Jordan cabinet reshuffled amid protests

Sat Jul 2, 2011

The Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit has reshuffled his cabinet in a bid to ease the ongoing anti-government demonstrations in the country seeking his resignation.

Eleven new ministers received a Royal Decree from King Abdullah II on Saturday, the state-run Petra news agency reported.

Bakhit’s cabinet was formed in February 2011, and since then three lawmakers have resigned due to months long anti-government demonstrations.

King Abdullah II responded to the protesters’ demand when he dismissed former Prime Minister Samir Rifai and replaced him with Bakhit in February.

The protesters, however, continued their demonstrations, calling for Bakhit to be replaced with a democratic government. The Jordanians want the premier ousted and the parliament dissolved.

“Reform is demanded by the public and a crucial passage for survival. The regime must meet such demands and start genuine reform measures, not only cosmetic measures. The government should stop referring to parliament legislation that is categorized as military laws in a democratic dress. The government of Bakhit has expired. We are badly in need of a national salvation government,” Muslim Brotherhood leader Zai Bani said last week.

Moreover, there have been several violent clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters, who also are demanding an end to ties with Israel.

Source: PressTV.
Link: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/187192.html.

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Jordan’s Cabinet reshuffled amid PM scandal

By JAMAL HALABY | AP
Jul 2, 2011

AMMAN, Jordan: Jordan’s King Abdullah II endorsed a Cabinet reshuffle on Saturday in the wake of scandals and resignations that have tainted the country’s prime minister and ignited calls for his resignation.

The move follows six months of street protests in Jordan — inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world — that have pressed for a wider public say in politics, the lowering of food prices and reduction of inflation rates.

The most significant official to go as part of the reshuffle was Interior Minister Saad Hayel Srour. He was replaced by Mazen Saket, seen as a moderate politician who may be more palatable to the public.

Srour was accused by the protesters of ordering the police to use excessive force to quell the demonstrations. He was also widely criticized for allowing businessman Khaled Shaheen — who was serving a three-year prison term for bribery and corruption — to leave Jordan.

Abdullah Abu Ruman, a newspaper columnist in charge of a government office that censors the media, was named information minister — a move signaling that the government will continue to control the press.

The reshuffle followed earlier resignations of three Cabinet members, two of whom stepped down in the wake of a public outcry over Shaheen’s departure from the country. The third quit over differences with the prime minister over draft laws he said restrict media freedoms.

Separately, Prime Minister Marouf Al-Bakhit has been tied to another scandal, during his previous 2005-2007 tenure, when his Cabinet approved the country’s first casino in violation of Islamic law that bans gambling.

But a parliamentary committee investigating the affair has acquitted Al-Bakhit while implicating a former tourism minister who served in his government.

It was not immediately clear if the reshuffle will placate protesters who have been demanding that Al-Bakhit, who took office Feb. 9, step down.

A royal palace statement said Saturday’s reshuffle brought in nine new ministers and raised by two portfolios the overall number in Al-Bakhit’s Cabinet to 29 members.

Source: Arab News.
Link: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article465500.ece.

Protesters urge Jordan PM ouster

Fri Jul 1, 2011

Thousands of people have demonstrated across Jordan to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit and the dissolution of the lower house of parliament.

About 1,500 Jordanians took part in a demonstration outside Grand Husseini Mosque in central Amman after the Friday Prayers to express anger over the chamber’s vote on Monday that cleared Bakhit of corruption charges in connection with a casino deal in 2007, DPA reported.

The protesters chanted “Down with Bakhit and his gambling government. A dishonest broker cannot protect the country.”

“The casino government should go. No to the casino parliament,” read one of the banners carried by the demonstrators.

“This house should be dissolved because it provides a cover-up for corrupts,” Murad Adayleh, a senior member of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), Jordan’s main opposition party, said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people demonstrated in Tafileh, situated 180 kilometers (111 miles) south of Amman, and called for the ouster of Bakhit’s government.

Protest rallies were reported in the cities of Maan, Karak and Irbid, where participants demanded the “sacking of government and dissolution of parliament.”

On Monday, Jordan’s lower house of parliament cleared Bakhit despite a parliamentary committee report which has found the premier’s role in a suspected graft case about a multi-million-dollar deal that his government singed with a British-based company to build a casino in the Muslim state between 2005 and 2007.

At least three Jordanian lawmakers have resigned in protest to the parliament’s decision.

Source: PressTV.
Link: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/187097.html.

Hamas denounces Greece’s Flotilla II ban

GAZA, July 2 (KUNA) — The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) strongly condemned Saturday the Government of Greece for stopping the Freedom Flotilla II, which carries humanitarian aids, from sailing to the Israeli-sieged Gaza Strip.

Hamas said in a statement released here Saturday Greece’s decision to stop the humanitarian Flotilla is surely a result of Israeli pressure, something which violates all international laws.

Hamas called on the European Union (EU) and humanitarian organizations to pressure Greece to allow the Freedom Flotilla II to sail towards Gaza.

In its statement, the movement also urged all world countries to combat the Israeli siege on Gaza.

Greece had announced it would prevent Gaza-destined aid vessels heading to the Palestinian enclave, which outraged the organizers.

A US ship is part of the Freedom Flotilla II; carrying over 40 international activists.

Source: Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).
Link: http://www.kuna.net.kw/NewsAgenciesPublicSite/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2177608&Language=en.

Syria: One hundred days of struggle

Khalil Habas
Counterfire, June 30, 2011

A general strike and continued street demonstrations marked the passing of one hundred days of protest and repression in Syria. Khalil Habash writes on the popular protest movement for democracy, social justice and against imperialism.

The Syrian uprising has exceeded 100 days. Despite harsh repression, the protest movement is continuing and increasing. Since 15 March more than 1,500 civilians have been killed, including around 70 children, and about 10,000 people arrested, according to Syrian human rights groups.

Many Syrians have fled to neighboring countries. More than 11,700 are now housed or seeking shelter in Turkish refugee camps, while a few thousand are now in Lebanon. Demonstrations are still being repressed by security forces, thugs of the regime and a section of the army, despite various declarations of the regime that they will not shoot on protesters if they demonstrate peacefully.

In Jisr al-Shughour and other towns such as Homs, military forces used helicopters and tanks to shoot at protesters. Some 15,000 troops and 40 tanks have reportedly been deployed to the city and surrounding region.

The protest movement is nevertheless growing, with demonstrations nearly on a daily basis in various cities in Syria, while on the “Friday of Tribes”, 10 June, protests were reportedly held in 138 cities and towns across the country. Similar demonstrations happened on Friday 17 and Friday 24 June.

On Thursday 23 June a successful general strike marked 100 days of the revolution and was upheld in the governorates of Homs, Hama, Deraa, markets of Deir Zor, the city of Lattakia Banyas, Douma and the majority of Rif Damascus. Universities, especially in Damascus and Aleppo, have witnessed demonstrations from students against the regime.

President Assad tries to contain the revolt

President Bachar Al Assad, in his speech on Monday 20 June, did not say or give anything new to satisfy the protesters. He maintained a defiant position. President Assad acknowledged that a certain segment of the protest movement might have some legitimate demands and wished to participate in democracy, but claimed immediately after this short statement that as many as 64,000 “outlaws” are leading the havoc in Syria and that, alongside this “army” of criminals, the uprising in Syria is also being stirred by radical and blasphemous intellectuals, trying to infiltrate into Syria wreaking havoc in the name of religion.

The Syrian media, all controlled by the State directly or indirectly, have been portraying all protesters as terrorists controlled by foreign powers.
Assad adds that Syria’s image has been “smeared” internationally, and that some protesters are being paid money in order to film demonstrations and deal with media. He claimed that Syria is a victim of “political conspiracies” which he likened to “germs”. This conspiracy theory against Syria is used by the Syrian regime in each official speech.

These accusations against the protesters did not prevent him calling for national dialogue with the opposition and the protest movement. He also indicated that the greatest danger the country now faced is the weakness or collapse of the Syrian economy.

But how does this speech fit with the reality of the situation in Syria?
Firstly, the reality is very different from Assad’s depiction of a protest movement dominated by terrorists, salafists and opportunists linked to foreign conspirators. We are now witnessing in Syria a popular national movement struggling for democracy and social justice. The protesters include the different ethnic and sectarian components of the country, as well as all the governorates throughout Syria.

Major demonstrations have taken place in the two big cities of Aleppo and Damascus. In addition to protests in Aleppo University, the two last Fridays also saw protests in Aleppo neighborhoods such as Salahedeen and Seif al-Dawali. In the villages north of Aleppo, around 5,000 protesters had turned out across Tal Rifaat, Hreitan, Mareaa and Aazaz. In Damascus as well protests were presents in the suburbs as well as smaller ones in the city.

The opposition outside Syria has also started to organize, gathering in several conferences across Europe. A consulting committee of the Antalya conference from May 31 to June 3, the main coalition of the Syrian democratic opposition, was set up. The main promoters of this conference were the left and liberal forces around the Damascus Declaration (DD).

Out of 31 members of the consulting committee 4 members each are from the DD, Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the Kurds (who are predominantly leftist) and the tribes. The remaining 15 are independent personalities. These outside organized forces of the opposition are nevertheless very weak on the ground. The MB as well as the left has been driven out by decades of severe persecution.

One of the main points of the Antalya declaration was to oppose any foreign military intervention. The protest movement on the ground has also refused any foreign military intervention which would serve the regime and would probably lead the country to civil war.

The popular movement in Syria is in favor of the unity of the Syrian people and against division, with a developing feeling of national solidarity and social solidarity that transcends sectarians and ethnic divisions.

The regime is using sectarian issues to scare one community against the other and divide people. It built the army according to sectarian criteria to maintain loyalty. While the majority of the conscript soldiers are Sunni according to their population share, the officers’ corps is predominately Allawi and fidels of Assad’s family.

The sieges and military intervention against the rebellious towns were nearly all by the 4th brigade led by Maher al Assad and special units in which most of the soldiers are Allawi. President Assad does not dare to use normal soldiers as he fears mutinies. There have only been some individual defections so far.

Secondly, the so called dialogue called by Bachar Al Assad can’t be taken seriously while the killing, injuries, repression and arrests against protesters are still going on. No dialogue is possible when tanks and helicopters are sent against the people. The popular movement has refused any so called dialogue until demands from the protesters are implemented. The so called general amnesty granted by the President for crimes committed before 20 June did not see the liberation of the 10 000 protesters detained since 15 March.

The democratic demands of the popular movement for a democratic, civic, and free Syria are not being met by the regime, which has drafted a new political party law which proposes establishing a “Party Affairs Committee” chaired by the Minister of Interior. Its members will include a judge from the Court of Cassation, and three independents appointed by the President of the Republic. Any person wanting to establish a political party will have to apply for a license along with 50 founding members “over the age of 25.”

They have to be residents of Syria representing no less than 50% of Syrian governorates. Additionally, party founders need to have a clean legal record and cannot be members of any other political party simultaneously. Any party needs to have secured 2,000 members at the time of applying, along with premises for its headquarters.

Parties cannot use government agencies to market themselves, nor can they operate out of charity organizations, educational institutes, or religious venues (church or mosque). This is all designed to maintain the Baath party’s monopoly.

Economic problems in Syria

As well as Assad mis-representing the protest movement and failing to engage in real dialogue, a third problem is his remarks on the economy. In relation to the possibility of the collapse of the Syrian economy, the Syrian President did not understand that his economic model has already collapsed for many people. This is part of why they are protesting against the regime.

Syria doubled its GDP between 2003 and 2008, but the economic growth did not benefit the Syrian people. Economic liberalization policies started in the early nineties, which were accelerated and boosted since Bashar Al Assad’s arrival to power in 2000. These policies have benefited a small oligarchy and few of its clients.

Syria witnessed the emergence of private banks and foreign investment in the country’s market, alongside privatization and liberalizing of foreign trade.

Tourism has become a flourishing sector, accounting now for 12% of the Syrian GDP – it brings revenues of about $ 6.5 billion and employs about 11% of the workforce. Syria, which was self sufficient in the past and used to have a strong industrial sector, is now importing food.

This economic policy had severe consequences for the people. Per capita income remains well below the average for the Middle East, the economy is still “developing”, the welfare state is gone, controlled prices on first necessity goods have been abandoned in some cases and poverty affects one third of the population.

Extremely reliant on service, the economy is now not creating enough jobs, especially for the young graduates.

The regime has progressively abandoned the agriculture sector which represents 20% of the Syrian economy. The countryside has endured harsh conditions as a result of four years of drought. The government did not answer the plight of the farming population, a lot of them having to leave their rural areas to cities to find jobs. Today, the rural poor are providing the foot soldiers of the uprising.

The announcement that Rami Makhlouf – the cousin of President Bashar Al-Assad and focus of anti-corruption protests – is quitting business and moving to charity will not solve the problems of the Syrian economy and definitely not appease the protesters. Rami Makhlouf controls several businesses including Syriatel, the country’s largest mobile phone operator, duty free shops, an oil concession, airline company and hotel and construction concerns, and shares in at least one bank.

As the uprising continues, manufacturers and merchants of Damascus and Aleppo, who have been until now supporters of the regime, have started questioning their political loyalty to the regime. They are now confronting a difficult situation by closing facilities and laying off staff. The bourgeoisie and the merchant class might therefore question their political loyalty to the regime if the situation continues this way and no viable alternatives are found. There are even now signs that some elements of the business elite are thinking of switching side.

The popular movement has refused any foreign military intervention in Syria and personalities linked to foreign imperialist interests such as Abdel Halim Khadam, Rifaat Al Assad and Mahmoun Homsi. There are those who make excuses for the Assad regime, and castigate the protest movement as ‘pro-imperialist’ for opposing it, like Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. They should be reminded that it is the Syrian people who pressured the Syrian regime to support the resistance now and in the past. It is the Syrian population who welcomed Palestinians, Lebanese and Iraqis refugees when they were attacked and occupied by the imperialist powers such as Israel and the USA.

It is this Syrian regime which arrested the people of Syria who struggled for the liberation of the Golan and Palestine for the past 30 years. struggle for the liberation of the Golan and Palestine for the past 30 years. This is the same regime which crushed the Palestinians and the progressive movements in Lebanon in 1976, while participating in the imperialist war against Iraq in 1991 with the coalition led by the USA. The Syrian people are the true revolutionaries and anti imperialists, and not the regime of Bachar Al Assad. The victory of the Syrian Revolution will open a new resistant front against the imperialist powers, while its defeat will strengthen these latter.

In conclusion, the Syrian popular movement is struggling for democracy, social justice and anti imperialism. The Syrian people will not go back to their houses despite the repression and the killings; they will continue to demonstrate until their demands are met. The Syrian people will not step down and attempts to divide the popular movement will not succeed – the Revolution will be permanent!

Source: Uruknet.
Link: http://www.uruknet.de/?s1=1&p=79134&s2=02.

Protesters in Jordan pelt parliament with eggs

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dozens of Jordanians have pelted the parliament with eggs, demanding the dismissal of the prime minister and all parliament members.

The Associated Press
AMMAN, Jordan —

Dozens of Jordanians have pelted the parliament with eggs, demanding the dismissal of the prime minister and all parliament members.

The police briefly scuffled with the egg-hurling protesters, after which the rally ended peacefully.

Protests inspired by Arab uprisings have spread to Jordan but on a lesser scale.

Thursday’s protesters were angered that lawmakers this week cleared Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit of involvement in a casino scandal during his previous 2005-2007 term.

At the time, his Cabinet approved the country’s first gambling house in violation of Islamic law.

The parliament implicated al-Bakhit’s ex-tourism minister, but acquitted the premier. The protesters say al-Bakhit is also responsible. They plan more demonstrations for Friday.

Source: The Seattle Times.
Link: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2015470481_apmljordanprotest.html.

Sabotage of M.V. Saoirse in Turkey ‘an act of international terrorism’

Irish Ship to Gaza

June 30, 2011

The Irish-owned ship, the MV Saoirse, that was meant to take part in Freedom Flotilla 2 has been sabotaged in a dangerous manner in the Turkish coastal town of Göcek, where it had been at berth for the past few weeks. Visual evidence of the undership sabotage, which was carried out by divers, will be presented today at a press conference in Dublin at 11am in Buswell’s Hotel. Photographs and video footage of the damage are available from the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign.

Concerns for the boat first emerged on Monday evening following a short trip near the Göcek marina and an inspection was carried out by divers and by skipper Shane Dillon on Tuesday morning. Evidence was found that the shaft of the starboard propeller has been interfered with and it was decided to take the boat out of the water for a further visual inspection. On Wednesday, the boat was put on land at a local shipyard and the extent of the sabotage was immediately visible.

The propeller shaft had been weakened by saboteurs who cut, gouged or filed a piece off the shaft. This had weakened the integrity of the shaft, causing it to bend badly when put in use. The damage was very similar to that caused to the Juliano, another flotilla ship, in Greece. The consequent damage would have happened gradually as the ship was sailing and would have culminated in a breach of the hull.

The Irish Ship to Gaza campaign believes that Israel has questions to answer and must be viewed as the chief suspect in this professional and very calculating act of sabotage.

Commenting on the attack from Göcek in Turkey, Dr Fintan Lane, national coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza, who own the vessel, said, “This is an appalling attack and should be condemned by all right-thinking people. It is an act of violence against Irish citizens and could have caused death and injury. If we had not spotted the damage as a result of a short trip in the bay, we would have gone to sea with a dangerously damaged propeller shaft and the boat would have sunk if the hull had been breached. Imagine the scene if this had happened at nighttime.”

“Israel is the only party likely to have carried out this reckless action and it is important that the Irish government and the executive in Northern Ireland insist that those who ordered this act of international terrorism be brought to justice. This was carried out in a Turkish town and shows no respect for Turkish sovereignty and international law.”

He continued, “One of the most shocking aspects is the delayed nature of the sabotage. It wasn’t designed to stop the ship from leaving its berth, instead, it was intended that the fatal damage to the ship would occur while she was at sea and this could have resulted in the deaths of several of those on board. This was a potentially murderous act.”

Dr Lane, who was on board Challenger 1 in last year’s flotilla, said, “The Freedom Flotilla is a non-violent act of practical and humanitarian solidarity with the people of Gaza, yet Israel continues to use threats and violence to delay its sailing. They attacked us in international waters last year, now they are attacking us in Turkish and Greek ports. There is no line that Israel won’t cross.”

“We will not be intimidated by attacks like this – it simply highlights the aggression that the Palestinian people of Gaza have to put up with on a daily basis. It strengthens our determination to continue until this illegal and immoral blockade is lifted.”

Calling on the government and northern executive to demand safe passage for Freedom Flotilla 2, Dr Lane said, “The Irish government needs to publicly condemn this dangerous act of sabotage but it also should insist on the flotilla being allowed to make it to Gaza unhindered. Israel has no right to interdict the flotilla and even less right to carry out attacks against vessels in Greek and Turkish ports.”

“It is important that everybody make their voices heard in solidarity with the people of Gaza and in support of the flotilla. The Israeli embassy should become a focal point for street demonstrations. These saboteurs came very close to killing Irish citizens.”

Also speaking from Göcek, the skipper of the MV Saoirse, Shane Dillon, said, “The damage sighted and inspected on the starboard propeller shaft on the MV Saoirse had the potential to cause loss of life to a large number of those aboard. The nature of the attack and malicious damage was such that under normal circumstances the vessel would most likely have sunk at sea. If the ship was operating at high engine revs, the damage done by the saboteurs would have caused the shaft to shear and the most likely outcome would be the rupturing of the hull and the vessel foundering. If, as was intended, the vessel had proceeded to Gaza at reduced revs, the stern tube would have been forced off line and a large and rapid ingress of water would have resulted, sinking the vessel.”

Mr Dillon continued, “The shaft was filmed and photographed when the vessel was lifted from the water on Wednesday afternoon in a shipyard in the Turkish coastal village of Göcek. A local marine engineer inspected the shaft and his opinion was that the interference was the work of professional saboteurs intent on disabling the Saoirse. However, the most shocking aspect of the attack was that its intention was to cause failure of the shaft when the vessel was offshore and this shows a total disregard for human life.”

He ended, “It is also worth noting that the damage inflicted on the Saoirse was identical to that that caused to the Greek/Swedish ship, the Juliano, which was sabotaged in the Greek port of Piraeus a few days ago.”

Pat Fitzgerald, a Sinn Fein member of Waterford County Council and chief engineer on the Saoirse, commented, “We were very lucky to discover this act of sabotage when we did. We felt vibrations from the shaft as we were returning to the berth on Monday evening following a short trip in the bay for refueling purposes. Close inspection by divers on Tuesday and then on land on Wednesday revealed a large man-made gouge on one side of the propeller shaft. The integrity of the shaft had been compromised and a very serious bend had developed. This could have caused fatalities had we set to sea and almost certainly would have sunk the boat when the engine revs were increased. It was an act of sheer lunacy and endangered the lives of all on board.”

The sabotage has been reported to the harbor master in Göcek and Irish Ship to Gaza are asking for a full investigation by the Turkish police.

The repairs have yet to be fully costed but could be more than E15,000 and they will take some time, meaning that the Saoirse cannot participate in Freedom Flotilla 2.

However, six of the 20 crew and passengers aboard the Saoirse will transfer to another ship in the flotilla. The six Irish who will join the Italian/Dutch ship are Fintan Lane, national coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza and a member of the Free Gaza Movement, Trevor Hogan, former Ireland and Leinster rugby player, Paul Murphy, Socialist Party MEP for Dublin, Zoe Lawlor of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Hussein Hamed, a Libyan-born Irish citizen, and Gerry MacLochlainn, a Sinn Fein member of Derry City Council.

The MV Saoirse will be repaired and used in future flotillas to Gaza if they are needed.

Source: Uruknet.
Link: http://www.uruknet.de/?s1=1&p=79111&s2=01.

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