The Week in ‎Mauritania – 14 July 2013

8 July Activist Gando Dia arrested after Kaedi riots
Standard

This week began with the COD political rally in Nouakchott as planned. The president of the socialist RFD party, Ould Daddah, called for the closure of “Sal Ahaddin” prison in the north – assumed to be the location of 14 disappeared Salafi prisoners. Other speakers echoed his calls for increased transparency, and again called for President Aziz to step down. Everything was much as expected: speeches, applause, and everyone returned home. I think turnout was quite low compared to last year.


مـوقع الطـواري الألكتـروني

عاجل: الالآف يهتفون بإسقاط النظام في ساحة ابن عباس 2013-07-07 17:25:00 الالآف من أنصار منسقية المعارضة يهتفون بإسقاط النظام الموريتاني أفاد ..
http://www.tawary.com

July 7 was also supposed to be the date for release of Baccalaureate exam results affecting thousands of young Mauritanians. In fact they came out the next day, and the results were pretty dismal, with a pass rate around 10%. Among the success stories was a student with a talent for poetry, who achieved the highest score in mathematics; and a 17 year-old from Nouadhibou, who scored the highest marks overall. A nice touch that this top achievement goes to a female student, as there was a call this week for implementing positive discrimination to improve opportunities for women.

Evidence of tampering is suspected in this year’s test results for children wanting to enter secondary schools, as detailed in the story below.  Considering the authorities have been unable to complete biometric registration of less than 4 million people in over two years, I find the notion that they are not capable of marking tens of thousands of exam papers – whether for high school or university entrance – entirely credible.


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | شبه تلاعب بالتصحيح والرقابة بموريتانيا

الأخبار (نواكشوط) – أظهرت تحقيقات أجرتها وكالة الأخبار المستقلة على عينات من نتائج مسابقة دخول السنة الأولى الإعدادية 2013،وجود شبه تلاعب ..
http://www.alakhbar.info

Dozens injured in Sunday's riot in the town of #Kaedi #Mauritania. Photo via D. Camara and Saidou Wane
Dozens injured in Sunday’s riot in the town of #Kaedi #Mauritania. Photo via D. Camara

A market near Kaédi, ‎in Gourgol, southern Mauritania, was forced to close shortly after 7am Sunday morning, after an altercation between a shopkeeper and street trader reportedly sparked “ethnic clashes” 3 hours later. The story below includes a photo of a large crowd of youth who appeared around 10am to protest. Clashes erupted and several people, including 2 policemen, were reportedly injured. By Monday 8 July, at least seven arrests were reported by activist Mariame Kane:
Gando Dia
Maissou Salli Sy
Aboubakry Ba
Diawli Mamadou Moussa
Abdoul Sy
Aly Baba Ndiaye
Ousmane Thierno Ndiaye
Gorel Niang (son of the street trader who was assaulted)


مواجهات عنيفة بين الشرطة ومجموعة من الشبان في كيهيدي

شهدت مدينة كيهيدي جنوب موريتانيا مواجهات عنيفة صباح اليوم بين الشرطة ومجموعة من الشبان حاولت اقتحام سوق المدينة اثر خلاف بين تاجرة ..
http://www.saharamedias.net

The detentions increased to 30, including a local community leader, and they are all set to appear in court.

All Eyes on Egypt

Hard to imagine that anyone will be paying attention, but a Mauritanian MP from the RFD party, Ould Mini, succinctly pointed out that what happened in Egypt bears a striking resembleance to events in Mauritania in 2008. That was when the military, under General Aziz, overthrew the country’s first democratically-elected president Abdallahi in a coup. At the time, the US, EU and African Union withdrew their support.
More elections followed, after which the Aziz regime was granted a veneer of legitimacy by the African Union and Western allies, notably France. President Aziz has himself claimed, during a 2012 conference on the subject, that Mauritania was the first country to “benefit” from the “Arab Spring”. No one realised at the time he was not merely grandstanding.


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | برلماني: انقلاب مصر مستنسخ من موريتانيا
الأخبار(نواكشوط) دعا رئيس الفريق البرلماني لحزب تكتل القوى الديمقراطية المعارض عبد الرحمن ولد ميني الحكومة الموريتانية إلى التنديد ..
http://www.alakhbar.info

An article on one of the more sensationalist news sites investigates the fast-growing trend of publishing sexually provocative video and images of Mauritanian girls, often without their permission, but on other occasions with their full knowledge and consent.


فتيات موريتانيات.. خارطة الجسد على قارعة “الفيسبوك (تحقيق)
المحيط نت
elmohit.net

Meanwhile, the campaign against pornography is seeking a court injunction to force local ISPs to block websites containing adult content of a pornographic nature.


منظمة ترفع دعوى ضد سلطة التنظيم لحجب المواقع الإباحية
بدأت منظمة آدم لحماية الطفل والمجتمع في إطار “مشروع لا للإباحية”، في إجراءات استصدار حكم قضائي بحجب المواقع الإباحية في شبكات ..
http://www.saharamedias.net

After levying new passport fees of 30,000 MRO for a passport, and enforcing mandatory renewal before old passports expired, authorities have now introduced a 64-page version with a 100,000 MRO fee.
Business customers are also now being asked to show a valid passport for bank withdrawals of 100,000 MRO or more.
It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that over 500 fake passports were seized by police during the 13 July arrest of a gang of forgers.

Protests this week include:

  • temporary workers employed by the state
  • residents of several rural towns and villages who want reliable access to water and electricity
  • fishing industry workers who were laid off
  • political groups in support of Egypt’s former president Morsi
  • transport drivers concerned about road safety and the new security procedures to prevent fuel smuggling
  • Kaédi district, as noted above


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | المفصولون من وزارة المالية يشكون عدم التجاوب
الأخبار (انواكشوط) ـ أعرب مجموعة العمال الـ 290 المفصولين من وزارة المالية عن أن السلطات الحكومية تتعامل معهم بطريقة مهينة تتمثل في عدم ..
http://www.alakhbar.info


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | تفاقم معاناة البحارة المسرحين بمدينة نواذيبو
الأخبار(نواذيبو) – تفاقمت معاناة البحارة المسرحين فى العاصمة الاقتصادية نواذيبو وسط دعوات بتوفير بدائل للعاطلين وخلق فرص عمل فى ..
http://www.alakhbar.info


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | سكان قرى آفطوط الساحلي يشكون العطش
الأخبار (انواكشوط) ـ وجه سكان قرى آفطوط الساحلي نداء إلى رئيس الجمهورية محمد ولد عبد العزيز يشكون فيه من أن حظهم من مشروع آفطوط الذي علقوا ..
http://www.alakhbar.info


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | سكان كزرة طب زايد: تخطيط الأراضي يتجاوزنا
الأخبار (انواكشوط) ـ قالت المتحدثة باسم سكان كزرة طب زايد: حورية بنت دادك ولد اصنيبة إن سكان هذه الكزرة يسكنون فيها منذ عام: 1986م، وظلت ..
http://www.alakhbar.info

4 July 7 Ndb youth march to Nkt again
The youth who marched 450km on foot from Nouadhibou to the presidential palace in Nouakchott reportedly met with the president. I have not see photos or reports of the meeting so far.

One village, demanding electricity and water supply, is in an agricultural area plagued by locusts.
They threatened that they would not vote for Aziz again if these issues are not resolved. The promises of Aziz during his current tour to provide these essential services could be causing an outbreak of protest as a form of bargaining.

Ramadan Mubarak مبارك عليكم الشهر Image: Maryam Al-attiya

The feast of Ramadan started – this year is one with a lot of daylight hours and extremely high temperatures in Mauritania. When it is time to break their fast, people have to contend with paying between 10 and 140 percent more for their groceries than the same time last year, according to research by deyloul.com.
The government issued a short statement from Aziz in which he boasted of the relative security and stability in the country. Two days later it was back to issuing dire warnings about threats to security and stability.
Several donations of food and social aid were announced this week, aimed at helping the poorest families during Ramadan.

Days after news that Benin would be seeking expert advice from Mauritania on building an airport, we heard that the new Nouakchott international airport project is stuck in the hangar.
In other news, there are concerns of impropriety in the administration of the police inspectors exam, and the chief executive of the sports stadium project has been arrested following a fraud investigation.
This week’s biggest corruption scandal comes (as so often) via alakhbar.info, which revealed extra-legal activities in assigning contracts with the finance ministry.


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | صحيفة “الأخبار انفو” تكشف بالوثائق عن تعيينات خارج القانون بوزارة المالية
الأخبار (نواكشوط) كشفت وثائق ومعطيات رسمية نشرتها صحيفة “الأخبار إنفو” الموريتانية في عددها الصادر صباح اليوم الأربعاء عن اختلالات ..
http://www.alakhbar.info

Despite his office’s longstanding travel advisory notice warning against it, UK Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt visited Mauritania this week, immediately meeting with the new charge d’affaires on his return to London.
Other interesting visitors included the wife of Mali’s interim president Traoré, and a delegation from international philanthropist Sheikha Mozah, mother of the new Qatari ruler.
A new Mauritanian ambassador was accredited in Senegal.
This page is about Mauritania news, otherwise I would be adding an item about the release of hostages from South Africa on the border of Senegal and Guineau Bissau here.

I wish I’d never seen Babak Dashab

blurred
Standard

I wrote this because I found myself reminiscing about why we should always blur faces in videos and photographs from protests inside Iran and any similar totalitarian regimes where the slightest sign of dissent – real or imagined – has serious, often life-threatening implications.

Reunited

Babak (Rajabali) Dashab, arrested in December 2009 and sentenced to 6 years, after being identified from video showing him burning a log during an Ashura protest, has been freed from prison in Iran after serving a reduced 3 year sentence. Three years for making a bonfire. Look at his son. Three years is a lifetime to a child of his age.

We are responsible

Before the “Arab Spring” there was the equally exhilarating “Green Wave”. Social media was our new playground; we were transformed from no-life couch-potato geeks to “citizen journalists”. The buzz of finding and sharing news about massive street protests in an increasingly paranoid and isolated country like Iran was intoxicating. Iran kicked out the foreign press. “We are the Media!” became our battle cry.

On reflection it could just as easily have been “We Are Rank Amateurs!” or “We Are Gullible Idiots!”. Most of the time news was shared regardless of source. Some of us tried to “police” the torrent, but it was largely a losing battle against an ever-rising tide of misinformation and disinformation. Photos and videos were gobbled up by an insatiable appetite for “online activism”. We were going to post our way to freedom for Iran and poke CNN et al in the eye on our way up. In those days, the “media” were slow-witted and partisan, YouTube a petty censor. Our videos were removed on a whim, so we learned to copy, clone, remix, save, re-post, find new hosting venues. In so doing, we spawned thousands upon thousands of photos and videos.

This addiction to quantity without regard for quality or fact-checking quickly revealed its dark inner core. The risks to protesters of being arrested increased exponentially because of the photos and videos we were sharing. The regime countered this green wave of social media evidence of the unrest in Iran, and turned the green tide against the green movement. Images became evidence of crimes against the state. Evidence of terrorist acts. Evidence of insulting the Supreme Leader of the glorious revolution.

My reaction was horrified guilt. I had done this. I had shared without realising what could happen as a result of my actions, and now I was an unwitting accomplice in the arrest and torture of thousands of people. I had to do something, to redeem myself, to assuage the guilt, to convert the remorse into positive action. I started trying to raise awareness of this risk, and to demand that faces in videos be blurred, which is how I found  WITNESS - a fantastic team, they firmly hoisted that banner and ran with it. I credit them with getting YouTube to add a feature which will automatically try to find and blur all faces in a video.

But..

I recall being asked by someone what they should do if they didn’t know how to blur faces? The simple answer is: ask the original poster to do it or get someone else to do it. If you can’t do that, then do nothing, don’t share. That person felt this was infeasible: they they were compelled to share, because it was so important to show “the world” what was happening in Iran. To this response, I asked: who is there to take photographs of what happens to people you helped to identify after they are arrested?

The other, more common and weakest of all excuses is that the image is “already out there”. So is AIDS – does that mean everyone should have unprotected sex? We should regard blurring faces as a prophylactic to protect against the lethal disease of brutal repression.

It’s not easy

Instinct takes over and before you know where you are, you’ve clicked! Because it only takes a click.. so really,the blurring needs to spread to the original content posters, our “enablers”. This needs massive, sustained loft to become an enduring, instinctive habit.

Apart from those misguided souls who are so fixated on their popularity that they would rather count likes and re-tweets of the content they post than actually help prevent innocent protesters from being targeted, there is also a subtle pressure from the social networks to share visuals. Just look at the “success” of the meaningless and crappy Instagram. Photos and videos are the media of social media content – which is far more interesting if it includes visuals. There are financial pressures on developers: more interesting content is an advantage in promoting social media platforms to advertisers and investors. But is it essential: surely you’ve heard about events that did not include images, but which nevertheless are broadcast wholesale by established media? The first examples that come to mind are President Obama declaring that he would not release images of  “the killing of Osama Bin Laden” and the alleged stoning of a young couple in Mali in July 2012. Not only were there no photos or videos of the reported stoning, it’s unlikely that any exist. Yet you will see these “facts” repeated ad nauseum in established media.

The reality about what gets covered in the press belies the worn-out excuses: traditional media outlets prefer to have images but they do publish controversial news without evidence, and they do accept these stories from citizen reporters or people claiming to be witnesses.

It is never too late to do the right thing

Go blurry:

How to Blur Faces in Photos Using GIMP free image editing software

#WesternSahara’s Overlooked Arab Spring

MESA Street Art project
Standard

In the wake of the ongoing unrest across the Arab world, voices from the forgotten Western Sahara conflict claim their role in the so-called Arab Spring. DW talked to a Western Sahara independence activist.

Sidi Ahmed Talmidi, Western Sahara independence activist </p><p>

Sidi Ahmed Talmidi

Sidi Ahmed Talmidi was one of the nine-member group responsible for the negotiations with the Moroccan government during the events in Gdeim Izik camp in Western Sahara in October 2010 (Camp established to protest against ongoing discrimination, poverty and human rights abuses, some protesters also demanded independence for Western Sahara. The protests were initially peaceful, but turned violent following clashes between civilians and security forces – the ed.). Seven members of the original group are in prison and have recently started a hunger strike while they await trial. DW spoke to Talmidi, one of those still free, at the Sahrawi refugee camp in Western Algeria.

DW: What is the current situation in Western Sahara under Moroccan control?

Sidi Ahmed Talmidi: Morocco has turned the area into a massive prison. Nobody feels safe, not even inside their houses. People are constantly harassed, dragged out from home in the middle of the night and either taken to prison or even “disappeared.” Their corpses are often found brutally mutilated in the middle of the street. The last case happened four days ago when the body of a man called Hamdi Tarfany was found chopped into pieces in Laayoune, the administrative capital of the region.

It’s been like this since former colonial power Spain pulled out in 1975 and left us in the hands of the Moroccans who invaded our land. Rabat claims that we have the same living standards as in the rest of Morocco, and that we also enjoy a democratic system but that’s far from being true. These violations have been recognized by almost everybody, even the UN recognizes the Polisario Front (Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement – the ed.) as the legitimate representative of the Western Sahara people.

Morocco and the Polisario Front fought a war over the territory for 16 years until a UN-brokered cease-fire took effect in 1991. What have you achieved in those 21 years?

We laid down our weapons because we were promised a referendum. The MINURSO, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, produced a census but Morocco has managed to block the lists until today. Basically, we have achieved absolutely nothing. Most of our people have turned into refugees in the middle of the Algerian desert – between 200,000 and 275,000 depending on the source – and we are struggling to survive. On the other hand, Rabat has obtained massive benefits in these two decades. They are exploiting our mineral and fishing resources thanks to France’s complicity and the UN inaction. The MINURSO staff are just getting paid by the UN to stay in a comfortable scenario for them. They have no mechanisms to monitor human rights in the area mainly due to the massive hurdle the French UN veto poses.

You were one the members of the negotiation group during the events in Gdeim Izik camp in October 2010. How do you remember those days?

On October 9 we set up a camp around 12 kilometers outside Laayoun because we wanted to conduct a peaceful demonstration and avoid frictions with the Moroccan settlers downtown. There were nine of us in the negotiations group. We wanted to remind the world that we have been a Moroccan colony for over 35 years so people would walk all the way to where we stayed to join us. After a month we were around 30,000 Sahrawis gathering at the camp.

We were asking for our most basic rights and protesting against the Moroccan government and monarchy. We have nothing against the Moroccan people, in fact, many of them are also facing very dire conditions under Rabat’s rule. On November 8, Moroccan police and special forces raided the camp in the most brutal way. There are no words to describe what we all witnessed that day; it’s hard to believe such things can happen in the 21st century. The day before the raid, the government publicly accused eight of us of kidnapping all those gathering at the camp. How could we possibly hold thousands captive?

Morocco claims that 18 policemen died during the event but no Sahrawis whatsoever. The Polisario Front puts the Sahrawi death toll at 38 with hundreds more injured. What’s your stance?

I could give you a lot of names of protesters killed by the Moroccan police. Fourteen-year-old Nagam Gareh was killed inside a car that was carrying supplies for the protesters; Brahimd Daudi and Babi el Gargar were among those killed in the shooting… Nonetheless, it’s impossible to quantify the dead and injured as our people were even denied medical assistance in the hospitals. Besides, I have no clues on the whereabouts of many friends. A lot of people disappeared after the events.

Disinformation on our conflict is endemic so it came as no surprise when the media was denied access to Gdeim Izik. Even Al Jazeera was immediately expelled from Morocco after they started talking about the issue. We could say that the Arab Spring started in Morocco-controlled Western Sahara, and not in Tunisia. If we had achieved just a tiny percentage of the attention Tunisia or Egypt would get two months later, the political scenario might be significantly different today.

How can this conflict be unblocked?

The only hope for the Sahrawis is to get the UN to recognize that Morocco does not want to take any further step toward the peace plan. Time is on Morocco’s side so international pressure is mandatory to force Rabat to sit down and negotiate. However, Morocco’s refusal would mean to go back to war. Today I think that the only solution for Western Sahara is full independence, and not any sort of autonomy as Rabat has suggested. The latter would mean to continue under their occupation, hence being treated like animals. The majority of our people live like refugees in the middle of the desert because they cannot go back home. We are exhausted and we cannot cope with this situation any longer.

via ‘DW.DE | 18.06.2012.

MESA Street Art project

Interview: Karlos Zurutuza, Rabuni refugee camp, western Algeria. Editor: Rob Mudge

Real World Revolutionaries: Yassine Ayari – Tunisia

Standard
Yassine Ayari

Yassine Ayari

Yassine Ayari is another great activist from Tunisia, like Slim Amamou. What rock stars. I love them for their honesty, enthusiasm, energy and determination.

“When I see Western democratic countries having seminars and conferences about the “Arab Spring” and “Democratic Uprisings in in the Middle East” it’s like a conference about virginity, sponsored by Durex.
You are democracies. You vote for your governments. So when I think about Western countries supporting Ben Ali and his regime for 20 years, I don’t blame the government. I blame you. So please, stop trying to tell us what we should do. If you want to tell us, show us. Go out on your streets, have a revolution, then we will see.”

via Yassine Ayari: Page officielle on FacedBook

Ayari Yassine: Network & Security Engineer Tunisian blogger,activist fighting for internet freedom and against censorship ! Supporting GNU and OpenSource Contributor.

New protests, same old oppression in Tunisia

Standard

I am not surprised to see protests being reported today from Tunisia, the Western media’s one-time poster-child for “successful” Arab uprisings.

More than 3,000 protesters gathered Saturday outside the headquarters of the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) in Tunis to demand the fall of the government and denounce several attacks on its premises during this week, according to a reporter for the AFP. “The people want the government to fall”, “Protests and fighting until the government falls”, “Do not touch my UGTT”, “Long live the UGTT” chanted the demonstrators who responded to the call of the main union of Tunisia. Several political parties participated in the rally – the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the movement Ettajdid, and the Communist Party of Tunisian Workers (PCOT). The protesters denounced actions against several local UGTT members and accused members of the Islamist movement Ennahda to be the perpetrators.

Tunisia UGTT protests 25 Feb 2012

Tunisia UGTT protests 25 Feb 2012

UGTT Protests in Tunisia 25 Feb 2012

UGTT Protests in Tunisia 25 Feb 2012