Iraq
Nasiriyah

Iraq explodes into protest —again

Two protesters were killed and several injured in Iraq, as security forces attempted to put down angry demonstrations in the southern city of Nasiriyah. A police officer was also reportedly killed in street clashes. Anti-government protesters had earlier re-occupied Haboubi Square, demanding the release of their comrades arrested in recent weeks. A protest encampment had been in place in the square for over a year until November 2020, when the camp was attacked by followers of Shi’ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, with several killed. Witnesses said that in the new violence, security forces opened fire to disperse protesters from the square. (Photo via Twitter)

Africa
Sudan

Sudan: ‘peace’ with Israel, war with Ethiopia?

In a victory for the Trump White House, Sudan officially signed on to the so-called “Abraham Accords,” agreeing to normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel. Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed the document in the presence of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But leaders of Sudan’s pro-democracy coalition, the Forces of Freedom & Change, have formed an opposition front against the agreement, saying the Sudanese people are not obligated to accept it. Meanwhile, there are alarming signs that the war in Ethiopia is spilling into Sudanese territory. The Sudanese army reported repulsing Ethiopian forces from the contested Grand Fashaga enclave on the border between the two countries. The Grand Fashaga, in Sudan’s breadbasket Gedaref state, is adjacent to Ethiopia’s conflicted Tigray region, and has seen an influx of refugees from the fighting across the border. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Greater Middle East
Egypt Police

Human rights leaders arrested in Egypt

Egyptian authorities arrested Gasser Abdel Razek, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), one of the country’s leading human rights organizations and a frontline voice against torture and persecution of dissidents. Mazek’s arrest closely follows the arrests of several other leaders of the organization, who have been charged with “joining a terrorist group” and “financing terrorism.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over the arrests and called for Egyptian authorities to release the detained members of the group. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

North Africa

Algeria: Berbers boycott constitution vote

Amid low turn-out and a boycott in regions of the country, Algerians approved a new constitution pushed by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in a referendum. The referendum took place on the anniversary of the start of Algeria’s war for independence from France in 1954, with the government adopting the slogan “November 1954: Liberation. November 2020: Change.” The preamble to the new charter actually invokes last year’s Hirak or “revolution of smiles” protest movement, and the reform was clearly intended as a response to the movement’s demands. But in the northeastern Kabylie region, heartland of the country’s Amazigh (Berber) people and a bastion of support for the Hirak, demonstrators blocked polling stations to enforce a boycott. In response, election authorities annulled the votes from 63 of the 67 towns in the region. (Map: Kabyle.com)

Africa
sudan workers

Solidarity with striking Sudan sugar workers

Over a thousand workers at Kenana Sugar Company in Sudan are starting their second month on strike to demand basic trade union rights, increased wages to offset the spiralling cost of living, the removal of figures associated with the old regime from company management, and reinstatement of 34 workers sacked for taking part in the uprising against dictator Omar el-Bashir. Other demands include improvements to health services in the company town, and investment in education for workers’ children. According to Sudan Labour Bulletin, the strike is now the longest in Sudan’s history as an independent republic. Sudanese activists say that solidarity is urgently needed, warning that “the government may be contemplating the option of breaking up the workers’ strike by the force of arms.” (Photo via MENA Solidarity Network)

Syria
Daraa

Armed struggle re-emerges in regime-controlled Syria

Bashar Assad’s Russian-backed reconquest of most of Syria over the past two years is beginning to look like a Pyrrhic victory, as protest and even armed resistance re-emerge in regime-controlled territory. Insurgency is especially mounting in southern Daraa province—where the revolution first began in 2011. Brig. Gen. Talal Qassem of the army’s 5th Division was shot dead this week by gunmen on a motorcycle in the northeast of Daraa. He was the second regime general slain in the province since Assadist forces retook southern Syria in July 2018. They were among more than 200 regime soldiers and officials slain in attacks over this period, and the pace of the attacks is fast escalating. Among regime figures slain in the past month are the mayor of the town of Lajat, a military intelligence officer, and a member of the “reconciliation committees” attempting to rebuild regime support. (Photo: EA Worldview)

Greater Middle East
Lujain al-Hathloul

Saudi detention state under scrutiny

Saudi Arabia has denied prominent detainees contact with their family members and lawyers for months, Human Rights Watch said in a letter requesting access to the country and private prison visits with detainees. The situation raises serious concerns for the detainees’ safety and well-being, the rights group said. Saudi authorities have banned in-person visits with prisoners across the country since March to limit the spread of COVID-19. But Saudi activists and other sources say that authorities have also unduly denied numerous imprisoned dissidents and other detainees regular communication with the outside world. Prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul had been on hunger strike for six days before Saudi authorities finally allowed her parents to visit on Aug. 31, according to family members. Al-Hathloul had spent almost three months before that under incommunicado detention. (Image: social media post with the word “traitor” stamped on the faces of activists detained in 2018, including Loujain al-Hathloul, top center. Via Middle East Eye.)

Africa
Sudan

Moment of truth for Sudan peace process

Sudan’s power-sharing government signed a peace deal with an alliance of rebel groups this week, sparking hopes of an end to decades of conflict in the country. The agreement will see rebels given government posts, power devolved to local regions, and displaced people offered a chance to return home. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok dedicated the deal—one of his main priorities following the ousting of Omar al-Bashir 14 months ago—to children born in refugee camps, while the UN commended an “historic achievement.” But there are reasons to be cautious. Two of Sudan’s main armed groups in Darfur and the southern states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan refused to sign. Abdul Wahid, leader of a faction of the holdout Sudan Liberation Movement, said the deal was “business as usual” and unlikely to address root causes of conflict. With Sudan’s economy in freefall, it’s also unclear how the transitional government will be able to afford the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to make it workable. Previous agreements in 2006 and 2011 came to little. However, with al-Bashir now out of the picture—perhaps soon facing the ICC—things could be different this time around. With violence rising in Darfur and in other parts of the country, there’s a lot riding on it.. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

North Africa
tripoli

Libya: Tripoli protests met with repression

At least six protesters were abducted and several others wounded when armed men fired into the crowd to disperse a demonstration in the Libyan capital. The gunmen, who used truck-mounted heavy machine-guns as well as small arms, apparently belonged to a militia under the informal command of the Interior Ministry. In the aftermath, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord suspended Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga while an investigation is underway. Protests have continued to fill Tripoli’s Martyrs Square, and have spread to other cities controlled by the GNA, including Misrata and al-Zawyia. Demonstrators are denouncing official corruption and calling for the provision of essential services such as electricity. They are also demanding an end to impunity for lawless militias and a transition to full democracy. (Photo: Libya Observer)

North Africa
Drareni

Algeria: dissident journalist gets three years in prison

An Algerian court sentenced journalist Khaled Drareni to three years in prison for speaking out against the government. Drareni, who is well known in Algeria and has a twitter account of some 150,000 followers, reported widely for Casbah Tribune news website on the Hirak protest movement against the rule of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. At trial, prosecutors used as evidence a Facebook post Drareni shared, calling for a general strike. The court found him guilty of “endangering national unity” and “inciting” unlawful gatherings. Drareni’s attorneys issued a statement declaring, “All he did was give information, in words and images. He did nothing more than his work as a journalist.” (Image: RSF)

Greater Middle East
Bierut blast

What Beirut blast could mean for battered Lebanon

As rescue workers continue to look for survivors amid the rubble of a massive explosion that killed a reported 130 people in Beirut’s port, the implications of the blast for Lebanon appear grim. Lebanon’s economy has been in freefall for months, unemployment is rising, and the foreign minister Nassif Hitti resigned one day before the blast, warning that the country risks becoming a “failed state.” Now hundreds of thousands more have been left homeless, critical port facilities are destroyed, and local hospitals are overwhelmed. Lebanon was already battling COVID-19 before the blast, and last week it instituted a new lockdown to try to control a spike in new infections. (Photo via Beirut.com)

Greater Middle East
al-bokari

Saudi Arabia imprisons Yemeni dissident blogger

A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a Yemeni blogger to 10 months in prison, a fine of 10,000 riyals ($2,600) and deportation for a social media post supporting equal rights for people in same-sex relationships. Mohamad al-Bokari was arrested in Riyadh in April, after posting a video on social media, which authorities said contained “sexual references” and “violated public order and morals.” This was apparently a reference to the line: “Everyone has rights and should be able to practice them freely, including gay people.” Sources told Human Rights Watch that al-Bokari was subjected to a forced anal exam, an internationally discreditedpractice used to seek “proof” of homosexual conduct. HRW says the practice has no scientific basis, violates medical ethics, and constitutes cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that may rise to the level of torture. Al-Bokari was charged with “violating public morality” and “imitating women.” (Image: Amnesty International)