Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Human Cost of the FIFA World Cup

See also: World Cup puts spotlight on rights of migrant workers in Qatar  

The Human Cost of the FIFA World Cup

By T. J. Petrowski

Global Research, July 05, 2014

As the world watches the 2014 FIFA World Cup, people are protesting the cost and the human rights violations being committed by police and security forces to protect this corporate investment.

Working people in Brazil are understandably frustrated with the public cost of the World Cup, an estimated $14 billion. When compared to spending on social services, the cost of the World Cup is the equivalent of 61% of funding for education, or 30% of the funding for healthcare. Private companies, including those in the services and construction industries, will be the main beneficiaries of this public money. Adding to this cost is the forced evictions of the poor living in the favelas (slums) and the dispossession of indigenous people from their lands to build stadiums and parking lots. [1]

Over one million people in Brazil have protested the cost of the World Cup, the cutbacks and increased costs of social services, forced evictions, and other human rights violations.

The state security services have cracked down viciously on all anti‑FIFA demonstrations across the country. At least a dozen or more people have been killed and hundreds have been arrested. On the first day of the World Cup, 47 people were arrested, and police shot rubber bullets at medics helping the wounded. The state security services have been accused of killing of the poor and homeless, including children, to “clean up” the favelas prior to the start of the World Cup. To justify this violent response, the federal government has pushed to pass legislation that would criminalize all anti‑FIFA protests as “terrorism”, with 12 to 30 year prison sentences for those convicted. [2]

The state has deployed more than 200,000 troops, armed with such weapons as Israeli drones, German anti‑aircraft tanks, and rooftop missile defense systems, to protect the World Cup from protestors. The infamous American mercenary company, Blackwater, known for its role in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, is allegedly in Brazil helping with security for the World Cup.

The financial and social cost of events like the World Cup and the Olympics to working people are enormous.

During the London 2012 Olympics, 10,000 police officers and 13,000 troops, more than all British forces in Afghanistan, along with ships in the Thames, fighter jets, and surface‑to‑air missile defense systems, were deployed to protect the $11 billion event. At a time when 2 million are unemployed, 27% of children live in poverty, and austerity budgets are being forced on working people, $11 billion came at a significant cost to working people. [3]

The Sochi Winter Olympics cost a staggering $51 billion, even though 18 million Russians live in poverty and migrant workers were paid less than $2/hour to build the necessary infrastructure.

In 2022 Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup, and already hundreds of migrant workers have died working on the World Cup infrastructure. Over 400 Nepalese and 700 Indian workers have been have are already among the casualties. The conditions migrant workers are forced to work in have been compared to slavery. Robert Booth for the Guardian explains: “Workers described forced labour in 50C (122F) heat, employers who retain salaries for several months and passports making it impossible for them to leave and being denied free drinking water. The investigation found sickness is endemic among workers living in overcrowded and insanitary conditions and hunger has been reported. Thirty Nepalese construction workers took refuge in the their country’s embassy and subsequently left the country, after they claimed they received no pay.” The International Trade Union Confederation estimates that 12 workers will die each week and around 4,000 will have died before the event starts. [4]

The social and financial cost of these international corporate events should be fought by working people around the world at a time where millions are being forced into unemployment and are denied their basic needs, democracy is being eroded, the environment is being destroyed, and the threat of war is increasing.


Thousands demonstrate at funeral of slain Palestinian youth

The body of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khudair is carried to a mosque on Friday. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
By Barry Grey 

5 July 2014

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated Friday at the funeral in East Jerusalem of the 16-year-old youth kidnapped and murdered Wednesday in an evident revenge killing by ultra-right Jewish nationalists. The throng carried aloft the coffin of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khudair and shouted slogans calling for a new “Intifada,” or popular uprising, against Israeli repression.

Israeli riot police massed along the route of the funeral march in the Shuafat neighborhood where Khudair lived and was abducted while waiting at a shop near his home to go to morning prayers. The police attacked demonstrators with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets. The Red Crescent said some 30 Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets fired by Israeli forces. Dozens more were treated for tear gas inhalation.

Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters also occurred in other parts of East Jerusalem, including the neighborhoods of Ras al-Amud and Wadi al-Joz. There were also incidences of rock-throwing by Palestinian youth and Israeli police reprisals near the Al Aqsa Mosque complex, which the government had closed to all men under 50 years of age.

A video widely circulated on the Internet shows two Israeli police savagely beating a Palestinian demonstrator who is lying helpless on the ground, then dragging him away.

Fighting occurred as well on the West Bank. On Friday, eight Palestinians were said to have been injured in clashes with the Israel Defense Forces in Ramallah.

The West Bank, which is controlled by the US- and Israeli-supported Palestinian Authority, has been the target of mass arrests and harassment by Israeli forces since the disappearance June 12 of three Israeli teenagers who lived in settlements near Hebron. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately blamed the Islamist Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, for the abductions, without providing any evidence to back up its claims. Hamas has denied any involvement.

The discovery on Monday of the bodies of the three Israeli youth—Gilad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19—was seized on by Netanyahu to launch air strikes against Gaza, mobilize Israeli troops to the border, and threaten another invasion of the impoverished territory.

The Israeli government is utilizing the tragic deaths of the Jewish youth to press its demand that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas disavow his announcement last April of a unity government between his Fatah-led authority and Hamas. Netanyahu seized on that announcement to break off so-called “peace” negotiations that were being overseen by the United States.

Israel launched three new air strikes Friday evening, this time against the southern Gaza town of Rafah. The Israeli air strikes, using the most advanced weaponry, are said to be in response to the firing of crude rockets and mortars from Gaza into southern Israel. Hamas and other groups began launching rockets several weeks ago in response to the mass arrest of Hamas supporters on the West Bank.

Israeli officials said 18 rockets from Gaza struck southern Israel on Friday. The military says some 150 rockets have been fired at southern Israel in recent weeks. The air force has responded with air strikes against 70 targets in Gaza, according to the military.

On Thursday, at a celebration of the July 4 Independence Day holiday at the residence of the US ambassador, Netanyahu threatened to respond with “full force” if the rocket launches continued. There were reports Friday of negotiations for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt. Unnamed Hamas officials said they supported a truce and expected one to be announced. Israeli officials made no comment on the claim, however.

Instead, Netanyahu said his government would delay any major military escalation for 24 hours while cease-fire talks continued.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities claim to have been unable to determine either the perpetrators or the motive for the killing of Khudair. This is despite eyewitness reports that the men who bundled the Palestinian youth into a car were Jewish, and the fact that the victim’s family supplied the police with vehicle’s license plate.

Moreover, the abduction and murder of Khudair came only hours after several hundred ultra-right and pro-settler Israelis held a march through East Jerusalem Tuesday night in which they chanted “death to the Arabs” and attacked Palestinian passers-by. The right-wing rampage followed Tuesday’s nationally televised funeral of the murdered Israeli teenagers.

Israeli authorities seem to be encouraging rumors that the teenager’s death was the result of an “honor killing” carried out by members of his family because he was supposedly gay. The family of the slain youth has denounced these claims and the insistence of Israeli police on questioning the youth’s cousins on their possible involvement in the crime.

The government’s posture of strict agnosticism as to the perpetrators of the Khudair murder stands in glaring contradiction to its blanket and unsubstantiated claim of Hamas’ responsibility for the killing of the Israeli youth, a contradiction that is ignored in the American media.

The attempt of Netanyahu to use the deaths of the Israeli teens as the pretext for stepped up aggression against the Palestinians, and the racist and fascistic agitation of pro-settler elements, prompted some 3,000 mostly young Israelis to stage a rally for peace and tolerance on Wednesday.

The rally was organized by Tag Meir, a pro-peace coalition of 43 organizations. USA Today quoted one of the participants, Jonah Clarfield, 25, as saying, “This is a response to the racist march that took place last night.” Marchers held hand-made posters reading, “We Are All Human Beings” and “Light, Not Terror.”

Powerful sections of the Israeli political and media establishment, on the other hand, are agitating for all out war with overtones of genocide against the Palestinians. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman traveled Friday to Sderot, the Israeli town that borders Gaza and has been the main target of Hamas rockets, where he attacked Netanyahu for being insufficiently ruthless.

“Not all terrorist targets can be destroyed from the air,” he declared. “Most of the rocket production sites are under schools, hospitals and mosques. We are only postponing a problem instead of dealing with it.” He went on to call for the assassination of key Hamas leaders.

The Jerusalem Post on Friday published a column by Martin Sherman, the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, under the headline: “Into the Fray: ‘Cry Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war.’”

“It is time for a bold new offensive—before we are overtaken by events,” he wrote, adding, “For anyone with half a brain it should be crystal clear: The peace-with-Palestinians paradigm is irredeemably broken.”

He continued, “In other words, we must inflict strategic defeat, and impose strategic surrender, on the Palestinians…” He set out as components of this policy the need to: “Coercively dismantle and disarm the Palestinian security forces,” and “Refrain from any support for the unsustainable Palestinian economy, withhold any services hitherto rendered to it and allow it to collapse, as it inevitably will.”

Friday, July 4, 2014

Supreme Court Clears Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy

Note: I hope this will silence those that say through "proper therapy" gay people can be made straight. There is zero scientific evidence to support such an assertion despite decades of people trying. Faith groups and society at large have to come to the place of accepted of LGBTQ folk in their midst and accept them for who and what they are.

S N Smith


Supreme Court Clears Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy

SAN FRANCISCO — Jun 30, 2014, 9:52 AM ET
By LISA LEFF Associated Press
Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for enforcement of a first-of-its-kind California law that bars psychological counseling aimed at turning gay minors straight.

The justices turned aside a legal challenge brought by supporters of so-called conversion or reparative therapy. Without comment, they let stand an August 2013 appeals court ruling that said the ban covered professional activities that are within the state's authority to regulate and doesn't violate the free speech rights of licensed counselors and patients seeking treatment.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that California lawmakers properly showed that therapies designed to change sexual orientation for those under the age of 18 were outside the scientific mainstream and have been disavowed by most major medical groups as unproven and potentially dangerous.

"The Supreme Court has cement shut any possible opening to allow further psychological child abuse in California," state Sen. Ted Lieu, the law's sponsor, said Monday. "The Court's refusal to accept the appeal of extreme ideological therapists who practice the quackery of gay conversion therapy is a victory for child welfare, science and basic humane principles."

The law says professional therapists and counselors who use treatments designed to eliminate or reduce same-sex attractions in their patients would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards. It does not cover the actions of pastors and lay counselors who are unlicensed but provide such therapy through church programs.

Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal aid group, had challenged the law, as did other supporters of the therapy. They argue that lawmakers have no scientific proof the therapy does harm.

"I am deeply saddened for the families we represent and for the thousands of children that our professional clients counsel," Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said in a statement. "The minors we represent do not want to act on same-sex attractions, nor do they want to engage in such behavior."

New Jersey last year became the second U.S. state to ban gay conversion therapy with children and teenagers, and Liberty Counsel also has been fighting that law, which took effect after it was signed by Gov. Chris Christie. The group's litigation counsel, Daniel Schmid, said Monday that the Supreme Court's refusal to consider a challenge to California's law, as opposed to issuing a ruling on the merits, has no bearing on Liberty Counsel's case in New Jersey, which is scheduled to be heard by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 9.

"We hope to get a good ruling out of the 3rd, which will hopefully get us back up to the Supremes," he said.

California's law was supposed to take effect last year, but it has been on hold while a pair of lawsuits seeking to overturn it made their way to the Supreme Court.

Now that the high court has declined to take the case, the state will be able to start enforcing the law after the 9th Circuit lifts an injunction it put into place during the litigation, an action that is expected to come within days, according to Christopher Stoll, a senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Another eight states and the District of Columbia have pending legislation modeled after the California and New Jersey laws, while lawmakers in five other states have refused to pass similar bans. Meanwhile, the Texas Republican Party this month endorsed reparative therapy, adopting policy language recognizing "the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Serious Deterioration of Services for Veterans

Yvan Thauvette, President, Union of Veterans Affairs Employees, Public Service Alliance of Canada 

 June 3, 2014

Our union represents about 3,000 employees of whom about 2,500 work at Veterans Affairs Canada and 500 work under provincial jurisdiction at Deer Lodge Centre in Winnipeg. The vast majority of our members provide services to veterans, such as social reintegration and rehabilitation. Our members guide veterans through the bureaucracy; for example, health care differs from one province to another. One of the main things we do is help veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder which makes it very difficult for them to reintegrate into civilian life after they leave the army.

Currently, the government is getting rid of about 25 per cent of the frontline workers by closing Veterans Affairs Offices and reducing staff. Nine Veterans Affairs Offices across Canada were closed at the end of January 2014. We launched a campaign with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) to defend services for veterans. There were many demonstrations across the country to oppose the closures. Our campaign had two aims: to prevent the Veterans Affairs Offices from closing and to fight the Conservative government on what they thought was their strong point. They say that they are the defenders of the veterans and we are able to prove that the opposite is true. We speak to veterans who are Conservatives and they are going to mobilize people to vote anything but Conservative. We were not successful in preventing the closure of the offices, but the campaign was very successful in mobilizing people. On November 9, more than 10 per cent of the residents of Sydney, Nova Scotia, took part in a demonstration to support the veterans and the Veterans Affairs workers.

We are doing political lobbying of not only opposition parties and MPs but of Conservatives. When we speak with Conservatives, they just repeat the message they have been given by their government that there are going to be more points of service for the veterans, even if they do not know what it means. The Conservatives say that they are streamlining services to make them more effective. Veterans for example will have access to 500-600 additional points of service through Service Canada but Service Canada is not able to help our clients. They do not have access to their files, they do not know what their problems are or the programs that Veterans Affairs Canada runs.

PSAC also represents Service Canada employees and they tell us that they can't help the veterans. Service Canada provides veterans with general information, it gives them a form to fill out or the 1-800 number to call or it sits them in front of a computer. None of this helps the veterans, especially the older ones. I have met many veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who told me it took them half a day just to create their account with Veterans Affairs and a whole week to fill out their application. If they had gone to the Veterans Affairs Office, it would have taken them an hour or an hour and a half to do this.

Representatives of Veterans Affairs say that they want to provide quick answers to veterans when they first call, but this is not what is happening. It is very cumbersome, it takes a lot more time and often the veterans have to travel longer distances than before because of the office closures. When the government says that the veterans will continue to have access to home visits, it does not say that this only applies to those who have a file with a social worker and not to others. We represent roughly 200,000 veterans. Maybe 15 to 18 per cent of them are being seen by a social worker for social reintegration or rehabilitation but what about the other 180,000? There are no home visits for them anymore. They have to go to the Veterans Affairs Offices to find adequate services but many can't do it because they live in remote areas.

The services offered to veterans have greatly deteriorated. It takes a lot of time for veterans to get answers to their questions. Contacting Veterans Affairs Canada has become more and more difficult. When veterans call the 1-800 number, they cannot be sure that they are talking to somebody who works at Veterans Affairs even if the person who answers says it is Veterans Affairs. They may work for the private company Quantum, which Veterans Affairs Canada has contracted to hire people to answer phone calls from veterans. The fact is that they do not know the programs and they are not able to answer the veterans' questions.

The current government has given a lot of contracts to the private sector for jobs that used to be done by our employees. They signed a major contract with an insurance company called Medavie Blue Cross. A client is considered merely a number with an insurance company.

The work load from the Veterans Affairs Offices that have closed has been transferred to the remaining offices. Our members working in the regions tell us that they have hundreds of work orders on their desks that have not been filled because of the cutbacks in staff. It may take them six months to return phone calls from veterans. So many staff have been cut that when somebody gets sick, their work load falls to others and becomes impossible. Our members are getting sick, they are taking leaves of absence or even leaving the department because they can't take it anymore. At some point, the government is going to say that they can't provide the service any longer and they have to go to the private sector.

At the moment, we are getting ready for negotiations with the Treasury Board which will begin shortly. It is going to be difficult because the government has decided that any economic improvement we make in bargaining has to come from the department budgets.

Egypt: Rampant torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions signal catastrophic decline in human rights one year after ousting of Morsi

JULY 3, 2014

• At least 16,000 detained and at least 80 deaths in custody recorded in past year
• Torture and other ill-treatment in detention continues unabated
• Fair trial standards routinely flouted 

A surge in arbitrary arrests, detentions and harrowing incidents of torture and deaths in police custody recorded by Amnesty International provide strong evidence of the sharp deterioration in human rights in Egypt in the year since President Mohamed Morsi was ousted. 

Thousands of people have been detained, with figures varying. According to official estimates published by the Associated Press in March, at least 16,000 people have been detained over the past year as part of a sweeping crackdown against Mohamed Morsi’s supporters and other groups and activists that have expressed dissent. According to WikiThawra, an initiative run by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social rights, at least 80 people died have died custody over the past year and more than 40,000 people were detained or indicted between July 2013 and mid-May 2014. 

Reports of torture and enforced disappearances in police and military detention facilities are also widespread. 

“Egypt’s notorious state security forces - currently known as National Security - are back and operating at full capacity, employing the same methods of torture and other ill-treatment used during the darkest hours of the Mubarak era,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. 

“Despite repeated promises by current and former presidents to respect the rule of law, over the past year flagrant violations have continued at an astonishing rate, with security forces effectively granted a free rein to commit human rights violations with impunity.” 

Torture and other ill-treatment

Amnesty International has gathered damning evidence indicating that torture is routine in police stations and unofficial places of detention, with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters particularly targeted. It is carried out by both the Egyptian military and police including in premises belonging to the National Security Agency, in many cases with the objective of obtaining confessions or to force detainees to implicate others.

Among the methods of torture employed are techniques previously used by state security during Mubarak’s rule. These include the use of electric shocks, rape, handcuffing detainees and suspending them from open doors. Another hanging method, known as “the grill”, involves handcuffing the detainee’s hands and legs to an iron rod and suspending the rod between two opposite chairs until the detainee’s legs go numb. Security forces then start using electric shocks on the person’s legs. 

One of the most shocking cases documented by Amnesty International was that of M.R.S , 23, a student arrested in February 2014 near Nasr City in Cairo. He said he was held for 47 days and was tortured and raped during his interrogation. He is currently out of prison but the case is still pending. 

“They cut my shirt, blindfolded me with it and handcuffed me from behind…they beat me with batons all over my body, particularly on the chest, back and face…Then they put two wires in my left and right little fingers and gave me electric shocks four or five times,” he said. 

He also gave a horrifying account of how he was sexually assaulted and raped. 

“The national security officer caught my testicle and started to squeeze it… I was screaming from the pain and bent my legs to protect my testicles then he inserted his fingers in my anus… he was wearing something plastic on his fingers… he repeated this five times,” he said. 

He also reported being beaten on the penis with a stick. He was then raped repeatedly by one or more security guards before being forced to sing a song in support of the Egyptian army “Teslam Al Ayadi”. 

In another case, Mahmoud Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, an 18-year-old student, was arrested on his way home on the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising in El Mareg, Cairo at noon. He believes he was singled out for wearing a shirt bearing a logo of the “25 January Revolution” and a scarf with a slogan of the “Nation without Torture” campaign. He was blindfolded and forced into “confessing” to possessing explosives and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood after hours of being beaten, subjected to electric shocks, including on the testicles, and being interrogated by national security officers. Mahmoud Mohamed Ahmed Hussein remains in prison. 

“Day after day harrowing accounts of torture are emerging while the authorities flat out deny any abuse and go as far as labelling Egyptian prisons as hotels,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 

“If the Egyptian authorities wish to salvage any credibility, such horrendous practices must be stopped immediately.” 

Deaths in police custody 

At least 80 detainees have died in custody since 3 July 2013, according to WikiThawra. 

“The death at the hands of the police of Khaled Said in 2010, a young man from Alexandria, was one of the driving forces behind Egypt’s uprising. It is tragic that four years after his killing, deaths in police custody in Egypt continue to occur on an alarming scale,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 

Ahmed Ibrahim was among four people who have died in Mattereya Police station since April 2014. He had been due for early release after serving most of a three-year prison term. After Ahmed Ibrahim’s transfer to Mattereya Police Station in preparation for his release, he repeatedly complained about his poor detention conditions and said he was having difficulty breathing due to poor ventilation in his overcrowded police cell. He was denied medical care.

In a phone call to his father at 1 a.m. on 15 June he pleaded for help saying: “I am dying, father”. His father tried to call an ambulance but later realized the request had to come from the police station in order for them to gain access to the cell. By the time he made it to the police station to ask about his son later on that morning, he was told he had died. Upon examining his son’s body he found blue bruises on the upper parts of his body and cuts on the neck suggesting he may have been tortured. The report of an initial post-mortem medical examination seen by Amnesty International stated there were blue bruises and cuts found on the body. Forensic doctors told Amnesty International that the reason for his death is still not clear. 

Arbitrary arrest and detention 

Amnesty International has spoken to dozens of former detainees and the families of detainees who were arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully held in complete deprivation of their rights. In many cases people were rounded up from the street or arrested after security forces entered their homes by force. Many were beaten upon arrest, unlawfully held for extended periods without charge, without being given the chance to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court or a prosecutor or being informed of the reason for their detention. Some have been held without charge or trial for nearly a year. 

One detainee interviewed by Amnesty International said he had been detained for 96 days at Al Galaaa military camp in Al-Azouly Prison after security forces burst into his home to arrest him. He was not allowed to contact lawyers or families to inform them about his whereabouts. He was arbitrarily held in administrative detention for 11 years during Hosni Mubarak’s rule. He told Amnesty International: “Mubarak’s security forces at least knew who they were targeting but now they arrest people randomly.” 

Hatem Mohie Eldin, a 17-year-old student in Alexandria, was arrested by the police randomly on 27 May in Alexandria as he returned home after school. Security forces beat him and held him for five days in an unknown location. He was not allowed to contact his family or lawyers and was not referred to the prosecution or a court during his detention. Hatem was released on 1 June after the security forces found he was not involved in violence or riots, he told Amnesty International. 

In some cases, security forces seized family members or friends at random if the wanted person was not present. The friends and families would face trumped-up charges or accusations. The family of Salah and Adel, two brothers told Amnesty International they were beaten and arrested in August 2013 by security forces who were looking for the third brother of the men. 

Unfair trials 

Egypt’s criminal justice system has suffered huge setbacks over the past year with several politically motivated verdicts being issued. A series of mass death sentences after grossly unfair trials against detainees accused of violence last August have exposed deep flaws in the criminal justice system. In many cases defendants were not brought to their trials and lawyers have repeatedly been barred from presenting their defence, or questioning witnesses. 

Courts sentenced boys under the age of 18 to death in violation of Egypt’s obligations under domestic and international law, most notably the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In other instances, defendants were sentenced to death after only one hearing and without giving lawyers an opportunity to present their defence or to examine witnesses.

According to information gathered by Amnesty International, since January 2014 Egypt’s criminal justice system has recommended the death penalty for 1,247 men, pending the Grand Mufti’s religious opinion, and upheld death sentences against 247 individuals. The decisions to sentence individuals to death came after grossly unfair trials. 

Defence lawyers also told Amnesty International of instances where they were not allowed to attend investigations by prosecutors and stated that “confessions” extracted under torture had been used in judicial proceedings. 

“Egypt’s criminal justice system has demonstrated that it is unable or unwilling to deliver justice with disastrous consequences,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 

“On every level Egypt is failing in terms of human rights, it is up to the new government led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to turn the tide by launching independent, impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations and send a strong message that flouting human rights will not be tolerated and will no longer go unpunished.”


Amnesty International has also documented ongoing torture and enforced disappearances in Al-Azouly military Prison in Al Galaaa Military Camp in Isamilia.

For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations

Background Egypt: Dozens of disappeared civilians face ongoing torture at military prison

Multiculturalism in reverse as teenagers buck the trend towards integration

Teenagers no more integrated with other races than the middle aged, major new study of Britain’s friendship circles shows

By John Bingham, Social Affairs Editor

29 Jun 2014

Decades of efforts to promote multiculturalism have gone into reverse, major new research showing teenagers are no more likely to mix with people from other racial backgrounds than those 40 years older suggests.

The study, which analyses the social lives of almost 4,300 people from 13 to 80, shows that a clear trend towards each successive generation becoming more integrated than the one before breaks down when it comes to under-18s.

Despite growing up in more diverse society than ever before at a time when mass migration has transformed the make-up of Britain, today’s teenagers have almost 30 per cent fewer friends from other ethnic backgrounds than people in their 20s and early 30s.

Overall the analysis, designed by experimental psychologists at Oxford University, found that the current generation of teenagers show similar levels of social segregation as middle aged people.

The surprise finding emerges from the first phase of research by the Social Integration Commission, a study backed by charities and business to examine the impact of increasing diversity in Britain.

It comes in the week that new figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the UK has seen the fastest population growth in Europe over the last decade, gaining as many people in that time than in the entire previous generation.

The first report from the commission, due to be published later this week, will set how closely people of different classes and generations mix in modern Britain.

But initial results seen by The Sunday Telegraph highlight concerns about the level of integration along racial lines among the youngest age-group.

On average teenagers have only around half as many social interactions with people from other backgrounds as might be expected, given the area in which they live.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, who chaired the commission, said it raised “serious questions” about the ability of schools to properly integrate young people from different backgrounds who rub shoulders together in the corridors every day.

“This issue will not rectify itself, and requires urgent attention to promote better integration among young people when they are at a particularly formative moment in their development,” he said.

The conclusions were based on a sample of 4,269 people interviewed by Ipsos MORI. Each person was asked to describe recent social gatherings they had attended and asked to give details of who was present and their relationship to them.

Researchers then analysed the make-up of each person’s circle of friends and acquaintances and compared it with the profile of the area in which they lived. Each was then given a notional integration score, based on how closely their friendship circle matches the ethnic, age and class make-up of their neighbourhood.

Pensioners were the least integrated overall, while those aged 18 to 34 were the most, with an average of 65 per cent as many social interactions with people from different ethnic backgrounds as might be expected for where they lived if ethnicity was irrelevant.

By contrast those aged 17 and under had less than half (47 per cent) the number of social interactions outside their own background as might be expected.

Their average score was similar to those in the 35 to 54 age-group, 44 per cent.

“Today’s findings reveal a striking lack of mixing among the youngest in our society,” said Mr Taylor.

“This raises serious questions about the lack of integration in Britain’s education system, yet also suggests that certain institutions, such as higher education, have a positive effect on people’s propensity to mix.”

He said the aim of the study was not to support “social engineering” but find ways to “nudge” people to mix more closely.

The fact that those between the ages of 18 and 34 are significantly more integrated than other age groups suggests that universities and colleges offer a more natural way of mixing people than schools or other social settings.

“This isn’t a report about telling people off,” he said.

“Lots of research shows that it is perfectly natural for birds of a feather to flock together.

“But what we would also say is that because we believe integration is a good thing and because Britain is becoming more diverse by ethnicity, age, income and social class we need to look at what steps we might take to overcome that natural tendency.

“None of the commissioners is going to be advocating wholesale social engineering or naming and shaming people but we think that there are things that can be done, things which people would be happy to do which would just give them that little nudge.

“The fact that it looks like colleges and universities are places that encourage integration better than schools is an indication that maybe there are things that we could so.”

But he added that what is not clear is whether the lower levels of integration shown by the teenagers mean they will not mix more closely later in life. Only a further study in the future, tracking a sample of people over a longer period would establish that, he said.

The Commission was set up by The Challenge Network, a charity which runs the National Citizen Service.

POEM: When Hope Dies, Nothing Blooms in that Land

by  Nelly Ali

A generation of youth laying their friends to rest
A generation of mothers with an empty nest

A story about Egypt, and its struggle for hope
A story of millions defying the tightening rope

The struggle for Freedom, Dignity and Bread
About the punishment they got instead

Take Alaa for example who got sentenced 15 years
For being moved to revolt against torture and tears

Thousands of others also, to prison were sent
A handful of supporters protesting wherever they went

Others gave up and they carry the shame
Because the search for freedom…… was done in their name

They’ll squint and say “I’ve seen you’re face before
But they’re so many of you taken, I’ve lost the score”

Those ‘taken’ are strong now with a mission inside
They’re a window to the misconduct authorities try to hide

Slowly but surely stories behind bars are coming out
And you need to keep listening to what this is all about

Loss of physical freedom to become an independent voice
To those on the other side kept in, against their choice

The stories of torture and wrongful detention
Of people ‘too insignificant’ to grab your attention

Till its one of your own who gets dragged by the mob
Until it’s of your loved ones that you get robbed

I understand your desperate need to glorify the army
But their songs and flowers just don’t charm me

From virginity testing to death by beats
From promising not to, but running for presidency seats

From crushing Christian sisters to gassing Muslim brothers
Forcing you to take allegiance to justify violence against the other

Yes I’m talking of the barbaric handling of Rab3a and Maspero
When did the villain ever become your hero?

I’m talking of a generation that solemnly fought
That were betrayed by their protectors but kept afloat

If you’re not part of the revolution don’t be part of the betrayal
Don’t give in to the oppressors and join those who hail

Of course it’s not easy to keep fighting but that’s the cost
which we must pay for years of silence that we’ve lost

Those still fighting for tomorrow have reason to believe
And yes change will come, no, no that’s not naive

It’s a struggle for justice, one that will continue
Thousands of heroic sacrifices that can’t but win you

Of course it’s a long rough journey, yes, I understand
But when hope dies, nothing blooms on that land.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Female prisoners in Egypt suffer rampant abuse

CAIRO — At a time when the Egyptian government has recognized the need to stop physical and sexual violence against women, human rights organizations have registered dozens of cases of physical abuse against women in Egyptian prisons pending trial for political issues. READ MORE.....

Fears of Extremism Rise in Muslim Nations: Poll

By Agence France-Presse Jul 02, 2014

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. (Reuters Photo)

Washington. Fears about Islamic extremism are rising in nations with large Muslim populations from the Middle East to South Asia and support for radical groups is on the slide, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Concern about extremism has increased in the past 12 months amid the dragging war in Syria and attacks by Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants, the Pew Research Center found after interviewing more than 14,200 people in 14 countries.

Extremist groups such as Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and even Hamas, which won elections to take control of running the Gaza Strip, are also losing support.

And backing for the use of suicide bombings against civilian targets has dropped significantly in the past decade following a slew of brutal attacks.

The review was carried out from April 10 to May 25, before the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — now renamed the Islamic State — took over the northern Iraqi town of Mosul in a lightning offensive which has seen it seize a large swathe of territory.

In Lebanon, which shares a border with Syria, as many as 92 percent of those interviewed said they were worried about Islamic extremism.

That figure was up 11 points from 2013, and was spread evenly among Lebanon’s Sunni, Shiite and Christian communities.

Concern has also risen in Jordan and Turkey, both of which border Syria and have taken in significant numbers of refugees fleeing the three-year war to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in which extremists have increasingly moved into the chaos.

Some 62 percent of Jordanians voiced fears about extremism, up 13 points since 2012, while in Turkey half of those polled shared the same concerns, up 18 points from two years ago.

“In Asia, strong majorities in Bangladesh (69 percent), Pakistan (66 percent) and Malaysia (63 percent) are concerned about Islamic extremism,” the Pew report said.

However, in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, such fears were not shared, with only four in ten people voicing any anxiety about extremism.

An overwhelming majority of Nigerians (79 percent) were against Boko Haram, behind the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls earlier this year, while 59 percent of Pakistanis said they have no love for Taliban militants.

Just over half of Palestinians (53 percent) have an unfavorable opinion of Hamas, blamed this week by Israel for the murders of three teenagers, and the figure rises to 63 percent in the Gaza Strip, higher than on the West Bank controlled by the rival Fatah party.

Only 46 percent of Palestinians believed that suicide bombings could be justified against civilians, down from 70 percent in 2007.

And the figure among Lebanese Muslims has fallen from 74 percent in 2007 to 29 percent today.

Agence France-Presse

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Missing Guests – The U.S. Africa Summit

BY ADOTEI AKWEI (Johanna Lee contributed to this post.)
June 30, 2014

Swaziland’s King Mswati III is one of nearly 40 heads of state on the guest list for President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit (Photo Credit: Stephane de Sakutkin/AFP/Getty Images).

Starting August 4, the Obama Administration will host a mini replica of an African Union (AU) summit. As many as 40 heads of state from the continent will be on hand for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, a conference that will look at ways to boost trade and investment in the continent, tap into Africa’s burgeoning youth population, and promote good governance.

The idea for such a summit is laudable, considering the critical issues that will be discussed – issues that will continue to be key challenges for both Africa and U.S. policy towards the continent and as part of addressing the chronic need to raise educate the public about the realities of the different countries that make up Africa, unknown success stories and it’s untapped economic potential.

Unfortunately, unless a major change is made, the summit risks simply becoming an AU heads of state road trip with a photo-op at the end to confirm that they visited Washington before returning home.

One reason for this concern is the absence of the voices of ordinary Africans in what could be critical debates and goal-setting opportunities for the African governments, as well as for the United States on issues that will impact the lives of millions of ordinary Africans.

Let’s start with who is on the possible guest list:
There’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been President of Angola since 1979. Who wouldn’t want to invite a man who continues to suppress the press, attempting to prevent the publication of newspapers or articles potentially critical of the government?

There’s Denis Sassou Nguesso, who served as President of the Republic of the Congo twice – once from 1979 until 1992, and again since 1997. Under Nguesso’s administration, nearly 300 Congolese refugees were forcibly returned from Gabon, being left vulnerable to ill-treatment by Gabonese authorities. Now that would make for interesting dinner conversation!

There’s also Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia since 2012. Under his authority, prisoners are often tortured, being punched, slapped, beaten with sticks, handcuffed and suspended from the wall or ceiling, deprived of sleep, electrocuted, and mock-drowned, among other methods of torture. With such evident creativity, Desalegn will assuredly be a great conversationalist.

Paul Biya, the President of Cameroon since 1982, would also surely make great dinner company. Security forces under Biya’s administration threatened human rights defender Maximilienne Ngo Mbe with rape, and then abducted and raped her niece due to Mbe’s anti-government activities.

How about Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda since 2000? Kagame is a role model in disabling civil society by prohibiting the registration of some political parties, harassing, intimidating, and imprisoning members of political opposition and clamping down on the activities of human rights advocates.

Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda since 1986, is also currently on the guest list. Museveni’s has been leading the way in discriminating against and otherwise violating the human rights of LGBTI people and trampling other fundamental rights in the process. One of his recent innovations is the 2014 Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, a law that toughens penalties against LGBTI people, including life prison sentences for designated homosexual acts.

Another member of the guest list is Mswati III, King of Swaziland since 1986. Under Mswati, Swaziland has reconfirmed its rejection of U.N. recommendations to allow political parties to participate in elections and refuses to ratify the Optional Protocol to the U.N. Convention against Torture.

Last but not least, there’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President ofEquatorial Guinea since 1979. Over the past decade, more than 1,000 families in Equatorial Guinea have been forcibly evicted from their homes. President Obiang and his family have presided over a country that is ranked in the top 12 of the world’s most corrupt states by Transparency International while his administration is regularly called out for systemic human rights violations by the U.S. Department of State.

It is safe to question the likelihood that any of these potential guests to the White House “dinner” either make new commitments to the rule of law and human rights or report back to their citizens on any commitments made at these meetings. This is even more worrisome because of the fact that there will be no independent eye and ears to even take note of any commitments they make.Last month, over 100 hundred democracy and human rights groups wrote to the Obama administration urging that civil society groups be officially part of the summit agenda. Currently, civil society organizations in several African countries are seeing the political space for them to operate freely severely undermined and restricted while others are facing questions about their legitimacy to exist. However, addressing Africa’s challenges and unlocking its full potential will benefit from input from all segments of the populations of these countries – government and civil society alike.

Modeling civil interaction with civil society advocates as legitimate and valuable partners during the official conference as opposed to at side events may be the most powerful step the Obama administration can take. It could be the difference between adopting sustainable initiatives that benefit the ruling elite or their surrogates and initiatives that will strengthen the independence of political institutions and the rule of law.

The summit must forcefully address corruption and build transparency and force African governments to move beyond lip service to take measurable, accountable actions to end discrimination against marginalized groups. If the summit does this, it could be the difference in hosting a one-time photo op and the start of an ongoing dialogue committed to genuine change and improvement between the United States and Africa that must continue.

There is a saying that politics makes strange bedfellows. President Obama may not have much leeway in who he dines with when it comes to official engagements, but he can decide what his guests should talk about.

For the 1.1 billion people in Africa who will not be coming to Washington, let’s seriously hope that the deliverables of the conference are not who sat at which table and who wore what. The African people deserve better than that.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Genocide in Syria website -- horrific images

The Debacle of the Caliphates: Why al-Baghdadi’s Grandiosity doesn’t Matter

By Juan Cole

Ibrahim al-Badri, a run-of-the-mill Sunni Iraqi cleric, gained a degree from the University of Baghdad at a time when pedagogy there had collapsed because of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship and international sanctions. After 2003 he took the name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and turned to a vicious and psychopathic violence involving blowing up children at ice cream shops and blowing up gerbils and garden snakes at pet shops and blowing up family weddings, then coming back and blowing up the resultant funerals. This man is one of the most infamous serial killers in modern history, with the blood of thousands on his hands, before whom Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy fade into insignificance.

Al-Baghdadi leads the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL),which today changed its name just to “the Islamic State.” And its members made a pledge of fealty to al-Baghdadi as the “caliph.” Let us please call it the “so-called Islamic State,” since it bears all the resemblance to mainstream Islam that Japan’s Om Shinrikyo (which let sarin gas into the subway in 1995) bears to Buddhism.

After the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 in Medina, West Arabia, the clans of Mecca favored as his successor notables of his noble clan, the Quraysh (the “Little Shark Tribe”). The first three were Abu Bakr, Omar and `Uthman.

Some clans in the neighboring city of Medina preferred a dynastic principle, wanting to see a close relative of Muhammad succeed him as his vicar. They favored Ali ibn Abi Talib, his cousin and son-in-law, i.e., the closest thing he had to a living son at the time of his death. Ali was passed over three times by the notables in Mecca but finally became the fourth caliph in 656 AD. He was, however, assassinated in 661 only five years later. Those Muslims who accepted the first four “Orthodox caliphs” gradually became known as ‘people of the tradition,’ or ahl al-sunnah, i.e., the Sunnis.

The groups that became the Shiites think of Ali as the first vicar of the Prophet, or “Imam,” and believe his office should rightfully have gone to his sons Hasan and Husain, and then to Husain’s son, and so on through the generations. Most Shiites today believe that the Twelfth Imam disappeared as a small child but will one day reveal himself again and restore the world to justice, as the Mahdi.

After Ali’s assassination, the Umayyad kings ruled (661-750), and though some scholars have found that they claimed religious charisma, they were just Arab kings. A branch of the family of the Prophet tracing itself back to his uncle Abbas began making claims to rightful rule, however, and they were popular among the new converts from among the Persians in Iran, and in 750 they made a revolution against the Umayyads. They became the Abbasid caliphate, ruling until the Mongol conquest of Baghdad in 1258.

The Abbasid caliphs gradually separated out their religious authority from secular authority, and later on rulers like the Buyids took Baghdad and gave the caliphs a stipend and limited the reach of their authority. Ira Lapidus argued that there was a de facto separation of religion and state in the Abbasid period.

After the embarrassing end of the caliphate at the hands of the Buddhist and animist Mongols, some attempts were made to revive the institution. They failed. The Mamluk state in Egypt in the medieval period maintained that a relative of the last caliph had escaped the Mongols to Cairo, and they maintained what some have called a “shadow caliphate” (Khilafah suriya) or pro forma caliphate. I don’t know of any Muslims who know the names of those supposed caliphs, or who refer to any of their rulings. I doubt they were widely recognized.

Although subsequent sultans or secular emperors sometimes were termed “caliphs” in flowery style by their courtiers, I can’t find any evidence of anyone taking that sort of thing seriously. In the 18th century Ahmad al-Damanhuri, a rector of al-Azhar Seminary in Cairo, the foremost center of Sunni learning, wrote an essay in which he was frank that the caliphate ended in 1258, that the Mamluk ‘shadow caliphate’ hadn’t amounted to much, and that the Ottomans were kings, not caliphs. The Sunni caliphate had lapsed. He said, however, that some of the Ottomans were better and more just rulers, as secular monarchs, than some of the caliphs had been. I know of no reason to think that al-Damanhuri’s views weren’t the prevailing ones on the eve of Middle Eastern modernity. {Ahmad al-Damanhuri, al-Naf` al-ghazir fi salah al-Sultan wa al-wazir, Egyptian National Library, Taymur Ijtima`, MS 34, p. 10).

Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) was concerned about European encroachment on Ottoman and Muslim lands (white Christians conquered Muslim-ruled states of India beginning 1757, Muslim Central Asia through the 19th Century and Algeria in 1830). The Iranian diplomat Mirza Malkum Khan cabled the shah back in Tehran in 1880 that Abdulhamid had decided to declare himself a caliph so as to turn the tables and claim authority in places like British India, where 1/4 of the population was Muslim. Although the idea that the Ottoman sultan was a caliph gained some purchase in British India, I don’t think it was widely accepted. British interviews with Egyptians after they conquered that country in 1882 suggested that Egyptians didn’t see Abdulhamid as a caliph.

Abdulhamid, despite saying he was a caliph, was overthrown by a democratic revolution in 1908-1909, which instituted a constitution and a parliament and tried to reduce the sultan-caliph to a figurehead. In early 1913, Young Turk military officers, however, made a coup and sent parliament home. They unwisely took the Ottoman Empire into WW I in alliance with Austria and Germany. Mehmed V, the new sultan-caliph (now relatively powerless) used his bully pulpit to declare jihad or holy war on France, Britain and Russia. The Ottomans were nevertheless defeated (and Indian Muslim troops helped in the defeating). After the war, the British and the French divided up the Ottoman provinces among themselves. Nationalist, secular general Mustafa Kemal refused to see Anatolia or Asia Minor, the heartland of Turkish speakers, divvied up, and launched a war to stop it. He won. The Turkish state came into being. Its parliament declared itself a republic in 1923. In 1924 it abolished the caliphate.

The end of the caliphate did not matter to most Muslims. You don’t need a caliph to pray five times a day or fast Ramadan. In Egypt, Ali Abd al-Raziq, a court judge, argued in modernist fashion that no caliph is necessary. Some Egyptian clerics were uncomfortable with the idea, but they lost the argument. There was some jockeying to resurrect the caliphate in the mid-1920s, and the Egyptian king, Fuad I, threw his crown in the ring. But the fact is that none of the newly forming nation-states wanted a transnational authority like that, and no consensus could be reached, and the caliphate (such as it was, since I don’t think most Muslims bought into Abdulhamid’s project) lapsed again.

Small groups of cult-like fundamentalists ever after hoped for a restored caliphate, but it isn’t something on the minds of 99% of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. Sunni Islam has come sociologically to resemble Protestant Christianity, lacking a formal center and largely organized on the basis of the nation-state. Thus each Muslim-majority country has a mufti, who is the highest legal authority, giving rulings on practice for the state. Ask the muftis, who have real authority backed by Muslim states, what they think of the serial murderer, al-Baghdadi.

I remember in 2004 Usama Bin Laden issued a speech in which he complained about the calamities rained down on the Muslim world by the European Christians ‘for the past 80 years.’ He was referring to the abolition of the caliphate by Ataturk in 1924. His theory was that without a caliph Muslims were easily divided and ruled by the great powers. The flaw in that theory is that the Ottomans claimed to be caliphs toward the end of the empire but the Great Powers still divided and ruled them. It is hard to argue with military power, and fancy religious titles won’t win such power struggles. Even the original Abbasid caliphate was ended by pagan Mongol steppe warriors who had lacquered, reticulated short bows that they could fire from horseback and which could penetrate armor. (Mongols had very sophisticated fletchers).

In fact, making grandiose claims on authority was common among Muslim leaders resisting the European colonial powers Often their followers thought that such leaders had the power to deflect European bullets and cannonballs. The popular Muslim notion of a Mahdi or rightly-guided figure who will be sent by god at the last days (sometimes, it is thought, at the same time Christ returns) was invoked for anti-colonial purposes on several occasions. A Mahdi or messiah rose up against the French in Egypt in 1799. The French killed him. Another Mahdi arose in the Sudan in the 1880s. The British killed him and then went on to rule the Sudan until 1956. Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq created the Mahdi Army, intended as a force to support the Mahdi, who he thought was about to appear, and which took on the US and British militaries in 2004; it lost on the battlefield.

And, of course, Mulla Omar Uruzgani of Afghanistan was proclaimed “caliph” by the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Hopefully he and al-Baghdadi will end up in the same jail cell so they can drive each other crazy claiming to be the real caliph. In fact, virtually no one in the Muslim world thinks Mulla Omar is a caliph.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood developed the institution of the Supreme Guide, which under President Muhammad Morsi in 2012-2013 developed theocratic aspirations. The Supreme Guide, Muhammad Badie, proved conspiratorial and controlling, and Morsi proved compliant. The vast majority of Egyptians were annoyed by this grandiosity, and they overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government. Badie is in danger of being executed. I think that the Egyptian elite has gone too far in persecuting Muslim Brothers and branding them terrorists, mind you, and the death sentence on Badie is a human rights violation. But I’m just pointing out that calling yourself Supreme Guide and getting the loyalty of a sectarian group is no guarantee of worldly success. And the Brotherhood is way more important the the ‘Islamic State.’

This Baghdadi ‘caliphate’ thing is doomed, as well.

You want to see the future of Islam, look at the al-Nahda or Renaissance Party in Tunisia, which just successfully completed a term in office in coalition with a secular human rights-oriented party and a socialist party.