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Al-Tawhid Corps: The Syrian Brotherhood's new Army

Following the Libyan Islamist "Tripoli Corps" model, the Syrian Moslem Brotherhood set up a new Qatari - backed army, the Tawhid Corps.

The "Libyan Guevara", the CIA and Irish Gypsies!

The Libyan Commander who joined the fight in Syria, and lost 200 thousand Euros of CIA money to gypsy gangs.

Hala Jadid: Assad’s rule, a Catastrophe

The Arab Digest interviews Hala Jadid, a Syrian activist of Allawite background who lost her father following his brutal torture in Assad's prisons.

Syria's jailed poet: Assad's prisons, a hell of a particular kind!

The Arab Digest interviews Syrian poet Faraj Bayrakdar, he speaks on the Assad's notorious prisons, and the Syrian revolution.

A U.S. Libya veteran plans joining Syria's war

The Arab Digest speaks to an American who volunteered to fight in Libya, where he was incarcerated in Gaddafi's notorious prison. He is now thinking of joining the rebels in Syria.

March 31, 2012

Meet Egypt's Next President

March 31, 2012

March 31, 2012






The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood chose its candidate for Egypt's upcoming presidential elections: its deputy leader Khairat al-Shater. Born in 1950, Khairat, an engineer, has ten children, and ten grandchildren (an ominous sign for family planning efforts). After becoming politically active, he was imprisoned four times, once during Gamal Abdul Nasser's era in 1968, then in 1992, 1995 and 2001.
Here is a full profile by the New York Times.
Al-Shater has previously declared that he is committed to all treaties signed with Israel; he has been criticized for maintaining such views, but Israel welcomed his statement.



March 27, 2012

Video: Saudi Troops shooting protesters

March 27, 2012

March 27, 2012


A video emerged of Saudi troops shooting peaceful protesters in Qatif, Saudi Arabia's underdeveloped Eastern region. Shooting could be heard and seen coming from Police cars against a demonstration in Qatif on the 21st of November last year. Here is the video:




In a similar fashion to the Syrian and Egyptian regimes' media, Saudi owned media outlets, including al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat newspapers (both based in London), have been reporting that demonstrators in Qatif are "armed gangs". Western media has been largely ignoring the protests, especially that Saudi Arabia is a major U.S. and European ally/partner.

(Image above is of a shack in mostly poor Qatif)

PS. for more background information on Qatif, check the article that got us blocked in the Kingdom.



Gaddafi placed Sadr in a Fridge for a decade!


Al-Akhbar newspaper reported today that the Muammar Gaddafi ordered to keep Musa al-Sadr, a prominent Lebanese Shiite cleric, in a fridge at the notorious Abu Slim prison during the past decade after he died in prison from diabetes.
Lebanese sources told the newspaper that al-Sadr's body was lost after the bombing of Abu Slim, but witnesses reporting seeing his traditional cloak and black turban amid the rubble. (Did Gaddafi place him in the fridge wearing his full suit?). The new Libyan authorities located al-Sadr's guards and interrogated regarding this issue.
Apparently, Gaddafi's regime denied Sadr his much needed diabetes medicine, leading to a quick death. For unknown reasons, the Libyan dictator ordered that Sadr would be denied burial and transferred to a fridge, where it spent nearly a full decade. More details are emerging about the estimated 23,700 missing persons during Gaddafi's era in Libya.  


March 26, 2012

Saudi Mufti calls for beheading opposition members

March 26, 2012

March 26, 2012

The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV channel reported that the Saudi Mufti issued a Fatwa (religious edict) calling for the beheading of anyone who opposes the Saudi regime. The fatwa turned out to be a hoax on an Al-Arabiya website; it was easy to believe as the Mufti had previously called for severe punishment for Shiites protesters.





The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, the country’s top Islamic cleric, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah (photo above) had raised eyebrows with his previous Fatwas, and most lately his declaration that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region”, placing Christian places of worship throughout the Arabian Peninsula in potential jeopardy. Dave Bohon from the New American reported that "since Christianity is already forbidden in Saudi Arabia and no churches exist there, the implications of the cleric’s words were that the church ban should extend to other countries in the region, including Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
According to the Arabic Christian news site Linga.org,  made the controversial statement during a meeting with a delegation from the Kuwait-based Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage, in response to a query about Sharia law concerning the construction of churches in Islamic countries. As reported by the Christian Post, the question was in reference “to a recent controversial statement by a Kuwaiti member of parliament who reportedly called for the ‘removal’ of churches. The MP reportedly specified later that he merely meant that no churches should be built in Kuwait.”
According to USCatholic.org, legislation was recently introduced in Kuwait’s parliament that would mandate the removal of Christian churches from the country and impose strict Islamic law (Shariah). “Party officials said later the legislation would not remove the churches, but prohibit further construction of Christian churches and non-Muslim places of worship in the country,” reported the Catholic news site".

Before his "destroy all churches" fatwa, Bin Abdullah had called for the crucifixion of Shiite rebels in the Eastern region. Saudi Arabian law and sometimes internal policies rely on such fatwas which are supportive of the ruling family, and provide it with much needed legitimacy. 


March 24, 2012

Saudi Forces shoot indiscriminately at an al-Awamiah residential neighborhood!

March 24, 2012

March 24, 2012



While Saudi government's newspapers like pan-Arab Al-Hayat and Asharq al Awsat newspapers reported that 3 Saudi security officers were shot, our Qatif correspondent sent us the following report on the assassination attempt on Mohamed al-Zenadi's life, (the wanted pro-reform activist) on the 22nd of March: "At 7 PM, al-Zenadi was walking in the Al-Jumaima street in al-Awamia, Eastern Saudi Arabia, near the health center, when a Saudi forces' Yukon car quickly approached him, then six armed officers approached trying to kidnap him; he resisted arrest, so they shot him more than once. Only then, locals rushed to the scene, so the security forces ran away after they thought he was killed, fearing a local backlash. While escaping, their Yukon crashed into two cars. Following the accident, Saudi security back-up arrived, and they started firing indiscriminately at the residential neighborhood, damaging some buildings.Al-Zenadi's injuries were serious, as two bullets remained inside his body, so residents moved him to Qatif's central hospital, where security forces arrived and moved him to the military hospital in Dahran". Image (bullet hole on one of the buildings in Awamiya).
Residents of al-Awamia organised a solidarity sit-in with al-Zenadi.



(Photo: Hussein Hassan Ali Al Rabee'i, one of the Interior Ministry's 23 wanted men, blamed for protests. His sign has "Freedom for activist Mohammad Alzanadi" witten on it).



For information on why the demonstrations are happening, you could check our article here.


March 22, 2012

Saudi Forces shoot a Qatif activist

March 22, 2012

March 22, 2012

By @qatifrev
Mohammed Al-Zenadi, one of 23 wanted activists by the notorious Saudi Ministry of Interior, was injured in Al-Awamia at about 7:00 pm by the Saudi security forces. He got shot but managed to escape (He was arrested later in hospital; check our newest report); his photo, above, shows him injured and lying untreated in a house. Witnesses said that Mohammed was wounded in his leg and stomach (photos of yet untreated wounds below).
There were reports about the injury of a foreign worker in the shooting area. Alzinadi escaped after locals surrounded him in a move that surprised and confused the Saudi security men; they were forced to leave.

The Saudi authorities provided no evidence justifying their arrest. He recorded a video of himself claiming innocence and that the Saudi forces are responsible for shooting Qatifis (a common claim in Qatif). He also challenged the MOI to prove their accusations against him.





In a similar fashion to other tyrannies in the region, Saudi official media outlets reported that 3 security forces were injured by an "unknown fire source" in Awamia in oil-rich Qatif (Eastern Saudi Arabia). According to the official media reports, there was a very heavy shooting around 7:00 pm KSA time, at a patrolling car. “We deal with the situation with what it deserves”, Zayad Alreqiti, the Saudi police's official spokesman in the Eastern Province said. “We open fire on those who shot us", he claimed. “Then we take the injured to the hospital and start an investigation”.
I called locals and gathered the following information:

The attack happened next to Alseha barbershop where Mohammed Saleh Alzinadi was getting his haircut. He was shot and injured in his leg and stomach. Some of the bullets penetrated a neighbor's house. No locals heard the alleged heavy gunfire, while the reports of injuries among Security Forces are most probably false as the Police's patrolling cars are usually bullet-proof.




March 21, 2012

A week of Protests in Qatif: arrests & a harsh sentence!

March 21, 2012

March 21, 2012


March 13th, 2012:


- Murtadha Hashim Almosawi, 25 years old, from Safwa city (Qatif), Eastern Saudi Arabia was arrested.

March 14th, 2012:


- Female activists protest in front of Awamia clinic 8:00pm

- Protesters demonstrated in Samakah roundabout in Tarout, Tarout Island at 8:00pm.

(from a demonstration in Qudaih town, Qatif)

March 15th, 2012:


- Protesters demonstrated in Makkah St in Saihat city, Qatif, at 8:00pm.

- Men and women demonstrated in Qudaih town, Qatif, in front of the town's municipal building at 7:00 PM. They shouted "17 years are enough!", in reference to the province's forgotten prisoners.


March 16th, 2012 "Friday of Freedom's Solidarity.":


- A demonstration after Friday's sermons by Sheikh Abdulkareem Alhubail in Al'abbas mosque in Alrabi'iya town, Tarout Island.

- Another demonstration in Rev St, Central Qatif at 4:00pm.

March 17th, 2012:


- Muneer Adel Alquraish from Safwa city, Qatif, received a harsh sentence, 8 months in jail and 10,000 riyals ($2,666.29) penalty by Qatif Pro-Government-Sunni-Court because of "compromising security after sending a solidarity messages with Bahrain rev during Bahrain national day through his Blackberry". He has been previously held in custody for 48 days, then released after paying the penalty, and on March 17th, he was sentenced. However, Muneer holds an Airport Management degree; he graduated from a university in Amman, Jordan. He works in a job that doesn't suit his major. He lost his current job, is an orphan. He is the principal carer for his mother (a dependent).

March 18th, 2012:


- Ahmad Sameer Alqasllah 22 years old from Qatif, was arrested during the random arresting campaign Saudi troop exercise in Qatif. Ahmad is a bodybuilder in Altaraji sport club in Qatif.

March 19th, 2012:


-Abdullah Issa Almayad 25 years old from Madani village, Qatif was arrested.


The "Knights of Pride": The Toulouse Attackers have a British Connection?





The Arab Digest reveals new information on the Algerian group behind the recent attacks in France, whether the Jewish School shooting in Toulouse, or the killing of three French soldiers. According to their Facebook Group, the organisation is international, and the perpetrators only belong to its "France Branch". One of their videos show a British connection. 


"The Knights of Pride", or fursan aliza in Arabic, first emerged on Jihadist/Islamist forums as protectors of the French veil. In the video below, you could see two members of the group escorting a Veiled French woman who complained against the French police's treatment. In the video's beginning, she is seen screaming against a number of French police officers who were trying to arrest or interrogate her.

In another video, the group, which seems to have a British link, features an English Defence League video, below:

While it is not clear who is that Islamist, the video was shot in the UK, and it might be that he is connected to the Knights of Pride group.

The group bears so many similarities to Al-Qaeda, especially in regards to its media activity. Here is their YouTube channel, having many al-Qaeda style videos, calling for the defending Islam. Below is a video, where you could see some members' faces; it shows that the group has been organising events before being banned by the French authorities.



The group's webpage http://www.forsane-alizza.com/ says that they were banned but will continue to post videos. This Jihadist Algerian forum, claimed in August last year that members of the Knights of Pride group protected a veiled woman (video above) after French Police attacked her. In another forum, the same Knights' video is posted, noting that "the brothers" threatened to behead any Police officer "who touches our sisters".
While no connections to the North African Al-Qaeda network has been revealed, it is highly likely that Algerians from the same thought school would be in touch with their mother organisation in their home country. "Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb" has been growing in power due to high profile kidnappings, all of which have secured high financial returns to the organisation. Some reports have suggested that Al-Qaeda's leader, Ayman Zawahiri, began looking for some financing from the organisation's North African branch.



March 20, 2012

Videos of Free Syrian Army's executions

March 20, 2012

March 20, 2012

While Human Rights Watch has issued a condemnation of abuses by the Opposition's forces in Syria, videos of Free Syrian Army's executions in different provinces emerged on YouTube. In the first video below, the FSA members in Idlib hang an alleged Assad paramilitary member who participated in repression.    


In the second video, below, the FSA executes a security officer who entered Daraya. The officer's pseudo name, Abu Jaafar, is usually Allawite. 


Human Rights Watch condemned the abuses in the following statement:


(New York) – Armed opposition elements have carried out serious human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said today in a public letter to the Syrian National Council (SNC) and other leading Syrian opposition groups. Abuses include kidnapping, detention, and torture of security force members, government supporters, and people identified as members of pro-government militias, called shabeeha. Human Rights Watch has also received reports of executions by armed opposition groups of security force members and civilians.



March 18, 2012

"Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East" at AIPAC!

March 18, 2012

March 18, 2012


Dr. Michele Dunne, the Director of Atlantic Council Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, has spoken at an AIPAC Policy conference to better inform the Israel lobby cadres. The Rafik Hariri center was established by a Bahaa Hariri donation. Bahaa is the eldest son of late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The director, a former White House and State Department official, was at an AIPAC policy conference panel on Egypt, alongside the infamous Israeli General Michael Herzog, who was a leading military figure during the 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon. You can find below more details on the conference, including the participation of Dr. Shibli Talhami:

http://www.aipac.org/get-involved/attend-policy-conference/breakout-session-4


The Hariri Center, dedicated to Middle Eastern studies (and, seemingly, helping AIPAC stay informed), was launched in September last year. Here are the details of the launch:


"WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Atlantic Council, the preeminent, non-partisan institution devoted to promoting transatlantic cooperation and international security, is proud to announce the formation of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. Named for the late Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister who was assassinated in 2005, the Atlantic Council's new center will reflect Mr. Hariri's efforts to rise above the Middle East's sectarianism and promote innovative policies to advance economic, social, civil and political liberalization and sustainable conflict resolution.
Made possible by Bahaa Hariri's founding gift and with the Hariri family's support, the center will work closely with experts and institutions in the Middle East and North Africa, Europe and North America to advance productive economic and political cooperation among the three regions.
"My father believed that many of the answers to our region's problems would come over time through greater political, social, civil and economic convergence with Europe and the United States," said Bahaa Hariri, the late prime minister's eldest son and a prominent business leader. "No organization can better capture that mission than the Atlantic Council."
In support of the Center's goals, the Atlantic Council recently named Michele Dunne, a former White House and State Department official, as the director of the new Center."



Furthermore, Michele Dunne is attending a conference for another Israel lobby, the presumably centrist J Street. Apparently, Ehud Olmert is attending this conference, along with Annahar newspaper's Washington Correspondent, Hisham Milhim. Here is the link.



March 17, 2012

Damascus bombings: A Strategic Shift?

March 17, 2012

March 17, 2012




Two explosions targeted security bases in Damascus this morning, killing civilians and members of the security services. The country has witnessed a series of bombings, especially in Damascus and Aleppo, Syria's two major and revolution-passive cities. 
(Photo, above, from the scene of the bombing)


Have the new Damascus bombings signaled a shift in the Free Syrian Army strategy? After the failure in holding territory due to the regular army's superiority, has the FSA/militants adopted an Iraq style bombing campaign against Assad's security services?

Answering the question above has to take into consideration the enormous "Iraq effect" on Syria's militants, whether its Islamist militants or FSA members. Thousands of the Iraq war veterans are Syrian; the Syrian regime facilitated their recruitment and exodus to the Eastern neighbor since 2003. They are back and have been fighting against the regime for a few years now (clashes have been reported in different years).
The regime has also been interested in strengthening the Islamist militant side of the uprising, though it was nearly non-existent before the militarization of the revolution. The Islamists have also looked into the 1980s experience, during which Islamists have launched a series of bombings against Allawite targets, but were later marginalized and crushed by brutal force. The culmination was the regime's infamous massacre of Hama.
If they are reading from the 1980s handbook, Syria's anti-Assad militants will launch attacks against security targets, further weakening the regime. If the militants really learned from the 1980s experience, they will not launch any Sectarian attacks, like in Iraq, as it will further marginalize them; they would rather focus on gaining more following by spectacular and daring operations/bombings against the regime's major bases/symbols of power and repression. The issue is that they lack discipline/unity, and might fall in the Sectarian trap.





March 14, 2012

Proxy-lingual: Nasrallah speaks Persian!

March 14, 2012

March 14, 2012

Is speaking your sponsor's language a prerequisite for funding? It definitely helps. Below is a video of Nasrallah at a Tehran University speech, where he spoke in fluent Persian. I am sure he picked up some from his Iranian manual of instructions:



(Above, Nasrallah at a speech in Arabic. His Arabic language skills and charisma have attracted many supporters from the Arab world, but his recent stances on Syria lost him most of them)


The Ethiopian maid abused on video, committed suicide


"The Ethiopian woman abused in broad daylight by a Lebanese man and caught on amateur video committed suicide on Wednesday, a local NGO has confirmed.

Alem Desisa, an Ethiopian domestic worker, killed herself Wednesday morning at the Deir El Saleeb mental hospital north of Beirut, Najla Shahda, Director of Caritas' Migrant Center told Al-Akhbar.

Desisa's case received widespread attention after an amateur video aired by Lebanese television network, LBCI, last week showed a Lebanese man, allegedly her boss, physically assaulting her in front of the Ethiopian embassy.

Desisa had been at the Deir El Saleeb hospital for two weeks after Caritas requested Lebanon's General Security remove her from the abusive man's home.

"We asked them (General Security) to send her to the psychiatric hospital," Shahda said.

The incident in front of the Ethiopian embassy, although aired last week, occurred much earlier, Shahda said, adding that Caritas was aware of the case before the video surfaced.

"We have been sending a social worker to the hospital to help the woman," Shahda said.

Caritas has not yet planned legal action against the Lebanese man, identified by local media as Ali Mahfouz, caught abusing Desisa on the video.

A source inside the Internal Security Forces (ISF) said Mahfouz was arrested on Friday afternoon, and an investigation has been launched into the incident.

The source could not confirm whether Mahfouz was still in custody, but the man was spotted roaming freely in Hamra, Beirut over the weekend by a witness."

Here is our original post with the video



Who is Sunni, who is Shiite? Saudi Activists unite at a wedding!


Mikhlif Al-Shammary, a human rights activist, a leading Saudi dissident, and one of the major Sheikhs of the Sunni Shammar tribe in Saudi Arabia, crossed the Sectarian divide by replacing a Shiite prisoner at his son's wedding in the Eastern region. Al-Shammary, who was arrested three times in the past few years, and was banned from publishing his critical articles, showed up at the wedding of Murtada Al-Jarrash whose father Abdullah was arrested following the Khubar Bombing in August 1996.
Al-Jarash's family argues that he is a "forgotten prisoner" who had no relation whatsoever with the bombing. Al-Shammary, who received in 2008, 20 lashes for filing a court case against a Saudi who called him an "impure traitor" for appearing in a photograph next to a Shiite clergyman.




(Al Shammary, above, with Murtada, the groom; and his letter of congratulations, below)






Al Shammary's message to Murtada:



My son Murtadha Aljarrash, may Allah bless him. I can not to explain to you my feelings when you chose me to be on your side today, in the place of your absent father.
I ask Allah in this blessed hour to complete your happiness with giving your father the happiness I am feeling right now when seeing you as a groom. May Allah bless you and your wife.Your second father,

Mikhlif Al Shammary


Why Assad chose the 7th of May for Parliamentary elections?

After a year of political/military manoeuvring, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has sent his army to deprive the Free Syrian Army of safe havens inside Syria. Homs, Al-Rastan and Idlib have returned to his control, though one might argue temporarily, till another revolt.

But why did Assad choose the 7th of May for his first, allegedly, free elections?

The 7th of May is a sensitive date in Lebanon; it would be the 4th anniversary of the 2008 Hezbollah led military attack against its anti-Syria foes, the 14th of March coalition. The pro-Syrian takeover of Lebanon was specifically a blow to the United States and most importantly to its regional ally, Saudi Arabia. Qatar's Prince brokered a deal that ended with the formation of a new coalition government, where Assad's allies had the veto power they have always demanded.

The election date could be symbolic, as it resembles, at least for Assad and his regime, another victory against its Arab foes. After the alleged military victory, reforms could seal the deal, Assad might think. He might have missed the fact that aside from his regional contests, there are millions of Syrians who have taken to the streets, or arms, to topple his regime and its repressive security apparatus. These revolting millions will always remain in Syria, regardless of geopolitical manoeuvres and contests, the regime's favourite games.





Neocons, evangelical Christians split over Syria

The Guardian has published the following quotation from a Robert Wright article in the Atlantic on the split between Evangelical Christians and Neoconservatives in the United States over toppling the regime in Syria. The Arab Digest has previously reported on the growing links between right-wing Israelis, American Neoconservatives, and members of the Syrian National Council. Sobhi Hadidi, a Syrian dissident and journalist, recently criticized these links, arguing that the Syrian people could topple Assad's regime on its own, without the need for external intervention.
While evangelicals are usually supportive of Israeli right-wing policies towards the Palestinians, whether Christian and Moslem; on Syria, they seem to be rather more concerned over the fate of around 2 million Christians if the current regime is toppled.

Here is the quotation from the Guardian:



"The evangelical press is reporting that Syrian Christians fear Assad's fall and is quoting them as warning against foreign intervention. Catholic periodicals convey similar concerns, and illustrate them with, for example, reports that Syrian rebels are using Christians as human shields. And Jihad Watch, the right-wing website run by Robert Spencer, a Catholic, bemoans what will happen to Syrian Christians as "Assad's enemies divide the spoils of the fallen regime." (Spencer has in the past been sceptical of interventions, but he reaches conservative Christians who have been less sceptical.) The alliance between neocons and conservative Christians that has worked in the past is going to be harder to put together this time.
Maybe it's in recognition of this challenge that neocons have been downplaying the role of Muslim extremists".




(Ammar Abdul Hamid, SNC member, at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which is usually dubbed as the AIPAC thinktank)


March 12, 2012

The Arab Digest blocked in Saudi Arabia

March 12, 2012

March 12, 2012


Our website has been blocked/censored from viewers in Saudi Arabia. We suspect that the reason behind the Saudi authorities' decision is our recent coverage of events in Qatif, especially this latest article on discrimination against the Shiite minority. The Arab Digest urges the Saudi government to lift this ban, and calls on Press Freedom Associations to report on this incident, as it only underscores the need for more freedoms in the Arab world.





Iraq appeases Saudi Arabia to secure Baghdad's Arab Summit success


By Zayd Alisa, for the Arab Digest


It has become increasingly apparent that holding the Arab summit in Baghdad is the overriding priority, if not, the incontestable obsession of the Iraqi government that supersedes, even the most pressing priorities, including the security and stability of the newly fledgling democracy. The Iraqi government has been, since last year, working tirelessly and relentlessly to overcome or, at least, placate the intense resistance, spearheaded by the Saudi regime, to holding the summit in Baghdad.

Although, the Arab league’s justification for not holding the summit last year in Baghdad, was mainly due to the popular uprisings that swept through the region, it was, however, the Saudi regime that played a major, if not, the decisive role in severely undermining and ultimately thwarting the Iraqi attempts. It was hardly a surprise, that the Saudi regime utilised its immense political and financial clout to tear apart Iraq’s futile strategy of striving to win over the backing of the vast majority of the Arab countries, in order to isolate the Saudi regime, and therefore force its hand into attending the summit.

The long list of ostensible reasons that were explicitly underlined by the Saudi regime to justify its steadfast determination not attend the summit, ranged from Iraq was still under U.S. occupation, to Iraq has offered its wholehearted support to the popular uprising in Bahrain, to that Nouri Al Maliki's government has marginalised the Sunni minority, giving Iran a freehand to dramatically intensify its influence, and finally, to the traditional excuse that Iraq is insecure and unstable.


But among the real underlying reasons, that are becoming increasingly evident, despite the Saudi regime’s categorical denials, was and still is its deeply entrenched fear that the success of the democratic process in Iraq is an immensely harmful precedent, which would undoubtedly inspire its own population. Thus, in Saudi Arabia’s eyes, even sending a low level delegation to Iraq is a huge monumental mistake, since it might be perceived by its own population as a ringing endorsement of the new system there, which would, almost certainly, critically undermine the credibility of its relentless campaign to convince its population that democracy leads to instability, insecurity and ultimately to civil war. The other reason that the Saudi regime has striven to sweep under the carpet is its deeply rooted hatred towards the Shia, which explains its fierce refusal to come to terms with, not only the irrevocable nature of the change that has taken place in Iraq, but also the inescapable reality that the Shia form the indisputable majority. 

Iraq’s new strategy hinges on making major Geo-political concessions principally designed to appease the Saudi regime to entice it to attend the Arab summit due to be held at the end of this month in Baghdad. This strategy is, however, highly perilous, even for a stable and secure country, let alone, a country like Iraq. Among these pivotal geo-political concessions are the following: Firstly: Iraq initially refused to endorse the Arab league decision to impose sanctions on Syria, and it also fiercely opposed all attempts, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to treat the Syrian crisis as an international rather than an Arab issue. But, out of the blue, Iraq had a major change of heart. It gave its ringing endorsement to the latest Arab league resolutions, which are beyond a shadow of doubt nothing but a complete reflection of the Saudi regime’s overarching foreign policy objective of regime change in Syria. These resolutions have explicitly demanded, not only that the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, steps down, but also that the Security Council intervenes in the Syrian crisis. Iraq has already bowed to intense Saudi pressure to exclude Syria from the Arab summit. Secondly: Iraq initially gave its unequivocal backing to the Bahraini popular uprising. Iraq was also scathing in its criticism of the Saudi invasion and the ensuing ferocious crackdown unleashed by the occupying forces against the peaceful protesters. Although, the Iraqi government did not formally comment, nonetheless, the support for the Bahraini cause came from highly influential figures in the Iraqi Parliament. But, at the moment, there is very little doubt that Iraq has made a major U-turn in its position towards Bahrain. In stark contrast, there is now a deafening silence, despite the deteriorating human rights situation. Thirdly: Iraq has confirmed that a high level security delegation led by the national security adviser has managed to strike a deal regarding the highly contentious issue of prisoners exchange. While Iraqi officials have tried their utmost to stress that the deal does not include Saudis convicted with terrorism, this, nevertheless, sharply contradicts repeated official statements that the vast majority of those prisoners were charged with terrorist crimes. What is really menacing about the security deal is its emphasis on close co-operation, which would almost certainly make it far easier to infiltrate the already struggling Iraqi side, under the legitimate pretext of coordination. Fourthly: Ayad Allawy, head of the Iraqi list, which is heavily dominated by Sunnis and which enjoys the full blown support from the Saudi regime, has swiftly jumped on the band wagon. In a thinly veiled threat, he asserted that, unless the Iraqi government puts its money where its mouth is by holding the much-trumpeted national conference, to address the stark divisions between the main political blocks, then the Iraqi list would ask the Arab league to tackle head on the internal situation in Iraq. Fifthly: With the Iraqi government’s Pandora’s Box of concessions widely opened, Tariq Al-Hashimi, the Iraqi vice president, who is facing an arrest warrant for terrorism allegations, sought to highlight his case, by insisting that these allegations are politically motivated and that it is the religious duty of all Iraqis to stand by him.

In the wake of all these unimaginable Iraqi concessions, the Saudi regime’s decision to appoint its ambassador in Jordan as a non-resident ambassador to Iraq sought to exacerbate the internal feuding by setting the cat among the pigeons. Although some of Al Maliki’s inexperienced advisers hailed the Saudi dangling of a little carrot, as a major breakthrough, it was abundantly clear to the more experienced eye, that the Saudi regime is not only reiterating the same old message that Iraq is far too insecure and unstable, but also reinforcing this very message by a tangible step on the ground to underscore its unyielding stance.

On the, 23 of Feb, Al-Qaeda launched a series of up to 30 deadly attacks right across Iraq. These attacks came just a few days after the Saudi regime’s decision not to send its ambassador to Baghdad. Beyond doubt, however, is the reality that Al-Qaeda’s attacks have dramatically bolstered the Saudi regime’s position by demonstrating that there is a real and credible threat. It has also given more weight to the Saudi regime’s argument that Iraq remains under the mercy of Al-Qaeda’s strikes, which essentially provides the Saudi regime with a credible excuse, if and when, it decides to pull the plug on the summit. While, it is undeniable that these attacks have exposed the indefensible vulnerability of the Iraqi security situation, it nevertheless underlines that Iraq’s strenuous attempts to hold the Arab summit in Baghdad is playing into the hands of the Saudi regime. Yet alarmingly, the Iraqi government rather than focusing its efforts on protecting its own people, it tried desperately to play down the significance of these attacks and press ahead with its concerted effort to hold the summit come what may. These attacks have, nonetheless, deepened the widespread suspicion of the immensely pivotal role that Al-Qaeda undertakes, whether directly or indirectly, as an indispensable and highly potent instrument in fulfilling the Saudi regime’s foreign policy objectives

On the balance, the supposed benefits of holding the summit are heavily outweighed by the costs, which include: Firstly, an intensification of terrorist attacks with the accompanying loss of lives, infrastructure, jobs and homes. Secondly, wasting desperately needed resources to rebuild infrastructure and to provide decent services. Thirdly, enabling tyrannical regimes to meddle in Iraqi internal affairs. Fourthly, allowing easier infiltration of the Iraqi security services. The benefits, however, are merely restricted to inflating even further the already hugely inflated egos of high-ranking government officials.

March 11, 2012

Demonstration in Homs calls for extermination of Allawite, Shiite minorities

March 11, 2012

March 11, 2012


A demonstration led by the symbolic figure of Syria's revolution, Abdul Baset Sarout, has called for the extermination of Allawite and Shiite minority. While Sarout waves his fist in approval, the man shouts through a sound amplifier "Homs has made its mind, we want to exterminate Allawites ... Shiites". The clip has been aired by a French TV channel. Sarout and other symbols of Syria's revolution have made statements claiming that their movement is non sectarian.


Sarout, a goalkeeper in Syria's National football team, had become a popular figure in the city of Homs, where he has frequently led demonstrations against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who belongs to the Allawite community.



Egypt: 10,000 Christians applied for immigration after Islamist victory

10,000 Coptic Christians applied for immigration at various embassies in Egypt, following the Islamists' victory in the recent legislative elections, according to a report by Al-Rai newspaper. The report also quoted Christian sources that 100 thousand Christians have applied for immigration after Egypt's 25 January revolution.
There has been local and European attempts to halt an immigration wave of Egyptian Christians who constitute about 10% of Egypt's 81 million population. Alitalia banned dozens of Christians from taking a flight to Rome, following instructions from the Italian authorities, citing their intent to apply for asylum in Italy, according to the newspaper's report.

Christians have complained about rising Salafist/Islamist rhetoric against their faith, church, applying the Sharia Islamic laws and curbing the rights of women (imposing the Hijab on women).


(Salafists have occupied 20% of seats in Parliament, constituting a clear majority with the Moslem Brotherhood)


March 09, 2012

The Life of Discrimination of Saudi Shiites: from birth to death

March 09, 2012

March 09, 2012

By Mohammed Ali Al-Masseri, from Qatif, for The Arab Digest


To be born and raised in a Qatif family might seem to be a source of delight for many in the world especially that this oil-rich city produces more than 800 thousand barrels a day of light crude oil. One might suppose that the residents of this province, whose population according to official numbers is 524,182, live a life of comfort and luxury, in which basic services are for granted. Unfortunately, reality says otherwise.


(a poor Qatif resident check his home following a flood; al-Riyadh newspaper) 


The suffering of a Qatif resident usually begins from his/her mother’s womb. In Qatif, there is only one hospital, 26 year old, with a 360 beds capacity for all types of patients (other Saudi cities have specialised birth hospitals). Considering the province’s population, medical services in Qatif are insufficient. If the baby’s father lacks a private insurance, which is the case for the majority including those who work in the public sector, he has to hope that his wife finds a place at the hospital when her water breaks.

When (Shiite) Qatifis goes to school, they have study the subject of Islamic education according to the Sunni-Hanbali sect, the state’s official, but undeclared, religious sect. Shiites are not only obliged to learn Islamic education according to another sect; their own faith is ridiculed, considered heretical and profane in school textbooks. These textbooks even call upon believers to abandon Shiite beliefs and practices. This education policy runs in parallel with continuous Saudi fatwas (religious edicts), considering Shiites heretics and infidels. As a result, during the past few decades, alienation became increasingly the norm in Shiite society; these policies have strengthened obstacles in the way of their effective integration in their home nation, due to the absence of religious freedoms, which was an intrinsic right when the region entered Saudi sovereignty.



(Another shack house in the poor Qatif province)

When Qatifis finish high school, they have to leave their province for university, as the government has not built any in their region, and those close by are insufficient either in subjects or in student capacity. The state’s budget for education in 2012 was 168.6 Billion Riyals (more than 30 Billion dollars).

After graduation, Qatifis are deprived of important jobs, regardless of their qualifications. The answer is usually ready: these positions are allocated according to qualifications, and are not subject to quotas. While the answer looks convincing at first glance, discrimination is not limited to senior positions, but rather includes mid-level jobs. The locals are banned from occupying positions like the directors of the agricultural bank in Qatif, its central hospital, high court, bureau of education and learning in both Qatif and Safwa, the mayor of Safwa, the provincial governors of Qatif and Safwa, the director of Qatif’s prison, the headmasters of all four levels in girls’ schools and many other positions. They also cannot occupy mid-level positions whose influence or jurisdiction is limited to their own region. Some Qatifis have succeeded in breaking these limitations and have occupied a few important positions in the private and public sectors; nevertheless, their numbers remain very limited compared to the rampant marginalisation of their community.

Qatif’s residents face discrimination in building new mosques. During prayers, they run fund raising campaigns to renovate or rebuild old mosques. Unlike the remaining provinces, the Islamic Affairs ministry (Awkaf) does not build mosques and Hussayniyat in Qatif; building permits are not also issued, thus obliging residents to either build them illegally as houses, or renovate old mosques and Hussayniyat, some of which are over a century old and thus incompatible with contemporary demographic increases.

Shiite historical judiciary rights have been also reduced during the past few decades. Qatif’s Ja’fari (Shiite) court has had its name changed to “the bureau of inheritance and Awkaf (religious property including mosques)”; the name encapsulates the court’s remaining jurisdiction. During the reign of the founding King Abdul Aziz, may God have mercy on his soul, the Shiite minority’s courts had full jurisdiction over its constituents. Today, with the exception of marriage, divorce and inheritance, Qatif’s high court, which is run by Sunni Sharia judges, settles most cases in Qatif. Under Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdul Aziz, Shiites also had their own religious seminaries (Hawza-clergy school), where they studied the Quran, Arabic literature, logic and philosophy, but they were shut down. Studying the Shiite faith has been banned. This ban has forced religious students to travel to Najaf (Iraq) and Qom (Iran) to study in seminaries there.

Qatif was the administrative capital of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern region; this is changing. The locals were recently surprised by the government’s decision to alter the administrative borders of Qatif, in an effort to increase the neighbouring provinces’ size; this policy has important implications on development and funds allocation in the region. It angered Qatif’s residents and led the municipal council to contact the Prince/Governor of the Eastern province and his deputy. The council also wrote letters of objection to the Royal Diwan (palace or office of royal affairs), contacted the ministries of interior, municipal affairs and other government agencies. These administrative changes are a culmination of series of problems, from which Qatif’s residents suffer. Some residents established a group called “somood min Ajl el hodood” (persistence for the border’s sake) to restore the province’s administrative borders and investigate the mechanism/criteria of land allocation. The Saudi government also bridged water on vast areas on the shores of Tarut Island, Qatif and Darin Cornish to build residential complexes. This plan is destroying the region’s environment, whether plants or fish.

 

(Photo: a poor neighbourhood in Shiite Tarut island; such poverty has sparked much controversy in oil rich Saudi Arabia)

Finally, discrimination haunts Saudi Shiites even in their death. Qatif’s residents are only allowed to be buried in their own province. So, if a Shiite lives in neighbouring Damam city which is now connected to Qatif due to continuous building there, dies; his body has to be transferred to Qatif or neighbouring towns. On the other hand, Jeddah has a Christian graveyard, where foreigners from different nationalities are laid rest. Tolerance, when it exists, seems only to target foreigners, and not Saudi Arabia’s own Shiite citizens. All attempts to build a Shiite graveyard in Damam have failed in spite of many sympathetic voices.

The existence of these obstacles against a segment of society leads to its alienation, thwarts its integration, increases its feeling of injustice, and finally deprives the country from the potential of its Shiite citizens. Time has come to surpass this obstacle to build a country that embraces all its components without discrimination or marginalisation, setting a model to the rest of the world. Such an initiative will eliminate all sources of tension to cut the road for those conniving against our country. We need to utilise our internal strength, enforce our national unity and turn this page to deal with the challenges we face.

This cause has depleted many efforts which could have been spent to achieve the aspired advances in our country; the persistence of the sectarian problem, does not conform with the country’s reform policy under the leadership of King Abdullah, may God preserve him and prolong his life. Our King said in a speech “I pledge to God and then to you, to make the Quran a constitution, Islam a pathway, and to be occupied with establishing justice and serving all citizens without discrimination”. In another speech, he states that “fomenting Sectarian conflicts and reviving regional tensions and the supremacy of one segment over the other, all contradict Islamic values”. The custodian of the two holy mosques (Saudi King) also said that he will “strike with justice at prejudice and unfairness”. Such clear statements doubtlessly confirm that Shiite citizens’ demands to raise sectarian prejudices are just; these demands need to be met and to be directly dealt with through a political will.


PS. You can access the article's Arabic original here.


Caught on Camera: abuse of an Ethiopian maid in Lebanon

Finally, an amateur captured on video scenes of violence against a domestic worker, an Ethiopian girl. The video was aired on the local Lebanese television channel LBC. The Ethiopian victim was trying to get to her country's embassy, when her employer/agent dragged her by force to the car.
Human Rights groups and local activists have been reporting heavily on the abuse of domestic workers in Lebanon, where there are growing demands for more protection and law enforcement in such cases.
Lebanon has an estimated 200 thousand domestic workers; 17 deaths were reported among maids in 2010 alone. Some other estimates put the death toll as high as one a week.


Here is the video, which is expected to enforce the human rights campaign






March 08, 2012

Syria's jailed poet: Assad's prisons, a hell of a particular kind!

March 08, 2012

March 08, 2012


Faraj Bayrakdar, a Syrian poet, began his literary activism early on in his life. In 1977, at the age of 26, he was the editor of a literary magazine that published the works of young Syrian poets. Later on, he joined the Party for Communist Action, an opposition group; his activism led to his arrest without charge in 1987. He spent 14 years in prison, living the horrors of torture and solitude in the world's most notorious jails. Faraj was released in November 2000, following an international campaign; he now lives in Sweden. The Arab Digest had the following interview with him on prison, torture, and the Arab Spring:  




In previous interviews and in your poetry, especially “a dove with absolute wings”, you spoke about your long period of imprisonment in Syria. You said that you were not alone, but that it was an experience of many Syrians, many of whom are still in prison. When the Syrians write this regime’s history after its demise, what will they say about its dark jails?

I imagine that the transitional period following the revolution’s victory will focus on treating the effects of human (the martyrs, the injured, the imprisoned and the affected), psychological, cultural and general economic destruction caused by the regime. After the necessary initial aid for these levels of destruction, older circumstances and situations, responsible for accumulating the subjective groundwork for the revolution, will surface. The prison and prisoners will acquire the primary share.
In the late 1970s, 1980s specifically, and to a lesser extent the 1990s, the jails of Assad’s regime were a hell of a particular kind. Hundreds of thousands of human beings entered this hell. Dozens of thousands died under torture or after military trials which lacked minimum rights, logic and ethics. Dozens of thousands spent twenty years, more or less, in prison, while others were relatively lucky if they spent less than 15 years in prison. I was among the “lucky ones”, owing to an international campaign for my release. After 14 years of incarceration, this campaign succeeded in driving the regime to release me without conditions; it was a precedent for the regime’s intelligence that never releases a political prisoner, even after the completion of his sentence. They keep each prisoner for a few months, and sometimes for a few years before they release him under compulsory conditions like committing to the support of the tyrant’s wise politics, abandoning political activism, periodical assessments by Security agencies (you could call them horror agencies), and informing them of his whereabouts and names of visitors… etc.
 These circumstances prevented most of those released from making any statement or interview or even writing anything on their experiences and complete isolation from the outside world for long years. After the dictatorship’s end, there will be thousands of survivors capable of unloading their memories on paper or through different media outlets. Then the world will know that Syria, in the era of Assad senior and his heir, was one of bloodiest and most cursed dictatorships in the world.  

In your poetry and prose, you describe many tragedies on this regime’s prisons. What experiences affected you the most?

It is very difficult to answer this question. I do not know the experience that has affected me the most. Sometimes I say meeting my youngest brother after 6 years of imprisonment, and he was the first I saw from my family. And at times, I say it was my oldest brother who spent 11 years in prison without us knowing whether he was dead or alive.
Some other times, I think it is the story of a prisoner who had the first family visit after 12 years of incarceration. He did not recognize any of his family members in the visiting hall; the military policeman walked him to an old couple. After he recognized his father, the woman wept in grief. He told her “mother, why are you crying, I am fine. Are you ill, mother?” She replied “I am your sister. Your mother passed away a long time ago. My condolences, brother”!

You speak of whips and cruel torture tools. What do they symbolize?


Prison is extreme predatory masculinity. Freedom is extreme merciful femininity. I cannot express the symbolism of prison and its whips in more than these words.


Many Syrians feel they are alone these days amid massacres. What do you tell them?


The first book of poems I published in 1979 was titled “you are not alone”.
I believed in that then, and my belief was reinforced following the revolution. My faith in my people increased as well.
Regarding our contemporary world, I know it is greedy and monstrous. A wide gap separates its technological advances and its ethical backwardness. This is why I am not surprised by its rascal/unethical stance to the Syrian people’s revolution.
I speak of the general outcome of our world, but at the same time, I differentiate between degrees of rascal-dom in morals and interests. Accordingly, I see that Russia, China, Iran, Cuba and Northern Korea take the lead in the absenteeism of ethics and morals.

What did Faraj Bayrekdar feel when the revolution started? Did it change anything in you?


I am grateful for my people who started their revolution; I have been waiting for its maturity since 30 years … But my principal gratitude is reserved for the children of Deraa city, who have written on the walls of their schools and city, slogans similar to what they have heard on Satellite TV channels during the unfolding events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. They were children or new generations whom were not, like their parents, instilled with fear or tamed by models of horror, whether the bombing of Hama city in 1982, the massacre of Masharqa neighborhood in Aleppo, or the massacres of Idlib, Jisr al-Shoghoor or the military prison of Tadmur.
The current situation is best described as a type of an Arab political tsunami which started in Tunisia, reached Egypt, only to spread in many other countries. This tsunami will not stop before toppling all Arab Tyrannical regimes, and I think that its repercussions and effects will reach many Islamic countries in the region. It might not stop on the doorsteps of old Europe; it will knock some doors and open others at least.
It is the Arab spring, the spring of the peoples … the autumn of tyrants.
Don’t you see? I feel the strength and pride of my people, and pain over its victims.
What changed in me is the level of hope in people; it is now clearer, stronger and bigger.




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