The Syrian regime is reported to have executed four Palestinian refugees on Wednesday from the Al-Aideen refugee camp in Homs.
The four victims are named as Wesam Al-Sayyed, Rami Subheya, Ahmed Al-Shuaibi and Abdul Razzaq Amayre.
Amayre is a Palestinian refugee from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.
Palestinian sources in Al-Aideen said Syrian regime forces kidnapped three of the four men’s wives to force them to surrender.
The men were found shot dead only a few hours after they surrendered.
According to the sources, the men’s wives are still being detained.
The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria reports that more than 2,670 Palestinian refugees were killed in Syria from the beginning of the crisis until 25 February.
(Source / 28.02.2015)
During his recent visit to Cairo in November 2014, Alain Gresh, former editor- in-chief of Le Monde Diplomatique, met with a couple of Egyptian acquaintances — a journalist and a student — in a downtown Cairo café.
During their chat, which unsurprisingly involved Egyptian politics, a middle-class Egyptian woman at the next table became highly alarmed by the exchange. Her anxiety did not stop at shouting at the journalists, accusing them of conspiring to destroy Egypt, but extended to actually calling on the security personnel guarding the nearby British Embassy to investigate the said conspiracy. The sad saga, which lasted for a few hours, ended with embarrassment for the Egyptian authorities and an apology to the French journalist.
Despite the Kafkaesque tone of the event, the “concerned citizen” had actually behaved in the only logical way expected of her after a relentless, year-long campaign by the regime and dominant pro-regime media to create a state of mass hysteria regarding Egypt’s security. Since the military takeover of 2013, a public discourse has evolved churning out incessant accounts in which enemies of the Egyptian state and its people — external and internal, known and unknown, human and otherwise — are constantly conspiring to plot against the country and target its security as well as the health of its economy.
Against a rich tapestry of intrigue and terrorist discourse, the security apparatus has emerged in this narrative as the only national savior capable of protecting the country from complete chaos. In fact, the legitimacy of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s administration continues to derive largely from his promise to rid the country of terrorists and to restore security and order. In this regard, he makes grateful use of actual violent attacks against military and other targets, especially in Sinai.
However, restoring a sense of trust in the police after the 2011 uprising remains unimaginable for the time being. After all, the January 25 uprising was in many ways a revolt against police brutality, and the role of security institutions in reproducing former President Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian neoliberal order and protecting its elite.
Contrary to mainstream accounts of the January 25 uprising as a peaceful episode led by middle-class, technology-savvy youth, the 18 days saw heavy violence from protesters mainly directed against police targets. During the first days of the uprising, almost 100 police stations were set on fire, many detention cells opened to release detainees and police cars torched. To revamp the image of the police and its tarnished standing for the majority of citizens, an atmosphere of panic in which the police is presented as the only guarantor against total chaos is employed as a strategy.
All the same, succeeding in this strategy has been no small feat, especially against the backdrop of a shocking series of acquittals of all police officers of any charges of killing thousands of protesters since the January uprising. The regime’s objective of elevating the image of the police to that of national protector has required spinning a web of laws, deepening layers of surveillance into areas of citizens’ everyday lives and, more importantly, enlisting citizens as participants in an omnipresent police regime.
Criminalizing the everyday
During 2014, and in the absence of a functioning parliament, two consecutive presidents, Adly Mansour and Sisi, decreed 140 new laws between them. The laws either criminalized new areas or made the penalties for already defined criminal activities more severe. This legal arsenal has resulted in criminalizing many everyday activities and turning the mundane into the subversive in the public’s mind.
The 140 new laws cover areas as varied as civil society organizations receiving foreign funding, practicing politics inside university campuses and insulting the national flag. The last instance, embodied in the presidential Law 41 of 2014, criminalized any form of insult to the national flag or national anthem, which is punishable by a prison sentence of no more than one year and an LE30,000 fine.
In a bid to comply with the law, the Ministry of Education decided that the same punishment will apply to school pupils whose behavior in morning assembly could be perceived as “insulting” the Egyptian flag. This could simply be the act of moving or passing in front of the flag while it is being saluted in morning assembly. The responsibility for the surveillance and reporting of miscreant pupils is left to fellow pupils, teachers and school management.
Turning citizens against each other and fueling existing tensions between competing groups in order to create a “culture of informing against fellow citizens” reached high levels in 2014. One example stands out in particular. After repeated failures to clear Cairo’s city center of street vendors — despite the use of violence, increased fines and prison sentences, especially since 2012 — the Cairo governorate issued a shrewd decree. The decree went beyond pursuing street vendors, to targeting fellow citizens who could now be punished for not reporting the offending vendors. The decree punishes, by closure and license confiscation, any shop owner who allows street vendors to set up their stalls in the immediate vicinity of their shop.
Sure enough, the new decree led to a wave of clashes between street vendors and shop owners who had long resented their presence, and regarded them as unwanted competition. Many shop owners were only too happy to report the vendors, especially when egged on by the fear of losing their licenses.
In a similar spirit of informing against one another, the Ministry of Transport recently launched the campaign “Long live Egypt — Security is our collective responsibility,” to encourage conscientious citizens to report any suspicious behavior from fellow commuters through a number of hotlines. The reward for reporting is an annual free transport subscription.
Layers of policing
Implementing the myriad new laws and providing surveillance for new areas of criminality has inevitably required an increase in the police force, its budget and its mandate. Already under Mubarak, the Ministry of Interior employed 1.7 million individuals in 2009, including 850,000 police personnel and administrative staff, 450,000 Central Security Forces (CFS) personnel, and 400,000 individuals as part of the State Security Investigation Services (SSIS). In addition to formal forces, and in order to support the needs of an ever-expanding regime of terror, the Interior Ministry started to “outsource” its “dirty” business to baltageya (thugs). Baltageya are criminals known to the police, usually with a record of violence, who are paid to “discipline” members of the public in return for the police turning a blind eye to their criminal activities.
The baltageya’s job description expanded to include voter intimidation, beating up, raping and sexually abusing criminal suspects and political activists, breaking up demonstrations and workers’ strikes, forcibly removing farmers from their land and much more. With the increasing dispossession and impoverishment of more groups in society due to intensive marketization, Mubarak’s regime became heavily reliant on the police. Since the 1990s, therefore, the Interior Ministry’s budget has consistently increased its share of general expenditure, exceeding those of education and health combined. Since the January 25 uprising, the trend has continued and the ministry’s budget has increased even further.
To meet the growing demand for personnel, Egypt’s Police Academy admitted 1,850 students for the new academic year in July 2014. The successful candidates, accepted on the basis of lower academic achievements compared to previous years, constituted the largest class intake in the history of the academy. In a press conference held by the Interior Ministry to mark the occasion, Ahmad Gad, assistant to the minister, quoted the inspiring role of the police force during the June 30 “revolution” to a new generation of youth as the main factor for the rush of young people to join the academy.
On the same occasion, it was also announced that new screening procedures had been put in place to exclude from admission any students who belonged to the banned Muslim Brotherhood organization. Around the same time, 75 existing students were being investigated and faced the prospect of expulsion in an effort to purge the academy and the police force of any Brotherhood elements.
A larger, more tightly vetted group of police graduates will come in handy to serve the proliferation of new police units. In July 2014, the Interior Ministry also reintroduced the traditional darak system, which was abolished in 1952 in favor of more modern forms of policing. The traditional darak consisted of a single, low-ranking police officer who would patrol the streets to provide surveillance.
The reinstated system will now consist of mobile units of three security officers working together. These include one officer armed with a pistol, and two conscripts armed with batons. The darak’s role is one of surveillance and reporting. The unit will patrol the streets and report any suspicious behavior to the closest police station, thus creating a better network of informing and surveillance. The plan is for this new system to beintroduced in the two middle-class areas of Zamalek and downtown Cairo’s Qasr al-Nil as a first step in a wider national plan.
The Interior Ministry has also been recruiting beyond graduates of the academy. In October 2014, the legislative section of the state council approved a draft law establishing community police, a new branch envisaged to involve a larger section of citizens in policing society. This branch will hire both men and women aged between 18 and 22 who hold the minimum qualification of a middle school degree. They will be granted the power of arrest. The new community police units will work on “aiding the police in facing crime, enhancing a sense of security among citizens and [more importantly] … creating a culture of security.”
An inflated police force is not unique to Egypt. With the rise of neoliberal capitalism and its strategies of “accumulation by dispossession,” many regimes, including those in the “democratic” West, have increased investment in policing and surveillance, especially targeting particular localities and populations — namely, the poor, the unemployed, migrants and blacks. Different policies such as the infamous stop-and-frisk, theInjunctions for the Prevention of Nuisance and Annoyance in the UK and the Prohibited Behavior Order in the State of Western Australia have created a culture of reporting, and often give increasing discretionary powers to the police.
However, what is peculiar to Egypt is the total sense of impunity that the police has long enjoyed. This impunity, along with the increasing resources and extended mandate discussed above, is set to continue into the foreseeable future as the police serves the current regime in one crucial way. A regime bereft of any source of legitimacy, save for its promise of guaranteeing security to the nation, stops at nothing to inflate a discourse of national security around which to rally an otherwise disgruntled citizenry. Central to cementing this security discourse is enlisting large sectors of the population into becoming active players in the surveillance and reporting of society. Perhaps the Journalists Syndicate chairperson’s recent call on journalists to report any colleagues “proven to have incited against the army and police” is a taste of what is yet to come.
(Source / 28.02.2015)
ISIS militants pound artworks in Mosul in their latest promotion video.
While no one should take ISIS to be any reduction of a hazard than it is, we competence take some tiny satisfaction from a probability that some of a sculptures a militants crushed on video this week during a Nineveh Museum in Mosul, Iraq, were replicas. While an Assyrian mill lion crushed in a videos is indisputably a terrible loss, a drop of replicas in this sold box might alleviate a blow.
“According to archaeologists, many if not all a statues in a Mosul museum are replicas not originals,” reports Channel 4 News, London. “The reason they pulp so simply is that they’re finished of plaster. ‘You can see iron bars inside,” forked out Mark Altaweel of a Institute of Archaeology during University College, London, as we watched a video together. ‘The originals don’t have iron bars.’”
“According to a British Institute,” adds Channel 4, “the originals were taken to Baghdad for safekeeping. ISIS substantially wouldn’t caring about a distinction. One fake statue is a same as another.”
All a same, greeting around a universe has been quick and frightened (see The Metropolitan Museum and Others Respond to ISIS Destruction of Assyrian Sculptures). ISIS has also finished a sprightly business in bootlegging antiquities out of a segment for sale on unfamiliar markets (see Increase in Antiquities Smuggling Busts amidst Government Crackdown), yet a general trade is mostly focused on smaller items.
Why are a militants so focussed on drop of a region’s informative heritage? Amr al-Azm, a Syrian anthropologist and historian, told a New York Times that a drop of artworks, and a massacre and constraint of Assyrians and others in a area that it accompanied, are strategic. While a militants explain that they are outstanding a sculptures given they are idols banned by Islam, he posits that “It’s all a provocation” directed to captivate U.S. and Iraqi army to try to retake Mosul. “They wish a quarrel with a West given that’s how they benefit credit and recruits,” Azm said.
ISIS has “repeatedly threatened to destroy [the museum’s] collection,” according to a Times, given they took a city in June.
(Source / 28.02.2015)
JENIN (Ma’an) – A teenage Palestinian boy from the northern West Bank says he was violently assaulted by Israeli soldiers at al-Jalama crossing north of Jenin while he was trying to cross into Israel.
Muhammad Asri Fayyad, 17, told Ma’an Saturday that on Thursday morning he arrived at the crossing along with a busload of young men and teenagers who had organized a trip to Israel and obtained the needed permits from Israeli authorities.
He says he entered the crossing and complied with the instructions Israeli officers were giving through loudspeakers. The instructions included “that we shove our mobile phones in one place and we cross from a different place which we did.”
“Everybody received back their mobile phones except me. The soldiers asked me to pass through a path under a bridge on top of which stood a number of soldiers pointing their guns at me.
“They then asked me to enter a room which has several doors and I obeyed the orders. All the doors were immediately locked before the officers started to shout through loudspeakers demanding that I take off my clothes and my shoes.”
He added that he took off his shoes first but the soldiers continued to shout “violently” repeating that he must take off all his clothes.
“When I took off my clothes, they turned on a huge ceiling fan which caused frigid coldness. I told them to turn off the fan because I was freezing, but they didn’t, and so I knocked on the fan in an attempt to cause it to stop. At that point the soldiers broke into the room and started to beat be with rifle butts until I fell to the ground.
“They then tied my hand to a steel bar behind my back and tied my foot to another bar. I remained in that position from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. After that a number of soldiers arrived and a female soldier untied me after she took a silver necklace I was wearing. She ordered me to put on my clothes, then she handcuffed and blindfolded my eyes and escorted me outside the crossing and told me that I was denied entry to Israel. She gave me a small sack in which I found the remnants of my mobile phone which had been smashed.”
Muhammad says he has been suffering severe shoulder and foot pain ever since.
(Source / 28.02.2015)
GAZA CITY: A young Palestinian was killed and his brother seriously wounded in an explosion on Saturday near the Gaza Strip’s abandoned airport, the health ministry said.
“Naji Khaled Abu Sabla, 21, was killed and his brother Akram, 18, seriously wounded in the face and stomach when an unidentified device blew up in the area of the airport” in southern Gaza, said ministry spokesman Ashraf Al Qodra.
Police suspect it was “a device left behind by the Israelis in the zone, where they make regular incursions”, a local security source told reporters.
Israeli forces hit the airport’s radar tower in 2001 when Palestinians launched an uprising, forcing it to close down. Further strikes reduced the airport buildings to rubble.
In an unrelated development, the rebuilding of homes, schools and hospitals in Gaza could take more than a century to complete unless an Israeli blockade restricting imports of construction material into the Gaza Strip is lifted, aid agency Oxfam said.
Gaza needs more than 800,000 truckloads of building materials to repair infrastructure damaged in the 2014 war with Israel, yet less than a quarter of one per cent of the materials needed have entered Gaza in the last three months, Oxfam said.
Fifty days of conflict in Gaza between Hamas and Israeli forces in July and August last year killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, and left swathes of ruins in the Mediterranean enclave of 1.8 million Palestinians.
Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip after the Hamas won power there in elections in 2006, and maintain tight controls on the movement of goods and people in and out of the territory.
(Source / 28.02.2015)
A drone strike by the United States military has killed four suspected al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen, according to local security officials.
A U.S. drone attack in Yemen killed four suspected Al-Qaeda militants on Saturday in the southern province of Shabwa, local Yemeni security officials told Reuters.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is considered one of the most powerful branches of the global militant group and claimed responsibility for deadly shootings in Paris on Jan. 7.
The attack targeted militants traveling in two vehicles in the Bihan region of Shabwa province, a local security official said, adding that several other suspected militants were injured.
For years, the United States has cooperated with Yemeni security forces to track and bomb AQAP members – a strategy that rights groups have criticized for causing repeated civilian deaths.
The United States and its allies in the region have long worried that Yemen’s political instability could allow AQAP to flourish and launch attacks overseas.
Nineteen U.S. drone strikes killed 124 militants and four civilians in Yemen in 2014, according to the New America Foundation, which maintains a database of drone operations.
(Source / 28.02.2015)
‘Jihadi John’ was able to join IS for one simple reason: from Quilliam to al-Muhajiroun, Britain’s loudest extremists have been groomed by the security services.
A caricature by Syrian artist Yousef Abdeleki on ISIS’ filmed executions
Every time there’s a terrorist attack that makes national headlines, the same talking heads seem to pop up like an obscene game of “whack-a-mole”. Often they appear one after the other across the media circuit, bobbing from celebrity television pundit to erudite newspaper outlet.
A few years ago, BBC Newsnight proudly hosted a “debate” between Maajid Nawaz, director of counter-extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, and Anjem Choudary, head of the banned Islamist group formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, which has, since its proscription, repeatedly reincarnated itself. One of its more well-known recent incarnations was “Islam4UK”.
Both Nawaz and Choudary have received huge mainstream media attention, generating press headlines, and contributing to major TV news and current affairs shows. But unbeknown to most, they have one thing in common: Britain’s security services. And believe it or not, that bizarre fact explains why the Islamic State’s (IS) celebrity beheader, former west Londoner Mohammed Emwazi – aka “Jihadi John” – got to where he is now.
A TALE OF TWO EXTREMISTS
After renouncing his affiliation with the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), Maajid Nawaz co-founded the Quilliam Foundation with his fellow ex-Hizb member, Ed Husain.
The Quilliam Foundation was set-up by Husain and Nawaz in 2008 with significant British government financial support. Its establishment received a massive PR boost from the release of Ed Husain’s memoirs, The Islamist, which rapidly became an international bestseller, generating hundreds of reviews, interviews and articles.
In Ed Husain’s book – much like Maajid Nawaz’s tome Radical released more recently to similar fanfare – Husain recounts his journey from aggrieved young Muslim into Islamist activist, and eventually his total rejection of Islamist ideology.
Both accounts of their journeys of transformation offer provocative and genuine insights. But the British government has played a much more direct role in crafting those accounts than either they, or the government, officially admit.
In late 2013, I interviewed a former senior researcher at the Home Office who revealed that Husain’s The Islamist was “effectively ghostwritten in Whitehall”.
The official told me that in 2006, he was informed by a government colleague “with close ties” to Jack Straw and Gordon Brown that “the draft was written by Ed but then ‘peppered’ by government input”. The civil servant told him “he had seen ‘at least five drafts of the book, and the last one was dramatically different from the first.’”
The draft had, the source said, been manipulated in an explicitly political, pro-government manner. The committee that had input into Ed Husain’s manuscript prior to its official publication included senior government officials from No. 10 Downing Street, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the intelligence services, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.
When I put the question, repeatedly, to Ed Husain as to the veracity of these allegations, he did not respond. I also asked Nawaz whether he was aware of the government’s role in “ghostwriting” Husain’s prose, and whether he underwent a similar experience in the production of Radical. He did not respond either.
While Husain was liaising with British government and intelligence officials over The Islamist from 2006 until the book’s publication in May 2007, his friend Nawaz was at first in prison in Egypt. Nawaz was eventually released in March 2006, declaring his departure from HT just a month before the publication of Husain’s book. Husain took credit for being the prime influence on Nawaz’s decision, and by November 2007, had joined with him becoming Quilliam’s director with Husain as his deputy.
Yet according to Husain, Nawaz played a role in determining parts of the text of The Islamist in the same year it was being edited by government officials. “Before publication, I discussed with my friend and brother-in-faith Maajid the passages in the book,” wrote Husain about the need to verify details of their time in HT.
This is where the chronology of Husain’s and Nawaz’s accounts begin to break down. In Radical, and repeatedly in interviews about his own deradicalisation process, Nawaz says that he firmly and decisively rejected HT’s Islamist ideology while in prison in Egypt. Yet upon his release and return to Britain, Nawaz showed no sign of having reached that decision. Instead, he did the opposite. In April 2006, Nawaz told Sarah Montague on BBC Hardtalk that his detention in Egypt had “convinced [him] even more… that there is a need to establish this Caliphate as soon as possible.” From then on, Nawaz, who was now on HT’s executive committee, participated in dozens of talks and interviews in which he vehemently promoted the Hizb.
I first met Nawaz at a conference on 2 December 2006 organised by the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) on the theme of “reclaiming our rights”. I had spoken on a panel about the findings of my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, on how British state collusion with Islamist extremists had facilitated the 7/7 attacks. Nawaz had attended the event as an audience member with two other senior HT activists, and in our brief conversation, he spoke of his ongoing work with HT in glowing terms.
By January 2007, Nawaz was at the front of a HT protest at the US embassy in London, condemning US military operations in Iraq and Somalia. He delivered a rousing speech at the protest, demanding an end to “colonial intervention in the Muslim world,” and calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate to stand up to such imperialism and end Western support for dictators.
Yet by his own account, throughout this very public agitation on behalf of HT from mid-2006 onwards, Nawaz had in fact rejected the very ideology he was preaching so adamantly. Indeed, in the same period, he was liaising with his friend, Ed Husain – who at that time was still in Jeddah – and helping him with the text of his anti-HT manifesto, The Islamist, which was also being vetted at the highest levels of government.
The British government’s intimate, and secret, relationship with Husain in the year before the publication of his book in 2007 shows that, contrary to his official biography, the Quilliam Foundation founder was embedded in Whitehall long before he was on the public radar. How did he establish connections at this level?
(Source / 28.02.2015)