Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
Syria agrees to an Arab League peace plan set to be disclosed today, Foreign Policy writes:
In reports released by Syrian state television, President Bashar al-Assad’s government has accepted a roadmap presented by the Arab League on Sunday to end violence. However, the Arab League has yet to receive an official response to the proposal, saying Syrian officials have claimed they are waiting for a document on the situation in Syria. The Arab League has a meeting scheduled for today, and expects to receive a reply from Syria, which it said it would announce at the headquarters in Cairo. A Lebanese official with ties to Assad’s regime said Syria presented its own proposal to the Arab League calling for “the opposition to drop weapons, the Arab states to end their funding for the weapons and the opposition, and an end to the media campaign against Syria.” Syrian opposition groups remain skeptical, however, insisting to see the agreement that they are concerned “helps the Syrian regime to remain in power while the demands of the people are clear in terms of toppling the regime.”
Accepting Arab League mediation is a smart move by Assad, if true. It will buy time and placed the ball for dialogue in the opposition court. If the opposition refuse to engage in political dialogue – as they have stated they will do – Assad will be able to shift blame for the lack of compromise toward the opposition. The international community must play along because both NATO and the US have stated that they will not intervene in Syria militarily. Even if Assad is using the Arab League mediation effort to win time for his effort to suppress the opposition, the Arab League will take a more forward role. If dialogue fails, as everyone seems to expect, the Arab League will have to take concrete steps to isolate and condemn Syria. The Syria opposition and Western leaders will hope that at the end of the day this will place greater pressure on China, and perhaps even Russia, to condemn Syria in the UN. The West and possibly Turkey will be positioned then to tighten sanctions further and contemplate the military involvement that all disavow today.
It has been a bloody week in Syria.
This Tuesday – A prominent Sunni businessman, Muhammad Awais (أقدم مسلحون مجهولون يوم الثلاثاء على قتل الصناعي محمد الويس بالقرب من مدينة سراقب )was assassinated outside of his factory on the outskirts of Aleppo (processed food). His brother and three others were also shot with him.
This micro-bus full of Alawi civilians were killed today in Homs. A friend in Homs said that 11 were killed with axes. There were protests in Al-Zahara afterwards, an Alawi neighborhood in Homs.
Opposition activists said at least 21 people were killed by government troops over the weekend, including at least 11 who died when Syrian forces pounded the western city of Homs with tanks, sustaining fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Four people were killed in Hama and one each in Hasaka, Daraa, Idlib, Keseh, Zabadany and Deir Ezzor, according to the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) of Syria, an opposition group that organizes and documents protests in Syria. Government forces killed six people they described as terrorists Saturday, and arrested 20, the SANA reported Sunday. SANA said four members of the security forces had been killed in the clashes.
Andrew Gilligan, of the Telegraph reports that the Opposition is beginning to kill as many Syrians as the Army.
“the death toll among the security forces is now starting to surpass that of the protesters. … Last weekend, across the country, at least 35 members of the army and police died. As the regime reaps what it has sown, what’s happening in this part of Syria looks increasingly like armed conflict.”
The Tunisian Annahda Leadership kicked out the Syrian ambassador and recognized the SNC.
Coordinating Committees in Syria – Who are the real leaders of the revolution and how Islamist are they? According to one friend who has spent time with a number of tansiqiyat leaders:
The tansiqiyat are nor one group of people. They are probably more than 500 groups who do not share many things other than hating the regime. Some of them are not Muslims, many are not religious at all, some drink alcohol and didn’t fast in Ramadan.
The tansiqiyat in villages and suburbs are mostly conservative and some are islamist. those in the city are more politically aware and secular. I met some in the cities who are young engineers, doctors, bankers etc. all are very tech-savvy.
The thing is that the tech-savvy well-prepared Ikhwan and FB revolution page ( and later SNC members ) are well connected with the tansiqiyat since day one. They are the central command for many isolated, lost and clueless tansiqiyat. So they fell under their charm as the only saviors!
This is unfortunate as the internal opposition is only in control of smaller number of tansiqiyat as it is more dangerous and easier to get caught than communicating with people through skype under the safety of TOR. So the poor tansiqyat were thrown to the lap of the islamists and the SNC. it’s not who they are it’s who they were pushed to be.
Turkey is hardening it line toward Syria. It has signaled possible support for a buffer zone to protect Syrian civilians if Damascus continues its crackdown on democracy protests, as tensions rise between the two former strategic partners. The financial Times reports that Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, told the FT that Ankara was preparing targeted sanctions against Damascus and left the door open for more drastic steps at a later date, such as a buffer zone or a no fly-zone on Syrian territory.
Syrian Colonel Says He Leads Armed Rebellion: L.A. Times, 2011-11-02
In the interview, Col. Assad declined to say whether his forces were conducting cross-border operations from Turkey. He appealed to the international community to impose a “no fly” zone similar to what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization enforced over Libya. He also called for a “buffer zone” in Syria that would provide protection for fleeing civilians — and create a haven for his forces.
Reporting from Antakya, Turkey, and Beirut— From his heavily guarded enclave in Turkey, a leading Syrian defector says he is heading an armed rebellion against the regime of President Bashar Assad. The brutality of the regime in Damascus left him …
Nov. 2 (Bloomberg) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Syria is suffering from “totalitarian” political structures. Erdogan, speaking today in Berlin at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said he cannot accept what’s happening in Syria…. Noting that Syria and Turkey share a 910-kilometer border and have a common destiny, he underlined the importance of unity and order in Syria, saying Turkey would be hurt if Syria’s national unity and territorial integrity were harmed.
According to Al-Qabas daily, the Arab League ministerial delegation to Damascus warned Assad that failure to resolve the crisis within an Arab fold would mean “internationalizing” the issue…. “This would mean Syria should expect a foreign intervention and a painful international blockade on the economy and other aspects,” it added.
Gulf State Ministers make Demand that Syria Introduce Radical Reforms and Democracy in exchange for Lifting Sanctions and an End to Demonization Campaign against Syria – Monday, October 31, 2011: Elections
أنباء شبه مؤكدة من مصادرنا في الدوحة مقربة من الوفد السوري بقيادة رئيس الدبلوماسية السورية الأستاذ وليد المعلم, افادت هذه الأنباء عن رفض القيادة السورية لورقة العمل التي طرحت في اللقاء مع اللجنة الوزارية العربية, وهنالك كلام حول أن الوفد السوري تقدم بورقة بديلة تحتوي على جملة من النقاط في مقدمتها, إيقاف الحرب الإعلامية ضد سورية, ومنع تمويل وتهريب السلاح عبر الحدود, ورفع العقوبات الظالمة على الدولة السورية. مقابل جملة من الإصلاحات الجذرية والسريعة وأولها إجراء انتخابات لتشكيل جمعية وطنية سورية لوضع دستور جديد للبلاد وإقامة انتخابات رئاسية تعددية. وهذا بانتظار تأكيد ذلك من مصادرنا الأخرى في الدوحة.
Russia Opposes Isolating Syria, Interfax Reports, Cites Lavrov, 2011-11-01, by Paul Abelsky
Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) — Russia is opposed to isolating Syria, Interfax reported, citing Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
NATO Chief Rules Out No-fly Zone For Syria, 2011-10-31
TRIPOLI (AFP)–NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen ruled out the possibility of a no-fly zone for Syria, in remarks to an AFP correspondent as he travelled Monday to Tripoli to mark the end of the alliance’s air war in Libya. “It’s totally ruled out. We have no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria,” Rasmussen said when asked if there was a possibility NATO would now spearhead a no-fly zone in Syria….
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told reporters after the meeting that Assad risks forcing an international intervention if he allows the violence to continue.
Syria’s Assad on media offensive to defy critics By Nehal El-Sherif, DPA
….US-led consultations are secretly taking place, in renewed international efforts to bring back the Syrian file to the United Nations Security Council. China and Russia vetoed a UN resolution this month critical of al-Assad’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, which would have targeted his government with further sanctions. Syrian opposition figure Fawaz Zakri said that the impetus to taking the Syria file back to the Security Council came after comments by China’s special envoy to the Middle East. Wu Sike, who had visited Damascus last week, said that the “dangerous situation in Syria cannot continue,” adding that “Syria must show some flexibility to help the Arab League implement its proposal.” “These statements have encouraged the world again to make a decision because it means a change in the Chinese position,” said Zakri, who is based in Turkey…..
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan Calls Syrian Protests ’Glorious’
Sen. Toomey Co-Sponsors Syria Sanctions Act Of 2011, 2011-11-01. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA) News Release
October 31, 2011 (Federal Information & News Dispatch) — WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) co-sponsored the bipartisan Syria Sanctions Act (S. 1472), directing the president to implement stronger sanctions on Syria. The increased pressure on Syrian President Bashar al- Assad will send an important message that his tyrannical and violent actions
This week, the New York Times reported that Turkey has begun to actively support the Free Syrian Army by providing shelter in a camp guarded by the Turkish military. From the Times: Turkey is hosting an armed opposition group waging an insurgency …
Dan Byman, Peter Chalk, et al also identified sanctuary as the most important type of support an insurgent group can receive, as it allows rebels to move and organize freely, to import weapons, and to train for operations. However, they write:
Foreign assistance in the form of international sanctuaries, while often extremely useful to guerrillas, can also have a negative impact. In moving abroad, insurgents risk cutting themselves off from their base of popular support. Resting and recuperating across a border, while providing obvious benefits, also carries the danger of operational isolation from potentially lucrative political and military targets.
Michel Kilo’s view of Assad in an interview:
” يجب أن نرى الأمر ضمن سياق كلي .. علينا أن نسعى إلى حل سياسي يأخذنا جميع إلى تسوية تاريخية و إلى الديمقراطية .. فإذا كان بشار الأسد يؤيد هذا الحل فنحن سنحتفظ ببشار الاسد إن كان ذلك بايدينا .. و اذا كان لا يريد ذلك فاعتقد أنه عليه ان يذهب
Hundreds of students clashed today in Kalamoon university (loyalists vs. Opposition) after a day of similar debate which took place in the university. These are the sons and daughters of the richest people in syria, studying at an expensive university (by SYRian standards). If this is the case among the “elite” then no wonder people are killing each other in the villages. The university is closed for the rest of the week. Can someone check with Sami Mubayed on what really happened?
Assad: challenge Syria at your peril,
By Andrew Gilligan, in Damascus, 29 Oct 2011, Telegraph
Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has warned that Western action against his country would cause an “earthquake” that would “burn the whole region”. President Assad admitted that ‘many mistakes’ had been made by his forces in the early part of the uprising, but insisted that only terrorists’ were now being targeted
In his first interview with a Western journalist since Syria’s seven-month uprising began, President Assad told The Sunday Telegraph that intervention against his regime could cause “another Afghanistan”.
Western countries “are going to ratchet up the pressure, definitely,” he said. “But Syria is different in every respect from Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen. The history is different. The politics is different.
“Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake … Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans?
“Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is to divide the whole region.”
Thousands of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets in two Syrian cities on Friday to demand the imposition of a Libyan-style no-fly zone over the country. According to the United Nations, at least 3,000 civilians, including 187 children, have been killed during protests against the regime. Thousands more have been imprisoned. The government says 1,200 members of the security forces have also died.
President Assad admitted that “many mistakes” had been made by his forces in the early part of the uprising, but insisted that only “terrorists” were now being targeted.
“We have very few police, only the army, who are trained to take on al-Qaeda,” he said. “If you sent in your army to the streets, the same thing would happen. Now, we are only fighting terrorists. That’s why the fighting is becoming much less.”
On Friday alone, however, opposition groups claimed that 40 people were killed by the regime, and government troops shelled a district of Homs, a centre of opposition.
Seventeen soldiers also died in overnight clashes with suspected army deserters in the city, which foreign journalists are forbidden to enter.
Syria was condemned yesterday by Arab League foreign ministers for its “continued killings of civilians”.
The number of protesters appeared to fall earlier this month, but has increased again after the death of Col Gaddafi gave opposition groups new heart. A general strike affected much of the southern part of the country.
President Assad insisted that he had responded differently to the Arab Spring than other, deposed Arab leaders. “We didn’t go down the road of stubborn government,” he said. “Six days after [the protests began] I commenced reform. People were sceptical that the reforms were an opiate for the people, but when we started announcing the reforms, the problems started decreasing e_SLps This is when the tide started to turn. This is when people started supporting the government.”
Some Damascus-based opposition leaders say the reforms, which include laws ostensibly allowing demonstrations and political parties, are a start, but not enough. However, the leaders of the main protests say they are meaningless and President Assad must go.
“The problem with the government is that their dialogue is shallow and just a tool to gain time,” said Kadri Jamil, of Kassioun, a Damascus-based opposition group. “They have to act to begin real dialogue because the security solution has failed. We have one to two months before we pass the point of no return.”
One Homs-based opposition activist said: “Killing people is not an act of reform. We aren’t calling for economic or even political reform under Assad, but for the departure of this bloodstained president and free elections.”
President Assad said: “The pace of reform is not too slow. The vision needs to be mature. It would take only 15 seconds to sign a law, but if it doesn’t fit your society, you’ll have division … It’s a very complicated society.”
He described the uprising as a “struggle between Islamism and pan-Arabism [secularism], adding: “We’ve been fighting the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1950s and we are still fighting with them.”
In interviews in Damascus, some without government minders, secular Syrians and members of the country’s substantial Christian and Alawite minorities said they supported the Assad regime for fear of their positions under a new government. Those attending a large demonstration in support of the regime last Wednesday did not appear to be coerced, according to independent observers.
However, interviews, even some with minders present, revealed widespread and vocal discontent over corruption and living standards.
CNN: Syria sets out to draft new constitution, 2011-10-30
Syrians aiming to write a new constitution for the strife-torn country will meet for the first time on Monday, the state news agency reported Sunday, after a weekend of intense violence. Syria sets out to draft new constitution Sun, 30 Oct 2011 08 …
Guardian (GB): Is Syria next for Nato?, 2011-11-02, Robert Dreyfuss
Now that Nato is closing up shop in Libya, will it turn to Syria? Right now, the answer is no. But if the fragmented Syrian opposition – bolstered by Turkey, a member of Nato, which is turning increasingly against the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad – manages to set up a Benghazi-like enclave either inside Syria or across the border in Turkey, anything goes. To be sure, there are lots of differences between Libya and Syria.
Syria Mining Lebanon Border, 2011-11-01, By BASSEM MROUE
Serhaniyeh, Lebanon (AP) — Syria is planting landmines along parts of the country’s border with Lebanon as refugees stream out of the country …. A Syrian official familiar with government strategy claimed the mines are meant to prevent arms smuggling into Syria.
AP Exclusive: New Signs of Syria-Pakistan Nuke Tie, 2011-11-01, By DESMOND BUTLER and GEORGE JAHN
Washington (AP) — U.N. investigators have identified a previously unknown complex in Syria that bolsters suspicions that the Syrian government worked with A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, to acquire technology that could make nuclear arms. The buildings in northwest Syria closely match the design of a uranium enrichment plant provided to Libya when Moammar Gadhafi was trying to build nuclear weapons under Khan’s guidance, officials told The Associated Press. The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency also has obtained correspondence between Khan and a Syrian government official, Muhidin Issa, who proposed scientific cooperation and a visit to Khan’s laboratories following Pakistan’s successful nuclear test in 1998.
The complex, in the city of Al-Hasakah, now appears to be a cotton-spinning plant, and investigators have found no sign that it was ever used for nuclear production. But given that Israeli warplanes destroyed a suspected plutonium production reactor in Syria in 2007, the unlikely coincidence in design suggests Syria may have been pursuing two routes to an atomic bomb: uranium as well as plutonium. Details of the Syria-Khan connection were provided to the AP by a senior diplomat with knowledge of IAEA investigations and a former U.N. investigator.
Syria’s government confident, but country polarized, By Liz Sly, in Wash Post: October 28
DAMASCUS, SYRIA — President Bashar al-Assad’s government is confident that it has weathered the worst of the turmoil sweeping Syria and will soon be able to overcome any remaining challenges to its survival.
Whether that confidence is justified — and how broadly it is shared — is in question. Even as the government boasts that it is prevailing over the eight-month-old uprising, the economy is imploding, protests persist in many parts of the country and an armed rebellion is stirring…..
The failure of the Syrian opposition to present a united front and articulate a clear vision of what a post-Assad future would look like is also keeping silent the majority of Syrians, who have neither joined the protests nor support the government, Western diplomats say….
Ahmad is not one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s cronies. But since August, when the U.S. imposed its most recent sanctions on Syria — which Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said targeted “Assad and dozens of his cronies” in the wake … Under the order signed by President Obama, an American working in Syria is deemed an exported service and in violation of the sanctions. The livelihoods of some have been devastated….. He said one Syrian American doctor he knows had left Syria rather than risk getting into trouble for treating patients. Others, faced with having to end their business interests and radically alter their lives in Syria, have decided to stay anyway. Still others are holding out hope that the sanctions won’t be enforced on American citizens not connected to the regime.
Austrian Airlines will cancel all of its flights from and to Syria as of 1 December.
Bouthaina Shaaban top adviser to the president, admits that corruption remains a serious problem in Syria. “Rami Makhlouf isn’t the only one who made money in the past period,” she says in an interview at the presidential palace. “There are many people, big capitalists, who made a lot of money.” But, she argues, the government has taken steps to reform. “This crisis has made us 1,000 more times more aware,” Ms. Shaaban says….
Syrian opposition struggles to unite By Zeina Karam
Associated Press / October 28, 2011
The council’s leadership — currently headed by Burhan Ghalioun, a professor at the Sorbonne in Paris — will rotate every three months, reflecting the absence of a single popular leader who stands out among the country’s disparate groups.
The council’s formation is a remarkable achievement given Syria’s complex sectarian and ethnic makeup.
But the group has yet to gain the recognition of any countries other than Libya and faces criticism from opposition groups that declined to join, accusing it of trying to monopolize the movement.
Haitham al-Maleh, an 80-year-old lawyer who was imprisoned for years for his political activism, also accused the SNC of sidelining major figures and said the group never consulted him.
“We have a 50-year history of struggle against this regime, while nobody had heard of these people before,” he said of the SNC leaders.
Bassma Kodmani, another Paris-based academic and a spokeswoman for the council, rejected the accusations and said the SNC was open for all Syrians. “We did not exclude anybody,” she said, insisting the council represented the majority of Syrian society.
An attempt in July to hold a dual meeting in Damascus and Istanbul was canceled when security forces besieged the conference location in Damascus a day before it was scheduled to begin and shot dead 14 protesters in the area.
Foreign leaders have welcomed the formation of the SNC, but say the opposition needs more work to become an effective political force.
“The opposition must still improve its organizational and outreach efforts,” said U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who returned to Washington this week over security concerns.
He said developing consensus around a specific political and economic plan would help persuade Sunni business elites and other Syrians still on the fence to defect from the regime.
“There is a huge need for the council to explain what exactly they will bring to Syria,” Ford said during an address this month to The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
A key sticking point is whether to ask for foreign intervention like the NATO airstrikes that helped oust former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
The SNC’s founding statement rejects foreign intervention, but its members are calling for “international protection for civilians,” an ambiguous statement that leaves the door open for interpretation. The NATO action in Libya was carried out under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians but ultimately proved key to the rebel victory that led to Gadhafi’s death.
Haytham Manna, a Paris-based dissident who heads the external branch of a smaller rival group called the National Committee for Democratic Change, objects to any possibility of military intervention.
“The Libyan experience is a painful one,” he said. “There has been so much destruction and I don’t wish for my country anything like that.”
Manna, whose brother was killed by Syrian security forces in the southern town of Daraa during a funeral in August, says the SNC had no right to say they represented Syria.
“Having one representative is dangerous and reminds us of the one-party rule which we have been fighting for decades,” he said.
Another key point of contention is whether to negotiate with the regime. Some dissidents point to dialogue as one of the only ways out, but others reject the idea as long as the government keeps up its deadly military assault on protesters.
Extract from an interview with Burhan Gallioun, leader of the Syrian National Council, sent out by a Kurdish group:
In answer to a question about the fear of the Kurds and Arabisation in Syria, and institutional racial discrimination suffered by the Kurds since 1958 when the name of the county changed to the United Arab Republic:
The interviewer asked:How can you make a Kurd feel assured about his future in Syria,when you are hoisting a state emblem of the new Syrian state which is Arabised, I mean, from the beginning he is excluded, therefore the conflict between the poles of the opposition is not just about the goal of toppling of the regime, but there are fundamental significant differences between the poles of the opposition?
Gallioun: No, no, there was exaggeration by some of the Kurdish brothers who raised the idea that it should be the Syrian Republic rather than the Syrian Arab Republic, but … of course, Syria is an Arab state .. there is no discussion about this .. there is no debate that Syria is an Arab country because the majority of the population are Arabs … because participation in the history, culture and geography does not mean denying the existence of groups and clusters of other nations, and speaking other languages, just as we say France is France, but of course there are Muslims and immigrants from Asian countries. The discussion is not about the identity for Syria. Kurds … you cannot tell the Syrian Arabs that you are not Arabs … is that OK? Here is the wall.
Interviewer: Is this not a condition of the civil state?
Gallioun: No, no there are no conditions ……….. the media created this story that there is deep disagreement about the identity of Syria, the identity of Syria is clear …………
The Kurdish people are very upset about the comments made above. They are indigenous to the area, not immigrants, and they are a separate nation from the Arabs. The SNC leader has the same view of Kurds as the current regime in Syria.
Unreported World this time from Syria – Channel 4 documentary film – 21.10.2011
Austria Money-Printers Expensed Viagra, Bribed Syria: Standard, 2011-10-28 , By Boris Groendahl
Oct. 28 (Bloomberg) — Managers of Austrian money-printer Oesterreichische Banknoten- und Sicherheitsdruck GmbH may havepaid bribes to get orders from Syria and and may have expensed items including Viagra, newspaper Der Standard reported, citing an internal review of the Austrian central bank, OeBS’s owner. The auditors found “unusual” expenses of as much as 600,000 euros, which included charges claimed for furniture in a Romanian apartment as well as for Pfizer Inc.’s impotence drug, the Vienna-based daily said. They also found payments of as much as 14 million euros ($20 million) made to win contracts to print Syrian bank notes, the paper reported.
14 million euro is a large bribe for a “printing” contract. Adeeb Mayale confirms that the printing contract was worth 29 million euro but he does not say whether this 29 million euro was yearly payment or one off. The Austrian prosecutors will have more to say on this perhaps حاكم مصرف سورية المركزي ينفي تهم دفع رشاوى لدار طباعة العملة النمساوية
Ambassador Pulled from Syria: Robert Ford was brought back to Washington due to credible threats against his safety in Syria, though he has not formally been recalled. A report released by Amnesty International alleged that hospitals have become “instruments of repression.” David Schenker argued that the administration should “focus on expediting the end of the regime,” and Elliott Abrams noted that the goal of “U.S. policy should be to end the violence and lay the bases for a stable democratic system.” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe announced that Assad’s regime “will almost certainly fall under the pressure of protests and sanctions.” Jeffrey White said the risks of not intervening in Syria are great. Jim Brann asserted that the West has been reticent to intervene because ”Syria is seen as being much more problematic [than Libya].” Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford met with Hillary Clinton to update her on the situation in Syria; Victoria Nuland said, “the violence needs to end…that the arrest and the torture and the brutality needs to come to an end.”
Juan Cole writes of Tunisia
Tunisia’s election outcome gives 41% to the Muslim fundamentalist party Al-Nahda. One of the other two winners is the Rally for the Republic– of long-time political exile Moncef al-Marzouqi. Then the third major party is al-Takattul or the Democratic Forum for Labor and Freedoms, headed by Mustapha Ben Jaafar.The latter two mentioned are secular, and al-Nahda needs these secular allies to run the government, not to mention achieve a majority. The al-Nahda fundamentalist party, moreover, told me last June that they want a pluralist system that makes a place for believing Muslims, but that they will not dictatorially impose policies on one another. I asked about liquor and they admitted that they would try to discourage drinking. But they said they would do so by increasing taxes on alcohol, just as governments have done with smoking.If the al-Nahda semi-victory (they did not get the majority and so did not ‘win’ in the American sense) contributes to an opening up of Tunisia to a variety of styles of life, if it makes Tunisia more multi-cultural, then that would be all to the good. There is an admitted danger that al-Nahda will try to limit freedom of speech. Tunisia is now the only Arab country without print censorship, and you wonder if that will last. Marzouqi and al-Takattul bear a special responsibility for keeping Tunisia free.
The murder brigades of Misrata
Gadhafi’s demise was just a part of a vast revenge killing spree
By Daniel Wlliams
Libyan rebels secure prisoners in the back of a pick-up truck. The graffiti on the truck, in Arabic, reads, “Misrata steadfastness.” (Credit: AP)
MISRATA, Libya — If anyone is surprised by the apparent killing of Moammar Gadhafi while in the custody of militia members from the town of Misrata, they shouldn’t be.
More than 100 militia brigades from Misrata have been operating outside of any official military and civilian command since Tripoli fell in August. Members of these militias have engaged in torture, pursued suspected enemies far and wide, detained them and shot them in detention, Human Rights Watch has found. Members of these brigades have stated that the entire displaced population of one town, Tawergha, which they believe largely supported Gadhafi avidly, cannot return home.
As the war in Libya comes to an end, the pressing need for accountability and reconciliation is clear. The actions of the Misrata brigades are a gauge of how difficult that will be, and Misrata is not alone in its call for vengeance. In the far west, anti-Gadhafi militias from the Nafusa Mountains have looted and burned homes and schools of tribes that supported the deposed dictator. Anti-Gadhafi militias from Zuwara have looted property as they demanded compensation for damage they suffered during the war.
The apparent execution of 53 pro-Gadhafi supporters in a hotel in Sirte apparently under control of Misrata fighters is a bad omen. ….
“Everything in Colonel Qaddafi’s Libya was styled “revolutionary.” When the rebels overthrew his government this year, they found it difficult to separate the names of their own revolutionary councils from the ones they were overthrowing.”
Portraits of a People, by Amal Hanano at Jadiliyya -Portrait of a Leader: Burhan Ghalioun
One late summer day in 2001, Burhan Ghalioun was sitting in Damascus with Riad Seif, discussing the political climate in Syria and the heavy cloud of repression and despair that once again hovered over the country just over one year into Bashar al-Assad’s presidency. Ghalioun asked his friend, “Why did you close the forums?” referring to the political and cultural “salons” that had thrived in Damascus and across Syria that spring, representing a new era of civility under the insecure, and in many people’s eyes, illegitimate leader. Seif replied that the regime had threatened the participants with plans to issue a law making the forums illegal. Ghalioun chided, “You made a mistake. You should have let them come and close the forums themselves.” Seif told his friend he was willing to reopen his Forum for National Dialogue if Ghalioun would give the first lecture. Ghalioun agreed. The Sorbonne professor of political sociology returned to France, prepared the lecture, and within a few weeks he came back to Syria. He remembers, “It was the first ticket I bought out of my own pocket to give a lecture. On September 5th, I gave my lecture and stayed a week. Because of that lecture, ten people who attended were arrested, Riad included.” They were all sentenced between two and ten years in prison; the forum was shut down. And that was the end of the Damascus Spring. Read more