UN rights monitor criticises Bahrain over shiite expulsion


Bahraini mourners hold up posters bearing the images of Ahmed al-Mesgen, 16, and Ali Abbas, 18, as they chant slogans during their funeral in Meqsha, Bahrain, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
Bahraini mourners hold up posters bearing the images of Ahmed al-Mesgen, 16, and Ali Abbas, 18, as they chant slogans during their funeral in Meqsha, Bahrain, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
GENEVA: The UN's religious freedom monitor on Thursday urged Sunni-ruled Bahrain to halt discrimination against its Shiite majority and its spiritual leader, who was expelled from the Gulf kingdom this week.
The case of Sheikh Hussein al-Najati was a stark illustration of the broader mistreatment of Shiites in Bahrain, UN expert Heiner Bielefeldt said in a statement.
He said that he had contacted Bahrain's government to press his "grave concerns" over what he said appeared to be "religiously motivated discrimination" against Najati.
"Targeting the most senior and influential Shia religious figure in Bahrain may amount to intimidating and thus discriminating against the entire Shia Muslim community in the country because of its religious beliefs," he said.
"Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms," he added.
Najati, the Bahrain representative of Iraq-based Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was among 31 Bahrainis stripped of their citizenship in November 2012 over accusations that they had undermined state security, more than a year after authorities crushed a Shiite uprising in March 2011.
"International law, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, prohibits arbitrary deprivation of nationality, including on religious grounds," said Bielefeldt, the former head of Germany's national human rights office who took up his UN post in 2010.
Bahrain's interior ministry this week accused Najati -- born in 1960 to Iranian parents in Bahrain -- of collecting and distributing funds in the name of Sistani despite not being an official representative of a party.
The deported cleric arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday.
"I understand that Mr. Najati has consistently refrained from engaging into politics, and has maintained his position and activities strictly in the realm of his religion," said Bielefeldt.
"He is not known to have advocated violence or its use, or to have committed acts that would undermine national security or public order, nor has he been charged or sentenced for committing such acts," he said.
Sistani, who is based in the Iraqi city of Najaf, in 2011 condemned Bahrain's crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired protests which demanded democratic reforms in the Gulf kingdom.
Bahrain remains deeply divided three years after the February 2011 uprising, with persistent protests sparking clashes with police, scores of Shiites jailed on "terror" charges and reconciliation talks deadlocked.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2014/Apr-24/254268-un-rights-monitor-criticises-bahrain-over-shiite-expulsion.ashx#ixzz2zqbXO6Pw
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)




U.S. Embassy Releases Demonstration Notices
Interior Ministry Deports Shiite Cleric

"How Bahrain Makes Friends while Repressing its People"

ADHRB Releases Report on Government's Implementation of UPR Recommendations


Official News and Statements
U.S. Embassy Releases Demonstration Notices: The U.S. Embassy released two demonstration notices this week warning U.S. citizens about areas that would “likely experience violent protests.” The notices added: “IED usage throughout the country continues to take place primarily in the restricted areas and against police forces. Additional IED attacks remain likely.” Additionally, the notices recommended that U.S. citizens remain aware of the security situation, saying that “spontaneous and, at times, violent anti-government of Bahrain protests continue to occur... Protesters have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and used homemade weapons to include improvised explosive devices and shotgun like projectile launchers. To counter these acts the Ministry of Interior will utilize crowd control measures, such as tear gas, stun grenades, and birdshot. Violent clashes between security forces and protesters can make travel in and around Bahrain dangerous without advance warning.”

Updates from Bahrain
Protester Dies from Pellet Wounds: Abdul-Aziz al-Abbardied on Friday from shotgun pellet wounds sustained during clashes with police” during a funeral procession on February 23 of this year. Arabian Business reported that al-Abbar is “the first person to be killed in such circumstances since February last year.” Al-Abbar “was hit by a teargas canister and shotgun pellets fired by riot police,” and was in a coma until his death. Al-Abbar’s cousin, Sayed Hassan, said that Al-Abbar’s death certificate claims he “died from brain damage and blood flow problems, without specifying what caused this.” Hassan told Reuters that his family refused to sign the death certificate and will not do so until they “get an[official] report that Abdul-Aziz died from shotgun pellets.”

Interior Ministry Deports Shiite Cleric:The Interior Ministry said it decided to
deport Hussain Najati, “the Bahraini representative for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most powerful Shiite figure,” according to the Washington Post.  The Interior Ministry explained the decision by saying Najati “was not transparent and did not communicate with Bahraini officials as to his situation in the country,” saying that they learned from “top Iraqi government officials” and a Shiite leader in Lebanon about Najati’s relationship with al-Sistani. Najati allegedly “collects money and redistributes it in the name of al-Sistani.” The statement continued: “Working as an official agent to any organization requires an official letter that declares the responsibilities and activities of the individual and the approval of the appropriate government office is required. As none of the required procedures had been taken, it was decided to deport Najati in accordance with the laws and regulations in Bahrain.” Najati was stripped of his nationality in June 2012, but the Interior Ministry did not explain how he had continued to live in Bahrain since then. Reuters reported that al-Wefaq “posted pictures of Najati arriving in Lebanon on its Instagram account and tweeted that he was forced to leave after being harassed by the government for over a year.” Al-Wefaq said the ministry’s statement “is a frank declaration to target the Shiite sect and practice sectarian persecution” and said the deportation “crossed humanitarian and legal boundaries and illustrates the Authority’s persistence to act against the International Law for Human Rights. In fact, the measures even contradict local laws."
Court Imprisons 14 for Spying, Iran Connections: A court handed down life imprisonment sentences to 12 men for “spying, receiving training from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and processing weapons and explosives.” Two others were given 15-year prison sentences. Al Jazeera reported that six of the 12 were “convicted in absentia.” In a separate incident, eight men were charged with being part of a terrorist group “that makes and uses explosives ‘targeting police members with the intention of killing them for the purpose of sowing chaos and sedition, and weakening state institutions to make them fail,’” according to public prosecutor Hussein Albouali.
Police Arrest Escaped Detainees: Two detainees, Redha Abdullah Al Ghasra and Hussain Al Bana, escaped from Jau prison on Monday and were arrested Wednesday after “an intensive manhunt” by the Interior Ministry and the National Security Agency. According to the Interior Ministry, the two detainees “were found hiding in a house in Saar along with seven other wanted individuals.”  Police additionally found "weapons, bullets, explosives, and remote-control detonators” in the house. Police also searched some ma’atams (community centers) after some of the people who were arrested told police they used them “in various villages to store homemade weapons and bomb-making material.” After the incident, the Interior Ministry dismissed the prison's chief and demoted him to the “general security department.”

Two Bahrainis Die in Car Explosion: Two people were
killed Saturday in the village of al-Maqshaa from a car explosion. Bahrain’s Interior Ministry reported that “police responded to the scene where they found a gutted car containing two dead bodies.” A third person was injured during the incident. According to the BBC, “it is not clear whether the victims were deliberately targeted or whether they were planning to carry out an attack themselves.” The National Democratic Opposition Parties said they felt “the available information is still unclear and strange” and suggested “the incident requires an international investigation to reveal who stands behind such suspicious explosions.”

Analysis and Commentary 
Dickinson Comments on "Disappearing Moderates": Elizabeth Dickinson wrote that "with each violent incident, the influence and political capital of the mainstream opposition is being whittled away. And their ability to negotiate with authorities - something that both sides agree is vital to settling three years of political turmoil - is slipping." She argued that "since anti-government protests first erupted in 2011, opposition communities have slowly drifted away from the moderate center that their original, Arab Spring-inspired protests espoused." She concluded that "perhaps the fading center is exactly the point...an attack last month happened just as progress was being made in reopening political talks -- now delayed again."
"How Bahrain Makes Friends while Repressing its People": John Horne referenced a quote from King Hamad al Khalifa where he “praised Gandhi as someone ‘who believed in his cause, which he pursued until it was realized’” as an example of “how the Bahraini regime has tried to convince the world through words, not actions, that it is committed to reform.” He explained that, since Bahrain gained independence in 1971, the government “has worked to shore up old allies and forge new ones, as a means of obtaining impunity for its repressive actions” and he details how the government has done this so successfully. A main tactic Horne highlighted is the government’s “emphasis on security,” saying that Bahrain is a “useful customer for Western states keen to boost exports in the wake of the global recession.” He also explained Bahrain’s utility for the U.S. as an ally against Iran and as a home for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Horne asserted that both the U.S. and the UK “are trying to shepherd Bahrain’s political system back to a largely pre-2011 status quo, albeit with power sharing concessions to the opposition.” He concluded that, “states continue to view Bahrain as a useful ally and, when pressed, express confidence in the ruling family’s ability and willingness to reform. In doing so, they only help to perpetuate gross human rights abuses, authoritarian rule, a culture of impunity, and instability. A different, democratic, Bahrain is possible. But it requires, in part, that nations stop propping up the corrupt system.”
Alwadi Praises Positive Impact of Social Media: Nada Alwadi wrote, "Since the uprisings in February 2011 the Bahraini female activists but also ordinary Bahraini women have emerged as new leaders in the society, and this is due to the increasing role of social media." She said that an achievement of the uprising in Bahrain so far has been "giving women a political outlet to prove themselves as real players to the general public to see." She commented that "the portrayal of women in Bahrain has dramatically shifted; women are now being portrayed as proactive leaders, vocal, and brave."

International & Bahraini Rights Organizations
ADHRB Assesses Implementation of UPR Recommendations: Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain released a report assessing both the technical aspects of the government’s implementation of 176 recommendations submitted during Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, and the effects, or lack thereof, the implementation has had on “resolving the major political and human rights challenges that exist.” ADHRB found that not one of the 176 recommendations has been fully implemented and said that, “perhaps most astonishingly, we find that though technical measures have been taken to meet the requirements of a majority of the recommendations, there has been no perceived progress towards resolving the problems the recommendations were intended to address.” ADHRB urged the Bahraini government to “carry out its own frank and transparent assessment of their efforts thus far” and “recommit itself to fully implementing both the letter and the spirit of the UPR’s recommendations” and encouraged the international community to “push the Bahrain government to implement reforms” and “increase its efforts to shine a light on the human rights abuses that persist in Bahrain.”
Front Line Defenders Critiques bin Ashoor's Article: In response to Sarah bin Ashoor’s recent article, Front Line Defenders’ Deputy Director Andrew Anderson said bin Ashoor “severely distorted the facts of the situation.” Anderson wrote that bin Ashoor's argument is based on the false idea that “the crisis in Bahrain is the product of a conspiracy by Iran.” Anderson explained that the royally commissioned BICI report “found absolutely no evidence of Iranian involvement in the protests and demonstrations.” Anderson additionally pointed out other facts bin Ashoor ignored including “the violent clampdown on peaceful protests,” “the arrest and ill treatment of medical personnel who had treated injured protesters,” “the use of arbitrary detention for prolonged periods during which detainees were denied access to family or lawyers and routinely tortured, leading to deaths in custody,” and unfair trials. Andrew also addressed bin Ashoor's claims about imprisoned human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.  
"Stories from Bahrain’s Crackdown: Dr. Fatima Haji": Writing for Human Rights First, Diana Sayed told the story of Dr. Fatima Haji. Haji was working at the Salmaniya Medical Complex when security forces “surrounded and then occupied” it during a “declared state of emergency.” Haji was interrogated about her participation in the protests at the Pearl Roundabout and arrested a month later. After searching her home and seizing some of her property, authorities detained Haji for 21 days, during which she “was subjected to different types of torture.” She filed a case against a member of Bahrain’s ruling family that was involved in her arrest and torture, “but the case was dismissed after one hearing.” Haji was one of 20 medics convicted in September of 2011 for “conspiring to overthrow the monarchy by supporting the pro-democracy protests.” Haji was released and now advocates for reform in Bahrain.  
Bahrain Must Address Legacy of Military Courts: Marie Soueid of Human Rights First wrote that "with ongoing discussion of national reconciliation in Bahrain, coming to an agreement will be all but impossible without first addressing the legacy of the National Safety Courts and the fate of those still imprisoned under their rulings." She said that "activists convicted for exercising their freedom of expression remain in jail, having exhausted all of the available appeals." Soueid argued, "If the Bahraini government is going to release them, as it needs to for any real political settlement to emerge, it may have to concede the illegitimacy of both the tribunals and the appeals process."


‘Township’ is a planet for aliens


A few days ago, Bizcommmunity, an online platform for writings about, amongst other things, content about media, PR and advertising in South Africa (though you wouldn’t say by the 1996-era site design) published an article riddled with stereotypes. “The township is no longer a foreign land far away and its story is no longer one of the haves and have-nots,” writes one Danette Breitenbach. But the narrative Ms Breitenbach weaves here is not hers alone.
Her opening sentence is an odd one: it attempts to debunk stereotypes about what she calls ‘the township’, as opposed to townships in plural form and not as one thing and yet she also propagates the stereotype. The latter part of that sentence is not at all incorrect, given of course that one is referring to townships in the sense of topography and not economy. Townships were designed as such that they are far away from cities and suburbs where white people lived during the Apartheid years. The other problematic issue here is the expression ‘The Township’. She quantifies a million people into a single place, as if, the township is a planet that only has one person. South Africa has many townships; yes they have similarities, a fact true for cities and suburbs, yet people talk of cities and suburbs and not the city or the suburb when referring to them.
The article was about findings by a company called Ask Afrika, which conducted research to understand township consumers. ‘Township consumers’ is another problematic wording. Many advertising agencies have held the view that there is one consumer living in townships, that people in the townships have the same buying habits. Findings by Ask Africa enlighten the advertising industry that there is actually no such thing. To conduct research to come to the realization that townships are as dynamic as cities and suburbs is redundant. When the Group Areas of 1950 became effective and forced removal became priority of the Apartheid government, the very people that were being moved were dynamic; to then investigate if they are dynamic in 2014 is ridiculous.
Continue reading on Africaisacountry
by Dudumalingani Mqombothi

Intimacy in Africa (on film)


When Hollywood does Africa, there’s little in the romance and love department, unless it’s about Karin Blixen making ill-fated choices (in white colonial men) or some random family who move to Africa and fall in love with the land … and the flame trees (you know the list I’m thinking about).
When a white do-gooder escapee from European/British stultification falls for a gorgeous Ugandan–she’s going to get chopped up by Idi. If ever we see black characters falling in love, their romantic world is overshadowed by various external crises—warlords, corrupt politicians, locusts, famine, war (then a nice white aid worker helps one kid). Love is rarely explored in terms of the emotional and existential crises that love between two white people from America or Europe is explored, or in a silly, light-hearted way that focuses on the couple’s respective families and friends behaving badly (as in the style of, say, ‘Love Jones’ or the remake of ‘About Last Night’).
The just inaugurated Intimacy in Africa at the University of Chicago hopes to change some of those skewed perceptions. The series is curated and organized by Erin Moore, a comparative human development graduate student at the university, whose goals for the series include bringing attention to African filmmakers who challenge prevalent cinematic depictions of the continent.
The six films that make up the series, according to Moore, provide a comparative perspective on issues of “domesticity, intimacy, sexuality, subjectivity and affect in Africa and the diaspora.” Through their focus on the domestic sphere, this set of films provides a space in which ideas of love, intimacy, and sex are brought to the foreground even as they are shaped by and impact larger issues of politics, history, and culture. Thus while these films–set in and between Senegal, France, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Mali, Mozambique, Uganda and the United States–grow out of engagements with the historical and social conditions of colonialism, post-independence, and globalization, they also articulate the roles intimacies have played and continue to play in African lives. Each film will be followed by a short discussion, creating a forum for viewers to engage with the individual films and also as a unified body of work.
continue reading on Africa is a country 
By Chandani PatelAfrica is a country 


Egypt to ‘escalate’ Ethiopian dam dispute


Blue Nile River, Egypt and Ethiopia have been engaged in a war of words over its potential impacts.
Ethiopia believes the massive dam will herald an era of prosperity, spurring growth and attracting foreign currency with the export of power to neighbouring countries. But Egypt has raised concerns about the downstream effects, as the Blue Nile supplies the Nile with about 85 percent of its water.
Both sides say they seek a negotiated solution, but they remain at loggerheads, with negotiations stalled. Ethiopia insists the dispute must be resolved through negotiations between the two parties, with Mahamoud Dirir, the ambassador to Egypt, noting in a statement last month that "there are only two… countries in the entire world which are well-placed to mediate between Egypt and Ethiopia."
Egypt, meanwhile, is quietly lobbying the international community for support against what it says is a violation of international law, diplomatic sources confirmed to Al Jazeera.
"Egypt plans to take actions to escalate the situation against Ethiopia," said a western diplomat in Cairo, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But the exact implications of these actions [are] still unclear." More...


Kuwait papers closed for violating 'plot' blackout


A Kuwaiti judge has ordered the temporary closure of two newspapers for breaking a news blackout about an alleged coup plot.
The independent newspapers, Al Watan and Alam Al Yawm, published details of a videotape said to show former senior officials planning the overthrow of the Gulf state's leadership.
Both papers have been ordered to stop printing for two weeks.
The editor of Al Watan said it would appeal against the suspension.
He told Reuters news agency: "I do not think we talked about the tape more than any other newspaper."
The videotape purportedly contains allegations of a plot to topple the government of the Western-backed emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah.
Reports about the tape have featured extensively in local media since the start of the year, prompting a recent call from the emir's office to stop discussing the topic.
Earlier this month the Kuwaiti prosecutor's office ordered a media blackout of the investigation. Last week MPs discussed the tape behind closed doors.
Kuwait's parliament is one of the few elected bodies in the Gulf.
The country is home to about a dozen daily newspapers, which often include criticism of government ministers including some ruling family members.

Bahrain: Bomb targets Civil Defence men

Ministry: 2 killed in apparent Bahrain car bombing


MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) -- Authorities in Bahrain say an apparent car bombing has killed two people and wounded one west of the capital, Manama.
A statement Saturday from the Interior Ministry said the blast happened in Mughsha, a village along a highway west of the capital. It said investigators found traces of explosives in the car.
Bahrain has been roiled by three years of unrest, with a Shiite-dominated opposition movement demanding greater political rights from the Sunni monarchy. The country is a small, Western-allied island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia that is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
Separately, the ministry said a bomb thrown at security officials trying to stop a tire fire Saturday wounded three men.


Two killed in Bahrain car explosion


Manama: An explosion in a car killed two people and wounded a third in a village in Bahrain on Saturday, the Interior Ministry said.
The ministry said on its Twitter account the explosion was in the village of Al Maqshaa, along the Budayya highway, outside the capital Manama.
“Initial inspections uncovered two burnt bodies and a third with burn wounds was taken to hospital,” the ministry said.
There were early signs the car contained explosive substances, it added.
The US-allied kingdom, which is home to the US Fifth Fleet, has been hit by several small bombings in recent weeks as the country faces protests from its Shiite community.
The protesters want political reforms and an end to perceived discrimination in the country. Bahrain denies any discrimination.
In one of the most serious recent attacks, three policemen were killed in a bomb attack in March in the village of Daih while security forces were trying to disperse a group who were blocking roads in the village after a funeral.
Since then, several explosions, mostly of homemade bombs, have injured at least three policemen in Shiite villages around the island.


UAE girl Andria D’souza stars in Kamasutra 3D


Abu Dhabi: A UAE girl stars in Bollywood flick Kamasutra 3D out next month.
Andria D’Souza aka Ria plays an Arabian queen in the erotic flick based on Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian text and one of the most widely read works on human sexuality.
Asked if she had inhibitions while doing sexually explicit scenes, Ria, originally from Mangalore, India, said: “I am cast opposite Milind Gunaji and have just one intimate scene. I must say I was freaking nervous, but director Rupesh Paul put me at ease and shot it very aesthetically. At the end of the day, we are actors and have to do what the script demands.”
Born and raised in Dubai, Ria studied at Our Own English High School. She worked as a radio jockey with a local FM channel and then as a TV host for ZEE TV Middle East before making her movie debut in 2012 with Malayalam romantic thriller Casanovva staring south Indian film star Mohanlal.
Kamasutra 3D was shown at the 66th Cannes International Film Festival and was also in the contention list of the 86th Academy Awards.


WHO: Ebola outbreak one of 'most challenging'


(CNN) -- The Ebola outbreak in coastal West Africa is still contained to Guinea and Liberia, the World Health Organization announced Tuesday, despite rumors of the virus spreading to other countries.
Cases have been reported in Sierra Leone, Mali and Ghana, but the WHO says none has been confirmed. Rumored cases in Mali are still being investigated.
The number of suspected cases in Guinea has grown to 157, with 101 deaths. Sixty-seven have been confirmed as Ebola. In Liberia, 21 cases have been reported, including 10 deaths. Five of the cases have been confirmed as Ebola.
The outbreak has "rapidly evolved" since originating in the forests of southeastern Guinea. The city of Guekedou, near the borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia, has seen the majority of the deaths.
Twenty cases are believed to have occurred in Guinea's capital, Conakry, according to WHO.
"This is one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks that we have ever faced," said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, WHO's assistant director-general for health security.
It's the first emergence of Ebola in western Africa, which means doctors and health officials in the region don't have any experience with the virus. Outbreaks generate a lot of fear and anxiety, Fukuda said, which can lead to misinformation.
Dozens killed by ebola outbreak
Doctors work to isolate Ebola outbreak
Ebola virus spreads to Guinea capital
Guinea: Ebola virus spreading fast
The U.N. agency is trying to track people who had encountered the victims and make sure "that all those who have been in contact with infected people are being checked upon," spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told CNN last week.
There are about 50 staff currently deployed in the area and more are set to go shortly. They are working to prevent the spread of infection, primarily in health care facilities, and are sending personal protective equipment to surrounding countries.
"What is really important is to inform the population of Guinea and Conakry about this disease, as this is the first time they are facing Ebola," Jasarevic said. "They need to know what it is and how they can protect themselves."
The aid organization Doctors Without Borders has called the outbreak unprecedented, because previous cases have been limited to a small area.
Mali's government reported on its Facebook page last week that biological samples tied to three suspected Ebola cases within its borders were being sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for analysis. WHO said two of the samples have come back negative; they are still waiting on the other. Nine Ebola cases total are suspected in the country.
Ebola is one of the world's deadliest viruses, causing a hemorrhagic fever that kills up to 90% of those infected. It spreads in the blood and shuts down the immune system, causing high fever, headache and muscle pain, often accompanied by bleeding.
Close to 9 in 10 of the patients WHO health professionals are seeing with Ebola are dying, said Dr, Stephane Hugonnet, who returned from southeast Guinea last weekend.
"Ebola is clearly a severe disease," Fukuda said. "It is also an infection that can be controlled. ... We know very well how this virus is transmitted."
The virus is named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), where one of the first recorded outbreaks occurred in 1976.
CNN's Miriam Falco, Jacque Wilson, Matt Smith and Anna Maja Rappard contributed to this report.

Egypt’s Military Economy: Money is Power, Power is Money


Cairo – Momentum is continuing to build towards Egypt’s 26 May elections, which are widely expected to see Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stroll into the presidential office. After a long period of speculation, the recently promoted Field Marshall finally announced last month that he would be taking off his military slacks and stepping into civilian shoes to run for top office.
In a poll in March, 39% of Egyptians said they were planning to vote for him, while fewer than 1% of respondents said they were planning to vote for any of the other candidates. Anything but a Sisi victory seems highly unlikely, and come May, the military’s hold on power will have become even further entrenched. It was only in January 2011 that Hosni Mubarak − a military man too, like all his predecessors since 1952 − was overthrown, but now it seems the Egyptian military is not only back in the seat of power, but perhaps stronger than ever. A look behind the political curtains at the backstage that is the Egyptian economy seems to bear this out.

Flexing muscle

With around 2 million personnel, including 500,000 in the army, the Egyptian military is the biggest in Africa, and one of the largest in the world. Arguably far more striking than the extent of its physical muscle, however, is the size of economic muscle. Its spokespeople consistently try to play down its role in Egypt’s economy, claiming the military is responsible for just 1% of the country’s GDP, but analysts tend to believe the military controls between 5 and 40% of the economy, with most leaning towards the higher end of that spectrum.
Exact figures are hard to come by. The military’s budget is kept confidential and its business dealings are typically untaxed and unaudited on apparent grounds of national security. It is known, however, that military is involved in countless different businesses in countless different industries. Military-owned companies engage in ventures from cement to shipbuilding, from fertiliser to fridges, and from tourism to televisions. The Egyptian army owns hospitals and child-care centres, it is a huge player in the country’s agricultural sector, and it has various contracts with foreign investors worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The military also owns vast tracts of land. In 1997, a presidential decree awarded the army the right to manage all of Egypt’s unused land. According to some estimates, that essentially gives the military de facto control of 87% of the entire country’s land mass.
continue reading on Think Africa Press 
By Joseph Hammond & James WanThink Africa Press 

Bahrain bomb blast wounds policeman


Manama: Bahrain’s interior ministry says a homemade bomb has exploded just outside the capital, Manama, wounding a policeman.
The ministry says the blast happened Friday in the village of Daih. The same area was the scene of a bomb attack in March that killed three policemen.
An investigation into the blast is ongoing.
Anti-government elements increasingly have been using homemade bombs against security forces.


UK uses health workers in counter-terror plan


Muslims in the UK say they are unfairly targeted by programme asking medical workers to identify potential 'terrorists'.

Al Jazeera's Matthew Cassel reports on the Prevent programme from Birmingham 
Medical workers, most would agree, have one important job to do: look after the well-being of their patients. However, in the UK, employees of the National Health Service are now being assigned another task: identifying potential terrorists.
This new directive comes from the Prevent programme, part of the UK government's counter-terrorism strategy created in the wake of the July 2005 London bombings.
As part of this mission, since last year Prevent has been providing mandatory training to employees of the National Health Service (NHS) on how to identify potential terrorists among patients, visitors and other medical staff, and report them to the authorities.
Documents given by Prevent to medical workers, copies of which were obtained by Al Jazeera, say the following: "The NHS has been identified as a key player in supporting the Prevent strategy as healthcare staff are considered to be well placed to help to identify concerns and protect people from radicalisation."
'Government informants'
Al Jazeera spoke to a nurse working for the NHS on condition of anonymity because she was not permitted to talk to the media. (Al Jazeera also learned of similar Prevent training being offered to educators, firefighters and others in the public sector; however, none agreed to discuss the training on record.)
The four elements of CONTEST, the UK government's counter-terrorism strategy, include:

Pursue: to stop terrorist attacks
Prevent: to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism
Protect: to strengthen the UK's protection against a terrorist attack
Prepare: to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack

"The healthcare worker's job is to ultimately treat your patient," the nurse said. "It doesn't matter what they walk in the door with - you, as a healthcare professional within whatever specialty you work, you've been trained to support them."
The nurse was concerned by the vague characteristics presented as indicators of possible radicalisation. One of the Prevent documents listed factors such as "identity crisis", "personal crisis" and "unemployment" that could make someone vulnerable to radicalisation.
The document also listed political views that NHS staff should look out for, such as a "rejection of UK foreign policy", "mistrust of Western media", and "perceptions that UK government policy is discriminatory [eg counter-terrorist legislation]".
The nurse said trainers were careful to avoid mentioning Muslims. However, medical staff were told that the main terrorist threat to the UK comes from Islamist groups, and the violent acts mentioned were mostly incidents perpetrated by Muslims.
She added that identifying potential terrorists was not part of her job as a health worker. "It's actually something that the police should be doing," she said. "Offering this training, it's almost as if we're becoming government informants."
Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester and national lead for Prevent's police programme, confirmed to Al Jazeera that medical workers and other civil servants were being given counter-terrorism training.
Sir Peter Fahy describes the goal of the Prevent programme 
"If there are health professionals who have serious concerns that the person they're dealing with is getting involved in extremist activity and that is harming their well-being and harming their community, then yes, absolutely, it's about them being able to raise those concerns," Sir Fahy said. "Clearly, there is a significant terrorist threat to this country. We can understand that people can feel very strongly about international issues and other political issues, and it's trying to identify people who may be at risk of taking that concern to a level of violence."
On its website, Prevent says it seeks to tackle terrorist threats wherever they occur. However, it also says that the "most serious is from al-Qaeda, its affiliates and like-minded organisations". With the overwhelming majority of Prevent's efforts focused on British Muslims, many in the minority community believe they are being unfairly targeted.
Sir Fahy acknowledged the grievance, and said he hopes to address complaints by making Prevent's efforts more transparent to the public. "It's really about how we... confront the threat of terrorism, but at the same time maintaining the confidence of the Muslim community as we go along."
Lost confidence
But that confidence may already be lost. Jahan Mahmood, a historian and former adviser to the government's counter-terrorism unit, said that while Prevent mentions possible extremism from a range of groups, "there is a disproportionate focus on Muslims, there is no doubt about that. And that's also one of the reasons it's failed to gain traction with the Muslim population".
 Journalist Reyhana Patel on how the perception of Prevent has changed among British Muslims 
In Birmingham's predominantly Muslim Sparkbrook neighbourhood, Mahmood pointed above his head to lampposts where in 2010, the government installed hundreds of surveillance cameras - ostensibly for monitoring crime in the area.
But it was soon exposed that the counter-terrorism unit installed the cameras to monitor residents. After an outcry from the Muslim community, bags were placed on top of the cameras and they were eventually removed, with authorities assuring that they had never been turned on.
Mahmood said the incident led to a serious breakdown of trust between Muslims and the police. Al Jazeera spoke to a number of British Muslims in cities like Birmingham and Manchester, who said they believe Prevent and other counter-terrorism efforts are less about preventing violence than about monitoring every aspect of Muslim life. This has left many in the community feeling alienated from the rest of British society.
But Mahmood warned that it's not only British Muslims who should be concerned over the government's counter-terrorism laws and programmes like Prevent.
In recent years, Mahmood said: "We've seen draconian legislation introduced - and that means we are surrendering our civil liberties. Where will this end? The rest of Britain needs to wake up to the fact that we are sleep-walking ourselves into very serious times."
Follow Matthew Cassel on Twitter: @matthewcassel


Car set ablaze in Bahrain explosion


Dubai: Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said that a car was set ablaze by the “detonation of a homemade bomb inside it.” The explosion occurred in the Adliya area, a neighbourhood in the southern part of the capital Manama, the Capital Governorate police said in a statement posted on the ministry’s Twitter account on Sunday evening.
An investigation into the incident has been launched, the police said.
Last year, four men were put on trial in connection with explosions on the same day in the Adliya and Gudhaibiya neighbourhoods that left two Asian workers dead and an Indian worker critically injured, the police said.
Suspects reportedly planted and detonated a homemade bomb near the Dilmun School in Adliya on November 5, 2012. A 34-year-old cleaning company employee lost his right hand and suffered severe injuries to his right leg in the explosion. Besides the Adliya bomb, four devices were concealed in garbage bins and another was placed under a car being repaired at a garage in the Gudhaibiya area in central Manama, that is heavily populated by Asian expatriates.
The blasts killed a 33-year-old Bangladeshi and a 29-year-old Indian in different parts of Gudhaibiya. The police had pledged a zero-tolerance policy towards any attempts to disturb public order or undermine the country’s stability.

Rwanda genocide: UN ashamed, says Ban Ki-moon


The UN is still ashamed over its failure to prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said.
He was addressing thousands of people in the capital, Kigali, as Rwanda began a week of official mourning to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide.
Many people were overcome by emotion during the ceremony, with some suffering fits.
At least 800,000 people - mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus - died at the hands of Hutu extremists.
The killings ended ended in July 1994 when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi-led rebel movement, marched into Kigali and seized control of the country.
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and Mr Ban lit a torch which will burn for 100 days - the length of time the genocide lasted.
A woman is helped out of the Amahoro stadium, in Kigali, on April 7,2014, during a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Rwanda's genocide. The emotions and memories were too much for some of the crowd to bear


Bahrain: F1

Ritwittato da S.Yousif Almuhafda
Ritwittato da
. authorities must not arrest peaceful protesters,journalists & bloggers covering protests

France pulls out of Rwanda genocide commemorations


The French government has announced that it is pulling out of the 20th anniversary commemorations on Monday for the Rwandan genocide.
The decision follows an accusation by the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, that France participated in the mass killings in 1994.
Mr Kagame has previously made similar allegations, which France has denied.
The French foreign ministry said the remarks went against reconciliation efforts between the two countries.
French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has cancelled her plans to attend the events in Kigali on Monday, foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal says.
Speaking to the French-language weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique, Mr Kagame denounced the "direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation for the genocide". Rwanda was a Belgian colony until 1962.
In the interview, due to be published on Sunday but carried out on 27 March, Mr Kagame is quoted as saying that, 20 years on, "the only plausible reproach in [France's] eyes is in not having done enough to save lives during the genocide".
It comes as Rwanda prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the atrocities that claimed at least 800,000 lives - mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus - over a period of about 100 days.
The violence was triggered by the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu who was killed in a plane crash on 6 April 1994.
It came to an end after Mr Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) - a Tutsi-led rebel group - defeated government troops in July that year.
His party still controls the government and has long accused France - an ally of Mr Habyarimana's government at the time - of aiding the genocide.
In recent years there has been a thaw in relations between the two countries, with a visit by Mr Kagame to Paris in 2011 and the establishment by France of a genocide investigation unit.
Last month, a Paris court sentenced former Rwandan spy chief Pascal Simbikangwa to 25 years in jail for his role in the genocide - the first such conviction in France.
France has acknowledged that serious errors were made during the genocide in Rwanda.
A Rwandan commission in 2008 said France was aware of preparations for the genocide and helped train ethnic Hutu militias who participated in killings.
Paris said its forces helped protect civilians as part of a UN-mandated intervention in Rwanda. But Mr Kagame said French troops had protected the militias carrying out the killings.


Afghanistan: Seen Through the Lens of Anja Niedringhaus


Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus has been covering conflicts from Bosnia to Afghanistan for more than 20 years, earning a Pulitzer Prize in 2005, as part of a team of AP photographers covering the Iraq War. She has traveled to Afghanistan numerous times, photographing events from 2001 until today, sending photos from Kandahar as recently as yesterday. Documenting a decades-long story like the Afghanistan War is a challenge for any photojournalist, from simple logistical issues, to serious safety concerns, to the difficulty of keeping the narrative fresh and compelling. Niedringhaus has done a remarkable job, telling people's stories with a strong, consistent voice, an amazing eye for light and composition, and a level of compassion that clearly shows through her images. Gathered here are just a handful of her photos from the war-torn nation, part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [40 photos]


Nato keen on developing strategic ties with GCC


Manama: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) Secretary General Anders Rasmussen said that the 28-member alliance was interested in developing its strategic relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
“As we look to the Wales Summit this September, we will work on ways to deepen our political dialogue and practical cooperation,” Rasmussen said as he opened the meeting between the Nato foreign ministers and representatives from Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the four GCC countries that have partnered with Nato through the Istanbul Conference Initiative (ICI).
“We will discuss how we can tailor our cooperation so that it fits our Gulf partners’ specific security needs,” the Nato Secretary General said on Wednesday at the alliance headquarters in Brussels.
The ICI was launched at the alliance’s summit in the Turkish coastal city in June 2004 to contribute to long-term global and regional security by offering GCC countries practical bilateral security cooperation with Nato.
Kuwait joined the ICI in December 2004, followed by Bahrain and Qatar in February 2005 and the UAE in June 2005.
“The launch of our initiative 10 years ago was a clear signal,” Rasmussen said at the meeting in the Belgian capital. “The security and stability of the Gulf region is of strategic interest to Nato. Just as the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area matters to the Gulf region. We need to protect our sea-lanes, energy supply routes, and cyber-networks. We face complex and interconnected security challenges, such as terrorism, piracy and proliferation. They are challenges that we need to tackle together,” he said.
Over the past decade, the dialogue and cooperation between Nato and the ICI member states have steadily intensified, he said.
“From Bosnia to Kosovo, and from Afghanistan to Libya, our Gulf partners have made valuable contributions to Nato-led operations. And we have tailored our practical cooperation to the specific security needs of our Gulf partners,” Rasmussen said.
The meeting at the level of foreign ministers between Nato and ICI countries was the first since the official launch of the initiative in June 2004.
“Today, we will discuss how we can continue to deepen our partnership and how Nato can work more closely with all Gulf countries. To build a truly strategic relationship between the Euro-Atlantic and the Gulf regions,” Rasmussen said.
According to Nato, the ICI countries have become during the last 10 years of their partnership with the alliance, “efficient security providers and have contributed to international efforts in protecting stability and security, including the Nato ISAF operation in Afghanistan and Operation Unified Protector in Libya in 2011.”
The ICI offers a diversified menu of practical cooperation activities from which the member countries can choose.
Activities include tailored advice on defence transformation, defence budgeting and civil-military relations; military-to-military cooperation including through selected military exercises; civil emergency planning and joint public diplomacy activities.
The ICI is complementary to, but distinct from, the Mediterranean Dialogue that Nato launched in December 1994, with countries in North Africa and Eastern Mediterranean.


Bahrain opposition plans F1 protests


Dubai: Bahrain’s influential Shiite opposition bloc Al Wefaq and a more radical group have called separate rallies for Friday to protest staging of the April 4-6 Formula One Grand Prix in Manama.
Demonstrations have been held during the annual three-day Grand Prix event every year since 2011 by opponents of the government in an attempt to highlight pro-reform demands.
The protests, which first erupted in the wake of a Shiite-led uprising in February 2011, have at times been marred by violence but the race has never been affected.
They are mainly staged in villages surrounding Manama and away from the Sakhir F1 circuit in the capital’s south.
The Bahrain Grand Prix practice sessions begin on Friday ahead of Sunday’s race.
Al Wefaq in a Tuesday statement urged its supporters to hold a rally on the main Budaya highway, four kilometres west of Manama, which links several villages.
Al Wefaq’s peaceful rallies are usually tolerated by the authorities and rarely end with clashes.
But protests by supporters of radical cyber-group the February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition are more violent and often end with clashes between police and demonstrators armed with petrol bombs.
The February 14 group, accused by authorities of links to Iran, called on its Facebook page for demonstrations on Friday in the Al Seef Junction area, west of Manama.
Protests in villages surrounding Manama began earlier this week, with witnesses reporting masked demonstrators staging rallies chanting: “No, no to Formula 1”.
The rallies have been broken up by police firing tear gas and sound grenades, with protesters hurling petrol bombs and throwing stones, according to witnesses.
Public security chief General Tariq Al Hassan said on Tuesday the authorities have taken “all measures and plans” to secure the April 4-6 Formula One event.
Police will deploy around the Sakhir circuit and along main roads leading to it, the official BNA news agency quoted Hassan as saying.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Bahrain’s hosting of the event, the race will this year take place at night.
Bahrain remains deeply divided three years after the Shiite-led protests were quelled, with persistent protests sparking clashes with police, scores of activists jailed on “terror” charges and reconciliation talks deadlocked.
The International Federation for Human Rights says at least 89 people have been killed in Bahrain since the uprising began in February 2011.