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)

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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)

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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)

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Yemen

Looming oil spill off Yemen coast portends disaster

A prospective massive spill from an abandoned oil tanker in the Red Sea could lead to catastrophic public health effects in war-torn Yemen and neighboring countries unless urgent action is taken, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The FSO Safer is one of the world’s largest tankers and is anchored off the port of Hodeidah, a key lifeline for aid supplies to much of Yemen’s population. It holds 1.1 million barrels of oil—more than four times the amount spilled in 1989 by the Exxon Valdez. Abandoned since 2015 due to the conflict in Yemen, the dilapidated vessel is increasingly likely to leak oil due to deterioration of its hull, or to catch fire through the build-up of volatile gases or through a direct attack. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

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yemen

Yemen: mass displacement in battle for Marib

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have launched an offensive on the central province and city of Marib, where fierce fighting has forced hundreds to flee their homes. Some newly displaced people have reportedly been unable to reach camps, and are taking shelter under trees. Marib province has already swelled by some 2 million over the past years, as those displaced from elsewhere in Yemen have taken refuge there. The Houthis came under harsh criticism from international rights groups after three missiles struck a house in the provincial capital, killing three children and injuring some 30 people. The house was in a neighborhood that hosts thousands of internally displaced people. Marib is a hub of Yemen’s oil industry, and its fall could prove a turning point in the seven-year civil war. (Map via  Perry-Castañeda Library)

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drone

Turkish drones decisive in regional wars

The Turkish military is unveiling a new upgraded “unmanned combat aerial vehicle,” the Bayraktar Akıncı, developed by private drone manufacturer Baykar Defense, which is owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. The Akıncı is a more advanced version of Turkey’s iconic Bayraktar TB2, able to fly higher and carry more missiles. The TB2 has been used by Ankara against Kurdish guerillas in northern Iraq, and against Syrian regime forces. Turkey has also provided the TB2 to various foreign militaries; it is held to have been decisive in Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenian forces in last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh war, as well as the Libyan government’s victory over the warlord Khalifa Haftar. Ukraine, having already tested an initial dispatchment of the drone, is now ordering 24 more for use in its war against Russian-backed separatists. (Photo: 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)

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Istanbul pride

Turkish police disperse Istanbul pride parade

Turkish riot police used tear-gas and rubber bullets to disrupt Istanbul’s annual pride parade after the the governor’s office refused to grant a permit for the event. Police arrested dozens of marchers, as well as journalists who were covering the event. The police attack comes amid a period of mounting hostility against the nation’s LGBTIQ+ community. The pride parade has been held annually since 2003, despite being officially banned since 2014. Videos shared on social media show hundreds of people gathered on Istiklal Ave., a popular tourist destination, chanting “Rainbow is not a crime, discrimination is.” (Image via Madonna Turkey)

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syria

Biden’s air-strikes bode poorly for Iran nuke deal

US warplanes carried out strikes on Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon said the targets were arms depots in the border area used by the militias Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which have carried out attacks against US personnel in Iraq for years. The militias have vowed to avenge the air-strikes. The strikes followed talks in Vienna on the Iran nuclear deal, including US re-entry, lifting of sanctions, and an Iranian return to compliance with limits on uranium enrichment. The discussions adjourned over a week ago, with Iranian officials saying a deal could be reached in the next round. However, since then, both Tehran and Washington have taken tougher public positions. (Image: Pixabay)

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Khashoggi

Khashoggi killers trained in US: report

Operatives of the Saudi secret unit responsible for the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the United States, the New York Times reported. According to the account, Arkansas-based security firm Tier 1 Group trained six unit members. Although the training was described as “defensive” and “devised to better protect Saudi leaders,” the unit was then undertaking a series of kidnappings, detentions and torture to crush dissent within the kingdom. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

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Yemeni Jews

Podcast: requiem for the Yemeni Jews

In Episode 68 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg offers a meditation on the final demise of the millennia-old Jewish community in Yemen, as the last families of Yemeni Jews are deported by the Houthi rebels that hold the capital and much of the country’s north. Largely ignored by the world media amid the ongoing horrors in Yemen, this grim passage poses challenges to some fundamental assumptions of both Zionism and anti-imperialism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

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Yemeni Jews

Houthis deport last of the Yemeni Jews

The Houthi rebels who control much of Yemen’s north, including the capital Sanaa, deported 13 Jews from three families—effectively ending the millennia-old Jewish community in the country. One of the 13 deportees told London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat: “History will remember us as the last of Yemeni Jews who were still clinging to their homeland until the last moment. We had rejected temptations time and time again, and refused to leave our homeland, but today we are forced.” The majority of the country’s Jews—some 45,000—were brought to Israel in the “Operation Magic Carpet” airlift in 1948. The Israeli operation followed local riots in which scores of Jews were killed. Yemen’s Jewish community had dwindled to some 200 when a new wave of pogroms sparked a second exodus beginning 12 years ago. Since they took over Sanaa in 2014, the Houthis have been pressuring the few Jews still remaining in the country to leave. (Photo: Yemeni Jews celebrating Passover in Israel in 1946, via Wikipedia)