Wednesday, December 5, 2012
At least four people killed and 300 others injured as supporters and opponents of President Morsi clash in Cairo.
http://www.bikyamasr.comThe head of Egypt’s ambulances told ONTV that at least three people they have received have been killed in the ongoing violence as the Muslim Brotherhood launched an attack on anti-President Mohamed Morsi protesters on Wednesday. The chief said that the three deaths were the result of gunshot wounds. They were named as Mahmoud Mohamed Ibrahim, Mohamed Khalaf and Mohamed Ahmed. Those are not the three earlier named by the Revolutionary Socialists Party and other activists. The two socialist activists murdered were named as Karam Gerges and Mohamed Essam. Activists shared photos of the two dead men with blood covering their faces and bodies. Al-Tayar Al-Shaabi, the popular current revolutionary movement confirmed the protesters death. Another protester, Hany Mohamed, was also reported to have been killed, although Bikyamasr.com could not confirm that specific information. The armed Brotherhood supporters were reported to have used knives, broken glass, Molotov cocktails, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse the opposition sit-in that followed a massive protest outside the presidential palace late on Tuesday, calling for Morsi to step down. The ambulances chief said over 350 people have been injured as Muslim Brotherhood supporters continue to attack Egyptian activists who had been protesting against President Mohamed Morsi.
The draft constitution, which erases any line between religion and state, declares Egypt will be governed by the "principles" of Shari’a law.If Egypt ever really did have democracy, it was born and died with the election of Mohamed Morsi in June. The election was free and fair according to international observers, but that appears to have been both the beginning and end of the experiment. Since taking office Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party have taken control of the presidency, the military and the parliament, and are sidelining the judiciary. Morsi followed the example of Hosni Mubarak and tried to arrest his defeated opponent, but Ahmed Shafik saw it coming and fled the country. The president then moved quickly to purge the army of Mubarak holdovers with close ties to the United States and install his own loyalists. The generals so far appear willing to accept the new Islamist order so long as they are allowed to retain their vast economic empire. Morsi wasted little time doing what many feared most: instituting Islamist government. Brotherhood followers were placed in government posts across the spectrum, including governors, ministers and presidential advisers. His boldest move to date came on November 22 with a power grab that gave him near-dictatorial powers and created a rift with the country’s judiciary as well as the secularists who helped push Mubarak from power. He declared his rulings could not be overruled by the judiciary nor could the courts dissolve the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly, which was drafting a new national constitution. The judges called the move an “assault” on their independence and went on strike. MORSI QUICKLY accelerated publication of the constitution before the courts to head off an adverse ruling. Secularists, women, Christians and other non- Muslims and other opposition leaders were excluded from the drafting process. Morsi’s edicts had come one day after he won widespread praise for his role in brokering a Hamas-Israel cease-fire. The constitutional power grab probably had been in the works for a while as Morsi waited for an opportune moment to spring it, perhaps hoping his new international stature would give him the political capital for his power grab. If that was his plan, it failed. Protests grew as hundreds of thousands went back to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where the revolution had begun nearly two years earlier. He went on national television Saturday to say the new constitution would bring “a new day of democracy in Egypt.” That promise had a hollow ring. The draft constitution, which erases any line between religion and state, declares Egypt will be governed by the “principles” of Shari’a law and gives clerics a role in approving legislation. Morsi, who shares that goal, called for a referendum on December 15. The judiciary is supposed to oversee all voting but the strike will undermine the authenticity of any vote. If the draft passes, parliamentary elections are supposed to be called for two months later, but those would similarly be questionable, for the same reasons. Morsi has tried to reassure people that his emergency powers are only temporary, but Egyptians recall that Mubarak ruled by “temporary” emergency decree for decades, as did his predecessors. Morsi has no desire to become he Egyptian Thomas Jefferson; he is driven by the decidedly anti-democratic Muslim Brotherhood ideology. THE ANTI-ISLAMIST forces are disorganized, depressed and angry; they have no direction, no plan and no idea how to deal with politics and the challenges of the Brotherhood, according to a report issued by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The authors of the report, former Republican Congressman Vin Weber and former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, said the United States should use its $2 billion-plus in annual aid to push for reform. The authors, who recently visited Egypt and met with leaders of the government, opposition, military and other factions, said it would be a mistake to listen to those in the Congress who want to cut off all aid and support. Instead the new government should be presented with “a set of choices” to show they are responsible national leaders and not “religiously inspired ideologues,” Craig said. Continuation of unconditional US aid is “too risky” and “would free its leaders from taking the necessary decision to repair the economy and pursue responsible policies,” he added. The president should be required to certify to the Congress that Egypt is meeting well-defined commitments on regional peace and bilateral strategic cooperation, primarily adherence to the Israeli- Egyptian treaty and the fight against terrorism, as conditions for continued American aid and political backing. In addition they said the administration should press for political reform and respect for the rights of women and religious minorities. “This is not an ultimatum, but necessary to satisfy Congress and the American public that our support serves US interests,” Craig said. Weber recommended earmarking about $100 million of US military aid to finance more aggressive counterterrorism efforts in Sinai. A Congressional foreign policy expert recently in the region agreed, adding that stabilizing Sinai and dealing with lawlessness there isn’t getting enough attention from the administration or the Egyptians. The Pentagon’s top concerns are maintaining good relations with the Egyptian military and keeping the Suez Canal open, and the State Department seems more focused on rebuilding the Egyptian economy than building a civil society, he said. So far the Egyptian revolution has replaced a secular dictator with an Islamist dictator, and the outlook is gloomy. As often happens in the Muslim world, political change too often begins with the mosque, and all the exits are blocked. Islamists came to power in Egypt through democratic election but quickly showed their contempt for the concept. The new constitution puts Islamic law above democratic government. It’s a familiar pattern: one man, one vote, one time.
At least three people killed and 300 others injured as supporters and opponents of President Morsi clash in Cairo.At least three people have been killed in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, as supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi clashed near the presidential palace in Cairo, medics and police say. After a brief calm on Wednesday night, fighting extended into the early morning with fires burning in the streets where the opposing sides threw stones and petrol bombs at each other. "No to dictatorship," Morsi's opponents chanted, while their rivals chanted: "Defending Morsi is defending Islam." A small group of opposition activists have been camped outside the palace since Tuesday night, when tens of thousands rallied against a controversial decree which gives Morsi near-absolute power. Supporters of the president marched to the palace on Wednesday and tore down the opposition's tents. Witnesses said they threw stones and used clubs to attack demonstrators. Opposition protesters were driven away from the palace and fled down side streets. Thirty-two people were arrested, according to a statement from the interior ministry. Protests spread to other cities, and offices of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood in Ismailia and Suez were torched. Both sides blamed the other for starting the clashes: Opposition leaders said Morsi was responsible for the bloodshed, while senior Brotherhood officials accused the opposition of "inciting violence". Political standoff Morsi did not make any public appearances on Wednesday, but his prime minister, Hisham Qandil, issued a brief statement calling for calm "to give the opportunity for the efforts being made now to begin a national dialogue". The violence escalates a two-week-old political standoff in Egypt, which began with Morsi's November 22 decree, which shielded his decisions from judicial oversight. Hours after the clashes began, a spokesman for the Brotherhood called on protesters to leave. Mahmoud Ghozlan said both sides should "withdraw at the same time and pledge not to return there, given the symbolism of the palace". Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said the main message now was a call for dialogue. "What's really significant and saddening, and very worrying for a lot of people in this country watching their TV screens, is that these are Egyptian civilians fighting Egyptian civilians," she said. "The country is so divided and polarised. That has been the situation for many months, but it was made all the more intense two weeks ago when Morsi issued this constitutional decree giving himself sweeping powers." The crisis continues to divide Morsi's government. Four of Morsi's advisers resigned in protest on Wednesday. Saif Abdelfattah, one of the president's political advisers, quit during a live interview with Al Jazeera, blaming the "mummified" political culture in Egypt for his departure. Two other top Morsi aides resigned last week, including Samir Morcos, a prominent Coptic Christian scholar. Referendum on constitution The decree issued by Morsi barred the courts from dissolving the controversial 100-member constituent assembly which has been drafting a new constitution. A final draft of the document was sent to Morsi last week, and it is scheduled to face a public referendum on December 15. While protesters battled outside, Vice President Mahmoud Mekki held a news conference inside the palace and tried to calm the situation. He urged the opposition to rein in street protests, and said political groups could agree on a plan to amend contentious articles after a new parliament is elected in 2013. He called for "communication between political forces" on the document. "There must be consensus," he said. "There is real political will to pass the current period and respond to the demands of the public." A group of prominent opposition leaders, including Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa, held a press conference in Cairo on Wednesday night and dismissed Mekki's offer. ElBaradei said the opposition is open to dialogue, but not until Morsi revokes his decree. All three men blamed Morsi for the violence outside the presidential palace. "He has lost the moral legitimacy to lead Egypt," said Sabbahi, who placed third in the presidential election earlier this year. But the Muslim Brotherhood quickly turned around and blamed their opponents for the clashes. Gehad el-Haddad, a senior adviser to the Freedom and Justice Party, accused the three opposition leaders of "inciting violence". "It's very sad to see opposition leaders such as ElBaradei, Hamdeen and Amr Moussa to resort to such levels of talk," he told Al Jazeera. "Such disrespect to the sanctity of peaceful protesting, within the context of democracy, is very alarming."
By SHALOM COHEN
The newly empowered Egyptian people are not just fighting for their freedom, they are using the tools of democracy in an ideological battle for the future of their nation.The outrage and political ferment that arose in Egypt after President Mohamed Morsi’s recent decisions to centralize power and ram through a new constitution is, in fact, the true beginning of the “Arab Spring” that erupted in Tunisia and Egypt two years ago. The newly empowered Egyptian people are not just fighting for their freedom, they are using the tools of democracy in an ideological battle for the future of their nation. The fundamental change that has taken place in Egypt since the fall of the Mubarak regime – aside from the assumption of power by political Islam – is the new-found openness and freedom of expression enjoyed by the people, the media and the political parties. The transformation is remarkable. Where there was once a police state in which people feared government agents who enforced a ban on all anti-establishment activity – especially anti-government activity – today stands an Egypt in which journalism is more or less free and where criticism and demonstrations against the government are simply part of daily life. The liberal forces that initiated the Egyptian uprising felt that the Islamists jumped on the bandwagon late and then hijacked the revolution. This impression was reinforced by Morsi’s first steps as president: disbanding the army council, unrestricted support for the Islamist-dominated houses of parliament, and the creation of a committee to draft a new, Islamist-oriented constitution. These sophisticated political moves hinted at what was to come. With the added bona fides he garnered for brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, Morsi took the opportunity to institute his latest draconian measures. The Islamists are using today’s opportunities to institute changes that may not be reversible tomorrow. THE NEW round of demonstrations in Tahrir Square and throughout the country indicates an important change in Egyptian society. The Arab uprising that began in 2010 – disorganized, lacking leadership and without an ideological agenda – had one inchoate purpose: to depose Mubarak’s authoritarian regime and create a democratic nation in which the people themselves determine their own political future, not those sitting in the presidential palace. Today’s demonstrations are entirely different. Egyptians of all backgrounds – Islamist men and women, liberals and secularists, young and old, intellectuals and common folk – have taken to the streets to determine the character of the nation. Will Egypt continue on the path to democracy or become an Islamic dictatorship? The outcome of this struggle – which will have important implications for Egypt and the region – is by no means predetermined. In truth, Morsi beat his secular rival, Ahmed Shafik, by the narrowest of margins. It is now abundantly clear that Egyptians – secular or religious – are not homogenous in their political ideology and will not walk in lockstep with the political marching orders of the government. Morsi’s actions have brought to a head the political tension between the forces of Western liberal democracy and those of the Islamists. These two streams, which cooperated to bring down Mubarak in 2010, are now arrayed against one another over the nature and future of the state. At this tenuous moment, when so much is in the balance, it would be wise for the United States and the Western nations to devote intensive care, effort and resources to strengthening the liberal parties and democratic forces in Egypt, and in the other states in the Arab world. The time to do so is now, with the repressive restrictions of the old regimes gone, the wheels of democratic change in motion and it is possible to effect change. Indeed, a recent bipartisan task force of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy concluded that the United States should impose “informal conditionality” on its relationship with Egypt based, in part, on its performance on democracy and human rights issues. In its final study, “Engagement without Illusions,” the task force concluded that “it is too risky to provide Egypt with virtually unconditional aid and support and thereby feed a dangerous sense of entitlement – the notion that Egypt is somehow owed American reparations for Washington’s past support of nondemocratic leaders who served US strategic interests.” The report recommended that the Obama administration should link a close and mutually beneficial relationship to Cairo’s performance on a variety of issues, including maintaining the peace treaty with Israel, support for constitutional democracy and commitment to political pluralism. Specifically, the report urged the Obama administration to actively engage with the broadest possible spectrum of political actors in Egypt. UNFORTUNATELY, IT seems that the Egyptian government that was brought to power on the silver platter of a democratic election now seeks to shatter the dishes in an attempt to gradually eliminate the very steps that led to a real democratic country. In the past, when he campaigned for office, Morsi expressed a willingness to cooperate with secularists, even to nominate a woman or a Coptic Christian vice president. But today, the attitude is closer to the Muslim Brotherhood line and is demonstrating a desire put its Islamist policies into practice. His political position is inclining more toward the radical Salafists than the secularists. Many Egyptians are saying no to this in Tahrir Square and across the country. The coming weeks and months will be the most critical in determining the outcome of this struggle, a byproduct of the Arab Spring that will determine the future and the character of Egypt. Today, more than ever, they should not undertake this campaign alone.
Egypt falls six places and Syria 15 but Libya manages slight improvement in Transparency International's league table.Egypt has fallen in a global league table of perceived official corruption in the past year, and the Arab Spring revolutions have yet to produce serious anti-corruption action across the region, Transparency International (TI) says. In its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, released on Wednesday, the Berlin-based group said Egypt had fallen six places to 118th out of 176 countries as levels of bribery, abuse of power and secret dealings remain high in the Arab world's most populous nation. The public-sector league table - on which the higher the ranking, the cleaner a country is - produced a mixed picture for nations swept up in last year's unrest. Tunisia slipped two places to 75th while Morocco, which experienced less turmoil, fell eight spots to 88th. Syria, which is engulfed in a civil war, dropped 15 places to 144th but Libya managed an improvement from a very low base, rising to 160th from 168th. Egypt was in a five-way tie with the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Indonesia and Madagascar with a score of 32. European rankings Greece has scored the worst ranking of all 27 European Union nations, falling below ex-communist Bulgaria as public anger about corruption soars at a time of crisis. The index on state sector corruption also showed other struggling eurozone countries scoring poorly such as Italy which ranked below Romania. Greeks have long complained about corruption but anger has soared, particularly about tax evasion among the rich, as the government has imposed wave after wave of austerity that the country's international lenders have demanded. The EU has kept Bulgaria and Romania out of its Schengen zone, which allows passport-free travel between member states, due to concerns about corruption. A recent study showed Bulgarians gave about 150,000 bribes to civil servants every month last year, more than in 2010. Portugal and Ireland, which like Greece have received eurozone rescues, were placed 33 and 25 respectively in the table. BRIC economies TI said there was a stronger public recognition worldwide, including in big emerging BRIC economies such as China and Brazil, of the costs of corruption and a growing refusal to accept it as an inevitable fact of life. Overall, Denmark, Finland and New Zealand were in a first-place tie with scores of 90 on a new scale where 100 stands for most clean and 0 for most corrupt. Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan shared last place. Among the major global economies, the US ranked 19, up from 24, Germany was at 13, up from 14, Japan and Britain tied for 17th place and France was at 22, up from 25 last year. China meanwhile saw its ranking slip to 80 from 75 last year.
http://www.politico.comAs protests continued in Egypt on Wednesday, the White House declined to take sides in the conflict, noting that the United States has an important relationship with Egypt, but called for all sides to refrain from violence. When asked at a White House briefing if President Obama supports Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, press secretary Jay Carney said, "The president has an important relationship, well, the United States has a very important relationship with Egypt. The president has worked effectively with President Morsi on key issues, including recently the negotiated ceasefire in Gaza. We are monitoring the situation." Carney did not say whether Obama has spoken with Morsi or taken any other action. A White House official later confirmed to POLITICO that the president did stop by a meeting between national security adviser Tom Donilon and Morsi adviser Issam Al-Haddad. The official did not say what they spoke about. Protests in Cairo turned violent for a second day Wednesday, with protestors supporting and opposing Morsi throwing fire bombs and rocks at each other outside the presidential palace, CBS reported. The opposition demonstrators want Morsi to rescind declarations he made exempting himself from judicial oversight and to throw away a draft constitution quickly passed by his allies last week. Carney said the administration thinks dialogue between all Egyptians is "urgently necessary." "It must be a two-way dialogue that includes a respectful exchange of the concerns of the Eyptian people themselves about the constitutional process and the substance of their constitution. The Egyptian people want and deserve a constitutional process that is open, transparaent and fair and does not unduly favor one group over any other," he said. He added that most demonstrations so far have been large but "generally peaceful." " As Egyptians continue to express their views, we look to the government of Egypt to respect freedoms of peaceful expression and assembly and to exercise restraint. We also continue to call on demonstrators and political parties to take all possible measures to avoid confrontation and violence."
http://www.afghanistantimes.afAfghanistan has become a country where rhetoric pulls more crowds than reason and rationalism. Our current and as well as coming generations are faced with a bleak and challenging future because in a society where reason, debate culture, and intolerance have gone missing then it is quite difficult to give them a secure and prosperous future. Sectarianism, tribal feuds, militancy, corruption, ethnic tensions, and internal bickering are some of the social evils that have made home here which collectively are pushing back this country into the age of barbarism, intolerance and deadly dormancy, for we have become a nation that doesn’t make efforts on its own to overcome its own problems but ogles for outside support, always. We are quite expert in blaming others for our own blunders and problems but quite blockhead to keep our house in order ourselves. Just ask anyone on a road or in a university that who is responsible for the miseries of this miserable nation and you will get a long list, starting from Israelis, Americans, Pakistanis, Iranians, and Indians but hardly you will hear that we ourselves are responsible for our current plight. Who killed a Kabul University student and injured 28 others in the violent clashes stirred by an attempt by Shiite students to flagellate themselves at the main mosque on the campus during the Ashura rituals? The response is, no Israeli, no American, no Pakistani, and no Indian but Afghans. Then why to blame others? Our illiterates are being killed by NATO, Americans and the Taliban whereas our students are being killed by students. Earlier the children of the nation witnessed a setback over political move when a University name was renamed after the then peace interlocutor, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani whereas the anger of the students was not allayed that Kabul universities’ students received another setback. The sectarian clashes in the Kabul University’s hostels have led to the extension of vacation for three months. Though initially the government has declared classes will remain suspended for 10 days but to control the hostile situation that was triggered on the day of Ashura has left a bad mark on the history of our education. The decision has been taken by the government in such a time when university exams were quite near while now they will have to take their exams in February 2013. It was a good decision by the government to pacify the searing anger of the Sunni and Shiite students but the government will have to take two steps, either to impose ban on political and certain other sensitive activities in education institutions that could potentially put the peaceful environment of universities in danger or ensure freedom of speech and act until it is in contrast to law of the land. Moreover the religious minority should keep their rituals away from university when they have other places to perform freely with no hindrance. Why our universities have turned into centers for sordid politics, and that too, a politics of polarization and hatred. Those behind the sectarian violence in the university should be trialed and those found guilty should be sent behind bars. Such like incidents are badly affecting our collective behavior and those students who want to stay aside from politics are reluctantly pushed into the whirl of ethnic politics and the politics of sectarianism. Earlier our education was in danger from the insurgents and now unfortunately education has been endangered by students themselves. What difference is there between the insurgents and those students who have disturbed the environment for education? Both should respond to the nation as the nation asks them why they have been doing it, at whose behest, and for whose advantage.
http://www.eurasianet.org.August 7, 2012 There is a general assumption that Afghanistan is a notorious exporter of violence and that the pullout of US and NATO troops in 2014 from the country portends trouble for the neighboring states of Central Asia. Yet this assumption rests on shaky evidence. The recent fighting in Tajikistan reminds us that disorder and violence in Central Asia are homegrown phenomena. Experts in Russia, China, the U.S., and Europe are worried that Afghanistan’s evil twins – drug trafficking and the export of religious extremism – will bring chaos and violence to Central Asia after 2014. To address these threats policy makers agree that security assistance to Central Asian governments needs to be ramped up. Highest on the list of what needs to be done is an expansion of train-and-equip programs for border guards and local security forces. In addition, the United States is considering leaving armored personal carriers and other military equipment in the region after the pull-out from Afghanistan. Russia, meanwhile, is negotiating with Tajikistan to extend a base deal that would permanently station 6,000 Russian troops in the country. While these policies may seem like sound strategy, the problem is that none of them address the causes of instability in Central Asia, and some may even exacerbate existing problems. The basic truth is that security threats in Central Asia develop from within, and are not imported from elsewhere. An example: two weeks ago, as Tajik soldiers were engaged in firefights with gunmen in Khorog, the capital of the autonomous region of Gorno-Badakhshan, I was skyping with a friend in Dushanbe. In reply to my question of what was going on he said: “It’s simple: one gang of drug traffickers is fighting with another gang of drug traffickers over their turf. Both wear official Tajik uniforms.” His explanation resonates with many inside and outside Tajikistan. Even if the Tajik government initially stressed links to Afghan militants and spoke of eight Afghan nationals with possible links to the Taliban, al Qaeda or the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan that had been detained, little evidence or even logical arguments could be produced to bolster these claims. In fact there is very little to indicate that Afghanistan’s evil twins after 2014 will influence the security situation in Central Asia more than they do already. Take the export of religious extremism: the Tajik civil war in the 1990s did have a religious component, and United Tajik Opposition commanders enjoyed a safe haven in Afghanistan. But the conflict itself arose out of internal political contradictions, rather than being exported from Afghanistan. Similarly, recent flare-ups of violent religious extremism in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan developed within a local context and as a reaction to repression of religious and other fundamental civic and economic rights of Central Asian citizens by their governments. Looking at drug trafficking, opium derivatives such as heroin are generally not smuggled into the region, but cross the border by the truckload on established roads and through official checkpoints. Few seriously contest that the biggest drug traffickers in Central Asia are government officials, or at least individuals or groups closely connected to the governments in the region. If one considers instances of violence in Central Asia over the past two decades – including the riots in Uzgen and Osh in 1990, the Tajik civil war in the mid-1990s, the events in Andijan in 2005, the violent revolutions in Kyrgyzstan in 2005 and 2010, the clashes in Osh in June 2010, the riots in western Kazakhstan in 2011 or the fighting in Tajikistan in 2010 and 2012 – Afghanistan really isn’t a factor. A multitude of local factors were behind these outbursts of violence, including the political dynamics inherent in non-democratic states, conflicts over resources and the inability of states and societies to manage conflicts. Traditional security assistance to Central Asian governments as currently conceived in Brussels, Washington, Moscow or Beijing does little to address these problems. Given some evidence that governments in the region are more part of the problem than they are of the solution current assistance programs are counterintuitive. Even initiatives that specifically include an element aimed at professionalizing relations between uniformed officials and civilians such as western-funded police training or border management assistance programs generally fail to deliver results in these areas. The stated aim of foreign security assistance in Central Asia is to promote stability in the region itself. The first step towards providing such assistance should be to stop assuming that Afghanistan is the biggest threat to regional stability and to acknowledge the homegrown nature of the threat. Editor's note: Cornelius Graubner is a Central Asian policy expert affiliated with the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) in New York. EurasiaNet publishes under OSF’s auspices.