Sunday, 1 May 2016

Turkey explosion: Gaziantep police station hit by blast

  • 1 minute ago
  • From the sectionEurope
Breaking News image
An explosion has struck the main police station in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, reports in Turkey say.
The blast hit at about 09:30 local time (06:30 GMT), and injured at least nine people, including six police officers, reports say.
CNN Turk reported that the blast was heard several kilometres away.
A police station in the city, which is close to the Syrian border, was also struck by a deadly explosion in February 2012.

Egypt : Islands agreement contested

A number of political forces are trying to annul the controversial Egyptian-Saudi maritime borders demarcation agreement, writes Mona El-Nahhas

Taking part in the 25 April demonstrations against the ceding of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia is just one of several steps due to be taken by members of the Popular Campaign to Protect Land, a group set up to contest the agreement to cede the islands.

On 25 April, the 34th anniversary of the Sinai liberation, campaign members organised a protest in Mesaha Square in Dokki to press for the dropping of the borders demarcation agreement, by which Egypt handed the two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

The day before, on 24 April, it was planned that the protests would be organised at the downtown headquarters of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, at the Al-Bohooth metro station and in Qasr Al-Aini Street, near the Doctors Syndicate.

However, on the day of the protests, campaign members decided to change the demonstration locations, which had been cordoned off by the security forces from the early hours of the morning.

Although the demonstrators were keen to keep the demonstrations peaceful, they were soon dispersed, with the security forces using tear gas. Dozens of journalists and activists who took part in the protests were arrested and some political parties were placed under a security blockade.

In a statement issued on Monday, the campaign condemned the security forces for the way they dealt with the protesters and called upon the authorities to immediately release all detainees.

“Campaign members will discuss means of pressuring the regime into releasing the detainees. Members will also define the steps they will take to achieve the campaign’s original target, namely the return of the Tiran and Sanafir islands,” the statement said.

On 22 April, 16 liberal and leftist political parties and movements, together with 163 public figures of different political affiliations, signed the foundational statement of the “Egypt is not for Sale” campaign launched by the movement.

The aim is to halt the handing over of the two islands to Saudi Arabia, as signatories to the statement made clear.

“Members of the campaign are keen to avoid any deviation from demands defined in advance,” Medhat Al-Zahed, acting chairman of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, told the Al-Nahar Al-Youm satellite channel.

Al-Zahed denied the possibility of coordinating with the banned Muslim Brotherhood group or any other sectarian group. “We are not going to allow sectarian or other projects to mix with our target, which is restoring the two islands to Egypt,” Al-Zahed said. He added that any action campaign members take will be directed against the agreement, not President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

On 24 April, campaign members announced that they stand against any joint protests with the Brotherhood. “We are not part of any calls or stances adopted by the Muslim Brotherhood regarding the 25 April protests, which we are keen to emphasise are peaceful,” they said in a statement.

But the annulment of the demarcation agreement, which was originally the sole target of the campaign, has now been joined by another issue.

In the wake of the security campaign targeting dozens of activists, journalists and university students in several governorates since last Thursday, the immediate release of these detainees is viewed as another task facing campaign members.

Charges of spreading false news and attempting to topple the regime have been levelled against the detainees. Another large group of young people was arrested two weeks ago while taking part in the 15 April protests organised five days after the signing of the agreement.

The 15 April detainees face charges of demonstrating without a licence from the Interior Ministry, a procedure stipulated in Egypt’s controversial protest law. On his Facebook account, former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi wrote on 23 April, “Release Egypt’s youth and students. Enough arrests. Enough jail. Enough injustice.”

Campaign lawyers coordinating with rights lawyers and committees defending the protestors have been following up cases of those arrested since the signing of the agreement.

“The popular campaign will form a defence council to attend interviews with the detainees,” rights lawyer and campaign member Gamal Eid told Al-Ahram Weekly. “We hope the general prosecution will act impartially during the investigations and exclude itself from any ongoing political conflict,” he added.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the campaign condemned the detentions, viewing such measures as “an attempt to foil the 25 April protests by terrorising whoever opposes the stance adopted by the regime” regarding the islands.

The campaign warned that the arrest of dozens of young people from cafes, universities and houses could fuel anger “among people wanting to defend their land”. It also warned of pro-regime calls to mobilise counter-protests, viewing these as risking “serious confrontations” between the two sides.

“It is the responsibility of the presidency and all state bodies to protect the 25 April protests and not to cause harm to any of the participants,” the campaign said in a statement issued on Saturday.

It said the protests are only the beginning of ongoing actions. “We will continue our efforts until we manage to get the agreement dropped,” journalist Khaled Al-Balshi, a campaign member, told the Weekly.

The detentions have only “increased the enthusiasm of the youth who have decided to continue the battle for freedom, dignity and land rights,” he said.

On 22 April, the campaign defined plans to achieve its target. Campaign members say they will organise meetings across Egypt to inform the public and prove Egypt’s ownership of the islands. Headquarters of the political parties participating in the campaign will be open to those willing to join, and committees will be formed to collect signatures of citizens who support cancellation of the agreement.

A petition will be submitted to the House of Representatives, which is due to discuss the agreement. Citizen appeals contesting the constitutionality of the agreement will also be presented before the Supreme Constitutional Court.

Dozens of lawsuits calling for annulling the agreement are being processed, and the first hearings are scheduled for 17 May.

Kuwait :- Serious Crimes of the Week

Officers arrested for lewd conduct; 23,000 drug pills seized from Ghanaian trucker, Asian

KUWAIT CITY, April 30, (KUNA): Nine Kuwaiti men, among them two law enforcement officers, three Kuwaiti women, and a female expatriate, were arrested on Saturday at a beach house in the coastal region of Sabah Al-Ahmad on charges of drunkenness and lewd behavior, a press statement by the Ministry of Interior said.
The statement indicated that Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al- Sabah ordered that the two law enforcement officers, both bearing the rank of colonel, be subjected to punitive and legal measures for their unacceptable conduct.
The arrest took place following complaints received by police regarding the arrestees boisterous and disturbing behavior from residents of the beach huarea in Sabah Al-Ahmad coastal region, said the statement.
It stressed the notion that the Ministry of Interior “will not allow any of its personnel to act outside the boundaries of the law,” in reference to the arrest of the two officers.
Some of the seized local liquor bottles
Some of the seized local liquor bottles
Asian arrested with liquor bottles
An Asian expatriate was arrested in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh area in possession of a number of bottles of locally manufactured liquor. According to security sources, Farwaniya securitymen were patrolling Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh area based on instructions from Farwaniya Security Director Brigadier Saleh Al-Enezi when they noticed a man sitting in the back seat of a parked vehicle. When he noticed the securitymen approaching, he tried to run away but securitymen caught him.
They checked his details to discover he is an Asian expatriate and they found some black bags inside the vehicle which contained several bottles of locally manufactured liquor. He was arrested and referred with the liquor bottles to the concerned authorities for necessary legal action against him.
Meanwhile, a Kuwaiti citizen who is wanted by law for his involvement in four financial cases was arrested and referred to the Sentences Enforcement Department
Some of the narcotic pills seized
Some of the narcotic pills seized
23,000 drug pills seized from Ghanaian trucker, Asian
Customs officers at Abdally Border foiled the attempt of a Ghanaian trucker to smuggle 14,000 narcotic pills.
In a press statement, the Interior Ministry revealed the officers suspected the truck driver upon arrival at the border, so they checked the vehicle thoroughly until they unearthed the concealed narcotics.
The suspect was referred to the concerned authority, along with the illicit items. Acting Director General of Customs Department Adnan Al- Qudhaibi supervised the arrest operation.
Meanwhile, security officers at Kuwait International Airport apprehended an Asian man for trying to smuggle 9,000 Tramadol pills, which he kept inside a bag. The suspect and the seized items were referred to the relevant authority.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Antisemitism accusations - an attempt to smear anti-Zionists into silence

Michael Rosen takes issue with a new report that labels anti-Zionism as antisemitic

Blurring the distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism is part of an attempt to stop public criticism of Israel (Pic: Duncan Brown)
Blurring the distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism is part of an attempt to stop public criticism of Israel (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Last week saw the publication of a report by a group of MPs called the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Antisemitism. It is an important document to confront, because it is part of a Europe-wide attempt to widen the definition of antisemitism to include root and branch criticism of Israel.
So, even as it highlights a form of racism that is on the increase in Britain, it prepares the way for what could be legal action against people who are opposed to the racism of Israel.
We need to be clear about what we’re talking about, so here are some definitions and distinctions:
  • Judaism is a religion observed in varying ways all over the world. All people who observe Judaism are Jews, but not all Jews observe Judaism. Those who don’t are usually called “secular Jews”.
  • Zionism is a political creed that created the nation state of Israel, which Zionists describe as the “Jewish homeland”. Plenty of non-Jews are Zionists (such as most members of Western governments) in the sense that they are in favour of Israel being this Jewish homeland.
    What’s more, it is quite clear that there is a real material difference between those Jews who take the creed at face value and go and live in Israel and those Jews who support Israel while preferring to live elsewhere.
  • Anti-Zionism is the political creed opposed to those who created and now run the state of Israel.
  • Jews, as a worldwide phenomenon, are neither purely a religion, nor a political movement. This is because many people who describe themselves as Jews either do not practise the religion, nor are they active Zionists.
    This leaves a proportion of people who are Jews either because they describe themselves as that, or because an outside authority claims that they are.
    The reasons usually given are that either or both of their parents are Jews, and this in turn may well be wrapped up with an idea of “Jewishness” which may include speaking Jewish languages and slang, having a taste for Jewish food or music, following Jewish festivals and the like.
  • Antisemitism is racism towards Jews - verbal or physical abuse, discrimination or prejudice. As with all racisms, antisemitism has appeared in many different places at different times in history and reached its most terrible form in the planned, industrialised and scientific genocide of Jews carried out by Hitler’s Nazis.
The parliamentary report uses all these terms. But in one key area it has blurred the distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Here it is:
“Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include... denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour.”
So if I should write that the Jews have every right to self-determination, but not if it is at the expense of others (as is the case with Israel), it would seem that now I, a Jew who is utterly opposed to antisemitism, am guilty of antisemitism.
Worryingly, this is part of a working definition of antisemitism proposed by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. The writers of this parliamentary report recommend that this definition is “adopted and promoted by the government and law enforcement agencies”.
The message is clear - anti-Zionists beware. Criticism of Israeli government policies will be permitted, but if you attack the core creed of Zionism, then we’ll call in the law.
The excuse for such a drastic change in the approach to antisemitism is the claim that people are using criticism of Israel as a cover for their hatred of Jews. The two main groups who come under suspicion for this are ­liberal or left wing groupings and some Muslims.
What is curious here is that, in my experience, if people both hate Jews and the state of Israel then they say so. One of the classic forms of antisemitism is to say that “the Jews” are in a “conspiracy” to take over the world, or that they are running the world.
Sometimes, they may say there’s a “Zionist” conspiracy to run the world - but that’s hardly a cunning disguise for a hatred of Jews.
Within this bit of conspiracy theory is the antisemitic idea that “the Jews” or “Israel” or “Zionists” run the US. Again, the people who believe this say so.
It’s a nonsense because the people who run US capitalism and the people who defend what it calls “America’s strategic interests” (often just a euphemism for “raw materials and markets we want to get our hands on”) are simply US capitalists, their officials, allies and armies.
This report highlights the fact that this kind of antisemitism has increased, but it confuses the matter by suggesting that it is hidden within criticism of Israel, rather than being nakedly obvious.
The effect of this is to put pressure on those who criticise Israeli policies - such as the butchery going on in Gaza - and give them cause to wonder if they have been caught up in what the report calls “antisemitic discourse”.
Meanwhile, the report has collated the most up to date statistics on hostility and violence directed towards Jews simply and only because they are Jews. It shows that this is on the increase.
But how much of this is old European style antisemitism (the kind with the bloodiest record) and how much comes out of the Middle East is not clear. We have to fight the merging of these very different kinds of racism.
For many of us, our experience has been that when we’ve marched against those who would desecrate Jewish cemeteries, we haven’t been supported by the Jewish establishment, but when we’ve spoken out against Israel, we’ve been vilified and in some cases threatened.
Even so, we have to go on opposing hatred and violence towards Jews while insisting that we have the right to oppose the hatred and violence meted out by Israel on the Palestinians.

India : A lack of water and wives in India

21 April 2016 Last updated at 22:57 BST
"Who would give their daughter to this village?" That's the question posed by one man in an Indian village devastated by an ongoing drought in the country.
The majority of young men in Gopipur, in the Chitrakoot district about 400 miles south of New Delhi, say that the shortage of water, and its crippling impact on the local economy, has made it harder for them to get married.
It's one of the unexpected social consequences of a drought that the Indian government now says is affecting at least 330 million Indians.
BBC Pop Up went to the community where nearly 5,000 people rely on a small naturally-fed well for drinking and bathing water.

China passes new laws on foreign NGOs amid international criticism

  • 28 April 2016
  • From the sectionChina
A Chinese soldier stands guard outside the Great Hall of the People as National People's Congress meetings continue inside in Beijing on 15 March 2016Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThe new laws could impose police supervision on foreign non-governmental organisations
China has passed new laws on foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) state media said, amid criticism.
The full text was not immediately available, but previous drafts stated that NGOs would have to submit to police supervision and declare sources of funding.
Critics say the laws amount to a crackdown, but China has argued that such regulation is long overdue.
There are currently more than 7,000 foreign NGOs operating in China.
The bill has undergone several drafts after international criticism that it was too onerous. The White House has said the bill will "further narrow space for civil society" and constrain US-China exchanges.
Amnesty International said on Thursday that the law was aimed at "further smothering civil society", and called on China to scrap it.
"The authorities - particularly the police - will have virtually unchecked powers to target NGOs, restrict their activities, and ultimately stifle civil society," said William Nee, Amnesty's China Researcher.
"The law presents a very real threat to the legitimate work of independent NGOs and should be immediately revoked."
The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders described the law as "draconian" and said it would have "a profoundly detrimental impact on civil society in China".
The group said police would be allowed to exercise daily supervision and monitoring of foreign NGOs.

Stephen McDonell, BBC News, Beijing

Officials in Beijing say that for too long overseas organisations have been operating in an unregulated environment and that the new system will set clear boundaries governing their behaviour.
However some charities, environmental groups and aid organisations see this as a potential tool to crackdown on civil society in China.
They fear that new regulations could provide a smokescreen for what is actually political decision making by giving officials a range of measures to clamp down on NGOs found to be in breach of various technical requirements.
What was adding to stress levels prior to the introduction of the laws is that many were confused about the details.
People are asking: Who do they cover? What will the laws mean for their day to day operations? What are they really designed to do?

Xinhua reported the law had been passed by the national legislature on Thursday, without giving details of any amendments.
The state news agency reported this week that some restrictions would be eased, such as allowing more than one office on the mainland, and removing a proposed five-year limit on operations.
But other key features were likely to remain, said the Global Times, namely heavy police oversight where foreign NGOs must register with public security departments and must submit to their management.
Previous drafts stated that police would have the right to check the offices of NGOs, seal their offices, question employees and cancel activities judged as threats to national security.
Foreign NGOs would also be banned from recruiting members in mainland China, previous drafts had suggested.
Chinese officials answer questions about law regulating overseas NGOs during press conference at Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 28 April 2016.Image copyrightAP
Image captionChinese officials outlined the new law in a news conference in Beijing on Thursday
Critics had also raised fears that the definition of what constitutes actions that harm China's national interests was too vague.
Correspondents said the ambiguity largely remained in the final version of the law.
Officials who briefed reporters on Thursday declined to give specific examples of actions by NGOs that could constitute such violations, Reuters reported.
"If there are a few foreign NGOs, holding high the banner of co-operation and exchange, coming to engage in illegal activities or even committing criminal acts, our Ministry of Public Security should stop it, and even enact punishments," said Guo Linmao, of the National People's Congress Standing Committee.
This undated photo at an undisclosed location provided to AFP by the Image copyrightAFP/Getty Images
Image captionPeter Dahlin is the Swedish co-founder of China Urgent Action Working Group
The move comes after January's high profile detention of Peter Dahlin, a Swedish NGO worker who was accused of damaging national security.
He made a state television confession - which is rare for foreign detainees - before he was deported. He and his group were accused of breaking the law by supporting the efforts of Chinese human rights lawyers.
Local NGOs and activists are heavily policed and have been subject to increasing crackdowns under President Xi Jinping's rule. Last summer saw sweeping arrestsof nearly 300 lawyers and activists.

US 'drops planned Pakistan F-16 fighter jet subsidy'

  • 29 April 2016
  • From the sectionAsia
A US-made F-16 jet fighterImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe eight F-16s and their equipment would cost Pakistan over $700m
The US will no longer subsidise the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, a senior state department official has told the BBC.
The decision means that Pakistan will have to pay more than $700m (£480m) - two-and-a-half times the original cost - if it wishes to buy the aircraft.
It comes after Congress refused to approve funding for the deal.
Some US lawmakers had accused Pakistan of not doing enough to fight militants. India also objected to the sale.
However, Pakistan has argued that the jets are needed for anti-terror operations, and so the US should help with funding the purchase.
People close to the deal say it is highly unlikely that Pakistan will be willing to pay the full cost of the fighter jets, so it seems to be off for all practical purposes.
A spokesman for the Pakistan embassy in Washington, Nadeem Hotiana, told the BBC that arms sales were a long process and that he would not comment on the deal's current status.
"F-16s provide precision strike capability to Pakistan's ongoing campaign against militancy," he said.
"Pakistan believes that the threat from terrorist networks requires continued capacity building and both governments continue to work together towards this objective through a range of measures including the sale of these aircraft."
Pakistani soldiers near an air force base in Peshawar 18 September 2015Image copyrightReuters
Image captionPakistan is battling several militant groups at its borders
The senior US state department official, who asked to remain anonymous as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, says the Obama administration is still very much in favour of selling the fighter jets to Pakistan as it believes it is in the national interest of the United States.
However, Pakistan would have to bear the full cost of the F-16 fighter jets if it wished to proceed, he said.
The original arrangement had been that Pakistan would pay close to $270m, with the US foreign military financing budget paying for the rest.
However, top US lawmakers have expressed concerns over the US government's decision to sell the jets to Pakistan, saying they could be used against India rather than for combating terrorism.
Speaking on Wednesday, Congressman Matt Salmon said: "India-Pakistan tensions remain elevated, and some question whether the F-16s could ultimately be used against India or other regional powers, rather than the terrorists as Pakistan has asserted."