Photos of Hafez Assad and his son Bashar Assad are festooned all over Syria and Lebanon. This gallery documents how a cult-of-personality for the Assads has been established by the Syrian regime in both countries. The photos come from a variety of sources.
Given the events of the past two months, it's safe to say that we finally have an answer to the question this blog began asking years ago: "Yes, it does explode." And it's amazing to watch it all burst...
Shuaib Alabied cuddles his baby daughter but looks distracted. Clearly his mind is elsewhere.
The former car salesman from Tripoli is seeking asylum in Britain after fleeing Libya with his pregnant wife last year.
He is a Berber, racially different from the Arabs who rule Libya
and he once belonged to the Amazighian Party which campaigns for
cultural autonomy. The party - like all political groupings in Libya -
is banned by the state.
In September 2006, Shuaib was arrested at his garage, taken to
the police station and ordered to name other members of his party.
"The officer said to me: 'We have ways of making you talk'," says Shuaib. "They told me someone called Washi was coming."
Washi was a plain clothes officer in the Ain Zara prison in the capital
run by Libya's security service. Shuaib describes him as a muscular,
tall man with a crew cut. He says he slapped him, dragged him into a cell and subjected him to a brutal rape.
Shuaib's claim is supported by evidence supplied by the Medical
Commission for Victims of Torture. He was kept in a dirty cell for
three and a half months. When he was eventually freed, he was determined to get out of
Libya. So he fled across the desert to Tunisia and then via Turkey
reached the UK with his wife.
When the authorities realised Shuaib had escaped, they arrested his
father. Mr Alebied is still in prison but nobody knows where since
no-one in the family has been able to speak to him since the police
took him away.
Read on to learn how the EU might grant these individuals asylum, but pressures them not to sue Libya in international court.
It was just yesterday that we quoted a member of Yemen's Socialist Party at the 19th annual Arab National Congress confab in Sana'a. The key gem from Yassin No'man: "Why is the ANC
not talking about the many political detainees -- some of whom are
conference members -- locked up in Arab jails?"
Baoum, a member of the YSP's political bureau, central committee member
Yehya Ghaleb al-Shuaibi and activist Ali Haitham al-Ghareeb were
charged by the prosecution with inciting protests which led to deadly
clashes with police in March and April.
The prosecution asked the court, which handles cases related to state
security, to impose the maximum sentence on the three, which could mean
up to 10 years imprisonment.
The 19th annual Arab Nationalist Congress meeting, this year in Sanaa, has come and gone. A report from Al-Ahram offers some juicy tidbits from the Congress' proceedings:
The congress was formed in 1990 by a group of Arab nationalist
intellectuals and politicians alarmed by the growing conviction within
official -- and some non-official -- circles that the era of Arab
nationalism had come to an end...
It is against this background of "Arab concessions" and "catastrophes"
that the ANC -- the 700 members of the Congress includes a virtual roll
call of the Arab world's leading thinkers -- has attempted to defend
the "Arab nationalist project" independent of Arab governments...
During the ANC's 19th round in Sanaa, though, the conference appeared
to be suffering from the symptoms of age. Inside the conference room of
the lavish Sanaa Mövenpick Hotel, speaker after speaker hogged the
podium to deliver speech after speech during which the audience yawned,
snoozed or trickled outside for coffee, a cigarette, and to take part
in the much livelier discussions going on in the hotel's lobby
While Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen and Sudan were making headlines across the
world the conference room seemed to be part of a parallel universe,
with one speaker arguing that "drugs" constitute the main threat to the
Arab world. And if some of the speeches gave the audience a sense of
déjà vu, that was only to be expected. They had probably heard them
before, word for word, at previous ANC rounds...
"Why," asked Yassin No'man, a socialist Yemeni politician, "is the ANC
not talking about the many political detainees -- some of whom are
conference members -- locked up in Arab jails? If this is a taboo then
the ANC has to find another mechanism to justify itself."
...Unable to continue his journey towards Europe, but ashamed to return home after failing to make money and help his family, Guyguy is stuck in Morocco, where life is gloomy for the likes of him. Not
only do the increasing numbers of black Africans living in the country
have few chances of finding jobs, they come under constant police
harassment, Guyguy and three other Africans complained in the capital,
"Some of us have a refugee status granted by the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but police keep picking us up just
for being black, and beat us in the police van if we resist," Guyguy
Detainees who are in the country illegally or do not carry their residence permits - including university students - are put on overnight buses and taken to Oujda near the Algerian border, the four explained. "In Oujda, once night falls, they take us by lorry to the neutral zone between the two countries and tell us to go home."
frontier guards, however, always turn us back," said Mariano, another
African migrant here. He accused the guards of taking migrants' cell phones and money.
to enter Algeria, migrants have to make a difficult clandestine
crossing back into Morocco. "We know of several people who died while
crossing over," Guyguy said. "Some had been weakened by lack of food,
while others had diseases."
Migrants also claim that local villagers attack them to rob them or to rape the women among them. "I
have been deported to Oujda more times than I can count," said Guyguy's
fellow countryman Mariano, who always made it back to Rabat.
the 2005 incidents in Melilla, Morocco made headlines by taking some
1,000 migrants without food or water to the Sahara desert, where some
of them died.
On May 5, Tariq Baissi was convicted to three years of prison for
"weakening the national feeling and the national ethos." The State
Security Court in Damascus cut Baissi's sentence in half from the
original six years. Baissi's crime was to have posted six words on the
online forum, 'I am a Muslim,' in which he criticized Syria's state security apparatus...
Throughout the trial, Baissi has denied posting the comments, saying
that he works in a computer company and has nothing to do with
politics. He said the phone line, through which the website was
accessed, did not even belong to him but to another resident in the
same building. Those claims were rejected by the Syrian government.
Rights groups and Syrian bloggers have condemned the sentencing of
Baissi. In a recent press release, the London-based Syrian Human Rights
Committee said, "Posting a phrase comprised of six words may cost you a
six-year prison sentence [in Syria."]