Archive for the 'Civil Disobedience' Category

Turkey: Civil Disobedience? Or Political Resistance?

jj April 23rd, 2011

From: SDE
The movement initiated by the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) and the DTK (Congress of Democratic Society) in the Southeast Anatolia is defined as civil disobedience by the pioneers of the movement and it continues under this stamp. Undoubtedly the people living in the region have problems and there is no doubt that they are at a position to express them. At such a point, the discussable dimension of the issue is the meaning of this action and its relationship with the solution of the demands. To ask in a simpler tone, before its contribution, is this civil disobedience movement?

In order to answer this question we should firstly refer to the meaning of the civil disobedience. In fact, civil, civil society, interest group, political party and all the concepts like this has a meaning and a definition in the western political culture where they were born. In other words, we can’t pad them as we wish. If we do something under the title of such a concept we have to take its meaning there into consideration and do the minimum requirements of these concepts. The civil resistance is not exempt from this condition.

The concept of civil disobedience has been on stage since the mid 19th century. In short, civil disobedience is a civil action taken when it is convinced that there remains no political or judicial way of expressing the demand of public against authoritarian bodies. As clearly understood from this short definition, it is the state of protesting a legal regulation on behalf of legitimate demands by a public sect which doesn’t find a legal regulation to be legitimate. Despite of the appearance of representatives at a position of being the leaders of public this movement is a public movement in all aspects.

More importantly the civil disobedience begins where the political struggle ends. In other words, it is the job of taking the risk of an action considered as crime since it is illegal at a point where the hope of political struggle for social demands disappears. The most consistent dimensions of it are belief in the legitimacy of the demands, the warranty of depersonalization by attributing to the society and not resorting to violence.

Then, under the lights of this description is the movement that we are talking about is a civil disobedience?

As clearly known, it has been put forward that the Kurdish civil action has been done for four main demands which has never been accomplished. These are, failure in education in mother tongue, the discharge of the political prisoners, stopping the civil and military operations and pulling down the election thresholds below 10 percent.

As clearly known the civil disobedience is claimed to be done for four main reasons which have not been resolved. These are: the failures in initiating education in mother tongue, in releasing the political prisoners, in sustaining the civil and military operations and in dropping the election thresholds blow ten percent. Undoubtedly these are problem to be resolved and the demands for their solution are the very basic right of a sect of the society.

However, the solution ways within the frame of the constitution have not been followed adequately. In other words, the so called civil disobedience does not carry the requirement of reaching the end of all political ways. Regardless of what the citizens attending the movement claim we can clearly say that the organizations pioneering this movement do not carry this requirements. We don’t need to too much back, if this movement took place a few years ago it would be more appropriate to be named as civil disobedience than today, because civil disobedience is a multidimensional risky and marginal way which is taken when all political hopes. Whereas, the Kurdish Issue summarized above in a few points has never been so close to the solution since the Republican era as it is today. The state expresses that serious mistakes have been committed and these should be made up for. It also tries to purge a structure which is the main actor of all the mistakes mentioned above. It tries to annihilate a militaristic structure which converted the issue into gangrene in a pro-security system at a pathological level and involved in terrorism at this point. A significant public opinion has come about in civil society regarding the requirement of the solution of aforementioned issue and many civil society institutions declared that they are supportive to the endeavors for the solution. Research institutions such as Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE) and Politics, Economy and Society Researches Association (SETAV) have published reports that would enlighten the community in this respect as a logistic support to inform the political decision makers in this direction.

In such an environment the public opinion directs the attentions to those who consider themselves to represent the Kurds. However, the things done are surprising. It is an obvious observation that an ordinary observer can see that these they haven’t done any contribution to the process. In short, since the Kurdish politicians could not do politics at the position of policy making all the political ways have been wasted thus the turn of civil disobedience has not come yet. A deputy throw stones to the security forces with children poured down to the streets by illegal organizations instead of doing politics. Of course, the problematic consequence of this action is that it undermines the discourses of civil disobedience.

One of the main stalemates of the Kurdish politicians is that they cannot develop a policy out of the concerns of the illegal Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its leader Ocalan, whereas politics requires clarity, the ability to think alternatives and the ability to prefer the most profitable choice among many different choices. The establishment of many things in political arena in accordance with Ocalan closes the way for the affirmative politics. Then almost all claims are deprived of frankness or clarity and proof.

What is more, the relationship between the PKK and its leader Ocalan with the political structure considered to have sit at the very center of the case has been discussed. There may not be an organic relation but the process is full of cooperation instances. It is clear that that the pro-security system felt insecurity and even committing its illegal action via this party. This situation can be explained with the idea that everyone founds its calculations on his interests but the process show a deeper relation impression.

In the mean time, the representatives of the civil disobedience who demand the “cease of civil and military operations” didn’t contribute anything to the initiation process which tries to purge the pro-Ergenekon militia structure which is at the very center of the respective operation. They adopted similar attitude with the Republican People Party (CHP) and Nationalist Progress Party (MHP) which have benefited from these clandestine structures and try to take the case from the judicial bodies via deputyship and etc.

What is more, dropping the election threshold is not a main problem of civil society platform. As this claim is not sensible just at the wake of the elections it also concerns the political representatives seriously because, acceptance of a party considering itself as the particular representative of a large landscape and dense population that it would not be able to pass the 10 percent threshold and the reason for falling below in the former elections is not the threshold itself. It was because of the inconsistence of the representatives and unconvincing for the population that they tried to lead.

It seems that those who consider themselves to be the representatives or organizations of Kurdish citizens do not remain at a point that will contribute to the solution. Although it can be said that the main cause of this is their conditioning themselves to illegal structuring and thus could not get to the solution area it can also be said that a part of them are in favor of deadlocking. That is, they may have thought that in case of solution they will lose their functions. A great majority of our prudent citizens who doesn’t want even to remain among the marginal 10 percent political group observes the case closely. In these circumstances these citizens see the movement named as civil disobedience as such instead they perceive it as political disobedience which has not been accomplished.

Special Report: Inside the Egyptian revolution

jj April 13th, 2011

(Reuters) - In early 2005, Cairo-based computer engineer Saad Bahaar was trawling the internet when he came across a trio of Egyptian expatriates who advocated the use of non-violent techniques to overthrow strongman Hosni Mubarak. Bahaar, then 32 and interested in politics and how Egypt might change, was intrigued by the idea. He contacted the group, lighting one of the fuses that would end in freedom in Tahrir Square six years later.

A protester stands in front of a burning barricade during a demonstration in Cairo January 28, 2011.

A protester stands in front of a burning barricade during a demonstration in Cairo January 28, 2011.

The three men he approached — Hisham Morsy, a physician, Wael Adel, a civil engineer by training, and Adel’s cousin Ahmed, a chemist — had all left Egypt for jobs in London.

Inspired by the way Serbian group Otpor had brought down Slobodan Milosevic through non-violent protests in 2000, the trio studied previous struggles. One of their favorite thinkers was Gene Sharp, a Boston-based academic who was heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. The group had set up a webpage in 2004 to propagate civil disobedience ideas in Arabic.

At first, the three young Egyptians’ activities were purely theoretical. But in November 2005, Wael Adel came to Cairo to give a three-day training session on civil disobedience. In the audience were about 30 members of Kefaya, an anti-Mubarak protest group whose name means “enough” in Arabic. Kefaya had gained prominence during the September 2005 presidential elections which Mubarak won by a landslide. During these protests, they had been attacked by thugs and some women members had been stripped naked. Bahaar joined Adel on the course and his career as an underground trainer in non-violent activism was born.

Adel taught activists how to function within a decentralized network. Doing so would make it harder for the security services to snuff them out by arresting leaders. They were also instructed on how to maintain a disciplined non-violent approach in the face of police brutality, and how to win over bystanders.

“The third party, the bystander sitting on the fence, will join when he realizes that security forces’ use of violence is unwarranted,” Bahaar said in one of a series of interviews with Reuters. “Security will harass you to provoke an angry violent response to justify a repressive crackdown in the name of law and order. But you must avoid this trap.”

The process took time. As Wael Adel put it during an interview in a rundown Cairo cafe in March, there was a process of “trial and error” before Egypt’s non-violent warriors were strong enough to begin to take on a dictator.

Kefaya, for example, did run some more campaigns – including one for judicial independence in 2006. But it failed to stir mass protests or expand beyond the middle class elite. There was also internal disagreement between its younger activists and older politicians. By 2007, it had lost its momentum and many had quit.

THE ACADEMY OF CHANGE

In the meantime, the trio of thinkers had morphed into an organization called the Academy of Change — based in London and ultimately moving to Qatar. The Academy became a window for Egypt’s activists into civil disobedience movements outside the Arab world. To disseminate the new methods of resistance, it wrote books about nonviolent activism with a focus on the Arab world: “Civil Disobedience,” “Nonviolent War the 3rd Choice” and “AOC MindQuake” that were published in 2007.

A year later the Academy published “Shields to Protect Against Fear”, a manual on techniques to protect one’s body against attacks by security services during a protest. “The idea of non-violent protest is not martyrdom,” Adel said. “We knew to get ordinary Egyptians, and Arabs, to face their governments and security, they have to have tools to protect themselves. This boosts the morale and enthusiasm to go to the street.”

The ideas espoused by the Academy spread through Egypt. The calls for change reached industrial areas where large groups of workers have long suffered low wages and bad work conditions. Mounting economic hardship mobilized workers in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla El Kobra, home to the country’s biggest textile factory. The workers had been in contact with Kefaya activists and other independent labor activists. The groundwork for a sustained mass mobilization was being prepared.

The first real victory sprung from Mahalla in December 2006 when over 20,000 textile workers staged a six-day strike over unpaid bonuses. The protesters — peaceful but stubborn — confused police forces accustomed to clashing with disorganized crowds. The government offered concessions to avoid losses from a halt to production.

Then came a setback. In April 2008, workers in Mahalla went out on strike again, over rising prices. An online call by Kefaya’s former activists to support the Mahalla strike on fizzled out. Meanwhile, in Mahalla, the protest turned violent. Activists claim plain-clothes police destroyed public and police property and then blamed it on the protesters. Bloody clashes between police and Mahalla citizens lasted three days. Police fired live rounds and teargas, while enraged crowds threw rocks. At least three people were killed, hundreds were wounded and scores arrested.

More discipline was needed. Bahaar began to widen his efforts, traveling to disparate locations farther away from the capital to extend grassroots awareness of peaceful civil disobedience.
Meanwhile, ex-Kefaya activists formed the April 6 Facebook group, using the internet to gather supporters. The group adopted the Otpor clenched-fist logo and some members travelled to Serbia for civil disobedience training.

THE FACEBOOK ACTIVISTS

February 2010. Mohamed ElBaradei was back in Cairo. The former head of the International Atomic Energy Association and Nobel peace prize winner had inspired some of Egypt’s younger generation that change was possible. Several of them had created a Facebook page backing ElBaradei as the country’s next president. But how were they to achieve their goal given Mubarak’s repressive regime? They turned to the Academy for help.

The Academy directed them to its online training manuals, which the Facebook activists tried for a while. But despite their internet savvy, many felt that relying entirely on online training was too theoretical. Couldn’t the Academy give them practical training?

Enter Bahaar.

Those who had signed up to the Facebook page were divided into groups of 100. Bahaar trained eight of the groups in different parts of the country using, among other tools, PowerPoint presentations that explained how you maximize the power of a protest movement. Every protester had a family, and around the family was a wider community, Bahaar explained. If a protester was arrested or beaten by the police, his or her family might be radicalized. Similarly, if a policeman engaged in brutality, his family and social network might not be supportive. By maintaining disciplined non-violent activity, the regime’s power could be progressively weakened.

Why wasn’t Bahaar himself arrested? He says this was partly because he was working underground but also, he thinks, because the security services didn’t judge his non-violent approach a threat.

Others were not so lucky. Khaled Said, 28, was beaten to death by police in Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, in June 2010. His family said he had posted a video showing police officers sharing the spoils of a drugs bust. Said’s body was barely recognizable and the act of brutality galvanized further protests — in particular, the anti-torture Facebook page “We are Khaled Said,” created by Google executive Wael Ghonim and underground activist AbdelRahman Mansour.

The page played a pivotal role in spreading non-violent strategies such as “flash mob” silent protests, where groups of people suddenly gather in a public place and do something unusual in unison for a short time before dispersing. Instructions for a nationwide “flash mob” were posted on the page. Participants were told to dress in black and arrive at specific locations in small groups to skirt the ban on large public gatherings. They formed single files along main roads with their backs turned to the street. After a certain hour they marched away.

“The Khaled Said page drew countless willing supporters, many apolitical, because its focus was ending human rights violations and that is an issue that affects all citizens. The page set gradual, easy-to-handle tasks. People felt safe and joined,” said Ahmed Saleh, one of the organizers working with the ElBaradei youth campaign and Khaled Said page.

Like Mahalla’s 2006 strike, the flash mob was a new type of protest unfamiliar to security forces. Its cadres were organized, civil, and well diffused across Egypt — and seemingly leaderless. The police didn’t know how to react. Participants were trained in non-violent techniques — both online, by the “Khaled Said” page founders, and on the ground, by Bahaar.

FREEDOM SQUARE

In late 2010, the Khaled Said page decided to call for something more ambitious — a nationwide march to demand the dissolution of parliament, the disbanding of the state security agency, seen by Egyptians as the state’s main arm of torture, and the resignation of the interior minister.

The date chosen for mass action was January 25, Egypt’s national police day. Mansour — who was conscripted into the army on January 17 — posted the call for the nationwide march on December 28. Protesters were urged to march to Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other public spaces across the country. The page was not yet calling for Mubarak to go. It was Tunisia’s popular uprising, which reached its climax on January 14 with the ousting of President Zein El Abedine Ben Ali, which turned Egypt’s protests into an uprising.

The protest drew people of all ages and backgrounds. By 8 p.m. a unified, single chant inspired by Tunisia rang around Tahrir (Arabic for “freedom”) Square: “The people demand the fall of the regime.” By then, many understood at least a few of the tactics of non-violent disobedience. “You don’t need to train every single protester, only a small group of activists well connected with people in their local areas. Ideas spread like a virus,” says Bahaar.

Protesters conversed with riot police sent to cordon off the Square. The aim was simple: win over those in uniform. Women gave out food and biscuits to hungry conscripts and officers.
Young people quickly regrouped after being dispersed. Some climbed security personnel carriers to drag down officers firing teargas and water cannons, raising the crowd’s resolve to push security back and gain more ground. A pattern of whistling and rhythmic banging of stones on metal fences in Tahrir spontaneously developed when they needed to rally reinforcements to hold the fort. Protesters would also whistle to signal their success in forcing security to pull back.

Encouraged by the mass protests, the Khaled Said page posted a second online call for Friday, January 28, naming the event a “revolution” to overthrow the regime.

April 6 activists and youth from the Muslim Brotherhood formed the crucial front lines of protesters who broke security cordons and later faced attacks from pro-Mubarak loyalists. The youth of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most organized opposition force whose members are accustomed to working within disciplined ranks, played a critical role in organizing activists into security teams to guard Tahrir Square’s multiple entrances. They searched those who came into the square for weapons or fluids that could be turned into Molotov cocktails. They wanted neither infiltrators nor supporters to turn to violence.

To help demonstrators hold true to non-violent resistance, the Academy posted online an eight-minute film covering similar ground to its 2008 manual. This explained how people could protect their chests and backs with makeshift shields made of plastic and thick cardboard, and how to mitigate the effect of teargas by covering their faces with handkerchiefs doused in vinegar, lemons or onions.

For the most part, people were having fun. They also took pride in their ownership of the square. Music was put on. Volunteers and protesters swept it, collected garbage and built outhouses.

“Non-violent action is not just about non-violence, but also about joy and happiness,” Adel said. “The festive atmosphere was a key element to drawing the high numbers that Egypt had rarely seen. People felt safe so they came out. They saw in Tahrir what Egypt could possibly be in the future and they wanted to be part of this new Egypt.”

The protests were not entirely peaceful. In particular, scuffles broke out after a group of thugs thought to have been organized by Mubarak’s henchmen charged through the square on horses and camels on February 2, beating and whipping protestors in what came to be known as the “Battle of the Camel”. Many demonstrators fought back, throwing stones at Mubarak loyalists to keep them from entering the square. But there was no wholesale riot and discipline returned.

“The key to a successful non-violent revolt is its ability to constantly reinvent and correct itself,” Adel says. “If violence or conflict breaks out, quickly resolve it while finding ways to avoid it.” Trained cadres shouted “peaceful, peaceful!” to restrain their hotter-headed colleagues. Soon after, the army, which had not been involved in the clashes, said it would not fire on unarmed civilians.

Nine days later Mubarak was gone.

COP: A Living Movement: Toward a World of Peace, Solidarity, and Justice

Stellan Vinthagen April 5th, 2011

Joint Conference of PJSA and the Gandhi King Conference

Hosted by the Christian Brothers University, Memphis, TN ~ October 21-23, 2011


The Peace and Justice Studies Association and The Gandhi-King Conference

Jointly present a dynamic conference experience:

“A Living Movement: Toward a World of Peace, Solidarity, and Justice”

The Peace & Justice Studies Association (PJSA) and the Gandhi-King Conference (GKC) are pleased to announce our first-ever jointly sponsored annual conference. The PJSA and the GKC are partnering this year to promote dynamic exchange among individuals and organizations working for a more just and peaceful world. This partnership promises a unique conference experience that combines the best of scholarly and grassroots perspectives on the pressing justice issues in our communities and around the globe.

We invite submissions for the 2011 Annual Conference, to be held on the campus of Christian Brothers University, in Memphis, Tennessee, from Friday October 21 through Sunday October 23, 2011. We welcome proposals from a wide range of disciplines, professions, and perspectives that address issues related to the broad themes of solidarity, community, advocacy, education, and activism as they are brought to bear in the pursuit of peace and justice.

Our goal is to create a stimulating environment where scholars, activists, educators, practitioners, artists, and students can build community and explore interconnections. We invite participants to engage in various modes of exploration, including papers and presentations, hands-on practitioner workshops, and a youth summit. We aim to foster an experience in which attendees will have multiple opportunities to meet and dialogue in both formal and informal settings, against the unique historical backdrop of Memphis, TN.

The deadline for proposal submissions is April 15, 2011. Abstracts are limited to 150 words, and must be submitted electronically through the PJSA website.

For more information, contact: info@peacejusticestudies.org or info@gandhikingconference.org

COP: Nonviolent Civil Resistance

Stellan Vinthagen April 5th, 2011

Call for Papers (Please forward and distribute widely)

Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change volume 34

Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, a peer-reviewed volume published by Emerald Group Publishing, encourages submissions for Volume 34 of the series. This volume will have a thematic focus on nonviolent civil resistance and will be guest edited by Lester Kurtz (George Mason University) and Sharon Erickson Nepstad (University of New Mexico). We encourage submissions on the following topics: variations of nonviolent strategies, the effects of repression on nonviolent movements, reasons for the recent rise of nonviolent revolutions, factors shaping the outcome of nonviolent struggles, and the international diffusion of nonviolent methods.

Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change (RSMCC) is a fully peer-reviewed series of original research that has been published annually for over 30 years. We continue to publish the work of many of the leading scholars in social movements, social change, and peace and conflict studies. Although RSMCC enjoys a wide library subscription base for the book versions, all volumes are now published both in book form and are also available online to subscribing libraries through Emerald Insight. This ensures wider distribution and easier online access to your scholarship while maintaining the esteemed book series at the same time.

RSMCC boasts quick turn-around times, generally communicating peer reviewed-informed decisions within 10-12 weeks of receipt of submissions.

Submission guidelines

To be considered for inclusion in Volume 34, papers should arrive by October 1, 2011.

Send submissions as a WORD document attached to an email to BOTH Lester Kurtz and Sharon Erickson Nepstad, guest RSMCC editors for Volume 34, at lkurtz (at) gmu (dot) edu and nepstad (at) unm (dot) edu. Remove all self-references (in text and in bibliography) save for on the title page, which should include full contact information for all authors.

  • Include the paper’s title and the abstract on the first page of the text itself.
  • For initial submissions, any standard social science in-text citation and bibliographic system is acceptable.

For more information, please visit the RSMCC homepage.

Please forward and distribute widely.

Burjanadze: ‘We are Ready for Peaceful Revolution’

jj March 18th, 2011

From Civil.ge

Nino Burjanadze

Nino Burjanadze

Nino Burjanadze, former parliamentary speaker and leader of opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, told an indoor rally of People’s Assembly on March 15, that a peaceful revolution was needed and the Assembly was ready for that.

“We need a large number of people for one reason – to force these authorities to go peacefully, without blood. Yes, this country today, unfortunately, needs a revolution and if no other way is left, we are ready for it [revolution], of course, through peaceful means,” Burjanadze said.

“We are not going to raise our hands even against those compatriots, who committed crime, but if someone dares to raise a hand against us, they will receive a fierce response,” she said and called on police and army to “serve the country and people and not the authorities.”

“We are not alone in this struggle and the entire world will stand beside us in the struggle for justice like it stood beside the Egyptian and Tunisian peoples,” she said.

Burjanadze was speaking at an indoor rally in Tbilisi at the basketball arena packed with activists from People’s Assembly.

The People’s Assembly is a movement launched last year by opposition-minded, public figures, probably the most prominent of them Nona Gaprindashvili, who was women’s world chess champion from 1962 to 1978.

Nino Burjanadze has long been a strongest backer of the movement among politicians and the movement became largely associated with Burjanadze’s political platform.

During a rally outside the Parliament in November 2010, the People’s Assembly announced about start of setting up “resistance committees” throughout the country “to prepare for civil disobedience campaign.”

it was announced at the rally on March 15 that such committees had been established in recent months in “almost each and every town and village” in the country and the People’s Assembly was ready to act.

Nona Gaprindashvili, the chairperson of People’s Assembly, announced at the rally that the movement was starting “a round-the-clock working regime”, getting ready for “a decisive, final stage of struggle.”

She said that this “final stage” would start after Bright Week – a week following the Orthodox Easter, which this year is marked on April 24.

Gaprindashvili said, that by that time, beginning of May, the People’s Assembly “will announce a concrete action plan and the entire Georgia should be ready for this day.”

“We will fight to the end unless we set Georgia free from this criminal regime,” she said.

The People’s Assembly also announced about the readiness “to cooperate with “everyone who genuinely aspires setting Georgia free from this regime and who will not make a deal with the authorities.”

Most of the opposition parties have distanced themselves from the People’s Movement, not least because of the movement’s association with Nino Burjanadze.

SSU professor: Egypt revolt not spontaneous

jj March 15th, 2011

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cynthia Boaz

Cynthia Boaz

Observers worldwide were captivated in February as millions of Egyptians overthrew President Hosni Mubarek, who has been in power since 1981. Many also described it as spontaneous.

It wasn’t, said Cynthia Boaz, a political scientist at Sonoma State University.

She met with some of the students who became its leaders in 2008, at a workshop co-organized by the Washington-based nonprofit where she is a paid consultant, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

They discussed the lessons and methods of nonviolent mass civil resistance, and the skills it requires.

Boaz remains in contact with them and said that what is now known as the January 25 Movement, while sparked by a similar revolt in Tunisia, was anything but impromptu.

“I didn’t know they were planning … to start on Jan. 25,” she said, “but I knew the movement had planned for a major action. It’s an organized, planned, disciplined movement.”

Despite the scattered violence that continues, the revolution was overwhelmingly peaceful, waged not with weapons but with voices and placards and mass gatherings.

Boaz, 40, is an expert in nonviolent struggle who consults with educators, activists and students from countries ranging from Spain to Iran. She said toppling repressive regimes is a milestone in the capacity of organized civil resistance movements.

“What happened in Egypt represents a systemwide demand for a new alternative,” she said. “It’s not just about removing the old system from power.

“It was important to get something new for Egyptians, and that really is about democracy.”

Some of the effects are already evident in the largely peaceful protests happening across the Middle East in countries from Bahrain to Yemen.

“It isn’t like these movements have emerged overnight. They’ve just been waiting for an opportunity,” Boaz said.

Libya is an exception because “it’s not organized, there’s not a coherent, unified message,” she said. “It’s not disciplined, and it’s not non-violent.”

Egyptian activists worked for years to identify and neutralize the sources of power in the nation of 83 million. Their effort extended to having coffee with members of the Army.

“It’s a very nuanced divide and conquer strategy,” Boaz said. “You genuinely build real relationships with people, and you begin to help them question the legitimacy of the ruler and the system they’re upholding.”

—–O—–

With the events in the Middle East, Cynthia Boaz is in demand. Before flying to Chile Friday to meet with Latin American diplomats, she talked with The Press Democrat about Egypt’s revolution.

Q: What took place in Egypt has variously been termed a revolt, an uprising, a revolution. Which would you use?

A: Revolution. When power shifted from the regime to the people, that’s what made it a “revolution.”

Q: The revolution is often described as a spontaneous event ignited by the events in Tunisia. To what degree was it organized and why does it matter?

A: This question represents a common and unfortunate misconception about nonviolent action, which is that when you see it, it’s ad-hoc, it’s spontaneous; people just decide to show up in the city square and protest.

But that takes away credit from the activists. When nonviolence succeeds … it’s planned, organized and disciplined.

Q: But doesn’t the suddenness of these events, and how they took place almost simultaneously in these countries, signify a degree of spontaneity?

A: The disaffection and frustration that people feel is long term, so in many of these cases there will be a spark that ignites a population to action.

But that doesn’t mean it’s spontaneous. It means that there may be a movement waiting for a strategic moment in time.

Q: Is it significant that the Egyptian revolution was largely nonviolent?

A: What’s won through violence has to be sustained through violence, so the only truly legitimate way to create democracy is through a bottom-up, nonviolent process.

Also, the long-term consequences of a nonviolent victory in Egypt are that it really increases the credibility of nonviolence.

Young people who are natural bases of recruitment by terrorist organizations are now seeing another option for pushing their grievances — nonviolence.

Q: Regarding legitimacy, what about the American Revolution?

A: Mass non-violent action is relatively new, since the beginning of the 20th Century. It was really perfected by Ghandi …and (the Egyptians) were also looking at Eastern Europe and what happened there in Serbia and Ukraine.

Q: Of the students you know, are any members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is expected to play a role in Egypt’s next election?

A: No. In fact, they are very clear that the movement’s goals and objectives are secular.

See the debate following the publication of this text and the corrections made by Cynthia Boaz at the bottom of this article

Unless The Women of Egypt Rise There Was No Revolution

jj March 10th, 2011

From: Illume

By Adisa Banjoko. Adisa has entertained many with his work on Hip Hop culture, eastern philosophy, martial arts, Islamic culture, African American and youth social issues.

American Muslims must demand that the safety, freedom and education of the women in those nations is a top priority

Revolution: A fundamental change in the way of thinking about, or visualizing something

Over the recent weeks, many people around the world have been shocked and inspired by the non-violent revolution in Egypt. I’m sure it drove neo-conservatives mad having to admit that the face of the new generation of Islam got rid of their corrupt regime without making violence the focus. But indeed thats what happened.

With cautious eyes the world now watches to see what the endgame for Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain and other countries might be. The simple truth is, these brutal dictators physically, economically and culturally abused their citizens for many decades. A change had to come eventually.

I hope the people of these nations get the leadership they envisioned for themselves. My desire for them is that it blends the most effective democratic practices with the most compassionate and logical Islamic elements. But ultimately those countries belong to the people and whatever they believe is best for them, I pray they can bring into actuality.

At the same time though, the most serious issue for me has become this: As new regimes in Egypt and other nations evolve, American Muslims must demand that the safety, freedom and education of the women in those nations is a top priority. For me personally, the new level of safety, freedom and education for the women of emerging regimes will be the litmus test that will determine my support for them.

Sadly, in many Muslim nations physical abuse, human trafficking, rape, honor killings, and overall neglect of women is far too common. I am not trying to bash my Muslim brothers. But I cannot stay silent about it any longer. As men of God, we should be ashamed that things have gotten this bad for so many generations of women who love God.

Don’t get me wrong, I know America is a sexist nation. I can acknowledge elements of sexism within myself I still need to workout. I recognize many Christians, Jews, Hindus and people of other religious paths also are abusive and neglectful of woman. Muslims do not have a patent on sexism. But if the Muslim men are to truly say they had a revolution, we must see the women of Islam in positions of power. We should know their names, read their stories and know their opinions on everything from family, to politics and technology. We should want to see Muslim women in leadership positions helping to make the new governments of Islam resonate with their ideas and intellect as much as any man standing next to them.

Love and support of women is a Prophetic tradition. When The Prophet was leading prayer, if he heard a baby crying he would shorten the prayer so as not to distress the mothers in the midst of prayer. He was known to have said “A woman acts for the people”. Yet we don’t give them the space to act on our behalf. Prophet Muhammad taught that a Muslim was someone with whom the people are safe. Sadly so many women of this deen are unsafe from Muslim hands in America and overseas. This must change immediately.

In Dr. Ivan Van Sertima Golden Age of the Moor its noted that ”In Andalus women moved freely in public and engaged in various gatherings. The practice of purdah (requirement that women cover their faces in public etc.) was almost completely ignored. Moorish Andalus was unique among Islamic nations. It could easily be argued that women enjoyed more societal freedoms in al-Andalus than in any other part of the Islamic world.” Another section explains how women ”appeared freely in public and took their share in all the intellectual, literary, and even scientific movements of the day. Women held schools in some of the principal towns. There were women poets, historians and philosophers, as well as women surgeons and doctors.”

How many advancements in medicine, technology and science have not been brought into existence because our sisters were cut off from knowledge by us? No historian worth half of their salt will argue against the fact that Prophet Muhammad gave the women of Islam rights that Western women did not see for several hundred years. But we should not have to look back to the time of The Prophet or the Moorish Empire to see an armada of free, highly educated, accomplished women living full lives. The Prophet Muhammad said that if a man walks with an oppressor, knowing he is an oppressor that he has gon forth from Islam. I cannot walk with brothers who brutalize and threaten women. As a husband and father I cannot allow it. Let the ummah of 2011 and beyond seek to outdo the Moorish standards of honoring our sisters.

If we do not help our Muslim sisters rise, I will never say there was a revolution. I will just say some other people took over. I fear that if the men of Islam fail to make the safety freedom and education an immediate priority around the world, we may have missed our greatest moment of redemption. Not redemption from America or any of its allies, but from God.

Music of The Revolution: How Songs of Protest Have Rallied Demonstrators

jj March 9th, 2011

From: Movements.org

Look up the original site and get several of the movies.

Music almost always plays a pivotal role in protest movements, with songs and chants unifying dissidents in their rallying cries. Unlike movements of decades past, however, protest music made popular during the recent revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, and beyond spread virally with the help YouTube and Facebook.

TUNISIA

Twenty-one-year-old Hamada Ben Amor, known as El Général—an underground rapper living in the town of Sfax south of Tunis—uploaded a song he had written called “Rais Le Bled” (“President, Your Country”) to Facebook on November 7. The rap called out then-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali for the problems faced by average Tunisians trying to make a living, including food scarcity, a lack of freedom of speech, and unemployment with lyrics like: “Mr. President, your people are dying/People are eating rubbish/Look at what is happening/Miseries everywhere Mr. President/I talk with no fear/Although I know I will only get troubles/I see injustice everywhere.”

The Voice of Tunisia

The rap was picked up by local TV station Tunivision and Al-Jazeera and resonated with many Tunisians who quickly began sharing the song. Soon enough, the government blocked the musician’s Facebook page and cut off his mobile phone. Despite the attempt to make his music disappear, El Général’s song quickly became the anthem of the Jasmine Revolution.

El Général then recorded another song of protest call “Tounes Bladna” (“Tunisia Our Country”) on December 22. By that point, Ali’s regime had had enough with the musician. El Général was arrested by state security on January 6, taken to the Ministry of Interior, and interrogated for three days.

He tells The Guardian, “They kept asking me which political party I worked for. ‘Don’t you know it’s forbidden to sing songs like that?’ they said. But I just answered, ‘Why? I’m only telling the truth.’ I was in there for three days, but it felt like three years.” The public was outraged and began demanding his release. The pressure mounted on the government worked and he was soon released from detention.

Since Ben Ali left office on January 14, El Général’s tunes have continued to serve as a rallying cry for other demonstrators in the Middle East, and his work has proven to be popular among demonstrators in Bahrain.

EGYPT

Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm (“Uncle Ahmed”), a popular voice for the poor who has spent 18 of his 81 years in Egyptian prisons, wrote “The Donkey and the Foal,” a commentary about then-president Hosni Mubarak and his son Gamal. Musician Ramy Essam, who had taken to playing in Tahrir Square during the protest, set the poem to music and sang the song as Negm stood beside him.

Essam then penned the song “Leave,” inspired by the slogans and chants being shouted around Tahrir Square:

“We are all united as one,

And what we ask for,

Is just one thing: Leave! Leave! (x3)

Down, down Husni Mubarak! (x4)

The people demand: Bring down the regime! (x4)

He is going away. We are not going anywhere! (x4)

We are all united as one,

And what we ask for,

Is just one thing: Leave! Leave! Leave! (x4)”

The Truth Behind the Egyptian Revolution

Amir and Adel Eid from the Egyptian rock band Cairo-Kee gathered up other artists to record “Sout Al Horeya” (“The Voice of Freedom”), which quickly became another anthem for the revolution. The video for the song was shot entirely inside Tahrir Square during the revolution using a basic digital SLR camera.

“I went down to the streets vowing not to return, and wrote with my blood on every street.

Our voices reached those who could not hear them

And we broke through all barriers

Our weapon was our dreams

And tomorrow is looking as bright as it seems….”

Sout Al Horeya

LIBYA

Traditional songs have also played an important role in demonstrations. Libyans in the liberated eastern parts of the country forged bonds by singing the old national anthem while waving the tricolor flag from before Gaddafi came to power in 1969 as “a symbol of the reinvention of the Libyans.”

In this video, the massive crowd in Beghanzi sings the old anthem to share their pride in being liberated.

ARAB RAP DIASPORA

The Narcicyst, an Iraqi-born rapper living in Toronto, joined with other musicians from the Arabic rap diaspora in North America, such as Omar Offendum, Amir Sulaiman, and Canadian R&B singer Ayah, to record a track called “#Jan25 Egypt,” based off the popular hashtag used during the demonstrations in Egypt. In an Al Jazeera English interview, Omar said that it’s a “song of solidarity with the Egyptian people and [a way] to open it up [what’s happening in Egypt] to an audience in the United States.” The song starts:

“I heard ’em say

The revolution won’t be televised

Aljazeera proved ’em wrong

Twitter has him paralyzed

80 million strong

And ain’t no longer gonna be terrorized

Organized – Mobilized – Vocalized

On the side of TRUTH

Um il-Dunya’s living proof

That its a matter of time

before the chicken is home to roost”

Omar Offendum

LOOKING FOR MORE MUSIC?

Check out Mideast Tunes, a hub launched by Mideast Youth for the region’s underground and alternative music scenes. You can browse music by country or genre. The site has highlighted a number of other protest songs coming out of the region for its listeners (1, 2).

Abdulla Darrat, co-founder of the enoughgaddafi.com (Khalas) site run by a Libyan exiles (now found at http://feb17.info), put together a “mixtape” featuring hip-hop artists from the region. The mix, called “Mish B3eed,” or “Not Far,” features songs describing the conditions in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. It can be downloaded here.

Durrat says, “[These musicians and emcees] very successfully put into words a lot of the sentiments that young people in the area are carrying with them, and they’re voicing really the struggle of…everyday people.”

Are any popular protest songs missing? Share them in the comments below!

Next Resistance Seminar: 2 and 3 March, Gothenburg University

Stellan Vinthagen February 25th, 2011

Resistance Studies Seminars
—————————————————————————————–
March 2 with Angie Zelter and Nätverket Ofog – Peace Activists.

War starts here – let´s stop it here!

I Norrbotten finns Europas största krigsövningsområde NEAT, North European Aerospace Testrange. På detta 24000km2 stora område tränar NATO, USA och många andra på krig i form av t.ex. bombfällning. NEAT används också för att utveckla förarlösa bombplan och annat krigsmateriel. Förberedelserna för krig pågår för fullt här och nu. Krig börjar här. Och det är skrämmande tyst om det.

Tillsammans med Angie Zelter, känd fredsaktivist från Storbritannien och mottagare av Right Livelihood Award och Nobels alternativa fredsprise 2001. Angie Zelter och det antimilitaristiska nätverket Ofog kommer för att prata om Sveriges del i det globala krigsmaskineriet med fokus på vad som pågår i Norrbotten. Angie Zelter kommer ge exempel från aktioner hon har deltagit i och vi kommer även att prata om det internationella aktionsläger mot NEAT som vi arrangerar 22-29 juli i sommar och vad annat vi kan göra för att stoppa denna förödande utveckling.

! Seminar is in English and Swedish. March 2 . Wednesday 15:15-17.00 at the Annedalseminariet at Room 419 !

—————————————————————————————–

March 3 with The Journal Dissident – Från kritiken av den politiska ekonomin till motstånd.

Ungdomsarbetslösheten är en viktig faktor för att kunna förklara de stora upproren i Tunisien, Egypten och Libyen. Samtidigt pågår det runtom i Europa protester mot förändringar i utbildningssystemet och i Grekland fortsätter strejkerna och kravallerna mot regeringens åtstramningspolitik. Vi tycks se en mängd resningar mot det faktum att en växande del av världsbefolkningen upplever sig vara överflödig och oanställbar.

I tredje bandet av Kapitalet utvecklar Marx ansatser till en överbefolkningsteori. Kapitalismens utveckling av produktivkrafterna gör att färre och färre arbetare blir nödvändiga för produktionen, vilket skapar en strukturell överbefolkning i förhållande till ekonomin. I väst märks detta främst genom en alltmer prekär och osäker arbetsmarknad, men globalt sett är denna tendens en brutal verklighet i världens kåkstäder. Kapitalismen skapar en sorts utsida till sin egen produktionsprocess, en överbefolkning som ofta är beredd att jobba under de mest vidriga villkor för att överleva. Men detta är bara ena sidan av myntet, det andra är att motsättningen mellan arbete och kapital har omstrukturerats. Vi ser alltmer kamper på gatorna: alltifrån rödskjortornas intåg i Bangkok 2010, demonstrationerna i Wisconsin till kampen på Tahirtorget i Egypten. Vad betyder det för klasskampen att en allt större del av arbetarklassen gjorts
onödig för kapitalet? Vilka arenor för kamp finns det då?

I det här föredraget diskuterar vi Marx’ kritik av den politiska ekonomin som en överbefolkningsteori, men också som en teori för motstånd och revolt. Studiet av kapitalismen var nämligen för Marx först och främst studiet av den verkliga rörelse som avskaffar de nuvarande tillstånden.

! First part of a stand-alone seminar series in three parts with focus on workplace struggles.

Seminar is in Swedish. March 3 . Thursday 15:15-17.00 at the Annedalseminariet at Room 419 !

How to Plan and Execute an Act of Electronic Civil Disobedience

jj January 24th, 2011

From Infoshop News

In the midst of hacktivists using ECDs (similar to distributed denial of service attacks) to defend Wikileaks, it’s worth having a document that describes how such attacks are planned and executed. Such a zine has recently been released that is written in laypersons terms so expertise in computing or networking is certainly not needed to understand it. If you have the ability to browse the web and edit a Microsoft Word document, you’ve probably got what it takes to understand the ideas it presents.

The zine goes through everything from anonymously scoping out your target to distributing your ECD tools and call-out. It includes a guide on doing research and making online postings anonymously, legal risks you may encounter and analysis of the effectiveness of ECDs as opposed to other large protest tactics. It reviews three popular tools (the Greek ECD Tool, the Low Orbit Ion Cannon, and Slow Loris) and provides step-by-step instructions for configuring and packaging them. It also includes a short section on the history of the use of ECDs by social movements.

Download the zine for printing and online reading at:
http://zinelibrary.info

Students recreate the civil rights movement in Second Life

jj January 20th, 2011

by Justin Olivetti

Americans celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day this past week to honor both the man and the civil rights movement that he supported. As part of that celebration, a team of doctoral students from Indiana University of Pennsylvania used Second Life to recreate key moments in the civil rights movement as a teaching tool.

Players who went through the simulation encountered critical junctures of the movement, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King Jr.’s beginnings at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the 1963 March on Washington, and the Mississippi Freedom School Movement. By experiencing it first-hand in a virtual world, players hopefully gained a perspective on the issues surrounding segregation, integration, equality, voting rights and civil disobedience of the era that are in danger of slipping into distant history.

As they moved through the simulation, players were able to take quizzes, look at photos and videos, and make personal choices relating to the movement, such as whether to protest or sit in the back of the bus.

While it looks as though the simulation is no longer available in the game, you can watch the two-minute overview of the project after the jump.

The Fall of the West’s Little Dictator

jj January 20th, 2011

“A Watershed Moment in the History of the Arab World”

By ESAM AL-AMIN CounterPunch

When people choose life (with freedom)
Destiny will respond and take action
Darkness will surely fade away
And the chains will certainly be broken

Tunisian poet Abul Qasim Al-Shabbi (1909-1934)

On New Year’s Eve 1977, former President Jimmy Carter was toasting Shah Reza Pahlavi in Tehran, calling the Western-backed monarchy “an island of stability” in the Middle East. But for the next 13 months, Iran was anything but stable. The Iranian people were daily protesting the brutality of their dictator, holding mass demonstrations from one end of the country to the other.

Protesters want the unity government to exclude members of Mr Ben Ali's RCD party

Protesters want the unity government to exclude members of Mr Ben Ali's RCD party

Initially, the Shah described the popular protests as part of a conspiracy by communists and Islamic extremists, and employed an iron fist policy relying on the brutal use of force by his security apparatus and secret police. When this did not work, the Shah had to concede some of the popular demands, dismissing some of his generals, and promising to crack down on corruption and allow more freedom, before eventually succumbing to the main demand of the revolution by fleeing the country on Jan. 16, 1979.

But days before leaving, he installed a puppet prime minister in the hope that he could quell the protests allowing him to return. As he hopped from country to country, he discovered that he was unwelcome in most parts of the world. Western countries that had hailed his regime for decades were now abandoning him in droves in the face of popular revolution.

Fast forward to Tunisia 32 years later.

What took 54 weeks to accomplish in Iran was achieved in Tunisia in less than four. The regime of President Zein-al-Abidin Ben Ali represented in the eyes of his people not only the features of a suffocating dictatorship, but also the characteristics of a mafia-controlled society riddled with massive corruption and human rights abuses.

On December 17, Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old unemployed graduate in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, set himself on fire in an attempt to commit suicide. Earlier in the day, police officers took away his stand and confiscated the fruits and vegetables he was selling because he lacked a permit. When he tried to complain to government officials that he was unemployed and that this was his only means of survival, he was mocked, insulted and beaten by the police. He died 19 days later in the midst of the uprising.

Bouazizi’s act of desperation set off the public’s boiling frustration over living standards, corruption and lack of political freedom and human rights. For the next four weeks, his self-immolation sparked demonstrations in which protesters burned tires and chanted slogans demanding jobs and freedom. Protests soon spread all over the country including its capital, Tunis.

The first reaction by the regime was to clamp down and use brutal force including beatings, tear gas, and live ammunition. The more ruthless tactics the security forces employed, the more people got angry and took to the streets. On Dec. 28 the president gave his first speech claiming that the protests were organized by a “minority of extremists and terrorists” and that the law would be applied “in all firmness” to punish protesters.

However, by the start of the New Year tens of thousands of people, joined by labor unions, students, lawyers, professional syndicates, and other opposition groups, were demonstrating in over a dozen cities. By the end of the week, labor unions called for commercial strikes across the country, while 8,000 lawyers went on strike, bringing the entire judiciary system to an immediate halt.

Meanwhile, the regime started cracking down on bloggers, journalists, artists and political activists. It restricted all means of dissent, including social media. But following nearly 80 deaths by the security forces, the regime started to back down.

On Jan. 13, Ben Ali gave his third televised address, dismissing his interior minister and announcing unprecedented concessions while vowing not to seek re-election in 2014. He also pledged to introduce more freedoms into society, and to investigate the killings of protesters during the demonstrations. When this move only emboldened the protestors, he then addressed his people in desperation, promising fresh legislative elections within six months in an attempt to quell mass dissent.

When this ploy also did not work, he imposed a state of emergency, dismissing the entire cabinet and promising to deploy the army on a shoot to kill order. However, as the head of the army Gen. Rachid Ben Ammar refused to order his troops to kill the demonstrators in the streets, Ben Ali found no alternative but to flee the country and the rage of his people.

On Jan. 14 his entourage flew in four choppers to the Mediterranean island of Malta. When Malta refused to accept them, he boarded a plane heading to France. While in mid air he was told by the French that he would be denied entry. The plane then turned back to the gulf region until he was finally admitted and welcomed by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime has a long history of accepting despots including Idi Amin of Uganda and Parvez Musharraf of Pakistan.

But a few days before the deposed president left Tunis, his wife Leila Trabelsi, a former hairdresser known for her compulsive shopping, took over a ton and a half of pure gold from the central bank and left for Dubai along with her children. The first lady and the Trabelsi family are despised by the public for their corrupt lifestyle and financial scandals.

As chaos engulfed the political elites, the presidential security apparatus started a campaign of violence and property destruction in a last ditch attempt to saw discord and confusion. But the army, aided by popular committees, moved quickly to arrest them and stop the destruction campaign by imposing a night curfew throughout the country.

A handful of high-profile security officials such as the head of presidential security and the former interior minister, as well as business oligarchs including Ben Ali’s relatives and Trabelsi family members, were either killed by crowds or arrested by the army as they attempted to flee the country.

Meanwhile, after initially declaring himself a temporary president, the prime minister had to back down from that decision within 20 hours in order to assure the public that Ben Ali was gone forever. The following day, the speaker of parliament was sworn in as president, promising a national unity government and elections within 60 days.

Most Western countries, including the U.S. and France, were slow in recognizing the fast-paced events. President Barack Obama did not say a word as the events were unfolding. But once Ben Ali was deposed, he declared: “the U.S. stands with the entire international community in bearing witness to this brave and determined struggle for the universal rights that we must all uphold.” He continued: “We will long remember the images of the Tunisian people seeking to make their voices heard. I applaud the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people.”

Similarly, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, not only abandoned his Tunisian ally by refusing to admit him in the country while his flight was en route, but he even ordered Ben Ali’s relatives staying in expensive apartments and luxury hotels in Paris to leave the country.

The following day the French government announced that it would freeze all accounts that belonged to the deposed president, his family, or in-laws, in a direct admission that the French government was already aware that such assets were the product of corruption and ill-gotten money.

The nature of Ben Ali’s regime: Corruption, Repression and Western Backing

A recently published report from Global Financial Integrity (GFI), titled: “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2000-2009,” estimates Tunisia was losing billions of dollars to illicit financial activities and official government corruption, in a state budget that is less than $10 billion and GDP less than $40 billion per year.

Economist and co-author of the study, Karly Curcio, notes: “Political unrest is perpetuated, in part, by corrupt and criminal activity in the country. GFI estimates that the amount of illegal money lost from Tunisia due to corruption, bribery, kickbacks, trade mispricing, and criminal activity between 2000 and 2008 was, on average, over one billion dollars per year, specifically $1.16 billion per annum.”

A 2008 Amnesty International study, titled: “In the Name of Security: Routine Abuses in Tunisia,” reported that “serious human rights violations were being committed in connection with the government’s security and counterterrorism policies.” Reporters Without Borders also issued a report that stated Ben Ali’s regime was “obsessive in its control of news and information. Journalists and human rights activists are the target of bureaucratic harassment, police violence and constant surveillance by the intelligence services.”

The former U.S. Ambassador in Tunis, Robert Godec, has admitted as much. In a cable to his bosses in Washington, dated July 17, 2009, recently made public by Wikileaks, he stated with regard to the political elites: “they rely on the police for control and focus on preserving power. And, corruption in the inner circle is growing. Even average Tunisians are now keenly aware of it, and the chorus of complaints is rising.”

Even when the U.S. Congress approved millions of dollars in military aid for Tunisia last year, it noted “restrictions on political freedom, the use of torture, imprisonment of dissidents, and persecution of journalists and human rights defenders.”

Yet, ever since he seized power in 1987, Ben Ali counted on the support of the West to maintain his grip on the country. Indeed, Gen. Ben Ali was the product of the French Military Academy and the U.S. Army School at Ft. Bliss, TX. He also completed his intelligence and military security training at Ft. Holabird, MD.

Since he had spent most of his career as a military intelligence and security officer, he developed, over the years, close relationships with western intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, as well as the French and other NATO intelligence services.

Based on a European intelligence source, Al-Jazeera recently reported that when Ben Ali served as his country’s ambassador to Poland between 1980-1984 (a strange post for a military and intelligence officer), he was actually serving NATO’s interests by acting as the main contact between the CIA and NATO’s intelligence services and the Polish opposition in order to undermine the Soviet-backed regime.

In 1999 Fulvio Martini, former head of Italian military secret service SISMI, declared to a parliamentary committee that “In 1985-1987, we (in NATO) organized a kind of golpe (i.e. coup d’etat) in Tunisia, putting president Ben Ali as head of state, replacing Burghuiba,” in reference to the first president of Tunisia.

During his confirmation hearing in July 2009 as U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia, Gordon Gray reiterated the West’s support for the regime as he told the Senate Foreign Relations committee, “We’ve had a long-standing military relationship with the government and with the military. It’s very positive. Tunisian military equipment is of U.S. origin, so we have a long-standing assistance program there.”

Tunisia’s strategic importance to the U.S. is also recognized by the fact that its policy is determined by the National Security Council rather than the State Department. Furthermore, since Ben Ali became president, the U.S. military delivered $350 million in military hardware to his regime.

As recently as last year, the Obama administration asked Congress to approve a $282 million sale of more military equipment to help the security agencies maintain control over the population. In his letter to Congress, the President said: “This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country.”

During the Bush administration the U.S. defined its relationship with other countries not based on its grandiose rhetoric on freedom and democracy, but rather on how each country would embrace its counter-terrorism campaign and pro-Israel policies in the region. On both accounts Tunisia scored highly.

For instance, a Wikileaks cable from Tunis, dated Feb. 28, 2008, reported a meeting between Assistant Secretary of State David Welch and Ben Ali in which the Tunisian president offered his country’s intelligence cooperation “without reservation” including FBI access to “Tunisian detainees” inside Tunisian prisons.

In his first trip to the region in April 2009, President Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, stopped first in Tunisia and declared that his talks with its officials “were excellent.” He hailed the “strong ties” between both governments, as well as Tunisia’s support of U.S. efforts in the Middle East. He stressed President Obama’s “high consideration” of Ben Ali.

Throughout his 23 year rule, hundreds of Tunisian human rights activists and critics such as opposition leaders Sihem Ben Sedrine and Moncef Marzouki, were arrested, detained, and sometimes tortured after they spoke out against the human rights abuses and massive corruption sanctioned by his regime. Meanwhile, thousands of members of the Islamic movement were arrested, tortured and tried in sham trials.

In its Aug. 2009 report, titled: “Tunisia, Continuing Abuses in the Name of Security,” Amnesty International said: “The Tunisian authorities continue to carry out arbitrary arrests and detentions, allow torture and use unfair trials, all in the name of the fight against terrorism. This is the harsh reality behind the official rhetoric.”

Western governments were quite aware of the nature of this regime. But they decided to overlook the regime’s corruption and repression to secure their short-term interests. The State Department’s own 2008 Human Rights Report detailed many cases of “torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” including rapes of female political prisoners by the regime. Without elaboration or condemnation, the report coldly concluded: “Police assaulted human rights and opposition activists throughout the year.”

What next?

“The dictator has fallen but not the dictatorship,” declared Rachid Ghannouchi, the Islamic leader of the opposition party, al-Nahdha or Renaissance, who has been in exile in the U.K. for the past 22 years. During the reign of Ben Ali, his group was banned and thousands of its members were either tortured, imprisoned or exiled. He himself was tried and sentenced to death in absentia. He has announced his return to the country soon.

This statement by al-Nahdha’s leader has reflected the popular sentiment cautioning that both the new president, Fouad Al-Mubazaa’, and prime minister Mohammad Ghannouchi have been members of Ben Ali’s party: The Constitutional Democratic Party. And thus their credibility is suspect. They have helped in implementing the deposed dictator’s policies for over a decade.

Nevertheless, the Prime Minister promised, on the day Ben Ali fled the country, a government of national unity. Within days he announced a government that retained most of the former ministers (including the most important posts of defense, foreign , interior and finance), while including three ministers from the opposition and some independents close to the labor and lawyers unions. Many other opposition parties were either ignored or refused to join based on principle protesting the ruling party’s past.

In less than 24 hours, huge demonstrations took place all over the country on Jan. 18 in protest of the inclusion of the ruling party. Immediately four ministers representing the labor union and an opposition party resigned from the new government until a true national unity government is formed. Another opposition party suspended its participation until the ruling party ministers are either dismissed or resign their position.

Within hours the president and the prime minister resigned from the ruling party and declared themselves as independents. Still, most opposition parties are demanding their removal and their replacement with reputable and national leaders who are truly “independent” and have “clean hands.” They question how the same interior minister who organized the fraudulent elections of Ben Ali less than 15 months ago, could supervise free and fair elections now.

It’s not clear if the new government would even survive the rage of the street. But perhaps its most significant announcement was issuing a general amnesty and promising a release of all political prisoners in detentions and in exile. It also established three national commissions.

The first commission is headed by one of the most respected constitutional scholars, Prof. ‘Ayyadh Ben Ashour, to address political and constitutional reforms. The other two are headed by former human rights advocates; one to investigate official corruption, while the other to investigate the killing of the demonstrators during the popular uprising. All three commissions were appointed in response to the main demands by the demonstrators and opposition parties.

January 14, 2011 has indeed become a watershed date in the modern history of the Arab World. Already, about a dozen would-be martyrs have attempted suicide by setting themselves ablaze in public protest of political repression and economic corruption, in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania. Opposition movements have already led protests praising the Tunisian uprising and protesting their governments’ repressive policies and corruption in many Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, and the Sudan.

The verdict on the ultimate success of the Tunisian revolution is still out. Will it be aborted by either infighting or the introduction of illusory changes to absorb the public’s anger? Or will real and lasting change be established, enshrined in a new constitution that is based on democratic principles, political freedom, freedoms of press and assembly, independence of the judiciary, respect of human rights, and end of foreign interference?

As the answers to these questions unfold in the next few months, the larger question of whether there is a domino effect on the rest of the Arab world will become clearer.

But perhaps the ultimate lesson to Western policymakers is this: Real change is the product of popular will and sacrifice, not imposed by foreign interference or invasions.

To topple the Iraqi dictator, it cost the U.S. over 4,500 dead soldiers, 32,000 injured, a trillion dollars, a sinking economy, at least 150,000 dead Iraqis, a half-million injured, and the devastation of their country, as well as the enmity of billions of Muslims and other people around the world.

Meanwhile, the people of Tunisia toppled another brutal dictator with less than 100 dead who will forever be remembered and honored by their countrymen and women as heroes who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

Esam Al-Amin can be reached at alamin1919 (at) gmail.com

Richmond Cops Mistakenly Hand Over Anti-Protest Guides to Anarchist

jj January 12th, 2011

From: The GreenIsTheNewRed.com

After filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the Richmond Police Department for police training documents, Mo Karn received much more than expected in return: homeland security and crowd control guides that show how the police target protests.

The police filed for an emergency court order yesterday to prohibit Karn from publicizing any of the documents, which should never have been released. The cops’ reasoning? “Defendant Mo Karn is a known and admitted anarchist.”

The documents, however, have already been published online. And buried in the training guides are insights into three trends in law enforcement that have been occurring not just in Virginia, but nationally: the demonization of protest, the militarization of police, and turning local cops into “terrorism” officials.

The Demonization of Protest

The Richmond Police Department’s Emergency Operations Plan
includes a section on “civil disturbances.” While this sounds innocuous, “civil disturbances” are defined so broadly as to include what the police call “dissident gatherings.”

“The City of Richmond is a target rich environment” for antiwar protesters, the document says. And it warns that police and homeland security have reason to be increasingly concerned:

“Current training and intelligence reveals that protestors are becoming more proficient in the methods of assembly.”

Militarization of Local Police

Such a depiction of “assembly” (a First Amendment right) as a “disturbance” and a threat is all the more troubling when put in the context of the other police department guides. Richmond’s Crowd Management Operating Manual is for the police unit assigned to large protests (no experience required). Among the tools that the crowd management team are issued include riot shields, chemical agents, cut tools, helmets, body armor, cameras, video cameras, batons, gas masks, and a “mass arrest kit.”

Deputizing Local Cops as Counter-terrorism Officials

This militarization of local police is accompanied by another trend in law enforcement since September 11th: deputizing local cops to becoming “homeland security” and counter-terrorism officials. According to the Homeland Security Criminal Intelligence Unit Operating Manual, “The Richmond Police Department is under contract with the FBI to provide assistance through staffing, intelligence and equipment.” And one member of the homeland security unit is assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The result? Documents like the Virginia Terrorism Threat Assessment. The 2009 document was created by the Virginia Fusion Center, of which the Richmond Police Department is part. Fusion centers are ostensibly designed to gather terrorism intelligence from multiple police agencies, and make us safer. In practice, they routinely label activists as “terrorists.” Among the “terrorist threats” identified in Virginia were animal rights activists, environmental activists, and anarchists.

According to the threat assessment, “The Virginia Federation of Anarchists has held two conferences in Richmond in November 2007 and January 2008? and “Anarchist protesters at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. spilled over into Prince William County.”

Karn, meanwhile, wears her scarlet circle ‘A’ with pride, and has no problem being labeled an anarchist. The FOIA was submitted by the Wingnut Collective, a Richmond anarchist group, as part of their police accountability project.

In his court motion warning that Karn is an “anarchist,” Richmond’s Deputy Assistant Attorney Brian Telfair doesn’t allege the possibility of any violence or property destruction. Instead, he cites a blog post by Karn about acquiring government information through legal requests. The title? “FOIA Rocks!”

Imran Khan threatens civil disobedience in Pakistan

jj January 5th, 2011

Imran Khan threatens civil disobedience in Pakistan
2011-01-03 19:20:00

Islamabad, Jan 3 (IANS) Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan has threatened to launch a civil disobedience movement ‘if the incumbent rulers of Pakistan do not mend their ways’.

Speaking at a public rally in Rawalpindi, the World Cup-winning cricketer-turned-politician called upon the people to support his party as the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government has failed to steer the country out of crises, the Express Tribune reported Monday.

Khan said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the PPP have a secret agreement to support each other’s government in Punjab and at the centre for a minimum of five years.

The PML-N wasn’t a ‘friendly opposition’, rather it was hand-in-glove with the ruling party, he said.

‘The two parties have a secret agreement. The PML-N will allow the PPP-led government at the centre to complete its five-year tenure. And in return, the PPP will let the PML-N government in Punjab to complete its tenure,’ he said.

Khan termed the recent increase in petroleum prices as ‘economic murder’ of the people.

He came down hard on Nawaz Sharif and President Asif Ali Zardari, saying people would hold accountable the politicians who transferred money to foreign banks.

Sharif, who heads the second largest party in the country, was paying only Rs.5,000 in income tax, Khan said.

Bloody Sunday came to Belarus

jj December 26th, 2010

From Nash Dom Civic Campaign

Nash Dom Civic Campaign members give their accounts
of what happened and is happening in the country now.
Women are among the most affected.

Russia in 1905.
India in 1930.
Hungary in 1956.
South Africa in 1960 and 1986.
Chechslovakia in 1968.
Poland in 1956 and 1970.
American South in 1960.
Northern Ireland in 1972.
Chile in 1973.
Palestine in 1988.
China in 1989.
Romania in 1989.
Lithuania in 1991.
Kosovo in 1998.

This sad list is incomplete, of course. What is sadder, it does not stop. December 19, 2010, added another line here. Bloody Sunday came to Belarus. The ruling regime threw away a mask they were putting on the last year, and had no qualms about a bloodbath. A peaceful manifestation of about 50,000 people was violently dispersed, more than 600 people are jailed. Hundreds of the people were injured, some of them may be dead. Nearly all alternative presidential candidates were beaten, some of them severely, and one of them is rumored to be dead.

Why was the manifestation? The citizens where determined to show their peaceful protest against stealing of another election campaign. All the demonstrators wanted was an explanation why the election process became so non-transparent and at the same time so tightly controlled by the ruling group. Instead of a legitimate and logical explanation, they were beaten by clubs, brass knuckles, and heavy police boots.

Several members of the Nash Dom Civic Campaign were among the 50,000 who headed to the House of Government where the official Central Election Commission must be located. The people had a lot of questions to the chair of the Commission and the Prosecutor General. It was already late evening, but those officials had to be at their places during the final day of the election. Besides, that was probably the only possible way to hold those officials accountable, because any other peaceful ways tried by citizens and their leaders were efficiently blocked by the laws and decrees signed in no time by just one person, or simply by plain ignoring.

The citizens had a lot of grounds to late claims. All the local election commissions are headed by people completely dependent on the ruling group, and nothing can efficiently prevent forging the election results. Since about the year of 1998 the votes are counted almost privately by a limited number of people who know only too well that for the ‘necessary’ result they will get a small award, otherwise they will be severely punished. With the current election legislation in Belarus there is no way to learn the real preferences of the citizens. But even more, during this election campaign there were numerous violations of the current legislation and suspicious actions. Many members of the Nash Dom Civic Campaign know it firsthand because they were observers at some election precincts.

Many Belarusian citizens and democratic activists, including Nash Dom members, joined efforts in a nonviolent action which revealed the true situation in Belarus. Until recently, the ruling regime just snarled and hissed at people, they could not hold a dialogue themselves and they were doing their best to silence people. Now the regime enforcers are still breaking into houses and apartments, take people out in plain night, beat them and jail them.
Most of the presidential candidates are jailed, in spite of the fact that they are inviolable until December 29, the day of final vote count. One of the candidates and many demonstrators are plain missing, just like many political opponents of the current regime got missing in 1997-2001. We all hope that the situation is not the same as it was in Chile and Argentine in the 70s and 80s, but the similarities are too appalling.

Unfortunately, this was also experienced only too well by one of the Nash Dom members, Kristina Shatikova, a mother of two. When she and her friends were rounded up, enforcers beat them skillfully, taking into account that the victims were female. The enforcers were trying to hit abdomens and lower part of the body. When the young women were arrested, they had to stand this whole freezing night in police vans, without a possibility to use toilet. Even more, the enforcers took away hats, caps, scarves, and gloves. Many women were threatened to be drowned in toilet bowls. Because of the torturing conditions, many women lost consciousness. It all looked like a planned action to deprive the women of the right of being mothers again.

When after the freezing night Kristina Shatikova was taken to the Oktiabrski Police Department in Minsk, beatings continued. The enforcer Vitali Pozniak behaved as a real bandit. He was kicking Kristina in the corridor, strangled her in his room. He had no insignia on him, but apparently he was not rank-and-file. The tortures varied, and one of them were night interrogations. Even by the current legislation this is a violation. Besides, when Kristina signed the protocol and put a dash in the witnesses section, the protocol was taken away. It is very likely that the police will forge the protocol and write it again the way they like. In such cases the witnesses are usually the enforcers themselves. The signature of the interrogated is not a problem at all, the standard words ‘the interrogated refused to sign the protocol’ is more than welcome in the judicial system of Belarus.

This illegal legal system hurts not only their opponents. Any citizen can become a victim. When Kristina was released, she told us about a young woman who was apprehended just because she happened to be near. She was desperate because her baby was left alone at home, and begged to let her go. This amused the enforcers even more, and the softest name they gave her was ‘a dirty cow’. They spared her beating, but it would be a miracle if the woman is still able to breast-feed the baby after the physical and emotional stress.

The violations of the most basic human rights and international norm are going on right now, in this very moment. Enforcers break into offices of all noticeable social organizations and into private apartments of their activists throughout the country, and loot them calling this ‘a legal search’. They confiscate belongings and are especially greedy to get hold of computers. They cut telephone and Internet communication, hoping to isolate people and devour them one by one. The alternative candidates, their friends, simply people they know: anyone who might have their own opinion about the last show the authorities call ‘elections’ is an enemy to be oppressed, deprived of property and private life, injured, jailed, and even killed.

The regime targets families. Private apartments are raided violently, sometimes late at night, and children witness the searches. A three-year old boy of one of the alternative candidates was threatened to be put into a facility (both his parents are jailed after December 19), and only active position of the grandmother saved him some of childhood.
Now we see that the current authorities in Belarus do not care for the lives of Belarusians. They do not even consider that Belarusians are humans, depriving them of normal representatives and judicial system.

In many countries listed at the beginning the Bloody Sundays led to revolutions, and revolutions always cost lives. The war against Belarusians and Belarusian women in particular is already going on, and it costs lives of many babies who will not be born, many lives of women who are crippled spiritually and physically.
* * *
Recently Argentina jailed their former dictator Jorge Videla for life, though it took over 30 years to get hold of him. It may take Belarusians longer, but we keep our records, and the Nash Dom Civic Campaign makes their contribution.

Study: DDoS Often Used as Tool for Protests, Civil Disobedience

jj December 24th, 2010

From The New New Internet

Security evangelist Sean-Paul Correll called the phenomenon “the future of cyber protests,” and a new report seems to substantiate his prediction of distributed denial of service attacks becoming a method frequently used by protesters and civil disobedients.

Image: Operation Payback

Image: Operation Payback

Historically associated with extortion, DDoS has morphed into an instrument used for various nonfinancial reasons, including political ones, researchers at Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard noted in their report.

Attacks that recruit participants in so-called volunteer DDoS have become increasingly popular, with the most recent example involving Anonymous, a self-described Internet gathering, who used the method to attack websites of WikiLeaks opponents.

However, although Operation Payback succeeded in calling attention to activists’ political goals, it was “largely ineffective in disturbing the business operations of targeted firms,” the researchers said.

“It is worth noting that the Operation Payback attacks disabled promotional websites associated with the financial firms targeted, not their mission-critical payment processing systems, because those promotional sites are much less well-protected than the firms’ core operational systems,” the researchers wrote.

The report also highlighted a trend in cyber attacks against human-rights groups whose opponents take to the web to disrupt and disturb campaigners’ operations. Between August 2009 and September 2010, the researchers found evidence of 140 attacks against more than 280 different sites belonging to human-rights groups.

“These attacks do seem to be increasingly common,” Ethan Zuckerman, one of the authors of the report, told BBC News.

While some attacks were triggered by specific incidents such as elections, others had no obvious cause, he said.

The report found repeated attacks between countries beyond the most commonly cited examples of
Israel/Palestine, Russia/Georgia, and Russia/Estonia. Such examples include China/USA, Armenia/Azerbaijan, Malaysia/Indonesia, and Algeria/Egypt. There were also many reports of attacks between Muslim and European or U.S. actors, the researchers noted.

Ouattara camp urges civil disobedience

jj December 23rd, 2010

From News24

Abidjan – The shadow government of would-be Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara urged the Ivorian people to rise up on Tuesday in a campaign of civil disobedience against strongman Laurent Gbagbo.

Alassane Ouattara urged the Ivorian people to rise up in a campaign of civil disobedience against strongman Laurent Gbagbo

Alassane Ouattara urged the Ivorian people to rise up in a campaign of civil disobedience against strongman Laurent Gbagbo

“I call on you to show disobedience to Laurent Gbagbo’s fake government, from this moment until it falls,” Guillaume Soro, Ouattara’s choice for prime minister, declared in a statement.

Gbagbo and Ouattara both claim to have won last month’s Ivorian election but – while Ouattara has been recognised by the UN and the world community – the incumbent has clung on to power.

The United Nations has accused Gbagbo’s supporters in the security forces of involvement in “massive human rights abuses”, including night-time raids to kill or kidnap Ouattara supporters.

‘Murderous insanity’

Soro, the leader of the “New Forces” former rebel movement, repeated these accusations and demanded: “When will the international community realise that a murderous insanity has begun in Ivory Coast?

“In the face of these atrocities, the government I lead can no longer tolerate impunity. That is why it is our conviction that Mr Gbagbo must immediately leave power,” he said.

“In addition, we ask the brave and proud Ivorian people, in campgrounds, villages and cities to organise, mobilise and protest by all means possible until Mr Laurent Gbagbo’s departure from power,” he said.

Soro addressed his call to: “Ivorians from the city, Ivorians from the country, workers, officials, executives, generals, officers, NCOs, soldiers, everyone, my brothers and sisters.”

Ouattara and Soro are holed up in a luxury resort on the outskirts of Abidjan protected by UN peacekeepers, while Gbagbo has held on to government ministries in the heart of the city and controls the security forces.

An attempt by elements of Soro’s New Forces to break out of the Golf Hotel on Thursday was repulsed by Gbagbo’s security forces after a fierce shootout.

Pro-Ouattara street demonstrations were also suppressed with deadly force.

How safe are activists in India?

jj December 22nd, 2010

From OneWorld South Asia

The murder of environmentalist Amit Jethwa for campaigning against forest encroachment exposes the urgent need for legal redressal to protect the voices of whistle blowers in India, who are risking their lives for the cause of social equity and justice.

On 20 July 2010, forest campaigner Amit Jethva was shot dead at point blank range by two assailants on motorbikes as he was leaving Gujrat High Court following a meeting with his lawyer.

Environmental activist Amit Jethva was murdered after campaigning against illegal mining in a national park

Environmental activist Amit Jethva was murdered after campaigning against illegal mining in a national park

In a country facing an acute environmental crisis as it rapidly industrialises, his assassination was no stray incident but one of a rising number of attacks on activists. The headline-grabbing decision to ban the British mining company Vedanta from opening a bauxite mine on tribal land in eastern India was only achieved after an unprecedented amount of national and international media attention.

Elsewhere decisions have not been so favourable. Recently approved plans for a new airport in Mumbai will destroy 170 hectares of critically important mangroves. Conservation groups say alternative sites were not properly considered and that their objections were given little consideration. But being ignored is perhaps better than the fate many environmental activists face in India today.

In January 2010, Satish Shetty, a whistle blower and anti-corruption campaigner, who brought to light land scams in West Indian state Maharashtra, was murdered, while Shanmughan Manjunath suffered the same fate after exposing petrol pumps that sold adulterated fuel. Activists say that in contrast to the image India portrays – of a nation that prioritises environmental issues – the reality is in fact very bleak.

‘Activists in India are constantly at risk. Stories of activists being killed are a moral setback to all of us. Ruffle the wrong person’s feathers and it could be you next,’ says Stalin D, project director at the environmental NGO Vanashakti. Ravi Rebbapragada, executive director of Samata, a tribal rights and environmental NGO, believes that as India continues its rapid industrialisation, things are likely to get worse, ‘as the stakes go higher the risk to the activist goes higher,’ he says.

Anti-mining activist killed

At the time of his death Amit was campaigning to protect against forest encroachment. He was heavily involved in the Gir National park, the only home of the Asiatic lion and a protected forest area in western India that covers more than 1,400 km sq. His efforts to expose illegal mining in the forest were rewarded last week with a special posthumous award. Before his death he had filed a lawsuit (Public Interest Litigation) against illegal limestone mining in the buffer zone around the National Park. His application had named a local MP Dinu Solanki from India’s Hindu Nationalist Party and the case was said to, ‘openly expose his link with illegal mining operations’.

Amit was well-known for standing up for environmental issues and had even taken on Bollywood actor Salmon Khan for shooting an endangered Blackbuck. As such he had many enemies in the government, according to his friend and environmental lawyer Manish Vaidya. His family and friends say he had been under threat ever since he started investigating illegal mining operations in and around Gir National Park.

‘A couple of years back, Dinu Solanki’s men physically assaulted Amit at a family wedding,’ recalls Alpa Amit Jethva, his widow, who says Amit had complained to the police after one incident but nothing happened. Dinu Solanki was unavailable for comment but a police investigation since Amit’s death found that he had ‘no role to play’. The police confirmed to the Ecologist that his nephew Shiva Solanki has been charged with conspiracy to assassinate Jethva and a second man with his murder.

Lack of support from police

Activists in India say support is often lacking from the police when they try and initiate proceedings against their attackers. In March 2010, while exposing illegal sand mining in the state of Maharastra, Sumaira Abdulali, a trustee of the Awaaz Foundation, an environmental NGO, was followed, threatened and physically attacked by mafia linked to sand dredging in the area. Sumaira and her team went out on a boat to photograph illegal sand mining in an ecologically sensitive creek, where they saw over fifty dredgers within a span of one kilometre. After they took the photographs and left, they were followed by thugs.

Uproar in Egypt over ElBaradei Death Fatwa

jj December 21st, 2010

From asharq alawsat By Waleed Abdul Rahman

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – A fatwa issued in Egypt calling for the death of Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, former Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] and Egyptian political opposition figure, has stirred religious and political controversy across Egypt. Al-Azhar scholars have described this Fatwa as being “reckless” whilst supporters of ElBaredei – who is considering standing for the Egyptian presidential elections next year – have condemned this fatwa which was issued by Sheikh Mahmoud Amer, head of the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya association in Damanhur governorate. This fatwa justified the murder of Dr. ElBaradei for “stirring civil disobedience against the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, inciting riots and calling for full-scale civil disobedience.”

In a fatwa posted on the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya website, Sheikh Amer began by stating that “we, in Egypt, are a people that for the most part follow the religion of Islam and anybody reading ElBaradei’s statements can see that these call for civil disobedience and incite civil unrest against our Muslim ruler [President Hosni Mubarak].” The fatwa goes on to say that “regardless of the status of Egypt’s ruler in the eyes of some people, he is the ruler and so should be listened to and obeyed…therefore ElBaradei and others are not entitled to make such statements [calling for civil disobedience].” Sheikh Mahmoud Amer’s fatwa uses some of the prophet’s hadith as well as some of the teachings of Salafist clerics as a reference, with the fatwa calling on ElBaradei to “declare his repentance for what he has said…otherwise the ruler is permitted to imprison or kill him in order to prevent sedition.”

Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to the man responsible for the above fatwa, leader of the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya association in Damanhur governorate, Sheikh Mahmoud Amer, who said that “what was published on the group’s website represents the Shariaa ruling of the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya association in Damanhur governorate members on ElBaradei’s position.”

In response to a question as to whether other branches of the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya group in Egypt support his fatwa, he confirmed that “no branch of the association is entitled to be the guardian of another, only the Egyptian government is permitted to do so. The Damanhur branch enjoys complete independence, and the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya association headquarters in Cairo has no authority over this branch or any other branch of the organization, as stipulated by our rules and regulations.”

For his part, Dr. Abdul Mouti Bayoumi of the Islamic Research Academy of Al-Azhar University told Asharq Al-Awsat that “this fatwa is completely wrong, and fatwas that call for death should not be issued freely as this leads to killings.” Dr. Bayoumi, who is also the former Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Al-Azhar University added that “it is not usual for the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya to issue fatwas, so what has happened to make them change their position? Is it logical that when they do start issuing fatwas, this should be a fatwa calling for killing?

Dr. Bayoumi said that provoking the murder of Dr. ElBaredei would incite violence in Egyptian society, which is something that contradicts the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, something that the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya claim to be upholding. Dr. Bayoumi added that the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya fatwa is based upon a misunderstanding of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings.

Whilst Dr. Mohamed Rafat Othman, Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence at Al Azhar University, said that “this fatwa is reckless and not supported by any evidence as ElBaradei has not called on the Egyptian people to revolt against the ruling regime, but rather has called for a change in Egypt’s policies.”

Othman said that “[calling for] the shedding of blood is not so easy in Islam, anything that a man does in life is permissible unless expressly forbidden by Islamic Shariaa law.” He also said that most Muslim scholars agree that [calling for] bloodshed is forbidden in Islam.

He added “for people to ambush somebody and kill them is a terrible sin…differences in opinion should be settled by means of dialogue and fair-speaking, for as God Almighty said [in the Quran] “speak fair to the people” [Surat al-Baqara; Verse 83].

As for the political controversy stirred by this fatwa, ElBaradei’s National Coalition for Change said that it considered this fatwa to be extremely dangerous. A leading member of this organization, Ahmed Bahaa Shaaban, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “this fatwa is an indication that Egyptian, Arab, and Islamic society is on the verge of further deterioration, with the tolerant religion of Islam being used to intimidate figures and threaten their lives, rather than providing security, stability, and respect.”

Shaaban added that “this fatwa only serves the forces of corruption in Egypt, and intimidates any citizen who is calling for change.” Shaaban added that even during the era when governing regime’s clerics would issue fatwas in the interests of the government, such fatwas never went so far as to call for the death of the government’s political opponents.

Shaaban told Asharq Al-Awsat that “it is our duty now to take a strong stance to confront this new trend of darkness which backs the regime of corruption and uses religion to achieve worldly objectives.” He also warned Egyptian citizens of adhering to this fatwa and making an attempt on the life of Dr. ElBaradei, as this is something that happened previously when Egyptian writer and Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz was attacked after a fatwa was issued against one of his novels.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights [EOHR] has called on Egypt’s general prosecutor to investigate the fatwa that justifies the killing of Dr. ElBaradei issued by the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya association.

The EOHR also called on Egypt’s general prosecutor to “strictly apply the law to those who issue religious edicts permitting the killing of people, which spreads fear among the citizens.” Whilst the head of EOHR described this fatwa as being “harmful to Islam.”

Civil Disobedience Has No Name and No Face in the Post-WikiLeaks World

jj December 20th, 2010

By Rebecca Wexler in JakartaGlobe

Thousands of protesters around the world joined a virtual Internet gathering under the banner “Operation Payback,” many volunteering their computers as foot soldiers in distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks that flooded the Web sites of MasterCard and Visa, temporarily incapacitating them.

Thousands of protesters around the world joined a virtual Internet gathering under the banner “Operation Payback,” many volunteering their computers as foot soldiers in distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks that flooded the Web sites of MasterCard and Visa, temporarily incapacitating them.

The furor over the purloined cables released by WikiLeaks has now produced the first global Internet civil-disobedience movement. The online picketing of business Web sites like MasterCard and Visa has not only shown the power of online volunteers, but also the contradictions in Western democracies that preach press freedom abroad while shrinking it close to their own bones. Online discussions and interviews with hacktivists also reveal their own contradictions as they grope for what to do with their newfound power.

The Dec. 7 arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on allegations of sexual assault unleashed a cascade of attacks surrounding the secret-sharing site.

Computer assailants attacked WikiLeaks servers, while Joseph Lieberman, chair of the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security, pushed corporations to withdraw services from the organization.

When Amazon, PayPal, MasterCard and Visa complied, incensed pro-WikiLeaks hacktivists joined the fray with a call to “Avenge Assange,” suggesting his arrest was politically motivated, and protest Internet censorship.

Thousands of protesters around the world joined a virtual Internet gathering under the banner “Operation Payback,” many volunteering their computers as foot soldiers in distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks that flooded the Web sites of MasterCard and Visa, temporarily incapacitating them.

Facebook and Twitter retaliated by closing Operation Payback user accounts, but not before hacktivists spread their cause across the Web.

The Low Orbit Ion Cannon, software that enables people to lend their computers for these attacks, has reportedly been downloaded more than 53,000 times, leaving corporations and governments scrambling to prepare in case their Web sites become targets.

The pro-WikiLeaks protesters gathered under the umbrella name Anonymous, which Tunisian cyber-activist Slim Amamou calls “a new spirituality.” It’s an organized, yet leaderless, disorganization, a flash mob that fits the Web’s decentralized nature. Someon e posts an idea online, people decide if it’s “great,” “bad,” or “horrible” and respond. Amamou calls the system, “reverse control” or “the brush principle — where whoever takes a brush and starts painting picks the color of the paint.”

Operation Payback considered targeting company infrastructure, but instead chose corporate Web sites to attack the public images of companies without jeopardizing services to consumers.

Another distinction is the use of mass volunteerism rather than the criminal seizure of involuntary “zombie” computers, or botnets, without the permission or knowledge of their owners.

A self-identified Operation Payback organizer in Singapore said: “Many people may not see our actions as anything similar to Gandhi. But I believe it is somewhat related. We are both using civil disobedience” to convey a message to the government.

Several activists claimed Operation Payback protests highlight the duplicity of Western corporations that terminated services on political and not legal grounds.

The firms argue that by publishing leaked US diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks violated the companies’ terms of service prohibiting illegal behavior.

However, WikiLeaks has not been charged with a crime.

The only person facing charges related to the cables is US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning.

But his alleged theft of documents is distinct from the right of a free press to publish.

In the absence of any legal action, the arbitrary targeting of WikiLeaks, activists say, amounts to corporations serving as judge, jury and executioner on behalf of government interests.

But Anonymous is not simply demanding that government enforce existing laws.

Nor is theirs purely an act of civil disobedience designed, like Gandhi’s movement to gain independence for India, to highlight and overturn the immorality of existing laws.

Rather, many Anonymous participants shift the argument about censorship to target all corporate and state regulations, contradicting both law and the principles of civil disobedience, which do not oppose all law.

In doing so, they’ve left t hemselves open to the same criticism they lodge against the corporations they attack — that they do not respect due process. The movement raises a host of questions over speech in cyberspace.

As Anonymous gains influence, it must confront its unrepresentative techno-elite status.

Participants claim a transnational Internet identity, but this ideal is contradicted by its unequal global application.

The mobilization of unprecedented participation in Operation Payback throws into relief unequal treatment meted out to different countries.

One does not hear much about cyber-activism against vast and constant Internet censorship in China, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia or Singapore.

The organizer in Singapore explained, “The people that are participating in this, they want to free their Internet first before the Internets of others.” This commitment to regional allegiance mitigates the ideal of cyber-vigilante Internet action without borders.

Anonymous members acknowledge that they must toe a delicate line in the degree of righteousness they invoke or risk losing support from the segments of their Internet community comprised of pranksters motivated primarily by the “lulz,” Internet slang for laughs or entertainment at the expense of others.

While volunteers in this kind of crowd -sourced activism change constantly, past successes suggest a significant dose of lulz helps participation reach a tipping point.

Operation Leakspin, a recent offshoot from Operation Payback, hopes to lure participants from the DDoS attacks to citizen-journalism analysis of the leaked cables with the call-to-action, “We, Anonymous, the people, will take this work on our shoulders.”

This project, urging activists to expose and summarize cable details in online forums and newspaper comments, is reminiscent of WikiLeaks’s initial unsuccessful attempt to harness the public for document analysis, an effort it later abandoned to partner with traditional news organizations.

Operation Leakspin will be tested on its ability to hold the Internet crowd’s attention.

Hacktivists and the new software tools they use have ushered in an era of increasing awareness of the enormous power of the Web and its risks.

Beyond the immediate issue of computer security, governments and businesses would do wel l to note that it is young, bright, computer-savvy activists ­ — the world’s future leaders — who question the way business is done.

More than embarrassing a few government officials, the WikiLeaks saga raises profound questions about democracy, transparency and popular participation that need to be answered carefully for the sake of a stable and peaceful world.

Rebecca Wexler is a visiting fellow at the Yale University Law School Information Society Project. Copyright YaleGlobal, 2010 Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.

Danish police ordered to compensate climate protesters

jj December 19th, 2010

In an unprecedented ruling, a Danish judge has told police to pay activists tens of thousands of pounds.

Bibi van der Zee, Guardian.co.UK

Police forces push back activists during a protest in Copenhagen on 16 December 2009 on the 10th day of the COP15 UN Climate Change Conference. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Police forces push back activists during a protest in Copenhagen on 16 December 2009 on the 10th day of the COP15 UN Climate Change Conference. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Danish police have been ordered to pay tens of thousands of pounds compensation to hundreds of climate protesters, after a court ruling today. The unprecedented ruling coincides with the release of an audio recording from the policing of a protest outside the UN climate talks in Copenhagen last December, which allegedly shows Danish police ordering officers to beat activists and journalists.

A year to the day after the Reclaim Power protest outside the Bella Centre, where the talks were being held, a Danish judge called “illegal” the actions of police – who pre-emptively arrested nearly 2,000 people during the summit – and ordered them to pay £500-£1,000 to 200 protesters. They may have to compensate a further 800 , meaingthe final bill for the police could potentially run to £1m.

Reclaim Power

Reclaim Power

The lawyer Christian Dahlager, part of the team who brought 200 of the complaints to court, said: “The other people who formally complained may well have cases for compensation.”

This is the biggest verdict of its kind ever in Denmark, he believes. “In the past we have had cases like this of just a couple of people and the police are only ordered to pay a couple of hundred pounds. But this is a turning point for Denmark. We’ve been travelling down a certain road for a long time and now finally the courts have stepped in and said that the police have gone too far.”

The verdict has coincided with the release of a film through the national Danish broadcaster which contains a police radio transmission that appears to include orders to hit protestors and media. According to a translation posted on activist website Climate Collective, the officer speaking tells his men “I want to see that stick in use,” and adds: “There are media between the cars. They will get the same fucking treatment. Now’s the time to fight.”

The verdict and the film have electrified Denmark. The minister of jjustice, Lars Barfoed has issued a statement promising to look into the issue, and has been questioned about it by the political opposition, with Line Bafod of the Red-Greens saying: “It is completely unacceptable for a senior police officer to urge violence against journalists on the job. This does not belong in a democratic society.”

The president of the Danish Union of Journalists, Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, said it is “appalling that an incident commander can give such orders. It becomes very dangerous for journalists to do their job.”

“It feels as if we’re finally beginning to get to the truth of what happened last year,” said Helen Medden, one of the two film-makers of a documentary called Climate Crime. “I started to make the film as a positive one about young Danish people campaigning about the climate, but halfway through it turned into something completely different, and became a film about police behaviour.”

The Guardian has been unable to reach the Danish police for comment on the trial, but the Copenhagen police director, Johan Reimann, said: “When the media chooses to mingle with demonstrators, we are not able to differentiate precisely … But when the media identifies itself with a press card, we of course respect that.” Asked if he thought the language used by his officer was too “bombastic”, he replied: “When you are out there on the edge, the language used is different than when you are just standing there and having a chat.”

The police are appealing against the ruling.

How Hackers Are Rewriting the Rules of Civil Disobedience

jj December 18th, 2010

On the same day Yahoo laid off 600 of its employees, Yahoo’s image search function leaned a bit toward the risqué. And by that I mean an onslaught of X-rated imagery.

For a few brief hours, any and all Yahoo image searches—no matter the apple-cheeked innocence motivating said search—turned up a snapshot of a man and a woman, um, “knowing” each other.

Fuzzy kittens? Fornication.

Justin Bieber? The ol’ in-out-in-out.

Images of the $100 bill to print out at work and attempt to pass off to Juan at the lobby cigarette counter because you already demolished your paycheck on what you said was holiday shopping but was really just you, take-out Chinese, rotgut wine, and the sadness of a solitary life? Sweaty intercourse.

Over the span of time this money-shot image was live, it was viewed by nearly 200,000 individuals, according to TechCrunch’s estimate. That’s a whole lot of aftershock repentance.

Is There a Point in Rewriting Civil Disobedience?

Clearly, this wasn’t a glitch. This was an act of what we’re now calling “cyber terrorism,” the same breed of civil disobedience that spurned Operation Payback hackers to dismantle the websites of the Swiss bank Switzerland Post Finance, MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal to avenge Julian Assange and the shutdown of Wikileaks. Operation Payback has told the press that more attacks will be coming as long as companies continue to censor Wikileaks.

Unless you’re gung-ho about blindly “sticking it to the man” by tearing massive corporate websites to shreds, or, in the case of Yahoo, inundating innocent Web crawlers with porno, you’re probably questioning the point of these attacks.

The Yahoo Porno Hiccup is barely defensible, if at all. We’re talking about porno, plain and simple, and Lord knows how many 6-year-olds seeking pictures of their favorite cartoons were introduced—rudely and without parental context—to the birds and the bees.

However, a backlash such as the one wrought on Yahoo’s servers is an expression of disappointment and loathing, and also an illustration of the power individual employees in major tech firms have over the systems they were once paid to control.

I do not condone the Yahoo Porno Hiccup. I do, however, recognize it as a modern—and human—reaction to betrayal, one that’s superior to the immaturity of trashing a boss’s office or, worse yet, bringing an AK-47 into work on your last day on payroll.

Point or Not, Here’s How the Rewrite Starts

In terms of Operation Payback—so what if MasterCard was shut down? The site was rebooted within hours, impervious to the hackers’ digital protest. Without a lasting impact—or even a coherent doctrine explaining and justifying the attacks—it comes across as a bunch of whiny computer geeks behaving like jerks.

Historically speaking, social movements that begin with protests, violent or otherwise, have been propagated by the ripple effect: it starts in the streets, slinks into the living room via TV news, and sometimes knocks on the government’s door to rewrite the law. The architecture of these hack attacks have yet to suggest that such an enduring goal or strategy exists.

That decree is fair enough, but what I see here are the rumblings of a groundswell that could impact the Internet’s overall safety construction. Yes, these credit card websites only 404-ed for a spell, and MasterCard has evidently hired programmers savvy enough to bounce back with strengthened site security, but hand in hand with the raising of higher walls comes a clever-by-necessity boost in hackers’ intelligence, speed, and subtlety.

As much as I’m cautious of condoning what is, in essence, a tentacle of terrorism, I’m curious as to what Operation Payback’s next steps will be. Perhaps the next server failure will occur in the bowels of the Pentagon, or maybe a hacker’s sniper bullet will paint an entire business’s brains on the wall, irreparably.

One thing is for certain: our generation should no longer be labeled as upper-middle-class do-nothings too obsessed by consuming mass media to function as members of traditional society. Even in this disconnected world of tweets, TXT, and LOL-speak, there still exists a disobedient bent that will not be ignored.

War opponents arrested at White House

jj December 17th, 2010

From AlterNet

Dozens of activists, including the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, were arrested Thursday at the White House as they protested the Afghanistan conflict and defended WikiLeaks.
Activists rally during an anti-war protest in front of the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday. Dozens of the activists, including the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, were arrested as they protested the Afghanistan conflict and defended WikiLeaks.

As President Barack Obama unveiled a war review strategy inside, more than 100 war opponents — many of them veterans — marched through snow to the White House, chanting “Peace now!” and refusing to step down from the fence’s ledge.

Police waited before gradually sealing off the area and escorting remaining protesters — who had vowed to stay until their arrest — into two waiting buses.

Daniel Ellsberg, who as a government consultant leaked the Pentagon Papers that revealed war planning in Vietnam, saluted Bradley Manning, the young army officer suspected of leaking secret US documents to website WikiLeaks.

Ellsberg predicted that Obama would intensify the Afghanistan war as “presidents don’t like to say they were wrong.”

“I’m afraid that will happen indefinitely unless more people follow the example of Bradley Manning, whose courageous act of civil disobedience probably confronts him with life in prison,” Ellsberg said to cheers.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the Code Pink women’s peace movement, noted that Afghanistan ranks near the worst in rankings on development and corruption despite billions of dollars a month in the US war effort.

“It is high time that President Obama get a clue and understand that we need, as our signs says here, a real peace president,” she said.

“We need men that understand that the best thing we can do for our security and the security of the people of Afghanistan is to take the money that we are spending on war and invest it in people, invest it in health care, invest it in education at home and in Afghanistan,” she said.

Obama, an early opponent of the Iraq war, has tripled troop numbers in Afghanistan but pledged to start a withdrawal next year. The United States sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda, which had found sanctuary in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

In the review, Obama said there was “significant progress” in curbing the Taliban and stifling Al-Qaeda, but warned more time was needed.

A Video from the action.

Anti-flogging protesters arrested in Sudan

jj December 15th, 2010

KHARTOUM, Sudan, Dec. 15 (UPI) — Sudanese authorities have charged 46 women and six men with civil disobedience for protesting the flogging of a young woman by police.

The group, organized by the “No to Women’s Oppression Coalition,” said it had permission from authorities to deliver a protest letter to the minister of justice, the Sudan Tribune reported Wednesday.

Instead of allowing them to proceed, police arrested all the demonstrators.

A BBC correspondent covering the protest was kicked to the floor by plain clothes security officers who seized his equipment.

The protest was organized after several Arab channels broadcast excerpts of a YouTube video showing blue-uniformed police officers taking turns whipping a young woman across her head, legs and feet.

Sudanese officials defended the whipping of women saying it is provided for in Islamic law.

However, they added the way this particular flogging was implemented is under investigation.

“FUCK FSB”

jj November 27th, 2010

The Russian activist group Voina is famous for provoking the authorities with humorist actions and satire. They are regularly harassed by the secret police FSB (former KGB). In St Petersbourg they did a unique action by “showing the finger” to the FSB headquarter. And this was not just a small sign with their hands. They painted a dick at the bridge just opposite the police headquarter.

Action “Dick Captured by the FSB!” by Voina, activist Koza at action practice

Action “Dick Captured by the FSB!” by Voina, activist Koza at action practice

And when the bridge was elevated to let a ship pass the dick was erected.

Action “Dick Captured by the FSB!” by Voina, it rises

Action “Dick Captured by the FSB!” by Voina, it rises

It continues to rise

It continues to rise

And lovers can’t resist the photo op

And lovers can’t resist the photo op

Action “Dick Captured by the FSB!” by Voina can be seen across St Petersburg

Action “Dick Captured by the FSB!” by Voina can be seen across St Petersburg

Read the full text here.

Hundreds rally in Moscow to protest attacks

jj November 17th, 2010

The Associated Press via Fort Mill Times

MOSCOW —

About 500 people came out on a rainy Sunday afternoon to protest the beatings of journalists and activists linked to a dispute over a forest just outside the Russian capital.

The protesters on the square in central Moscow held photographs of reporter Oleg Kashin and environmental activist Konstantin Fetisov, who were savagely beaten in separate attacks this month.

Fetisov was among those trying to save the Khimki forest from being cleared for highway construction, while Kashin reported on the controversy. Both remain hospitalized with head injuries. Kashin also had his jaw smashed, a leg broken and his fingers mangled.

Yevgeniya Chirikova, who heads up the Khimki campaign, told the crowd on Sunday: “With our action today we want to say: hands off civil activists, hands off journalists, hands off the people who honestly express their views.”

The bludgeoning of Kashin by two unknown men, which was caught on a security camera and shown on national television, has led to public outrage and demands that the attackers be found and punished.

At the same time, the success of the Khimki campaign in grabbing national attention has helped galvanize similar environmental protest movements around the country.

“Civil activism is on the rise,” prominent rights activist Lev Ponomaryov said at the protest rally. “Society is comprised of two groups of the population: 15 percent who are politically active and all the rest who are the morass, to use a figure of speech. These 15 percent are becoming more active, holding separate actions and, increasingly, joint actions.”

Several of Russia’s disparate opposition groups took part in Sunday’s rally, united in common cause by the attacks.

The movement to save the Khimki forest was first driven by Mikhail Beketov, the founder and editor of a local paper, who wrote about suspicions that officials were set to personally profit from the highway construction.

He was assaulted in 2008, beaten so badly that he was left with brain damage and unable to speak. As with most attacks on journalists and rights activists in Russia, the perpetrators have not been found.

The Kremlin has tried to show that this may be changing. President Dmitry Medvedev has demanded that Kashin’s attackers be tracked down, and prosecutors have reopened an investigation into the attack on Beketov.

Make the 24th November DAY X for the Coalition

jj November 16th, 2010

Student activists have called for further mass civil disobedience targeting the coalition Government, following last week’s occupation of the Conservative headquarters.

More than 50 arrests have been made since the recent violence

More than 50 arrests have been made since the recent violence

This statement was passed by the 400-strong “Take Back Education” teach-in at King’s College London on the 27th February 2010:

Education is under attack. Up to a third of university funding – £2.5bn – is to be cut, 30 universities could shut down and over 14,000 lecturers may lose their jobs. Big businesses exert more and more control over the university system. Cuts in student places and higher fees could exclude many people from higher education altogether.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Education workers are winning through strike action. Student protests are taking off across Europe, with universities occupied to stop neoliberal reforms – and to take control of campus for another kind of education. From this conference we resolve build on this resistance, and:

1. To support, build and encourage action against education cuts through demonstrations, student occupations and industrial action. To build solidarity with these struggles through inviting strikers, occupiers and others to speak at our college/union/campaign meetings; organising petitions, collections, and solidarity demonstrations and occupations.
2. To organise regional teach-ins on the Take Back Education model. To launch regional education action networks from these that can help develop local networks of resistance and spread the kind of action that can win.
3. To organise a national coordination from here to help coordinate and spread our resistance nationally. This coordination should produce and distribute without delay a national bulletin carrying reports and announcements from this teach-in and the developing local struggles. It will help to spread the resistance when people move into action.
4. To mobilise for and support the London wide demonstration called by London region UCU to defend education on March 20th and other initiatives such as the no cuts at Westminster demonstration on Monday 1st, the Leeds UCU demo Thursday 4th march, and No Cuts @ Kings protest on Sat 13th March.
5. To recognise the cuts in education as part of a broader attack on the public sector, and the need for solidarity across the sector. To support and mobilise for the national demonstration against public sector cuts on the 10th April.
6. To organise through our respective trade unions, students unions, local anti-cuts groups, campaigns and organisations support for a national demonstration to defend education in the autumn.

November 14, 2010
by educationactivistnetwork

The 10th November protest at Millbank has drawn comparisons with the poll tax riot of 31st March 1990. This was followed by a wave of demonstrations at town halls and councils and a civil disobedience campaign of non-payment. By November 1990 the tax had been abolished and Margaret Thatcher had resigned.

We need to ramp up action against the Con-Dem Coalition in the same way now. Let’s turn Wednesday 24th November into DAY X for the Coaliton!

TARGET LIB DEMS AFTER NEW BETRAYAL

After revelations in the Guardian newspaper showing that the Liberal Democrats planned all along to renege on their promises about tuition fees, we want a day of mass walkouts to converge on a demonstration outside the Lib Dem HQ at 2pm.

STUDENTS AND WORKERS UNITE

This will be followed by an early evening demonstration on Downing Street bringing together students with trade unionists, the unemployed and everyone under attack by the Con-Dems.

Britain And The Increasing Nonviolent Resistance

jj November 15th, 2010

Fadi Abu Sa’da – PNN Editor in Chief – It was vey strange that the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, came to visit Israeli and the Palestinian Territories in the same day that marks the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

Foreign Secretary, William Hague

Foreign Secretary, William Hague

It is known that most of British diplomatic work are meetings known in diplomatic terms as “ Black & White.” The other strange thing is the addition of a new “color” to the visit of the British Minister; which is very important to the British and their diplomacy, but as important to us as well and holds many meanings.

It came to my knowledge that British diplomats were in contact with a group of Palestinian leaders of the nonviolence resistance, they were informed of a secret meeting that will be held between them and a VIP person. They were not told who or any other details for security reasons. But for the misfortune of the British, Israel has to be informed of all the details of the diplomats’ visits; and Israel started its pressure on Britain to get the details of this secret meeting.

In some mysterious way Israel knew that Hague was in fact going to meet Palestinian nonviolence resistance leaders. The army started to try to know their names, something Britain refused to give up, as the case all the time Israel tried to say those leaders are terrorists and are convicted by the occupation, but in fact they are nonviolence resistance organizers; something that is legitimate in all international laws.

The activists were Ahmad Al Azeh from The Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian NGO that work in promoting nonviolence in Palestine, Mohamed Zawahrah, a leader of nonviolent resistance against the wall in Bethlehem area , and Hindi Musleh, an activist from the village of Ni’lin, where weekly nonviolent actions are organized against the Israeli wall.

Al Azeh being arrest by troops at protest in Bethlehem (Archive)

Al Azeh being arrest by troops at protest in Bethlehem (Archive)

I knew that Al Azeh and Zawahrah were transported from Bethlehem to Ramallah on the day of the meeting in a “special way” fearing that Israeli troops will stop them from attending the meeting.

The meeting was held at a neutral area, most importantly that it does not fall under the Israeli security control, the place was a hilltop overlooking the Israeli detention center of Offer near Ramallah city, in central West Bank. The car that was driving British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, arrived at the location and he met the activists for 25 minutes. The place and the setting of the meeting, was not classical according to diplomacy but it was of great importance.

The meeting with the British Minister tackled three issues; the increase in the nonviolence resistance and the importance of the international support to it, second the effects of the Israeli wall on the Palestinian farmers, and third the Israeli violence to counter such resistance and activities.

Hague told the activists “it’s very important to continue in this form of nonviolence resistance, and you have unlimited support to such work from our side.”

Israel did not allow any media to cover the meeting; fearing that the headlines will change from Hague visiting Israeli to him meeting Palestinian Nonviolence resistance leaders.

Indeed I want to thank those activists and their efforts for delivering our voice to the world and I have small gratitude for the British Diplomat for this nice gesture, but it should happen more often from them and other diplomats working in the Palestinian areas. We only ask for our right that is guaranteed by international law and we will get it one way or the other.

That’s What She Said: Masochistically Pacifist

jj November 4th, 2010

From Valley Star

Civil disobedience. The active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, or demands of a government, has played a vital role in all movements for justice, usually taking the form of nonviolent resistance.

The Valley Star has been following the disciplinary action of Valley College student Samuel Lara since last May when he was removed from an ASU meeting after his refusal to move from behind the ASU president and cease his peaceful protest against Arizona’s controversial SB1070 on immigration.

Lara and the cause he supports, Alto Arizona, are exactly the type of nonviolent resistance that historically have succeeded in encouraging change on a monumental level.

Last week, Lara’s displays of civil disobedience again made front-page news. This time, he was met with violence. Student witnesses remarked that Lara was slammed against the hood of a police car and that his arm was twisted almost to the point of breaking.

In response to the incident Deputy Ricky Baker said that Lara, “addressed them with racial slurs” and failed “to comply with the officers questions.”

Henry David Thoreau said, “[i]t is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.”

In 1849, Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience argued that people should not permit governments to overrule or weaken their consciences and that we have a duty to avoid allowing the government to make us agents of injustice.

Perhaps Lara was disrespectful to campus police, but they had absolutely no reason to inflict violence on a non-violent individual.

Dating back to 1819, in his poem, “The Masque of Anarchy,” Percy Shelley commented on the psychological consequences of violence met with pacifism. Shelley said the guilty will return shamefully to society.

Deputy Baker also suggested that, “Mr. Lara’s intent here was to bait both the Valley Star staff and the security staff into a public display, which he may gain empowerment and recognition for.”

Deputy Baker, I wholeheartedly agree with you there. The difference between us is that you seem hell-bent on silencing and punishing Mr. Lara for standing up and making himself heard on an issue he believes in, and I fully support Lara and his right to demonstrate nonviolent civil disobedience.

Perhaps you should be more supportive, Deputy Baker. If it weren’t for Rosa Parks and her displays of civil disobedience, you might be still be segregated to patrolling the colored section of campus, if at all.

The student body should be thanking Lara for reminding us that the only way to incite change is to stand up for what we believe in. As Edmund Burke said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Mr. Lara, there is an old biblical verse that says, “whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”

Palestinians Sentenced for Civil Disobedience

jj October 24th, 2010

By ROBERT MACKEY in NYT

This month, as a new documentary about a successful campaign of nonviolent, civil disobedience by Palestinian villagers in the West Bank screens in New York and Los Angeles, Israeli military courts have handed out jail terms to two men who led similar protests against the path of Israel’s security barrier near their village.

The documentary now being shown, “Budrus,” is named for the village that succeeded in forcing a change to the path of the security barrier, which would have cut Palestinian olive farmers off from their trees. In July, my colleague Nicholas D. Kristof, an Opinion columnist, wrote that the film is, “a riveting window into what might be possible if Palestinians adopted civil disobedience on a huge scale.”

In the same column, Mr. Kristof described attending a protest at another West Bank village, Bilin, the home of the organizers recently sentenced in Israeli military courts. He wrote:

Most of the marchers were Palestinians, but some were also Israeli Jews and foreigners who support the Palestinian cause. They chanted slogans and waved placards as photographers snapped photos. At first the mood was festive and peaceful, and you could glimpse the potential of this approach.

But then a group of Palestinian youths began to throw rocks at Israeli troops. That’s the biggest challenge: many Palestinians define “nonviolence” to include stone-throwing.

Soon after, the Israeli forces fired volleys of tear gas at us, and then charged. The protesters fled, some throwing rocks backward as they ran. It’s a far cry from the heroism of Gandhi’s followers, who refused even to raise their arms to ward off blows as they were clubbed.

The arrests and military trials of two of the Bilin organizers drew criticism from human rights groups, Britain, the European Union and Desmond Tutu.

Abdullah Abu Rahma, a teacher in the village, was arrested last December. Last week, he was sentenced to one year in prison by an Israeli military court that found him guilty of “organizing and participating in an illegal demonstration” and “incitement.”

He was cleared of another charge of weapons possession after the prosecution failed to convince the court that collecting Israeli tear-gas shells and bullets fired at the demonstrators to prove that force had been used against them constituted a crime.

On Thursday, a military court extended the sentence of another Bilin organizer, Adeeb Abu Rahma, a taxi driver whose cousin had been killed at a protest by a direct hit from a tear-gas shell, one caught on a graphic video.

As my colleague Ethan Bronner reported last year, the campaign, with its weekly marches against the construction of the Israeli barrier near Bilin, has been going on since 2005, making it “one of the longest-running and best organized protest operations in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it has turned this once anonymous farming village into a symbol of Palestinian civil disobedience, a model that many supporters of the Palestinian cause would like to see spread and prosper.” Mr. Bronner also noted:

Like every element of the conflict here, there is no agreement over the nature of what goes on here every Friday. Palestinians hail the protest as nonviolent. … But the Israelis complain that, along with protests at the nearby village of Nilin, things are more violent here than the Palestinians and their supporters acknowledge.

While the historian and blogger Joseph Dana is among those who support the Palestinian protests known as the “popular struggle” against the construction of Israel’s barrier on Palestinian land — he has compared the jailed Bilin protest organizers to Gandhi — Arutz Sheva, a news organization that represents the view of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, wrote last week:

The riots at Bilin — and nearby Nilin — are billed by the left as non-violent but are, in fact, extremely violent. Since they began in 2005, the weekly riots have caused the death of a Border Guard policeman who lost his step and fell to his death while trying to catch rock-throwers, as well as causing an IDF soldier to lose his eye and another Border Guard policemen to suffer a serious eye injury.

While the situation seems black and white to some settlers, other Israelis have suggested that Israel’s military has taken to imprisoning the protest organizers not because it sees stone-throwing as a grave crime, but because it perceives them as a serious threat. Last year, Amira Hass, a columnist for Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper wrote:

The purpose of the coordinated oppression: To wear down the activists and deter others from joining the popular struggle, which has proven its efficacy in other countries at other times. What is dangerous about a popular struggle is that it is impossible to label it as terror and then use that as an excuse to strengthen the regime of privileges, as Israel has done for the past 20 years.

The popular struggle, even if it is limited, shows that the Palestinian public is learning from its past mistakes and from the use of arms, and is offering alternatives.

After Adeeb Abu Rahma’s jail term was extended, his lawyer, Gaby Lasky, said on Thursday: “Today the court of appeals has shown that it is serving as one more instance of political repression not as an actual court where justice is served. The court admitted what we all knew –- that the entire system is trying to make an example of Adeeb in order to silence the entire Popular Struggle movement against Israel’s occupation.

While the activists remain in jail, their struggle to prevent the barrier from separating Bilin villagers from their farmland — which was supported by a ruling in their favor by Israel’s High Court three years ago that was not implemented — appears to be nearing an end. On Thursday, The Jerusalem Post reported: “The IDF plans to complete the construction of a new security barrier near the West Bank Palestinian town of Bilin in the coming weeks. Bilin has been the scene of weekly anti-fence demonstrations in recent years.”

The new barrier will comprise a tall concrete wall, and security cameras will be placed near the haredi settlement of Kiryat Sefer. About [160 acres] of agricultural land will be given back to Bilin. Nonetheless, according to attorneys representing the village, roughly [320 acres] of private farmland will remain on the Israeli side….

“A concrete wall means better protection, and at the same time, means we do not have to repair the barrier like we’ve had to do almost weekly following the demonstrations at Bilin — because currently, it is just a fence,” said a senior officer on Wednesday.

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