tanzanian Ministry of Tourism refused to comment on “Rwandese intellectuals views about Tanzania’s isolation,” but asserted that the EAC is as important to Tanzania as SADC.
In September, Tanzanian Minister for the EAC Samuel Sitta responded to questions from the Tanzanian national media by stating that the country would not be forced into an accelerated pace of integration that is not sustainable.
Sitta suspected that the three countries involved in the single visa wanted to isolate Tanzania. “The areas of cooperation the three countries are working on are no different from the ones we collectively discussed during the chairmanship of Mwai Kibaki [former Kenyan president],” he stated. “If they have all of a sudden chosen to isolate us, all we can do is leave them alone and wish them well.”
In a statement published in September, the Burundian government said that the move by the three signatory countries to go ahead with signing the agreement raised doubts amongst the other member states.
The government of Burundi added that while it recognised that the EAC Treaty allows for countries to fast track community projects if necessary, it also states that decisions should be taken with the consensus of all member states, which was not the case with the visa agreement.
However, at the time of the agreement on Aug. 2, the Rwandan Minister for the EAC Jacqueline Muhongayire said: “We want to make it clear that the two other countries [Burundi and Tanzania] have not been left out. They can opt into this agreement once it is a priority for them.”
Okota said that although the introduction of the single visa has been delayed since 2006 because of issues of security and inadequate infrastructure in some EAC countries, the current main causes of disagreement are the fee charges and revenue sharing arrangements.
“There are still small problems with the pricing and revenue allocation from the single visa system,” Denise Nijimbere, acting director of the Burundi Tourism National Office, admitted to IPS.
However, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta believes that the single visa is the only way that the EAC can attract a larger number of tourists.
“The aim is to market the gorillas of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi and the wildlife of Kenya and Tanzania as a package,” Kenyatta told a regional tourism forum in Kenya last month, adding that he hoped the visa would be implemented by all countries before the end of 2014.
By Taylor Toeka KakalaIps Africa

DR Congo M23 rebels 'end insurgency'


M23 military leader Sultani Makenga (file pic March 2013) The government says M23 military leader Sultani Makenga has fled
The M23 rebel group in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo says it is ending its insurgency, hours after the government claimed military victory.
In a statement, the movement said it would adopt "purely political means" to achieve its goals and urged its fighters to disarm and demobilise.
The government said the last remaining rebels had either surrendered or fled the country overnight.
The army says it will now pursue other rebel groups that do not disarm.
At least 800,000 people have fled their homes since the M23 took up arms in 2012 but several other armed groups still operate in the mineral-rich eastern DR Congo.
M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa announced on Tuesday that "the chief of general staff and the commanders of all major units are requested to prepare troops for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration on terms to be agreed with the government of Congo".

Start Quote

The next target for the Congolese army and the UN should, said [US envoy Russell] Feinstein, be the FDLR”
End Quote
His decision to pursue its aims by political means was posted on a Facebook page linked to the group.
Although the statement came after an apparently heavy military defeat, it also followed an agreement by African leaders on Monday night that the M23 should make "a public declaration renouncing rebellion" to allow a peace accord to be signed with the Congolese government.
Congolese Defence Minister Alexandre Luba Ntambo, after the summit in the South African capital Pretoria, said once the rebels had publicly abandoned their insurgency the government "would make a public declaration of acceptance of this". Five days later, a formal peace agreement would be signed, he added.
The BBC's Milton Nkosi in South Africa says, with its announcement on Tuesday, the M23 appears to have met the conditions of the African leaders.
While Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was at the summit, Rwanda's Paul Kagame was conspicuous by his absence, our correspondent says. Rwanda's foreign minister was at the meeting, however.

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We now speak to other armed groups to surrender because if they don't want to, then we will disarm them by force”
End Quote Colonel Olivier Hamuli Congolese army spokesman
The UN has regularly accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23, although both governments deny the allegation.
The US and other donors have cut aid to Rwanda over the allegations.
'Hit-and-run operations'
DR Congo Information Minister Lambert Mende said on Tuesday that Congolese special forces had driven the rebels out of their final hilltop strongholds near the Ugandan border.
Tanks and helicopters from a UN intervention brigade with a tough new mandate to "neutralise" rebel groups approved earlier this year have also been involved in recent fighting.
"We can say that it's finished. But you never know," Mr Mende told the BBC's Newsday programme. "Those who escaped can come with hit-and-run operations so we have to end everything politically so that we are sure our people can sleep quietly without any threat."
Rebel military chief Sultani Makenga was among those who had crossed the border either to Rwanda or Uganda, he added.
Army spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli said it was "a victory for the Congolese people" but it was now important to sue for peace.

Rebels in Congo

  • The M23 has been the most active group since April 2012
  • Made up mostly of ethnic Tutsis, like Rwanda's leaders
  • US and other donors have cut aid to Rwanda, accusing it of backing the M23
  • Rwanda denies the charges
  • At least 10 other armed groups still operate in eastern DR Congo
  • They often make money by controlling the trade in the region's minerals such as gold, tin and coltan
"We now speak to other armed groups to surrender because if they don't want to, then we will disarm them by force," the army spokesman told the BBC.
A number of rebel factions operate in the two eastern provinces of North and South Kivu.
The information minister also warned that other rebel groups would now be targeted by the army. "There is no more place in our country for any irregular group," Mr Mende told AFP news agency.
The M23, made up mainly of ethnic Tutsis, had now been replaced as "top of the list" by the Rwandan Hutu FDLR militia, he said. "We are going to get on with disarming them."
Rwanda's Tutsi-led government has twice invaded DR Congo, saying it wanted to stop Hutu groups, such as the FDLR, from attacking its territory.
Analysts say that if the FDLR were defeated, this would remove Rwanda's main justification for its involvement in Congolese affairs, although it denies backing the M23.
October offensive
US special envoy Russell Feingold told reporters in Pretoria the M23's announcement was "a significant, positive step". Rebels should be protected when they had disarmed, he said, but those guilty of serious crimes should not be given an amnesty.
Peace talks broke down in October in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, following two months of negotiations.
The Congolese army began a big offensive against rebel positions on 25 October, securing their last major stronghold at Bunagana on the Ugandan border last week.
The M23, made up of army deserters, was named after a 23 March 2009 peace deal signed by the government and a former militia.
The rebels accused the government of failing to live up to the terms of the agreement and took up arms in April 2012, at one point seizing the regional capital, Goma.
Earlier this year, heavy fighting broke out between rebel factions of the M23 which led to one of its leaders, Bosco Ntaganda, fleeing to the US embassy in Rwanda. The former Congolese army general, known as "the Terminator", then surrendered to the International Criminal Court to face trial in The Hague on war crimes charges.
The end of the M23 would send an intimidating message to the other groups, raising hopes of an end to two decades of conflict, BBC Africa security correspondent Moses Rono says.
Eastern DR Congo has been wracked by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda after carrying out a genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
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Understanding DR Congo
Map showing the location of different rebel groups in eastern states of Democratic Republic of Congo Eastern DR Congo is awash with a variety of different rebel groups. This is a snapshot of their locations in late 2012. Some have come from neighbouring countries, while others have formed as self-defence groups. Many are taking advantage of the lack of a strong state to seize control of the area's mineral riches.


In Bahrain, development chips away at world's largest, oldest burial site


By Daisy Carrington, for CNN
Thousands of 4,000 year-old burial mounds, leftover from the Dilmun civilization, once covered a third of Bahrain's landmass. The mounds were largely intact when this picture was taken in 1956. Thousands of 4,000 year-old burial mounds, leftover from the Dilmun civilization, once covered a third of Bahrain's landmass. The mounds were largely intact when this picture was taken in 1956.
Bahrain, burying its heritage?
Bahrain, burying its heritage?
Bahrain, burying its heritage?
Bahrain, burying its heritage?
Bahrain, burying its heritage?
Bahrain, burying its heritage?
Bahrain, burying its heritage?
  • Bahrain has the largest collection of prehistoric burial mounds in the world
  • Some of the mounds date back to 2050 BC
  • Housing strain has led to the demolition of 90% of the mounds
  • Bahrain has nominated the remaining mounds for World Heritage status
(CNN) -- Development in Bahrain has not been slow. In half a century, the small Gulf Island has grown from a hilly, desert landscape with 143,000 inhabitants to an overcrowded metropolis of 1.2 million residents. The most striking change, however, has been topographical.
Up until the 1960s, the country boasted the world's largest collection of prehistoric burial mounds -- an archaeological wonder left over from the 4,000-year-old Dilmun civilization.
In the decades that followed, 90% of these funerary hills fell victim to housing and infrastructure pressure, and were demolished to make room for causeways and residential estates.
"It's a really important archive," notes Steffen Laursen, an archaeologist with the Moesgaard Museum who has been excavating a collection referred to as the "royal" mounds in the northern district of A'ali. The royal mounds are so called because of their stature -- many measure 40 feet in height. The entombed, however, ranged from community leaders to the heads of commercial dynasties.
Aside from the sheer breadth of mounds -- at their peak they numbered 76,000 -- their importance rests in their age, rarity and what they reveal about ancient society. Laursen has found that that the oldest mounds date from 2050 BC, when Dilmun (the name the Sumerians used to refer to the country) was little more than a collection of tribes, to 1750 BC, by which time it had morphed into an economic powerhouse in the region.
"People's lives and the development of their society are frozen in these cemeteries in a way you don't see anywhere else. I see them as a unique laboratory for the study of social improvements. It's really an important archive," he says.
Now, it's a wasteland of flattened land with half-built houses on it.
Robert Killick, archaeologist
Unfortunately, the mounds have for decades been at odds with development in the country. Bahrain is only 760 square kilometers yet it has the third highest population density in the world.
"There is huge pressure to build houses for the expanding population. It's an issue that's probably present in other counties, but it's exacerbated in Bahrain because of how little land is available," says Robert Killick, an archaeologist who in the 1990s led excavations of a settlement near the burial field at Saar in the northwest.
Killick remembers leaving the site only to return and find a set of particularly impressive mounds bulldozed by a private developer.
"Bahrain's archeology department was able to carry out a little rescue work, but it was minimal, and over a very short time span," he recalls."Now, it's a wasteland of flattened land with half-built houses on it."
Britta Rudolff, the managing director at Think Heritage!, an organization working with the Ministry of Culture to secure heritage status, points out that the sheer percentage of land the mounds covered makes preservation a thorny, and at times unfeasible prospect.
Today, development has encrouched to the edge of the remaining mounds.
Today, development has encrouched to the edge of the remaining mounds.
"Housing is a strong need here. There are a good number of young families looking for flats, who in the meantime are forced to live with their parents. The need for development and the use of cultural resources needs to be balanced in a useful way," she says.
In the last five years, however, there's been a push by Bahrain's Ministry of Culture to better preserve the country's national treasures.
"Bahrain feels a huge responsibility to preserve the remaining mounds, and to transfer them to future generations," says Rudolff, who estimates that should UNESCO approve their petition, the mounds should be granted protection by 2016.
"We hope that the concept will also allow the communities near the fields to gain a financial benefit."
Some experts, however, argue the bulk of damage has already been done.
"It's really too little, too late," says Killick.
"When I worked in Bahrain in the 1990s and saw what happened to the burial field at Saar, I thought, in 20 years, Bahrain will be concrete from one side of the island to the other. It's only when a society looks back and realizes its heritage is gone that it truly understands what it has lost."