Archive for November, 2011

Protesters denounce attack on journalists

By Hani Hazaimeh

AMMAN – Some 200 people gathered at the Jordan Press Association (JPA) headquarters on Monday to denounce an attack on journalists by riot police on Friday.

The protesters carried banners that read “The media want to try the assailants and those who gave the orders” and “Condemnation and apologies are not enough and will not stop us from seeking justice”.

The protest was preceded by a JPA council meeting during which the members discussed how to bring an end to assaults on journalists.

Last Friday, riot police allegedly attacked journalists covering the first open-ended sit-in in the Kingdom since that of March 24, which also ended in violence and witnessed attacks against reporters.

Friday’s protest attracted some 300 local and international journalists, who almost outnumbered the pro-reform protesters.

Despite a series of preventative measures taken by police and media organizations to protect journalists, including the issuance of orange vests and an instant hotline to lodge complaints, the first hour of what was to be a peaceful sit-in soon witnessed attacks on members of the press, according to journalists.

Media activists said 20 journalists were injured and around 15 sent to hospital.

“The JPA will pursue legal action to prosecute those responsible for the attack on our colleagues,” JPA President Tareq Momani told The Jordan Times yesterday, adding that the JPA council called on all journalists who were attacked by the police to file a complaint.

“We want an independent ad hoc investigation committee to identify those responsible for the attack to bring them to justice. We also want to be part of any investigation and we want a daily update of the procedures,” he said at the protest, which also saw the participation of Hamzah Mansour, secretary general of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

He expressed the IAF’s support for and solidarity with the media, claiming that “Friday’s incident and the attack on members of the March 24 youth movement at the Interior Ministry Circle earlier this year were engineered by the same party”.

The Public Security Department has also launched an investigation and suspended four police officers for their role in the violence.

Momani described the arrest of four policemen as “a joke” and insisted that those who took part in the attack, whether physically or by issuing orders, must be held accountable and brought to justice.

Meanwhile, MP Jamil Nimri, also a columnist, condemned the attack and charged that whoever orchestrated it aimed to prevent the media from reporting the incident.

18 July 2011

Source: The Jordan Times.
Link: http://www.jordantimes.com/index.php?news=39563.

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Syrian Forces Surround Town

By Shannon Liao
July 17, 2011

Syrian police forces on Sunday surrounded a town on the eastern border with Iraq after tens of thousands of residents staged protests denouncing President Bashar al-Assad, Reuters reported.

Protesters in Albu Kamal were encouraged to come to the streets by recent defections of some security personnel, according to the report.

Around 1,000 loyal military and security personnel surrounded the town overnight with tanks and helicopters.

Media and Syrian human right groups put the number of killed over the past four months of unrest at between 1,400 and 1,900.

Security forces have been shooting protesters and are responsible for most of the killings, according to Hozan Ibrahim, a spokesperson for the rights group, Local Coordination Committees of Syria.

An activist told Reuters that tribal leaders are negotiating with the army to arrange a deal to return previously seized army vehicles and weapons and in return army troops will stay out of Albu Kamal and nearby villages.

On Saturday, military agents killed five protesters including a 14-year-old boy.

Source: The Epoch Times.
Link: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/world/syrian-forces-surround-town-59186.html.

Clashes erupt at pro-reform protest in Jordan

15 Jul 2011

Several people injured as police use batons to break up anti-government demonstration in Amman.

At least 10 people have been injured amid efforts by police to stop clashes between demonstrators and government supporters in the center of the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Police used batons on Friday to disperse people outside city hall, beating and injuring nine journalists.

The clashes took place after about 2,000 people, including Islamists and youth groups, marched from the city’s Al-Husseini mosque to the city hall.

An Al Jazeera correspondent and several other journalists, including a Reuters cameraman, said they were attacked by police.

The wounded included an AFP photographer and a female activist.

Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El Shamayleh, reporting from the scene of the clashes, said: “The protesters were attacked by riot police and public security personnel at the beginning of the sit-in that they were planning to hold at Al Nakheel Square.

“They weren’t allowing the protesters to enter [the square] and that is when the clashes started.

“Only after the clashes began and several people were injured that they allowed people to [begin the sit-in].”

Fahim Karim, a New York Times reporter, was beaten by 10 policemen while a photographer who works for another international news agency said he was ordered by police not to shoot the scene.

Protesters’ accounts

One protester told Al Jazeera: “During the march the security forces attacked us. We had to make for the women to escape the assault as one woman had already passed out.

Another said he was kicked in the stomach by one of the royal guards while trying to protect “the women in the march”.

Besides Amman, rallies for reform and against “rampant corruption” also took place in Tafileh, Man and Karak in the country’s south, and in Irbid and Jerash in the north.

Our correspondent said there is a definite feeling in Jordan that there is no serious motivation to implement real and true democratic reforms in the country.

Jordan has faced a protest movement demanding political and economic reforms and an end to corruption, since January.

Security forces have previously prevented demonstrators demanding the removal of the government, but not King Abdullah, who appoints the cabinet and has wide powers, from assembling at main squares.

The clampdown appears to have been prompted by fears of mass crowds as seen in Egypt and Tunisia where long-serving leaders were overthrown earlier this year.

Source: al-Jazeera.
Link: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/07/2011715131426955192.html.

“Come on, leave Bashar”

July 14, 2011

He composed straightforward tunes and sang colloquial lyrics against the Syrian regime, attacking President Bashar Al-Assad, his brother Maher and the ruling Syrian Baath Party. The songs were taken up by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the city of Hama, causing more protesters to take to the streets and making his songs the slogans of anti-regime protesters across the country.

Ibrahim Qashush, the “mocking bird of the Syrian Revolution,” as his fans preferred to call him, led the protests in Hama’s Al-Assi Square on the “Friday of Departure” at the beginning of July, improvising lyrics that added to the enthusiasm of the protesters. The songs will have appealed particularly to residents of Hama, where there is a tradition of group singing, the protesters being passionate about Qashush’s songs and his striking voice.

It was this voice and these songs that apparently so disturbed the Syrian regime that it decided to silence him.

Qashush, a young man in his 30s, was kidnapped on a street in Hama on 3 July as he headed to work. The next day, his body was found in the local river, his throat cut and larynx removed after signs of brutal torture.

City residents and Syrian human rights groups say that security agents tortured and killed Qashush before removing his larynx and dumping his body into the river as an act of revenge for songs that had attacked senior figures in the regime, among them Al-Assad.

Shortly before his death, Qashush sang, “Bashar, you are not one of us; / take Maher and leave us; / your legitimacy is no longer recognized by us; / come on, leave Bashar. / Maher, you coward, / agent of the Americans, / the people of Syria cannot be disrespected; /come on, leave, Bashar. / We want rid of Bashar. / with our powerful might, / Syria wants freedom. / Syria wants freedom.”

In response to Qashush’s death, protesters dedicated more than 12 Facebook pages, variations on “We are all the Martyr Ibrahim Qashush”, or “We will not forget you, Ibrahim”, to the singer’s memory, and within days they had thousands of followers. The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has also dedicated a page to Qashush focusing on the latter part of his life.

Fans of the singer said that they would continue what Qashush had started by continuing to chant for freedom in Syria’s cities, even if they too risked death by doing so. Songs by Qashush were sung during protests on last week’s “Friday of No to Dialogue”, and demonstrators in several Arab and European cities picketed Syrian embassies this week to protest against his death.

Syrian authorities claim that “unknown assailants” were responsible for Qashush’s death, saying that the singer was in fact an informer and that he was killed in order to incite further anti-regime protests.

Before the uprising in Syria began earlier this year, Qashush had been just another ordinary young man. However, the popular protests that have swept the country over recent months led him to be active in leading demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the regime and the ousting of Al-Assad.

According to Hama residents, Qashush was murdered by the regime as a punishment for his song “Come on, leave Bashar.”

By Bassel Oudat

Source: Uruknet.
Link: http://www.uruknet.de/?s1=1&p=79588&s2=15.

Jordan police attack anti-govt. march

Fri Jul 15, 2011

At least ten people have been injured after Jordanian police attacked anti-government protesters demanding reforms in the capital, Amman.

The unrest took place as hundreds of demonstrators shouting anti-government slogans tried to march from the al-Husseini mosque to the city hall on Friday.

Most of the injured are reported to be journalists.

“We were beaten by police, although we were wearing special press vests. We thought we would be safe when we stood next to the police and away from the clashes,” said an AFP photographer who was injured by Jordanian police.

Some reports, however, suggest that police armed with batons got involved after pro- and anti-government supporters clashed.

Jordanian protesters demand political and economic reforms and an end to corruption. They have also called for the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit’s and his cabinet and dissolution of the parliament, which they see as a puppet of the regime.

“Rulers, we want to reform the regime. We want the palace to hear the voices of Jordanians,” the demonstrators chanted on Friday.

“We need political, economic and social reforms for future generations,” and “It’s our right to fight corruption,” read banners carried by anti-government protesters in Amman.

Similar anti-government protest rallies were also held in the southern cities of Tafileh, Man and Karak, as well as Irbid and Jerash in the north.

Jordan has faced anti-government rallies demanding reforms and an end to corruption since January.

Last month, in a bid to appease protesters, King Abdullah II announced some concessions, including the formation of future governments that were based on an elected parliamentary majority rather than one appointed by the monarch.

But he later said it may take two to three years to put an elected government in place.

Source: PressTV.
Link: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/189246.html.

OIC Continues Efforts to Release Salah

14/7/2011

CAIRO, July 14, 2011 (WAFA) – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said Thursday that its Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu has continued his communications with the British government to release Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic movement’s northern branch in Israel, who was arrested on June 28 in London.

In a statement, the OIC said Ihsanoglu had a long phone call with the British Minister, Baroness Warsi where they discussed Salah’s case. The secretary-general urged her to take fast action to end Salah’s arrest.

According to the statement, Ihsanoglu said that the significant improvement in relations between OIC and the UK, and the interest by the British government in the rights of the Palestinian people, both call for immediate action, in addition to respecting the feelings of Palestinians and the Islamic world as a whole.

The minister expressed her understanding for Ihsanoglu’s position but said that the British justice will take its course with integrity and objectivity.

Ihsanoglu had sent Warsi a letter last week urging her to intervene to release Salah, and had conducted several communications with the British government to discuss the matter.

Source: WAFA.
Link: http://english.wafa.ps/index.php?action=detail&id=16707.

French Ship Carries Freedom Flotilla’s “Dignity” to Gaza

By Begoña Astigarraga

ATHENS, Jul 12, 2011 (IPS) – The French vessel Dignité-Al Karama is the only boat from the Freedom Flotilla II actually sailing for Gaza in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade imposed in 2006. At the same time, six Spanish members of the humanitarian aid mission went on hunger strike in the Greek capital.

The hunger strikers, who have occupied the Spanish embassy in Athens since Jul. 5, were traveling on the Spanish ship Gernika (Guernica) that was part of the flotilla carrying 500 activists from 45 different countries, and 5,000 tonnes of aid, bound for the Gaza Strip.

Nearly all the ships have been confined to port in Greece for the last 10 days, except for the Dignité-Al Karama which sailed from the French island of Corsica Jun. 25, evaded the Greek blockade on more than one occasion and remains the only vessel of the flotilla still sailing freely.

With 10 representatives of several delegations of the humanitarian coalition on board, the Dignité received permission Jul. 9 to sail for the island of Rhodes, Manolis Plionis, a member of the Greek delegation of the Freedom Flotilla II – “Stay Human”, confirmed to IPS.

From on board the Dignité, French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Nicole Kiil-Nielsen told IPS that after having been stopped last week in Ormos Kouremenos, in Crete, they were taken to Sitia by the Greek coast guard and eventually allowed to sail from there.

“We had to stop in Crete to refuel, as we did not have enough fuel to reach Gaza,” Kiil-Nielsen said. “Now, the Dignité is free and we are organizing another group of passengers, probably international, to go on to Gaza.”

Manuel Tapial, coordinator of Rumbo a Gaza (Sailing to Gaza) Spain, told IPS that “the Dignité-Al Karama is heading for Gaza on its own, representing the dignity of the flotilla, and carrying representatives of the international coalition delegations.”

In addition to the crew and MEP Kiil-Nielsen, passengers include Vangelis Pissias, the coordinator of the Greek delegation, Swedish-Israeli musician Dror Feiler and actor Guillermo “Willy” Toledo, representing the Spanish delegation.

Meanwhile, six Rumbo a Gaza activists began a hunger strike at the Spanish embassy in Greece Monday Jul. 11, after medical checks. Two other members of the group participated in the protest from Madrid.

In a communiqué released Monday, the activists said they would fast until “the Spanish government shows some sign that it will intercede (with the Greek authorities) so that the Gernika may sail freely across the Mediterranean.”

The six hunger strikers are among a score of activists who occupied the Spanish embassy in Athens with the declared intent of remaining there until their country’s Foreign Ministry responded to their demands, and until their ship, held by the Greek authorities in Kolymbari, Crete, was released and allowed to go to a safe port or return to Spain.

However, the activists say they have only received an official statement from the Foreign Ministry announcing its decision “not to make any public commitment to the release of the Gernika,” which prompted them to take stronger measures in pursuit of their demands.

In an open letter sent Monday, Tapial upbraided the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party’s (PSOE) prime ministerial candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba: “The government you represent has forsaken us, and our only remaining option is protest action to rescue the Gernika, by right and with dignity.

“Mister Rubalcaba, as leader and candidate of the PSOE, speak out and call for the release of the Gernika, a ship bought with the money of thousands of people throughout Spain who believe that a project like this one is necessary to show effective support for the besieged people of Gaza.

“Listen, commit yourself and take action,” the Rumbo a Gaza coordinator demanded.

The Gernika is still confined to port in Greece, in spite of having resubmitted to the authorities all the necessary documentation for permission to set sail, said Elvira Souto, one of the hunger strikers.

Eight other vessels, including two cargo ships, are still blocked in various Greek ports, while an Irish ship is in a Turkish port undergoing repairs for alleged sabotage suffered two weeks ago.

The crew of the Canadian vessel Tahrir has decided to give up plans to sail to Gaza for the moment; the U.S. ship Audacity of Hope is still in custody in Athens; and the other French boat, the Louise Michel, the Italian vessel Stefano Chiarini, the Freedom for All, the Methimus II and the Gernika are regrouping, ready to form a new flotilla, columnist Eric Verlo wrote in his blog at http://www.notmytribe.com.

In a move to exert further pressure, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman telephoned Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma and persuaded him to withdraw his country’s flag from the Swedish/Greek/Norwegian vessel Juliano, giving the Greek coast guard the opportunity to block the ship in Heraklion.

Greece and Israel are currently carrying out joint military maneuvers, the sixth held in a short space of time.

Israeli ambassador to Spain Raphael Schutz said there is “no humanitarian crisis” or shortage of food and medicine in Gaza. The Freedom Flotilla should be seen “for what it is: a propaganda event intended to build solidarity with a terrorist group that wants to wipe Israel off the map and kill the greatest possible number of Jews and Israelis,” he argued.

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS).
Link: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56455.

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