Gulf states sideline Arab League in Syria talks

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The meeting of Arab foreign ministers scheduled to be held in the Saudi city of Jeddah over the Syrian crisis has been postponed indefinitely without explanation by the Arab League. This “emergency meeting” was to discuss the conflict and the replacement of the UN and international mediator Kofi Annan, who resigned last week after the failure of his peace efforts. The Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi was tipped to succeed him .

However, the foreign ministers of the six Gulf monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain) held last night in Jeddah a meeting about the Syrian crisis. Now, this session is expected to take place Tuesday during an Islamic summit in the kingdom following the initiative of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who seeks to mobilize the Muslim world in favor of the uprising in Syria.

Syria, a member of the OIC, “will not be represented at this summit,” according to Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organization Islamic Cooperation (OIC), adding that a preparatory meeting of Foreign Ministers would be held Monday and should “decide on a suspension of Syria, recommended by representatives of member countries. ” The organization of this summit, which promises very sharp clashes between Iran, unwavering supporter of Syria, and the GCC, including Saudi Arabia, comes as the UN could not take a firm stand on this issue after the differences arising among members of the Security Council.

It would seem that those parties who declined Iran’s invitation to last Thursday’s “Friends of Syria” summit in Tehran have been forced by that event to step up their own efforts.

Leaders of the Gulf Arab States pose for a photo before the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh May 10, 2011. (Ho New/Courtesy Reuters)

Four days after launching its ground offensive to cleanse the rebels from Aleppo, tanks and warplanes of the regime of Bashar al-Assad continue to pound several districts of this metropolis in the North of the country. According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), the neighborhoods Shaar, Tariq al-Bab, Hanano, Bustan al-Qasr and Salaheddin are the target of violent firing of artillery by the army.

Shots were also heard in Damascus while the nearby towns of Al-Tal and Harsata were bombed, according to the SOHR.

In Homs, soldiers assisted by militiamen “executed” ten young people in the Shams neighborhood, according to the Syrian National Council, the main opposition coalition. The victims were selected from a crowd of 350 people gathered in one place, said SNC.

Clashes took place elsewhere in the province of Deraa (south), birthplace of the insurgency launched in March 2011 against the Assad regime.

In Beirut, a judicial source said that the Syrian security chief, General Ali Mamluk, is suspected of plotting attacks in Lebanon. Last week, the former Lebanese minister Michel Samaha was arrested . Samaha is a pro-Syrian figure.

Some content via Al Bawaba http://snup.us/Iij

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RSF Astonished to find it agrees with hypocritical #Iran on #Bahrain

Fariborz Reis Dana
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During the Universal Periodic Review of the human rights situation in Bahrain by the UN Human Rights Council two days ago in Geneva, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s delegation called on the Bahraini authorities to “free all political prisoners, put a stop to arbitrary arrests of government opponents and end the impunity reigning in the country.”

For once, Reporters Without Borders agrees with Iranian government officials although it is amazed that they dare to lecture others when hundreds of political prisoners, including 31 journalists and 18 netizens, are languishing in Iran’s own jails.

“Iran is one of the world’s most repressive countries and it would do well to apply its own recommendations,” the press freedom organization said.

According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, journalists are being summoned for interrogation at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, a censorship agency that has been turned into an all-out mechanism of control and repression since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president.

The summonses are issued by Mohammad Hosseini, the minister, and two of his aides, Mohammad Jafar Mohammad Zadeh, deputy minister for press affairs and information, and Mohammad Javad Aghajari, the head of the foreign press department.

When journalists are summoned to the ministry, they are questioned there by Ministry of Intelligence officials and members of the Revolutionary Guards. Those summoned include journalists who work for foreign media. The interrogations are often violent and journalists are mistreated.

“These interrogations are intolerable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge international cultural bodies to terminate all cooperation with this ministry on the grounds that it authorizes these interrogations and permits the mistreatment of intellectuals on its own premises.”

Fariborz Reis Dana

Fariborz Reis Dana

Fariborz Rais Dana, a leading economist, writer and member of the Association of Iranian Writers, was meanwhile arrested at his home on 21 May and was transferred to Tehran’s Evin prison to begin serving a one-year jail sentence for criticising a government decision to relax price controls in an interview for the BBC’s Farsi-language TV station.

Initially arrested on 19 December 2010, immediately after giving the interview, he was released on 17 January 2011 on bail of 30 million tomans (22,500 euros). A Tehran revolutionary court imposed the one-year jail sentence on 17 June 2011 after convicting him on charges of anti-government propaganda and membership of an illegal organization. An appeal court confirmed the sentence last December.

Rahman Bozari, a journalist with the opinion section of the daily Shargh, was arrested on 19 May after being summoned to the prosecutor’s office at Evin prison. Originally arrested on 29 May 2011 and freed on bail two months later, he was sentenced to two years in prison and 70 lashes by a Tehran revolutionary court on a charge of anti-government propaganda.

Reza Taleshaian Jolodarzadeh, the editor of Sobeh Azadi, a weekly that was closed by the authorities in October 2011, has been sentenced to a year in prison by a Tehran revolutionary court on a charge of anti-government propaganda. He has a serious illness as a result of an injury during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and his doctor says imprisonment could exacerbate it.

He was arrested on 4 February after being summoned before the revolutionary court and was released on 17 April. Under the Islamic criminal code, he now has 21 days to appeal.

Reporters Without Borders.

Banned Valentines

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Iran's Valentine Ban

Iran's Valentine Ban

My son asked me if I was planning anything special for Valentine’s Day … ! Not for the reasons you or I might expect: I was definitely relieved after he explained, had been searching background information on Iran, and saw that they outlawed this day as one of many decadent Western traditions to be avoided at all costs. I told him about Mousavi and Karoubi, their wives and families, and the stifled attempt to call for a protest on 25 Bahman, which was Valentine’s Day last year. And I shared my resigned expectation that the only crowds on Iran’s streets this February 14, will be crowds of security forces.

I told him that I wondered if  some of them might be strategically positioned to obscure opposition graffiti – now in the form of symbolic flowers – from the public gaze, lest any citizen be confronted by such impassioned artistic expression and shaken out of the regime’s enforced Islamic Revolutionary reverie. (Thanks for the graffiti bouquet, guys!)

He said,

“Never mind, Mum, even if the entire population of Iran came out onto the street, overthrew the regime, and installed a communist state, it would still be completely ignored and overshadowed by Whitney Houston’s death!”

He’s learned, as I have, that there are two constants in the freedom equation: the relentless perfidy with which repressive regimes seek to crush even the tiniest bud of hope, of joy, of creativity, of resistance: “X”; and the transitory nature of the media’s lens: “Y” (or more aptly, “why?”).

The same is true in its different and yet achingly similar ways for Syria, where everything must be painted black and white, either or, despite a rainbow of alternative arguments and positions. For Bahrain, and I would also say for Saudi Arabia, where protests, police brutality, and a host of violations are blanketed in ignorant silence more suffocating than the clouds of tear gas in Bahrain, so large I always imagine they can be seen from space. For Tibet, so tired of being either ignored or patronised, I assume because major political powers are clearly terrified of getting on the wrong side of China, the world’s major creditor. For Yemen, for Mali, for Western Sahara, and for Mauritania, where it’s simply not in the Western powers’ interests to be paying attention to opposition movements, not when there are fascinating stories about terrorism or a food crisis to report, even if the opposition is real and the terrorists are fabricated. Frankly, the food crisis in Africa is so over-hyped, it’s making me feel queasy. And don’t even get me started on the tens of thousands of freshly-minted refugees. For Kashmir, Senegal, West Papua, and for all of you everywhere*, struggling to make your voices heard, I send you my love and respect, for Valentine’s Day and always.

*I realise I left a LOT of names out of this list but it would be like reading a world atlas if I mentioned every country by name. Apologies; you’re still in my heart.

Take Action! Demand Bahrain Regime Release Fadhila Al Mubarak

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About Fadhila Al Mubarak

Fadeela Mubarak, 38 years old mother of 9 years old son, lives in Aali village in the suburbs of Manama, Bahrain. Fadhila Al Mubarak who was sentenced 4 years imprisonment for listening to anti-government CDs in her car. She was the first woman in Bahrain being tried in military tribunal, which gave that verdict. Her case was rarely highlighted in media. A short documentary titled “Fadheela Mubarak A Mother Behind The Bars in Bahrain” covers the plight of Fadhila.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl5bw1jT1rg]

We ask all concerned people to Take Action! Demand Bahrain Regime Release Fadhila Al Mubarak | Support Human Rights in Bahrain.