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Kerry urges Abbas to restart peace talks

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Kerry urges Abbas to restart peace talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as part of a fresh US bid to restart negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

Kerry is on a 10-day tour, which will also take him to Asia, and met Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday after holding talks earlier in the day with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul.

While in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Kerry will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Abbas told visiting Kerry that the release of prisoners held by Israel was a “top priority” for resuming failed peace talks.

“President Abbas stressed that the release of the prisoners is a priority that creates an appropriate climate for the possibility of moving the peace process forward,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

Abbas told Kerry that releasing the 4,500 or so prisoners held in Israeli jails, a deeply sensitive issue on the Palestinian street, was a “top priority for creating the right atmosphere for the resumption of negotiations”.

Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnstone in Ramallah reported that the priority for the US was for “both sides to return to talks without any preconditions”.

But, she said, “the Israelis are saying that they want the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, and the Palestinians want Israel to stop its settlement construction”.

Most Palestinians reject the idea of recognising Israel as a “Jewish-only” state because many still demand the right of return for refugees who decades ago were forced from their homes in what is now Israel.

Israel-Turkey relations

During earlier talks with Davutoglu in Istanbul, Kerry urged Turkey and Israel to fully normalise relations, after Israel’s US-brokered apology for a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza aid flotilla organised by a Turkish charity.

“We would like to see this relationship that is important to stability in Middle East, critical to the peace process itself, we would like to see it back on track in its full,” Kerry said in a joint news conference with Davutoglu.

He said, however, that it was not for the United States “to be setting conditions or terms” for the reconciliation.

Israel apologised to Ankara on March 22 for the deaths of nine Turkish activists in a botched raid by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid ship, in a breakthrough engineered by US President Barack Obama during a visit to Jerusalem.

The apology ended a nearly three-year rift between Israel and Turkey – two key US allies in the region – and the two countries are due to begin talks on compensation on Friday.

But they have yet to exchange ambassadors and fully restore diplomatic ties.

“It is imperative that the compensation component be fulfilled, that the ambassadors be returned,” Kerry said. “I’m confident there will be goodwill on both sides.”

‘Oases of stability’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted the Israeli apology “in the name of the Turkish people” but said the country’s future relationship with Israel including the return of ambassadors would depend on Israel.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Istanbul, said that Davutoglu had already spoken to Khaled Meshaal, the leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Mahmoud Abbas.

“We don’t know what they discussed, but its an indication that Turkey is taking some sort of interest in the Middle East peace process,” said Smith.

He added that Kerry “wants Turkey to normalise its relationship with Israel because it sees Israel, Turkey and Jordan as three oases of stability in a very turbulent region.”

The US top diplomat also commended Turkey’s efforts to provide for the tens of thousands of refugees who have entered the country during Syria’s two-year conflict.

He called Turkey “incredibly generous” for keeping its border open and doing “everything possible” to respond to the increasing humanitarian crisis in the neighbouring country.

“The US and Turkey will continue cooperating to reach the shared goal of a peaceful transition in Syria,” he said, repeating the US position that President Bashar al-Assad must leave power.

“Thousands of Syrians have lost their lives,” Davutoglu said. “The international community needs to act on this. The failure to do so would be interpreted by Assad as a weakness.

“The US position is important and so is Turkey’s.

 

Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies

 

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Obama Talks Peace to Iran, But Dishes Out Violence

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Obama Talks Peace to Iran, But Dishes Out Violence

by Jamasb Madani, April 09, 2013

 

Four years ago, President Barack Obama quoted the beloved 13th century Persian poet Sa’di in his first Nowruz message to the Iranian people. The address, with its veneer of peace and diplomacy, was a well-received gesture to both civil society and the leadership in Tehran, recognizing the Islamic Republic and celebrating the country’s ancient culture and history.

In this year’s Nowruz message, on March 18, 2013, President Obama recited more medieval Persian poetry, this time a famous 14th century poem from Hafez about friendship.

An informal and casual survey of public opinion on the heels of this address suggest that Obama’s renewed efforts to tap the well of goodwill failed to resonate with many Iranians. This time around, Obama’s speech has been received a somewhat negative response.

Over the past few years, U.S. hostility and pressure toward Iran has reached a critical level. As a result of draconian sanctions and a resulting drastic drop in oil revenues, Iran’s economy, currency, and people are hurting.

Many essential and non-essential goods have been subject to sanctions, both old and new. Measures preventing the sale of spare airplane parts to Iran have long made air travel unsafe, threatening the well-being of civilian passengers. More recently, unilateral sanctions imposed by certain Western countries have cut Iran off from the international banking industry, resulting in severe shortages in medicines and rising food prices that place the lives of millions of Iranians at risk.

While Obama’s Nowruz messages represent an attempt to achieve a sort of ‘cultural connectedness’ between Americans and Iranians, the U.S. government seems unaware of how its policies and actions toward Iran cut against these efforts.

During Iran’s post-reform years in late 1990′s, certain key terms became central to the Reformist discourse. Concepts such as ‘pluralism’, ‘tolerance’ (tasahol/tasamoh), and especially the term “violence” (khoshoonat’garaee) took on a deeper and more comprehensive meaning.

Based on a wider reading of the concept of violence, Iranian civil society has not only viewed the assassination of its scientists as a direct form of violence, but has also considered unilateral and crippling sanctions to be instruments of violence against the Iranian people.

These and other similar measures undermine the administration’s attempts to appeal to Iranians’ cultural sensibilities. Ironically, as President Obama delivered his first Nowruz message in 2009, urging Iran’s government to “unclench” its fists, his administration was accelerating a covert, cyber warfare initiative launched by the Bush administration, codenamed “Olympic Games.”

In the years that followed, as Obama delivered other Nowruz messages, the United States conspired with Israel to develop and launch additional attacks of cyber-terrorism against Iran, such as Stuxnet and Flame.

In the Iranian public psyche, cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities are not mere technological sabotage, but rather instill collective fear and anxiety about damage to nuclear installations that threaten the safety of the Iranian population.

And let’s not forget the looming threat of direct military attack. With each passing year, and with every Nowruz message, the level of both real and potential American violence against Iran and Iranians has escalated.

As the targets of these threats, victims of collective punishment and the bearers of U.S.-imposed hardship, Iranians feel that Obama’s actions coupled with his recitation of the poetry of Sa’di or Hafez make for a disturbing juxtaposition.

In Hafez’s poetry and ethos, duplicity, hypocrisy, and pretense are considered major sins. It is fitting then that a group of democracy activists in Iran, in conversation with this writer, have suggested Obama reflect on the message of another Hafez poem:

Preachers who lecture others in the pulpit
in private, away from the public gaze, they do otherwise.
I have a concern; ask this question from the wise one in the group
those who order us to repent; they, themselves don’t consider any repentance?

Daryoush Mohammad Poor, an opposition activist who has translated the statements of former Iranian presidential candidate and reformist politician Mir Hossein Mousavi into English, was similarly offended by Obama’s Nowruz message this year.

In a critical essay posted in both Persian and English on his website, “Malakoot,” Mohammad Poor writes that the American-Iranian impasse is not binary. For instance, as he explains, just because he is connected with the Iranian opposition, does not mean he will be silent about the devastating and lethal effects of Obama’s policies on the people of Iran.

Mohammad Poor addresses Obama directly, writing, “Remember, Hafez was – and still is – a great social critic of the conditions of his time. His strength lay in his being outside the circle of power. He was the voice of the powerless. He was never a two-term president of a superpower nation. If he lived today, he would probably be highly critical of you, too, as he would be critical of the leaders of Iran.”

With few exceptions, the opposition in and outside Iran explicitly opposes both unilateral and UN Security Council sanctions against the country. The anti-imperial legacy of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who was ousted during a CIA-led coup in 1953, still permeates the present Zeitgeist and ethos in Iran. As such, despite economic hardships and the relative popularity of Voice of America among some opposition members, so far the American/French/British axis has failed to cultivate any notable support for either foreign intervention or collaboration. As things currently stand, Iranians across the political spectrum blame the United States, and less, their own government, for their economic woes.

U.S. hegemonic domination has its internal contradictions and cannot avoid double standards, inconsistencies, and half-truths. But Hafez, the ‘elder of kharbat’, is precisely the antithesis of duplicity (riya). The term kharabat in Hafez’s poetry symbolizes a tavern, a gathering place where there is no pretense (tazvir), only the opportunity to be true to one another.

Those who threaten others with military aggression and destruction, those who unleash economic war and hardship and instill fear in the hearts of their victims, those who manipulate international organizations for their own ends, and make life difficult for so many people should not reference Hafez. In fact, Hafez is perhaps the last poet they should invoke, since his central message is to condemn hubris and selfishness (a’een khod’parasti).

A substantial number of Iranians believe that Barack Obama, who has relatives in Kenya and Indonesia, studied progressive politics at Columbia University and broke bread with public intellectuals like Edward Said, is a worldly, decent and dignified person.

But in the context of American hegemony, as the executor of oppressive policies toward Iran, Obama has become a perplexing puzzle for Iranians. For four years, Obama’s Nowruz messages have led the Iranian collective psyche to compartmentalize his various actions. The orchestrated hostility of the “American Regime,” the pain and suffering directed by the United States toward Iran are all changing this approach.

At the same time, the symbolism and dichotomy of Obama’s Nowruz messages, coupled with the history of U.S. structural violence against Iranian society, may provide a glimpse into the bigger picture behind Obama’s inconsistencies. In his capacity as president, Obama may have no choice but to bow to long-term American policies toward Iran. Many Iranians, in fact, maintain that the real culprit is not Obama, but rather an institutional form of thinking and worldview to which Obama himself is bound.

Unfortunately, it seems the president’s ideals are also victims of this power structure.

Rather than trying to appropriate Persian poetry to blunt American aggression, Obama would do well to heed the words of Hafez himself. Only then may he truly begin to pursue peace instead of issuing ultimatums. As Hafez poignantly observed,

Engage in love (of humanity) before it is too late; or the life-purpose given to you by the world will be wasted.

*Jamasb Madani is an architect and writer. His grandfather was an activist and strong supporter of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq.

This piece was originally published at Mufta.org

 

http://original.antiwar.com/jamasb-madani/2013/04/08/obama-talks-peace-to-iran-but-dishes-out-violence/

Africa’s Woes Triggered By Power-Hungry Presidents

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Africa’s Woes Triggered By Power-Hungry Presidents

By Tapiwa Kapurura

This piece is meant to corroborate Professor George Ayittey’s recent contribution on the problems bedeviling Africa. My thesis excavates the point that Africa has everything to re-establish herself as a dignified and self-sustaining continent but has been run down by selfish Fathers who are busy chasing power and wealth as the continent bleeds and suffers. In the face of inevitable failure, blame has been embarassingly apportioned to the erstwhile 1884 Scramble For Africa.

Africa’s current problems are linked to historical imbalances caused by Europe. Slavery, resource exploitation, segregation and land apportionment legislation unduly sidelined overpowered Africans in their own home. With independence, every African was supposed to enjoy economic and political independence, freedom and peace. Sadly besides flag independence, the majority of Africans remain poor, diseased and disgruntled. The leaders have even pushed citizens into the scary abyss. Social injustice, corruption, greed, government arbitrariness and use of force have driven Africans into sunken dark holes and anyone who raises the head is bashed to lie down by the evil hand of security forces. Besides calls for economic independence, the benefits have mainly been felt by a few as the majority raises endless questions in the ditches of poverty. In frustration, many continue to jump onto the refugee train because the future remains bleak at home as other continents present jobs, better healthcare and enticing infrastructure.

While economic imbalances remain an urgent issue, there is still need for re-grouping and getting organized in Africa. A redress of economic imbalances does not per se demand that a handful prosper as the majority suffers, neither does it mean that national assets and resources be channeled to Western markets as profits are diverted to offshore accounts for the benefit of a handful government leaders. Such public fraud, mismanagement of resources and corruption makes Africa poorer than ever because as the majority gets trinkets, the minority scoops real stuff and forcefully defend their gains in face of criticism and opposition. Despite her being the global basket of unique rich minerals, wildlife and other lucrative resources like oil, the majority of Africans continue to suffer and their infrastructure is now worse than during colonial days. Resultantly many have been forced to try other promising nations for jobs and social security.

As the leadership continues to blame century-old colonialism, the challenge still remains to see where the current leadership is heading and what they have done to demonstrate a sense of responsibility in resource management, good governance and public benefits. It makes a mockery of an oil or diamond-producing nation to have its environment damaged by marauding western companies swooping in to extract and leave without any sense of community giving back as African environmental activists risk being persecuted. It also defeats the cause for the African resources to be entrusted to exploitative foreign companies that extract and leave locals suffering as a handful stands to gain through foreign banked profits shared between mining companies and African leaders.

It also does not make any sense for Africa’s rich nations to continue begging for foreign aid like food and elections money yet they stand amid historical deposits of minerals on demand. A mineral-rich country should stand firm, feed its people and cater for their welfare. All profits should be publicly accounted for through a prudent fiscal policy implemented for the public good. Skilled human capital must be entrusted with the management of funds for the benefit of the nation at large. A self-help approach on national resources and assets simply works to expose how challenged, disorganized or backward we are as a continent. A clandestine management of national resources and entrusting of some foreign partners without public approval has seen some leaders becoming defensive, arbitrary and reckless in the pursuit of wealth. In some cases, blood has been spilt. The end result has been a blame game of critics labeled western apologists.

The world views Africa with admiration based on natural resources on her lands. Africa’s main issues have been the failure to organize the local and possible technical assistance to harness the resources for public benefit. The issues of private jets landing and taking off with heavy packages of unknown valuables for foreign markets speaks volumes of where Africa stands on resource management. The very people blaming the West are the champions of private deals and nocturnal arrangements for self-gain. If Africa managed her resources well, there could be an impressive Gross Happiness Index to usher peace, comfort and trust from among the citizenry. Sadly many are disgruntled due to joblessness,
poverty and hunger underlined by wanton use of force to silence them during bread riots or questionable public policies.

Despite failure to lead well, many African leaders have the appetite to hang on to power for life. Whoever expresses disgruntlement with certain policies in government becomes an enemy of the state. A challenge on rule of law and democracy simply means one is starting to align with the West. The West never tells any African leader to rape, kill or maim. Instead of buying food, many African governments would rather invest
in guns and tear smoke. The West never drags anyone by the collar to imprison local human rights activists; neither does it force Africa to have dilapidated infrastructure, more disease and arbitrariness. The problem lies with the selfish African leader who has forgotten about those under his chin.

Africans have been perceived as war mongers mainly because of poverty, hunger and anger. Disgruntlement has driven many to start questioning the legitimacy of their own governments. If all African leaders were considerate of their people’s wishes and welfare, there could be peace in Africa. To date the history of modern Africa is mired by dictators suppressing any voices of disgruntlement and changing the laws to strengthen
their reign. In all that arbitrariness, many of the African leaders have been hypocrites in that they denounce the West before the world media yet they partner with individual Western parties to find markets for African resources so as to promote a self-enrichment agenda.

Such a wanton pursuit of selfish interests, corruption and greed has killed Africa. History has always been the trump card for screaming expletives against Western ideologies. Whenever democracy has been questioned, the West has been heavily criticized as interfering with African
affairs. Many overlook the countless refugees fleeing independent Africa into Europe and America by the day as if a killer disease is about to wipe the continent. The West becomes concerned on some of the government practices due to shifted burdens on leadership responsibility. That carefree stance by African heads has triggered the West to set some conditions for Africa to follow. In any case the Bretton-Woods, World Bank and IMF have been run through the Western block and for there to be some co-ordination; there must be control measures established to guard against public fund abuse and profligacy. When such malfeasance has been challenged, our African Marjodomos have been quick to
scream abuse and told the West to mind their own business, lest colonialism is planted into the conversation.

Most African leaders need help and advice even from the young African minds. The resource abuse, defiance of the rule of law, absence of democracy, creation of military states, despotism and corruption have been concerning to the world yet our African leaders have remained impervious to advice and quick to point fingers. Ultimately we have continued to be labeled the “Dark Continent” because some of the deeds of our leaders are jaw-dropping in this modern day as manifested by genocides, internecine wars and tribal purging.

Independence meant African leaders taking personal responsibility to re-define their people’s needs. It also meant the establishment of new democratic institutions premised on majority rule and vibrant economies. Resource management and utilization demanded prudence. Poverty, disease and illiteracy would have to be eliminated. Justice and rule of law would have to prevail. Unfortunately, among the African
leadership, such values are as useless as used lasagna. Once one tastes power, he forgets about all forms of a civilized order. It is worse in that despite the existence of organizations like the Africa Union, ECOWAS, SADC and various others, their impact in resolving African issues has been as good as non-existent. Their focus has been on theories, workshops and conferencing as they have not yielded much milestones. To date the world is yet to experience one solid achievement especially from the Africa Union agenda.

Resultantly, concerned, hopeless and frustrated African citizens have wound up as refugees in other nations in search of peace and greener pastures. Unless African leaders reform to comport with the civilized global order, the world will still perceive Africa as a cauldron
of corruption, poverty, dictatorships and chaos. In any case it is the poor workman blaming his own tools. A peaceful, well-fed, comfortable and happy nation will never disobey or question an accountable and transparent government.

http://www.zimeye.org/?p=76831

African leaders sign DR Congo peace deal

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African leaders sign DR Congo peace deal

Leaders from Africa’s Great Lakes regional nations have signed a new peace deal aimed at bringing stability to the war-torn east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, witnessed the signing on Sunday at the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The presidents of the DRC, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia either attended or delegated the power to sign the deal.

According to the UN, the “peace framework agreement” could lead to the creation of a special UN intervention brigade in eastern DRC to combat rebel groups and renew political efforts.

But after almost two decades of war, expectations are low.

“I think it would be wrong to have too great expectations because the situation here is very difficult,” Alex Queval, head of the UN mission in North Kivu, told Al Jazeera. “The conflict has been going on for at least 19 years, so it’s not going to be solved overnight, but I definitely think that this approach can be a new beginning.”

Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from the Mugunga camp for internally displaced persons outside Goma, said people there “really hope this [agreement] is the beginning of something.”

Mugunga is host to tens of thousands of Congolese people who had to flee their homes following violence in the east in November 2012.

Despite the signing on Sunday, problems remain with the peace process, she said.

“We still dont know what kind of powers a special UN envoy would have [and] whether those signing will have a mechanism overseeing whether they will abide by what they signed up for,” she said.

Rebel movements

The DRC’s mineral-rich east has been ravaged by numerous armed groups, with new rebel movements spawned on a regular basis, some of them with backing from neighbouring countries.

The latest surge in violence was in 2012 and culminated in the rebel March 23 Movement (M23) force briefly seizing the key town of Goma last November.

M23, which was not invited to Sunday’s meeting, was founded by former fighters of an ethnic-Tutsi rebel group whose members were integrated into the regular army under a peace deal whose terms they claim were never fully delivered.

The group’s main demand now is the full implementation of a peace accord signed on March 23, 2009.

M23 controls part of the Rutshuru region, an unstable but fertile territory that lies in mineral-rich North Kivu province and borders on Rwanda and Uganda.

Several of its leaders have been hit by UN sanctions over alleged atrocities. The group has been accused of raping women and girls, using child soldiers and killing civilians.

Failed attempts

Peace talks have been held in Uganda, but so far have made little headway.

MONUSCO, the peacekeeping mission already deployed in DRC, is one of the UN’s biggest.

It currently has about 17,000 troops and, under its Security Council mandate, is allowed to have up to 19,800.

The UN wants to toughen MONUSCO with the addition of a 2,500-strong intervention brigade to tackle the armed groups that have plagued the resource-rich region.

A first attempt to sign the agreement last month was called off over procedural concerns, not over the content of the agreement, the UN said.

Moshiri said civil society groups have complained that “they’re not involved in Sunday’s agreement, and that there is no concrete action plan to deal with the root causes of the conflict, which are mainly poverty and corruption”.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/02/201322473023560834.html

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Fresh violence threatens DR Congo peace deal
Fighting erupts between Congolese troops and breakaway rebel group days after peace deal was signed by regional leaders.
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2013 11:17

Less than a week after the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring African nations signed a peace accord to hold off hostilties, a fresh wave of violence has erupted in the central African nation.

Fighting erupted on Thursday between the Congolese troops and the rebel group Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) in Kitchanga, about 90km from Goma, Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri reported.

It is not known if the latest fighting has resulted into casualties, but at least 3,000 civilians have sought refuge near a UN base in Kitchanga, according to Moshiri.

On Sunday, DR Congo signed an agreement with 10 other African nations including Rwanda and Uganda, which were accused in a UN report last year of aiding M23 rebels, who swept through eastern Congo and captured the key city of Goma in November. Both countries have denied the allegations.

Under Sunday’s agreement, Congo’s neighbours agreed not to tolerate or support armed groups.

The Congolese government pledged to prevent armed groups from destabilising neighboring countries, and agreed to fast-track security sector reform, particularly within its army and police, and to consolidate state authority in the east.

M23 leadership struggle

A looming leadership struggle also threatens to split the more prominent rebel group, M23, which some fear could lead to more waves of violence there.

An “internal fight” is going on between M23 rebels loyal to Bosco Ntaganda and his rival leader Sultani Makenga, according to Moshiri.

Ntaganda, who is in hiding, is a former Congolese general wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court at The Hague and publicly had very little to do with the group.

Makenga, on the other hand “is far more cautious type of leader” who wants to wait for a peace agreement currently being discussed in Kampala in Uganda.

“We are hearing credible reports that Ntaganda is trying to persuade M23 to take Goma again, and we understand he has the loyalty of several top commanders as well as some rebel troops,” Moshiri said.

A UN source also told Al Jazeera that he would not be surprised if a “shootout” erupts in the coming days.

“Things have got that bad,” Moshiri said.

Fighting in the area of Rutchuru on Sunday and Monday, among M23 factions, left at least eight people dead, she said.

Mineral-rich eastern Congo has been engulfed in fighting since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

The UN has more than 17,700 peacekeepers in Congo, assisted by more than 1,400 international police.

But they were unable to protect civilians from the M23 rebels whose movement began in April 2012 when hundreds of troops defected from the Congolese armed forces.

With inputs from Nazanine Moshiri

2013 Annual Report on Global Trends for Human Rights Defenders Published

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2013 Annual Report on Global Trends for Human Rights Defenders Published

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http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/files/frontline_annual_report2013_0.pdf

On 23 January 2013 Front Line Defenders released its fourth Annual Report on Global Challenges facing Human Rights Defenders around the World in 2012.

The report explores the situation on both the global and regional level including several countries examined in focus namely: Burundi, Vietnam, Guatemala Kazakhstan and Algeria. It highlights the ‘unabated’ targeting of human rights defenders for their work documenting abuses, exposing corruption, or pushing for reform.

“The attacks and killings highlighted in this report are only the tip of the iceberg. In many countries the government has either shut down the local media, subjected human rights organisations to campaigns of intimidation or tried to silence those brave enough to bring the facts to international attention” said Front Line Defenders Executive Director Mary Lawlor.

 

The report highlights:

 

-24 killings of HRDs in 2012

-Physical Attacks on HRDs reported in 28 countries across all regions:

-Attacks on LGBTI human rights defenders in Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, South Africa, Uganda, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.

-Restrictive legislation passed or under discussion in Algeria, Azerbaijan, Burundi, China, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Lithuania, Moldova, Russian Federation, and Ukraine

-Judicial harassment reported in nearly 40 countries

-Information technology laws used against those expressing dissent or circulating information on human rights abuses, in particular in Asia and the Middle East.

-Reprisals for cooperating with international human rights bodies were reported by HRDs in Bahrain, Belarus, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and Sri Lanka

 

 

“The facts speak for themselves”, said Ms Lawlor “The sad reality is that while governments proclaim support for human rights and their respect for the work of human rights defenders in international fora, in practice, human rights defenders face a daily struggle for survival”, added Ms Lawlor.

This report shows how the safe space in which human rights defenders work is consistently shrinking, while their personal credibility is attacked through state sponsored defamation campaigns in which they are routinely portrayed as agents of western/foreign interests. The introduction of restrictive legislation which limits both their work and their ability to source international funding is increasingly used to hamper their work.

The Report highlights the alarmingly high number of killings of human rights defenders and the fact that Front Line Defenders alone has documented physical attacks on human rights defenders in 28 countries and 24 killings of human rights defenders. Conditions for human rights defenders in Africa, Asia and the Middle East continue to be worrying while the report finds that that in many countries in Europe and Central Asia the situation has actually deteriorated.

On the regional level many countries in Africa have seen a series of disturbing ongoing trends including physical violence, and impunity for perpetrators. As noted in the report the murder of two LGBTI rights defenders Thapelo Makhutle in South Africa and Maurice Mjomba in Tanzania illustrate these risks.

Such impunity is also commonly seen in the Americas alongside a common trend, the use, region-wide, of fabricated criminal charges such as those that have resulted in an 18-year prison sentence for Colombian human rights defender David Rabelo Crespo.

Asia has seen the continued usage of smear campaigns against human rights defenders branding them as ‘enemies of the state or as working for foreign interests’. One example of such a case can be seen in India with the branding of P.V. Rajagopal, Vice Chairman of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, as a ‘Maoist sympathiser’.

The situation in Europe and Central Asia is characterised by the increasing use in many countries of legislation to curb the activities of human rights defenders. This is particularly evident in the Russian Federation with a swathe of legislation being implemented including a law designating NGO’s in receipt of foreign funding as ‘foreign agents’.

Finally in the Middle East and North Africa region the report confirms the fears of ‘limited real change’ despite the events of the Arab Spring that ‘gave hope to thousands of people in virtually every country in the region’. In Bahrain in particular almost all of the most vocal human rights defenders were in detention at year’s end including former Front line Defenders staff member Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.

The Report is based on Front Line Defenders’ work in support of human rights defenders at risk. In 2012, Front Line Defenders issued 287 urgent appeals on 460 human rights defenders at risk in 69 countries; it provided 267 security grants and trained 358 human rights defenders. Overall, more than 1150 HRDs benefited from Front Line Defenders’ protection support in 2012.

http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/21376

Russian Federation: Violent attack of peaceful picket in defence of LGBTI rights

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Russian Federation: Violent attack of peaceful picket in defence of LGBTI rights 

On 20 January 2013, a peaceful picket of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights defenders was attacked by counter-protesters in the city of Voronezh. The picket was was organised by local human rights defenders Messrs Andrey Nasonov, Evgeny Chunosov and Pavel Lebedyev against the proposed bill in the Russian Parliament which, if passed, would ban the “propaganda of homosexuality”.

On 17 January 2013, Andrey Nosonov and Pavel Lebedev wrote to the Centre for Combating Extremism, the offices of the local administration and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation regarding multiple death threats they had received from individuals through social media sites, who also threatened to disrupt the planned peaceful picket, for which permission had been sought from the city’s administration. Despite the fact that at least 15 authors of the threats were named individuals, police failed to react to the complaint.

As the picket began on 20 January 2013, more than two hundred counter-protesters had gathered at the scene, who had coordinated their attack through social media sites and many of whom were members of radical right wing and religious groups. The individuals proceeded to shout offensive remarks such as “Beat the faggots”, throw bottles at the protesters and imitate Nazi salutes. Despite police presence at the picket, at least 4 LGBTI rights defenders and their supporters were physically beaten by counter-protesters, while many others were verbally attacked. Police present did not intervene to protect the demonstrators.

Later the same day, LGBTI rights defenders and their supporters, returning from the picket, were confronted by approximately 30 people in a local café, and were threatened with physical violence. The conflict was resolved upon police arrival.

On 21 and 22 January 2013, Andrey Nosonov, Pavel Lebedev and Alexey Kozlov submitted written official complaints to the Investigative Committee regarding the above mentioned violent attack by counter-protesters against peaceful demonstrators, and the failure of police and of the city administration to fulfil their obligation to assure the safety of demonstrators. Front Line Defenders condemns this attack against peaceful protesters and expresses serious concern at the failure of police to react appropriately in order to ensure the security of the protesters.

http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/21367

The burning issue

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The burning issue

Banned from Boing Boing for Pro-Israel Comments?

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Banned from Boing Boing for Pro-Israel Comments?

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By Jonathon Narvey
Boing Boing’s editors are totally committed to free speech and fighting online censorship except when it comes to debunking lies about Palestinians or promoting Israel’s right to self-defense, apparently.I’m banned from commenting on the site.

Darn it. I really liked that site — the “blog of interesting things”. It’s my default site for strange, funny, nerdy stuff. It’s too bad the site moderator Antinous appears to have little patience for, you know, other opinions besides those that still believe (against all evidence) that Palestinians live in an open-air prison or that Israelis are acting like Nazis. This is often what happens when science nerds pretend to also be politics nerds.

Banned. Wow. Sorry if I’m dwelling on this. I know it’s a great example of a First World Problem. But I’m a nerd. I feel comfortable in the company of other nerds, even online (OK, especially online). Now I feel like I’ve been rejected from a popular island of nerddom and can’t go back (Oh sure, I can visit — they just don’t want me messing up their nice online beach).

But now Woody Allen’s quote about any club that would have him as a member is coming back to me…

Anyway, it started with this Boing Boing post, Israel live-tweets Gaza offensive.

Some anonymous guy (aren’t they always) named zombiebob posts this comment:

You forgot to mention how the people doing the rocketing were displaced from their homes and moved into a ghetto (much like the ones the Nazi’s set up in WW2) by the people they are doing the rocketing towards.

An astute commenter named rigs responds (in part):

The only slight differences are that in the Nazi ghettos population growth was -20% a year (-40% in the Warsaw ghetto) while in Gaza it’s one of the highest in the world at around 7%, that in the Nazi ghettos tens of thousands of people died of hunger, while Gaza has one of the highest obesity levels in the Arab world, and the really insignificant fact that it took the Nazis less than 4 months from the time an uprising started until they completely liquidated (as in killed everyone in) the ghetto, while the population of Gaza has more than doubled since the first intifada.

Yup. That’s what I keep telling people.

Antinous (the moderator) responds:

Well, if it’s not actually as bad as the holocaust, then taking people’s property and herding them into camps is just hunky dory.

Pro tip: talking about how Gazans are fat and breed too much doesn’t do your argument any favors.

Hmmm. Methinks rigs needs a wingman to handle the flak. I leave my two cents:

1. “if it’s not actually as bad as the holocaust…”

It’s not. If what was happening in Gaza was even remotely “as bad as the holocaust” there would be no Palestinian Arabs left in Gaza. They’d all be dead, plus or minus a few living in basements or sewers. Instead, they’ve got double-digit population growth and economic conditions that are better than in Egypt and Turkey — and are not even remotely as bad as places like Haiti or Afghanistan. http://www.jewishfederations.org/page.aspx?id=105003

Naturally, the main reason Gazans don’t live as well as they’d like is because their territory is run by Hamas. If your neighborhood was run by jihadist terrorists, you’d have lots to complain about, too.

2. “Pro tip: talking about how Gazans are fat and breed too much doesn’t do your argument any favors.” That seems to be a deliberate misreading of what rigs is saying.

It’s common among “human rights activists” to talk about a “humanitarian catastrophe” and “starvation” that simply does not exist. There are problems in Gaza but malnutrition is not one of them. And it’s not like Israeli soldiers are force-feeding Palestinians into an obesity epidemic any more than Taco Bell employees are force-feeding Americans into their own “lifestyle choice. So rigs was simply refuting a pervasive lie.

Later in the comment stream, Linkman notes:

1) There are no settlers in Gaza.  Israel forcibly removed every last settler.  And the blockade (as problematic as it is) only began after Hamas took over Gaza and started the rocket campaign post-withdrawal.  It’s a game of chicken and somebody needs to give, because innocents on both sides are suffering.  But if your next door neighbor has repeatedly tried to kill you in the past and continues to swear he’s going to kill you, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to stop him from getting better weapons?

Heeeyyyy, right. How are Hamas fighting against an occupation if there are no occupiers left in Gaza and haven’t been since 2005? Controling the border (particularly when Egypt does the same thing with Gaza) isn’t occupation; otherwise, America would be occupying Mexico, Mexico would be occupying America and Switzerland would be occuping the great powers of Europe.

But Antinous ain’t having any of that. The Palestinians are downtrodden, damnit.

They take land from Palestinians, bulldoze the buildings and give the land to ultra-orthodox Jewish nutjobs to build settlements. There’s not really any nuance in any of this.

Sooooo… even if none of that is precisely true, if Palestinians want to shoot at Israelis, they’ve got all the justification in the world. Right? That’s what that means, right? Aw hell. I wish he’d just come out and say it. But who knows what he was thinking.

A little while later, I notice a new dumb line being trotted out by SomeGuyNamedMark, about Ahmed Jabari (the Hamas terror mastermind who got blowed up real good by the IDF):

If they knew where exactly this guy was (and obviously they did) and he was such a criminal then why didn’t they make any attempt to arrest him?  Don’t tell me Israel couldn’t have.

I wasn’t going to let that one go. Here’s where I jump in:

Why arrest a terrorist when you can kill him?

I’m not being sarcastic. No point in fighting these wars with one hand tied behind your back.

Jabari had a lot of blood on his hands. He was a killer and a leader of killers.

Re: “Don’t tell me Israel couldn’t have”.

Yes, Israel could have gone in with ground forces to arrest a known terrorist, which would have begun a wider war with more casualties — not an ideal outcome if it can be avoided.

I take it you’re also against US drone attacks on Al Qaeda terrorists?

(“But, but, but, they’re all innocent farmers with no connection to jihad or terrorism and don’t you know that all Pakistanis are armed with grenade launchers and mortars to protect their poor little dirt farm that’s in a cave in the middle of a mountain range?)

Aaaaaand… that’s it. I got banned from commenting. They didn’t tell me why. It just happened.

Not sure if it was necessarily for pointing out that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza (well, not one caused by Israel. Hamas on the other hand…).

Maybe it was because I advocated killing terrorists — something that really ought to be kosher in any forum that decides to discuss, you know, terrorists raining rockets on innocent civilians. Or maybe it was because I prescribed the same treatment for jihadist terrorists in Afghanistan?

Killing terrorists who threaten your citizens; Yeeesss, that highly controversial policy that seems to have been adopted by every government in the world.

Was that why I got banned? Who knows. If you want to chat in the comments in this post, I can say that I wouldn’t ban anyone for taking such a position.

That said, if you want to argue the moral case for shooting missiles at schoolchildren (as long as they’re Israeli), it seems your comments may be welcome over at Boing Boing. Cheers.

Jonathon Narvey is the Editor of The Propagandist

http://www.propagandistmag.com/2012/11/15/banned-boing-boing-pro-israel-comments

No peace for Syria unless opposition talks to Assad-Russia

Standard

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 14:22

No peace for Syria unless opposition talks to Assad-Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday there could be no peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria as long as opponents of President Bashar al-Assad demand his exit from power and refuse to negotiate with his government.

 

Lavrov’s comments at an annual news conference signalled no shift in the position of Russia, which says Assad’s exit must not be a precondition for a deal to end 22 months of violence in which more than 60,000 people have been killed.

 

“Everything runs up against the opposition members’ obsession with the idea of the overthrow of the Assad regime. As long as this irreconcilable position remains in force, nothing good will happen, armed action will continue, people will die,” Lavrov said.

 

Russia has been Assad’s most powerful foreign protector during the violence that started with a crackdown on protests but has escalated into civil war, vetoing three U.N. Security Council resolution aimed to push him out or pressure him to end bloodshed.

 

Russia flew 77 of its citizens fleeing the Syrian violence to Moscow via Lebanon on Wednesday but Lavrov said the situation in Syria did not require a mass evacuation of Russian citizens.

 

Speaking of large-scale naval exercises Russia is holding in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Syria, Lavrov said the naval presence was a positive factor.

 

“Of course we have no interest in the Mediterranean region becoming even more destabilised. And the presence of our fleet there is undoubtedly a stabilising factor,” Lavrov said.

 

(Reporting by Timothy Heritage Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Janet Lawrence)

http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/wire-news/no-peace-for-syria-unless-opposition-talks-to-assad-russia_812058.html