Posts Tagged ‘Dictatorship’
“The only man to protest on Saudi Arabia’s day of rage has suffered in prison, his family say.
Khaled al-Johani was arrested minutes after going to the courthouse in Riyadh and giving a BBC interview in which he called for democracy and described the country as a big jail.
His family have now told the BBC that they were not allowed to see him for the first 58 days of his incarceration. And when they did see him, says his brother, Abdullah al-Johani, their concerns increased.
“He has lost a lot of weight. The situation is sad and he is depressed. He doesn’t have any of his own clothes and we can’t give him food or money.”
Khaled al-Johani is one of more than 160 dissidents who have been arrested by the Saudi authorities since February, according to Human Rights Watch.
On Tuesday a judge in Jeddah sent 40 people, charged with instigation and calling for protests against the ruler, to face a court that specialises in security and terrorism cases.
The interior ministry spokesman, General Mansour Sultan al-Turki is unapologetic.
“Saudis…do not have anything to demonstrate for. The Grand Mufti has talked about this and [protesting] is un-Islamic behaviour.” “
In an oppressive dictatorship, like Saudi Arabia, only the boldest dare to speak out, Khaled al-Johani was one of them.
Now he’s been arrested and has vanished, Dana Kennedy reports:
“Khaled al-Johani, who teaches religion to elementary school students in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is neither a revolutionary nor an activist, according to his brother. But even though no one in the country knew it at the time, the 40-year-old father of a 5-year-old autistic boy was imprisoned and cut off from his family after speaking out at last month’s planned “day of rage.”
His frustration over repressive Saudi laws and a lack of help from the government for his autistic son led him to show up at the “day of rage” one month ago today and let loose his anger in front of a BBC television crew, according to his brother. Because of the heavy police presence that squelched the March 11 protest, Khaled al-Johani was almost the only person there, Ali al-Johani told AOL News via Skype from Riyadh today.
“I’m here to say we need democracy, we need freedom,” Khaled al-Johani said to the surprised BBC crew, which wasn’t expecting him and didn’t find his name on the list of activists from Riyadh.
“We need to speak freely. We will reach out, the government doesn’t own us. I was afraid to speak, but no more. We don’t have dignity, we don’t have justice! I have an autistic child, and they didn’t provide me with any support,” he said.
Khaled al-Johani said on camera that he knew he’d be arrested — and he was correct. After he returned to the home he shares with his wife and four young children, Saudi police arrived and arrested him in front of his family, Ali al-Johani said. He hasn’t been heard from or seen since. “
Listen to more at the Where is Khaled channel on YouTube.
Over in Egypt events are moving on a pace, with the removal of the symbols of the Mubarak period, the New York Times reports:
““Egyptians have adopted this habit for centuries — since the time of the pharaohs, when the image of pharaoh was everywhere,” said Mr. Sabry, doing a little walk-like-an-Egyptian maneuver with his hands and head. “Corrupt people should not be honored. I do not want to delete 30 years of Egyptian history, but I want to remove that name.”
The name and face have been scraped away piecemeal since Mr. Mubarak was overthrown Feb. 11 after three decades as president. Mr. Sabry’s lawsuit, filed in Cairo Expediency Court on March 1, seeks a court order to mandate “deMubarakization” in one fell swoop.
The idea draws widespread, but not universal, approval. A brief legal hearing on the issue on Thursday ignited a heated skirmish outside the downtown Cairo courthouse between those seeking to preserve the Mubarak name and those wanting it expunged.
Given that the once universal billboards bearing Mr. Mubarak’s portrait have largely come down, the sudden profusion of his picture held aloft by more than 100 supporters seemed alien. “
Just as a popular revolt in Egypt succeeded in removing Mubarak events are moving on apace in Iran.
Like Mubarak, the dictators in Tehran resorted to brutality and teargas to stay in power, as the BBC reports:
“Thousands of opposition supporters have clashed with security forces in the centre of the Iranian capital, Tehran.
Police used tear gas and detained dozens rallying in solidarity with uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. There was one report of a death in Tehran.
The BBC also received reports of similar protests being held in the cities of Isfahan, Mashhad and Shiraz.
Earlier, the police placed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi under house arrest, according to his website.
It said the move was intended to prevent the former prime minister attending the march in Tehran, which the authorities had prohibited. The road leading to Mr Mousavi’s house was also blocked by police vans.
Fellow opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, a former speaker of parliament and a senior cleric, is also reportedly under de facto house arrest. “
Meanwhile in Syria, the dictatorship there are clamping down on everybody, including bloggers:
“Lawyers allowed into the closed session of the court in Damascus said Ms Mallohi was motionless after hearing her sentence. Her mother, who was waiting outside the court building, burst out crying after being told.
The judge did not give evidence or details as to why she was convicted, they added. However, when she was charged, one official claimed that “her spying led to an attack against a Syrian army officer”.
“Trumping up charges that imply treason as a lesson for others is quite old fashioned,” one human rights activist told the Reuters news agency. “Sadly, the regime has not learnt any lessons from Tunisia or Egypt.”
There has so far been no comment from the Syrian authorities.
Ms Mallohi, the granddaughter of a former minister, has already served one year of her sentence, as she has been in custody since late December 2009. She was held without charge for the first nine months.
Last month, the state security court sentenced Abbas Abbas, a 69-year-old left-wing activist, to seven years in jail.
The BBC’s Lina Sinjab in Damascus says Ms Mallohi’s conviction comes at a time of political upheaval in the region, with popular protests in Tunisia and Egypt which were largely organised through social networking websites and blogs.”
She was jailed for five years, without any evidence.
Update 1: Over in Bahrain there were protests too:
Update 2: Also Hamas are none too keen on election, as Haaretz relates:
” But Hamas, which holds power in the Gaza Strip, immediately said it would move to prevent such a vote from taking place in the coastal territory.”
Update 3: Not forgetting Algeria:
“Hundreds of youths have clashed with security forces during protests in the northern Algerian town of Akbou.
Police reportedly used tear gas and batons to drive back crowds protesting over unemployment. About 30 people, most of them protesters, were hurt.
In January Algeria was the first in a string of countries to see street protests, as people rallied against high food prices and unemployment.
Several people were killed as unrest spread across the country.
The sporadic protests have been continuing since early January.
On Saturday, thousands of people took part in protests in the capital, Algiers, demanding the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, but were dispersed by riot police.”
The problems of Egypt go beyond a single President or his VP.
And the rot goes much deeper, just considering two aspects should make that clear, State violence and economic power.
Violence against ordinary Egyptians has been a fact of life from before the time of Sadat’s repression in the 1970s/80s. There have been decades of violence, censorship and State interference. Most economic changes since the 1970s have benefited a very small minority of rich Egyptian families, the military, security services and their allies.
Fixing Egypt, and offering ordinary Egyptians a taste of freedom and more importantly a degree of financial security, is going to be very difficult.
I do not see it succeeding without a real and concious process of wealth distribution, from the corrupt elites to the people of Egypt.
That necessary change seems unlikely to occur.
For the moment the army is in charge, they have a conflicted role. On the one hand as instruments of change and on the other, how they propped up Mubarak’s repressive regime.
We should not forget they were the major backers of Mubarak and without them he could not rule.
So the question is, what now and will the Army manage to bring in any real change?
I am not so sure, as the vested interests in the ruling clique are against real reform, against real change.
They might usher in a new constitution with all of the trappings of bourgeois democracy, even initiate the first proper elections for over 60 years, but will that be sufficient?
The deep seated problems of Egypt go further than elections: endemic corruption, a lack of development, an almost non-existent welfare state and infrastructure, and generational poverty are just a few of those tangible issues that have to be dealt with.
Mubarak is history, and not before time, but let us wish Egyptians good luck with their struggles, the real problems facing Egyptians are ahead.
Hosni Mubarak like so many with power, can’t give it up and certainly can’t take a hint, from the Egyptian people.
He is hoping the longer he holds on, that the greater the chance of the protests dissipating and him being able to fiddle the elections in September, as he and the ruling regime have done for decades.
I imagine that his stubbornness will only invigorate those that have sensed the taste of freedom, without the 30 years of his dictatorship and the emergency powers.
Hosni Mubarak is clearly worried that once he leaves the Presidency he’ll be fair game and liable for assassination, as often happens with dictators and despots, but there’s a broader picture here because in many ways he is a figurehead for a wider regime with corruption and repression embedded in it.
Those factors and the dire economic circumstances faced by so many Egyptians fuel the protests.
The sooner that the Egyptians are rid of Mubarak and his henchmen the better, the sooner ordinary Egyptians can live without the threat of jail, a beating or lifelong poverty the better.
Go Mubarak, go now.
Update 1: Kellie has more.
Eight days into the revolt in Egypt and we are seeing Mubarak marshal his forces against the peaceful protesters.
Mubarak and his clique were caught off guard by the speed and vigour of the uprising against their corrupt rule, initially they were unsure what to do and just employed the Interior Ministry troops.
They were insufficient and thankfully overwhelmed, so then the military came into view, but again they were unsure precisely which side to commit to.
Mubarak has been pressurised both internally and externally, yet he’s not buckling, he’s clinging to power as best he can. He doesn’t want to go.
Mubarak assumes he can’t fully rely on the army, so he has brought in members of his party, the NDP and bolstered by those who benefited from his misrule they are now mounting the reaction that we see on TV.
Mubarak’s probable calculation is that they will be sufficient to cower the people’s revolt in Egypt, allow him to employe the Interior Ministry troops again and maybe the Army (despite their promises), and hold on.
The violence, instigated by Mubarak’s supporters, could give him a pretext for a clampdown, a violent and bloody one. He’s not held on to power for 30 years to give it up overnight and it would be naive to think that he would, he will cling on to the end.
But whatever happens Mubarak must go.
The sight of elderly politicians clinging on to power is not a pretty one.
Mubarak still thinks he can make it, at least until September 2011.
But the departure of his regime with all its brutality, corruption and contempt for ordinary Egyptians is long overdue, 30 years too late.
Mubarak must go.
In the West there is plenty of analysis of the situation in Egypt, what’s happening now, what could happen in the near future, who might take over etc
But the truth is no one knows, as with most major world events, ie. the fall of the Eastern bloc.
Sometime down the line, things will settle and ex post facto rationalisations will become the order of the day, borne out, frequently, by the contemporary agendas that are at play.
Still, we would be foolish not to admit how contingent history is.
How a simple action here or there could have changed the order of things. How a trivial mistake by one party or another could have lead to a completely different outcome. That type of thinking tends to get lost after the events when we try to make sense of things, and there is an unfortunate tendency to indulge in post hoc ergo propter hoc.
We all do it, to some degree, but it is more common amongst politicos and politicians, and those who have an agenda to push.
But we shouldn’t forget that, at the moment, no one really knows anything, and despite what will happen, the post rationalisations to come, we are all scrambling around in the dark.
That is not to say that serious researchers in the future might be able to provide insights into the events and the people concerned, however, that seems unlikely in the short-term.
So here is a subjective selection of the thoughts of others.
Read the rest of this entry »
Now Unions have joined in it seems just a matter of time before Mubarak goes.
It is apparent that Mubarak appointed a Vice President in the hope that should he be thrown out, his successor would look after him. Mubarak’s son has fled and so he saw the writing on the wall.
I suppose it just a case of where will Mubarak go? Saudi Arabia? Or London (maybe even Paris, it seems very popular with rich dictators and their families).
And when he does go it should be amusing to see how Western governments fall over themselves to explain away their decades long support for Mubarak’s dictatorship with materials, armaments and masses of money.
Update 1: In spite of a communication blackout ordinary Egyptians are managing to use old (and newer) technologies to get around the government clampdown, as IT News reports:
“Egyptian activists have relied on landlines and amateur radios to communicate since the country’s internet connections were severed on Friday.
Despite network shutdowns and nationwide curfews, demonstrators continued to rally against President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.
Mubarak’s government appeared to have ordered the cessation of mobile and internet services last week, as online activists rallied supporters for a major demonstration on Friday.
To date, at least 125 people have been killed in violent protests across the nation. Sixty-eight were reportedly killed on Friday.
Besides the well-resourced few with direct satellite links to the internet, a majority of Egyptians remained offline.
Others were using services like Speak To Tweet, Jan25 Voices and amateur radio channels to communicate with the outside world.
Global net activist group, Telecomix, said its amateur radio efforts were aimed at “[carrying] health and welfare traffic from Egypt in the face of [a] total communications blackout”.
“Internet [not] working, police cars [burning],” the group received in Morse code on Friday.
On Saturday morning, it received the description: “dark skies, bloody [moon]”. “Everything is happening, everything we thought,” another message read.
Telecomix also compiled a list of 56kbps dial-up details that could be used to reach internet service providers in Norway, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the US. “
Blogging in Syria is difficult beyond our comprehension in the West, as the New York Times reports:
“Most of the Syrian media is still owned by the state. Privately owned media outlets became legal in 2001, as the socialist economy slowly began to liberalize following the accession of President Bashar al-Assad. But much of the sector is owned by members of the Syrian “oligarchy” — relatives of Mr. Assad and other top government officials. All of it is subject to intimidation and heavy-handed control.
“The first level is censorship,” said Ayman Abdel Nour, the founder of All4Syria.info, the independent Web site where Mr. Ekhetyar works. “The second level is when they send you statements and force you to publish them.” Like many other journalists and dissidents, Mr. Abdel Nour has left the country and now lives abroad.
The basic “red lines” are well known: no criticism of the president and his family or the security services, no touching delicate issues like Syria’s Kurdish minority or the Alawites, a religious minority to which Mr. Assad belongs. Foreign journalists who violate these rules are regularly banned from the country (a fact that constrains coverage of Syria in this and other newspapers).
But the exact extent of what is forbidden is left deliberately unclear, and that vagueness encourages fear and self-censorship, many journalists here say. A 19-year-old female high school student and blogger, Tal al-Mallohi, was arrested late last year and remains in prison. Her blog had encouraged the Syrian government to do more for the Palestinians, but it scarcely amounted to real criticism, and the authorities have not given any reason for her detention. A number of bloggers have been arrested for expressing views deemed critical of the Syrian government or even other Arab governments, under longstanding laws that criminalize “weakening national sentiment” and other broadly defined offenses.
Others have been jailed for jokes. One blogger, Osama Kario, wrote a parody in 2007 of the famous “three Arab No’s” refusing any concession to Israel (no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel). His version: “No electricity, no water, no Internet.” He was jailed for 28 days, and when he emerged he stopped blogging and would not speak to fellow journalists about his experience.”
There’s no more an amusing political spectacle than watching Western politicians and members of the ruling establishments sucking up to oil rich dictators.
From the various George Bush’s holding hands with Saudi leaders to the deference which is currently being shown to the Leader and Guide of the Revolution by that crook and occasional Prime Minister, Berlusconi.
I am sure that many Western establishment figures envy Colonel Qaddafi’s rule, 40 years unencumbered by even the smell of democracy or the wishes of the Libyans.
Forty years ruling one country, unelected, is hardly something to celebrate, but many of the guests from the West have cried off, lest they be engulfed in a PR disaster.
I doubt they are truly concerned with the status of Colonel Qaddafi or the Libyans, and probably hold rather reactionary views concerning the watered-down social democracy found in much of the West, however, they don’t mind sucking up to the dictator controlling the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, instead they are afraid of embarrassment.
Still, I imagine that a few brass necked politicians will turn up, slap Colonel Qaddafi’s back and praise his supposed benevolent rule and try to cut some business deals during the celebrations, whilst many Libyans live in poverty.