Greater Middle East
OK, here's one to file under "all too telling irony." Egyptian authorities have banned Yemeni rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman from entering the country for "security reasons." Karman was held at Cairo airport on arrival and sent back to Yemen. The first Arab woman to win the Nobel peace prize had voiced support for loyalists of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and protested his ouster by the military. Karman was due to make an appearance at a Cairo sit-in by Morsi supporters. The Anti-Coup Alliance said Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, also a Nobel laureate, "is to be held responsible for banning activists and Nobel Prize winners from entering Egypt." (AFP, Aug. 4)
At least 100 were killed and hundreds injured July 27 as Egyptian security forces attacked Muslim Brotherhood supporters holding a public sit-in at a square outisde Rabaa al-Adawia mosque in northwest Cairo, bringing the toll in repression since the fall of President Mohammed Morsi to over 200 dead. Five were also killed in Alexandria the previous day, and rival demonstrations were reported from cities and towns throughout the country. Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has issued a call for the Brotherhood's opponents to take to the streets in mass demonstration of support for the military. But with Rabaa al-Adawia square occupied by Morsi supporters and Tahrir Square now held by Morsi opponents responding to al-Sisi's call, a relatively small group of protesters established a vigil in Giza's Sphinx Square, calling themselves the "Third Square" movement. Their banners and flyers call for Egyptians to reject both Morsi's "religious fascism" and "the army's continued political role."
An appeals court in Kuwait on July 22 overturned the criminal convictions of three former members of parliament for criticizing the Emir, the nation's leader. The Kuwait Society for Human Rights helped break the story internationally via Twitter, when its director posted a short statement regarding the acquittal. The three men were convicted in February of insulting Emir Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah at a protest in October. As members of parliament, they initially spoke out against new election laws and several other issues dealing with flawed civil procedure. The same flaws they addressed later led to the dissolution of the parliament. The Kuwait government has not yet indicated if it will choose to appeal this decision to the supreme court.
A rocket strike near an important Shi'ite shrine in the southern suburbs of Damascus killed one of its custodians July 19. The gold-domed Bibi Zainab shrine, said to hold the remains of the daughter of Shia founder Imam Ali and ground-daughter of the Prophet Mohammed, is now being protected by hundreds of volunteer Shi'ite fighters from Iraq and Hezbollah troops. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has threatened "grave retribution" if any harm befalls the shrine. (Reuters, July 20) Shi'ites held mass rallies in Islamabad, Karachi and other Pakistani cities against the attack on the shrine. (GeoTV, INP, July 12)
The latest statement from the poorly named United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) is entitled "No more wars—US out of the Middle East!" The very first line reads: "The White House's June 13th announcement that it would begin directly supplying arms to the opposition in Syria is a dramatic escalation of the US/NATO war against that country." Anyone with a modicum of sophistication should see the problems with this formulation right off the bat. Let's put aside the fact that the White House promise of arms to the insurgents is a completely empty one, since the shipments have been held up by Congressional fears that war material could find its way into jihadist hands, as Reuters reports. The more important point is the assumption that Syrians' most pressing problem is the hypothetical threat of the US arming the rebels—while for two years the Bashar Assad dictatorship has been vigorously waging war against its own people, with a death toll topping 60,000, with reports of "cleansing" of Sunnis by forces loyal to the regime, and the UN Security Council urging the International Criminal Court to open a war crimes investigation.
Egyptian authorities on July 10 ordered the arrest of Mohammed Badie, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan), as well as nine other leading Islamists, in an escalation of the crackdown against protesters of Egypt's current military-backed leadership. Badie is accused of inciting violence in Cairo on July 8 in which more than 50 people were killed. Reports of the violence conflict, as the Brotherhood reports that soldiers carried out a massacre of peaceful demonstrators, while police and military forces say they acted in self-defense. The issued warrants further highlight the military's zero-tolerance policy toward the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, who continue to hold daily mass protests demanding the reinstatement of ousted president Morsi. Many Egyptians had hoped that Wednesday's start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan would help to calm the ongoing turmoil, but the sunrise-to-sunset fasting may only diminish protest activity during daytime hours.
Egyptian blogger Ahmed Douma, who had been sentenced to six months in prison for insulting ousted president Mohammed Morsi, was released on July 6, according to state news agency MENA. The prosecution requested Douma's release in June, dropping the charges against him. Despite the release order, Douma remained in custody for another trial on a separate charge. Douma was charged along with 11 others with inciting violence during protests in March in which at least 160 people were injured. The Cairo Criminal Court acquitted all 12 defendants because the evidence against them was deemed void.
Some 40 supporters of Egypt's deposed president Mohamed Morsi were injured as soldiers opened fire on protesters outside a government office in El Arish, a town in the northern Sinai Peninsula July 6. (Euronews, July 6) That same day, a Coptic Christian priest, Mina Aboud Sharween, was shot dead while walking on a street in El Arish—apparently the first sectarian killing since the power transfer. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood had criticized Pope Tawadros, spiritual leader of Egypt's 8 million Copts, for giving his blessing to the removal of the president and attending the announcement by army chief Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, suspending the constitution. (The Guardian, July 6)