Archive for November 6th, 2013

Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood launches political party

Tuesday, 05 November 2013

Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood has revealed that its members have now finished their deliberations about launching a political party to represent the Brotherhood, deciding to do so under the name of “The Promise” and commissioning Dr Mohammed Walid to act as chair.

The Brotherhood will announce the official launch of the party from Istanbul on Tuesday, 12 November rather than on Saturday, which coincides with the first meeting of the National Coalition for the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

The Brotherhood summarized the Party’s principles as follows: respecting the principles of freedom, dignity, and justice; adopting democracy, equality and Islamic reference to achieve the revolution’s goals; preserving the unity of the Syrian people and the Syrian territory; adopting just causes, especially the Palestinian issue; maintaining Syria’s best interests; and supporting Syria’s sovereignty.

The new party will adopt a parliamentary model for achieving justice and development at all levels of society and vowed to ensure the separation of powers as well as the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. The party also pledged to cater to women and focus on youth issues.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Activists: Syria releases 48 women detainees

October 24, 2013

BEIRUT (AP) — Activists say the Syrian government has released a total of 48 women detainees as part of a three-way prisoner exchange.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday the women were freed over the past two days. It said the figure of 48 included the 13 women whose release was previously reported. There was no immediate comment from Syrian officials.

The Observatory says the release was part of a complicated hostage swap last week brokered by Qatar and the Palestinian Authority that saw Syrian rebels free nine Lebanese Shiite Muslims, while Lebanese gunmen simultaneously released two Turkish pilots.

Lebanese officials have said a third part of the deal called for the Syrian government to free a number of women detainees to meet the rebels’ demands.

Mujahideen finally defeated gangs of secular rebels from Northern Storm in Aleppo

20 October 2013

The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) issued a new statement on the situation in the town of Azaz in the province of Aleppo, where a fierce fighting took place between Mujahideen and secular rebels linked to the “national coalition”. UmmaNews presents the translation of the ISIS statement posted on their website:

– Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. Peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his companions. And then:

Verily, Allah favored the Mujahideen of the Islamic State and made it easy for them to eliminate the last stronghold of criminals from the so-called “Northern Storm” in Azaz and the surrounding area.

By the grace of Allah, they were driven out, and we have cleaned every place, every checkpoint, every camp, where they were stationed all the times.

Not even the alliances helped them, which they concluded with apostates from the PKK (communist Kurdistan Workers Party), the Alawite regime and Western intelligence agencies, which have encouraged them for war against the Mujahideen.

There is an important fact, which we would like to report here: indeed, the Islamic State did not attack these wrongdoers until they started spreading harm and oppression, to abuse their power against Muslims and their honour, to implement agreements with the US and its allies, namely – to attack the Mujahideen, spy on them and eliminate their leaders.

That is all what is known to the Islamic State, for sure. After they went to war against the ISIS, people saw with their own eyes their true nature, as they captured two Mujahideen in Azaz and delivered them to a dirty spy.

Their alliance with apostates from the PKK and the Assad regime in war against the Islamic State is apparent to all.

They did not even hesitate to blow up the market in Azaz, they shelled its areas with rockets and mortars, after the situation got out of their control.

Allah turned their intrigues against them, and they reaped what they sowed … Allah helped the Mujahideen in these blessed days of Dhul-Hijjah, after they were left without help by those who encouraged them to earlier acts against the Mujahideen.

Allah divided their ranks, broke their ranges, and it ended with Allah’s pleasure with the Muslims. Praise be to Allah.

“Have you not considered those who practice hypocrisy, saying to their brothers who have disbelieved among the People of the Scripture, “If you are expelled, we will surely leave with you, and we will not obey, in regard to you, anyone – ever; and if you are fought, we will surely aid you.” But Allah testifies that they are liars. If they are expelled, they will not leave with them, and if they are fought, they will not aid them. And [even] if they should aid them, they will surely turn their backs; then [thereafter] they will not be aided”.
(The Holy Koran, Chapter 59. “The Exile”, verses 11-12)

And here we want to inform the rest of the warring groups, such as “Liwa al-Tawhid” and others, that the Islamic State clearly demonstrated its policies in these events. It lies in the fact that the Islamic State does not start a war against all comers until they begin to act out against the ISIS, The Islamic State seeks to resolve any conflict, whatever it may be, and opens a way for a direct dialogue, leaving aside dirty media, which does not cease to fan the flames of discord and take every opportunity to distort the image of Mujahideen, so that people would leave them.

And we want to instruct those who listen – be they scholars, or students, or journalists: Fear Allah in your attitude to Mujahideen and to your Muslim community: be the ones who stop fitna and strife, who spread the word of peace and understanding- exactly what Allah wants you to convey to others.

How many times we utter a word without thinking about consequences, how many times we say the words without that they could cause bloodshed among the Muslims?

“O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful”.
(The Holy Koran, Chapter 49. “The Chambers”, verse 6)

And to Allah belongs [all] honor, and to His Messenger, and to the believers, but the hypocrites do not know.

Allahu Akbar!

Ministry of Information, ISIS

Department of Monitoring
Kavkaz Center

Source: Kavkaz Center.

Assad feeling strengthened following arms deal



Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is feeling strengthened as international pressure on his regime appears to ease amid growing Western fears of an Islamist takeover and unwavering Russian support, analysts say.

Only a few weeks ago, the United States was threatening military strikes on Syria, but there has been a major shift since then.

Much of that is due to a US-Russian deal on destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, apparently giving Assad the confidence he needed to announce on Monday that he would be willing to stand for re-election when his current term ends next year.

Assad also said he did not feel the situation was yet ripe for the peace talks that the United Nations is trying to organize in Geneva next month with Russian and US support.

“It’s no mistake he’s feeling more confident than ever,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research for the Brookings Doha Center.

“Any previous talk of regime change on the part of the international community has been pushed to the side and now Assad is a partner for the international community,” he added.

Hamid was speaking before a meeting in London of Arab and Western governments that support the opposition which issued a joint statement renewing their insistence that the Syrian leader could have no future political role.

But that statement was seen as part of a wider effort to persuade at least some of the opposition to take part in the planned Geneva peace conference.

While much of the West supported the rebels’ demand that Assad must go, “you don’t hear people talking about regime change any more,” Hamid said.

Fearing the growing influence in rebel ranks of hardline Islamist groups, some of them loyal to Al-Qaeda, the United States has opted to push for a political settlement, rather than giving all-out support to the revolt.

At the same time, Assad “continues to enjoy the full support of (key backers) Russia and Iran”, Hamid said.

In the West, “I think there’s a real concern that the strongest and most dominant factions are people the international community does not want to win”, he said.

“Assad feels that that kind of development helps his narrative.”

When the uprising against his rule erupted in March 2011, Assad’s regime claimed it was a foreign-funded “terror” plot, despite ample evidence of extensive domestic support for change.

But Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups entered as the protest movement escalated into an armed rebellion and have gained ground militarily, particularly in the north and east.

At the same time, the opposition is deeply divided, not only militarily but politically.

Hamid said “the political opposition is totally irrelevant, so the people who are going to Geneva do not represent the fighters on the ground,” who are now mostly Islamist.

‘This has definitely gone in his favor’

Another factor strengthening Assad’s hand has been the deal struck by Moscow and Washington after a sarin gas attack near Damascus on August 21.

The deal led to a UN Security Council resolution that orders the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal and urges peace talks to end the conflict that has already killed more than 115,000 people.

“Things have definitely gone in (Assad’s) favor in the past two months, ever since the chemical weapons attack,” Hamid said. “You might have expected that that would be his downfall but actually it turned out to be a major boost.”

When the deal was first proposed, Assad quickly volunteered to cooperate, and Hamid said there was a “real shift” when US Secretary of State John Kerry commended the Syrian leader’s commitment to a swift implementation of the deal.

The arms deal “was a victory for Assad, plain and simple. Ever since then, he’s in some sense been rehabilitated,” he added.

Hilal Khashan, who heads the political science department at the American University of Beirut, said “the overall balance is still tilted in (the regime’s) favor, even though it cannot win… The Syrian regime’s backers are faithful to their stance, and they know what they’re doing.”

Syria expert and former Dutch ambassador to several Arab countries Nikolaos Van Dam said Assad’s refusal to deal with any opposition groups with links to the outside “is not new.”

But “whether it is realistic for President Assad to want to exclude the main Syrian opposition groups with substantial military forces inside considerable parts of Syria is another thing.”

For Khashan, Assad’s refusal to negotiate with the main opposition National Coalition shows he is pressing to increase his bargaining power.

“His gains on the ground allow him to do this,” he said.

Author of the “Struggle for Power in Syria,” Van Dam said Assad is unlikely “to make serious concessions as long as his regime is the main dominant force on the ground.”

“He wants presidential elections to be held in 2014, but might in the end be willing to accept an alternative candidate, preferably from within the regime,” he said.

Source: Middle East Online.

From England, one man feeds Western media on Syria

October 20, 2013

COVENTRY, England (AP) — He’s practically a one man band, but Rami Abdurrahman’s influence extends far beyond his modest home in this small English city.

The bald, bespectacled 42-year-old operates the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights from his house in the cathedral city of Coventry — and a review of recent media coverage suggests its running tally of killings and clashes is the most frequently cited individual source of information on Syria’s civil war for the world’s leading news organizations.

“He’s just everywhere,” said Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “He’s the go-to guy for figures. … I can’t think of anybody who comes close.”

Abdurrahman, who says he makes his living from a local clothing shop, says the Observatory relies on four unnamed activists in Syria and a wider network of monitors across the country to document and verify clashes and killings. But as the Observatory has increasingly found itself at the center of Western reporting on Syria’s civil, some say his figures — and his sources — need more scrutiny.

Opponents say Abdurrahman is in cahoots with the opposition forces bankrolled by Gulf Arab states, skewing casualty figures to keep the spotlight off rebel atrocities. Others contend that Abdurrahman is in league with the Syrian regime. They accuse him of overplaying incidents of sectarian violence to blacken the reputation of those trying to topple President Bashar Assad.

Abdurrahman sees the competing allegations as evidence that’s he’s being fair; “You know you’re doing a good job when all the sides start to attack you,” he said in a recent interview. Still, one prominent critic says it boggles the mind that a man living in Coventry is somehow able to count and categorize the dead in Syria hour by hour, every day of the week.

“Something is going on which is quite fishy,” said As’ad AbuKhalil, a professor of Middle Eastern politics at California State University Stanislaus. BUSY MAN Abdurrahman was working on four hours’ sleep when he met The Associated Press at Coventry’s drab-looking train station earlier this month.

He’d planned to get to bed by 10 p.m. the previous night, but rebel infighting in the Syrian border town of Azaz meant he stayed up until 2 a.m. monitoring developments. He got up again at 6 a.m. to check for overnight updates.

“It’s not a nine-to-five job,” Rami said as he drove across the city, a white dove-shaped air freshener dangling from his rear-view mirror. By his own account, Abdurrahman operates as a kind of human switchboard, fielding calls round-the-clock from Syrian activists, international journalists, and human rights workers. Particularly intense news days had seen up to 500 calls, he said.

Suspicions have long dogged Abdurrahman. Is the self-exiled Syrian really who he says he is? Who’s behind his organization? And is he accurate enough to justify the world’s reliance on his reporting? Switching from English to Arabic and often speaking through a translator, Abdurrahman — whose real name is Ossama Suleiman — defended his decision to use a pseudonym as part of the Arab tradition of the nom de guerre.

He said he received money from a European human rights group, but declined to name it. Only after prodding did he say he had been receiving less than 100,000 euros ($137,000) a year since 2012 in support of his work.

“We’re in a state of war,” he said. “It’s difficult to be completely transparent.” SYRIAN NETWORK Abdurrahman, born in the Syrian city of Banias, says government harassment of his family first sparked his interest in human rights work. He left for Britain in 2000, moving to Coventry, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of London, where the revenue from the clothes shop helps support him, his wife, and their young child.

He launched the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in May of 2006, saying the activists he met while in Syria formed the group’s core. Counting the words out with his hand, Abdurrahman said his modus operandi was: “Document, verify, and publish.”

That methodology has been put to the test in Syria, where both sides stand accused of peddling misinformation. Abdurrahman said his work was like navigating a “sea of lies.” Abdurrahman boasts 230-odd informants on the ground, ranging from Syrian journalists who leak him stories on the sly to employees of military hospitals who fill him in on army casualties. He said he sticks to the journalistic gold standard of only accepting a story once it had been confirmed by a second source.

He claims to have rarely gotten it wrong, saying he could think of only two cases in which he overstated casualty figures. Other mistakes, such as confusing a car bombing with a mortar strike, were more common, but in every case he insisted errors were corrected.

“We’re human, we make mistakes,” he said. “But it’s our intention not to repeat them.” A LEADING NEWS SOURCE Abdurrahman’s accuracy matters because so many news organizations use his reporting. A review of stories published by three major newswires, including The Associated Press, over the past year show he’s cited more often than SANA, Syria’s government-run news agency.

Experts attribute the exposure to Abdurrahman’s non-stop publication schedule, and the fact that so many observers are barred from Syria and that others are at risk of kidnapping or worse. That means journalists, human rights groups, and even the United Nations — which put out its own death toll at more than 100,000 back in July — have to rely at least in part on his figures.

That level of prominence worries those who harbor doubts about his organization. “Let’s assume good faith,” said Nadim Shehadi, with London’s Chatham House think tank. “Let’s assume he’s genuine, and qualified, and everything. He relies on too many sources to be able to check.”

The problem with checking what’s going on in Syria is that few people can gain access to the areas involved, said human rights researcher Cilina Nasser, who has collaborated with Abdurrahman in compiling casualty figures on several mass killings.

Nasser, who works for London-based Amnesty International, described Abdurrahman as careful and “usually accurate.” Her opinion was largely seconded by Lama Fakih, a researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch.

“In broad strokes, the reporting is solid,” she said. Nasser said it was important to keep in mind that everyone — from Abdurrahman to the journalists charged with following up on his figures — labors under the same handicap.

“There’s always something missing,” she said, “which is us being on the ground.”

Palestinian prisoner dies in Israeli hospital

Tuesday, 05 November 2013

A Palestinian prisoner from an Israeli jail died on Tuesday at dawn after spending 20 days in a serious condition at al-Afoula hospital in Israel.

The prisoner was identified as Hassan al-Torabi, 22. He was from Sorra, west of Nablus.

Al-Torabi was admitted to hospital on October 16 2013, after experiencing deteriorating health conditions.

Relatives and human rights organizations pointed out that his health condition had deteriorated after he had been denied proper medical treatment.

He had initially suffered from cancer and an inflation of the spleen, as well as acute internal bleeding of the esophagus.

In a letter previously disclosed by the Palestinians ministry of prisoners’ lawyer, al-Torabi said:

“I have been suffering severe headaches and strange mass swelling in the belly. I went to the prison clinic; they gave me only painkiller tablets. They did not help me. Four days later, I started vomiting blood and went to the clinic again. They did nothing.”

He then fell unconscious and was admitted to hospital. His parents were allowed to accompany him. He was pronounced dead this morning.

Meanwhile, Israeli occupation forces invaded several Palestinian cities and neighborhoods in the West Bank.

Palestinian sources said that a number of homes had been inspected and seven Palestinian citizens were arrested. No information about the location of the detainees has been released.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Hamas adds resistance to Israel in Gazan school’s curriculum


GAZA CITY – The Gaza Strip’s Hamas government said on Tuesday it had added studies to encourage “resistance to Israel” to the territory’s public schools curriculum.

Courses to “strengthen Palestinian rights, update programs and add studies on human rights” would be introduced at three levels in secondary schools, Education Minister Muetassem al-Minaui said.

They were intended to instill “faith in the role of the resistance to win rights and to raise awareness of the importance of effective preparations to face the enemy,” he said.

The new material tells of Israel’s winter 2008-2009 and November 2012 military offensives into the Gaza Strip and shows photos of dead Palestinians and of buildings destroyed by Israeli strikes.

“All of Palestine from the (Mediterranean) sea to the river (Jordan) belongs to us, to us Muslims,” it states, in accordance with the beliefs of the militant Islamic group, which refuses to recognize Israel.

The new courses will be taught only in education ministry schools and not those of the United Nations Relief and Works agency, in which close to half of the 463,000 pupils in the strip study, the agency’s operations director Robert Turner told journalists on Tuesday.

At the start of this year, Hamas launched an experimental program of basic military training for about 10,000 high school students.

Source: Middle East Online.

Heavy gunfight in Lebanon’s Tripoli over Syria


TRIPOLI – Two people were killed and 30 others wounded in a three-day gunfight in the Lebanese city of Tripoli between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a security official said Wednesday.

The violence has closed schools and sent families into flight.

“Two people have been killed since Monday night. One of them was a 13-year-old child, the other a 32-year-old man. Thirty other people have been wounded,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The clashes broke out on Monday night as an interview with Assad was being aired on television.

The 13-year-old victim was from Jabal Mohsen, a majority Alawite neighborhood in the northern port city of Tripoli whose residents support Assad.

The man killed was from Bab al-Tebbaneh, whose Sunni inhabitants support the anti-Assad revolt in neighboring Syria.

The violence forced families from both districts to flee their homes for other areas of Lebanon’s second city.

Early on Wednesday, “gunmen from the two sides tried storming each other’s districts”, said the official. “The army fought them off, in a battle that raged at around 3:00 am (0000 GMT).”

All Tripoli’s schools stayed closed on Wednesday because of the violence.

Violence has frequently broken out in the two impoverished neighborhoods since the March 2001 start of Syria’s uprising.

Lebanon is deeply divided into pro- and anti-Damascus camps.

The division has grown even deeper after Shiite militant group Hezbollah admitted in May it was sending fighters into Syria to support Assad’s troops.

Small radical Sunni organizations have also sent men across the border to fight alongside the rebels.

Lebanon was dominated politically and militarily by Damascus for 30 years until 2005.

Source: Middle East Online.

‘Dangerous’ nuclear plan stirs Jordanians’ fears


By Kamal Taha – Amman

Jordan’s plan to build its first nuclear plant with Russian help has stirred fresh fears and suspicions as experts called for the “dangerous” and “illogical” project to be abandoned.

The government announced late last month that two Russian firms will build and operate a $10-billion (7-billion-euro) nuclear plant, including two 1,000-megawatt reactors.

The plant, to be completed in 2023, will be built in Amra, a desert area north of the capital, the government said.

Energy-poor Jordan says it wants to develop nuclear power to meet its growing needs and to fire desalination plants to overcome its crippling water shortage.

But activists and environmentalists warn that the project is too risky.

“We are very afraid of this project because it’s dangerous to the entire country, people, the environment, and economy. We do not see a need for it,” Ali Kassay, a member the Jordanian Coalition for Nuclear Free Jordan, said.

“There are cheaper, better and safer alternatives,” he said.

“It’s illogical to build a nuclear plant in a country known historically for earthquakes, as well as lack of capabilities, funds, human resources and water.”

On October 28, the government said Russia’s Rusatom Overseas will operate the planned nuclear plant as a strategic partner, while Atomstroyexport will provide the atomic technology.

“Before making such announcements, detailed feasibility studies and consultations with local communities should have been carried out,” said environmentalist Rauf Dabbas, who also advises the environment ministry.

“Until this day, this has not been taken into consideration,” he said.

“There are no local institutions that have the experience to closely monitor such nuclear activities and plans.”

Dabbas said the government “is not serious about enhancing the role of the ministries of health and the environment in this project.

“There are also security concerns. The plant’s site is located near main roads linking Jordan to Iraq and Saudi Arabia,” he added.

“Jordan’s nuclear plans will take at least 10 years to provide us with energy, but we need energy now.”

With desert covering 92 percent of its territory, the tiny kingdom has little or no natural resources and is one of the world’s 10 driest countries.

The government pins high hopes on atomic technology, which remains deeply sensitive in a region where Israel has an undeclared monopoly on nuclear weapons.

“Nuclear technology will significantly reduce the cost of electricity production,” Khaled Tukan, head of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, told state-run Petra news agency.

The country imports 97 percent of its energy needs, and spends around $2 billion a year to generate power.

“The project, which will provide Jordanians with 10,000 jobs, will be carried out in line with the best measures to ensure the safety of people and the environment,” he said.

“Our experts are currently receiving training in several countries across the world.”

Amman in August gave the go-ahead to the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute and Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. to build a five-megawatt nuclear research reactor at the northern Jordan University for Sciences and Technology.

“Jordan’s nuclear decision is a miscalculation,” said Safaa Jayoussi, a Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner.

“We saw what happened in Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant. We cannot allow this to happen in Jordan. Nuclear energy will not provide sustainable energy. Jordan should drop its plans before it’s too late.”

The Fukushima plant was badly damaged by a tsunami in March 2011 and critics say it remains fragile and at the mercy of extreme weather or other natural hazards.

“Jordan lacks the funds, means and laws to govern and ensure nuclear safety as reckless government policies continue to provoke Jordanians who reject the nuclear plan,” local environmental organizations said in a joint statement.

The government says Jordan has a reserve of 35,000 tons of uranium.

“We have a serious energy problem, but the government is not doing what it is needed to convince Jordanians of the nuclear program and its feasibility,” prominent MP Khalil Attieh said.

“Jordanians, including MPs, have many concerns and fears, which so far are not being addressed.”

Source: Middle East Online.

Jordan king calls for reform as opposition simmers

November 03, 2013

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan’s King Abdullah II promised lawmakers Sunday to speed up reforms slowed by unrest across the Middle East, though the kingdom’s weakened opposition accused him of finding excuses to hold onto the monarchy’s absolute power.

Abdullah told parliament’s opening session that he will press ahead with plans to amend election laws the opposition says favor pro-palace candidates and overhaul a public sector widely seen as rife with corruption and nepotism.

The king called the reforms a “white revolution” — a term royal aides say signifies a peaceful change rather than one of turmoil like those brought by the Arab Spring, which saw four regional leaders deposed in uprisings.

The plan, the king said, will restructure state agencies and improve the quality of education, health care and public transportation in a key U.S. ally bordering Syria, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“Jordan is continuing its quest to develop a regional reform model that is home-grown and based on a clear roadmap with specific reform milestones,” the king said. But the opposition met the king’s speech, marking the start of parliament’s winter session, with skepticism.

“The king is only buying time,” said Mohammad Miteb, 19, an accounting sophomore and part of a pro-democracy youth movement. “We’re sitting on a powder keg that will soon ignite from sparks, be it from domestic reasons or regional turbulences.”

Jordanians fear a spillover of violence from neighboring Syria, where al-Qaida and other militant groups based and could take advantage of Jordan’s growing calls for change to foment violence. Yet Jordan so far has weathered nearly three years of street protests calling for a wider public say in politics. Abdullah is a close friend of the U.S. and the country relies on donations from the U.S. and oil-rich Gulf Arabs to keep its fragile economy afloat. It is saddled by a multi-billion-dollar foreign debt, a record $2 billion budget deficit, high inflation and a rising energy bill.

So far, Abdullah largely has maintained control, partly by relinquishing some of his powers to parliament and amending the country’s 60-year-old constitution. His Western-trained security forces have been able to keep protests from getting out of hand. And most in the opposition remain loyal to the king, pressing for reforms but not his removal.

Earlier this year, Abdullah said his reforms will lead to the absolute monarchy taking a step back. He said as parliament takes on more responsibility, future monarchs — maybe within five years — will have limited, though still significant responsibilities, mainly preserving their final word in foreign and defense policy.

Sunday, the king said parliament should rewrite laws governing elections and political parties. Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood boycotted both elections this year to protest the laws. The opposition says they favor conservative tribal candidates who back the palace.

The next steps will be to build real political parties, the king said. He said he would like to see Jordan’s 23 small and fractured political parties merge into two liberal and conservative coalitions for the next parliamentary election.

Currently, votes are cast on the basis of tribal affiliation and family connections, producing successive parliaments dominated by pro-government, conservative tribal politicians. Although Jordan’s multiparty system was revived in 1991, following a 35-year ban after a 1956 leftist coup attempt, opposition parties have yet to gain real power. They say they are intimidated by tight scrutiny and security crackdowns.

“These (proposals) are merely cosmetic and meaningless changes,” said Murad Adaileh, a member of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. “What is needed is a genuine desire for real reforms.”