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WE MIDDLE EAST

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“IF YOUR DREAMS DO NOT SCARE YOU, THEY ARE NOT BIG ENOUGH.” ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF


WWW.MIDDLE-E AST.


WE-MAGAZINE.NET


TUNIS

WE IN THE MIDDLE EAST 2013 AUG. 13: AUG. 14-18: AUG. 18-20: AUG. 20-22: AUG. 22-24: AUG. 25-28: AUG. 28- SEPT. 3: DEC./JAN.

BAHRAIN BEIRUT & BEEKA VALLEY, LEBANON AMMANN, SYRIAN BORDER JIFNA & RAMALLAH, PALESTINE TEL AVIV, ISRAEL ISTANBUL, TURKEY TUNIS & KAIROUAN, TUNISIA LEBANON & /SYRIA

FLIGHTS INBOUND/OUTBOUND FLIGHTS DURING THE TRIP PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION


ISTANBUL

BEIRUT DAMASCUS

TEL AVIV

AMMAN RAMALLAH


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CONTENT

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EDITORIAL

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STOP THIS HYPOCRISY! A conversation with Prof. Dr. Scholl-Latour

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WHO IS TRYING TO DERAIL THE SYRIA CONFERENCE? Prem Shankar Jha

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TRANSPARENCY UNLEASHED Jillian York

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A LATTER DAY NOMAD Susanne Osthoff / Doris Eichmeier

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GEOGRAPHIES OF MEANING – SPACES OF MEANING IN AMMAN Ramsey George

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A DEAD END STREET – THE ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLICT Evelyn Hecht-Galinski / Shmuel Brenner / Marwan Barghouti

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BED & BREAKFAST IN JIFNA – THE FOLLY OF THE ISRAEL/PALESTINE-CONFLICT A conversation with Rawda Khouriya

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THE LEBANESE RED Ulrike Reinhard

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THE IS NO “MIDDLE” IN THE MIDDLE EAST Interview with Sharmine Narwani

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SYRIA’S OTHER ARMY – HOW THE HACKERS WAGE WAR Matt Buchanan

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IN THE NAME OF GOD – THE EMERGENCE OF THE NEW SYSTEM Interview with Mother Agnes

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we_magazine c/o Ulrike Reinhard we@we-magazine.net

THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH MY SON IS A JIHADIST! Interview with Fatma Essid Alouini

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A THIRD WAY – TUNISIA CAN BECOME A ROLE MODEL FOR THE WORLD! Interview with Chéma Gargouri

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FROM MODERATE TO EXTREMIST – ENNAHDA’S SHIFT IN TUNISIA Ulrike Reinhard

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THE DEMOCRACY LAB – THE ROLE OF ARCHIVES IN A TRANSITION PROCESS Interview with Farah Hached

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SETTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT – 2013 – A TOUGH YEAR FOR EGYPT Sara Abou Bakr

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HIGH, HIGHER, MILITARY. MILITARY JUDICIARY TRUMPS ALL JUSTICE Adel Ramadan

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MAY EVERY NEW YEAR FIND YOU FREE Belal Fadl

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IN THE KINGDOM OF DEATH Michael Obert

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NATO – AND THEN? OPERATION UNIFIED PROTECTOR Alan Kuperman

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EDITORIAL THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST HAS RARELY BEEN AS FLUID AS TODAY, THE EVENTS SELDOM AS FASCINATING TO WATCH, AS WELL AS CHALLENGING TO COMPREHEND WITH THE BARRAGE OF NEWS REPORTS WE RECEIVE FROM THE REGION EVERY DAY. SINCE EARLY 2011, HEADS OF STATE OF TUNISIA, EGYPT AND LIBYA HAVE BEEN DRIVEN TO EXILE, PUT BEHIND BARS, OR LYNCHED BY A MOB. YEMENI LEADER WAS FORCED TO STEP ASIDE, WHILE THE SYRIAN REGIME IS FIGHTING A DESPERATE BATTLE FOR BARE SURVIVAL. OTHER AUTOCRATS DREAD WHAT THE FUTURE MIGHT BRING AND, OF COURSE, FOREIGN POWERS ARE CLOSELY WATCHING THE EVENTS AND "INTERVENE" IN THE BACK. WHO"S IN POWER IN THE MIDDLE EAST, WHAT KIND OF IDEAS AND CONCEPTS ARE EMERGING, AND WHAT ARE THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS – WE_MIDDLE EAST IS TRYING TO PROVIDE AN OVERVIEW FROM A PEOPLE"S PERSPECTIVE. THIS IS THE NEW ... I THINK AND HOPE IT IS BETTER! WE_MIDDLE_EAST PROVIDES SELECTED SNAPSHOTS AND POLAROIDS OF THE SITUATION IN TUNISIA, SYRIA, JORDAN, LEBANON, EGYPT AND ISRAEL/PALESTINE – ALWAYS FROM THE PEOPLE'S POINT OF VIEW AND IN THEIR FAVOUR. AN INTRODUCTION TO THE POLITICAL CIRCUMSTANCES, THE STATE OF SURVEILLANCE AND THE CULTURE IS GIVEN WITH THE THREE LEAD ARTICLES AT THE VERY BEGINNING. A BIG AND VERY SPECIAL THANKS GOES TO OUR FRIEND HAVARD FERSTAD – JUST CHECK OUR ONLINE VERSION AND YOU WILL UNDERSTAND;-)


LEBANON Wouldn’t it be ironic if the popular awakening sweeping the Middle East had the unintended effect of undermining the one established Arab democracy? The Lebanese Prime Minister had to resign. His departure had every sign of being sparked by the civil war unfolding across the border in Syria, which has become increasingly sectarian. A key issue is – once again – Hezbollah, whose members have been covertly fighting to keep Bashar al-Assad in power. JORDAN The upheavals in Syria and Egypt have dampened Jordanians’ appetite for drastic change. A year ago anti-government protests took place across the country – organized by the Muslim Brotherhood and some by the Jordanian Youth Movement. Many of their leaders are now in prison and some will stand trial. Unemployment and poverty rates are high. Still Jordanians are in no mood to take to the streets now, but that situation could change at any time.

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ISRAEL / PALESTINE The US-sponsored peace talks are around halfway through their allotted nine-month timespan, and there is mounting concern that they will fail again. Essentially, the Palestinians want an end to the Israeli occupation of territories and the establishment of an independent state with defined borders, though both sides disagreeing on where the border should be drawn. However this long-fought conflict does not centre around just one topic that both sides feel strongly about but a number of arguments that have developed over the years: control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, security, water, right of return for Palestinian refugees – with both sides moving forward and stepping back at the same time. Unless there is a honest and strong commitment from ALL participants the talks are most likely to fail again. TUNISIA Compromise has been in short supply since Tunisia sparked the Arab Spring three years ago. But once again Tunisia has broken new ground with a political deal between longtime enemies among the Islamists and the secular old guard. The deal aims to put in place an independent caretaker government until new elections next year, marking the first time Islamists have agreed in the face of rising public anger to step back from power gained at the ballot box. SYRIA Just 2 weeks ahead of the proposed Geneva II peace talks the war in Syria has reached a stage where neither the Assad regime nor the deeply divided rebel groups are close to succeed. Meanwhile the Syrians are enduring some of the worst winter weather ever. To the misery of war the despair of cold and hunger has been added. Almost seven million people, almost one third of the population, having fled their homes, and more than two million having left the country, it's truly a catastrophe of biblical proportions. EGYPT The uprising seemed at first like stories about the political and economic empowerment of the youth. But in Egypt some young people have begun to look at the events in a different light: Hosni Mubarak stepped down with millions of Egyptians in the streets. But after the mass protests on June 30 that led to Morsi’s ouster, many young people feel that they were used in a larger power struggle between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. And the struggle has no winner yet ... LYBIA Libya has plunged unnoticed into its worst political and economic crisis since the defeat of Gaddafi in the last few month. Government authority is disintegrating in all parts of the country putting in doubt claims that Nato’s military action in Libya in 2011 was an outstanding example of a successful foreign military intervention. Libyans are increasingly at the mercy of militias which act outside the law.

LYBIA


TURKEY

SYRIA

LEBANON IRAQ ISRAEL PALESTINE GAZA

JORDAN

EGYPT

SAUDI ARBIA


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PETER SCHOLL-LATOUR STOP THIS HYPOCRISY!

A CONVERSATION WITH PROF. DR. SCHOLL-LATOUR

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PETER SCHOLL-LATOUR ...

IS WIDELY ACKNOWLEDGED AS ONE OF GERMANYS MOST PROLIFIC JOURNALISTS WITH A REPUTATION FOR HARD HITTING REPORTS FROM THE WORLD’S MOST VOLATILE TROUBLE SPOTS. HE HAS WRITTEN A NUMBER OF BESTSELLERS AND APPEARS REGULARLY ON TELEVISION AND RADIO. PERHAPS THE HIGHLIGHT OF PETERS OUTSTANDING CAREER WAS WHEN HE ACCOMPANIED THE IMAM KHOMEINI UPON HIS RETURN TO TEHERAN FROM HIS PARISIAN EXILE, THE ONLY WESTERN JOURNALIST CHOSEN TO DO SO.


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WE_MAGAZINE: How would you describe the German government’s current position on Syria?

PETER SCHOLL-LATOUR: It doesn’t have one! Either the Germans run after the Americans or they make a desperate attempt to do something different. As they did with Libya – and as we see that usually goes wrong. The only correct decision that’s been made was the decision not to take part in the Iraq war. On the other hand, it iwas a bad decision to be the only member of the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance not to agree to the joint declaration of intent on Syria – we didn’t need to send a single plane or soldier. This was a sheer foolishness vis-à-vis our allies. Under no circumstances should we intervene in the internal affairs of Syria.

Use of poison gas in Syria has been squarely laid at the door of the Assad regime – at least by the western media and many politicians. Obama is always talking about “crossing the red line”. What do you think the consequences would be if the West intervened militarily in Syria?

This is a similar campaign of misinformation to the one that took place a few years ago with Iraq. At that time there was much talk about monstrous stockpiles of poison gas and also about missiles. Tony Blair even went so far as to speak about the possible annihilation of Europe by Iraq. Absolute bullshit! And now they’re at it again using the same mechanisms. They realize that Assad is gaining ground and have to find a quick excuse to demark this so-called “red line” – a pretty stupid expression – so that they can send arms to the insurgents. Yet they’ve no idea into whose hands these weapons might fall! The truly best fighting force on the side of the insurgents are not the deserters from the Syrian army – who are not as numerous as generally believed – nor the Sunni village communities – who have come together in an alliance but aren't all that effective in military terms. The real fighters, the ones that are also prepared to die, are the guys from Jabhat al-Nusra, an extremist Islamist movement. And as even the Americans admit, they have aligned with Al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. Now we are allies of Al-Qaida! But nobody breathes a word about this;

THE GERMAN PRESS, YOU SEE, IS NOT AT ALL A FREE PRESS! Why isn’t the German press free? Why are so few people speaking up?

Paul Sethe, I don’t know if his name means anything today, but in post-war Germany he was a very great, very conservative journalist and one of the founder editors of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He once wrote that the freedom of the press in the western world is the freedom of 200 rich people to publish their opinions. In present-day Germany this figure is down to four or five. It’s the publisher who decides which line will be followed. The publisher appoints the editor-in-chief and the editor-in-chief makes sure that journalists toe the line and if somebody doesn’t toe the line, their services are no longer required.

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An elegant form of censorship.

Exactly. Add to this the self-censorship in the minds of journalists who think that the editor-in-chief or publisher would be pleased to read this or that, and so slant their articles accordingly.

To return to Syria – what happened there in comparison to Tunisia and Egypt?

I first went to Syria in 1951. And believe me, all this talk about freedom is too absurd! Syria’s troubles started in Dara’a which by the way – interestingly enough – lies directly on the border to Jordan from where it can be directly influenced, including by the Saudis. Admittedly also by a number of rallies and demonstrations held with the best of intentions. Obviously the Syrians too wanted more freedom. Only by then they had seen what had happened in Libya and what was happening in Egypt. So their enthusiasm was not exactly overwhelming. In fact it was strictly limited. But then concerted efforts were made to pump it up and inflate it, capped finally by that all-important move when Turkey threw open all its borders even – or should I say expressly for – arms shipments from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. That really speaks volumes! Syria can hardly be compared with Egypt and Tunisia. In Tunisia it was that incident when the street vendor set himself on fire and burned to death for whatever reasons we simply don’t know. Whether it was for political reasons or because he was unhappy in love, nobody knows. Nor do we. Only it had this astonishing follow-on effect! In Tunisia nobody expected an uprising. Tunisians are very peace-loving, gentle people who are also very heavily Europeanized. But it was there of all places that the ball started to roll and within a few weeks Ben Ali was banished. Yet sadly to say even today we can see that the much-trumpeted democratization process hasn’t taken place even in Tunisia. Ennahda, the party that fanned the flames of the uprising, was certainly a very honorable party in its early days, yet in its confrontation with the extremist Islamist forces of the Al-Nour party which is financed by Saudi Arabia, we can have no idea of which further turning it will take.

So what makes fundamentalist Islam so strong in these countries?

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One thing we should not forget: movements like Hamas in Palestine or earlier on the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt too were all originally charitable organizations that took care of people, set up huge community kitchens, built schools and so on, and by doing so they got the people on their side. None of this started with violence. But then came the moment when the government saw them as a danger and reacted aggressively. And then, naturally enough the Islamic parties also resorted to arms. In any case, the readiness to resort to arms was already there. In Algeria this led to a horrific civil war which lasted eight years and took a death toll of 200,000 people about which nobody in the West has talked. And all this happened in the wake of free elections! This is what I mean by the hypocrisy of the West. General Chadli Bendjedid was foolish enough to allow free elections. He and the West completely misjudged the fact that it was the Islamic Salvation Front which held the majority and was sitting in


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parliament, and so there was this hasty coup d’état. And the West said not a word – on the contrary the West was only too glad that the danger had been averted. While people in other places were much less indulgent in their views of what had happened.

How would you describe the current situation in Syria?

By and large it has turned into a confrontation between different confessions. Although it would be a mistake to believe that the Sunnis are standing resolutely on the side of the insurgents. The greater part of the army – which includes many Sunnis – has remained with Assad. In Syria there is a considerable middle class, a bourgeoisie, and they have seen the rising chaos in Libya and the falling living standards in Egypt and what they have seen hasn’t made them exactly eager for unrest. The conflict really has been brought into the country from the outside, and not for any kind of humanitarian reasons but with the intention of establishing a democracy. But the whole point of the exercise – and this is the central issue about which nobody speaks – was to prevent the establishment of an Iranian-Shiite bridge stretching from the borders of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean and Hezbollah. Ever since the battle for al-Qusay – a rebel stronghold and a strategically important city in the west of Syria – Assad has regained the corridor between Damascus and the Alawi regions on the coast where he has his main support, which now leaves him in a much stronger position. His campaign was supported by the Lebanese Hezbollah who naturally had their own excellent reasons for intervening: if the Alawis in Syria were eliminated and not just stripped of their possessions and offices but actually murdered, this would leave Hezbollah extremely isolated in its corner. And then the Jordanians, the Saudis, the Sunnis of Lebanon, and Syria’s people, the Americans and Israelis – also notorious for their ability to misread a situation – all these different parties would have attempted to eradicate Hezbollah. This is the reason for Hezbollah’s intervention. Hezbollah is the best Arab army in the 21


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THE ISRAELIS ARE WELL-KNOWN FOR THEIR CLEVERNESS AND INTELLIGENCE, BUT POLITICALLY THEY’RE NOT SO TERRIBLY CLEVER. OTHERWISE THEY WOULDN’T HAVE TURNED IRAN INTO THEIR BOGEYMAN. 22


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Middle East. In 2006 it succeeded in something that is also always passed over in silence; it succeeded in holding off the Israeli offensive for three long weeks and in forcing it to retreat.

Israel is weaker than ever before ...

Yes, that is correct. The Israelis are well-known for their cleverness and intelligence, but politically they’re not so terribly clever otherwise they wouldn’t have turned Iran into their bogeyman. Khomeini – I was one of the few people who knew him personally – didn’t “throw out the Jews”. Iran is the only Islamic country in which a minority of some 30,000 Jews still lives and who have synagogues and an MP in parliament. Obviously, this MP cannot be a Zionist. It simply isn’t the case that Syria is Israel’s biggest enemy. Israel will really have to watch out when it gets the Al-Qaida bands of the Al-Nusra Front on its Golan border. For 40 years now, ever since the Jom-Kippur war, not a single shot has been fired on this border. Yet since this uprising broke out, there’ve been bouts of sporadic firing which are bound to intensify. But it’s absolute bullshit for the West to believe that “my friends are automatically your enemies” equation. Just look at Afghanistan: the Americans believed that because the Mujahideen were the enemies of the Russians, the ungodly Shorawi, they were the friends of America. Not at all! As soon as the Russians quit Afghanistan, it was the Americans themselves who became the enemy.

Is this a lack of knowledge or sheer ignorance on the part of America and the West?

The Americans have the best oriental scholars in the world.

BUT IT MUST ALSO BE SAID THAT THE POLITICAL CLASS IN AMERICA IS HOPELESSLY MIRED IN STUPIDITY AND IGNORANCE. Ignorance and hypocrisy are the main diseases endemic to the West.

What can the EU and Germany do?

Nothing. What should the Germans do? Everything that German politicians keep spouting is complete nonsense! At least from 2003 when they didn’t react to that lightening American strike in Afghanistan – which by the way was a textbook example of a well conducted military campaign. They should have pulled out immediately once it was over. The Germans knew it would all go wrong. They had the reports from the BND, the Foreign Intelligence Agency; they had the reports from the commanding officers. But Berlin simply refused to believe them. Now I won’t name the ministers. 23


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They don’t regard me with a kindly eye. But basically the only one of them with any clear vision – though he was also unlucky in other respects – was Guttenberg. Even Mr. Jung believed that things would work out right in the end. What utter nonsense! You just have to look at the “Euro Hawk“ affair to see how disastrously ministers are served by their secretaries of state and their apparatus of informants. Guttenberg gave one of the responsible secretaries of state the boot. He cleaned up and he was perfectly right to do so.

What should the West do to gain a better profile in this transformation process towards democratic governance?

I am growing increasingly allergic to hearing the word democracy. It makes me cringe! “Human rights” is another term that’s been so blatantly misused that it’s lost its meaning.

WHEN I SEE THE FORMER FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER JUPPÉ APPEARING SIDE BY SIDE WITH THE SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER AL-FAISAL TO CAUTION SYRIANS TO BE GOOD DEMOCRATS IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING – THEN HONESTLY SPEAKING I MUST SAY THIS IS THE GIDDY HEIGHT OF HYPOCRISY! The Saudis of all people!

So what continues to motivate the West to believe that it should act like a missionary?

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Leading other countries to democracy is simply not our job. They should do it themselves; it’s none of our business. We should leave them alone. Any involvement can only turn out badly. inv olv ement can only turn out badly. Well, in many aspects – as simplistic as this may sound – obviously it’s oil. But this isn’t the case in Syria. The intention there is simply to break the connecting Iran – Hezbollah bridge. And the Israelis are obsessed with putting Iran and all its allies back in their place. I really don’t see the reason for this. I myself have talked to Khomeini about Israel, and when I submitted my questions back then – which I put through his son Ahmed – one of them was what would you do with the Jews in Israel when you don’t recognize the state of Israel and even want to wipe it out? I was sitting by the government spokesman and Ahmed was in Bonn, and both of them started to laugh. I was startled because I didn’t think my question was any laughing matter. But Khomeini’s son explained to me that he’d never heard such an stupid question in his whole life – as though the Arabs would never be capable of defeating the Jews. That’s their way of thinking. But apparently nobody knows it.


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Nobody knows it in the West ...

Well, I have written about it!

So what’s your scenario for the arena of conflict around Israel. How far does it hold the potential to trigger a third world war?

No, there’s no danger of that. All the parties there are far too quarrelsome and divided for that to happen.

How can Europe get out of it?

But there’s another thing that we Europeans have to get into our heads – European states are not fit to go to war! We still need America. Even when the Americans exasperate us and drive us to despair with the stupid things they do, we're still very much dependent on them. When the British and French were waging their war of the air in Libya – which was a well conducted operation – they ran out of bombs in just three weeks. And even before they began, the Americans had to take out the Libyan air defense. They all had to fall back on the Americans. And this happens everywhere.

Yes. Europe is now in a most undignified situation. First of all it needs to sell people the message that we need decent weapons. Only this is something that nobody’s saying – on the contrary, military budgets are constantly being slashed. The French have now mounted a superb military campaign in Mali which was a considerable source of satisfaction for me personally as I once served in the French army. But they’ve now got to see how they can get out double-quick.

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Will they get out?

Going back to Tunisia and Egypt, what role did religion play in the overthrow?

Sure, they’ll get out, obviously they will. But who’s going to take their place? The Mali army is a bunch of total incompetents and all the African troops of the African Union – even when they’re UNO contingents – have failed miserably everywhere they’ve been. I’ve seen this myself in the Congo, in Sierra Leone ... and time and time again ... abject failure everywhere. None whatsoever at the beginning. It was an uprising of the upper middle class of intellectuals, of a very honorable and fairly extensive middle class section of the population in Tunisia. The same is true for Cairo, Suez and Alexandria. But obviously it is not true for the provincial towns and cities, and especially not for the villages where the mass of people followed a plain, relatively peaceful form of Islam which they could live with easily. And these are the very people who are faring much worse now than ever before. But the worst thing is that now the extremists are coming in from Saudi Arabia, one of our closest allies, and fanning the flames of discontent and manipulating it to their own ends and purposes. All Islamic extremists come from Saudi Arabia. Here in Germany too, our own Salafists are funded by Saudi Arabia. And these are the people we continue to supply with Leopard tanks. This just shows the sheer extent of our hypocrisy. And you must add to this the deteriorating security situation in the country. Many Egyptians now regret the demise of the Mubarak regime – that is the end result of our policies and the economic inaptitude of the countries. Criminal elements have grown very strong.

The same can be said about nearly all the countries …

Indeed. Libya is certainly a case in point. The Algerians, the Algerian military, who are the real holders of power, had better watch out now that nothing happens on their patch, especially as president Bouteflika, who is relatively well-liked by the people, is now on his deathbed.

What’s the situation like in Jordan?

Jordan is an appendage of Saudi Arabia. Of course the Americans are there and the British have their old positions there, and the Israelis are Jordan’s protectors. But all that can change with the enormous influx of refugees. Because these refugees are not all dear boys and democratically inclined freedom fighters. There are also hardliners among them, and above all huge numbers of Palestinians who used to live in Syria. And they had quite a good life in Syria, much better than anywhere else. All this represents are a new potential for conflict in Jordan. And it’s also very telling that the head of the political bureau of Hamas, Maschaal, who used to live in Syria, is now living in Qatar. Qatar – that’s one of the West’s closest allies.

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Does Qatar play a similar role to Saudi Arabia?

Yes, but with only 200,000 inhabitants. Basically this state is a sick joke but such sick jokes are tolerated by the West. It puts on Formula 1 racing and plays host to the FIFA World Cup. The way it squanders money is scandalous. And all because this Emir is sitting on rich reserves of natural gas and oil – which we need. This is why he can be so outrageously lavish. We’re living in a world that’s totally corrupt. He also tolerates that foreign workers in his country are treated like slaves, and nobody says a word!

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WHO IS TRYING TO DERAIL THE SYRIA CONFERENCE?

BY PREM SHANKAR JHA

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AS THE DEMONISATION OF ASSAD STANDS EXPOSED, US & CO FINALLY SEE THE LIGHT.

The peace conference on Syria that began in Geneva on 22 January was not even a day old before two huge spanners had been thrown into its works. Iran was disinvited from the conference at the last moment, and 55,000 pictures allegedly showing Syrian government forces torturing and killing 11,000 civilians were leaked to The Guardian and CNN. These developments expose the titanic behind-the-scenes struggle that is going on to derail the conference. The reason is that it has ramifications that go far beyond the future of Syria. A momentous turn in western policies towards West Asia is underway. Until only weeks ago, Iran was a rogue State; Syria was a brutal family-run dictator- ship allied to Iran, and the Hezbollah in Lebanon and, therefore, a sworn enemy of Israel and the West. Russia and China were spoilers intent on propping up anti-West regimes in a senseless prolongation of Cold War hostilities. Israel was the West’s staunchest ally in West Asia, followed closely by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — its principal providers of oil and military bases in West Asia. Despite several hiccups, the Arab Spring was still regarded as a victory for democracy over dictatorship and a vindication of the West’s export of democracy and human rights to the rest of the world even if this was being done through the barrel of a gun.

THESE BELIEFS NOW LIE IN RUINS. THE WEST HAS BELATEDLY REALISED THAT HOWEVER OPPRESSIVE THE DICTATORSHIPS IN TUNISIA, LIBYA, EGYPT AND SYRIA MAY HAVE BEEN, THE ALTERNATIVE THAT STARES THEM IN THE FACE – MILITANT ISLAMIST THEOCRACIES SPAWNING JIHADIS IN RUINED ECONOMIES – IS INFINITELY WORSE.

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Its intervention in the Arab Spring has been an unqualified disaster. Instead of strengthening its hold on West Asia, it has come close to delivering it into the hands of its most inveterate enemies. And it has been led down this selfdestructive path by its own supposed allies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey, which have been playing their own power games with western, notably American, bullets. US President Barack Obama is the first western leader to perceive the trap into which the West has fallen, and reach out to Russia to forge a joint strategy for recovery. Their joint efforts have begun to bear fruit. Syria is close to completing the handing over of its chemical weapons and factories to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and is about to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1992. Iran has taken its first essential steps to halt the enrichment of uranium. The Geneva II peace talks are designed to chart out the next steps in the stabilisation of West Asia, and once more, the key to this is the restoration of peace and a secular, preferably democratic, government in Syria. But the weight of past mistakes and misperceptions hangs heavily over the conference’s outcome. The chief obstacle to this is the West’s demonisation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a butcher of his own people. So successful has this been that Obama is now hard pressed to explain his sudden volte-face. This has already cast a pall over the conference. To maintain a semblance of continuity in its policies and defend the correction of its past perceptions, the US has joined the UK, France and Israel and their Sunni Arab allies to keep Iran out of the conference, and to insist that Assad must relinquish power to a transitional government before they agree to stop supplying the rebels with weapons. These moves, on the very first day of the conference, had already cast a pall over its prospects. The release of the 55,000 photographs depicting torture and murder by Syria’s security forces could well lead to its premature end. It is, therefore, imperative to examine whether Assad really is the demon that the international media have made him out to be over the past three years. The case it has built against him runs as follows: First, within months of succeeding his father Hafez al-Assad in 2001, he had promised to turn Syria into a democracy but reneged on it repeatedly in the ensuing 10 years. Second, he has run a brutal dictatorship that has felt no qualms about turning its guns on its own people. Third, his regime has committed innumerable human rights abuses, culminating in the use of chemical weapons against its own people. Finally, it is his regime’s excesses that have triggered the uprising of his people, drawn thousands of jihadis from all over the world to Syria, and inflicted untold misery on his own people. The West must, therefore, end this war, no matter how, in the interests of the Syrians themselves.

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DID ASSAD GO BACK ON PROMISES OF DEMOCRACY? Syrians whom I interviewed in October 2012 in Damascus, however, had a different story to tell. Assad had sincerely wished to start the transition to democracy a decade earlier, but was forced to postpone the changeover repeatedly by the growing turmoil in Syria’s neighbourhood: the American invasion of Iraq in 2003; the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and the concerted bid to force Syria out of Lebanon in 2004; Washington’s decision to break diplomatic relations with Damascus in 2005; Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006, its blockade of Palestine in 2007, and its bombing of Gaza in 2009. Faisal al-Mekdad, Syria’s vice minister for foreign affairs and its former permanent representative at the United Nations, summed up Assad’s dilemma as follows: “Each of these events reminded us of the need for unity in the face of external pressures and threats, and forced us to postpone democratisation for fear of setting off fresh internal conflicts and forcing adjustments when we could least afford them.” According to Bassam Abu Abdallah, a professor of international affairs at Damascus University, these external pressures did not make Assad entirely abandon the quest for democracy. It did, however, limit his reforms to devolving more administrative power to local government and lifting restrictions on press freedom. The most significant development of this period was a regional conference of the Baath Party in Damascus in 2005. This meet drew up the blueprint for the sweeping democratic reforms that Assad has enacted in 2011 and 2012.

WAS THERE A SPONTANEOUS PROTEST AND WAS IT PEACEFUL? Despite the rethinking that has begun on wisdom of the western intervention in Syria, it remains axiomatic among western journalists that Assad brought the civil war upon himself. Syria had been convulsed by a spontaneous movement for democracy, which the Assad regime converted into an insurgency by using overwhelming force against the peaceful demonstrators. But the Syrians I talked to in October 2012, and resident diplomats, concurred that there had been no spontaneous popular upsurge against the Assad regime, and that the civil war was a fructification of plans for regime change that had been hatched much earlier and brought forward because the opportunity provided by the Arab Spring, and the western liberals’ ecstatic response to it, was too good to miss. Damascus first became aware of the conspiracy when trouble broke out on 18 March 2011 in Dera’a, a small city astride the Syria-Jordan border. A peaceful demonstration demanding some political changes in the local administration and lowering of diesel prices turned violent when shots were fired, killing four persons. The international media, led by the Qatar-based Al 32


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Jazeera, and the Riyadh-based Al Arabiya television channels, immediately accused Assad’s forces of firing into the crowd to disperse it. The Syrian government’s version of what had happened was entirely different. The first shots, it claimed, were fired on 18 March, but not by the police. They were fired by armed men who had infiltrated the procession and, at a predetermined moment, begun to shoot at the security police. That is why, of the four persons killed on that day, one was a policeman. However, according to Mekdad, what convinced the Assad government that the Dera’a uprising was part of a larger conspiracy was what happened when the police sent for reinforcements. Armed men ambushed one of the trucks as it entered Dera’a and killed all the soldiers travelling in it. The regime chose not to publicise this for fear of demoralising its soldiers, but a careful search on the Internet did provide indirect corroboration. Suleiman Khalidi, the local correspondent of Reuters, reported on 23 March that 37 bodies had been brought to the Dera’a hospital until then. The number was intriguing because all news reports had been unanimous that 13 civilians had been killed until 23 March, so where did the other 24 bodies come from? Incontrovertible confirmation came a month later when “peaceful protesters” stopped an army truck outside Dera’a and killed all the 20 soldiers in it. But this time, they did so by cutting their throats. This was the sanctified method of killing that the ‘Afghanis’ – as the Afghanistan-returned jihadis were called in Algeria – had used to kill more than 10,000 villagers during two years of bitter insurgency after the First Afghan War. It was to be seen over and over again in Syria in the coming months. The Syrian government again chose to remain silent, and the only whiff of this event in the media was a rebel claim that they had captured and burnt an armoured personnel carrier. But in Damascus, US Ambassador Robert Ford told a group of diplomats, including the Indian ambassador, that Al Qaeda had infiltrated the Syrian insurgency. He had come to this conclusion because, in addition to cutting throats, the insurgents had beheaded one of the soldiers.

WHO KILLED WHOM? As the civil war intensified and the killing of civilians skyrocketed, the insurgents, now labelled and recognised by the West as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), followed a set pattern of attack: This was to descend without warning on small towns, Alawite villages and small army and police posts in the hundreds and overwhelm them. After they surrendered, the insurgents would kill local officials and civilians they deemed to be pro-Assad and soldiers who would not desert to them, and claim that these were, in fact, deserters whom the government forces had executed after a successful counter-attack. Two such episodes captured worldwide attention in 2011. 33


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In Jisr al Shughour, a medium-sized town in the northern border province of Idlib, the international media reported, based on rebel claims, that the government had brought in not only tanks but also helicopters to bomb the town from the air – the first resort of air power against the ‘protesters’. When some soldiers, who were disgusted by the indiscriminate carnage, attempted to defect, the Syrian troops killed them. The indiscriminate firing forced civilians to flee to nearby villages. Some even crossed over to neighbouring Turkey. This claim captured the headlines in the western media for days, but the story pieced together by a diplomat whom the Syrian government took to Jisr al Shughour when the town had been recaptured, was very different. In the beginning of June 2011, some 600 FSA fighters suddenly laid siege to the town for 48 hours. When the army sent in reinforcements, the rebels, who had mined a bridge on the approach road, blew it up as a truck was passing over it, killed the soldiers and cut off the only access to the town by road. Two days later, when they overwhelmed the garrison, instead of taking them prisoners, they killed all of them, many by cutting their throats, threw their bodies into the Orontes river, and later posted videos claiming that these were army defectors whom the Syrian forces had killed. This was corroborated two months later by a local resident, who visited the Indian embassy to get a visa. According to him, between 500 and 600 rebels had descended upon the town from Turkey. On the way, they stopped a bus, shot six of its passengers and spread the word that the army had done it. Many people believed them, were enraged and stood by as the hunt for fleeing soldiers and supporters of the government began. Some joined in the hunt. In all, he said, the number of soldiers and government supporters killed and dumped in the Orontes was not 120 but close to 300. This was the first of dozens of similar war crimes by the FSA. Until the end of May, the Syrian government’s frequent assertions that it was the rebels who were opening fire first, forcing the State forces to return their fire, had been treated with disdain by the western media or simply ignored. But it too was vindicated when British journalist Hala Jaber, the diplomatic correspondent of The Sunday Times and a two-time winner of human rights journalism awards, described precisely how violence on the scale of Dera’a was unleashed upon the city of Ma’arrat al Numan, not far from Jisr al Shughour. She wrote: “They came in their thousands to march for freedom in Ma’arrat al Numan, a shabby town surrounded by pristine fields of camomile and pistachio in the restive northwest of Syria. The demonstration followed a routine familiar to everyone who had taken part each Friday for the past 11 weeks, yet to attend on this occasion required extraordinary courage.” “The previous week, four protesters had been shot dead for trying to block the main road between Damascus, the capital, and Aleppo, the country’s largest city. The week before that, four others were killed.” 34


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“So enraged were the townspeople at the blood spilt by the Mukhabarat, or secret police, that intermediaries had struck a deal between the two sides. Four hundred members of the security forces had been withdrawn from Ma’arrat in return for the promise of an orderly protest. The remainder, 49 armed police and 40 reserves, were confined to a barracks near the centre of town. By the time 5,000 unarmed marchers reached the main square, however, they had been joined by men with pistols.” “At first the tribal elders leading the march thought these men had simply come prepared to defend themselves if shooting broke out. But when they saw more weapons — rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers held by men with heavy beards in cars and pick-ups with no registration plates – they knew trouble lay ahead.”

DEMONISATION INTENSIFIED: HOULA AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS February 2012 was a turning point in the Syrian civil war. Assad held a referendum for the Syrian people to endorse the new, democratic Constitution that he had promised to the Syrian democracy movement at a conference held in Damascus the previous July; and the Syrian Army recaptured Baba Amr, the FSA’s stronghold in the city of Homs, after a four-month siege. This twin setback forced a change of strategy upon Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and their western backers. From February, Saudi Arabia started shipping arms openly to the FSA and offering vast bribes – salaries ranging from $100 to $3,000 a month to Syrian soldiers and officers to desert from the army and join the FSA. On the other hand, they ramped up the effort to demonise Assad until no one in the West would dare to have any dealings with him again. The first major effort occurred four months later on 25 May 2012. Reports appeared almost simultaneously in several international media outlets that Assad’s army and Shabiha irregulars had massacred 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women, using knives, hatchets and guns in the villages of Houla and Taldou, close to Lattakiah in northern Syria. The timing of this massacre was suspicious because it occurred within days of Syria’s first-ever multi-party election under the new Constitution. But based on these reports, supposedly by eyewitnesses, 11 western countries as well as Japan and Turkey expelled Syria’s ambassador and the UN Security Council set up an independent commission of inquiry into the massacre. Only later did it emerge that all of these reports had been based upon the statements of a supposedly 11- but probably 8- or 9-year-old boy, and that several other eyewitnesses had given detailed, graphic accounts, which showed that the killers were Islamists belonging to the so-called FSA. A detailed investigation by a European Citizens’ group, published in May 2013, revealed that five groups of the FSA had taken part in the massacre. By then, however, the damage had already been done. 35


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In spite of this, as the summer wore on, the pendulum continued to swing in favour of the government. By October 2012, it was the FSA that was on the run. Its fragmented leadership was incapable of coherent action and the trickle of deserters from the Syrian Army had all but dried up. Its cries for help from a direct intervention by the West on the Libya model grew more shrill. It may not, therefore, be a coincidence that October was the month in which Israel’s satellites “discovered” that the army was mixing the chemicals normally held separately that together produce Sarin gas. Thus was planted the seed of the diplomatic-cum-propaganda offensive that first trapped Obama in December 2012 into promising to attack Syria if it crossed the red line of using chemical weapons, and then culminated in the Sarin gas attack against civilians in East Ghouta on on August 21, 2013, during a time in which a UN team of inspectors already begun its investigations into two earlier allegations of gas attacks in Damascus and Aleppo that, by then, had been all but proven to have been launched by the insurgents.

THE LAST THROW OF THE DICE However, by then, the US had seen through the game. It knew that the Syrian National Coalition, which had replaced the Syrian National Council as the West’s chosen vehicle for replacing Assad, was anything but a coalition; that Al Qaeda and its affiliates had taken over the war against Assad and a moderate FSA was a fiction; that its Arab allies were arming the jihadis with wire-guided anti-tank missiles and heat-seeking missiles against its express wishes; and that Al Qaeda was using the war in Syria to reinvigorate itself in Iraq.

THEREFORE, WITH ENORMOUS COURAGE, OBAMA HAS TURNED THE US POLICY AROUND 180 DEGREES FROM CONFRONTATION TOWARDS COOPERATION, FROM MILITARY PRESSURE TO DIPLOMATIC PERSUASION. A new era is trying to be born in international relations. But this turnaround has left Israel and the Gulf sheikhdoms vulnerable. The 55,000-picture assault on Assad’s regime, unveiled with a by now familiar accuracy in timing, could, therefore, be their latest attempt to use the military and diplomatic might of the US to continue down the road to war and destruction. It could be their last throw of the dice.

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IS A WELL KNOWN JOURNALIST BASED IN NEW DELHI, INDIA. HE MAINLY WRITES ABOUT POLITICS AND ECONOMICS IN INDIA WITH A FOCUS ON GLOBALIZATION. HIS ANALYTICAL AND BALANCED WRITINGS GAVE HIM MORE THAN ONCE A HARD TIME TO SURVIVE IN CRUCIAL POSITIONS WITHIN INDIA’S NEWSPAPER LANDSCAPE. IN 1990 HE SERVED AS THE INFORMATION ADVISOR TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA, V.P. SINGH.


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FROM A DISTANCE 01

THE ARAB SPRING – WHAT IS IT FOR YOU? DO YOU THINK OF THE ARAB SPRING AS A COHERENT MOVEMENT ACROSS THE REGION? WHAT PRACTICAL CHANGES WOULD THEY LIKE TO SEE IN ORDER TO IMPROVE THEIR OWN AND THE FUTURE FOR THEIR (FUTURE) CHILDREN? TOLU OGUNLESI, 31, LAGOS, NIGERIA The Arab Spring is for me one of the most significant demonstrations of people-power in recent history; the significance heightened by the totally unexpected nature of it – the fact that it’s taking place in countries that seemed, until then, by virtue of religious and political strictures, unable to produce such responses. In my opinion the movement is coherent only insofar as we take into consideration its underlying motivation(s): the quest for freedom (in its many ramifications, the quest for a better life, the chance to choose new leaders, etc. Apart from that there’s certainly no unified or singular Arab Spring “movement”. It’s not even unified within the individual countries – look at all the many factions and interests in Egypt for example; once Mubarak the common enemy was out of the picture, see how hard it became to focus on a singular road ahead. I think the practical changes would largely revolve around standards and quality of living (jobs, salaries, better infrastructure, less corruption), and around political freedoms - the freedom to speak and associate and live away from the shadow of a ruthless strongman. 38

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JUSTUS BRUNS, 25, AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS The Arab Spring: is very far from my bed to my feeling. It brings in a lot of doubt about which media to trust on its coverage, therefore I cannot make a clear statement. I just hope the families and their children get to be as lucky as we are: being able to say what we want, having enough food on the table, spend time with the people they love and care about.

MARIETTA LE, 26, BUDAPEST, HUNGARY I see the Arab Spring as the symbol of hope and the need for change that people feel in the region. The events might often be disconnected but the pattern they demonstrate in the end is about the same issues and principles. There’s a huge demand for increasing citizen participation and transparency in decision-making all over the world – in some societies people are standing up for their rights already, some are still waiting to see what will unfold.

SARTAJ ANAND, 23, CALCUTTA, INDIA The Arab Spring – what is it for you? Do you think of the Arab Spring as a coherent movement across the region? What practical changes would they like to see in order to improve their own and the future for their (future) children? The Arab Spring, for me at least, is a critical moment of rediscovery for the people in the Middle East. I suspect they have long been waiting for their renaissance and I think this movement is the critical first step in this direction. The region has traditionally been dominated by monarchies, dictatorships and fascist theocracies, which over generations has created systemic discontent and numbness among the people. The Arab Spring addresses this discontent and is trying to resolve it. Thus, the movement is coherent in the sense that all its micro instances share the fundamental belief that a fairer, more equitable and open social structure is critical to their way of life. Although this has manifested in a variety of ways in several nations, and been subverted by obvious political interference and religious propaganda, I still consider it a strong unified movement. I think people in the region are essentially demanding two things. First, greater personal autonomy so that they are able to experience true freedom without the fear of any unreasonable consequence for pursuing unconventional life choices. Second, justice so that their long term disenfranchisement can be remedied and their opinions can shape the future of their societies and nations. I think this demand is the biggest step forward and would level the playing field for future generations.

CALCUTTA

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FROM A DISTANCE 02

WHICH ARE YOUR INFORMATION SOURCES (BLOGS, PEOPLE, NEWSPAPER, TV, TWITTER) AND HOW RELIABLE YOU THINK ARE THESE SOURCES?

AMSTERDAM BUDAPEST

MARIETTA LE, 26, BUDAPEST, HUNGARY During the time of extensive international media coverage, I looked for updates from people on the ground on Twitter.

TOLU OGUNLESI, 31, LAGOS, NIGERIA Much of my news these days comes from Twitter, where I spend a lot of time. Twitter is a great content-aggregating tool. Because I follow a lot of people who I consider plugged into news and information flows, I by extension get access to the most interesting content from around the world. Twitter of course is not a closed chamber, it opens out onto the wider world, providing gateways to blogs and news sites and YouTube, etc. Regarding reliability, some sources come with built-in credibility, built long before the internet existed. Other more recent sources have managed to build strong reputations, while there are those that cannot be depended on without some form of third party information. Because the cost of dissemination of information in the internet age is almost negligible, it makes sense that abuse will be inevitable, and that people have to exercise greater judgement in their consumption and sharing of news. It’s the price we have to pay for the awesomeness of the internet. 40

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JUSTUS BRUNS, 25, AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS I usually follow journalists on Twitter who are known with the region, I do read reddit.com/r/worldnews a lot: it is usually is very neutral as there is a comment section with people who point out false truths in stories, I read a lot of Aljazeera, but apperantly a massive amount of journalists walked away but then western news agencies always turn their heads away the anti-american sentiments: the fact is that people believe in what they want to believe.

SARTAJ ANAND, 23, CALCUTTA, INDIA I read a fair bit and some of the information sources I rely on are Quartz, The HuďŹƒngton Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN, Facebook, Twitter and Global Voices. I am not, however, convinced of the veracity of these sources though and hence use them with varying sensibilities. For example, I expect to hear breaking news ďŹ rst on Twitter because of the implicit nature of the medium. Similarly, CNN would probably give me more reliable or comprehensive news but would put an American spin on it. Thus, using this mental framework I try to build a more informed, nuanced and holistic view of the world and its happenings. CALCUTTA

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FROM A DISTANCE 03

WHAT ABOUT YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE ARAB SPRING FOR THE MIDDLE EAST? FOR YOUR OWN COUNTRY?

AMSTERDAM

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JUSTUS BRUNS, 25, AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS It is amazing to see how young people raise their voice, however I’m very concerned about the things happening in Syria and how again our international community is just watching how the US and Russia are just selling guns to both sides. Considering the democratically elected Morsi: I think it worries me that the Egyptian army removed him undemocratically and illegally, knowing the Egyptian army has gotten over 1B usd from the US for supplies. It's all about making money in the end. That saddens me.

TOLU OGUNLESI, 31, LAGOS, NIGERIA In January 2012, after the government hastily removed petrol subsidies, causing food and transport prices to rise sharply and hurting the country’s poorest people badly, a popular citizen uprising took place in major cities across Nigeria. Young Nigerians depended heavily on social media to mobilise themselves, and, partnering loosely with established civil society groups, organize protests. The weeklong protests forced the government to restore some of the subsidy. I think much of the inspiration and modeling for the uprising came from the Arab and North African Springs, which we all followed closely on television and social media. As soon as the opportunity arose in Nigeria, we seized it, eager to replicate what we’d been seeing in Tahrir Square and Tripoli. Whether in the Middle East, or far away in sub-Saharan Africa, or even in Brazil, the Arab Spring has helped ensure that citizen engagement with government will never be the same again; and that governments will have to think deeply about taking their populations for granted. I think the Arab Spring now means that every country in the world is potentially dancing on the brink of an uprising. 42

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MARIETTA LE, 26, BUDAPEST, HUNGARY Even though the Arab Spring's events often touched upon issues relevant for Hungary, the country has its own problems and inner conflicts that need to be resolved in a very different framework. Hungarian people are allowed to exercise their democratic rights and have their say within the sometimes limited, sometimes unlimited democratic framework as an EU-member. But still – Hungary is a very Central and Eastern European country.

SARTAJ ANAND, 23, CALCUTTA, INDIA I think The Arab Spring will prove to be a momentous period for the world and the Middle East in particular. Some may see it as a spontaneous revolution but I see it as a completely natural response to the decades of despotism, tyranny, favoritism and injustice in the region. I wasn’t expecting the movement to be as ferocious or viral as it’s turning out to be but this just alludes to the fact that the underlying issues are deep-rooted and widespread. The most obvious implication of this movement is that the ruling class has once again been reminded that it is answerable to its people, who are willing to take matters into their own hands if their expectations aren’t met. This is a mindset shift not only in the region but globally as well because citizens all over the world are now expecting much more from their governments. They are now coming to accept their new roles as citizen activists and this trend is being accelerated by technologies such as the internet, social networks and mobile telephony. India, in particular, is standing on the precipice of change with its burgeoning middle class and youth, who are now expecting even greater economic mobility in the future. They want India to be a progressive and thriving developed nation, and thus are growing more and more intolerant with the corruption and ineptitude festering in our political system. Some of them have already jumped into the cesspool and are formulating plans of action to try and solve these issues but if the political class doesn’t act proactively it’s only a matter of time before they wake up to our very own Indian Spring.

CALCUTTA

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TRANSPARENCY UNLEASHED THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN

BY JILLIAN YORK

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JILLIAN YORK

... MOVED TO MOROCCO WHEN SHE WAS 22 “BECAUSE SHE COULD.” SHE IS A REGULAR PRACTITIONER OF YOGA, LOVES HER TATTOOS, AND – DESPITE BEING A FREQUENT TRAVELER FOR WORK – IS STILL TERRIBLE AT PACKING A SUITCASE.

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His name barely registers within the public conscience outside of the country, but within Tunisia Zouhair Yahyaoui is a legend for free speech defenders. The first blogger ever arrested in Tunisia, perhaps anywhere, Yahyaoui crossed lines that no one dared, in the early days of the web before the term ‘weblog’ was even born. His face is memorialized in a mural at a popular bar on the outskirts of the capital, his name still known to the brave bloggers that carry on his tradition. Yahyaoui, the founder of TUNeZINE (its title a play on former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s name), died not long after his release from prison, broken by his experience. To would-be dissidents everywhere, his story seemed to serve as a warning from governments: “This is what will happen if you defy us.” And yet, the stubborn fight for freedom waged by the bloggers has continued on, and with time, has merged with the not-so-distant fights of coders, and hackers, and journalists to become something bigger. The fight for freedom – of speech, of assembly, of communication – has become one with the Internet and its inhabitants. This is their story.

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*** Tunisians began making their way online in 1991. Several years before that, in 1985, the government of Tunisia received a $3 million USD grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for the establishment of a national research body dedicated to the promotion of computer sciences and telecommunications in the country. That body – the Institut Régional des Sciences Informatiques et des Télécommunications – would make Tunisia’s first connection to the global Internet in 1991, making the country both the first Arab and the first African nation to connect. A series of fortunate events early on – including the inclusion of Tunisia in a UNESCO initiative to promote regional informatics – put the country at an advantage as it later raced to spread connectivity to its citizens. By the early 2000s, Tunisia’s Internet penetration was around 5.5%, on par with China and much of Latin America and Eastern Europe, and ahead of its North African neighbors. But at the same time that the Tunisian government was putting effort toward spreading the adoption of Internet usage, it was also putting in place sophisticated surveillance measures and becoming aware of the Internet’s value as a tool of dissent. While Zouhair Yahyaoui’s arrest came after a public post insulting the Ben Ali regime, evidence shows that the government was already beginning to install the technologies that would allow them to monitor citizens’ communications and quash dissent. In 2004, a study from the OpenNet Initiative – an academic research network with partners at Harvard University and the University of Toronto, among others – found that dozens of websites were inaccessible in the country, including those deemed political opposition, pornography, and methods of circumventing filtering. In addition, sites criticizing the Tunisian government’s human rights record were blocked. Nevertheless, the advanced development of Tunisia’s Internet infrastructure resulted in the country being awarded the hosting of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in 2005. In response, Tunisian activists launched a campaign called “Yezzi Fock, Ben Ali” (“enough is enough, Ben Ali”) and another called “Freedom of Expression in Mourning” to raise awareness amongst WSIS participants of the country’s crackdown on free expression. Their efforts, coupled with the government’s efforts to ensure Tunisians keep quiet, paid off: The 2005 WSIS meeting is now cited by many as a turning point in awareness of online censorship and surveillance. While Tunisia continued its crackdown, other countries in the region were learning from its approach. By 2005, Morocco had begun to block sites that addressed the Western Sahara dispute. Syria began blocking political content shortly after its arrival online in 2001 (one of the last in the region) and by 2007 was blocking Facebook, Blogspot, and YouTube as well. Saudi Arabia, fearing the Internet’s influence on young people, never offered unfettered access; when the country came online in 2000, it did so with thousands of sites already blacklisted. At the same time that governments in the region were working out how best to silence their citizens, a minor revolution was taking place: Blogging, which had just taken off in the United States in 2004, began to hit the Middle East and North Africa in 2005, starting, perhaps, with Egypt. By 2006, despite considerably low Internet penetration rates throughout the Arab world, there were an estimated 25,000 blogs, 1,500 of which came from Egypt. In the United States, blogging was not only an activity of ordinary Internet users, but had taken off amongst the nation’s political elite. Big names adorned the country’s top blogs, and in 2006, the country’s most prestigious newspaper – the New York Times – had launched a blog to address breaking news. By contrast, bloggers in the Arab world were “young, technologically-oriented, and politically unengaged,” according to Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University. 47


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Although restrictions on free expression may have created an environment in which self-censorship limited political engagement on blogs, there were still a few renegades who dared speak their mind, particularly in Egypt, where the Internet remained uncensored, leaving the impression that it was a free space, separated from the usual red lines imposed on the media. That impression was short-lived, however, when in 2006 Egyptian authorities began to arrest bloggers. One prominent case at the time was that of Abdul Kareem Nabeel Soleiman, also known by his online pseudonym, Kareem Amer. After criticizing Islam in a 2005 blog post, the young man was expelled from his university and eventually arrested on numerous charges, including “incitement to overthrow the regime with hatred and contempt,” “incitement to hate Islam and breaching of the public peace standards,” and “highlighting inappropriate aspects that harm the reputation of Egypt.” Kareem Amer was a controversial figure amongst his fellow Egyptian bloggers for his stance on the country’s predominant religion, but — perhaps predicting that his arrest was not a lone event— many of them banded together to campaign for his release nonetheless. Their efforts set the groundwork for future campaigns and created a template for how to deal with a blogger’s arrest.

*** By the end of the last decade, arresting bloggers and other Internet “dissidents” seemed a popular strategy for authorities in the region looking to silence speech and scare their citizens into submission. Increasingly, such crackdowns involved private communications, or users whose public persona was anonymous or pseudonymous, leading to a growing awareness that Arab countries had begun to catch up with their Western counterparts when it came to digital spying. In 2009, details of Tunisia’s censorship and surveillance regime began to emerge. A paper released that year by Global Voices Advocacy demonstrated that Tunisia was likely using deep packet inspection – a means of network control often used to regulate spam – for surveillance purposes. Incidents of arrest or threats in other countries indicated the use of similar means. Additionally, the detention of online activists, bloggers, and other dissidents was on the rise throughout the region, with Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Bahrain leading the charge. But in 2011, it all came to a head. While Egyptians were using Facebook to organize protests, the Tunisian government was using it to organize what is known as man-in-the-middle attacks, in an effort to capture the login details of the country’s Facebook users and compromise their accounts. As protests raged on the streets, the digital battle between user and state was growing. Tunisia compromised the security of its Internet users, then Egypt shut off the Internet for a week. From Syria, Libya, and Bahrain emerged legions of Twitter “trolls,” accounts set up for the sole purpose of shifting the narrative toward the favor of their respective regimes. At the same time, a series of events coinciding with the ‘Arab Spring’ shed sunlight on the problem of surveillance, creating greater awareness both in the Middle East and elsewhere. WikiLeaks released The Spyfiles, a set of documents that shed light on Western companies building and selling surveillance technologies to authoritarian regimes and Western intelligence agencies alike. A raid on Egyptian state security offices shortly after the fall of the Mubarak regime resulted in the exposure of evidence that Egypt was heavily surveilling the electronic communications of its citizens. Many stories followed: The youth whose text messages were read to him by Bahraini authorities as they tortured him, the French company that conspired with the Libyan regime to create a sophisticated surveillance apparatus, the California-based company whose devices mysteriously emerged in Syria, and so on.

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These revelations have changed the way we think about digital communication. Whereas the censorship of political websites in Syria was hardly enough to mobilize people in Syria, let alone the rest of the world, the awareness that surveillance has become pervasive the world over has brought us closer toward a common purpose: Our right to speak freely and securely. It could be argued that the communities built up throughout the last decade brought us to this point. Before the turn of the century, we were siloed, global connectivity limited to an elite. Thirteen years later, those of us that use social media are likely to interact with someone from another country every day. Many of us share jokes, emails, or a common cause with people that we only know online, who lives somewhere far away. As a result, we are naturally more apt to use digital technologies to say things that could put our liberties under threat, things that – before the proliferation of the global Internet – we might have whispered or said only in our own homes and safe spaces. Email, however, is not equivalent to a whisper. After the revelations of the past few years, we are now acutely aware of the degree to which our communications are surveilled. This undoubtedly has an effect on how freely we speak and, coupled with an increase in prosecutions for certain types of speech, has a silencing effect. Tunisia toppled a dictator and has taken strides toward the protection of free speech, but Kuwait and Oman, for example, have cracked down, arresting individuals for pithy statements made on Facebook or Twitter. For each small step forward, there are another two backward. As the battle between citizens and state for the open Internet continues, the need for greater access also becomes more acute. Throughout most the region, Internet penetration remains below 50%, and in some cases below 10%. That means that only the voices of the elite are heard, and women remain underrepresented. Openness is vital, but along with openness must come greater proliferation of the Internet. Throughout the Arab world, the activists I’ve spoken to are weary from fighting, but not about to give up. Some have made concessions, yes, but others have stepped forward to fight harder for an open Internet. Since 2011, half a dozen countries in the Middle East and North Africa have made attempts to stifle the open Internet, but in almost every case, the population has fought back. In Lebanon, activists quickly quashed the parliament’s hopes of instituting the Lebanese Internet Regulation Act, a bill that would have had a deleterious effect on speech. In Iraq, the vaguely-worded Cybercrime Act was shot down. And in Jordan, activists have taken all kinds of creative measures – including driving around a coffin marked “Free Speech” – to combat the government’s efforts to control independent media. The movement for an open Internet will continue and will increasingly cut across to other movements as well. Censorship might affect only a segment of the population, but the constant surveillance of our communications affects us all.


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Out of 3 month work on excavations in Iraq deep friendships emerged: the local workers took leave of Susanne (in the middle) cordially.

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SUSANNE OSTHOFF A LATTER DAY NOMAD

A CONVERSATION WITH SUSANNE OSTHOFF / BY DORIS EICHMEIER

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Where is my homeland? In the West where I have my roots or in the East where I feel at home despite all the dangers? This is a question that German archeologist Susanne Osthoff – who has worked on excavations in Iraq and Yemen and organized many aid deliveries to crisis regions – has asked herself countless times before finally opting for the East. It was a decision motivated by her abduction in 2005 when for 24 days she was a hostage in the hands of criminals, and barely escaped being killed. The abduction made her name headline news in Germany and brought her a dubious kind of fame which still afflicts her even today. Because German media made a number of damaging allegations against her such as she was working hand in glove with her kidnappers. These allegations, for which no substantial proof has been offered, are the reason why Susanne Osthoff no longer feels comfortable in the land of her birth – and prefers Iraq and other conflict-torn Arab countries to the peace and security of her native Bavaria. In conversation with Doris Eichmeier – an old childhood friend from Bavaria – the 51 year old convert to Islam takes about her close sense of attachment to the peoples of the Middle East, and how her early days in Bavaria helped her discover her love of the orient.

DORIS EICHMEIER: Susanne, you now feel more at home in Arab countries than you do in Germany, the land where you were born. Why is this?

SUSANNE OSTHOFF: With the passage of years, I’ve got to know many people in the Arab world to whom I feel very close, very attached because we’ve been through some really dreadful things together. The Middle East is a kind of second family for me. That’s where I discovered my own personal sense of freedom and where I became the Susanne I am today. As you well know, I never had that kind of self-confidence when I was young. I was more of a shy, timid little thing. I feel like a stranger in Germany today. For me, Germany is the country that used me like a pawn in a game of chess, the country that really insulted me in so many ways ...

When you were released from captivity in December 2005 – and for a long time after – you faced a barrage of very serious accusations. The media and public opinion speculated about whether you were something more than just a victim in this drama which you called “my summary execution by media”.

Yes, I was accused of things I couldn’t even dream of. It was myth-making straight out of the 1001 Nights; everyone spun their own fairytale with BildZeitung taking the lead. Things like I had organized my own abduction and was pocketing the ransom money. Or that I sympathized with terrorists. They were all really dreadful smears. When I was abducted, I was working on a project commissioned by the German Foreign Office – but even that didn’t spare me from being accused of terrorism. In captivity I had to endure the worst kind of treatment and then I was treated in the shabbiest way possible by the very people I was working for. The way the Germans behaved 53


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towards me was completely lacking in any respect or dignity. Perhaps I knew too much about the intrigues and goings-on at the German embassy and the Federal Intelligence Agency. You can think anything you want about me, but you should remember that I’m mother to a daughter. There was never even the remotest suggestion of victim protection for me – which was my rightful due. It’s not just me, but my daughter as well who is still suffering from this character assassination campaign because it destroyed our lives. For the past eight years I’ve been living out of suitcases, unable to get a job. Just imagine that. My daughter finally went to a boarding school paid for by friends. If I had really done something wrong, I wouldn’t be sitting here with you right now; I would be in Stadelheim security prison serving my sentence. All I have ever done is try and help people in need. So where does all this relentless hostility come from? Up to present, the government has made no move to establish what really happened in my abduction. The freedom of the press in this country is no genuine freedom, but the freedom of ignorance and apathy. To be perfectly honest with you, I’d rather be veiled – and free.

How have your Arab friends reacted to these accusations by the German media?

I’ve never talked to them about it because such things are beyond their comprehension. A Muslim would tend to be more embarrassed for me and say, “We hope it hasn’t been too hard for you”, and he would have left it at that. And he would be pleased that my daughter still has her mother. Muslims respect someone who’s been through such difficult times.

What do you want to do with the rest of your life which, as you say, you intend mainly to spend in Arab countries?

I want to continue working on education projects in the Middle East, especially projects for youth. Young people still have a future, they want to build their countries and make their societies more open. Enlightenment is incredibly important because peace and friendship can only work when there’s knowledge and understanding. I want to work to overcome prejudice and black-and-white ways of seeing the world. And most importantly, I want to work to give back people the dignity they have lost.

What fascinates you so much about the Middle East that you simply can’t let go?

There are a great many things which fascinate me about Arab countries, like the language, for instance, which is the supreme cultural asset, not material prosperity. The more eloquently you can express yourself, the more you will be honored. It’s only through the language that you can understand the true dimensions of this culture, the Qu’ran, the poetry, the mysticism. None of this can be translated. Improving this language is very likely the vocation of my life.

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Or look at the Bedouins and the nomads – their absolute freedom was always hugely fascinating to me. They know no frontiers, they live where it’s 57 degrees in the shade, without electricity. Even today archeologists can still learn something from their archaic way of life. I first meet nomads when I was still a student. There was this extremely moving gesture on the part of an Anezi Bedouin woman who washed my feet when she welcomed me into the tent. This age-old ritual left a lasting impression on me. I used to think that these people were poor, but it became clear to me that they were much richer than I was. I drank in the beauty of these strong and charming people like a sponge.

Is friendship in Arabia different to friendship in Germany and Europe?

In the desert you are who you are. You can’t dissimulate. The essential “you” is revealed. The desert is a place of truth. It’s no coincidence that stories of the prophets Abraham and Mohammed are set in the desert. And this is also why relationships in the desert are very intense. You have loving relationships which make you shed tears. In Arabic the word for friend is “sadik” – whose slight variation gives “sádik” which means “upstanding” or “walking tall with someone”.

Do you still have people in Germany whom you consider as real close friends?

Yes, I’m very glad to say that in spite of all these smear campaigns there are still people who stand by my daughter and me – like the journalist Günter Wallraff. I have a network of friends who support me. Without making a great fuss about it, we work together to help people in crisis regions – by sending them clothes, for instance. But my German friends all lead completely different lives to the one I lead. They work a lot and worry about their pensions. I’m not saying this as a criticism, it’s just that their lives are different to mine. There’s a handful of people in Bavaria I’m enormously grateful to. Two of them had a huge influence in shaping the course of my life which has led me to the Middle East – the marvelous Professor Hrouda and the physician Dr. Georg Hüller in the market town of Glonn in Upper Bavaria. Dr. Hüller gave me a home for ten years after I ran away from my family at the age of 16. His humanist views and his kindness had a tremendous influence on me. It was the first time that I really put down roots. And it’s because of Dr. Hüller and other good friends who took me in after the abduction drama that I still have a great fondness for that town in Bavaria. By the way, did you know that the two cultures have certain points in common? Bavarian “Marterl” – those little religious wayside memorials – are related to Assyrian art. And the act of washing feet was taken over by the Christian religion where it became a symbol of humility.

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Riding the motorbike through the Algerian desert. When Susanne (left side) was young, she was already attracted by the Arab countries.

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After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Susanne Osthoff (right side) organized with the help of Medeor shipments of aid in Afak – the place she visited as an archeology student. “We have friends in Afak”, she said, “and we wanted them to survive.” Fashion made in Yemen: Susanne wearing a typical Yemeni dress (in Marib, Yemen).

Film shoot at Café Shah Bandar in the Medina of Bagdad: Susanne Osthoff worked these days for ZDF correspondent Ulrich Tilgner (right side).

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We’ve known one another now for over 30 years because we lived in the same town in Upper Bavaria when we were at school and university. May I be honest with you? When you began to study archeology in the 80s, I thought that you were just doing it like all the others because you couldn’t think of anything better to do. But the huge enthusiasm you showed for it soon made me realize that I’d been totally mistaken.

That’s right, yes, I actually wanted to study biology. But I opted for archeology. I’ve always had this passion for old things and Arabic stories. As early as 17 I took the train to Egypt with my boyfriend at that time to visit the ruins. And we took lessons in Arabic.

What triggered such passionate interest in a small town girl from Upper Bavaria?

As a kid I really devoured the book Gods, Gods’ Graves, and Geniuses which belonged to my mother. Then when I was 12 or 13, I gave a presentation about the archeologist Heinrich Schliemann and his excavations at Troy. My class found it rather boring, but my history teacher gave me top marks and told me “Someday you’ll make a great archeologist!” Religion’s also a subject that interests me – the Bible, the Old Testament, Mesopotamia, Babylon... Another reason for my passion is that my family on my father’s side came from Silesia and so knew how traumatic expulsion and flight is.

How did the flight from Silesia awaken your interest in the Middle East?

Because she was a refugee herself, my granny was deeply interested in politics and the situation of the Palestinians. She’d weep in front of the TV because she had so much empathy with them. And when I was a kid, I’d be sitting next to her, eating her delicious Silesian gingerbread. She always used to say “That Arafat would be a lot more use if only he stopped wearing that “funny checked cloth” on his head. The trauma of flight lay like a heavy cloud over our family. And I only really understood this when I saw the violence and brutality of war for myself in Iraq. That puts all your life in a different perspective.

You were in Iraq during one of the wars?

I was in Iraq during all the wars. The first time was as a student in the 1980s during the war with Iran. The handful of students I was part of drove out in a car with our Professor Bartl Hrouda to the excavations south of Bagdad. We lived there together with the locals taking part in the excavations under the most basic conditions. We were attacked by low flying aircraft. Our doctor Martha, who was helping us with the excavations, took care of the sick and wounded and I helped her. I had never been so close to people before, it was all highly emotional. I began to love the people there. And that’s something which has been with me ever since. That’s why I try to help people in Arab countries who are in need.

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For instance, I organize shipments of aid from Germany. When the Americans bombed Iraq in 1991, I was part of the first aid convoy to go to Iraq and deliver supplies to the hospitals. I never thought for a second about how I could earn money with this work. You have to help where there’s great need – not where people are having a party.

Were you also in Iraq in 2003 when the Americans overthrew Saddam Hussein?

Yes, in fact I was the very first civilian to reach Bagdad with a lorry load of humanitarian aid. The Süddeutsche Zeitung gave me its Civil Courage Award for this. The Iraqi secret service interrogated me for 50 hours and then sent me to a meeting of the Minister of Health right across Bagdad while it was being blitzed. All I could see was dust; I thought my last hour had arrived. I was stuck in Bagdad for several months. Friends took care of my daughter during the time I couldn’t leave Bagdad. And she spent repeated periods of several months with them as I continued to organize aid convoys and was also involved in the reconstruction work in Iraq. There are some people in Germany who blame me for this, but my work there was simply important. You don’t forget people who’ve been through something as terrible as war with you. You have to help them.

Will you ever find a home somewhere, a WE where you feel you belong?

For over 20 years now I’ve been practically living as a “latter day nomad”. That’s OK by me. A terraced house and some wretched pampered way of life are nothing for me. I’m not interested in fitted kitchens and wellness spas when other people have nothing to eat. The only thing that stops me taking out Iraqi citizenship is the visa I need to visit my daughter in Germany. So it seems like I will continue to live the life of a nomad, travelling back and forth, keeping mentally alert, organizing aid and playing lots of sport like tennis. And l’m always glad to meet good and interesting people like Rupert Neudeck, the founder of Cap Anamur, and the publicist Peter Scholl-Latour, whom I’ve met recently. That’s what my life looks like. Do you know the travel writer Isabelle Eberhardt who loves the Middle East so deeply? The journalist Hans Leyendecker wrote an article comparing her with me. And she said, “Run! Keep moving! Clouds burst when they slow down and stopped adventures weep.” That’s rather fitting don’t’ you think?

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BEIRUT AUGUST, 14.-18.2013

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BEKAA VALLEY AUGUST, 16.2013

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AMMAN SYRIAN BORDER AUGUST, 18.-20.2013

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JIFNA / RAMALLAH PALESTINE AUGUST, 20.-22.2013

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TEL AVIV / ISRAEL AUGUST, 22.-24.2013

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TUNIS + KAIROUAN, TUNISIA AUG. 28.- SEPT. 3. 2013

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GEOGRAPHIES OF MEANING SPACES OF MEANING IN AMMAN

BY RAMSEY GEORGE

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Photo Š Ivan Sabados


RAMSEY GEORGE

... IS ARAB AND AMERICAN. HE HAS BEEN LIVING IN THE MIDDLE EAST SINCE 2006. HE IS CO-FOUNDER OF 7IBER.COM AND IS JUST ABOUT TO OPEN THE CO-WORKING SPACE “7IBER CAFE” IN THE HEART OF JABAL AMMAN, ONE OF AMMAN’S OLDEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL NEIGHBORHOODS. HE IS NEWLY MARRIED. THE COUPLE LIVES IN AMMAN, JORDAN.


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“CITIES ARE COLLECTIONS OF COMMUNITIES, ALL OF WHICH ARE UNIQUE AND SPECIAL TO THOSE IN THAT COMMUNITY.” Amman to me has both, advantages and disadvantages: it is big and noisy, has problems with pollution and traffic, it offers beautiful hilltop views and stairs that follow the contours of the hills, and despite its reputation, offers nightlife and cultural activities to keep you quite busy. For me, it is a beautiful background and scenery to a bigger, more important question: from what do we derive meaning? Humans can derive meaning in many different ways, probably in as many ways as there are humans. Some choose identity, religion, beliefs, political ideologies or the absence of those. For me, I derive meaning from my family and the communities around me. My experience in Amman has taught me as much, and like so many others I am an unwitting resident when I intended to only be a passing visitor. My family has lived in Amman since being forced out of Palestine in 1948. Like many other refugees we built a humble but comfortable life in a city that didn’t have a choice whether to accept an onslaught of people. Amman didn’t pick to grow quickly, without planning and like any other city it responded the only way it could; chaotically. Streets, stairs, houses and public institutions were all built haphazardly, which, oddly enough led to spaces and geographies that help create social cohesion. The absence of the planning helped create a city that provided for certain neighborhoods where Armenians, Palestinians and Jordanians live together in ways that would make other cities jealous. You find mosques, churches, schools, and medical centers nestled near each other, and the patrons of all living alongside together. Leaving the small town in which I grew up in, I sought to meet as many people as I could and develop a social circle wider than just my family. When I moved to Amman, I immediately set out to meet people like me; restless and energetic with a passion for justice that could infect a crowd. Blogs and Facebook were just getting started and I was able to reach outside of my family and meet new friends and future colleagues. From a chance meeting at an ICT conference, the idea for 7iber, pronounced he-bur, was born. Being young and restless, the typical corporate life wasn’t for us. We joined forces with others and we became a formidable player for free speech and expression in Jordan and in the region. We wanted to offer a platform for people to express themselves critically and in an informed manner and in order to do this, we started with blogs. As it stands now, we’ve grown to a full organization that hosts a website, conducts debates, organizes events, and implements projects that we design ourselves. Through 7iber, we’ve been able to explore communities around Jordan and the Middle East by engaging with them on issues that matter to them. We are not journalists; we do not tell your story for you. We help find appropriate and interesting ways for you to tell your own story. With this standpoint, communities have opened their doors to us and we have enriched each other’s lives.

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A HILLTOP OF HOPE One of the first stories 7iber helped create and publish was about a community of young kids that were sick of being neglected by the municipality. Despite having the appropriate places to throw away their garbage, the municipality neglected to collect it regularly. They came together and cleaned up their hood the way they knew how. The borrowed brooms, cans, buckets, whatever they could find, and cleaned up their streets. Through this group of inspiring young folk, I was introduced to an organization that has been built on hope and respect; for without both, it will be difficult to accomplish much. Ruwwad is located in Jabal al-Natheef, on the Eastern side of Amman. Despite being economically disadvantaged, the area is rich in other aspects of life. Families take care of one another, the neighborhood comes together and sends children to university, and with the help of Ruwwad and their incredible staff, they have been able to take on campaigns that offer alternatives to violence in the community and tackle other problems that the community faces. Despite the rosy image, problems continue to exist and difficulties are disproportionally faced by certain groups of our community. Women and children are at a higher risk to be impacted by violence in the community, economic downturns and taken advantage of by social and cultural norms. Despite facing challenges and struggling with resistance from some in the community, the Ruwwad crew has been able to successfully navigate some of the pitfalls of community development work around the world through an integrated approach that sits the employees/residents on the same table. Together, not independently of each other, they make decisions that are then implemented in their community. I won’t pretend to be an expert on community development, but I know when I see true commitment and social cohesion, and the shining light from Jabal al-Natheef is reflected in many other parts of the country as their work expands and the community evolves. This type of community organizing is inspiring and offers hope. Seeing younger generations being offered a space to be themselves and develop solutions to problems is inspiring and meticulous work. It offers meaning to those in the community, the employees of Ruwwad and everyone that experiences their impact.

VIOLENCE AND MEANING 7iber was one of the first organizations in Jordan to wield the online power. In December 2008, Israel attacked the Gaza strip killing many and irreversibly changing the lives of thousands more. Cities around the region erupted in protest and support for ordinary Gazans. In Amman, protest gave a creative community meaning and motivation and produced some of the most organized and creative resistance Amman has ever seen. There was an outpouring of support in the form of food, blankets, clothing, and baby supplies that were collected and sent to Gaza. 7iber helped organize this drive by developing a collection point and spreading the information online – our website, Facebook and Twitter. We didn’t realize the impact we could have when we used multiple media to spread a message, in combination with an enormously emotional attack. With the support of thousands of people and organizations, we collected tons of food and blankets that were then transferred to Gaza. It was a moment that redefined my relationship with a place and society that I was still in the midst of exploring. In a truly honorable moment, we came together to help people in need. In many ways, this experience helped define 7iber and the goals we set out to achieve.

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7iber has spent much of its time developing different communities that are engaged in different activities from meet-ups to book clubs to political debates and so on. As our community grew we dreamt of having our own venue to host these events. We are on the cusp of that dreaming coming true, as we develop a village of sorts, with local investment, and energy that will motivate more to join our community. With our own venue, we’ll be able to gather the community we’ve worked with in one place and organize even more community building events. I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to have travelled to many different parts of the world. I’ve walked through mountains, grasslands, deserts, plains, forests and swamps. I’ve gone swimming in rivers, lakes, fjords, oceans and seas. I’ve camped on riverbanks, in the middle of a desert, forests and places you wouldn’t let your kids camp. I’ve been privy to drink tea and coffee with communities around the world, but particularly in the Middle East. I’ve been able to meet interesting people, spend time with them in their communities and learn about their struggles and their victories. I’ve had experiences – some that you only want to experience once – that have shaped the way I view the world, through my own keyhole. Since moving back to the Middle East almost 7 years ago, I have yet to answer the question why I left the United States with the same answer twice. Maybe it is because I don’t know the answer, maybe due to the fact that the reason evolves with the seasons. Arabs think I’m crazy for leaving the land of money for the land of frustration. My father continues to send me jobs offers in the US and my aunts here often ask when I’m going ‘home.’ Despite the not so subtle hints, my wife and I have decided to call this corner of the world our home. The neighborhood we call home houses an experiment in collective housing, known as the Rainbow House (RBH). I started the house 4 years ago as an attempt to live collectively with a group of people and at the same time respect our community. We had many successes and many failures over the last few years, but I have always held strong the notion that a free space will develop and change over time into something better. The RBH, to this day is a space where one can feel free to express oneself in anyway one wants. 77


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Another space that I hold dear is just above where I live. The street has lots of traffic as there are several very popular cafes, and I am privy to people watching through the window of our neighborhood dry cleaners. Two brothers work tirelessly ironing, folding and preparing clothes for their customers. As one of them likes to say, “Our work is boring. We have to entertain ourselves in other ways.” No matter how I feel or what my mood is, they are there to help me understand the world through a different lens than my own. I’ve dubbed their perspective as the dry cleaner’s philosophy.

TIE HER, AND BELIEVE IN: TIE YOUR CAMEL WELL AND TRUST IN GOD For some, this corner of the world is a land of clichés, media coverage of violence and other stereotypes that don’t need repeating. But when the region or city becomes ‘home’ your perspective changes. Living and being dedicated to a community can initiate a powerful feeling of belonging, whether you ‘fit in’ or not. Since most of us don’t fit in neat boxes, we naturally fight to create a community that accepts us. It is this simple creed that has driven my work. I’ve done the whole travel to 50 cities in one year, conduct trainings and bounce from conference to conference. I’ve been one of those unfortunate souls who has woken up in a hotel room not entirely sure which city I was in. I watch as friends brag about travels on Facebook and Twitter, posting pictures and statuses about their experiences. While this lifestyle can be attractive, I found that it left a hole in my community and myself. If we pause for a moment and examine the underlying strategies to create social and positive change in our communities, change was not caused by someone flying in, presenting and leaving the next day. Change is forced by individuals developing relationships and from dedicated community leaders solving problems. Let us not kid

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ourselves and pretend we can develop community and cause social change from an airplane seat. I’m not talking about revolution or even social change, but about community organizing that impacts the daily lives of those in that community. Despite the appearance of Amman being a large city, the image betrays the reality. There are many communities in Amman, not all of which communicate or interact with each other. The staggering difference between wealth and poverty is more visible due to the proximity of different classes living next to each other, while still not interacting. A new trend in Amman’s urban development, however is creating suburbs where the wealthy go to escape the density of ‘old town’ Amman. These developments threaten the social fabric and will ultimately lead to a city more divided, not just by wealth and class, but by geographies of division and lifestyle. With all that can be said about Amman, or any other city for that matter, the way Amman has developed has helped cause geographies of meaning; informal and coincidental spaces of friendship, love and community. It is in these spaces – the spaces in between – that I seek my sense of community and derive meaning from my surroundings. It is in these geographies of meaning that I seek to give and offer as much as the community gives and offers me.

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THE IDEA WAS AS FOLLOWS: I INTERVIEW EVELYN HECHT-GALINKSY, AN OUTSPOKEN CRITIC OF ISRAEL’S POLICIES TOWARDS PALESTINIANS, AND THEN I ASK A PALESTINIAN AND AN ISRAELI CITIZEN TO COMMENT ON IT. BUT IT TURNED OUT THAT THIS WAS A PLAN – AND PLANS SOMETIMES DON’T WORK! NO ONE WANTED TO COMMENT ON THIS. THE PALESTINIANS EITHER TOLD ME THAT EVERYTHING IS SAID OR THEY WERE AFRAID TO SPEAK OUT IN PUBLIC AND THE ISRAELIS SIMPLY FELT EMBARRASSED. SO IT BECAME PRETTY MUCH A NON-STARTER. WHAT WE HAVE NOW IS ON THE ONE HAND AN EMAIL CONVERSATION BETWEEN DR. SHMUEL BRENNER, WHO PLAYED A MAJOR ROLE IN THE PEACE PROCESS BETWEEN 1990-2000, AND ME. WHICH PRECISELY SUMS UP ALL THE ISRAELI ANSWERS I RECEIVED. ON THE OTHER HAND WE RE-PRINTED MARWAN BARGHOUTI’S MESSAGE TO THE DEATH OF NELSON MANDELA BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT NEEDS A “PALESTINIAN MANDELA” TO FINALLY SOLVE THE CRISES.

A DEAD END STREET – THE ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLICT

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DR. SHMUEL BRENNER

EVELYN HECHT-GALINSKI

MARWAN BARGHOUTI

... HAS A PH.D. DEGREE IN CHEMISTRY FROM THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY, JERUSALEM AND HAD AN EXTENSIVE ACADEMIC CAREER IN MANY INSTITUTIONS (INCLUDING UCLA , THE U. OF ARIZONA AND TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY). AT PRESENT HE IS A FACULTY MEMBER OF THE ARAVA INSTITUTE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES AND THE DIRECTOR OF THE ARAVA CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. BETWEEN 990-2000 HE PLAYED A MAJOR ROLE IN THE PEACE PROCESS AND WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL CHAPTER IN THE OSLO ACCORD. HE WAS ALSO IN CHARGE OF MANY DEPARTMENTS IN THE MINISTRY SUCH AS: WATER QUALITY, SOLID WASTE, EMERGENCY RESPONSE AND RADIATION. HIS NUMEROUS ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVITIES INCLUDED EXTENSIVE COLLABORATION WITH INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS E.G. WHO, EPA, IAEA, UNEP AND ILO. SINCE 2000 HE IS ALSO ACTIVE IN ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTING TO VARIOUS GOVERNMENT MINISTRIES, INDUSTRY, LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND NGOS.

... IS A JEWISH-GERMAN ACTIVIST, AN OUTSPOKEN CRITIC OF ISRAEL’S POLICIES TOWARDS PALESTINIANS. SHE IS A MEMBER OF THE GROUP EUROPEAN JEWS FOR A JUST PEACE. HER FATHER, HEINZ GALINSKI, WAS THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE CENTRAL COUNCIL OF JEWS IN GERMANY.

.... A PALESTINIAN POLITICAL PRISONER, IS CONVICTED AND IMPRISONED FOR MURDER BY AN ISRAELI COURT. PEOPLE CALL HIM THE "MANDELA OF PALESTINE". HIS POPULARITY IS INCREASING AGAIN THESE DAYS AFTER AHMED KATHRADA, AN ANTI-APARTHEID LEADER WHO SPENT 26 YEARS IN APARTHEID JAILS, LAUNCHED THE INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO “FREE MARWAN BARGHOUTHI”. BARGHOUTI IS RESPECTED BY BOTH, THE IMPRISONED FATAH FIGHTERS AND HAMAS ACTIVISTS. HE COULD HAVE THE POWER TO UNIFY PALESTINE AND BECOME A SERIOUS PARTNER IN THE TALKS WITH ISRAEL. MAYBE THIS IS WHY HIS NAME NEVER APPEARS ON ANY PRISONER RELEASE LIST. WE HAVE CHOOSEN TO RE-PRINT HIS MESSAGE TO THE DEATH OF NELSON MANDELA IN ORDER TO SHOW WHAT MIGHT BE POSSIBLE …

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I INVITED SHMUEL BRENNER TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS MAGAZINE BECAUSE I THINK HE IS A VERY EXPERIENCED AND RESPECTFUL PERSON DEDICATING PARTS OF HIS LIFE TO FIND A SOLUTION FOR THE ISRAELPALESTINE CONFLICT WHICH WILL WORK FOR BOTH SIDES. I’VE MET SHMUEL A FEW MONTH AGO IN INDIA AND THEN AGAIN IN ISRAEL HERE ARE HIS REACTIONS TO EVELYN HECHT-GALINKY’S ANSWERS. THE FIRST STATEMENT IS SHMUEL’S REACTION TO MY QUESTION IF HE WOULD COMMENT ON 3,4 SPECIFIC POINT SHE MAKES IN THE INTERVIEW: Dear Ulrike, Thank you for your kind request and I respect very much your sincere motives. However it seems to me that the statements by Evelyn Hecht-Galinsky are so much full with hate and immature analysis of the situation in the Middle East so it would be worthless and not constructive to enter into a serious dialogue with her views. It is not within my expertise to study the roots for her determination to condemn Israel as the source to all the problems with the Palestinians, the Middle East and probably the whole world. You can just look around and see what is happening around us in order to get a better and honest view about the “real world”. I understand that Hecht-Galinsky has problems with the Israeli mentality but may be the origin of the problem is her mentality and her own personal qualities and ways of expression. As you know. I participated many years in the peace negotiations with the Palestinians and I am responsible, from the Israeli side to article 12 (dealing with the environment) of the Oslo accord. Even today I cooperate with the Palestinians in different important environmental projects and I have many Palestinians students. They are not Zionists, we often have heated 82

THE ELEVENTH AMENDMENT CARTES BLANCHES FOR ISRAEL A CONVERSATION WITH EVELYN HECHT-GALINSKI

“I HAVEN’T SURVIVED AUSSCHWITZ, TO REMAIN SILENT AT NEW INJUSTICE” ... ... HEINZ GALINSKI, EVELYN’S FATHER, ONCE SAID. FATHER AND DAUGHTER COULDN’T DISAGREE MORE ABOUT THE MEANING OF HEINZ’S QUOTE. WHILE EVELYN’S FATHER WAS IN SOLIDARITY WITH ISRAEL, SHE HERSELF IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST CRITIC TOWARDS ISRAEL’S PALESTINE POLICIES. ULRIKE REINHARD HAD THE CHANCE TO TALK TO HER IN EARLY AUGUST.


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“OUR FREEDOM SEEMS POSSIBLE BECAUSE YOU REACHED YOURS” MARWAN BARGHOUTI TO NELSON MANDELA

During the long years of my own struggle, I had the occasion to think many times of you, dear Nelson Mandela. Even more since my arrest in 2002. I think of a man who spent 27 years in a prison cell, only to demonstrate that freedom was within him before becoming a reality his people could enjoy. I think of his capacity to defy oppression and apartheid, but also to defy hatred and to choose justice over vengeance. How many times did you doubt the outcome of this struggle? How many times did you ask yourself if justice will prevail? How many times did you wonder why is the world so silent? How many times did you wonder whether your enemy could ever become your partner? At the end, your will proved unbreakable making your name one of the most shining names of freedom. You are much more than an inspiration. You must have known, the day you came out of prison, that you were not only writing history, but contributing to the triumph of light over darkness, and yet you remained humble. And you carried a promise far beyond the limits of your countries’ borders, a promise that oppression and injustice will be vanquished, paving the way to freedom and peace. In my prison cell, I remind myself daily of this quest, and all sacrifices become bearable by the sole prospect that one day the Palestinian people will also be able to enjoy freedom, return and independence, and this land will finally enjoy peace. You became an icon to allow your cause to shine and to impose itself on the international stage. Universality to counter isolation. You became a symbol around which all those who 83


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discussions and they oppose the Israeli policies in many ways. But what I hear from them cannot be compared to the magnitude of hate you obtain from Hecht-Galinsky. These people are also my friends, I listen to them and their just and honest grievances and with them, eventually we will make peace, while I have no intent learn anything from Hecht-Galinsky and her experience. I am not speaking for the Israeli government and argue with many of its activities, but in order to proceed in a positive way you need a completely different approach based on facts and the present situation on the ground. The idea to connect the situation of the Palestinians with the Holocaust is an evil, bad and even antiemetic attempt to gain publicity from an unbalanced person regardless if he is a Jew or Non-Jew. I believe in peace and education towards peace and not in hate and tasteless opinions that will contribute zero assistance to the Palestinian cause. Fortunately, I had the privilege to be born in Israel and lived many years with the ups and downs in the area and somehow became immunized to the “once in a while” attack comparing us to Nazi Germany. At the end of the day, the two sides to the dispute should sit and discuss seriously all the core issues: the borders, the refugees, the water, Jerusalem and even the environment and come to a reasonable compromise. There is no other way. I am sorry if under the notion of transparency and free expression the interview with this woman will be published without a proper statement from your magazine with your own views included. In any case feel free to publish my response. Sincerely, Shmuel

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WE_MAGAZINE: How come your father stood so close to Israel when you yourself are one of its most vocal critics? How did this happen? Was there a sudden turning point? EVELYN HECHT-GALINSKI: My father was a man shaped by the experiences of his past. Yet after his liberation in 1945, he was always guided by a principle which I have also made my own: “I haven’t survived Auschwitz to keep my mouth shut about fresh injustice”. I had an easy childhood, was taught the value of tolerance and attended a progressive Waldorfschule in Berlin, the city where I was born, and I was totally integrated in the non-Jewish world. Fortunately, my upbringing was free of any traumatic incidents. I am convinced that today my father – in spite of being so “close to Israel” – would know very well how to differentiate between shades of opinion. I had a clear view of things at a very tender age; I saw the exaggerated “love for Israel” that many people had, particularly those with a Nazi past, and I found such people repugnant – just as I was revolted by the propaganda of the Springer press and the inflammatory smear campaign against the protesting students of the 68 generation, the Shah’s visit and the cult of reverence for Israel which made me cringe. Obviously all of this influenced me at a very early age. One key event was when I visited Israel in 1967 after the Six-Day War where I was really shocked by the arrogant way Israelis behaved to Arabs. It wasn’t just Israeli arrogance and chutzpah, but the snide, disparaging way they talked about the Arabs (Palestinians). But not only that: I had huge problems with the Israelis’ mentality in general, and even the way they behaved at the airport or the hotel in Israel disgusted me. I have never let myself be restricted by my father’s roles as Chairman of the Jewish Community in Berlin and President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and I went my own way from a very early age – and my own way, influenced by my parents teaching, was to be open and tolerant in my dealings with the non-Jewish world. Yet in 1972 when I married and moved with my (Jewish) husband to Düsseldorf, I was suddenly confronted with a situation that was the exact reverse of what I’d been used to in Berlin. Here was a Jewish Community that not only lived in complete isolation but even practiced


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censorship. This was my second key experience when I protested against the then Chairman of the Community Scheinmann who wanted to prevent the performance of the play “Palestinian Girl” by the Israeli playwright Sobol at the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus. I very much admired the theater’s director Volker Canaris and tried to offer him support. I wrote to the papers and appeared on a discussion program on WDR regional television. Sadly, all to no avail! We were finally granted “asylum” at the Bonner Schauspielhaus. Later on, under the next chairman, Paul Spiegel, we were discouraged from bringing nonJewish friends and acquaintances to the festivities of the Jewish Community – which was another reason for me to think long and hard about what Jewish tolerance really means. I was always very interested in politics and I began to read much more deeply in the literature about Israel and Palestine. Suddenly it was as though the scales had fallen from my eyes and I began to see everything from a fresh perspective. But my real sense of anger and grief was born in the wake of the invasion of Lebanon. After the Second Lebanon War I lambasted Israeli policymaking in a series of readers letters and took up the cause of the oppressed Palestinian people. Since 1992, after the death of my father, I have redoubled my efforts against Israel’s criminal occupation policies. And now I also work in line with the guiding principle of his life I mentioned at the beginning, because in spite of all his commitment to the state of Israel, he remained a man of justice who also had his own issues with Israeli policymaking. One of them, for instance, was Israel’s insistence on wanting to prescribe to Russian emigrants where they had to go – namely to Israel. He was unequivocal in his opposition to this, and with his own particular past he felt deeply that each and every person has the right to self-determination. I see Israel‘s refusal to grant the Palestinians this same right of self-determination as such a gross act of injustice that I must stand up and oppose it. In particular, reading the book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by Professor Ilan Pappe – the son of German emigrants – showed me that I was on the right track and had arrived in the sadness of reality, freeing myself of the last vestiges of all kinds of myths.

believe in the universal values that found your struggle could rally, mobilise and act. Unity is the law of victory for oppressed people. The tiny cell and the hours of forced labor, the solitude and the darkness, did not prevent you from seeing the horizon and sharing your vision. Your country has become a lighthouse and we,as Palestinians, are setting sails to reach its shores. You said “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”. And from within my prison cell, I tell you our freedom seems possible because you reached yours. Apartheid did not prevail in South Africa, and Apartheid shall not prevail in Palestine. We had the great privilege to welcome in Palestine a few months ago, your comrade and companion in struggle Ahmed Kathrada, who launched, following this visit, the International Campaign for the freedom of Palestinian prisoners from your own cell, where an important part of universal history was shaped, demonstrating that the ties between our struggles are everlasting. Your capacity to be a unifying figure, and to lead from within the prison cell, and to be entrusted with the future of your people while being deprived of your ability to choose your own, are the marks of a great and exceptional leader and of a truly historical figure. I salute the freedom fighter and the peace negotiator and maker, the military commander and the inspirer of peaceful resistance, the relentless militant and the statesman. You have dedicated your life to ensure freedom and dignity, justice and reconciliation, peace and coexistence can prevail. Many now honour your struggle in their speeches. In Palestine, we promise to pursue the quest for our common values, and to honour your struggle not only through words, but by dedicating our lives to the same goals.

Freedom dear Madiba, shall prevail, and you contributed tremendously in making this 85


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THE SECOND STATEMENT DROPPED IN AFTER MY REQUEST TO START A DIALOGUE WITH HECHT-GALINSKY: Dear U, The question is where you wish to lead the process. I will be happy to participate in a serious discussion based on facts but not to participate in another stage of hate against Israel. To link the Holocaust with the issue of the water in Ramallah is hate and nonsense. The quality of the water in Ramallah is better than in India and probably than in many places in Germany. For years I have been fighting for better environmental conditions for the Palestinians (attached you can see few publications one of them with a respected Palestinian expert ), but the present situation of water as well as areas A, B &C is based on agreement that was signed by the Israelis and the Palestinians. I agree that the agreement should be changed and modified and to do it is very complex but it can only be done through serious negotiations. I also believe that professional outside help is needed in order to solve the sensitive issues; this has to be done by real experts together with respect and dignity. For example, what will you do if there is an agreement and soon afterwards the Hamas will take over. If you check the education system in Palestinian areas you will see that this is an actual possibility. Therefore, a lot depends of the participants and the mechanism you want to build for your forum. I am sure you mean well, but If you want to include in the negotiations the Holocaust, the mentality of the Israelis or … the mentality of Hecht-Galinsky you will get nowhere. Feel free to publish this statement as well. Best, Shmuel

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Why is Israel such a “sacred cow”, and what can be done to change this? Because Israel knows perfectly well how to exploit the feelings of guilt of the international community, and Germany in particular, feelings which are rooted in the horrors of history and which allow Israel to continue on a course that tramples human rights underfoot. In my opinion, this already bad tendency has become much much worse over the past 20 years. Neither the USA – which is Israel’s strongest ally and major sponsor – nor Europe bring pressure to bear on policymaking in Israel. It seems to me that the tendency is to regard Israel as a beacon of light and bulwark of the Christian/Jewish community of values against the Muslim world. And the treaties, the cooperation work, the arms shipments and the billions of dollars in aid only serve to exacerbate this – because all they do is worsen the oppression and Nakba (Editor’s note: 1948 marked the NAKBA of the Palestinian people when the state of Israel was established at the cost of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their lives, lands and homes.) for the Palestinian people. We could change this situation on the spot by canceling all cooperation agreements with Israel, and stopping all financial aid to the rich and heavily armed state of Israel until such times as it complies with human rights, respects international law and stops its settlement policy. For how much longer will Israel be allowed to continue with its illegal occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip, with its attempts to take over East Jerusalem, its relentless land grabs, its wall of apartheid, and its streets and busses for Israeli Jews only? In my opinion this is completely intolerable. And it’s terrible that no one is bringing the state of Israel to its senses. Just because the instrumentalization of the Holocaust by the pro-Israeli lobby is so patiently tolerated.

What kind of influence does the huge theatre of conflict in the Arab world have on Israel? In my view, none whatsoever. Yet Israel is always smart enough to spin a tale which makes it look like its own security is in danger. Yet isn’t the reality that it’s Israel which is posing a threat to its own neighbors


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and Iran? The Arab world is struggling with huge problems – caused by a variety of influences, including outside intervention and radical upheavals – and the people are trying to protest and rise up. Why does the western world offer such massive support to the Gulf States? Aren’t these the very countries that want to return to the Middle Ages? Aren’t the people living in these oh so terribly modern Gulf States even more trodden down by the assistance we offer? Doesn’t all our cooperation and energy interests only encourage such states to continue even further on the path of oppression? Israel oppresses the Palestinians and the Arab world looks on and does nothing – no, I can’t see a threat of any kind for Israel. We’re continually fed the story of how weak Israel is, how it’s only fighting for its own survival and how it’s the only democracy in the Middle East. Yes, Israel is a democracy for its Jewish residents, but not for its second and third class citizens. Israel is an ethnocracy – where one ethic group holds power and systematically discriminates against other minority groups – and it’s also an apartheid state that is much worse than the old South Africa. Like I say, Israel is not threatened but it is a threat to other countries.

belief a certainty. Rest in Peace, and may God bless your unconquerable soul. Marwan Barghouthi Hadarim prison, cell n°28

If you could give young Israelis one piece of advice about how they should “deal” with the Arabs, what would you say to them? I’d tell them to rouse themselves at long last and reflect on what their forebears have lived through. I’d say put an end to the way the Holocaust is constantly exploited just so that Israel can continue to push through its political interests so shamelessly. Start making fair-minded policies that show empathy – not autism – to the oppressed people of Palestine. Take an example from Nelson Mandela and stop allowing the election of fascist politicians in Israel so they can push forward with their Zionist expansion plans. Think of the disenfranchised Palestinians and remember your own past which has long since been researched and illuminated, and remember the Nakba. It’s high time to be living side by side and on an equal footing with a democratic Palestine with the same rights for all. Only then can Israel be an accepted member of what is known as the community of shared values and be a democracy for all the people. 87


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But instead of this, what we have is a repeated insistence on its being recognize as a Jewish state! What a bitter comedy that is! A state can neither be Jewish or Evangelical or Catholic or whatever else, if it wants to be democratic. I’d also tell Israelis to take a leaf or two from our – German – Basic Law. This is why I find what chancellor Merkel said about Israel’s security being part of Germany’s raison d’état so abysmal. Yet unfortunately the actual situation looks anything but encouraging, because the Israelis – and particularly Israeli youth – continue to vote in these racist, fascist and Zionist politicians. This “sun and fun society” thinks only of itself and not of those living under occupation. As long as you allow this state without borders to continue to expand settlements and oppress people, I will be in favor of a boycott of Israel and will support the Boycott, Disvestment and Sanctions campaign.

What would you say to young Palestinians? Rise up against your “Vichy regime” which rules you without mandate and elections, which practically functions as the lengthened arm of Israel and the USA and is dependent on them, and has arranged itself nicely with the occupation. Where are the millions of Palestinians living in the Diaspora? Snap out of your lethargy and fight for your rights, even if that’s difficult after 65 years of eviction. Don’t leave the field alone to the strong pro-Israel lobby; mobilize across the whole world as a tsunami of justice. Because we do not forget – and I say this in all solemnity as a German citizen – that Palestinians too are victims of the Holocaust. Let us remember this, and see the struggle for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel as our common cause.

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JEWISH SETTLEMENT

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RAMALLAH

VIEW FROM THE ROOF TERRACE OF THE BED & BREAKFAST IN JIFNA


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REFUGEE CAMP


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BED & BREAKFAST THE FOLLY OF THE ISRAEL/PALESTINECONFLICT

RAWDA KHOURIYA / ULRIKE REINHARD

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RAWDA KHOURIYA

HAS HER OWN IDEA HOW TO COMMUNICATE THE SITUATION OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE IN THE WEST BANK. SHE QUIT HER WELL PAID JOB AS A SOCIAL WORKER FIVE YEARS AGO AND STARTED A BED & BREAKFAST IN JIFNA, A CHRISTIAN VILLAGE FOUR KILOMETERS OUTSIDE OF RAMALLAH. RANKED NUMBER 1 OF ALL PALESTINIAN B&B ON TRIPADVISOR, RAWDA AND HER FAMILY WELCOME PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. THEY OPENED THEIR HOME FOR INTERNATIONAL GUESTS AND BY DOING SO THEY SHARE THE EXPERIENCE OF HOW PEOPLE LIVE IN THE WEST BANK. THE GUESTS CAN EXPLORE PALESTINE WITH THEIR OWN EARS AND EYES. AND HOPEFULLY – SAYS RAWDA – THEY WILL REALIZE THAT THE PALESTINIANS ARE HUMAN BEINGS JUST LIKE THEMSELVES. NICE AND FRIENDLY AND EDUCATED PEOPLE – AND NOT AS THE MEDIA IS TRYING TO CONVINCE THE WORLD THAT PALESTINIANS ARE TERRORISTS PER SE. TO SHOW THIS IN THIS VERY PRACTICAL WAY BY RUNNING A B&B BECAME RAWDA’S MISSION. 94


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When she explained her B&B idea and concept to the neighbors and to the local officials they were all very sceptical and hesitant. “You want to bring strangers here?” they asked. “Do you think they will come?” But there were also an American and a Canadian woman in Ramallah, both of them part of an international network, who encouraged Rawda to start the business. And they supported her in the beginning and send guests over. Between Ramallah and Jifna there is the Jalazone refugee camp – established right after Nakba. The refugees arrived with the hope of returning back home soon but so many of the families still live in the camp today – meanwhile in the second or third generation. Some of them managed to leave the camp and built new homes in Jifna. This is how the historically Christian village with 1800 inhabitants turned half Muslim. Today Christians are less than 2% of the entire population in Palestine. Rawda and her family follow the church in Vatican and they practice the Christian principles accurately. In Jifna Rawda is engaged in the local church and in the Palestine Village Club – a cozy meeting place in the old ruins of the first Christian settlement in this area. Practicing religion and discussing the Israel-Palestine conflict are the ongoing hot topics in the club in the mild evenings. To live in the Holy Land where Jesus was born – among Jews and Muslims – and to practice freely Christianity makes them feel proud. Rawda said, that sometimes they have to adjust to the Muslim culture since Chris95


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tians are a minority; but usually it is pretty much fair. She requested the Christians outside Palestine to support their Palestinian fellow Christians and to stand with them – sometimes we feel left alone, she admitted. And then there are restrictions and suppressions, Rawda added, which are caused by the Israeli occupation and which are the same for Christians and Muslims. They are because both of them are Palestinians. “You know”, Rawda started to explain, “when the Oslo Accord was achieved in 1993 we Palestinians were dancing and celebrating in the streets. We thought we've had our land, our freedom, our government, our work. I went with my husband to Jericho where the major celebrations happened. In Jericho and Gaza. But over the years – with no progress in the peace talks – this Oslo Accord turned out to become a shocking reality for us. The partition of Palestine into A, B and C areas and the Israelis controlling most of them turned entire Palestine into a prison and us into prisoners.” Jifna is B area which indicates Palestinian government and administration but under Israeli security control. Meaning that any time Israeli soldiers can come and arrest people. “And when you look out of the window,” Rawda continued, “the fields over there are C areas and these areas are under complete Israeli control. We as Palestinians are not allowed to build houses there, water pipes, electricity grids. Nothing! And this is where all our resources are. The A and B areas are only tiny little islands within C. And C makes 75% of all Palestinian land. What an absurdity!” This construct of ABC areas has strong implications for the daily live of each and every Palestinian. And it has strong implications for the Palestinian economy, culture and society. Even though Rawda is living only 18 km away from Jerusalem, she is not allowed to go there. She has to ask the Israeli authorities for permission – which is a long process itself and its outcome is rarely positive. For palestinians it's also prohibited to travel to Tel Aviv, meaning whenever they plan to fly out of the country they have to travel to Amman, Jordan. To reach Amman they need to cross the Sheikh Hussein bridge – the only border out of three which are connecting the two countries and which Palestinians are allowed to use. And border crossing might take time – we’ve heard from a Palestinian friend, now living in Amman, that he has experienced waiting time from two up to 19 hours leaving the country. Same said Rawda. And the Israelis won’t give them any reason why they

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have to wait. They just have to sit and wait. When we crossed this border it took us 2 hours entering Palestine. Another implication regarding transportation and travel is the fact that A and B areas are very often connected by roads on which Palestinians are not allowed to drive and in the surrounding C areas roads where build by the Israeli authorities which simply divide villages and force Palestinians to make detours of 30 km and more to reach the other part of the village – in areas where they simply could cross the street. A detailed map of this segregated road system can be found here. Or if you want to go from Jifna to Ramallah, 4 km, you have to pass the refugee camp and on the other side of the street the Israeli settlement. The Israelis have implemented a gate right next to the settlement which was closed for 12 years! It just opened one year ago. And a closed gate means that Palestinians can't go from Jifna to Ramallah unless they make a huge detour. And in Ramallah are the jobs. And the gate can be closed any time again. Water supply is another issue. Most of the reservoirs are in the C areas and therefore controlled by the Israel. In Jifna they have once a week water – maybe for two days. This is it! During these 2 days they fill up their water tanks on the roofs and retain the water. Three kilometers away, in the Jewish settlement there is no scarcity of water at all – it’s running 24/7. We cannot carry any more. All we need is our freedom, said Rawda. We support non-violence. All we want is to have the chance to live a normal life – that’s all. We need ambassadors like you who tell the world was is really going on here. And this is why I build the guest house – to give you people the chance to experience us as we are and not as the media wants you to see us. On a bad day, Rawda ended, I think that there is no need for the Israelis to kill us right away, they let us die slowly.

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THE LEBANESE RED

IF YOU WANT TO ESCAPE THE FOLLY OF BEIRUT ONE WAY TO DO IT IS TO DRIVE TO THE BEKAA VALLEY AND DIVE INTO ONE OF THE WINERIES. PEACEFUL ISLANDS. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE DID. WE LEFT BEIRUT TOWARDS MOUNT LEBANON AND THE VALLEY WELCOMED US WITH A BREATHTAKING VIEW. BY ULRIKE REINHARD

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Our destination: Chateau Kefraya, one of the 45 wineries in the valley and one of the best. Kefraya produces 2.2 million bottles of wine every year and export up to 50% all over the world. Just recently earned the highest wine grade in the history of Lebanese wines with Comte de M 2009. American wine critic Robert Parker commanded the public’s attention towards Comte de M when he awarded this newly acclaimed red wine with a total of 92 points out of 100. Vissi d’Arte 2010, a Château Kefraya white wine, also won a high rating with a notable 89 out of 100 points. Both wines fall under the Prestige category of Château Kefraya’s wines. Parker is one of the most widely acclaimed wine critics in the world. Due to his highly significant and respected role in the wine industry, his ratings impact the pricing of Bordeaux wines. Thus his high rating for Comte de M 2009 has made an international impression.

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We went there without advance notice and surprisingly we were lucky to meet and talk to Fabrice Guiberteau, the oenologist at the Chateau. Fabrice is native French and he previously made wine in Cognac, France, and Morocco before coming to Lebanon in 2006. He is married to a Lebanese and truly enjoys his work. He couldn’t sleep the night before we came because our arrival date was the first day of the harvest. Just like a little boy. All excited. The start of the harvest is a huge event every year and one of the most crucial steps in the process of winemaking. Fabrice’s passion for wine one could feel in everything he said and explained. He was here at Chateau Kefraya to build something special, to create something different, to sync it with the environment and the culture and the people. He has an extraordinary way to combine his knowledge of wine and the place he lives in. Wine making is a job. A great job for him. It is work full of challenges and possibilities. Completely different from what he would experience back home in France he said. And he loves it and fully embraces it. Even though he can see the border with Syria from his vineyards and the worries of the conflict are so close to home he said that leaving Lebanon would be difficult. “It’s about having started something and wanting to see it through,” Guiberteau said. He mentioned that the challenges became a bigger since the unrests started – the number of visitors at the Chateau has dropped almost by 50% (appr. 25.000 visitor per year) – but business itself is increasing. The Chateau gives him and his team the freedom to build and expand the brand. The winery secures 30 jobs year round, and up to 100 and more during harvest. Most of them locals. What more do you want?

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INTERVIEW WITH SHARMINE NARWANI


SHARMINE NARWANI ... is a political analyst and commentator on Middle East geopolitics and a senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English, USA Today and other publications. You can follow her on Twitter: @snarwani and on her blog: www.mideastshuffle.com. In another life, Sharmine has has also co-produced a Venice Film Festival award-winning movie and run a Virginia-based technology company.


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THE LAST THING THE MIDDLE EAST NEEDS IS ANOTHER CONFLICT. BUT LEBANON LOOKS SET TO ONCE AGAIN BECOME THE BATTLEGROUND FOR LARGER POWERS VYING FOR REGIONAL SUPREMACY. TODAY, THIS FIGHT HAS BECOME EXISTENTIAL – AND LEBANON MAY BE VIEWED AS A LAST CHANCE TO DEAL A FATAL BLOW TO THE "RESISTANCE AXIS" (IRAN, SYRIA, HEZBOLLAH). WE_MAGAZINE: The conflict between Sunnis and Shiites seems to deepen in Lebanon. Who is fueling this divide and why?

SHARMINE NARWANI: I am wary anytime I hear about Sunni-Shia conflicts in the Mideast. While there are historic tensions between these two groups, the region is aflood with Sunni-Shia marriages, particularly in those countries – Lebanon, Bahrain, Syria, Iraq – said to be suffering most from Sunni-Shia strife. I always prefer to say that the real conflict is between “sectarians” and “nonsectarians” – this is a more accurate description because there are Sunni and Shia on both sides of that divide. Those in the “sectarian” grouping are the minority opinion in their own communities, but they are loud and aggressive, so we think there are many of them. It is very easy to get drawn into the narrative of constant Shia-Sunni discord – it blares from the headlines in all our papers. But at this point in a rapidly destabilizing Middle East, it befits us to dig deeper. Saudi Arabia is ground-zero for the divisive Sunni-vs-Shia narrative. While the Saudis are extremely conservative Wahhabis (Sunni), this discourse is mainly a convenient political tool to keep Iranian ascendency at bay. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Saudis were frantic that a grassroots Islamic revolt that successfully overthrew a key US dictator in the region might inspire the Muslim (mostly Sunni) masses, and sought to drive a wedge between Iranians and Arabs, Shia and Sunni. 105


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These negative narratives have been more than 30 years in the making, and they are a key divide-and-rule strategy in nations whose governments or populations are allied with Iran. Lebanon has been one such playground for this Saudi mischief. Riyadh has thrown money and clout at undermining staunch Iranian ally and Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah for years, and plays a central role in local politics here. You can be assured that there is Saudi or Gulf money behind every vocal Salafist militant calling for reprisals against Hezbollah, Iran or Syria in Lebanon today.

A few days ago a leading figure of Al Qaeda was captured and detained by Lebanese security forces. He announced that the “Christians” were his target – in Syria and in Lebanon. Are we slowly entering into another war in Lebanon?

I’m assuming you are speaking of Saudi national Majed al-Majed, leader of the (allegedly) Al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades that claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut a few months ago – the first suicide-bombing operation that Lebanon has seen for decades,incidentally. Majed died on January 4 while in custody of the Lebanese Army, and there has been much speculation about his cause of death. The Iranians are outraged and suspect foul play, because had Majed lived, he could have provided some clear-cut answers to which individuals and states are funding terror activity in Lebanon today. The Saudis demanded Majed’s extradition from the time he was apprehended, which cast suspicion their way. The Saudis had very recently, after all, pledged $3 billion to the Lebanese Army. All these events and developments contribute to the growing apprehension over the security situation in Lebanon – people here have been warning of Syrian “spillover” and being dragged into war for more than two years now. But let me say this: whatever the political motivations of various parties and their foreign mentors, whatever the level of rage and desire for revenge, there has so far been some kind of universal understanding that Lebanon shall not cross over into a situation of open and widespread warfare. For starters, the UN Security Council permanent members – including the US, UK and France who have been so intimately involved in fueling the Syrian conflict – are dead-set against any real conflagration in Lebanon. Their appetite for conflict on more than one of Israel’s borders is nil. For other players like the Russians, Iranians and Chinese, a war in Lebanon would muddy the Syrian waters, and they want attention focused on resolving the Syrian conflict right now and pre-empting further destabilization from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. The two states that will remain opportunistic about conflict in Lebanon are Saudi Arabia and Israel – the Saudis because they view events in Syria as existential, and seem prepared to “set the region on fire” to attain their goals; the Israelis because they will welcome any opportunity to weaken their greatest military adversary, Hezbollah.

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Outside Syria Hezbollah and Hamas are allies; inside Syria they fight against each other. Why?

Look, at the heart of politics lies opportunism, and I’m not sure that is a bad thing. Decision makers need to be able to shift positions and alliances as circumstances change around them. The Resistance Axis (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and once Hamas too) is a very unusual grouping. It is the only one in the region that consists of Shia and Sunni, Iranian and Arab, Islamist and Secularist. At the heart of this Axis is a common political worldview – which is why foreign efforts to divide this group have largely failed. Anti-imperialism, a desire for regional self-determination, anti-Zionism – these are the threads that bind. Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), was torn when the Arab uprisings helped install mostly MB-related governments backed by Qatar and Turkey, two Islamist governments that took a “Sunni” view of the region, and sought to challenge Iran and its allies in the process. In a sense, Hamas was being forced to decide between their Sunni and Islamist identities and their “resistance” one. The choice has created some serious splits within the group, so it is a battle that continues for Hamas. They have dealt with it by acknowledging both priorities – I think, to their detriment, because in this Mideast climate, there simply isn’t any “middle.” I give some “maturity credit” to the Resistance Axis though – Hamas operatives have worked against Hezbollah in the Syrian military theater and yet, back in Lebanon, they share a common enemy in Israel. Both groups have taken pains to keep their differences from spilling into the public sphere, so there is some determined level of commitment to the relationship. The Resistance Axis has some key allies within Hamas’ military wing in Gaza – this is an asset that they will continue to support come hell or highwater.

Where does the Lebanese Army stand?

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) is a pretty weak institution, in that it cannot act without consensus between competing political parties, which rarely happens in Lebanon. Furthermore, it has become a pawn in the larger geopolitical game, and cannot receive or purchase the weapons it actually needs to defend the country – mainly from Israel, which is Lebanon’s stated primary enemy. For instance, Israel conducts illegal overflights over Lebanese territory every single day in violation of international law, but nobody will sell the LAF the anti-aircraft missiles that could put a halt to this practice. If Iran or China offers these weapons, all hell breaks loose in the Lebanese political arena – the LAF is voiceless in these debates, and so it has fallen to Hezbollah to protect Lebanon from Israeli aggression. What’s interesting about this question is that in 2013 as political violence and sectarian rhetoric took hold in Lebanon, many Lebanese – fed up with 107


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their impotent politicians – were saying they wish the Lebanese Army would initiate a coup and take over the state. It is worth mentioning that during this time in the wider region – from Egypt to Syria – we were seeing a rise in the fortunes of “national armies” and populations entrusting them to secure their states against the rising tide of Islamist militants and jihadists. Lebanon was no different in that regard. The Saudi pledge of $3 billion dollars is the largest infusion of capital in LAF history, I gather. But it is an embarrassingly transparent attempt to buy-off the Lebanese Army and scuttle cooperation between Hezbollah and the LAF in dealing with (often) Saudi-backed Salafist militancy inside Lebanon. Even more cringe-worthy is the fact that all LAF weapons and ammunition purchases are required to be from France, which is in effect another Saudi pay-off for France’s efforts to sabotage the P5+1-Iran nuclear deal and continued French political support for the Syrian rebellion.

Who is funding the various (militant) groups in Lebanon and what are the goals behind the funding?

This is a very difficult question to answer, because secrecy is the essential nature of these groups. They do not wire funds to each other from banks, nor do they make traceable mobile calls to deliver instructions on the next terror bombing. Donors change according to the political climate as well. Some are interested in challenging the state or one of its neighbors, others may have sectarian interests or even function as criminal mafias. Today though, weapons and cash are being funneled to these groups to benefit a geopolitical fight against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. The battle is cast in sectarian terms, which has lit the Takfiri fires from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. Volunteer drives in several Gulf states have funded jihadists from dozens of countries entering fights in Syria and even Iraq. Lebanon has often been viewed as a resting place for many of these groups, but has now become an active battleground to (allegedly) halt Hezbollah’s assistance to the Syrian army and to shift the Levant’s balance of power back in favor of Saudi interests. These groups used to be quite ideological, but have become more opportunistic now – and will bury the hatchet with Gulf monarchies for the moment to focus on common sectarian targets. In Lebanon, the main suspect behind the funding of these groups today is Saudi Arabia, which makes a lot of sense given Riyadh’s existential outlook in regard to Syria and Iran. Those dots began to be connected when the Saudi establishment installed Prince Bandar bin Sultan as intelligence chief – Bandar is known for dirty tricks and his command of jihadist/salafist networks in many regions.

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What are the chances and ways for the Lebanese NOT to get drawn into a war?

As mentioned earlier, I believe it is still in the interest of all major Lebanese political parties, their foreign mentors, and global powers to maintain stability in Lebanon. This has become much more urgent since militants began merging their interests (Syria and Iraq) across borders and threatening instability in a long arc across the region. Again, there are a few hold-outs like Saudi Arabia and Israel, but neither state currently seems to be willing to back a full-on escalation in Lebanon, mostly because the consequences are highly unpredictable right now. Providing there is no game-changing event, maintenance of the status quo in Lebanon is desirable for all parties. Lebanon continues to be viewed as a “political lever” for many parties – this is the place where they send warning signals and threats to each other. A bombing here, gunfire there…that’s how domestic and foreign players issue missives to each other these days. They never go too far though – at least not yet. Lebanon’s best bet is to try to maintain a certain neutrality even while its various parties assist in the Syrian conflict and elsewhere. I don’t think the formation of a new government will help a whit – one big event in a neighboring state and little Lebanon’s government will collapse again. The main thing Lebanon needs to do while it is treading water is to halt the proliferation of militant groups inside the country and to stop foreign fighters from crossing its borders. This isn’t a matter of taking sides – it is the fundamental right of all nation-states to preserve their sovereignty and territorial integrity. A politically-independent and well-supplied Lebanese Army is essential for this task, but cannot seem to do it right now without assistance from Hezbollah, which tries to take a low-key role in these operations so as not to provoke further sectarianism. Hezbollah’s involvement, in turn, infuriates the other “camp” – but then they too should step up and police their neighborhoods and border towns from foreign infiltration and the influx of heavy weapons and small arms. If Lebanon is impotent today within the context of larger regional battles, the least it can do is to preserve its territorial integrity in the meantime. Every terrorist attack here seems to empower the LAF a little bit more – popular outrage is demanding this. I’m not sure how then the LAF can take $3 billion in assistance from Saudi Arabia – the very country that is backing Salafist militants who are attacking Lebanese soldiers.

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SYRIA’S OTHER ARMY HOW THE HACKERS WAGE WAR

BY MATT BUCHANAN (FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORKER, AUGUST 29, 2013)

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MATT BUCHANAN In a move that is a reverse of the hordes of journalists leaving old school jobs for BuzzFeed, Matt Buchanan, the editor of FWD, the site’s tech vertical, is leaving for the more august shores of The New Yorker. Since February 2013 is is working for The New Yorker.

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At 5:41 P.M. on Tuesday (August 28, 2013), a tweet from the account of the hacker collective known as the Syrian Electronic Army (@Official_SEA16 ) which supports the regime of Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, said, “Media is going down…” It had been a couple of hours since the Web site of the Times had gone offline for the second time this month. Roughly forty-five minutes later, the account asked Twitter, “Are you ready?” Some users had noticed that the backgrounds of their Twitter profiles had been transformed to Syria-related pictures. While Twitter quickly recovered, the Times continued to be inaccessible to some users for a day; as of 6:20 P.M. on Wednesday, the Times’s Twitter account was still advising those readers to use an alternate Web address. The S.E.A.’s attacks on media organizations and journalists have been remarkably successful—in terms of collecting trophies, if nothing else. In 2012, it struck Al Jazeera several times, breaking into its English Web site, its Twitter accounts, and the network’s S.M.S. text service, which the S.E.A. used to broadcast multiple fake news alerts. This past March, it gained control of several BBC Twitter accounts. In April, it hijacked the Twitter account of the Associated Press, and tweeted, “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured,” sending the Dow down around a hundred and fifty points that afternoon. It also defaced NPR’s Web site, and commandeered the Twitter accounts of “60 Minutes” and the Guardian. In May, it compromised the Twitter account of the Onion, tweeting vaguely Onion-ish headlines like “UN’s Ban Ki Moon condemns Syria for being struck by israel: ‘It was in the way of Jewish missiles’ onion.com/104PKAs.” That same month, it hacked the Financial Times’s Web site and several associated Twitter accounts, as well as the account of E! News. Then it took over the Reuters Twitter feed. And earlier this month, it broke into Outbrain, a thirdparty service that recommends stories on news sites, allowing the S.E.A. to vandalize the Web sites of Time, CNN, and the Washington Post “in a single strike.” And it redirected Post readers to one of its own sites; that attack had been its most sweeping to date. On Tuesday, the S.E.A. did not hack the Times or Twitter directly. Rather, it breached Melbourne IT, a domainname registration service that the Times and Twitter both used to manage their Web addresses. Once it had access to Melbourne IT, it altered the domain records of the Times and Twitter. In the Times’s case, it sent some users who went to the newspaper’s Web site to one controlled by the S.E.A.; for Twitter, it listed itself as the owner of twitter.com, and redirected one of the company’s addresses, twimg.com, which Twitter uses to host backgrounds for profiles, to one of the S.E.A.’s addresses. As the networking company CloudFlare explained in a detailed post about the attack, the Times suffered a prolonged outage because the changes made by the S.E.A. resulted in a chain reaction, breaking things at multiple levels. The chief information officer of the New York Times Company told the paper that compared to previous attacks, the assault on the Times and Twitter through Melbourne IT was like “breaking into Fort Knox. A domain registrar should have extremely tight security because they are holding the security to hundreds if not thousands of Web sites.” Formed in 1996, Melbourne IT is the largest domain name registrar in Australia, and one of the oldest and largest globally; it manages millions of domain names. It did, moreover, “have a reputation of being one of the more secure, business-oriented registrars,” said Jaeson Schultz, a threat-research engineer at Cisco Systems who has been following the S.E.A.’s activities, which is one of the reasons the registrar counts the Times, Twitter, and other large organizations among its customers. But the S.E.A.’s method, though its execution was sophisticated, was rather simple conceptually: it began by gaining access to Melbourne IT’s system using the log-in of a U.S.-based domain reseller, which it obtained using a technique known as spearphishing. This is as much an exploitation of human weakness as it is a technical accomplishment: it’s a gambit designed to trick people into voluntarily revealing information in response to what appears to be a message from a legitimate Web site or service. For example, a link in an e-mail transports a user to what looks like Google’s log-in page, and then captures the user’s Google name and password.

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Spearphishing through e-mail has consistently been the S.E.A.’s tactic of choice, Schultz said in a phone call. The S.E.A.’s attempts can be “tough to spot” for the average user because they’re so carefully crafted. It’s not just that the fake log-in screens are well executed; Schultz notes that, at this point, “they’ve broken into several different media organizations’ inboxes, and there’s probably a lot of good info in there,” like names and places that can be used to make e-mails seem legitimate. For instance, in the attack on the Onion, one of the booby-trapped e-mails purported to be from Elizabeth Mpyisi at the U.N. Refugee Agency – a real person – and the one on the A.P. used the name of an A.P. staffer, according to Jim Romenesko. Still, Schultz does believe the S.E.A. will “face diminishing returns” if it continues to use the same kind of attacks. After the latest breach, for instance, Domain Name System providers – which do the work of translating the recognizable Web address you type into a browser to its actual address (nytimes.com translates to 170.149.168.130, for example) – could hunt for addresses used by the S.E.A. to re-register domains, and prevent further damage from occurring. Moreover, it’s likely that organizations will put in place additional measures to secure their domains – requiring, for instance, any change to the domain record to be authorized by one of a small number of individuals. “They’re going to have to adapt,” Schultz said. The S.E.A. already has adapted in a way that makes its attacks more punishing: while previous assaults focussed on media organizations directly, the S.E.A. has recently begun targeting third-party services and infrastructure that the media rely on, allowing it to hit multiple targets at once. The widespread use of third-party services for things like commenting or content recommendations makes each site only as secure as its weakest service. Last week, the S.E.A. compromised the GoDaddy domain account of ShareThis, a content-sharing company whose widget is on more than two million Web sites, and changed its domain records. Its occupation of Outbrain a couple of weeks ago is another example, as was its incursion into SocialFlow, a social-media management service used by a number of publishers. Few concrete facts are known about the S.E.A., but it has the appearance of a loose hacker collective. It formed in 2011, in the midst of the Syrian uprisings, and it is assuredly pro-Assad. It has targeted Web sites and services associated with dissidents and organizations it believes are aligned with rebels, as well as media organizations. It said, of Tuesday’s attack, that it “placed twitter in darkness as a sign of respect for all the dead #Syria-ns due to the lies tweeted it.” In what it called “an anti-war message” posted on Pastebin, the group stated, “The Syrian army, which has lost tens of thousands of soldiers who were defending their homeland with nothing more than a rifle, would never have been the one to use chemical weapons.” Whether the S.E.A. is under the control of the Syrian government is unclear. The Times notes that Syrian rebels and some security researchers consider the S.E.A. to be the “outward-facing campaign of a much quieter surveillance campaign focused on Syrian dissidents,” and note that Assad has publicly touted the group as “a real army in a virtual reality.” Moreover, the Syrian Computer Society, which regulates the Internet within Syria – and was headed by Assad before he became President – at one pointed hosted the group’s Web site at the address sea.sy, after its original domains were seized by a U.S.-based domain registrar. In May, the S.C.S. cut the group off, and in interviews, self-proclaimed leaders of the group have claimed to have no direct ties to the government, monetarily or otherwise. (While the S.E.A.’s Web sites are currently down, the security researcher Brian Krebs notes that the domains are now hosted in Russia.) In a recent interview with the Daily Beast, a supposed leader of the group, calling himself “SEA the Shadow,” said that the S.E.A. is made up of nine college students living in Syria. While Motherboard and Brian Krebs each claim to have unmasked a member of the group, the S.E.A.’s Twitter account has mocked them and called the Motherboard article “false.” (E-mails sent to the group have so far gone unreturned.)

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REGARDLESS, IT’S CLEAR THAT THE INDIVIDUALS WHO MAKE UP THE S.E.A. ARE NOT SIMPLY TECHNICALLY SAVVY IN A ROTE WAY. THEY ARE FULLY NATIVE PRODUCTS AND PRODUCERS OF INTERNET CULTURE. THEY USE ENGLISH, BOTH ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND IN THEIR PHISHING ATTACKS, IN THE MANNER OF YOUNG PEOPLE WHO’VE SPENT THEIR ENTIRE LIVES ONLINE; THEY DEPLOY WELL-KNOWN MEMES WHEN THEY HIJACK ACCOUNTS; THEY CRACK JOKES ABOUT JUSTIN BIEBER; AND, OF COURSE, THEY RELENTLESSLY BROADCAST ALL OF THEIR DOINGS ON SOCIAL MEDIA. (Their current Twitter account, @Official_SEA16, is, as the number implies, their sixteenth consecutive account, as previous ones were suspended. A Twitter spokesperson explained in an e-mail that the account remains active because “Our Trust and Safety team takes action only after someone reports a violation of our Rules and the report is investigated.”) Most profoundly, the S.E.A.’s campaign reflects the vigilantism of young aggressors steeped in the Web: it’s conducted not simply on widely viewed media sites or on social media itself but for them; the SEA knows how to capture a precise kind of attention from a particular kind of audience. This is in part, one suspects, because they are that kind of audience, one who lives on Facebook and Twitter. That’s what ultimately makes this group so remarkable: it has shifted the battleground from a single place to an infinite number of them, because it’s battling for attention, not power – even if it can be hard to tell the difference.

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IN THE NAME OF GOD THE EMERGENCE OF THE NEW SYSTEM

INTERVIEW WITH MOTHER AGNES

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Besides a brutal and barbarian war there are at least two more “wars” going-on in Syria. Or better said, going-on on the backs of the Syrian people. There is the war about the political and economic influence of the West and its allies in the Arab world, and there is a media war – highly connected with the economic and political interests. In none of these wars anyone is fighting for the benefits for the Syrian people. That's the worst part of all. One of the key figures in the ongoing media war is Mother Agnes, a highly [controversial figure] (http:// news. yahoo.com/nun-emerges-power-broker-syria-175841939.html). The West and {Free Syrian Army} allies say that she is paid by the Assad regime; still her voice is highly respected at the UN Human Rights Council and various other western places. Others say she is a reliable independent source who earnestly cares about the Syrian people. The first time I “saw” Mother Agnes was in May 2013 in New Dehli, India. Late at night I watched an interview on [YouTube] (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYeakx0FpjQ) – conducted by an Irish TV station. What she said really had an impact on me. She blamed Western media and rebel groups for not reporting the truth, even worse, for willfully lying. Last August I met her in person in Beirut, where I did the following interview. I am not in a position to give an opinion about who is right or wrong in this media war. All I can say is that I don’t believe in a free Western media any more. I don’t believe that the western media is NOT biased especially in the Syrian case, where so many political and economic interests from so many sides are involved. My interest is to achieve a more balanced view on what might be going on by considering various sources, and to raise awareness that western media is not necessarily trustworthy. It has lost much of its credibility for me over the past years, and I’ve learnt to read it by knowing how they lie to me. I find this saddening.


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MOTHER AGNES ... was born in Beirut, Lebanon. Her father was Palestinian, her mother Lebanese. She was raised in Beirut and, with a convincing smile in her face, she confessed that she was “transformed” from a hippie to a Christian nun. This was her revolution! A long road to travel I would imagine. In 1994 she went to Qara, Syria, to rebuild the ruins of a beautiful monastery from the sixth century: Mar Yakub, Saint James the Mangled, a Persian martyr. In 2000, her bishop accepted the foundation of a monastic community there which today is composed of 15 members with monks from eight nationalities. It is open to spiritual hospitality and cultural interaction and strife for dialogue, prayer, contemplation and charity. During the unrests, the monastery was called to become more responsive to the situation. So Mother Agnes offered mediation for the liberation of people who were in jails, or abducted or kidnapped, and provided humanitarian services. The monastery was also called to give witness about what was happening in Syria. Here for the first time confusion started. ‘What we saw,’ Mother Agnes said, ‘was not conforming with what the international media was reporting.’ That was the time when the ball started rolling …

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WE_MAGAZINE: What was your Eureka moment Mother Agnes?

MOTHER AGNES: You know, when you reside in a place, you don’t rely only on what you hear or what you see in foreign and national media. You have a more direct way to sense reality. You see reality with your own eyes, and you deal with the people who are embedded in those realities. As a monastery we have a big network of friends, parents and partners all over Syria – we are especially well connected in Homs, Damascus, Homs, Daraa and Aleppo. The media presented to the world in the beginning a kind of binary paradigm in Syria – on one side the peaceful demonstrations with beautiful titles, on the other side, the dark side so to speak, the repression of the terrible Assad regime. All of a sudden the Assad regime was marked as cruel and bad in the Western media. It was as if all these countries that were dealing with this same regime previously, didn’t know what was going on in reality.

All these countries that were dealing with Syria previously, didn’t know what was going on in reality?

On the ground, living in Syria, we began to see that what was aired in the media was completely false in many points. I will give you an example. One day Al Jazeera reported that Abbasid Square in Damascus was invaded by thousands of protestors. So we called the families of our workers living around Abbasid Square. They assured us that there was nobody there! We replied that was not possible since we are watching it on television. They repeated that the square was empty. After a while we saw on Syrian television a direct link to Abbasid Square which was effectively empty. Simultaneously we could see on Al Jazeera TV the Abbasid Square packed. This was the first time I was challenged by the media world. I realized that with all these new technologies it is now possible to create in real time virtual scenes which do not show the reality you are living in. Another time I I saw reports on Al Jazeera TV saying that the village of Judaydat Artuz,. located southwest of Damascus, was being surrounded by army tanks. Many people were injured and some even killed. This day I had to go to Damascus. At lunch I met the priest from this village, both of us were invited to the Patriarch's table. I expressed my condolences and told him that I deeply regretted what was happening. He looked at me with big eyes wondering what I was talking about. 'You are surrounded by tanks' I said, 'it's on Al Jazeera TV.' ‘Why are you still looking at such garbage’ was his response. It turned out once again that the reports weren't true! They were trying to build up a scenario which suited their needs. We had stories like this many, many times, a kind of propaganda program, a pre-defined media output. But the reality was completely different. This is when I and my team decided to invite foreign reporters to come and see with their own eyes that the reality on the ground was not like the media wanted them to believe.

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Why did you engage in media?

Because we had victims. But victims from the other side that were never reported. The reality wasn't covered by the media, and so the victims were not protected. We felt that we had to draw the attention of the world to those actions on the ground that were violent and threatening the life of innocent people and that were not reported out of political complicity.

So what is your story, your truth?

Today, two and a half years after the unrests started, we are in the position to look back and we can draw conclusions from our experience and learning. There was an infiltration of unidentified armed agents inside Syria to attack the civilians and oppress the security forces and perpetrate terrorist acts in order to implement a sectarian suspicion between the diverse religious and ethnic communities. The task was to implement “centers of incentive war”. They had to remain hidden until the war became real, and the real war became their right to exist. Then they appeared as armed opposition that was in an ongoing radicalism until to appear as fueled with Al Qaeda ideology and methods. Slowly by slowly those deeds were spreading and always being untold and hidden by the media. Today we arrived to barbarism. The media is showing some bite of it. Today you can see horrible things that cannot be justified but are accepted as a fatality. Poor people are beheaded, cut him in pieces or set alight? Men, women and children are raped, tortured and enslaved. Such horrible pictures and videos are being circulated in the social media. It is published in a way that justifies such cruelties because what the tyrant (=Assad) has done in the beginning was much worse. It is portrayed in a way that justified such cruelties because what the tyrant (=Assad) has done in the beginning was much worse. This demonization pretends to justify any barbarity as a normal reaction towhat Assad has done. We see mercenaries upholding the flag of Al Qaeda and affirming that they want to install an Islamic Caliphate! This is a fake Islam. It’s a tool to justify savage and ferocious acts that subdue the civilian population and break the courage of the army. The goal is not Islam but to destroy the Syrian resources, the Syrian State and to reap apart the Syrian society in a way that it becomes unbearable for the Syrian people to live with the “other” who is different. And this in a land in which for many years religious diversity was never ever an issue. What we witness is the engineering of chaos and destructio! The mainstream media is reporting constantly what could create unanimity among the public opinion to justify a military intervention in Syria, just like in Libya or, at least, to redeem time to let the extremist finish their job to destruct. For me, it is not the first time that this has happened, an intervention into internal affairs and the perversion of a cause. I am a victim of just such an international coverage of injustice. My father is a displaced Palestinian who left Nazareth in ’48. He was never able to go back home.

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If we look back and see what happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya we understand that the foreign intervention hijacked the legal strife of the population for freedom and democracy and pushed it into sectarian conflicts that destroyed the countries. Exactly the same is happening in Syria today!

So what do you think is the bigger force behind all this?

I think there is a new world system emerging. A world system that rises after the two world wars – where you have a globalized world with a tiny pool of nations controlling most of the resources of the planet: financial,industrial, military and also cultural and humanitarian resources. This pool controls the United Nations, which is not free and independent. It controls the media to a certain degree. And above all, the banking system has taken over everything. It’s like a kraken … and all this under the umbrella of globalization. On the one hand this might be good because you have a kind of hierarchy which could be good for coordination. However, on the other hand, it manifests itself in an unlawful and terrible way, by repressing the entire world. We are witnessing the emergence of a new system that is defining itself with positive titles – such as democracy, participation and transparency. As I said, it could be very beneficial. Like the internet. It could be something very good, but if it is infiltrating your life, watching you and limiting your freedom, then it can become a way of terrible repression.

Are you saying that what we see in Syria is some kind of manifestation of this?

The ruling people in Syria aren’t saints. We have been experiencing it in Lebanon during the war, and I know of many people who have simply disappeared in Syrian jails. As a Lebanese, I can assure you that I don’t have any sympathy for such an ideology. For the last 18 years I have been living in Syria and let me tell you, that I haven’t seen only bad things happening. I have seen good things also. For example, a socialist model of partnership in resource distribution that enables the state to provide free education, hospitals, low cost food and pharmacy to everybody; a good sharing of agricultural land, and very good support in all kinds of life necessities. Of course in any system – and I would say even in the Kingdom of God – you’ll find opponents. So the trick is to give these people the freedom to express themselves, and take democratic means to implement their position and open the door for a new system. In Syria this was not really possible because its ideology is nationalistic, and any kind of opposition was considered as a threat to the state security. Without any doubt Syria needed a shift towards freedom, towards democracy and towards all those values that the Western world has been struggling for over decades. The Syrian people yearned for it, but not at any price. What we felt was that during the Arab Spring those principles and values had been hijacked. They were very well covered, and supported by the international community and its media machinery, but slowly – actually I’d say very quickly – this entire movement became an Islamic call, an Islamist project. When I say an Islamist project, I mean it became a sectarian project,

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a project that is good for one part of the population and not for the other. It became biased. But nonetheless, it continued to be covered and supported just as if it had not lost its purity. Extremism was fostered. We are talking about implementing Shari’ah Law in our constitutions ... this was a completely different project, a completely different plan! International media and the political elite didn't see this shift in the revolution! They weren’t aware of what was happening and kept supporting the so-called liberated areas, the rebels, the opposition! It’s a scandal. They are trying to implement what they think is good for the Syrian people. Why not let the Syrian people decide for themselves? It’s a betrayal. They are trying to convince us that what is happening in Syria today is for the benefit of the Syrian population.

But it’s not?

I can tell you because I have been there, that 90% of the Syrian population, both in the liberated areas as well as in the government controlled areas, are upset about what is happening, except of course for those who benefit from war such as smugglers and arms dealers etc.. The majority of the Syrian people, the massive majority are really ruined, completely ruined. Have a look, actually what are the achievements of two years of the so-called liberation? The entire infrastructure of the state has been destroyed. If you want to implement freedom and democracy, why would you destroy the electricity plant? Why would you destroy the gas distribution network? Why would you destroy the water treatment plants? Why would you seek to destroy the cultural heritage? Why would you loot the museums? Why would you burn the Aleppo Souk or destroy the Umayyad Mosque? Above all, why would you transform secure residential areas into battlefields? Today you see landscapes in Syria which are reminiscent of Stalingrad or Dresden; a terrible destruction of the residential panorama of Syria. Six million people are displaced inside Syria. They have no shelter, or they have to seek an alternative shelter. They need assistance – for the first time in 50 years, the Syrian people need help.

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TODAY, “JIHAD IN SYRIA” REPRESENTS ONE OF THE MOST PROMINENT FORMS OF THE POLITICAL DIVIDE IN TUNISIA. THE STATE THAT GAVE BIRTH TO THE ARAB SPRING IS NOW THE NATION THAT SENDS THE MOST FIGHTERS TO SYRIA. IN THE CAPITAL AND IN REMOTE SOUTHERN AND CENTRAL VILLAGES, THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF FAMILIES WHOSE YOUNG MEN HAVE TRAVELED VIA TURKEY TO SYRIA TO PARTICIPATE IN JIHAD.


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THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH MY SON IS A JIHADIST!

INTERVIEW WITH FATMA ESSID ALOUINI

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“I go to Libya to buy clothes for your business, Mum,” said Fatima’s son during Ramadan 2012. She expected him back home for Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. The Feast of Breaking the Fast. An important religious holiday in Islam. His mum and family were waiting for him to sacrfice the sheep. He didn’t come. Not on the first day of Eid al-Fitr. Not on the second. She started to get nervous.She felt there was something wrong. Friends told her what she didn’t want to believe. Her son had been recruited by extremists. Only then did Fatima realise that she had lost her son to the Muslim fundamentalists. He has become a jihadist.Yet another young Tunisian man who went to fight the Holy War. One of so many. This time in Syria. I’ve met Fatima in Kairouan, a beautiful town in Tunisa 180 km south west of Tunis. It’s an important centre for Islamic and Quranic learning It attracts a large number of Muslims from various parts of the world, second only to Mecca and Medina. Fatima runs her own business. She is married and has three children, one boy and two daughters. Her son went to school, studied and just recently returned back home from Sousse. He was working there – but he decided that he wanted to live with his family until he gets married. A pretty typical way of living in Tunisia. What had happened? Fatima told me that her son had changed a lot in the last two months before he left. But she only understood this afterwards. Otherwise she would never have given him the money to buy the clothes he said that he wanted. She would never have helped him to get a passport to travel to Libya. He changed the mosque where he went for his prayers. He went to pray more often. He started to see “new friends”. He separated from the old ones. He changed his way of dressing. He started to dress all in white. He grew a beard. Then he left.

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When Fatima realized what had happened she contacted the people in Kairoaun who had recruited him.She knows them very well.They told her he will be fine and that he would come home soon.The recruiters are well-known people in Kairouan. One of them is the spokesman of Ansar al-Sharia, a hardline Salafist movement which was recently designated a “terrorist group” in Tunisia. This group was blamed for the killing of two secular politicians. The recruiter is a successful sportsmen, and fellow students say a highly intelligent guy. He was detained because of the recruiting. But released shortly afterwards.Why? One can only speculate. One explanation could be that Ennahda is backing the Salafits. With 89 out of 217 seats elected, Ennahda became the strongest power in Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) after the first free elections in October 2011. The NCA is the body in charge of devising a new constitution for the post Ben Ali era. The most crucial question in this process turned out to be, which form of government to implement and and are Islamic principles included or excluded. Ennahda was considered to be a moderate Muslim party. It has been around for many years as a well-known opposition force under the regime of Ben Ali. It started as a charity organization and has deep roots in Tunisia’s society. That is why people voted for them. And because there was a lack of alternatives. One can’t blame the Tunisian people for doing so.Why wouldn’t they vote for an Islamic party? But as it turned, out Ennahda moved more and more towards Islamic fundamentalism. They included Islamic principles in the provisional draft of the constitution. But the Tunisians didn’t like that and went back onto the streets. And they are still fighting! People confess that they are Muslims. But they want to practice Islam as they want and not as a political party or a government tells them.They believe that religion is something personal. Something which belongs to the individual. It should

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be strictly separated from politics.And it should never ever become part of the constitution. This is what the people in Tunisia are fighting for. Fatima went to Libya after she realized what had happened to her son. The Salafists told her that her son was there. She was hoping to find him and to bring him home. She became a Libyan resident in order to stay longer in the country. She has family there, so this wasn’t hard to achieve. She made contact with the local jihadists. But it was too late. They didn’t let her talk to her son. But he called her on the phone. He told her, he couldn’t come to see her – “they” would not let him go, he said. And Fatima said that he was crying. So was she. During our conversation she burst into tears and fell into my arms. All I could do was to hold her tight. Tears were rolling down my cheeks – thinking how I would feel if this happened to my son. Many Tunisian jihadis are trained in Libya, they get arms there, and then enter Syria via the Turkish border. Brainwashed, a new identity and passport. The official number is 4000 –people in Tunisia tell us there are many, many more. They come not only from Tunisia. They come from Chechnya in the North Caucasus region of Eastern Europe; they come from Afghanistan, Libya, Jordan, Iraq ... They are supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And by us, the West. They are all fighting on the rebel side in Syria. Against Assad. It is not true that there are only Syrians fighting against Syrians in Syria. The front that Assad is facing is much broader. It is much more complex. There are local revolutionaries opposing the regime who are fighting against autocracy. They are not Islamists, in the sense that their political visions do not depend upon Islamic principles.They espouse varying degrees of personal religious fervor. Then there are moderate Islamists within

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the Syrian opposition. They comprise rebel groups who are typified by a commitment to political Islam that is compatible with democracy. And than there are Syria’s homegrown salafi-jihadist group, Jabhat Nusra, closely linked to foreign jihadist groups.These groups are the ones that recruit the young jihadists. They are at the extreme end of the spectrum. They are ready to die. Their fight is not at all in the interest of the people! In this case the Syrian people. The Syrian people are the victims. And the mothers and families of the young men who are recruited by the extremists are victims. Fatima recently came back from Syria.She went with a Tunisian journalist team to Damascus. Tunis Vision. They wanted to find out more about Tunisian jihadists, since the political parties in Tunisia say that this is not an issue. But the journalists found many of them in prison. And they filmed it. Unfortunately Fatima didn’t find her son. But she knows he is still alive. Her husband talked to him yesterday (August 31, 2013) on the phone. He calls them once in a while. Always from a different number. They have asked him again to come home. He replied he can’t. “They” won’t let him go, he says. All Fatima can do, is to wait for the next phone call. And hope that he won’t die. As so many do, in the name of god. “What kind of god is that?” Fatima keeps asking.

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A THIRD WAY TUNISIA CAN BECOME A ROLE MODEL FOR THE WORLD!

INTERVIEW WITH CHÉMA GARGOURI

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... is a very passionate and independent woman. Her dedication are Tunisia’s women. In 1998 she set up her own NGO and since then she has raised millions of US dollars to empower women especially in rural areas. AND yes, she stands up for her rights. I’ve met Chéma a few years ago in London and since then I am following her work.

WHILE VIOLENCE IS RETURNING TO TUNISIA AND UNDERSTANDABLE FEARS ARISE THAT TUNISIA WILL WALK DOWN THE SAME PATH AS EGYPT – CHÉMA GARGOURI IS POINTING OUT A THIRD WAY FOR ISLAMIC COUNTRIES TO GO: NEITHER WESTERN DEMOCRATIZATION NOR ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM, BUT A FRUITFUL AND PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE OF ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY IN WHICH A NEW TUNISIAN CULTURE GETS A FAIR CHANCE TO PROSPER.


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WE_MAGAZINE: Chéma, are you afraid that Tunisa is walking down the same path as Egypt?

CHÉMA GARGOURI: No, I am not afraid. We are not going down that same path because our military has a completely different story. Our military is not involved in politics at all and never has been. We never had such a powerful military agency as Egypt has. Our military is really independent, and its only mission is ensuring the security of the country. So it is not the same, you cannot put us in the same box. Maybe it is exactly this point which increases the chances that the transition in Tunisia will be a success story one day. It definitely makes it easier. The assassination of Mohamed Brahmi on July 26 this year is our 9/11. But we are not giving up. It is as simple as that. There is a limited number of people, who want to destroy what we have achieved – our stability, our will and our engagement to make this transition a success. But they won’t succeed. We are very much aware of the fact that this transition is not going to happen in 2 years – we will face many ups and downs, fears, attacks, insecurity …but you know, it is going to happen. I know it! There is no turn-key or ready made solution to go from a revolution to a democratic state. Just look at our heritage, a heritage of ignorance, of dictatorship, of mistrust, you name it. It is a huge thing to make this shift, and it is much more psychological than it is about politics. In short, it’s about human beings and their culture.

It is a cultural issue ...

Absolutely! It is the culture that we have to build by ourselves. It cannot be imported. Everything has to be created from scratch in Tunisia. We have to figure out how to build a democratic system that can co-exist with Islam, and how to set-up a constitution that belongs to the people and doesn’t derive from the Koran. Usually in a Muslim country the constitution is the Koran. But we don’t want this. We love our religion, but it shouldn’t become part of the constitution. Politics and religion need to be separated. So these dayas we are in very exciting times – dangerous, but possible. We have to be wise and calm to find our way. Not too emotional. Especially when these terror attacks and violence are tempting us to loose our way. We have to react wisely. Always trying to see the long term picture. We should ask ourselves what do we expect from life? How can we achieve this? We should look forward and build our future and we should not waste our time by cherishing our past. It is a completely different state of mind.

Chéma, do you think that many people get these points? Or are you some kind of elite?

I am not an elite. I do not know what it takes to be an elite. I am a product of the Tunisian society. I am a product of Tunisian education. I was born, raised and educated in Tunisia. I am at the grass-roots and I work with grass-roots people. When you talk to the people here this is what they want. We refuse violence! We refuse an Islamic constitution! Maybe they do not talk like me, I have learnt to express myself. But deep down in our hearts we share the same things.

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The women in rural areas won’t accept to be guided or to be told how to live. Tunisia has an amazing younger generation whom have so far been excluded from the transition process – that is a big mistake ! This is why they are back on the streets, they are angry! Anger against our government still exists – the National Assembly is disconnected from the population.

In which way?

Again we have politicians who do not listen to the voices on the streets. It is exactly what happened with Ben Ali. The government does not hear the citizens, and the people in the western countries do not hear what the people in our countries want. The Islamist party has been supported by the West – regardless of the reaction of the population! Would you say the West knows what we want or what is best for us? No! We are liberal, we freed ourselves. Now again we are facing a West which is supporting a political party NOT accepted by us because they think it’s a solution. It’s not! What does being a modern Islamist party mean? They started to write a constitution based upon the Sharia! What is that? Definitely not what the people want. They are on the streets because they want to change precisely these parts of the constitution. The West should finally understand. They should respect that the people in our country want to live with dignity. You can call it democracy, I do not care what it is called. Democracy, dignity, freedom – call it anything. It is to enjoy life with respect. You know what, we want to be respected, so we can respect others. We have not been respected for centuries, neither by our governments, nor by the international community. When I see what is happening in our country, I am ashamed because we are proving that we are violent all over again. We are proving that we do not know how, or what, to choose for ourselves.

It is very painful ...

You know who understands how painful the transition to a democracy is? It is the woman who have delivered a baby. NO man will ever get it, and understand what it means. But women, we have this gift of adapting to situations very quickly. We are woman, business woman, mothers – everything at the same time. We know what it means to cope. This is why I entrust a lot of our activities to women. I do believe that women are the true change-makers!

You were pointing out that democracy and Islam is not a contradiction of terms ...

No not at all. The problem is not Islam. The problem is not the religion, at least when I speak for my country Tunisia. The problem is what the government wants to do with the religion. The solution is actually very easy. We have success stories and examples. The solution is, we are a Muslim country and Islam is not here to dictate how we should behave on a day-by-day basis. Islam is something very personal and has to stay personal. It varies from individual to individual. And anything that has to do with the state has to be separate. That is it. Once we

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admit this, then Islam will never be a problem. But as long as political parties are going to use religion for political objectives, it is going to be the mess. The state belongs to the people and what belongs to the people has to be decided by the people. The state is an institution that should respond to the people’s expectations, and not the other way round. What is religion? It is something between you and God. So it’s obvious: state and religion have to be separated. It is not magic. What are success stories you mentioned?

We Tunisians need to think about how we want to live as Muslims. What life do we want for ourselves and for our future generations? Are we going to fight again for centuries about how women should be dressed, what rights will they get? Or are we FINALLY deciding to get involved in scientific research, in development, in building businesses … This is the question we need to answer!

Tunisia used to be a success story. We have always been a country that says we are Muslim and Arab, but we were living in what I would call a moderate democracy. Democracy has been there. We want to keep it and develop it. It is as simple as that. I was born free and I am a woman who decides for herself, and why should it be changed? My mother is the same. Why should it be changed? What is this invention they are going to do for us? We have an example of a country that is moderate. Muslim, but moderate. We want to keep it that way and improve it; that is all that we want. Since independence we, the Tunisians, have invested in education, but we did not create leaders. We want leaders in politics, leaders in economy, leaders in culture … people who take the lead in doing and changing things. It is going to come, it is going to come! For me, Tunisia always has been and will be my “target” so to speak. I will continue to work with women, and empower them and make our country a better place to live in, that is until I say I am too tired. Sometimes I am exhausted. But that is a very normal thing, to be exhausted once in a while, and you should allow yourself to be exhausted. You know, it is ... Yeah, I am going to continue – it is my destiny. 141


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SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER IN ONE OF TUNIS’ BARS – DISCUSSING POLITICS IS THE THING TO DO!


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FROM MODERATE TO EXTREMIST – ENNAHDA’S SHIFT IN TUNISIA BY ULRIKE REINHARD

COMPROMISE HAS BEEN IN SHORT SUPPLY SINCE TUNISIA SPARKED THE ARAB SPRING NEARLY THREE YEARS AGO. BUT THIS SMALL NORTH AFRICAN NATION HAS ONCE AGAIN BROKEN NEW GROUND WITH A POLITICAL DEAL BETWEEN LONGTIME ENEMIES AMONG THE ISLAMISTS AND THE SECULAR OLD GUARD.

I started to report from Tunisia on December 31, 2010 – long before western media jumped on the train and long before Lina Ben Mhenni became a synonym for the revolution in Tunisia. I’ve met Lina a week ago in the Café Baba Club on the Habib Bourguiba Boulevard, the “boulevard of broken dreams” – as I named it. She seemed pretty disenchanted. Currently protected by the police because she is threatened by the Salafists, by the government itself and by the democrats (as she told us) – she said she has NO IDEA where the country is headed. She described the situation as unstable, and not at all in concert with the people and their problems. Religion became the overwhelming topic. We’ve heard this many times. When the Tunisians went to the polls in October 2011 – they didn’t vote for a new government. They voted for the National Constituent Assembly. Just like the Egyptians. The NCA is the body in charge of devising a new constitution for the post Ben Ali era. 217 democratic elected representatives of the people. Their ONLY task is to write the new constitution for Tunisia. NOT TO SET UP a new government. More than 150 parties competed. Ennahda was one of them. It started as a moderate Islamist political party with deep roots in Tunisian society. After the government of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali collapsed, it has become the biggest and most well-organized party in Tunisia, so far outdistancing its more secular competitors. Ahmet Hamza, who is working for a (long established) NGO in Tunis, told me that he and his wife attended the pre-election events from all the parties in their hometown Kairouan. They were hungry for information – naturally, since it was the first time they had been allowed to vote. When they went to an Ennahda event, they were surprised that the seats for men and women were separated. They choose to sit on the far end of each section, so that they could sit together but still respect Ennahda’s given order. However, “officials” wanted them to sit away from each other. So they left. And Ennahda lost two votes. Six parties and 44 unaffiliated members made it into the NCA. Ennahda became the strongest. They won 89 of the 217 seats. The schedule was to deliver a binding constitution within one year. And only after the constitution

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has been finalized are new elections for the first post-Ben Ali government planned, based upon the principles of this new constitution. But so far the NCA has only delivered a provisional constitution. Which hasn’t much more to offer than Bourguiba’s social reforms had in the fifties. Nothing new. Nothing what the people are yearning for. Nothing which deals with the problems of the people and the country. The most crucial question turned out to be, which form of government to implement. And are Islamic principles included or excluded. In the current draft they are included. If the constitution were to pass as it is drafted right now, it would cut-off women rights in a profound way. It would include Sharia law. Tunisian people don’t accept this. They go back into the streets. Women. Men. The youth. There are many demonstrations and sit-ins. And all more or less peacefully, even though two important opposition leaders have been killed. People say by Salafists. Many Tunisians fight for one cause: To keep government and religion separate. They believe that religion is something personal. Something which belongs to the individual. They are Muslims, yes. 95% of the Tunisians are Muslims. And they want to practice Islam. But they want to practice it as THEY want. Not in a way a political party or a government tells them to do. Hence they won’t accept an “Islamic” constitution. People are deeply disappointed from Ennahda. They considered them as moderate Muslims. But it turned out that they shifted towards fundamentalism. And now Ennahda is loosing support significantly. They are losing the people. Hence they have no interest to complete the constitution soon. Ennahda wants to remain in power. A dangerous game. What the people are desperately waiting for, are solutions for their daily problems. The economy is down. Unemployment rates are increasing. Prices and costs of living are increasing. Foreign investments are significantly decreasing. So is tourism. Medical care becomes insufficient. Media is still controlled. Public services are “on sale”. Corruption is getting worse. Garbage is all over in the streets. Raw materials in some areas run short. There is a huge “vacuum” in the interpretation of law. What the people don’t fear, is their military. Tunisians are very much aware that the military is weak. It always has been weak – as they say. Ben Ali, being afraid of a coup, always kept it small. Today this is a huge plus for the people – especially when we compare it to Egypt. Tunisians also realize that the transition to democracy takes time. They don’t expect it to happen over night. And they don’t expect it to be perfect. They are willing to fail. And ready to learn. Most of them are willing to work for their democracy. And – if necessary – to fight for it. Not really knowing how it might look like. Only a few are willing to give up the liberty they have finally achieved. The liberty to hold free meetings. To speak out freely. To vote. To have a choice. The freedom not to be controlled. Occasionally we felt a slight breeze of nostalgia – the good old Ben Ali days! Despite all the trouble, Tunisians are optimistic. Especially the youth. But not only the youth. One older woman in Kairoaun said to me: “It’s the job of the parents to support their children to live their dream and to build a better future!” While I was publishing this the news came in that Tunisia once again sets the pace: Ennahda yields power. The deal aims to put in place an independent caretaker government until new elections next year, marking the first time Islamists have agreed in the face of rising public anger to step back from power gained at the ballot box. Beji Caid Essebsi, a former prime minister who leads a new secular-minded political party, Nidaa Tounes, and Rachid Ghannouchi, the current leader of the Islamist party Ennahda, have starkly different visions of the country’s future. But since Tunisia’s political crisis flared this year, the two men have met one on one at least five times to try to find a political solution. Well done!

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THE DEMOCRACY LAB THE ROLE OF ARCHIVES IN A TRANSITION PROCESS INTERVIEW WITH FARAH HACHED

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WE_MAGAZINE: Farah, why you are so interested in political issues?

FARAH HACHED: I am interested in politics because I believe that we as citizens owe something to the state in which we live, and to the society from which we evolve. Contributing to my country by my ideas, my time and my energy is a duty for me. Maybe this is rooted in my family background, we have been involved in politics for generations. My two grand-fathers were politicians and among the founding fathers of independent Tunisia. My paternal grandfather founded the Tunisian trade union organization (UGTT) in 1946, a very powerful organization which contributed to the independence of the country and to the Tunisian revolution in 2011. He was a freedom fighter and therefore assassinated by the French in 1952. Until this year, access to his assassination file was prohibited. The French denied their participation in his assassination. Only this summer, more than 60 years after his murder, the President of France made the file accessible to my grand-mother and apologized for it. The file indicates – as we know now – that the assassination of my grand-father was as a political offender, a crime of colonialist France. My maternal grand-father founded together with Habib Bourguiba the NeoDestour party in 1934 – the political party which was going to bring independence to Tunisia. He spent many years in jail in southern Tunisia because he was fighting against colonialism and for the freedom of the Tunisian people. He became Tunisia's Minister of Interior in the 40’ties and wrote a report about human right abuses committed by the French authorities in Tunisia.

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... I ALWAYS FELT LIKE LIVING AT THE INTERSECTION. I AM TUNISIAN WITH A VERY DEEP ATTACHMENT TO THE ARABIC AND MUSLIM CULTURE AND I UNDERSTAND AND LOVE EUROPEAN CULTURE. I AM WHITE, WITH, VERY BLUE EYES, IN A COUNTRY WHERE THIS IS PRETTY RARE. AND I HAVE VERY FRIZZY HAIR. MY FRIZZY HAIR IS AS WILD AND INDEPENDENT AS I AM. IT SHOWS MY AFRICAN ROOTS OF WHICH I AM PROUD.


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In memory of them and for what they’ve sacrificed for us – I cannot just look at the current events in Tunisia as if I watch TV. I simply can’t. Tunisia is my blood.

How did you personally experience the last 3 years and what are the major learnings for you?

From the very beginning I was convinced that building a democracy was going to take time. At least 10 years. I have had many contradictory feelings during the last 3 years. I have been very optimistic but also very afraid. I was aware of the fragility which is so closely associated to the transitional process. My biggest fear is not an Islamic regime, but the return of a dictatorship which could be either Islamic or secular. Could an Islamic regime be democratic? The existing Islamic regimes in the Middle East are not democratic and not at all a model for Tunisia. They are in fact absolute monarchies. Mixing religion and politics is a threat to democracy, because religion could be used by politicians to justify absolute power, and then to build a dictatorship. Because my biggest fear is an abortion of democracy, I concentrated all my efforts on what I thought was the heart of the dictatorship: the political police and the reform of the security sector, especially the secret services. We must replace these systems with new ones which will be much more transparent and “controlled” by the people. A political police should exist neither in a secular, nor in a religious regime. A political police is an instrument to repress any political opposition and therefore is the heart of any dictatorship. However, any democracy needs a police and intelligence, especially during these times of trans-frontiers criminality. In order to have an efficient police which serves the citizens, I am putting my efforts to advocate certain reforms: · A legal framework for the archives of the old regime, especially the reports of political opponents. · Better transparency and protection of personal data in the security sector. · The control mechanisms for secret services.

You are working on a project to open up, or at least to get access to the archive of the Tunisian intelligence services. What is it all about? What are the biggest challenges? Why do you think is it necessary to open up the archives?

Firstly, the idea is to create a legal framework for the archives of the dictatorship that would allow any person to access their own file, (with a preliminary treatment of the file in order to mask other people’s personal data and security data). This was the case in Germany and many other countries in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I believe that the citizens should have the right to know how the dictatorship controlled them and what was documented and archived. A dictatorship is not a normal regime and its files should not have existed at all. Therefore we the citizens should have the right access our own files. Secondly, any citizen should have the right to know about the background of any person who runs for election or is or will be part of the government.

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The archives should be used for that as well. I am against revenge, but I am for transparency. Democracy means that we are mature enough to make our own choices. However, to do so we need to have the entire information. In this case, as well the personal data, and right of privacy for those people should be protected. If we do not create a legal framework for the archives that allows access to one’s personal file and transparency about political leaders, the archives will be used to re-establish a dictatorship. They will be used to blackmail politicians and, more generally, as political weapons against any opponent to the ruling parties.

What can you learn from the “Stasi Akten“ and the way Germany has dealt with this archive?

Germany is a very interesting case. When I started working on this issue, of course I did a lot of research on the German case. With the cooperation of the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial we organized a study trip to Berlin (February 2012). There I’ve had the opportunity – only one year after the Tunisian revolution – to visit the Commissioner of Stasi Archives (BStU) and to discover the archives in the basement with the director of BStU. It was so extraordinary. I tended to see the German case as a role model, when I started my research. An institution similar to BStU seemed to be the right choice for Tunisia as well. However, step by step, I changed my mind. The German case is still a source of inspiration, however the German context in 1989 is different from Tunisia 2011, mainly because of three reasons. The first reason is: in the late 90’ties there was no such thing as web 2.0. During the Tunisian revolution web 2.0 was heavily used and the movement itself was closely related to Facebook, Wikileaks, Twitter, hacking and so on. Without doubt, this has consequences on how we understand transparency, privacy, democracy and citizenship. The second significant difference is that West Germany was a prosperous country when the re-unification happened. Germany did not face the same economic challenges as we do. BStU needed a lot of money to work professionally. As we are now living in an economic crisis in Tunisia, Tunisians will probably prioritize spending money on hospitals and schools. And thirdly, Stasi was closely linked to the Soviet Union. It was a kind of betrayal. The fall of the Berlin Wall was the fall of the Soviet Union and the victory of the West and the USA. This context is really different from Tunisia. RCD, the ruling party in Tunisia during the dictatorship, was not linked with any foreign country.

Why do you think is access to the archives – even though it might be limited – so important for the Tunisian democracy process? What are your objectives?

These archives are so important because they are the memory of the dictatorship. They hold all the reports on political opponents of the old regime – which means the majority of today's politicians, either Islamists or Leftists. So whoever owns the archives could put pressure on opponents by using personal secrets for example. Just the way we experienced it for decades. 151


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This is not what democracy stands for! But the archive issue alone is not enough. Why? The police continue to create files (which is actually its duty) and it does it within the same old legal framework. So the problem is actually bigger than the archive issue itself. The problem is also related to transparency and the control of the police in general and the secret services in particular. This is why I initialized and lead the book project “The citizen and the security services in Tunisia”. It will be available in February 2014. The book will include three volumes: · Archives of the dictatorship between transitional justice and security · Transparency and protection of private life in the security sector · Tunisian intelligence services: which oversight? Each volume presents the Tunisian context, a balanced view on foreign experiences, and recommendations for Tunisia. The recommendations will be elaborated after consultation with public authorities and civil society in early December. Today, with the increase of security concerns in the region, the people start sometimes to have a kind of nostalgia for the “good old times”. During those times, things seemed to be so static, so secure, so foreseeable. Some people forget that these days we weren’t allowed to see the entire picture. They forget that the current difficulties are the consequences of the dictatorship. They forget that we were not happy under the dictatorship. When people feel insecure, they tend to give more power to the security sector. Our role, my role as member of the civil society, is to warn them, but also to propose solutions which are adapted to our situation in Tunisia. That is the purpose of the book.

What can/could other countries learn from your work?

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In my opinion, the Tunisian revolution is the start of a world revolution. With the fall of the dictatorship in a context of cyber revolution, Tunisia became a kind of laboratory. People want to know and understand what democracy is. They ask questions, do research. Our youth is very active in the civil society. We are aware that Europe and the US are no longer models for democracy. We have to re-invent democracy and Tunisia could be the place for that. That is why we named our organization the Democratic Lab’. We think we have in Tunisia a unique opportunity to change the world, to re-think the concepts. Our society is very young: 1/3 of the people are under 29 years old. However, if we want to do such,we have to re-create a democratic dream that will challenge the morbid dream of jihadists.


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SETTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT 2013 – A TOUGH YEAR FOR EGYPT BY SARA ABOU BAKR

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THE YEAR 2013 HAS NOT BEEN KIND TO EGYPTIANS OR HISTORY BOOKS. TWISTING FACTS HAVE BECOME THE MANTRA HIGHLIGHTING THIS YEAR IN EGYPT. BETWEEN THE VOICES OF HOSNI MUBARAK SUPPORTERS GETTING LOUDER AND PRO-MORSI TEAM CHANTING “LEGITIMACY”, ACCUSATIONS OF 30 JUNE PROTESTERS OF BEING “ARMY LOVERS” WHILE OTHERS PRODDING AL-SISI TO RUN FOR PRESIDENCY, THE TRUTH GOT LOST. THE SHOUTS FOR BREAD, FREEDOM AND SOCIAL JUSTICE – THE DEMANDS OF THE 25 JANUARY 2011 REVOLUTION – WERE GETTING FAINTER. SINCE HISTORY IS ALWAYS WRITTEN BY THE VICTORIOUS AND SINCE THE 25 JANUARY REVOLUTION HAS NOT TRIUMPHED YET, THIS IS AN ATTEMPT TO SET THE RECORDS STRAIGHT.

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THE BEGINNING Very few believed in 2011 that Hosni Mubarak will step down. The calls for protests were met by ridicule, criticism and, in the case of the Islamists, with outright fatwas deeming “rebelling against the ruler” as forbidden by Islam. When angry Egyptians discovered their power on 28 January 2011 and revelled in how fragile the regime was, the power players changed tactics; the Islamists decided to join the protests and touted “protecting the square” as their goal, many business men quickly changed stance to become “financiers of the pure young revolutionaries in the square”, while the Egyptian Armed Forces found the ideal way to get rid of Mubarak by responding to the masses on the streets. The year 2011 was an eye opener for many; military brutality displayed in several incidents made people – in particular the younger generation – very wary of the institution that has always played and continues to play an important part in the political life. Young protesters paid with their lives to bring on the parliamentary election in Mohamed Mahmoud and the cabinet clashes in November and December 2011. The Islamists – to appease the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) – dubbed these young men and women as “thugs and whores who want to tarnish the democratic process”. Yet, the Islamists gained the most in 2012 after the “thugs and whores” forced SCAF to relinquish a semblance of power in the form of dates set for parliamentary and presidential elections. Since the Mubarak regime successfully has left Egypt without any real opposition, except a few groups, it was not at all a surrise that the Islamists would win the majority of the parliament as well as the presidency. However, they were not able to “govern” alone, they needed the very young and angry Egyptians to support them; thus came the promises of “real reform”, “justice” and “renaissance” by the Muslim Brotherhood. Many writers, opposition groups, liberals and, surprisingly enough, leftists stood behind Mohammed Morsi’s candidacy a very simple reason: to stop the ex-Mubarak era Minister Ahmed Shafik from becoming president. Some of the young men who voted for Morsi are now dead. Killed by Morsi’s police and his “new” supporters in 2013.

MORSI’S RULE Mohammed Morsi governance began to crumble in the beginning of 2013. Mainly because of three reasons. Firstly because he refused to restructure and reform the ministry of interior; he left this institution as corrupt and vicious as his fellow ousted president Mubarak. Protesters were shot, several activists were tortured and died while arbitrary arrests continued. People were once again burying their children. The Morsi-appointed Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim still holds his position until this day. Secondly because his dictatorial presidential decree further strengthened state power and immunised his decisions. By January 2013, all pretense of true reform, promised by the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi had disappeared. Not even the two consecutive cabinet reshuffles convinced the weary Egyptians that the promises made during the presidential campaign would ever be fulfilled. And thirdly because of his lack of any economic vision. The rapidly decreasing economy coupled with a sense of estrangement caused by the Brotherhood’s elitist methods led to another huge wave of anger. As one Egyptian man told me, “It is like we are second-class citizens (if we do not belong to the Brotherhood). They are appointed in all the important governmental positions and their businessmen are given all the privileges. We have only replaced Mubarak with Morsi.” Religion always was and still is an important player in Egyptian politics. Under Morsi’s short reign, Wahabi sheiks were rampant with their hateful fatwas against non-Muslims and more often women. While Egyptians do value religion, they grew tired of being manipulated by hypocritical sheiks. The situation for women did not 159


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Mohammed Morsi divided Egypt deeply.

fare any better under Morsi. Females in his cabinet were almost non-existent and women rights were dramatically cut down. As if they hadn’t heard the voices in the streets. In the streets sexual harassment was as rampant as usual and organised mobs were targeting female protesters in almost every demonstration. Egyptian women who paid a high price in 2011 were less and less respected by Islamist president. This was a fatal mistake for they were the catalysts who brought him down.

TAMAROD REBELLION AND 30 JUNE Tamarod first appeared in April 2013. It was a grassroots movement led by five unknown political activists. They aimed to collect 15 million signatures, verified by the signatories’ national IDs, to demand the step down of Morsi. In the beginning the idea seemed like a joke. Online and offline media smiled at it. But in the streets, the very poor and tired Egyptians embraced the idea. As one Tamarod campaigner told me, “It’s the women who encourage the men to sign. They would tell their husbands, ‘C’mon. Sign the paper. What else are we going to lose?’” Women were a major player in the that campaign. Conspiracy theorists and Brotherhood sympathisers accused Tamarod of being the brainchild of the security apparatus – the intelligence – that wanted to overthrow Morsi. Even if their theory would be true, no one forced millions of Egyptians to willingly sign the petition and give their national ID numbers, demanding the ousting of a president who failed. Many doubted that “millions” actually signed the petition, but on June 30, the number of people in the street told us everything: Morsi could no longer remain president. Morsi’s government had simply failed. They ignored the mass protests for three days until July 3 when defence minister General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi made the historical declaration – accompanied by various political groups and parties, including the Salafi Al Nour party as well as the Church and Al-Azhar. Most notably, opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei attended to see Al-Sisi reclaim Egypt. Brotherhood sympathisers like to label every protester on June 30 as an “army lover” who seeks military governance. The truth though is that people were desperate enough to go again in the streets not knowing if the army will side with them or not. People did not demand a military government; many did not even think beyond getting rid of Morsi and the Brotherhood. They had no plan, except maybe immediate presidential elections. 160


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THE OUSTER AFTERMATH Morsi’s ouster stirred an international controversy on whether it was a military coup or not what had happened. Some academics even created a new term, a “democratic coup”. Meanwhile the Egyptians in the streets were not concerned with the terminology as they were celebrating the end of the Brotherhood reign. What was interesting to watch was the international media coverage of the event. At times it felt very surreal and weird to read about the pain and suffering of Egyptians lamenting the end of democracy while we were dancing and celebrating in the streets. Some TV channels even showed massive anti-Morsi protests in Tahrir. What international media reported in that first week in July – except for a few outlets – was biased at its very best. Yes, there were people who were angry about Morsi’s ouster and Islamist sympathisers who felt they were cheated. And yes there were those who were worried to cast their ballot that resulted in Morsi’s victory. International media should have covered them instead of reporting false information. Parachute journalism is and has been the plague of the uprisings in the Middle East. The post Morsi cabinet was formed and appointed by the Armed Forces. It was very much criticised by the young people because they weren’t represented. The prime minister is well over 70 years old. After Morsi’s ouster many Christians lived in permanent fear. Their churches were continuously attacked by angry Islamists. By August, over 45 churches have been attacked. In Upper Egypt, particularly in Minya, shops belonging to Copts were marked with a black “X”. The Coptic community was targeted and the security apparatus could barely help them. It was up to their Muslim neighbors to protect them. Yet the Church made a historic statement denouncing any foreign intervention on behalf of the Coptic community. Christians were terribly frightened but refused to be used as pawns for political gain. This was unlike their Brotherhood sympathisers, who called for foreign intervention during their Rabaa sit-in.

RABAA SIT-IN The Rabaa sit-ins became the hub for Brotherhood sympathisers. Firstly they mainly called for the reinstatement of Morsi, which later changed to he “return of his legitimacy”. The sit-in caused a lot of problems, especially sanitation problems, for neighboring Nasr City residents. And for women who did not cover their. It's only fair to point out that they were not only extremist among the protestors. On August 14 the cabinet decided to forcefully dismantle the sit-in. The result: over 600 sit-in participants died and 51 officers. The breakup was bloody and it could have been handled in a better way, but it was expected since the Ministry of Interior didn't have any experience and also the history of the breakdowns was more often brutal than not. One should note that the current Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim was also in charge for this.

AL-SISI IN THE MEDIA Most of Egyptian media lacks professional coverage. After the ouster of Morsi every TV program and article had a hysterical “nationalistic” touch – replicating the Nasserite era. Anyone who dared to criticise the military in particular was deemed a traitor who did not care for Egypt. Many were censored or self–censored but some had the guts for an unbiased coverage. Media did its best to make Al-Sisi the new hero. To be objective the man shied away from media attention giving only a couple of interviews to papers rather than TV channels. Yet media resisted to make him “the man for the current phase”. It was like Egyptians were being prepared for a soft military take-over. TV talk 161


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Pro-Morsi sit-in in Rabaa, Cairo.

shows did not explain to people that the July 3 statement was not only Al-Sisi’s but there were hundreds of people inside the military behind it. Egyptians are used to the concept of a political saviour and Al-Sisi suited them comfortably. If he would decide to run in the coming presidential elections he undoubtfully would win. I, for one, hope he is smarter than this.

VILIFICATION The current vilification process targets both: the Islamists and the activists. The Islamists are despised by the majority of Egyptians. And rightfully! They have failed when they took over the country. Yet they are turned into monsters by the state and the media. However there is still a section in our society that vows loyalty to the Brotherhood; one cannot simply uproot them. Time has proven that ideas should be fought with ideas, not with arrests and weapons. The media makes people believe unless not all Islamists are arrested, Egypt will fall down. No normal person would argue against the arrest of armed individuals, but vilification is not the key. During Morsi’s year in power it became evident that the best way to resist the Islamists’ intervention in society is to expose their ideas rather 162


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than to make martyrs out of them. The young peaceful Islamists need a guiding hand through moderate sheikhs to correct their radical way of thinking. Prison will not help. Killing their colleagues will not change their minds. Debates and discussions are the only way to “kill” ideas. The word activist is becoming taboo as well. Media accuses many of them to take money from “foreign countries to ruin the state”. The same activists who were dubbed the “pure revolutionaries” are now turned into conniving devils through media. Political activism is becoming offensive for many. Coupled with fatigue from demonstrations, these new taboos have repelled many and people are ready to believe anything for a more stabled existence.

SAME MISTAKES The current cabinet backed by the military is committing the same mistakes Mubarak and Morsi have made. The Ministry of Interior remains intact without any reform with its “strong-man” Ibrahim at the head of it all. Misuse of power is reported on almost daily basis, now backed by a Protest Law. The law only fuels the anger of young people who paid a high price during the January 25 revolution to gain the “right to assembly” at any given time. The media propagates the Protest Law as a way to fight the Brotherhood demonstrations. But savvy young people know that once the Brotherhood are completely depleted of power, the state will turn on them. And it already started with false charges against three well-known activists who got sentenced three years in jail. Even if people were willing to believe the lies concerning the Protest Law, the current situation in the country – with daily demonstrations that are forcibly dispersed – is proof enough that it is not working. The bombings have spread across the country and people live in fear. Neither the Protest Law nor declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation has provided a solution to “security”. The cabinet, which was mainly chosen for its economic and financial expertise, followed the footsteps of Morsi’s cabinet and has failed to come up with an economic plan that gives “hope” to the Egyptian people. Corruption is kept intact in the form of municipalities. Municipalities in Egypt are responsible for the daily lives of Egyptians. During the Mubarak era corrupt employees led them and within the last three years they haven’t changed. Egyptians should be able to elect their neighborhood heads, governors as well as other officials, rather than being left under the mercy of an inefficient cabinet. Unless real reform is undertaken, this cabinet will also be brought down by the angry, poor Egyptians who cannot survive the worsening conditions anymore.

THE FUTURE For Egypt democracy is new. It has never been ruled by anything but a dictator. We have to be aware that the revolution is a process and not a onetime event. In a study by the European Union, it predicted that within 30 years 54% of the population will be under 30 years old. This generation is the hope for change in Egypt. The young will not allow the country to be ruled by tyranny, be it under a religious or a military guise. If not now, it will change within the next three decades – just by the sheer numbers of young people. By 2045, those who were in the front line of clashes against tyranny in 2011 will be in their fifties. One can only imagine what my generation, in 30 years, with a much younger and more vibrant one at its side, can do.

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... is a lawyer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

DID YOU KNOW THAT ACCORDING TO CURRENT EGYPTIAN LAWS, PARTICULARLY THE CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE, THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE EGYPTIAN ARMED FORCES CANNOT BE PUT ON TRIAL FOR ANY OFFENSE BEFORE ANY COURT, BE IT CIVILIAN OR MILITARY?


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HIGH, HIGHER, MILITARY. MILITARY JUDICIARY TRUMPS ALL JUSTICE

BY ADEL RAMADAN

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN ARABIC IN MADA MASR. ENGLISH TRANSLATION BY AHDAF SOUEIF.

The provision that allows for military trials in the 2012 Constitution, even after the slight amendments it has gone through in the latest constitutional draft, is a significant and perilous shift in the history of the Egyptian legal and judicial system. In addition to making military trials of civilians before military courts constitutional, it is a blatant infringement on the judiciary, its mandate, jurisdiction and administration of justice. But more importantly, it lays down the foundation for a heavily fortified military state. The immunity granted to the military in the 2012 Constitution and the current amended draft is unprecedented. Historically, Egyptian constitutions, barring that of 2012, have explicitly spelled out and defined the power of judicial bodies. For example, stating, “The State Council is an independent judicial body that specializes in ...” and “The law regulates the military judicial system ...” This seems logical, so it never crossed anyone’s mind to dare name a branch within the Armed Forces, or one of its divisions, “an independent judicial body,” either in the 2012 Constitution or the current draft. The amended version sought vigorously to provide all possible guarantees for the independence of the Armed Forces and to make it immune to the authority of the people. Among those guarantees, is the establishment of what can be called a “military judicial authority,” which has unprecedented power over everyone, and falls under no one’s control but that of the commander-in-chief and the commanders of the military zones of the Egyptian Armed Forces. Therefore, we are left with a situation where judicial authority in Egypt does not apply to everyone, only to those without any shiny stars on the shoulders of their uniforms. Over and above the establishment of a parallel military judicial authority, Article 204 of the amended constitution infringes on judicial power in two ways. Firstly, it grants members and officers of the Armed Forces protection and immunity from accountability before any civilian judicial body. And secondly, it challenges the judiciary’s inherent responsibility for administering justice among society. Regarding the first point, Article 204 states that the military judiciary “adjudicates exclusively in all crimes related to the Armed Forces, its officers, personnel, and their equals.” This is precisely what the draft constitution sought to do: that no member of the Armed Forces shall be tried before a civilian court, not even for a crime that is non-military in nature, and not even if the said crime is committed against a civilian. The Armed Forces are determined to protect their members from the authority of the people, from being accused by the public prosecutor and from standing before court, or more concisely, from yielding to justice. The Armed Forces, supported by Article 204, might as well have said, “Your judicial power means nothing to us.”

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One wonders about the reasons behind this dismissal of the civilian justice system. Is it a reflection of the military’s vanity and their condescending views towards civilian institutions? Is it a lack of trust in the loyalty and national allegiance of members of the civilian justice system? Do the Armed Forces doubt the civilian judiciary’s competence or integrity? By virtue of this draft constitution, one should not be surprised then, to find a military court looking into a fight between a married couple because the husband happens to be an army officer – this is, incidentally, a real case and not some imagined story for the purpose of giving an example. By the same token, we have never forgotten how the public prosecutor turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed against citizens in front of the Maspero television building in 2011, simply because the killers followed their own “code of military justice.” We will never forget the passive role the prosecutor general played and how he stood there incapable of speaking a word against the killing of citizens who are presumably subject to his jurisdiction, and how the civilian judiciary failed to rectify the injustice and protect citizens from crimes committed against them by the executive branch of power. In Egypt we tend to forget that individuals are not subject to judicial authority only when they are guilty of committing a crime. That same judiciary is responsible for protecting civilians from any aggression towards them, whatever the source of that aggression may be. And, if the judicial authority is unable to provide that protection, then it is of no value. The judiciary is not a tool for punishment, but is above all an instrument that guarantees justice, fairness and protection. Anything that stands between the judiciary and its ability to achieve the purpose for its existence and social function, renders it without value, and should not be called a true “authority.” The judiciary should either have jurisdiction over all the people, or none at all. Now, why is it that the commander-in-chief can never be prosecuted, before any court, for any offense? First, as a member of the Armed Forces, he can only be tried before a military court. Secondly, as the highest ranked member of the Armed Forces, and in accordance with the provisions of Article 44 of the Code of Military Justice, he "may not be tried before a military court, whose president is of a lower rank.” Thirdly, how can he ever be tried when he controls all the court referral decisions? Therefore, we are left with a situation where judicial authority in Egypt does not apply to everyone, only to those without any shiny stars on the shoulders of their uniforms. The prosecutor general only has jurisdiction over the public, but those who have their very own “special” judicial authority are out of his reach. “Your Honor, in light of the above: if you are unable to bring me justice when I have been wronged, you have no right to judge me when I am the offender.” The question now is what would stop the police force from creating their own independent judiciary – under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry – to examine crimes committed by police officers and personnel in the course of their work, especially, for example, when they are torturing citizens? At any rate, Article 204 of the draft amendment of the constitution did not stop at shackling the hands of the judiciary, and providing constitutional immunity for members of the Armed Forces. It punctured the judicial umbrella that protects all citizens. It particularly granted the military a share of the civilian judiciary’s power and jurisdiction over civilians. Similar to the “Mubarak era,” when provisions were tailored to make certain violations constitutional violations, the Armed Forces ensured that its powers under the Code of Military Justice are now enshrined in the constitution. Perhaps it has done so fearing a day when a democratically elected parliament, with popular support, would attempt to amend the military code or shrink its power. This prospect is no longer possible. 168


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According to the amended Constitution, the Armed Forces has the right to try any citizen before its courts, if they are considered to have committed an offense against any of its members, its property, or any other issue that affects it. Essentially, citizens refrain from breaking the law fearing justice, but the amended Constitution creates a situation where citizens’ actions are driven by their fear of military trials. Threatening citizens with the possibility of standing military trials reinforces the notion that the military judiciary is unlike the rest of the judicial system, and that citizens should fear something that is much different and more dreadful than justice. To sum it up, we are now facing a constitutional draft that creates a situation where the Armed Forces cannot be questioned before the judicial authority, nor can the legislature attempt to alter military powers and jurisdiction under its code. On the other hand, the military has the right to try civilians, including members of the judiciary and the legislature, who, according to the law, have the right to serve sentences they receive from a military court in a civilian prison, pursuant to the principle of the separation of powers. This is, ironically, the extent of the “civilian” nature of Egypt’s government. Note: The Military Judiciary in Egypt is under the authority of the Defense Ministry. All the judges are military personnel of varying ranks and are subject to all disciplinary regulations set forth in the military service laws. The minister of defense, based on recommendations from the head of the military judiciary authority, appoints military judges. Officers appointed as judges are sworn-in before the deputy supreme commander of the Armed Forces, in the presence of the head of the military judiciary authority. Their verdicts are not final until approved by the military officer (charged with ratifying the decision) and the military judiciary in Egypt is “an independent judicial body.”

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MAY EVERY NEW YEAR FIND YOU FREE

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN ARABIC IN THE PRIVATELY OWNED NEWSPAPER AL-SHOROUK. ENGLISH TRANSLATION BY AHDAF SOUEIF.

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BELAL FADL ... is a screenplay writer, ex-journalist and a column writer at Almasry Alyoum born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. Together with Amr Sleem Fadl created El-Masara at Al-Shorouk newspaper in 2011, a weekly supplement that sarcastically described the current events in Egypt.

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Dear Alaa Abd El Fattah,

May every year find you well, and gallant, and free. I write to you on the last day of a miserable year, in which Egyptian dreams of a civil rule of freedom, dignity and social justice were transformed into the nightmare of a rule that is military to its marrow, oppressive of arm, civil of veneer, guaranteeing freedom only to those who applaud it, and protecting the dignity only of those who benefit from the absence of social justice and the existence of several states within the state. I hope that the new year in which you read this letter will see the beginning of the end of this nightmare, and the return of awareness to all those who did not realize that the revolution was never the cause of Egyptians’ suffering. Rather, it was the result of their failure, for decades, to confront the causes of their suffering. A suffering which will not end unless it’s confronted frankly, a suffering from which they will not be saved by any mandate they may give to an oppressive authority whose men, mindset and behavior are the main reason for Egypt’s deplorable condition. I would have liked to lie to you, to tell you that you’re getting a lot of support from the media, from the television channels which so recently made a theme of decrying the Muslim Brotherhood regime’s attempts to jail you, the channels that played and replayed “The Prisoners’ Laugh” – the poem Abnoudi dedicated to you when you were jailed after the Maspero massacre. The bitter truth is that you are no longer remembered or mentioned now by many of the defenders of freedoms. You committed a serious crime when you were angered by the blood that flowed in the Rabea massacre, despite your differences with its owners. And another crime when you wouldn’t give a blank check to the oppressive authority – a renunciation of your right as a citizen to question and criticize and object.

But your worst crime was that you would not stop reminding everyone that the police and the army had committed crimes, would not stop demanding that they be held accountable for their crimes as the Brotherhood leaders were being made to account for theirs.

The state had to treat you like a dangerous terrorist, to raid your house with APCs and masked officers, to assault you and terrorize your family and violate all your legal rights. Not so that you’d stop what you do – they know very well that you won’t desist from what you see as a national duty, and they know that they have nothing that convicts you of treason or agency or any of the smears their dogs have been barking out for years on the satellites and the internet.

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No, they are sending a message to anyone who does – or thinks of doing – what you do. Everyone should realize that there are no longer any lines that won’t be crossed in this country, now that they have a quorum of revolutionaries and civil-staters who will rubber-stamp any crime in the name of fighting terrorism and preserving the respect/awe/authority of the state. You used to resist the huge solidarity you evoked. You thought it infringed on the rights of unknown revolutionaries who’d given even more to the country than you. Rest easy, if the ruling powers have achieved justice at all it’s been in the equality of the blackout on all the imprisoned revolutionaries. There’s no distinction now between how they treat you and how they treat Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma, Mohamed Adel, or Hossam Hassan, Sherif Farag, Luay Qahwagi, Omar Hatheq, Ahmed Abd al-Hamid, or the men they took from the coffee-shop or Al-Azhar University, or the hundreds of detainees to whom the newspapers don’t even give a name but refer to only as “figures” since they belong to those “others” who support former President Mohamed Morsi. What you have in common, despite your differences, is that you deserve the worst treatment because you did not rob the country and turn it into a fiefdom like Mubarak and his sons and his men. This is why you are not treated with courtesy, why police officers don’t salute you, and why the prosecutors and the courts don’t apply to you the relaxed spirit of the law. I don’t tell you all this to intensify a trouble you are living. I – who agree with you so much and differ with you occasionally – have always been dazzled by your amazing ability to see light at the end of the dark tunnel, and your even more amazing ability to be – through your mocking playfulness and your revolutionary spirit – the light that keeps us company in the loneliness of the tunnel that we’re not yet sure has an end. I realize that you – with your revolutionary consciousness and your free mind – know that your presence in jail (you who have never carried a weapon except your tweets) proves the bankruptcy of this authority and its insistence on committing the same mistakes as its predecessors, which will deliver it most certainly to a fate similar to theirs. Not because you have superpowers that bring down every authority that acts against you, but because defeat is the unavoidable fate of any authority that suppresses free opinion; that protects itself with brute force, not with justice; that extends its life through lies and media whoring. The most that this miserable authority will achieve by imprisoning those who did nothing except resist it through peaceful protest is to create from amongst them models for change like Nelson Mandela and Lula Da Silva – and maybe also it will create models like Sayyed Qutb and Shukri Mustafa. Maybe it will create those who will be released to sell out and reap the gains 174


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of hypocrisy and lying. And in any case, society will gain nothing from its silence in the face of injustice, except that it will walk for longer on the wrong path and discover after a while that it has lost precious time that it could have used in overcoming the past instead of faithfully repeating its mistakes. I will not say emotional words of encouragement. A smile from Khaled when he visits is enough to persuade you and Manal that the chances of backing off from changing this country to make it a good place for his generation is about as likely as the chances of another Pink Dragon appearing in the skies of Omraneyyah. I don’t even think of encouraging you. How absurd to encourage a man who has sisters as great and brave and loyal as Mona and Sanaa, who has a father with the courage and the humanity of Ahmed Seif al-Islam Hamad, a mother with the solidity and the goodness of Laila Soueif, and beyond them relatives and family and friends and loved ones and supporters and well-wishers and sympathizers – all of whom draw strength from your laugh against the depression of this vengeful phase, all of them proud because in you they have a “back” that oppression can only strengthen, and a heart of such beauty that prison can leave nothing in it except new occasions for laughter and saved up stories to be told to Manal and Khaled. Dear Alaa Abd El Fattah, and everyone who rejects injustice and the shedding of blood and hypocrisy and the demise of crimes by sleight of hand and fraud – may every new year find you well and gallant and free.

Belal Fadl December 31, 2013

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IN THE KINGDOM OF DEATH IN THE SHADOW OF THE AFTERMATH OF HOSNI MUBARAK’S OUSTER THE SINAI PENINSULA TURNS INTO A LAWLESS REGION IN WHICH MUSLIM EXTREMISM AND BARBARIC HOSTAGETAKING FLOURISH. BEDOUINS ARE TORTURING THOUSANDS OF AFRICAN MIGRANTS, EXTORTING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN RANSOM. AND HARDLY ANYONE TAKES NOTICE.

BY MICHAEL OBERT

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His wrists are bent strangely inwards, the arms of his white woolen sweater are much too long. Only when Selomon leans against the table do you see the dirty bandages around his hands. With his teeth he tugs off the bandage round his left hand, exposing a claw – most of the hand is gone, leaving only the thumb and half of the index finger, a hook of bone and skin. “They hung me on an iron chain from the ceiling,” says Selomon softly. “For four days. On a chain. Like some slaughterhouse animal.” We are sitting in a small café near Levinsky Park, a parched strip of grass in southern Tel Aviv. The view from the window is hardly that of an Israeli city on the shores of Mediterranean. Most of the passersby are black. The writing on the windows of the hairdressing salons and restaurants is not Hebraic but the East African language of Tigrinya. Many businesses here are run by Eritreans. Ha’ir Hakvusha – the “occupied city” – is what the people of Tel Aviv call this neighborhood in which mainly African immigrants live. “I never wanted to go to Israel,” says Selomon and puts his stump of a hand on the table. “Not even if they’d sent me a private jet.” In December 2011, this 28-year-old computer specialist fled the dictatorship in his home country of Eritrea to neighboring Sudan. “With my education and training, I could have lived like a king in Angola, Uganda, or South Africa.” But then he was kidnapped in East Sudan by a local band of robbers who sold him to an international network of human traffickers. They took Selomon over the border to Egypt and then to the Sinai Peninsula -- to a torture camp run by Bedouins, formerly nomadic Arabian cattle breeders. “They aren’t humans,” says Selomon, “they’re vicious animals.” In the shadow of the headlines on the coup in Cairo in which the military recently toppled Egypt’s president, Mohammed Morsi, Bedouins are holding African migrants hostage in the deserts of the Sinai. Thousands have been tortured in the past few years. The Egyptian peninsula on the Red Sea borders on the Suez Canal to the West and on Israel and the Gaza Strip to the North. About 300,000 Bedouins inhabit this sparsely populated desert and certain groups among them have specialized in the buying and selling of human beings. For months they hold the Africans hostage in the desert – mainly Eritreans, but also Sudanese, Ethiopians, and Somalis. They beat them with sticks, chains and iron bars until they reveal the phone numbers of family members. As soon as a connection is made, the torture begins. The kidnappers stub out cigarettes on their faces, brand them with red-hot metal, or pour boiling water on them. They wrap their fingers in wires and jam them into electrical sockets until the flesh is burned black or they douse their heads with diesel and set them on fire – while their relatives on the other end of the line are forced to listen to their loved one’s screams. “Thirty thousand dollars,” says Selomon, staring into space. “They wanted 30,000 dollars from my sister in Eritrea.” If the kidnappers’ torture methods do not produce a ransom,

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the hostages are killed. “Or they cut out your kidney, liver, heart and eyes and sell them to human organ traders.” According to estimates by the Tel Aviv-based organization Physicians for Human Rights, around 7000 of the some 60,000 African migrants that illegally crossed the Egyptian border to Israel have ended up in Bedouin torture camps. More than 4,000 did not survive the torture. Their bodies rot in the desert. Currently, about 1,000 people are believed to be in the hands of the kidnappers. Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the Sinai Peninsula, an area roughly twice the size of Belgium, has plunged into lawlessness. While vacationers sunbathe on hotel beaches in the south of the peninsula, armed bands of criminals and militant Islamists spread fear and terror in the north. They bomb gas pipelines and attack police stations and checkpoints with machine guns, mortars and anti-tank rockets. Again and again, there are dead and wounded. Experts fear that a new operations base for Al Qaeda could be set up on the Sinai Peninsula. Right on the border to Israel. In this chaos, which has worsened since the coup in Cairo, the kidnappers and torturers, comprising what the United Nations considers to be one of the most barbaric human trafficking networks in the world, continue to ply their gruesome trade unopposed. “If you go into the Sinai, they’ll kill you,” says Selomon, and points his stump of a hand in our direction with a little piece of paper wedged between the index finger and thumb. “My sister held onto this. Maybe it still works.” It’s the phone number of his torture camp. The trail of the traffickers leads to El Arish, the capital of the Egyptian province of North Sinai. At a four-hour drive northeast of Cairo and not quite 70 kilometers from the borders of the Gaza Strip and Israel, thousands of crude brick houses spill out into the desert. Behind a long beach on the turquoise colored waters of the Mediterranean, the Egyptian state comes under fire almost daily. The front of the police station is riddled with bullet holes from militant Islamists who drive by and attack with automatic rifles from the back of SUVs. Secure behind sandbags and barbed wire, soldiers with mounted machine guns are supposed to protect the police who carry out constant checks day and night at the numerous checkpoints throughout the city. Shortly after our arrival, a drive-by gun fight breaks out between rival Bedouin gangs. Bursts of gun fire. Squealing tires. Breaking glass. At the intersection, a dog twitches in a pool of its own blood. What’s going on? “In the Sinai, we don’t speak to each other,” says Hamdi Azazy a little later in his small office in a back street of El Arish. “We solve problems with guns.” In his “command center” the human rights activist Azazy – a man with a gray mustache in a blue shirt and pleated slacks – keeps the shutters down day and night. The door is reinforced with steel bars. The office is lit by a neon light. The ventilator hums. “In the last two years, we’ve found hundreds of mutilated Africans in the desert,” Azazy tells us and points to the photos of bodies on his 178


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computer screen: bodies beaten to death, starved, burned, still chained to each other, even in death. Bodies without heads. A baby with its skull split open. A young woman, doused in gas and set on fire. Azazy is explicit: “Before she was dead.” On the wall hangs the poster of his organization: New Foundation for Human Rights. The local activists provide those Africans who escape the torture camps or who are set free after payment of their ransom with food, clothes and medicine. On his computer screen, Azazy shows us even more horrific pictures: sawn-open, gutted torsos, some sewn back together with big stitches in the middle or on the sides. “Kidneys, liver, heart, eyes,” Azazy lists them off. Apparently this is the work of organ traffickers. Azazy showed these photos to the former head of forensic medicine in Cairo who judged the stitches “the work of professionals”. An in-depth report by the European Union paints the picture of a regular industry in organ trafficking in the Sinai. An anonymous Bedouin recently told the American TV news channel CNN, “Doctors in Cairo call me up and tell me, we have a private patient here and we need this or that organ. It’s like getting spare parts for a car.” Supposedly, the doctors travel into the deserts of the Sinai in big trucks. In tents turned into operating theatres they take organs from African refugees which they put into cool boxes and bring back to Cairo for implantation. Even so, Hamdi Azazy is the only person who claims to have actually seen one of these mobile clinics. He receives death threats almost on a daily basis. He has been shot at twice. When his eleven-year-old son Abdul was going to buy a chocolate bar in a store across the street, he was run over by an SUV. Azazy is convinced that: “It was an attack by the traffickers.” His son survived, but his hands and legs were broken. His face will always bear the scars. “Their threats only make me more determined,” says Azazy on the way to the cemetery. As we drive by ruined buildings and high-security checkpoints, he talks incessantly about his religion, Islam. “It forbids me to look away when others are suffering,” he tells us. “It doesn’t matter if they are Muslim or not.” People call him from the whole area when they find the bodies of tortured Africans in the desert. Azazy picks them up, washes them, wraps them in white cloth and embalms them according to Muslim tradition. Then he buries them with his own hands. “Over 500,” he says, as we reach the cemetery gates near the outskirts of El Arish. The mass grave looks like a landfill. “Here there are seven bodies,” says Azazy, stepping over torn sandals, scraps of clothing, plastic bottles. As he walks, he reads off the markers he has carved in the cemetery wall. “Here four, here nine, here a baby.” He just buried the last torture victims two days ago. Two men and a young woman with wide-open eyes that could not be closed. They have troubled his dreams ever since. In the evening, we try to call the number that Selomon had given us in Tel Aviv. But the number of his torture camp is busy for hours. 179


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Selomon’s story begins on a cool morning in December 2011 at the University of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, where he is one semester away from earning a degree in computer science. In the middle of a lecture the police burst in and arrest several of his friends. They had written a blog criticizing the lack of freedom of expression in the country. Eritrea is situated on the coast of the Red Sea, north of the Horn of Africa. Twenty years ago, the country won its independence from neighboring Ethiopia and ever since then has been controlled by a brutal dictatorship. In this one-party state with its strict planned economy, dissidents are tortured and journalists imprisoned. Amnesty International has denounced the regime for its systematic oppression: mandatory unlimited military service for men and women, religious persecution, executions. Two hundred and fifty thousand people have fled Eritrea in the past few years. When Selomon attempts to petition for his friends’ release, he himself is interrogated – and flees over the border to neighboring Sudan before the government thugs can arrest him. He makes it as far as the Shagarab refugee camp where he thinks he’s reached safety. Yet on his way to the food distribution tent, six men armed with AK 47s jump out of a pickup – before the eyes of the Sudanese soldiers paid by the United Nations to protect the refugees. These men are manhunters of the Rashaida, a loose alliance of nomadic tribes. They beat him with the butts of their rifles and throw him into the back of the pickup. It’s the beginning of a traumatic month-long journey to the north. In the end, it will cost Selomon’s family 30,000 dollars and cost Selomon both of his hands. Sold on from one criminal band to the next, he is finally brought by a well-organized network over the border to Egypt. Crammed into a van, disguised as a poultry delivery truck, with about 150 other kidnapped Eritreans, he is carted over the Suez Canal Bridge onto the Sinai Peninsula. The only fresh air comes through slits behind the engine. By the time the heavily-armed Bedouins open the tailgate of the trailer, seven Africans have suffocated, among them two children and a baby. For days, we’ve been searching El Arish for the 1,000 African hostages believed to be suffering a similar fate to Selomon’s in the Bedouin torture camps. But whoever we ask about them – the Governor of North Sinai, the local military command, the general of the border patrol – doors close, phone conversations break off and friendly faces turn to stony masks. It’s as though we are looking for ghosts. In the hospital, we only find the manacles with which escaped or ransomed and often severely injured torture victims have been chained to the beds. “Transferred to prison,” a doctor in stained white scrubs tells us when we ask where the Africans have gone. “Or taken to Cairo”. But if you want to be on the safe side, he adds, you should try the morgue. Even if the hostages survive the torture camps and are actually set free, their suffering is far from over. Many wander through the desert for days on end. The Israeli government built most of the 240-kilometer-long and almost five-meter-high steel 180


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fence that runs from Eilat at the northernmost point of the Red Sea to Gaza, along the border to Egypt. It is meant to keep African refugees out of the Sinai. The official Israeli designation for them is mistanenim, or “intruders”, a term that has long been used for undesired Palestinians and seems to put African migrants in the same category as terrorists. Politicians on the right describe them as a “cancerous growth in our body,” while prime minister Netanyahu sees them as a threat to the Jewish character of Israel. The “Prevention of Infiltration Act”, which has recently been tightened up, allows for African refugees and their children to be detained for up to three years without trial. Currently, the Israeli government is having prisons built in which over 10,000 migrants can be held. “Israel, a nation which itself was founded by refugees, is violating the Geneva Refugee Convention,” says Sigal Rozen from the human rights organization Hotline for Migrant Workers in Tel Aviv.

Selomon’s maimed hands after torture in the Sinai Peninsular. © 2013 Moises Saman Magnum Photos

On the Egyptian side, those who have survived the torture camps of the Bedouins do not fare any better. Instead of dealing with the perpetrators, the Egyptian authorities are intent on pursuing the victims who risk being shot at the border fence. The severely injured receive only the most basic medical care, and are chained to their beds with manacles. “So they don’t take off,” says the doctor in the stained scrubs. “These people are criminals.” Whoever doesn’t show any outward signs of torture goes directly to the jails where Africans are often crammed into tiny cells where they languish for months with insufficient food and water. The Egyptian government does not even allow UNHCR, the refugee relief organization of the United Nations, access to the prisons as it considers the erstwhile hostages of the Bedouins 181


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to be economic refugees, and thus illegally in the country and without any claim to political asylum. And so Eritreans are sent back to their home country even though in Eritrea they are in danger of being imprisoned and tortured yet again or simply executed as “traitors” because they left the country illegally. “The Egyptians are violating the Geneva Refugee Convention,” says Mohammed Dairi from the UNHCR office in Cairo. In El Arish, we had nearly given up any hope of finding any of the Africans, when an informant, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted us. He tells us that 122 former hostages are being held in the city’s police jails and that the only way to get to them is by talking to the police chief of North Sinai. This is the man we also want to ask why the government is doing nothing to clamp down on the kidnappers and torturers. General Sameh Beshady invites us to visit him in his office. Coffee is served. Spiced with cardamom. “The General will be with you in five minutes,” we are told. After waiting for two hours, we are informed that he is no longer able to see us. Apparently we need to be granted special permission to ask him questions. The relevant application, we are told, may be filed in Cairo. “Access to African detainees is forbidden,” says the young officer who escorts us out of the high-security headquarters. “It’s a precautionary measure against a bad press.” Then he lowers his voice and tells us that visiting the tribal areas in the desert where the torture camps are located is tantamount to suicide. Even for the police. “The Bedouins out there would simply shoot us,” he whispers. “I wouldn’t set foot there, not if you paid me a million dollars.” It takes us days to find someone who is prepared to take us into the tribal areas. “If the bands see an unfamiliar car with two white guys in the back,” says Abdel, a Bedouin with a sharp weasel-like face, “they don’t mess around. First they’d take the car, then deal with you. And you’d have two options: either kidnapping or a bullet in the head.” The contact with Abdel was set up by activist associates of Hamdy Azazy. This wiry little Bedouin with wide gaps between his yellow teeth is prepared to take us to Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Manei. This powerful Bedouin leader owns a number of smuggler tunnels that lead into the Gaza Strip near where the torture camps are located. His Sawarka tribe is said to have a heavily-armed 1,000-man militia at its disposal. We drive around the checkpoints at the city limits of El Arish in a Bedouin taxi and follow the desert trails towards the Israeli border. Goat herders, thorny bushes, boulders – many of the simple boxlike houses are half in ruins. Women carry heavy water canisters from the well to their houses. In the shade of an acacia tree, some youths are polishing their handguns. “No work, no money, no future,” says Abdel from the front passenger seat. “No wonder so many of us become criminals.” The dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak was particularly despised by the conservative Muslim Bedouins. His ruthless and indiscriminate policies toward 182


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the tribes gave their land to his supporters and excluded the Bedouins collectively from the political system. In the south of the peninsula – in the tourist meccas around Sharm El Sheik – government cronies accumulated fabulous amounts of wealth while the north remained undeveloped. Unemployment is high as is the child mortality rate with only one doctor for several thousand inhabitants. More than half the Bedouins cannot read or write. As Abdel tells us, the dire economic situation creates fertile ground for the sickening growth of human trafficking. A farmhouse in the tribal area of North Sinai – practically any house here could be a torture camp. © 2013 Moises Saman Magnum Photos

About an hour east of El Arish, we see the first brick houses of Al Mehdia dotted in the desert. This concentration of Islamists, bands of Bedouins and smuggler clans all armed to the teeth is only a few kilometers away from the Israeli border. After the first few houses, pickups with mounted machine guns come into view manned by young Bedouins, their faces wrapped in red and white cloths, their fingers ready on the trigger. Abdel pokes his head out the window – they recognize him and wave us through. “If you don’t belong here,” he tells us, “you’re a dead man.” Al Mehdia is considered the most dangerous place of all in the Sinai. Sitting cross-legged on a hard cement floor Sheik Ibrahim Al-Manei receives us among the bare concrete columns and tinted glass windows of his reception hall. The small stocky man is about 60 and wears a white robe and a white head scarf with a black cord. Al-Manei is one of the Bedouin leaders who refuse to traffic in humans. He gives shelter to fleeing Africans, feeds them, clothes them and gives them medical care. He tells us that just one week ago, he had the most recent group of them taken safely to Cairo where they were handed over to an aid organization. In an effort to isolate the traffickers, he meets with the heads of the Bedouin families and asks them not to serve torturers in their supermarkets, pharmacies and repair shops and 183


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not to allow their daughters to marry them. “We now have the first women to divorce the traffickers,” Al-Manei tells us triumphantly. The tiny tea glass looks fragile in his powerful grasp. “Come back in a year, and we’ll have dried up the human trade from the inside.” Experts estimate that more than 10,000 Africans have gone through the torture camps. At an average ransom of 30,000 dollars, the traffickers have taken in roughly 300 million dollars. If you’re a little low on funds at the moment, you can trade three hostages for a Toyota Land Cruiser. For seven Africans, you can get a truck. So are the traffickers really going to give up these kinds of profits just because of a little social pressure? “Dirty money flows into dirty things,” says Al-Manei. “Villas, weapons, parties, prostitution.” Countless stories circulate in the tribal areas in which torturers are punished by deadly car accidents, mysterious diseases and sudden ruin. “They make millions,” says Al-Manei. “But Allah demands their lives in return.” Whether or not the tribal chief really wants to end the trafficking, or whether he wants to polish the tarnished reputation of the Bedouins, remains unclear. What is certain is that he knows exactly where the Africans are being held. Why doesn’t he just round up his militia, storm the torture camps and put an end to the mutilation, rape and murder? “Bedouins do not interfere in the affairs of other families,” says Al-Manei. “That would lead to blood feuds and countless deaths.” And the organ trade? “Bullshit!” he roars. “With the dust, the heat, the distance to Cairo – how is that supposed to work?” He doesn’t believe that there are mobile clinics that operate in the desert, invisible even to the Bedouins. But survivors of the torture camps report seeing a man in white scrubs with a doctor’s kit that the kidnappers lead out in front of the hostages. “If your families don’t pay,” they threaten, “the doctor will slice out your kidneys.” But no one has actually seen an organ theft being performed. Maybe the threat is a form of perverse psychological torture designed to hasten payment of the ransom. But it still begs the question of where the photos of the professionally stitched-up bodies come from. The organized trading of organs on the Sinai remains shrouded in mystery. Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Manei allows us one more cup of tea. Who are the heads of the network of traffickers? “There are individuals involved in almost all of the local families,” says Al-Manei, skillfully evading the question. But he does finally mention one name: Ouda Abu Saad of the Jalouf tribe. Until only a few years ago, Saad was a goatherd. Then, suddenly he built a fairy tale palace with pagoda-like roofs worth millions of dollars in the sands of the desert. Meet him? The sheik nearly chokes on his tea. No way would he show us where Ouda Abu Saad lives. “First he’ll torture you to find out who sent you,” our host tells us, “then he’ll bury you alive in the desert.” Not even the mighty Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Manei would dare to knock on his door. The bosses of the network have thousands of lives on their conscience. And each life has its own story. After Selomon, the young Eritrean from the café in Tel Aviv, arrives in the Sinai, he is dragged out of the poultry truck and 184


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locked in a basement with 25 other African hostages. No light, no toilet. For days, he is given nothing to eat or drink. His new owners beat him until he spits out the phone number of his sister in Asmara. When she answers, she is forced to listen to her brother screaming for help. Then a loud snap. Like the sound of rotting wood splitting. The Bedouins use heavy iron rods to break Selomon’s wrists. They tell his sister: “Thirty thousand dollars or we kill him!” Eritrea is one of the poorest countries in the world. Selomon’s family who are simple farmers sell their house and cattle and send the ransom money via Western Union to one of the extortionists’ middlemen in Israel. But the amount they have managed to scrape together is nowhere near enough to buy Selomon his freedom. And while his sister is collecting money from friends and relatives, even from communities of Eritrean exiles in Europe and the USA, there is no respite from the kidnappers’ phone calls. Each time she answers the phone, she hears Selomon’s screams. His tormenters bind his feet in heavy chains that scrape the flesh down to the bone. In the cell next door, Bedouins stand in line each day waiting to rape the women. They burn their nipples with the hot rubber of melted radiator hoses and force iron bars into their vaginas. Even if one of the women dies from her injuries, they do not unbind her. For days, the survivors remain chained to the dead. Finally, they hang Selomon by his hands from the ceiling. “On a hook, like a slaughterhouse animal.” Four days later, when they let him down, his limbs have gone completely numb. He will never feel his fingers again. We drive out of Al Mehdia into the desert, toward the Israeli border fence. “The camps are difficult to find,” says Abdel, the Bedouin, who has been guiding us on our long journey through the tribal areas. “They’re always being moved.” In any of the one-storey brick houses that we pass by Selomon’s story could be repeating itself at that very moment. “If anywhere in the Middle East even one single European is kidnapped,” says Abdel from the passenger seat, “there’s such a huge outcry in all the media, and they move heaven and earth to save that one hostage – but when it comes to thousands of Africans, the world just looks the other way and lets them die.” It’s a bitter irony that the people who are most determined in their fight against the kidnappers and torturers are radical Islamists, the very people who are feared worldwide as terrorists. In the Sinai, there are several such militant groups, among them Jahafil al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, the “Armies of Monotheism and Jihad,” that belong to the Al Qaeda terror network. For the Islamists, torture of defenseless human beings is harām – a sin. “They sent text messages to Abu Saniya for a week, warning him that he should stop the abuse and return to the path of God,” says Abdel about a notoriously cruel torturer from the Ermilad tribe. When it was clear he wasn’t listening, masked men fired on his brother’s Land Cruiser. He died instantly. “The message was clear,” says Abdel, “if you don’t stop, you’re next.” Shoals of henchmen have abandoned their bosses, he tells us, because they fear the Jihadis’ rage. There could hardly be a more terrible paradox: militant Isla185


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An Eritrean torture victim freed after payment of the ransom. Š 2013 Moises Saman Magnum Photos

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mists save Africa’s migrants from torture because God forbids them to look away while defenseless human beings suffer. And the same God orders their radical comrades to blow themselves up in crowded locations in Tel Aviv, New York or London. The sun is already sinking as we sit down on a mat in the desert – to drink tea with a murderer. It required countless phone calls and all of Abdel’s powers of persuasion to get one of the torturers to agree to talk to us. This massive Bedouin is a man in his forties wearing baggy shorts. He picks at his bare toes with his fingers as he tells us he is about to quit. “Out of fear of the Islamists.” Whether or not that is true is not important right now. What we want to know is what goes through a Bedouin’s mind when he tortures an African to death. “Nothing,” he says, smiling. “I was paid regularly.” A torturer’s wages are just under 160 dollars a month. The man shows no signs of remorse whatsoever. He tells us calmly – as if he were discussing the peach harvest – how they rolled up women in straw fencing and set them on fire; how they ripped a baby from its mother’s breast, choked it to death and played football with the body; how they filled a hole in the ground with red hot coals, put a metal grate over it and threw their victims onto the glowing bars. “African barbecue,” says the man as he sips his tea. “Black meat.” How can one human being do such unspeakable things to another? “We learned our trade in prison,” says the Bedouin, “in Mubarak’s torture chambers.” Many of his co-workers had themselves been tortured for years in the regime’s dungeons, with methods they are now using on their hostages. The brutal excesses of human trafficking in the Sinai are also the legacy of Egypt’s dictatorship. Selomon’s ordeal lasts eight months. By then, his sister had actually managed to get together the 30,000 dollars and was able to transfer it to the Bedouin’s middleman in Israel. At this point, at little more than 40 kilos Selomon has lost half of his bodyweight. He can no longer stand and can hardly speak. On 26 June 2012, the Bedouins drive him into the desert and throw him out near the border. Other Eritreans who are set free with him drag his unconscious body over to Israel. “Let me die,” he begs the surgeon in the hospital in Tel Aviv. His hands are dead from the broken joints up. The doctors amputate almost the whole of the hands in a series of seven operations. Selomon was hospitalized for three months and since his discharge has been living in a shelter for refugees not far from Levinsky Park. What about his future? The young Eritrean is hoping for a hand transplant. “Two hundred thousand dollars”, he tells us quietly in the café, staring at the stumps. Then he counts off the countries that are leaders in this highly sophisticated surgery: “America, Canada, Denmark, Germany.” The African hostages in the Sinai remain invisible to us for the length of our stay. And as we are on our way back out of the tribal areas to El Arish, it suddenly strikes us as a metaphor: Because the world never comes face to face

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with these people and because hardly anyone recognizes them, their kidnappers can continue to torture them without let or hindrance. Before we leave the tribal areas, we make one last stop at a farm. Abu, a fifteenyear-old boy with a downy mustache and a hay straw between his teeth, leads us through the peach trees that grow behind the box-house in the desert. The fruits taste sweet, their fur tickles our teeth. A gaggle of little children come running up and set themselves down in the sand next to us. Abu tells us he is two years away from graduating. What does he want to be? A teacher? A doctor? He tells us he knows somebody who graduated at the top of his class: “And he can’t find work anywhere.” So what does Abu want to do when he has finished school? “Torture Africans,” the youth says suddenly. We do not react. Maybe he has heard that we are interested in the topic and wants to impress us. But Abu goes into graphic detail, his eyes aglow: “Hammer red-hot nails through their hands, pour boiling water on them” – the children squeal with delight – “make 30,000 dollars in ransom money and then sell them for 5,000 dollars.” Maybe this is just a child’s vicious fantasy. But at this moment, it tells us more about the future of the North Sinai than all the rosy promises of Sheikh Al-Manei. What did the torturer sitting on the mat in the desert tell us? “If someday we run out of blacks, we’ll get our hostages from Cairo.” We're now back in the Egyptian capital. The cell phone rings. On the display, we see the number that Selomon had given us, the number of the torture camp in the Sinai. We take a deep breath and answer the phone. “My name is Tzega,” says a woman’s desperate voice in English. “I’m 21 years old! I come from Eritrea! They want 40,000 dollars!” In the background we hear a metallic sound. Suddenly Tzega lets out a blood-curdling scream. “I’m bleeding! I’m bleeding!” she cries over and over again into the phone. “Help me! My God! They’re cutting my fingers off!” Then the line goes dead.

The names of the victims have been changed by the editors. The orginal text was in German. Translated by Jason Nickels / Paul Morland

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MICHAEL OBERT ... is an award-winning German book author and journalist who has been compared with the likes of Bruce Chatwin, Jon Krakauer and Ryszard Kapuściński. He reports mainly from Africa and the Middle East and writes for Sueddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, DIE ZEIT and ZEIT Magazin, GEO, Vogue, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and many other prestigious periodicals in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, as well for Sunday Times Magazine, GQ France, The Journal (New York), Dagens Næringsliv (Oslo) and Himal Southasian (Katmandu).

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NATO – AND THEN? OPERATION UNIFIED PROTECTOR BY ALAN KUPERMAN ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS AT THE LYNDON B. JOHNSON SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, TEXAS

THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT NATO’S INTERVENTION IS THAT IT SAVED LIVES AND BENEFITED LIBYA AND ITS NEIGHBORS. IN REALITY, WHEN NATO INTERVENED IN MID-MARCH 2011, QADDAFI ALREADY HAD REGAINED CONTROL OF MOST OF LIBYA, WHILE THE REBELS WERE RETREATING RAPIDLY TOWARD EGYPT. THUS, THE CONFLICT WAS ABOUT TO END, BARELY SIX WEEKS AFTER IT STARTED, AT A TOLL OF ABOUT 1,000 DEAD, INCLUDING SOLDIERS, REBELS, AND CIVILIANS CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE. BY INTERVENING, NATO ENABLED THE REBELS TO RESUME THEIR ATTACK, WHICH PROLONGED THE WAR FOR ANOTHER SEVEN MONTHS AND CAUSED AT LEAST 7,000 MORE DEATHS. 192


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IS INTERVENTION A MODEL AT ALL? Many commentators have praised NATO’s 2011 intervention in Libya as a humanitarian success for averting a bloodbath in that country's second largest city, Benghazi, and helping eliminate the dictatorial regime of Muammar al-Qaddafi. These proponents accordingly claim that the intervention demonstrates how to successfully implement a humanitarian principle known as the responsibility to protect (R2P). Indeed, the top U.S. representatives to the transatlantic alliance declared that “NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention.” A more rigorous assessment, however, reveals that NATO’s intervention backfired: it increased the duration of Libya’s civil war by about six times and its death toll by at least seven times, while also exacerbating human rights abuses, humanitarian suffering, Islamic radicalism, and weapons proliferation in Libya and its neighbors. If this is a “model intervention,” then it is a model of failure.

FLAWED NARRATIVE The conventional account of Libya's conflict and NATO’s intervention is misleading in several key aspects. First, contrary to Western media reports, Qaddafi did not initiate Libya’s violence by targeting peaceful protesters. The United Nations and Amnesty International have documented that in all four Libyan cities initially consumed by civil conflict in mid-February 2011—Benghazi, Al Bayda, Tripoli, and Misurata – violence was actually initiated by the protesters. The government responded to the rebels militarily but never intentionally targeted civilians or resorted to “indiscriminate” force, as Western media claimed. Early press accounts exaggerated the death toll by a factor of ten, citing “more than 2,000 deaths” in Benghazi during the initial days of the uprising, whereas Human Rights Watch (HRW) later documented only 233 deaths across all of Libya in that period. Further evidence that Qaddafi avoided targeting civilians comes from the Libyan city that was most consumed by the early fighting, Misurata. HRW reports that of the 949 people wounded there in the rebellion’s initial seven weeks, only 30 were women or children, meaning that Qaddafi’s forces focused narrowly on combatants. During that same period, only 257 people were killed among the city's population of 400,000 — a fraction less than 0.0006 – providing additional proof that the government avoided using force indiscriminately. Moreover, Qaddafi did not perpetrate a “bloodbath” in any of the cities that his forces recaptured from rebels prior to NATO intervention – including Ajdabiya, Bani Walid, Brega, Ras Lanuf, Zawiya, and much of Misurata – so there was virtually no risk of such an outcome if he had been permitted to recapture the last rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The conventional wisdom is also wrong in asserting that NATO’s main goal in Libya was to protect civilians. Evidence reveals that NATO’s primary aim was to overthrow Qaddafi's regime, even at the expense of increasing the harm to Libyans. NATO attacked Libyan forces indiscriminately, including some in retreat and others in Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte, where they posed no threat to civilians. Moreover, NATO continued to aid the rebels even when they repeatedly rejected government cease-fire offers that could have ended the violence and spared civilians. Such military assistance included weapons, training, and covert deployment of hundreds of troops from Qatar, eventually enabling the rebels to capture and summarily execute Qaddafi and seize power in October 2011.

THE INTERVENTION BACKFIRED The biggest misconception about NATO’s intervention is that it saved lives and benefited Libya and its neighbors. In reality, when NATO intervened in mid-March 2011, Qaddafi already had regained control of most of Libya, while the rebels were retreating rapidly toward Egypt. Thus, the conflict was about to end, barely six weeks

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after it started, at a toll of about 1,000 dead, including soldiers, rebels, and civilians caught in the crossfire. By intervening, NATO enabled the rebels to resume their attack, which prolonged the war for another seven months and caused at least 7,000 more deaths. The best development in postwar Libya was the democratic election of July 2012, which brought to office a moderate, secular coalition government – a stark change from Qaddafi's four-decade dictatorship. Other developments, however, have been less encouraging. The victorious rebels perpetrated scores of reprisal killings and expelled 30,000 mostly black residents of Tawerga on grounds that some had been “mercenaries” for Qaddafi. HRW reported in 2012 that such abuses “appear to be so widespread and systematic that they may amount to crimes against humanity.” Ironically, such racial or ethnic violence had never occurred in Qaddafi’s Libya. Radical Islamist groups, suppressed under Qaddafi, emerged as the fiercest rebels during the war and refused to disarm or submit to government authority afterward. Their persistent threat was highlighted by the September 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues. Even more recently, in April 2013, a vehicle bomb destroyed half of the French embassy in the capital, Tripoli. In light of such insecurity, it is understandable that most Libyans responding to a postwar poll expressed nostalgia for a strong leader such as Qaddafi. Among neighboring countries, Mali, which previously had been the region's exceptional example of peace and democracy, has suffered the worst consequences from the intervention. After Qaddafi's defeat, his ethnic Tuareg soldiers of Malian descent fled home and launched a rebellion in their country's north, prompting the Malian army to overthrow the president. The rebellion soon was hijacked by local Islamist forces and al-Qaida, which together imposed Sharia and declared the vast north an independent country. By December 2012, the northern half of Mali had become “the largest territory controlled by Islamic extremists in the world,” according to the chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Africa. This chaos also spurred massive displacement of hundreds of thousands of Malian civilians, which Amnesty International characterized as “Mali’s worst human rights situation in 50 years.” Sophisticated weapons from Qaddafi's arsenal – including up to 15,000 man-portable, surface-to-air missiles unaccounted for as of 2012 – leaked to radical Islamists throughout the region. NATO’s intervention on behalf of Libya’s rebels also encouraged Syria’s formerly peaceful protesters to switch to violence in mid-2011, in hopes of attracting a similar intervention. The resulting escalation in Syria magnified that country’s killing rate by tenfold.

LESSONS NATO's intervention in Libya offers at least three important lessons for implementing the responsibility to protect. First, potential interveners should beware both misinformation and rebel propaganda. If Western countries had accurately perceived Libya’s initial civil conflict – as Qaddafi using discriminate force against violent tribal, regional, and radical Islamist rebels – NATO would have been much less likely to launch its counterproductive intervention. The second lesson is that humanitarian intervention can backfire by escalating rebellion. This is because some substate groups believe that by violently provoking state retaliation, they can attract such intervention to help achieve their political objectives, including regime change. The resulting escalation, however, magnifies the threat to noncombatants before any potential intervention can protect them. Thus, the prospect of humanita-

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rian intervention, which is intended to protect civilians, may instead imperil them via a moral hazard dynamic. To mitigate this pathology, it is essential to avoid intervening on humanitarian grounds in ways that reward rebels, unless the state is targeting noncombatants. A final lesson is that intervention initially motivated by the desire to protect civilians is prone to expanding its objective to include regime change, even if doing so magnifies the danger to civilians, contrary to the interveners’ original intent. That is partly because intervening states, when justifying their use of force to domestic and international audiences, demonize the regime of the country they are targeting. This demonization later inhibits the interveners from considering a negotiated settlement that would permit the regime or its leaders to retain some power, which typically would be the quickest way to end the violence and protect noncombatants. Such lessons from NATO’s use of force in Libya suggest the need for considerable caution and a comprehensive exploration of alternatives when contemplating if and how to conduct humanitarian military intervention.

At its peak southern Libya’s el-Sharara oilfield daily yielded 350,000 barrels of sweet light crude that fuelled European industry and filled government coffers. But now the remote desert facility produces nothing. And this is true for many other fields as well.

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THANK YOU ... to all our authors and interview partners. Special thanks to Nicola Claire and Paul Morland.


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