Archive for August, 2012

Students Forced to Pledge Distance from Political Parties


AMMONNEWS – University students receiving ‘Makruma’ scholarships were asked to sign a pledge not to join memberships of any political parties and not to conduct any political activities on university campuses.

The Higher Coordination Committee of the Jordanian National Opposition Political Parties on Monday blasted the move to force students to sign such pledges, stressing that such a stipulation violates principles of freedom and obstructs the development of democratic and political life.

Students who receive ‘Makruma’ scholarships allocated for underprivileged areas noted that they were asked to sign a pledge not to participate in political activism inside university campuses.

A statement issued by the Opposition Political Parties’ Coordination Committee on Monday cited receiving notice from the ‘National Campaign for Students’ Rights’ noting that Makruma students were asked to sign the pledge.

The Committee requested clarification from Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit during a meeting last Saturday, at which Bakhit noted that he had no knowledge of such a decision.

Source: Ammon News.


1200 Students Returning from Libya, Yemen to Enroll in Jordanian Universities


AMMONNEWS – Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research on Wednesday said that 1,200 Jordanian students returning from study abroad in Libya and Yemen will be admitted into Jordanian Universities.

Higher Education Minister Wajih Oweis will announce in a press conference on Wednesday the standards that the Ministry will adopt in implementing the Royal ‘Makruma’ scholarships to enroll returning students into Jordanian Universities.

Ammon News learned that the Ministry will administer a comprehensive exam for first, second, and third year students for evaluating the fields of study that students will be enrolled in.

Fourth year students will be admitted into programs without examination.

990 students studying in universities in Yemen registered their cases with the Ministry, of them 664 students are studying medicine.

Meanwhile, 166 students returning from Libya also submitted applications for admission into Jordanian universities, of them, 110 are medical students.

Over 375 of the students who returned from Yemen and Libya as a result of the ongoing developments there have achieved 85 percent or above in the Tawjihi (General Secondary School Certificate) Examination.

Source: Ammon News.

Salafi Detainees Abused in Jordanian Prisons ~ lawyer


By Amal Ghabayen

AMMONNEWS – Jordan’s special military tribunal has repeatedly wronged and been gravely unjust towards members of Salafi Islamist movements, a legal expert on Islamist movements said on Tuesday.

Musa al-Abdullat, an attorney defending the cases of over 100 Salafists has spoken out against the State Security Court’s oppression.

Abdullat said during a press conference Tuesday evening that Salafists have faced grave violations of human rights, torture, and indignity, particularly those tried in the aftermath of the Zarqa clashes in April.

In exposing the double-standards practiced by the State Security Court (SSC), Abdullat indicated that SSC has been trying the Salafists on charges of committing violence and inciting strife, while it has failed to arrest or bring any of the ‘thugs’ involved in violence against protestors throughout the kingdom since the beginning of the year to trial.

He added that the testimony of a number of the security officers in the SSC’s court sessions supported the Salafis and contradicted other testimonials which were at odds with what was said before the public prosecutor since the investigation.

Al-Abdallat said that some of the Salafis had been arrested from their homes without an arrest warrant or inspection, revealing that a number of the security personnel had raided their homes ‘savagely’ and some of them had tampered with belongings within houses.

Al-Abdallat displayed video clips of the Zarqa events that in his view pointed to the innocence of the Salafis of terrorist charges.

On his part, the Chairman of the Popular Committee for Defending Detainees Muhammad al-Hadid claimed that Salafi detainees had been beaten and tortured, and indicated that they had been undressed and photographed inside prisons by members of the Public Security Department.

Lawyer, Majid al-Fatawi, spoke of the suffering of the families during the court cases since most of them were not allowed to attend, and they were forbidden from sitting under the canopy in front of the prison, even though most of them came from provinces far from Amman.

Al-Fatawi said that excessive violence had been used to arrest the detainees and firearms employed to open the doors of houses. Security personnel had also, according to al-Fatawi, entered bedrooms without respecting the sanctity and privacy of homes.

The spokesperson for the Committee, Wissam al-Amush, also known as ‘Abu Abida,’ noted that 150 families were being punished and are suffering from the detention of their sons, adding that what happened in Zarqa was no more excessive than what happened at the Interior Ministry Circle in March, or the Nakhil Square in July.

He continued that most of what happened in Zarqa was no more than a brawl between the Salafis and the ‘thugs’, saying they refused to divide people into first-class and second-class citizens, since such a division would only bring disarray and tension.

Source: Ammon News.

China and Russia to vote in favor of Palestinian UN bid

UNITED NATIONS (BNO NEWS) — Both China and Russia, two of the five permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, will vote in favor of Palestine’s request to become a UN member state, although the bid is unlikely to succeed.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday handed over an application to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to request a full UN membership for Palestine, which currently has observer status. Ban later sent the request to the President of the Security Council as per the provisions of the UN Charter.

Any application for a full membership is considered by the Security Council, which decides whether or not to recommend admission to the 193-member General Assembly. If it does give a recommendation, the Assembly would then have to adopt a resolution.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi voiced Beijing’s support to grant UN membership to the Palestinian people. “We support efforts to achieve the two-state solution through political negotiations so as to establish, on the basis of the 1967 borders, an independent Palestinian state that enjoys full sovereignty with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Yang was quoted as saying by the DPA news agency.

In addition, the Interfax news agency cited a source from the Russian delegation at the UN General Assembly as saying that Russia will also support the Palestinian request. “If this issue is put to a vote, we will support it,” the source said.

Both China and Russia are permanent members of the UN Security Council. However, the United States earlier said it would veto a Palestinian bid to seek a full UN membership and urged them to return to peace talks with Israel. If a veto is used by any of the permanent members, the UN Security Council would be unable to recommend admission to the General Assembly.

About 120 out of 193 countries have currently recognized the State of Palestine and those are seen as possible supporters if the UN General Assembly votes on the issue. If the UN Security Council resolution to recognize Palestine is approved, Palestine would become the 194th member of the United Nations.

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Source: WireUpdate.

Circassians flee Syria strife for Russia homeland

August 21, 2012

NALCHIK, Russia (AP) — Natai Al Sharkas’ great-grandfather killed his Russian commanding officer and defected to the enemy.

The ethnic Circassian swells with pride at the thought of the century-old act. Natives of what is now Russia’s Caucasus region, Circassians fiercely resisted the Russian czarist conquest that ended in the 1860s after decades of scorched-earth warfare, mass killings or expulsions that some historians and politicians consider genocide.

The carnage forced many — like Al Sharkas’ ancestors — to seek refuge in what is today Syria. Now carnage in Syria is driving many back to their homeland. This spring, Al Sharkas joined hundreds of Circassians fleeing war-torn Syria for this remote Russian region of soaring peaks and lush forests. In the coming months, thousands more are expected to arrive in Kabardino-Balkariya, a Caucasus province the size of Maryland with a population of less than 900,000, two-thirds of which is ethnic Circassian.

“We are planning to stay here for good,” Al Sharkas, 35, said as he sat under fragrant fir trees at a Soviet-era resort hotel where many of the Circassian immigrants have sought shelter. “That’s the decision we made a long time ago and it’s been accelerated by the events in Syria.”

Circassians were widely dispersed in the Russian expulsions. An estimated 2 million live in Turkey, another 100,000 in Syria and other sizable populations are in Jordan and the United States. But their sense of ethnic unity remains strong and the pull of their homeland compelling.

Al Sharkas’s great-grandfather Koushoukou, his brother and two cousins were forcibly drafted and sent to the Russian-Turkish war of the late 1870s. They had to fight Ottoman Turks — fellow Muslims whose sultans supported Circassian resistance and provided refuge for hundreds of thousands of them. After killing his officer in Bulgaria, Koushoukou joined the Turkish military and ended his life in Damascus — part of Ottoman Turkey at the time.

Al Sharkas, which means Circassian in Arabic, used a network of family connections, along with Facebook, to find relatives in Kabardino-Balkariya and other parts of Russia. He encourages his Syrian relatives to follow him to the Caucasus, although now, because of the fighting, it hardly seems possible. “They are trapped there as it is almost impossible to even leave their neighborhoods,” he said.

Assmat Yahya, a retired electrician from a Circassian village in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan Heights, also found relatives in the Caucasus and plans to stay in Russia with his wife. They left their seven-bedroom house in April after hearing that both opposition fighters and Syrian forces were approaching their town and now live in one of the cramped rooms in the hotel in Nalchik, the Kabardino-Balkariya capital. “I’m here not because of the war, although it triggered the return,” the gray-haired 63-year-old said. “We want to live here with our relatives.”

But the newly arrived Syrian Circassians have run into bureaucratic hurdles in Russia. Because Russia allows foreigners to stay for only three months without a residence permit, al Sharkas and other Circassians from Syria recently had to travel to Abkhazia, a breakaway Georgian province that Russia recognizes as independent, to obtain entry stamps allowing them another three-months stay. Without residence and work permits, they will have to leave the country when their visas expire.

Circassians’ historical grievances with Russia are strong. The arrival of thousands of refugees from Syria could add fuel to a growing movement to force Russia to recognize the 19th century killing and expulsions of Circassians as genocide. Circassians are pushing the issue ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where Circassian fighters surrendered to the czarist forces in 1864. Circassians say some of the Olympic facilities are being built over mass graves of their ancestors.

“Sochi is our open wound,” said Vahit Kadioglu, head of the International Circassian Association in the Turkish capital, Ankara. “We expect recognition of the massacre from the Russian government.” In 2011, the pro-Western government of neighboring Georgia recognized the killings and deportation of Circassians as genocide and called on the West to boycott the Olympics. Russian officials say the decision was motivated by political tensions between Russia and Georgia, which fought a brief war in 2008, and dismissed the claims.

“There was no genocide of the Circassians, it was a normal historical process,” said Valery Kuzmin, a Foreign Ministry ambassador-at-large responsible for the Sochi Games. But the governor of the Russian province that will host the games has recently acknowledged the expulsions. “This land has not belonged to the Russian Empire, it belonged to Caucasus nations, to Circassians,” Alexander Tkachyov of Krasnodar province, which was once almost entirely Circassian, said in early August.

Al Sharkas’ father, Shawkat Achemez, says that’s not good enough. He wants the Kremlin to admit to mass killings and ethnic cleansing. “Millions have been expelled from this territory,” he said. “That’s what they have to admit.”

When the Soviet Union forced an alliance with Syria in the late 1960s, some Syrian Circassians came back to the Caucausus to visit or study. But genuine repatriation became possible only after the 1991 Soviet collapse because the Kremlin softened strict Soviet-era rules on obtaining Russian citizenship.

Some 1,500 Circassians have returned to the Caucasus since then, according to Circassian community leaders in Russia. In 1998, the Kremlin facilitated the repatriation of some 200 Circassians from Kosovo after they were attacked by ethnic Albanians.

The region they have come back to is afflicted by violence, too. The Caucasus republics are plagued by an Islamic insurgency that spread from Chechnya’s separatist wars. A brazen 2005 raid of Islamists on Nalchik left 130 people dead, and Kabardino-Balkariya still experiences occasional small clashes.

Despite the violence, Circassians say they feel comfortable in their ancestral homeland. Hamzeh Labeeb, a native of the Syrian city of Homs, came to Nalchik in 2002 to study at a local university — and decided to stay.

“They’ve always treated me like their own,” said the bespectacled 29-year-old computer engineer. Meanwhile, locals think that their arrival benefits Russia. “They possess cultural values we lost in the Communist era,” said Vladimir Kaskulov, general director of the hotel chain in Nalchik that hosted more than 150 Syrians free of charge.

Laura Mills in Moscow and Irem Karakaya in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this story

Japanese journalist killed covering Syria fighting

August 21, 2012

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese journalist has been killed in Syria while covering the civil war there, Japan’s government said Tuesday.

Mika Yamamoto, a veteran war correspondent with The Japan Press, an independent TV news provider that specializes in conflict zone coverage, was killed Monday in the northwestern city of Aleppo, said Masaru Sato, a spokesman with the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

Sato said the 45-year-old was hit by gunfire while she and a colleague were traveling with the rebel Free Syrian Army, which is trying to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad. A video posted on YouTube on Monday by an activist in Syria shows the body of an Asian woman inside a van wrapped in blankets with only her face showing.

An Associated Press reporter who had worked with Yamamoto and who viewed the video confirmed her identity. Yamamoto had covered the war in Afghanistan after 2001 and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq from Baghdad as a special correspondent for NTV, according to Japan Press’ website.

In the YouTube video, Capt. Ahmed Ghazali, a rebel fighter in the northern Syrian city of Azaz, says the Japanese journalist was killed by regime forces in Aleppo. “We welcome any journalist who wants to enter Syria,” Ghazali says. “We will secure their entry, but we are not responsible for the brutality of Assad’s forces against the media.”

Expressing frustration that the international community has not intervened in the Syria conflict, which activists say has killed more than 20,000 people since March 2011, Ghazali says he hopes the journalist’s death will encourage international action.

“I hope that these countries that have not been moved by Syrian blood will be moved by the blood of their people,” he says. Ghazali also said two other journalists were captured by Syrian government forces in Aleppo, including a reporter with Al-Hurra TV named “Bashar.”

A statement from Springfield, Virginia-based Al-Hurra said the video referred to correspondent Bashar Fahmi and his cameraman Cuneyt Unal. The company has not been able to reach either man since they entered Syria on Monday morning.

“We are currently working to gather more information about their status. The safety and wellbeing of our journalists is of utmost concern to us,” the statement said. Yamamoto’s body has been transferred to Turkey, where Japanese consular officials were providing assistance, Sato said.
Associated Press writer Ben Hubbard in Syria contributed to this report.

Biden to meet Jordan king in Washington

(August 20th 2012, Monday)

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden on Monday was to meet King Abdullah II of Jordan, a key US ally in the Middle East that has seen an influx of refugees from the conflict in neighboring Syria.

The two were scheduled to meet at 4:15 pm (2015 GMT) at the vice president’s residence in the US capital, the White House said, without providing further details.

Some 150,000 Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring Jordan since the start of the March 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

The uprising and the government’s brutal crackdown have increasingly come to resemble a civil war, with 23,000 people killed, according to a Syrian human rights group. The United Nations puts the figure at around 17,000.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.