Greater Middle East
ANHRI

Egypt: rights group closes under regime pressure

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), one of Egypt’s last independent human rights organizations, officially closed, citing government pressure. In its statement, ANHRI described political repression and expansion of arrests against human rights defenders, journalists and political activists as reasons for the organization’s closure. The statement was accompanied by a list of attacks that ANHRI members have suffered over recent years, including violent physical assaults and illegal summonses. The group charged that in today’s Egypt there is an “absence of the bare minimum of the rule of law and respect for human rights.” (Image: Facebook via AlBawaba)

East Asia
Tiananmen

‘Great Leap Backward’ for press freedom in China

Reporters Without Borders issued a new report, The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China, revealing the extent of the regime’s campaign of repression against the right to information. At least 127 journalists (professional and non-professional) are currently detained by the regime. Simply reporting on a “sensitive” topic or publishing censored information can result in years of detention. The report especially examines the deterioration of press freedom in Hong Kong, which was once a world model but has now seen an increasing number of journalists arrested and prosecuted in the name of “national security.” (Photo: chinaworker.info)

Greater Middle East
Alaa Abd El Fattah

Egypt: prison term for activist Alaa Abdel Fattah —again

An Egyptian court sentenced prominent activist Alaa Abd El Fattah to five years in prison after he was convicted on charges of “spreading false news” and “undermining national security.” Alongside Abd El Fattah, the Emergency State Security Court also sentenced human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer and blogger Mohammed “Oxygen” Ibrahim to four years each. All three defendants faced charges concerning their social media posts on human rights violations. Both Abd El Fattah and El-Baqer had been held in pretrial detention for more than the legal limit of two years. Verdicts issued by the emergency court cannot be appealed. Human rights groups have criticized the use of “emergency trials,” due process violations, and general repression of freedom of expression in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government. (Photo: Amnesty International)

Planet Watch
anthropocene

Glasgow: ‘climate-vulnerable’ protest ‘compromise’ pact

The COP26 UN climate summit concluded a deal among the 196 parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement on long-delayed implementation measures. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the deal a “compromise,” and indeed it was saved through eleventh-hour haggling over the wording. Just minutes before the final decision on the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, India, backed by fellow major coal-producer China, demanded weaker language on coal, with the original call for a “phase-out” softened to “phase-down.” And even this applies only to “unabated” coal, with an exemption for coal burned with carbon capture and storage technology—a technofix being aggressively pushed by Exxon and other fossil fuel giants, in a propaganda blitz clearly timed for the Glasgow summit. Another corporate-backed fix that allows polluters to go on polluting was also embraced at Glasgow: the pact calls for establishment of a global carbon-trading market in 2023. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Greater Middle East
egypt police

State of emergency lifted in Egypt —charade?

The ending of Egypt’s nearly four-year state of emergency, announced by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was hailed by international human rights groups as a positive step. But Sisi is now trying to make permanent a more recent, and officially temporary, national security law that would give the military powers normally used during a state of emergency. The amendments to the national terrorism law, which have been approved by the House of Representatives, would give the president the authority to take “measures necessary to preserve security and public order,” including the ability to impose curfews. It would also expand the purview of military courts, giving them power over any crimes concerning “public infrastructure.” A related measure passed by the House would impose penalties for conducting “research” on the military. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Afghanistan
ground zero

Podcast: 9-11 and the GWOT at 20

In Episode 88 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits his predictions from 20 years ago and from a month ago about what the world would look like on the 20th anniversary of 9-11. The attack, and Dubya Bush’s Global War on Terrorism, did not lead to a wave of new attacks within the US, as the jihad has proved more concerned with the struggle within Islam. But this has meant an invisible catastrophe for the Muslim world. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen get at least some international media attention. There are many more nearly forgotten wars and genocides: the serial massacres in Pakistan, the insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Boko Haram war in Nigeria that is now spilling into Cameroon, the mounting massacres in the Sahel nations. Even the insurgency in Somalia, where the US has had a military footprint, wins little coverage—despite the fact that it is spilling into Kenya. The insurgency in Mozambique has now prompted an African-led multinational military intervention. The insurgency on the Philippine island of Mindanao has been met with air-strikes. All waged by entities claiming loyalty to either al-Qaeda or ISIS. The new imperial doctrine appears to be that this violence is acceptable as long as it is not visited upon the West. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Iraq
Gilgamesh

Looted Gligamesh tablet repatriated to Iraq

A US District Court in New York ordered craft chain Hobby Lobby to turn over the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, a rare cuneiform text from ancient Mesopotamia that was smuggled into the United States from Iraq, so that it may be repatriated. The company’s founder and president, Steve Green, bought the 3,500-year-old Akkadian artifact in 2014, intending to display it in his Museum of the Bible, in Washington DC. The tablet is one of approximately 17,000 looted artifacts that Washington has agreed to return to Iraq. (Photo: ICE via ArtNet News)

North Africa
libya

Libya: Turkish troop presence threat to ceasefire

Libya’s eastern warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive last year to capture the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), threatened to launch attacks on Turkish forces if Ankara doesn’t withdraw troops and mercenaries sent in to back up the GNA. Haftar’s comments came in response to the Turkish Parliament’s move to extend for 18 months a law that allows the deployment of Turkish troops in Libya. Turkey’s defense minister responded that any attack by Haftar on its personnel would be met with force. “A war criminal, murderer Haftar and his supporters must know that they will be seen as a legitimate target in case of any attack on Turkish forces,” Hulusi Akar said in an address to Turkish units in Tripoli. The ultimatum is a threat to the ceasefire that has largely held since it was signed in October. (Map: CIA)

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)

Africa
GERD

Trump wades into Egypt-Ethiopia fight over Nile

Reportedly at the direct instigation of President Donald Trump, the US State Department ordered a suspension of aid to Ethiopia over its move to begin capturing water behind a controversial new mega-dam on the Blue Nile that is opposed by Egypt and Sudan. A State Department spokesperson said the decision to “temporarily pause” some aid to Addis Ababa “reflects our concern about Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place.” The freeze could affect as much as $100 million in aid. The reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) began filling in July, over the protests of Egypt and Sudan, which rely on the Nile for nearly all of their water needs. (Photo: Water Power & Dam Construction)

Greater Middle East
hegazi

Egyptian LGBT activist a suicide in exile

Three years after her arrest and torture by security forces in her native country, Egyptian LGBT activist Sarah Hegazi killed herself in exile in Canada, prompting an outpouring of sympathy and anger on social media. Hegazi, 30, an openly gay woman and rights advocate, was among a group of activists arrested in September 2017 after raising a rainbow flag at a Cairo concert of the Lebanese indie band Mashrou Leila, which includes gay members. Hegazi was charged with joining an illegal group promoting “deviant thought.” She fled to Canada after being released on bail in January 2018. The incident was followed by a harsh crackdown on Egypt’s LGBT community. (Photo via Middle East Eye)

Africa
Sudanese_Women

Sudan outlaws female genital mutilation

Sudan’s new government officially criminalized female genital mutilation (FGM), in a reform of the legal code hailed by the UNICEF representative in the country. Although FGM is still widely practiced in other countries where it has been criminalized—such as in Egypt—the amendment has been praised as a step in the right direction for women’s rights in Sudan. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)