Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Inside Story - Israel accused of ill-treating African migrants

DR Congo rebels consider closing ranks

The horror of female genital mutilation in the UK

AL Jazeera English opinion 

Siobhan Courtney
Siobhan Courtney
Siobhan Courtney is a British freelance broadcast journalist and writer.

An estimated 66,000 girls have been illegally mutilated in the UK, but no one has yet been prosecuted for this practice.
Last Modified: 30 May 2012 13:34

**Advisory: Graphic language and descriptions of a sexual nature**
London, United Kingdom – "After the pain, it was the screaming that I’ll never forget. It wasn’t just mine and my sister’s screams, there were so many other girls there – all being cut. I’ve never heard screams like that again and I don’t think I ever will."
Aissa, from Mali, West Africa was just six years old when she and her one year-old sister were told: "We have to go somewhere". The sisters were taken on a journey by the female members of their family, oblivious to the torturous destination that was waiting for them. Aissa and her sister were then forced to endure a depraved ritual, scarring them for perpetuity: female genital mutilation.

I ask Aissa, now 29 and living and working as a midwife in London, what she can remember of that day when she and her little sister arrived at the place they were taken to by their step mother. "Isn’t it ironic?"says Aissa, "That I can remember everything so clearly, like it happened yesterday, but that is only because the memories of the blood, the pain, the screaming will always haunt me, like a re-occurring bad dream".

Aissa describes how her sister was taken away by a woman to 'wait for her turn' while Aissa's stepmother instructed her to lay down on a bed. Aissa did as she was told, as four women stood over her pinning her to the bed and one woman began to cut her. No anaesthetic was used to remove Aissa’s clitoris with a razor blade.  Aissa explains that it doesn’t matter how tightly you are held down, your body instinctively convulses, which results in deeper and longer incisions.

"The pain is, well, it’s so difficult to describe to you what it is like. Imagine when you cut your finger, it’s a million times worse than that. But that doesn’t even begin to describe the type of pain that takes over when the part of your body that has the most nerve endings in it is cut away. Only girls who have been cut will ever know what that level of pain is like. I honestly thought I was going to die, and then everything went black."

Aissa then tells me there is another reason why she will never ever forget that day. Almost whispering, she says: "It was the first time I had ever slept in a real bed; we had always slept on the floor before. I can’t remember how long I stayed in the bed, maybe one or two weeks until I was able to walk again."

As you read this, vulnerable young girls (children in the majority of cases) across the world are being led to a place by their mothers, stepmothers, aunts and grandmothers where they will be subjected to physical and emotional pain like no other. That physical and emotional pain inflicted on them, on so many levels, will be and will stay at such an intensity, there are just no appropriate words to attempt to describe the young girls' ordeals. To listen to another woman reflect back to the time she was betrayed by those whom she loved and trusted the most, through the most invasive, barbaric and brutal treachery, is only comparable to torture so extreme it just can't be real, except it is.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also referred to as Female Genital Cutting (FGC), is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The World Health Organisation says FGM also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. The United Nations, Amnesty International and UNICEF are just three of many organisations across the world working tirelessly to 'consign FGM to history'.
The World Health Organisation has classified FGM into four types:

1.Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris, and in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).

2.Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia (lips) minora, with or without excision of the labia majora. 

3.Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris. (The seal is then cut open and stitched up again to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth; hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, increasing immediate and long-term risks.)

4.Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes

Latest figures show around 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. The latest statistical exploration from UNICEF states it is most common in western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa. It is also prevalent in many countries in South-East Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. Despite it being illegal in Canada, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, France, Sweden, Switzerland, the US, Kenya, Egypt and the UK, Female Genital Mutilation is still widely practiced.

An utterly useless UK government

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, introduced to close the loophole of the Prohibition of FemaleCircumcision Act 1985 (which permitted parents to take their daughters out of the UK to undergo FGM abroad ) does not scare or stop those who intend on mutilating our future generations. This act tragically fails to uphold the UK’s zero tolerance to FGM. There has not been one single prosecution of FGM in the UK , despite this abhorrent crimebeing outlawed in 1985.
Like any illegal practice, thriving ferociously deep and dark underground, it is impossible to be precise regarding the number of girls in the UK who have suffered and are currently suffering at the hands of this brutal  ritual. The UK charity FORWARD estimates from their research that 66,000 girls in the UK have been mutilated, while 24,000 girls under 16 are at risk from the most severe form of FGM in England and Wales. One would assume that, faced with this alarming calculation, the British Government would swiftly take action and address this matter of uttermost urgency. Sadly, the British government, whose duty it is to protect its citizens, has adopted what can only be described politely (for the sake of editorial guidelines) as a pitiful and pathetic ‘attempt’ to safeguard and protect the thousands of children at risk in the UK. Utterly useless bureaucrats deprive people desperately gasping for it from vital funding, resources, information, care and support.
If you search FGM on the Home Office website, the search results  give little comfort or re-assurance to  its victims, merely  facts, figures and three telephone numbers. The Home Office re-directs most of the responsibility for the charity FORWARD to deal with. On the Department of Health's website there are just seven search results for this ignored and neglected crime - none of which have been updated for over a year. The Home Office and the DofH refused to put anyone forward for interview to answer my questions on what exactly the British government’s approach is in dealing with the illegally practiced and prevalent FGM in the UK. They also refused to provide details on what measures have been and are being put in place to safeguard and protect the victims, how the illegal underground networks plan to be broken and how much funding has and is being allocated to fight FGM in the UK.

Why no minister is able to speak out to re-assure British citizens that the government is doing everything in their power to tackle the illegal practice of FGM in the UK remains a mystery. A standard statement  was sent from both departments to attempt to provide a response. From the Home Office, Minister for Equalities and Overseas Champion for Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls, Lynne Featherstone says: "Female Genital Mutilation is an abhorrent crime and we are very clear that those found to practice it should feel the full force of the law. As a government, we are also working with UK and international agencies on the ground to help prevent women and girls being subjected to this practice." 

From the Department of Health, a spokesperson says: "We have written to the Royal Colleges of Midwives and Obstetricians and Gynaecologists about making sure we are doing everything possible together to eliminate this abusive and abhorrent practice and protect future generations of girls and women from harm. The current professional guidance highlights that NHS professionals have a clear duty of child protection if a doctor is approached to perform a mutilating procedure or if it becomes known to them that a child is to be taken abroad for that purpose." Neither the Home Office nor the DofH provided details about the type of work they say is happening to protect future generations of girls and women in the UK from harm.

Saria Khalifa, the Youth Programme Officer for FORWARD, tells me the charity is extremely concerned about the British Government’s patchy approach to tackling FGM, which is failing to safeguard all children at risk of FGM who reside in the UK. She says: "The UK government has a duty to develop effective primary prevention measures particularly in London where FGM has become a growing concern. Additionally there is need for protection strategies that offer safety nets and specialist support to women and girls. There is no national action plan on FGM nor a strategy in place to engage key communities and key opinion makers on ending FGM. More importantly, the Government funding cuts which have hit the women's sector very deepy, coupled with lack of a comprehensive strategy is making our work even more difficult and a greater struggle."

The poisonous power of patriarchy 

Female Genital Mutilation is without a doubt powered by the poison of patriarchy. In a FGM affected community, there is a fundamental belief that mutilation is the only way to initiate a girl into becoming a ‘good woman’ ready for marriage and childbirth. The bitter irony is that the very process of FGM is achieving the exact opposite. Removing part of a girl or a woman's anatomy, disturbing and forcefully changing the way her body is intended to function not only takes away her femininity, but biologically changes the composition that makes her into the woman that she naturally is intended to be. Women across the world are torturing other women to accommodate and appease an ideology and disorted history of male supremacy. FGM is practiced to satisfy the wishes of a patriarchal family structure, but in reality the men distance themselves from the procedure of the practice, maintaining a dominating presence in the 'background' and are not concerned enough with the consequences to stop inflicting this depravity onto their daughters.

Despite the 'cultural justification' that FGM 'turns a girl into a woman' there is also the assumption that when she does become a 'good woman' she needs to be appropriately controlled and oppressed. It is widely believed that removing parts of her genitalia reduces her libido and in turn makes her less sexually demanding, supressing the level of pleasure she is 'allowed' to receive and sustain. It is not uncommon in some cases for a woman’s vulva to be stitched up, leaving just a small opening for urine and menstrual blood to pass through, before the woman is then re-opened for sexual intercourse and childbirth. 

Aissa says it is not only the damaging physical effects that victims are forced to endure for the rest of their lives:"I still need to work on myself psychologically because of all the feelings of self-loathing I have towards my body. I am different and I look different - for a very long time I didn’t even feel like a woman. It was impossible to have sex, the pain was horrific and I have suffered with lots of urinary infections. Still now I find it so difficult to have any medical appointments, which is part of the reason why I wanted to become a midwife to help others who are like me."
There are no cultural or religious justifications ever for mutilating another woman’s body. There is no endorsement of FGM in the Bible, the Tanakh or Quran. Charity Forward has published a research  on FGM and Islam as many Muslim (as well as non-Muslim) communities tend to associate FGM with Islam. "Words like "sunna" and "tahur" used for FGM by Muslims erroneously endorse the link of Islam to FGM and brings the great religion into disrepute. All religions say God created human beings in the best forms and wanted them to keep the nature in which they were created. It is forbidden to make changes in God's creation unless there is a compelling reason i.e. for medical reasons."
Aissa recently returned to Mali to take the brave step of explaining to her father how the life she dreamt of living was cruelly snatched from her through the destructive and devastating consequences of the Female Genital Mutilation she endured. She tells me she wanted to make the visit to protect future generations of her family - to make sure they never ever have to suffer like she has. After many difficult and emotional discussions with her father, he has now promised Aissa that no other girls in her family will ever be mutilated again.

"And do you believe your father's promise?" I ask

 Aissa pauses, then responds slowly: "Yes I do, what other choice do I have, but to have faith in those whom I love and trust the most"?

Siobhan Courtney is a British freelance broadcast journalist and writer. She is a former BBC World News presenter and BBC News journalist who has reported and written for BBC Newsnight.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Liberia's Taylor given 50-year jail sentence

AL Jazeera English

Ruling follows conviction last month of ex-president for his role in Sierra Leone civil war that killed thousands.
Last Modified: 30 May 2012 13:18

Judges at an international war-crimes court have handed a 50-year prison sentence to Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, following his conviction for supporting rebels in Sierra Leone who murdered and mutilated thousands during their country's civil war.
"The trial chamber unanimously sentences you to a single term of imprisonment for 50 years on all counts," Special Court for Sierra Leone Judge Richard Lussick told Taylor at the court based just outside The Hague on Wednesday.
Last month, the tribunal found Taylor guilty on 11 charges of aiding and abetting the rebels who went on a bloody rampage during the decade-long war that ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead.
The 64-year-old American-educated warlord-turned-president became the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II.
Prosecutors had asked judges at the Special Court to impose an 80-year sentence; Taylor's lawyers however urged judges to hand down a sentence that offered him some hope of release before he dies.
Taylor will serve his sentence in a prison in the UK.
He is expected to appeal his convictions and will likely remain in jail in the Hague while the appeals process plays out.
Al Jazeera' Paul Brennan, reporting from The Hague on Wednesday, said the length of Taylor's sentence was crucial to public's perceived the sense of justice.
"The prosecution is demanding that Taylor receive an 80-year term, but the defence argues that would amount to a de-facto life sentence on the 64 year old defendant," our correspondent said before the sentencing.
Brennan said it was highly likely that over the next 14 days, one or other of the legal teams would appeal the sentence, "thus postponing closure of a case which has already run for 6 years".
'Heinous' crimes
Last month, the former Liberian president was found guilty of aiding and abetting the following 11 war crimes:
 Acts of terrorism
 Violence to life, health or physical well being of persons
 Sexual slavery
 Outrages upon personal dignity
 Violence to life, health and physical or mental well being of persons
 Other inhumane acts, a crime against humanity
 Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into the armed forces
"The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting some of the most heinous crimes in human history," Judge Lussick said in handing down the sentence.
"The trial chamber noticed that the effects of these crimes on the families and society as a whole in Sierra Leone was devastating," he added.
Our correspondent said the conviction and sentencing of Taylor was "an important milestone for the International Criminal Court", that will soon begin the trial of Laurent Gbagbo, the former Ivory Coast president, who faces charges of crimes against humanity.
At a sentencing hearing earlier this month, Taylor expressed "deepest sympathy" for the suffering of victims of atrocities in Sierra Leone, but insisted he had acted to help stabilise the West Africa region and claimed he never knowingly assisted in the commission of crimes.
"What I did ... was done with honour," he said. "I was convinced that unless there was peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia would not be able to move forward."
However, judges ruled that Taylor armed and supplied the rebels in full knowledge they would likely use weapons to commit terrible crimes, in exchange for payments of "blood diamonds" often obtained by slave labour.
Prosecutors said there was no reason for leniency, given the extreme nature of the crimes, Taylor's "greed" and misuse of his position of power.
Taylor stepped down and fled into exile in Nigeria after being indicted by the court in 2003. He was finally arrested and sent to the Netherlands in 2006.

Charles Taylor jailed for 50 Years [KTN Kenya TV]

Charles Taylor jailed for 50 Years [KTN Kenya TV]

"We're Committing A War Crime! And It's Clear That's What We're About!"

More Embarrassing Scandals On The Way Canadian Police

Get Married...FUNNY Sheikh Yusuf Estes....

Monday, May 28, 2012

Explosion shakes Kenyan capital

Al Jazeera Africa
At least one person reported dead and 28 others injured after blast strikes building in Nairobi's commercial district.
Last Modified: 28 May 2012 14:14

A blast struck a shopping complex in Nairobi's business district, wounding more than two dozen people, but there was
confusion over whether the explosion was caused by a bomb or electrical fault.

Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere told reporters on Monday it was too early to determine the cause of the blast.

He said blackened wires inside the trading centre indicated a possible electrical fault and ruled out a grenade attack.

Two shopkeepers however, told the Reuters news agencies independently that they saw a man drop a bag inside the trading centre moments before the blast.

"He came into the shop twice, looking at t-shirts. He said he didn't have money so he left. Then he came back," said Irene Wachira.

"(He was) three shops away from where I was. He left a bag and a few moments later we had an explosion. The roof caved in and debris started falling on us," Wachira said. 


Television pictures on Monday showed a fire raging in a badly damaged building in Nairobi's commercial district.
Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste, reporting from Nairobi, said "local TV showed pictures of a burning building with wounded people lying on the ground, possibly dead people".
Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Kenyans would not be cowered by "terrorists", while a spokesman for Kenya Power, the country's sole electricity distributor, said initial investigations had ruled out any electrical malfunction.

There has been a string of attacks in Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa blamed on Somali anti-government fighters and their sympathisers since Kenya sent troops into Somalia in October.
Al Jazeera and agencies


Saturday, May 26, 2012

تحذير من انتشار الحبوب المخدرة بين طلبة المدارس


مساعد مدير مكافحة المخدرات ينصح الأسر بعدم السماح لأبنائهم بالمذاكرة خارج البيت

السبت 05 رجب 1433هـ - 26 مايو 2012م
حذّر خبراء في المملكة العربية السعودية من انتشار الحبوب المخدرة "الكبتاغون" بين طلبة المدارس، والتي ينشَطُ ترويجُها في فترة الاختبارات.
مساعد مدير مكافحة المخدرات عبدالاله الشريف
مساعد مدير مكافحة المخدرات عبدالاله الشريف
وقال عبدالإله الشريف، مساعد مدير مكافحة المخدرات إن المديرية العامة لمكافحة المخدرات تتعاون مع الأجهزة الأمنية والجمارك للحيلولة دون وصول الحبوب المخدرة "الكبتاغون" إلى طلبة المدارس، ولاسيما أن هذه المادة وفقاً لما هو شائع بين الطلاب تعمل على تنشيط الجسم، وسهولة الاستذكار.
وشدّد الشريف في حديث لنشرة الرابعة بـ"العربية" على خطورة هذه المادة، لأنها تؤدي إلى أمراض نفسية، ولها آثار مدمرة على الجسد، وأوضح أن تعاطي هذه المادة وصل إلى 60% بين فئة الشباب.

وعن جهود مديرية مكافحة المخدرات لتوعية السواد الأعظم من الطلبه حول حبة "الكبتاغون"، قال نوجه رسائلنا إلى الأسر عبر وسائل الإعلام، لتوعيتهم بخطورة تناول هذه الحبة.

وأضاف يجب على الأسرة تهيئة المناخ للطلاب، والبعد عن أجواء التوتر والقلق، كما يجب على الأسر منع أبنائهم من الاستذكار خارج البيت، أو مرافقة أصدقاء السوء.

ولفت الشريف إلى أن المديرية العامة للمخدرات تمكنت مؤخراً من ضبط مليون حبة "كبتاغون"، كانت تستهدف المملكة، كما أن مصلحة الجمارك تمكنت من ضبط 25 مليون حبة "كبتاغون" منذ بداية العام.

وتتزامن تلك التحذيرات مع إقبال نحو ثلاثة ملايين طالب وطالبة على أداء الامتحانات النهائية، وسط دعوات بضرورة مراقبة الأبناء للحد من انتشار هذه الظاهرة.

Somali Islamists vow revenge after fall of rebel bastion English

Al-Qaeda-linked Somali militants vowed Saturday to intensify the war against government and African Union troops, despite the fall of their key stronghold of Afgoye, the latest in a string of military losses.

“God willing we will continue the war and we will win the battle without doubt,” said Sheik Abdiaziz Abu Musab, spokesman for the hardline Shebab, a day after AU and Somali troops entered Afgoye, a former strategic rebel base.

The bulk of Shebab fighters left ahead of an advancing column of hundreds of AU and Somali government troops, who launched a long-awaited assault on the town, which controls key roads some 30 kilometers (18 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu.

The loss of Afgoye is another major blow for the insurgents who have been on the backfoot for several months, although Shebab fighters said it was a tactical retreat, and boasted of having “killed many soldiers in the recent fighting.”

“The mujahedeen fighters tactically withdrew from some positions but that does not represent a defeat,” Musab added. “We have already cut their supply routes and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy.”

More than 400,000 people were living in the Afgoye region at the start of the year -- the world’s largest concentration of displaced people -- according to the United Nations.
Impoverished settlements of plastic and rag huts crowd an area that was last year gripped by famine. The hope is that its capture will allow access by aid workers until now banned from helping the people due to draconian orders from the Shebab.

“We don’t know what is next but for now, AU and Somali troops are controlling the the town,” said Afgoye resident Abdirahman Diriye, who reported the area was calm, but that two civilians were killed by unknown gunmen on Friday night.

“If the situation continues to be calm like it is now, life will continue to be normal,” said Ahmed Saney, another resident. “But if attacks start, I think many people will flee Afgoye.”

Sporadic gunfire and occasional artillery shelling was reported early Saturday in the Elasha and Sinka-Dehr districts, between Afgoye town and Mogadishu, with government army commanders saying they had surrounded diehard Shebab fighters.

“The troops are in full control of the whole Afgoye corridor, but there are a few desperate militants stranded near Elasha, and soon they will be eliminated if they fail to surrender,” said Colonel Muktar Mohamed, a Somali military commander.

Somali army officials also rejected the Shebab’s claims of heavy casualties.
Long lines of civilians continued to flee towards Mogadishu despite security restrictions on the roads, witnesses said, with the U.N. refugee agency reporting over 9,000 civilians arriving in the capital.

“There is some gunfire and shelling but not major fighting,” said Hassan Mohamed in the Afgoye area. “The remaining families are moving from the area today even though transport movement is limited.”

Officials hope that the capture of Afgoye will deny the Shebab a base from which to continue its recent spate of guerrilla attacks on the capital.

Many fighters had shifted to the area after pulling out of fixed positions in Mogadishu last August and launching a campaign of suicide and grenade attacks.

Afgoye’s capture will “neutralize the area of operation and preparation” of guerrilla attacks, the U.N. special representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga said Friday, calling its capture a “a significant military breakthrough.”

The Shebab’s withdrawal from Afgoye without fierce resistance follows a pattern of retreat, including a pull-out from positions in Mogadishu last August, and their abandonment of the key city of Baidoa to Ethiopian and Somali troops in February.

However, the fighters have since launched a brutal campaign using guerrilla tactics including suicide, grenade and mortar attacks, and analysts warn they remain a serious threat.

On a separate front, Somali troops were reported to be pushing northwards towards the Shebab-held town of Balad, which lies some 35 kilometers (21 miles) north of Mogadishu.

U.N. observers in Syria visit scene of Houla ‘massacre:’ state media English

A team of U.N. observers visited an area where Syrian government troops killed more than 90 people, including dozens of children, the official SANA news agency reported on Saturday as the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to consider a response to what it called a “massacre” committed by the regime forces.

The U.N. mission chief in Syria Major General Robert Mood condemned the “brutal tragedy” in Houla, where he said 92 bodies, including those of more than 32 children, had been counted.
Mood said he condemns “in the strongest possible terms the brutal tragedy” that took place in Houla, in central Homs, adding that U.N. monitors visited the area and counted 92 bodies, including “more than 32 under the age of 10.”

“Those using violence for their own agendas will create more instability, more unpredictability and may lead country to civil war,” Mood added in remarks to reporters in Damascus.

Britain said Saturday it was consulting urgently with its allies on “a strong international response.”

“We will be calling for an urgent session of the UN Security Council in the coming days,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement after United Nations monitors confirmed reports of the killings in Houla.
Syrian state television aired some of the footage disseminated by activists, calling the bodies victims of a massacre committed by “terrorist” gangs.

The bloodied bodies of children, some with their skulls split open, were shown in footage posted to YouTube purporting to show the victims of the shelling in the central town of Houla on Friday. The sound of wailing filled the room.

A British-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said residents of Houla were fleeing in fear of more shelling.

The reports of the carnage, which could not be confirmed independently, underlined how far Syria is from any negotiated path out of the 14-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

A member of the fragmented exile group that says it speaks for Syria’s political opposition said Assad’s forces had killed “entire families” in Houla in addition to the shelling.

“The Syrian National Council (SNC) urges the U.N. Security Council to call for an emergency meeting ... and to determine the responsibility of the United Nations in the face of such mass killings,” SNC spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani said.

Opposition activists said Syrian forces had opened fire with artillery on Friday after skirmishing with insurgents in Houla, a cluster of villages north of the city of Homs, itself battered by shelling.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius condemned the violence as a “massacre,” and said he wanted to arrange a meeting in Paris of the Friends of Syria, a group that brings together Western and Arab countries keen to remove Assad.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, has blamed the Syrian government for much of the “unacceptable levels of violence and abuses” occurring every day in violation of a U.N.-backed peace plan.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban cited the government’s continuing use of heavy weapons, reports of shelling and “a stepped-up security crackdown by the authorities that has led to massive violations of human rights by government forces and pro-government militias.”

Ban lamented that there has been only “small progress” on implementing the six-point plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan, who is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Wednesday.

Ban called on the government to keep its pledge to immediately stop the violence, pull heavy weapons and troops out of populated areas, allow humanitarian workers to help needy civilians and end human rights abuses.

Tunisian Salafi Islamists riot, clash with police English

Police and witnesses in the northwestern town of Jendouba said hundreds of Salafis - followers of a puritanical interpretation of Islam - began rioting to protest the arrest of four men in connection with previous attacks on alcohol vendors. (Reuters)
Police and witnesses in the northwestern town of Jendouba said hundreds of Salafis - followers of a puritanical interpretation of Islam - began rioting to protest the arrest of four men in connection with previous attacks on alcohol vendors. (Reuters)Hundreds of Salafi Islamists attacked bars and shops and clashed with security forces in a Tunisian town on Saturday in the latest incident to raise religious tensions in the home of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Police and witnesses in the northwestern town of Jendouba said hundreds of Salafis - followers of a puritanical interpretation of Islam - began rioting to protest the arrest of four men in connection with previous attacks on alcohol vendors.

Police responded with tear gas, breaking up the crowd, but clashes had yet to die down, witnesses and police said.

“This morning, four men were arrested in connection with attacks on alcohol vendors in recent days,” Interior Ministry official Lutfi al-Haydari told Reuters.

“So hundreds of Salafis attacked the security base, pelting it with rocks and petrol bombs before they were dispersed by tear gas. They also set fire to a police station and attacked three shops in the town ... they are now in the center of town and are being dealt with.”

The clashes come a week after Salafis fought with alcohol vendors in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, prompting the justice minister to promise they would be punished.

Many Salafi Islamists were in jail or underground before the 2011 uprising that ousted secular strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. But they have since become more assertive.

While Islamists did not play a major role in the revolt, the struggle over the role of religion in government and society has since emerged as the most divisive issue in Tunisian politics.

Islamists disrupt Algeria parliament opening English

The 462-seat house dominated by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) was to elect its new speaker  when Islamist lawmakers disrupted the first session.(File photo)
The 462-seat house dominated by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) was to elect its new speaker when Islamist lawmakers disrupted the first session.(File photo)
Islamist lawmakers disrupted the first session of Algeria’s new parliament Saturday, waving placards condemning alleged fraud in this month’s elections before walking out of the chamber.

The 49 members of the three-party Green Algeria Alliance (AVV), a moderate Islamist coalition, staged their protest immediately after the roll-call of newly-elected deputies.

They were followed out of the chamber by 28 lawmakers from the Political Front for the Safeguard of Democracy, a grouping formed after the results of the May 10 poll were announced, including parties which failed to win seats.

The 462-seat house dominated by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) was to elect its new speaker later in the day.
Condemning “a return to the era of single party rule”, the AVV said in a statement: “We decided to withdraw from the first session of the National Assembly and protest officially against the results of the ballot.”

Lakhdar Benkhelaf of the Islamist Front for Justice and Development, one of the parties in the Political Front for the Safeguard of Democracy, said the boycott of parliament was “a question of principle.”

The AVV, which had confidently predicted victory in the election, alleged fraud after it won fewer than 50 seats.

On Thursday, the constitutional council accepted only 13 of the 167 appeals filed after the poll, yielding minor changes in the breakdown of seats.

The FLN saw its tally reduced to 208 from 221, while Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia’s National Rally for Democracy lost two seats but remains in second spot with 68 lawmakers, forming a comfortable majority with the FLN.

The AVV was deprived of one seat but allocated another three, making its total 49, while the Socialist Forces Front, Algeria’s oldest opposition party that returned to the electoral fray this year after a 10-year boycott, saw its tally rise to 27.

The main beneficiary of the constitutional council’s redistribution was the Workers Party, which was granted seven more seats and with 26, reached the legal threshold to form a parliamentary group.

Opposition parties and other critics argue that the results announced by the interior ministry and confirmed by the constitutional council have little correlation with reality.

Bosnia buries 66 Muslim war victims in Visegard English

A Bosnian Muslim woman cries on the coffin of a relative during a mass funeral for victims killed during 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, whose remains were found in mass graves around the town of Prijedor and Kozarac, 50 km (31 miles) northwest of Banja Luka. (Reuters)
A Bosnian Muslim woman cries on the coffin of a relative during a mass funeral for victims killed during 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, whose remains were found in mass graves around the town of Prijedor and Kozarac, 50 km (31 miles) northwest of Banja Luka. (Reuters)Several thousand people gathered Saturday in Visegrad to attend a collective funeral of 66 Muslims killed in the eastern Bosnian town at the beginning of the 1992-1995 war.

Under light rain, several imams prayed for the dead before the bodies, found in a lake five years after the end of the war, were buried.

“In first months of the conflict, Serb forces killed my son, my husband, my two sisters, my brother and several other relatives, 13 in total,” said Meva Ahmetagic. One of her sisters and brother-in-law were buried on Saturday.

The remains of 66 victims had been found in 2010 during a search of Lake Perucac, into which the Drina river -- marking the frontier between Serbia and Bosnia -- runs.

The search was conducted when water levels had dropped to an historic low due to repairs being carried out on a dam.
“The youngest buried victim is a boy who was three and a half-year old at the time. He was killed together with his mother, whose body unfortunately has not been found yet,” said Hedija Kasapovic, president of an association of families of victims missing from Visegrad.

“My only wish remains to find my son Samir. He was 17 at the time. I cannot even think of dying before finding him,” the 60-year-old woman said, bursting into tears.

Between April and June 1992 the Serb forces killed more than 1,500 civilians in Visegrad and surrounding areas, according to the Bosnian Institute for Missing Persons. Some 600 people are still unaccounted for.

The inter-ethnic war in Bosnia left some 100,000 dead and more than two million refugees and displaced people, almost a half of country’s pre-war population.

مندوب روسيا يهدد بإزالة دولة قطر من الخارطة

أمريكا: آل سعود دجاجة تبيض لنا ذهبا وسنتدخل لحمايتهم

جورج غالاوي يمسح الارض بمتصل سعودي ويفضح آل سعود

أحداث البحرين: جورج غالاوي أكثر عروبة من بعض العرب !

لماذا لا يمتلك الفلسطينيين حقاً في الأرض الموعودة؟

هل وجد الله علي الأرض 15 8 2010 وما ينطق عن الهوى للدكتور زغلول النجار

Thousands flee Somalia's Afgoye

Caliph 'Umar bin Abdul-Aziz

The Memory of Caliph 'Umar bin Abdul-Aziz by his Wife
Abu Yusuf (d. 182 AH / 798 AD)
Taken from the Book of Land Tax

When 'Umar ibn Abd al Aziz died, the learned men came to his wife to express sympathy and say how great a calamity had struck the people of Islam by his death. And they said to her, 'Tell us about him - for the one who knows best about a man is his wife'.
And she said: "Indeed he never used to pray or fast more than the rest of you, but I never saw a servant of God who feared Him more than 'Umar. He devoted his body and his soul to the people. All day he would sit tending to their affairs, and when night came he would sit up while business remained. One evening when he had finished everything, he called for his lamp - from which he used to buy the oil from his own money - and prayed two prostrations. Then he sat back on his folded legs, with his chin in his hands, and the tears ran down from his cheeks, and this didn't stop until dawn, when he rose for a day of fasting.
I said to him, 'Commander of the Believers, was there some matter that troubled you this night?' And he said, 'Yes, I saw how I was occupied while governing the affairs of the community, all its black sheep and its white sheep, and I remembered the stranger, beggared and straying, and the poor and the needy, and the prisoners in captivity, and all like them in the far places of the earth, and I realised that God most high would ask me about all of them, and Muhammad would testify about them, and I feared that I should find no excuse when I was with God, and no defence with Muhammad.'
And even when 'Umar was with me in bed, where a man usually find some pleasure with his wife, if he remembered some affair of God's (people), he would be upset as a bird that had fallen into the water. Then his weeping would rise until I would throw off the blankets in kindness to him. 'By God' he would say, 'How I wish that there was between me and this office the distance of the East from the West!'

Friday, May 25, 2012


Crescent of Rajab 3/4th 1433

Risking everything for music and peace in Somalia

Lixle and Shiine of Waayaha Cusub. Photo by author.
“Shocked shocked! Who is behind this trail of destruction? The extremist rebels are. They galvanize people on the street for their wicked cause. They pretend to be pious but wield machetes…” ~ lyrics from “Yaabka Al Shabab (Refuse the Rebels)” by Waayaha Cusub (New Era)
MANY SAY WHEN YOUR BACK’S AGAINST THE WALL and you feel like the world is against you, that is when you fight the hardest to live and to thrive. Nowhere have I found a more awe-inspiring example of this survival instinct than with the Somali hiphop and RnB collective Waayaha Cusub (New Era). These past months, I’ve been getting to know the group as they plan their journey to lead one of the most ambitious and dangerous concert tours in the world, performing across their troubled home country of Somalia to the newly reunited capital, Mogadishu.
Brewing hybrid new genres that combine hiphop, RnB, and Afrobeat, with realist but hopeful lyrics in Somali, Swahili, and English, Waayaha Cusub are made up mostly of war refugees turned singers now based in Nairobi, Kenya, some of whom have lost everything if not just their country, Somalia. They already tour Africa based out of their own music store in Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood, playing monthly in Nairobi, and then hopping every few months to Djibouti, Jijiga, Kigali, or other nearby cities. If you’re ever in Nairobi, find a driver or guide to Eastleigh and once there ask anyone for the Waayaha Cusub shop and they’ll point you to a yellow arcade where you can discover their videos and cds and maybe even meet one of their alumni in person.
Longtime global music fans might see beyond their African Horn sound to find flavors resembling Wu Tang, Arrested Development, or even Tupac in their music and style. But while so many Western musicians from hiphop to metal to hard rock to punk around the world have banked on their reputations for surviving the streets, here is a group that, more than any other, literally survived a war with music.
Waayaha Cusub & back up band Afro-Simba
“Our concept is to create a waayaha cusub, which means ‘new era,’ for all Somalis,” Shiine says. “People can unite the same way we became brothers. Often people from different regions don’t even know each other, but have animosity towards one another. But we try to cultivate confidence and brotherhood among those who are interested in conflict. We want to enlighten them and truly rescue these people by using our voices and music to convey our message.”
Back in 2008, after extremists encouraged by the radical Somali rebel group Al Shabab murdered several well-known Somali singers, then hunted down and shot Shiine several times, warning him and his group to stop making music, Shiine literally climbed out of the hospital bed writing new songs to persuade young would-be fighters to peacefully resist the rebels.
Other members of the collective, like Somali superstar Digriyo Abdi, have also survived violent attacks and threats. Shiine’s wife, sultry music icon Falis Abdi, with whom he has two sweet kids, also champions this defiance of extremism sung through music, despite the risks. And it has not only won them threats and criticism from radicals, but glowing adoration from fans of their music.
My decision to throw in my fate with Shiine, the band, and their allies, to help them build a coalition and document their journey all the way to Mogadishu, came back in November 2011. After helping filmmaker Travis Beard and his team produce Sound Central, Afghanistan’s first regional rock festival and the world’s first “stealth” music festival in September and October, I had the opportunity to go back to Somalia with my organization, Humanitarian Bazaar, to film some documentary for the aid agency Adeso.
For over a year, I had been wanting to interview, if not produce a project with, Waayaha Cusub after reading about them in the press. Like my other work producing creative stories and projects on how people survive war, disaster, and the pursuit of peace, a relationship with them could, I hoped, turn into something not just full of cool music, but also more honestly humanitarian than most other music for peace projects, because they were themselves local musicians defying violent threats to woo would-be fighters away from the gun.
Through a Somali journalist friend, I finally arranged to meet the band in downtown Nairobi after I’d finished the latest cross-country trip in northern Somalia. Although I was exhausted, I had to admit that traveling in Somalia was not all gloom and doom, and rumor had it that government forces had a good chance to reunite Mogadishu, which they did the following month.
Shiine met me at a European cafe and, without a word, led me down a hallway to another hallway and then down some stairs into the basement of a building. Where was he taking me? The door opened up into a rehearsal space filled with Waayaha Cusub singers Digriyo Abdi, Lixle Muhadin, Burhan Ahmed Yare, and their Kenyan collaborating band, Afro-Simba. Without even saying hello, the band launched into a series of songs they were already planning to rehearse, top among them their anthem “Kaca Kaca Kaca Wada Kaca.” It rings the message of “Stand Up for Your Rights!”
Documentary teaser
Once I established that I had worked in Somalia, knew a few people in common, and had been part of the Afghan rock festival, the singers invited me to walk to a Somali restaurant where we shared a group platter of spaghetti with goat sauce. No forks, just hands. Then at coffee at the Regency Hotel, where all the really meaningful cultural relationships are made among Somali expats, we got to talking about their plans to make a second tour to Somalia, but with more dates and a climactic, historic concert in the capital.
Given that extremist rebels had banned music in their part of the country and then hunted musicians including Shiine, how would they put on a concert safely? With the national theater being rebuilt but still hit by suicide bombers, what venue could be secured to keep the crowd safe? Shiine and his allies had answers, and backup options. Safety would be number one. But they were absolutely sure that people in Mogadishu, including the mayor himself, wanted — demanded — that they come to perform.
Who else would perform on such a tour? Would it include celebrity artists? Over the next months, Waayaha Cusub, their allies, and I reached out to their former members like Dalmar Yare, other well-known singers like Aar Manta (London), Farxiya Habaryare (Minneapolis), and Abdi Phenomenal (Minneapolis), songwriter / producer Salah Donyale of Somali Public Radio, event producer Abbas Hirad of Kilimanjaro Events, and Waayaha Cusub’s original tour manager, Jama Abshir of Radio Daljir.
Pretty soon, allies across the Somali diaspora were on board, and it was just a matter of logistics in planning the core series of events. Bigger artists would be invited as soon as the foundation was forged. The date for the tour was set for early September.
That first night I met Shiine and his fellow singers, I discovered a rare passion of cause. I had never seen anything like it in any other band. This wasn’t just a family of pop icons flashing signs and raking in cash. They were actually a rarely paid, often threatened collection of friends, bonded through collective trauma and promising to each other to sacrifice everything to help their people re-imagine what a peaceful Somalia will be like. 
Follow the Live from Mogadishu project on Facebook or Twitter and pay a visit to the home site of Waayaha Cusub.
[Thanks to James Quest for video support, Abbas Hirad for translating lyrics and quote, and many others thanked in the video and on our website.]