Does Fashion Police Emo Death Squad mean Iraq is the new Iran?

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The hot news this weekend is that Obama has begun to tone down the animosity towards Iran. Most of the entertainment comes from watching the remarkable agility of media outlets in reversing their previous positions in order to follow suit.

Iraq Emo Death Squads

Iraqi activists said this unnamed teenager was brutally killed by religious police for having an 'emo' hairstyle

While pondering this acrobatic phenomena, I found this story in a UK tabloid about “emo” youths in Iraq being targeted and killed for their sense of style, which is apparently at odds with the desires of the Interior Ministry. The stories emerged on FaceBook according to the newspaper, which claims Iraqi morality police have rounded up dozens of youth and stoned them to death as punishment for their outlandish love of fashion in the form of spiky hair, skinny jeans and decorative items featuring stylized skulls.  It occurred to me that all those comment contributors we’ve rolled our eyes at over the past couple of years because they don’t understand the difference between Iran and Iraq are about to get a reprieve. It also crossed my mind that if the youth of any country have earned the right to feature skulls as a fashion emblem, it is surely Iraq, graveyard of the global war on terror.

The tale of emo kids being slaughtered is so strongly reminiscent of stories we’ve seen before about the Iranian regime repressing its youth, I wondered if I had caught the comment-poster community’s dyslexic virus and mis-read the headline. But no, it’s just a case of déjà vu. We are being mentally shifted towards the end of the media see-saw where Iran is not about to be bombed, it doesn’t have a nuclear weapon, and didn’t arrange those attacks on Israeli diplomats. And the cat is firmly out of the bag about how Israel and the noxious US-terror-listed MKO/MEK/PMOI/NCRI cult have been in cahoots this whole time.

This being an election year, Obama will be doing all humanly possible to distance himself from the revelations which are sure to follow. There are signs of an investigation starting, one which many would say is long overdue, into those prominent Americans who have accepted money from the MKO and have made public statements supporting them in glowing terms.

Iran Twitter Flag

There is also emerging news about some of the players in the psychological war as they describe it, designed to raise Iran’s profile in the media. Twitter was at one point a major theatre of operations for this psy-ops offensive. Twitter is still in active use as a platform for propaganda, but lacks the intensity and volume that spiked immediately after the June 2009 presidential election in Iran. So polished is the performance of these actors, that it is incredibly difficult to tell them apart from genuine activists. Indeed, they were able to recruit sufficient numbers of “regular” people to their cause that it created a social media shield: a virtual buffer to prevent detection and obscure their motives. And this is where the damage is done. Their misinformation and disinformation using blogs, websites and FaceBook pages under the “human rights” or “secular democracy” banners, false news reports, fake videos, doctored pictures, and their massive media campaigns, all deflect public attention and the media spotlight away from real activists, distorting their messages, diluting the response.

By using manipulation tactics to call for protests, pushing people to go out onto the streets in Iran, they caused the loss of dozens of innocent lives and stole the future from tens of thousands of refugees, forced to flee the chaos that followed. By posing as genuine “green movement” members, they wormed their way into private groups, spread malware to spy on activists, discredited genuine dissidents, and placed them at hugely increased risk.

Several thousand people have been detained in Iran, where they are mentally and physically tortured, and subjected to  excessive punishments and harsh sentences. If detainees are found to have been in contact with any of these agents provocateurs, the punishment is many more times as severe than if they are not suspected by the regime as being part of the “wave of sedition” engineered by the “hypocrites” (the IRI’s pet-name for the MKO). Even now, there are prisoners in Iran protesting their innocence because they still don’t realise that one of their supportive friends was actually a member of the hated MKO or one of their associates (whether knowingly or not).

I know this, through of my links to genuine activists and my work to maintain a database of prisoners in Iran, and because I am one of a handful of people, unpaid but highly dedicated, who have been observing the army of internet trolls whose mission (among other things) involved pretending to be part of a grass-roots “green movement” either in Iran, or playing the role of supporters outside. When we think of “outside”, let’s not overlook the nearest neighbour Iraq, home for many years to the largest group of MKO since their exile from Iran. To heighten my apprehension, Iran’s Minister of Telecommunications has just said Tehran is ready to transfer its “knowledge and experiences” in telecoms and e-government to Iraq.

Writing this post makes me sad and angry, because there are real issues in Iran and real Iranians who do actually have aspirations towards greater personal and social freedom, enjoyment of human rights, or even “secular democracy” if you will excuse me using one of the cult’s catch-phrases. Despite their best efforts, many of these people, and many others outside Iran, were completely taken in by what they believed was a source of help and support to highlight issues in Iran. I dread to think of the consequences of a similar campaign targeting Iraq in its far more fragile state.

I hope more facts about the disgraceful MKO-MOSSAD psy-ops programme which deliberately placed thousands of innocent Iranians plus their families, friends, and contacts around the world at risk is about to see some daylight at last. It would be too much to hope that the US government’s support, whether through funding, complacency, facilitation or compromise, that would obviously be essential to such a campaign, is also revealed. It would be naïve to expect that, having developed a taste for this exotic form of warfare, and presumably having also secured a huge budget, and a certain prestige for the programme’s leaders, this extremely effective and comparatively low-cost form of warfare will simply go away. To ensure it does not, a new victim is needed, and it could be that Iraq is the unlucky target.

This post is intended to make social media users who follow and support civil and human rights issues stop and think. Be cautious, be wary, be afraid. Me, I’m likely to stay angry a good long while.

Air hostess loses her cool

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In a way, this story highlights the forgotten victims of the war on terror. Millions of people who work with the public have had to deal with a tremendous additional burden as security alerts, procedures, protocols and risk management take up an increasing share of their workload. The only surprise is that more of them don’t crack under the strain.

Two crew members on American Airlines  Flight #2332 were injured after an altercation that passengers say started when a flight attendant began talking agitatedly about 9/ll on the plane’s public address system. She was forcibly subdued and removed from the plane.

The incident happened while the Chicago-bound plane was preparing to take off from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Friday with 144 passengers on board.

Bethany Christakos of Dallas, seated near the rear of the plane, said passengers started ”freaking out” as one of the flight attendants gave a rambling, 15-minute speech on the plane’s public-address system.

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”She said, ‘I’m not responsible for this plane crashing,”’ Ms Christakos said. Another passenger, Brad LeClear of Illinois, said he had helped restrain the flight attendant who, he said, had acted oddly and mentioned something about 9/11.

”She is obviously sick and needs to take her medicine,” Mr LeClear said.

The pilot radioed air traffic controllers for permission to return to the gate where the plane was met by airport police.

American Airlines spokesman Ed Martelle said ”an incident occurred involving some of the cabin crew” and two flight attendants were taken to hospital for treatment.

He did not provide information about their injuries or condition. Mr Martelle said cabin crew were replaced and the plane took off for Chicago about 80 minutes behind schedule.

AP.

Qatar’s Stake In Britain

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Qatari investment companies own the Shard. They own the Olympic Village. And they don’t care if their Lamborghinis get clamped when they shop at Harrods.

The only time the Qataris have excited the curiosity of the British was when two of their royal family's matching turquoise supercars were clamped outside Harrods, which they own

The only time the Qataris have excited the curiosity of the British was when two of their royal family's matching turquoise supercars were clamped outside Harrods, which they own

The tiny Gulf state has snapped up a range of famous British assets, which include:

1. Harrods, the upmarket department store formerly owned by Mohamed al-Fayed.

2. The Shard, soon-to-be Europe’s tallest building.

3. No. 1 Hyde Park, the world’s most expensive apartment block.

4. The London Stock Exchange, in which they own a 20 per cent stake.

5. The famous bohemian flea market in Camden, in which they own a 20 per cent stake.

6. The 2012 Olympic Village, once the games are over.

7. Sainsbury’s home stores and supermarket food chain and Barclay’s Bank – major investors.

8. Liquefied Natural Gas: Britain’s biggest supplier, providing 95.5%, used to generate almost 25% of the UK’s electrical power.

Mail Online.

Mauritania: A Country Without A Government

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When Aziz orchestrated the August 2008 coup that enabled him to take the presidency, big backers like the African Union and the US were furious and froze all non-humanitarian funding and applied sanctions, while the French government condemned the act. Later, without sending their own observers (and presumably with much encouragement from France, which did a political pirouette, and AFRICOM) they relented, accepted the presidential election as “free and fair” and restored a lot of the funding. The EU was mollified, NATO commended their cooperation, and the African Union, with help from from Mauritania’s long-time Libyan ally Colonel Gaddafi, welcomed Mauritania back into the fold.

With the passage of time, the situation in Mauritania has changed, and there are now several reasons why this situation needs to be urgently reviewed.

  • If the election in 2009 was “free and fair”, why did Aziz’ administration need a completely new voter registration census (which apparently failed*) just two years later?
  • What happened to the fancy biometric identification system devised in September 2010, and supposed to be complete by 20 June 2011, and which promised to make registration a simple, efficient process?
  • How was the US$102k of the US$258k UNDP 2010-13 grant - destined to support the electoral cycle – actually used?
  • Why was additional funding needed at all, given that the ousted Abdallahi government already received significant sums for national registration, election systems etc in 2006 for the 2007 election?
  • Why hasn’t the Senate election, meant to renew one-third of the members and cancelled in April 2011, happened yet?
  • What was the result of the “electoral review” that was announced on 31 May 2011, and which was to last from 1 June to 31 August 2011?
  • Why was the registration process halted even though doing that would prevent elections in November?
  • Why were the November parliamentary and municipal elections postponed indefinitely, again without a decent explanation?

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in his home city Akjou...The result of all the above is that there is no government in Mauritania. There are politicians who were voted into office in the last elections, and they are doubtless still drawing salaries, but their mandate expired in November 2011. This is the plain truth, and supported by law, as stated in the constitution and legal statutes. Now, the illegitimate government is using the power it has retained by false pretences to change the constitution, using one of the only two methods prescribed:  a special conference of both houses of parliament.

The other option is a national referendum. Neither option is valid at this time, and therefore no changes to the constitution can be considered valid. The problem here is, the houses are supposed to debate and then vote, and they need to be representative of the electorate. This is impossible once the mandate has expired. The fraudulent government is seeking to bestow legitimacy on itself retrospectively by altering the constitution after their mandate expired. In fact, there was no debate. As usual, the parliamentary session was called, then immediately postponed. When it reconvened a now-familiar pattern developed: some drama erupted so that the opposition MPs withdrew in a boycott, and the changes were pushed through with only a vote and no debate.

The government was arguably more active after what can only be described as a soft coup than it was during its legal term. In November 2011, it approved an electoral commission in a statement which said the Mauritanian national dialogue held on October 19th recommended organising municipal and parliamentary elections before March 2012, based on a ruling from the Mauritanian constitutional council. That deadline has passed and the elections have not taken place.

I am reminded that, after the international community reacted strongly to the 2008 coup, Aziz went on a charm offensive, claiming that his actions were a response to “anti-constitutional” oppression by the previous government.

Given the unconstitutional acts of his government and the brutal repression waged by his regime against peaceful unarmed protesters, that last part really takes the cake, and it brings me to my last question for this article:

  • Why is international funding not being frozen with a clear demand to complete registration and hold elections, with international observers present, by a set date?

It is important to note that while the IMF and World Bank are a law unto themselves, the source of funds from the United Nations, European Union, European Commission, United States government, etc being handed to this military junta are the taxes paid by ordinary people like you and me. If the people in power in our respective countries won’t do the right thing of their own volition then we will have to make our voices heard to force them to take immediate and affirmative action. And I don’t mean some wishy-washy rhetoric about “we hope” or “it would be advisable” or “we urge”. No. I mean they need to say “This is our people’s money and we only derive our authority from them. We are freezing all funds immediately, and you have to:

  • immediately return all the money we sent you since November 2011;
  • resume the census within 7 days;
  • remove your ambassadors, envoys and government representatives within 10 days;
  • let our observers in to monitor both the census and the elections by the end of April;
  • complete the census by the end of June;
  • and hold elections in August.”

If necessary, they should freeze any foreign bank accounts held by Mauritanian officials in countries that are members of all organizations that have supplied funding until and unless it is returned.

What they can’t do is continue to treat this former government as if it was a democratically elected body fulfilling the mandate of the people.

What might delay mean? Certainly it will mean that Mauritania will become increasingly insecure, and that opportunities for corruption, cronyism and exploitation will increase.  Civil society, already in a constant state of agitation and distress over a whole host of issues and grievances, will become increasingly frustrated by the lack of opportunity to exercise their democratic rights through an election. The opposition will become increasingly marginalised and their sense of frustration will likely make them hostile. New coalitions could form, and a period of escalating political instability, protests, and attempts to gain or seize power could arise.

It could bring the increased militarization of the country –  at times through unexpected means, signs of which are already evident. For example, the recent privatisation of the state TV and radio company was followed by a declaration that the broadcaster would no longer be protected by military security and would instead use a private company. However, this was preceded by a government ruling that all private security companies must exclusively employ ex-servicemen, and that this must be implemented retrospectively. In other words, the private security sector must be 100% staffed by former military members and all non-military personnel will lose their jobs. This is the equivalent of creating  a private army, funded by the commercial security service sector.

As an indicator of cronyism, there is the story in local press about the governor of Aleg province, location of a very well-attended opposition rally, being sacked, allegedly for failing to successfully implement the feed rations for farmers that were announced only last week.

In February 2012, news of the government eavesdropping on private phone conversations was reported by a member of the opposition, and immediately supported by activists and observers, who added that France had sold surveillance technology to Mauritania in 2010.

We are already witnessing events which will prolong and increase the need for humanitarian aid in Mauritania, due both to a lack of effort on essential development projects such as drilling wells for water supply, and the arrival of tens of thousands of refugees from Mali. I assume that Aziz hopes to make up any remaining shortfall in non-humanitarian cash flow by increasing the need for charity, even if this has to be engineered by importing a crisis from the country next door. It may seem harsh to speak in this way about the situation in Mali, but I am not saying the refugees should not be sheltered or provisioned. What I am saying is certain events have made me deeply suspicious about the true nature of the conflict in Mali and the driving forces behind it. I support activists and concerned citizens in the Malian diaspora, who are keen to see a ceasefire, peace talks and families returned to their homes as quickly as possible. Whether I am right about Aziz deliberately manipulating and capitalizing on the situation in Mali  or not, the fact that Mauritania has no legal government and no agenda to rectify this situation is a genuine cause for concern.

Update: 11 March 2012At 3pm on Monday 12 March 2012, the people of #Mauritania will vote with their feet in a march organised by a coalition of political opposition parties and activist groups. Aziz is rumoured to have engineered a plan to disrupt traffic to prevent people from assembling, and there is talk of free food distribution in the suburbs, between 5 and 15 kilometres from the mosque where the march to the presidential palace begins.

There is still some uncertainty about whether the big anti-slavery and anti-racism activist groups will join the march. They are hesitant about the coalition’s call for Aziz to step down, seeing it as a futile demand that will not bring about the level of change (complete removal of the military regime) that is required. Naturally, they also want to see their demands to end racism / slavery and punish offenders added to the list.

I noticed the lack of attention to the needs of largely French-speaking black African activist groups when the march was first announced, with all the initial statements and flyers being produced in Arabic only, and the lack of a clear call for national unity. I wondered how that might impact on its success. After 3pm tomorrow, we’ll know.

I have to say, since the riot police are so fond of using tear gas and sound grenades for crowd control, I often wonder why no one ever organised a rally on the beach, where the sound would have fewer upright surfaces to amplify it and where there are ready supplies of sand and water, two very effective methods for dealing with tear gas grenades (by smothering with sand or immersing in water).

Update: 13 March 2012 They ‘voted’ in their tens of thousands – a resounding “NO!” – see my photo essay post about the historic opposition protest rally here.

*The census was hugely unpopular with the black African community that represents almost half of Mauritania’s population. They claimed they were being discriminated against during the registration process, and a “Hands Off My Nationality” protest movement appeared in April 2011. Their large protests in the capital and other towns were brutally repressed by police, and there were dozens of arrests, injuries and at least two protesters were killed. Rather mysteriously, the movement began to decline at the same time as the government announced indefinite postponement of the elections. To me, it really seems as though the government was playing a rather more subtle game that anyone might have suspected. By inciting racial tension and dividing the previously unified protest movement, Aziz was able to manipulate the situation so that elections were postponed, thus enabling a soft coup for the incumbent majority to retain power.