Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

The Dubai Fountain

June 28, 2013

Set on the 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake, the fountain shoots water jets as high as 500 ft (150 metres), equivalent to that of a 50-storey building. The fountain is 900 ft (275 metres) long and has five circles of varying sizes and two central arcs. It has been designed by California-based WET, the creators of the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.

The Dubai Fountain performs daily, with the performance repertoire including Sama Dubai; Baba Yetu, an award-winning song in Swahili; the Arab world’s top-selling dance number Shik Shak Shok; and the signature piece of world-renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, Con te partiro (Time to Say Goodbye).

Over 6,600 WET Superlights – the most advanced incandescent large fountain lights available today – and 25 colour projectors create a visual spectrum of over 1,000 abstract attractions. The beam of light shining upward from the fountain can be seen from over 20 miles away, and will be visible from space making it the brightest spot in the Middle East, and quite possibly in the entire world.

If you have the bandwidth, watch in HD.

Also worth seeing, Magic Dancing Waters in Protaras in Cyprus, lights, water, music and lasers.

Top Story The New Musical Express (Sunday 29 June 2013).

Riot police storm Gezi Park and Taksim Square

June 15, 2013
protester defies water cannon in Istanbul

protester defies water cannon in Istanbul

Riot police this evening have stormed Gezi Park and Taksim Square in Istanbul using bulldozers, water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets.

Peaceful protesters have been brutally attacked by the police on orders of the Turkish Prime Minister.

The Turkish Prime Minister is unfit to hold office and should be toppled.

The mass street protests with a call for the resignation of the Turkish Prime Minister began when police brutally attacked peaceful protesters trying to save Gezi Park from destruction for a shopping mall. Tow weeks later, and the police again use violence to clear the park.

Woman in red becomes face of Turkish protests

June 5, 2013
The woman in red turns as the policeman showers her in pepper spray at close range

The woman in red turns as the policeman showers her in pepper spray at close range

This is what democracy looks like in Turkey

This is what democracy looks like in Turkey

Standing up for her rights: The brave woman is forced to retreat coughing and spluttering as the gas-wielding riot policeman goes on to spray the crowds of demonstrators behind her, leaving them in agony

Standing up for her rights: The brave woman is forced to retreat coughing and spluttering as the gas-wielding riot policeman goes on to spray the crowds of demonstrators behind her, leaving them in agony

Police firing tear gas on unarmed protesters

Police firing tear gas on unarmed protesters

Every citizen defending their urban rights, every worker defending their human rights, and every student defending university rights has witnessed the police violence I experience. — Ceyda Sungar, woman in red

The more you spray the bigger we get — graffiti on walls in istanbul

What began as a peaceful protest in a park in Istanbul to stop the destruction of the park for a shopping mall, rapidly escalated when the repressive police used extreme force to attack protesters.

As the protests have shown, there is no democracy in Turkey.

The Prime Minister calls the protesters ‘terrorists’ and social media as ‘the worst menace to society’.

The police are now arresting protesters for using twitter. It is important therefore, people around the world re-tweet and repost these images in order that the brave people of Turkey who have taken to the streets to oppose a hard-line Islamic regime know they do not stand alone.

Turkey is not a democracy. If this was Kurdistan or occupied northern Cyprus, the police would be firing live rounds.

Tony Blair attacks Islam to absolve his wars from any responsibility for the Woolwich killing

June 4, 2013

Humility is supposed to be a Christian virtue, but it is one that has always evaded Tony Blair. Even so it was something of a shock to see his latest venture into print in the Mail on Sunday this week over the question of the Woolwich murder and Islam.

This article, judging by the comments beneath it, was too much for even the Mail’s conservative readers to stomach. Blair’s arrogant and pompous self-justification allows no element of regret for the wars into which he plunged millions of people, or for the instability in much of the Middle East and south Asia that his policies have helped create.

Blair’s thesis is that ‘there is a problem within Islam — from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it.’

He continues, ‘I’m afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.’

The world of the Middle East according to Blair is divided into two sorts of Muslims:

‘On the one side, there are Islamists who have this exclusivist and reactionary world view. They are a significant minority, loud and well organised. On the other are the modern-minded, those who hated the old oppression by corrupt dictators and who hate the new oppression by religious fanatics.’

To unpack this: Blair is saying that there are fanatical and extremist Muslims, who are driven to commit acts like the murder of Lee Rigby through ideological hatred of ‘western values’, and who are given support and succour from much larger groups of Muslims who really should know better and who should embrace pluralistic and liberal values as exemplified by…Tony Blair.

Except that isn’t how it looks to millions of people. The people of the Middle East and Afghanistan might be forgiven for asking which pluralistic and liberal values brought them the torture at Abu Ghraib, the use of depleted uranium in Iraq, the bombing of women and children in Afghanistan. They might wonder why when they ‘hated the old oppression by corrupt dictators’ they received no backing from the open minded Tony Blair or his fellow warmongers.

They might even wonder whether the spreading of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem is not an example of Jewish extremism, the whole Project for the New American century an example of Christian fundamentalism, or the massacres of Muslims Rohinga in Burma an example of Buddhist extremism?

Above all, we are all entitled to wonder just what deficiency in Blair’s mental image of the world allows him to consider that he has anything to contribute on this question? He has launched two major wars that are generally acknowledged to have been failures in their own terms and to have increased the likelihood of terrorism around the world. He lied in order to go to war in Iraq and will be the subject of criticism when the long delayed Chilcot report comes out.

The war was illegal under international law and in any fair society he would now be facing trial at The Hague, not posing as envoy for peace in the Middle East.

Rather than acknowledge any of this Blair’s brass neck leads him to advocate further wars, now against Syria and Iran, and to pose any opposition to him and his policies in terms of a ‘clash of civilisations’.

He talks about ideology driving terrorist attacks, but ignores his own dangerous ideology: the promotion of neo liberal free markets, the support for wars which protect those markets, and the defence of growing levels of inequality and misery caused by these policies.

The wars that he has done so much to promote have fuelled attacks on Muslims and a wave of Islamophobia, recently exacerbated by the events in Woolwich. Blair’s response? To attack Islam as a means of absolving his wars from any connection or responsibility. How much worse can he get?

– Lindsey German

Published by Stop the War Coalition.

We should never forget Stop the War Coalition is a Trotskyist front organisation, and in recent years has been hijacked by and become an apologist for Muslim fundamentalists. Nevertheless, that does not mean to say Tony Blair did not write a load of stomach churning garbage.

Contrary to what Lindsey German writes, there is a problem with Islamic extremists, Islamic fundamentalism does pose a threat, you only have to ask Nigerians what it is doing to their country, but a threat that is exacerbated by polices of US and UK and their support for Israel.

The ideology behind Lee Rigby’s murder is profound and dangerous. Why don’t we admit it?: Tony Blair launches a brave assault on Muslim extremism after Woolwich attack

June 3, 2013

There is only one view of the murder of Lee Rigby: horrific. But there are two views of its significance.

One is that it is the act of crazy people, motivated in this case by a perverted idea about Islam, but of no broader significance.

Crazy people do crazy things. So don’t overreact.

The other view is that this act was indeed horrible; and that the ideology which inspired it is profound and dangerous.

I am of this latter view.

So of course we shouldn’t overreact. We didn’t after July 7, 2005. But we did act. And we were right to. The actions by our security services will undoubtedly have prevented other serious attacks.

The ‘Prevent’ programme in local communities was sensible. The new measures of the Government seem reasonable and proportionate.

However, we are deluding ourselves if we believe that we can protect this country simply by what we do here. The ideology is out there. It isn’t diminishing.

Consider the Middle East. As of now, Syria is in a state of accelerating disintegration. President Assad is brutally pulverising communities hostile to his regime. At least 80,000 have died. The refugees now total more than one million. The internally displaced are more than four million.

Many in the region believe that the Assad intention is to ethnically cleanse the Sunni from the areas dominated by his regime and then form a separate state around Lebanon. There would then be a de facto Sunni state in the rest of Syria, cut off from the wealth of the country or the sea.

The Syrian opposition is made up of many groups. The fighters are increasingly the Al Qaeda- affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra. They are winning support, and arms and money from outside the country.

So I understand the desire to look at this world and explain it by reference to local grievances, economic alienation and of course ‘crazy people’. But are we really going to examine it and find no common thread, nothing that joins these dots, no sense of an ideology driving or at least exacerbating it all?

There is not a problem with Islam. For those of us who have studied it, there is no doubt about its true and peaceful nature. There is not a problem with Muslims in general. Most in Britain will be horrified at Lee Rigby’s murder.

But there is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it.

Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.

At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it. This has two effects. First, those with that view think we are weak and that gives them strength.

Second, those within Islam – and the good news is there are many – who actually know this problem exists and want to do something about it, lose heart. All over the Middle East and beyond there is a struggle being played out.

On the one side, there are Islamists who have this exclusivist and reactionary world view. They are a significant minority, loud and well organised. On the other are the modern-minded, those who hated the old oppression by corrupt dictators and who hate the new oppression by religious fanatics. They are potentially the majority, but unfortunately they are badly organised.

The seeds of future fanaticism and terror, possibly even major conflict, are being sown. We have to help sow seeds of reconciliation and peace. But clearing the ground for peace is not always peaceful.

The long and hard conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have made us wary of any interventions abroad. But we should never forget why they were long and hard. We allowed failed states to come into being.

Saddam was responsible for two major wars, in which hundreds of thousands died, many by chemical weapons. He killed similar numbers of his own people.

The Taliban grew out of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and made the country into a training ground for terror. Once these regimes were removed, both countries have struggled against the same forces promoting violence and terror in the name of religion everywhere.

Not every engagement need be military; or where military, involve troops. But disengaging from this struggle won’t bring us peace.

Neither will security alone. We resisted revolutionary communism by being resolute on security; but we defeated it by a better idea: Freedom. We can do the same with this.

The better idea is a modern view of religion and its place in society and politics. There has to be respect and equality between people of different faiths. Religion must have a voice in the political system but not govern it.

We have to start with how to educate children about faith, here and abroad. That is why I started a foundation whose specific purpose is to educate children of different faiths across the world to learn about each other and live with each other.

We are now in 20 countries and the programmes work. But it is a drop in the ocean compared with the flood of intolerance taught to so many. Now, more than ever, we have to be strong and we have to be strategic.

– Tony Blair

This self-justifying stomach churning garbage from war criminal Tony Blair was originally published in The Mail on Sunday. From the comments on-line, it was more than even Mail readers could stomach.

The Woolich killings can be see in two different lights. Either a senseless killing on the streets, no different apart from its brutality to other street killings, or an act of terrorism.

It was treated as the latter by David Cameron, which has the downside of elevating the killers to martyrs. Though if David Cameron had not reacted as he did, and it was the start of a wave of killings, he would have been rightly criticised.

How does a war criminal become a Middle East Envoy? One only has to look at Iraq today, to see the legacy of Tony Blair.

The Blair article is riddled with errors.

Do many in the Middle East believe the aim of Butcher Assad is to cleanse the region of Sunni Muslims? Yes, it has descended into sectarian violence, as has Iraq (the Blair legacy), but that is not how it started. It started with Assad gunning down peaceful protesters. Only later did the opponents of this repressive regime take up arms to defend themselves. And shame on Putin for supporting Assad.

Blair claims Assad has used chemical weapons. What is his evidence? The UN says there is suspicion, but have not been allowed in to collect evidence.

Blair claims he sees at first hand what is happening in the Middle East, and specifically Israeli occupied Palestine. He sees, does he, Israeli settlers destroying olive trees, of occupying land that is not theirs?

Blair claims the ‘Taliban grew out of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and made the country into a training ground for terror’. This is to completely rewrite history. The Americans provoked the then USSR to invade Afghanistan to create their own Vietnam. It was the CIA and MI6 and Pakistani ISI, with the help of Saudi money that created the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets, that morphed into the Taliban. Bin-Laden was our creation. The extreme form of Islam in Afghanistan was exported from Saudi Arabia, but still we arm the Saudis.

Blair claims Afghanistan was a terrorist training ground. It was not, but it is now, as is Iraq and many other parts of the world. The Taliban were willing to hand over Bin Laden, were they given the evidence to justify doing so. Afghanistan is now a major poppy producer, bogged down in corruption, women have no rights.

Blair mentions Pakistan, but does not mention the drone strikes by the Americans, and now the British, and the impact that is having. He does not mention the rampant corruption and cronyism in Pakistan.

There is a problem with Muslim extremism, that is not rooted in the Koran, with ignorant preachers of hate who should be kicked out of the country.

Young men are being fed poison in the Mosques, but what is then ignored by both the media and the mainstream political class, not just Blair, is self-brainwashing. Young men are fed poison in the Mosques, but they do not then have to watch videos on the net (though there are many to watch), they simply watch the mainstream news. They see the drone strikes in Pakistan, they see the ethnic cleansing and genocide committed by Israel against Palestinians, a few like the Glasgow car bombing, the 7/7 London Bombings, the brutal killing on the streets of Woolwich, are spurred to act, to attack what they see as the enemy slaughtering fellow innocent Muslims.

For nearly a decade, the British security services have been warning governments about the growth of terrorism as a result of disaffection in relation to the Afghan and Iraq wars. Former head of MI5 Dame Eliza Manningham Buller told the Chilcot inquiry that she had given such a warning to Tony Blair’s government over Iraq. We have evidence from these latest attackers and from those previously charged with terrorist offences that the wars are one of their major grievances.

Our wars, have destabilised large parts of the world, turning them into terrorist training grounds, into which head brainwashed angry young men, who came back primed and loaded as killing machines.

Third day of protest in Turkey

June 2, 2013
A man waves a flag with portrait Turkey's founder Kemal Ataturk as thousands of Turkish youths gather at city's main Kizilay Square in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, June 2, 2013. (Burhan Ozbilici/AP)

A man waves a flag with portrait Turkey’s founder Kemal Ataturk as thousands of Turkish youths gather at city’s main Kizilay Square in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday 2 June 2013. (Burhan Ozbilici/AP)

What started out as a protest against a shopping mall in a park in Istanbul, is now in its third day with over 90 protests taking place across Turkey.

When the police went in heavy, to crush a protest in a park, people took to the streets. It was the final straw, people are now venting their anger against an unpopular authoritarian Islamic government. They are now calling for the resignation of the Turkish Prime Minister and his government, an apology from the police and an end to all urban development.

As with the Arab Spring, social media has a major role to play.

The Turkish government is censoring what the media can show. Please ensure this is widely circulated.

The Egyptian women fighting harassment

May 26, 2013

Sexual harassment of women in Egypt has got worse since the Muslim Brotherhood seized power.

Egypt is not to be harassed

May 26, 2013

Sexual harassment of women in Egypt has got worse since the Muslim Brotherhood seized power.

Happy Easter

May 5, 2013
Easter eggs

Easter eggs

Easter eggs

Easter eggs

Easter eggs

Easter eggs

Happy Easter to all my Greek and Greek-Cypriot friends.

A day at the gun market

May 2, 2013
The Arabist

The Arabist

Lately, I have been taking a lot of taxis. Naturally, that means hearing unsolicited political opinions, life lessons, and impromptu stories about women who match my exact physical description and share my sense of style (and, sometimes, my name) getting mugged, raped or murdered, in the hope of scaring me into begging them to my full-time driver and shield of protection.

Last week, one managed to convince me. Instead of suggesting I promptly take his phone number and call him whenever I need to venture out into the jungle that is Cairo, Reda, my new driver, casually offered me a shotgun for a reasonable LE600.

Being the picky shopper that I am, I refused to simply buy the first gun I hear of and asked for options. Obligingly, Reda decided to call a guy, who knows a guy, to get me a beginner’s collection. “Something small for a small lady,” he told him.

I had two options, Reda told me: *Fard Kartoush* (a birdshot gun) for LE700, plus an additional LE70 for 10 bullets, or a 9mm for LE2000 (the gun is actually worth LE15,000, but since it stolen from a police department during the revolution, Awad, Reda’s friend and dealer, is not too keen on keeping it) or settle for the lowly sound-gun-turned-real-gun for LE1000.

The latter is known for breaking itself after the third shot, because its transformation into a killing machine was conducted by a underemployed carpenter, looking to make a quick LE200 by changing the gun’s barrel.

My second option was to go to Suk al-Salaah (the weapons market), which is part of Suk al-Imam al-Shafa’i in Sayeda Ayesha.

I was given simple directions: “Go to the stolen bedrooms market and ask them to point you to the weapons market.”
Realizing that I don’t know where the stolen bedrooms market (which, as the name suggests, is a market where stolen bedrooms are sold for prices so low, they are technically being stolen all over again — although some of the beds and dressers were just the natural result of divorce), so I asked Reda to tag along with me, partly out of self-preservation.

Since it was a Tuesday, and the market is officially held on Fridays, not many people were there, quite unlike Fridays, when the market is so full of people no car, no matter how small, can get in.

There was a group of idle shoppers chatting rather than discussing prices with dealers selling all kinds of things from old Nokia phones to curtains. There was an argument about an overpriced *matwa mafaragha*, a Swiss knife whose blade is serated and pointy, literally giving it an edge over all other *matwas*. The young man, who didn’t want to pay LE20 for it, was quickly pulled back by another buyer.

Reda said that the oddly peaceful end of the heated argument was very normal in the market, where quarrels are uncommon.

“Both the buyer and the seller come here knowing it’s against the law, no point in hassling over prices and making a fuss,” Reda explained. “Not that we are scared of the police, they know where we are and what we do, and they do nothing… the point is everyone here is armed (or in the process of getting armed), if someone is provoked enough to shoot; everyone will start shooting,” he continued.

However, the buyers are not just shady young men; they are shop owners, worried fathers, car owners, etc. Just people who have lost all faith in law enforcement and don’t want to be the defenseless victims of thugs, particularly now that weapons are readily available courtesy of Libyan and Sinai smugglers, and more importantly, the famous January 28 2011 police station raids.

Ironically enough, many of those much-feared thugs also shop in Suk al-Salaah too. So the future victim and criminal rub shoulders while calmly arming themselves against each other.

“Is your girl buying or not?” an exasperated Awad asked Reda, purposefully ignoring my presence and interrupting our conversation. “I am not his girl,” I corrected him. Awad already knew that, but was presumably trying to get to buy something, anything.

Having had no real intentions of buying weapons, I simply pretended to be unimpressed by all of them. At one point, I half-jokingly complained about the lack of color variety.

I felt somewhat safe in doing so, because both my gender and looking the way I do (i.e. not looking poor), gave the few people I spoke to, the impression that I am easily fooled bag of money that would cough up double the desired amount. So long as I paid Reda his promised LE200 for his time and implied that I was going to be back later to buy; I was safe.

Meanwhile, the gun market for the upper class is booming too. The only difference is that the gun you would get for LE3000 in Suk al-Salaah is sold for continously-increasing prices, which can easily reach up to LE20,000, in an air-conditioned store in Heliopolis or in the vaulted corner of a fancy gas station, like the one in the beginning of the Ismailia road. Also, they have color variety.

Other than getting a chic shade of gold, the only advantage to buying these guns is that one would be forced to first get a license. However, Reda argues, that the ubiquity of weapons and indifference/incompetence of the police force makes getting a license, which is a hassle in and of itself that drives many to Suk al-Salaah, is hardly a necessity, yet alone an advantage.

While knowledge of the growing illegal, and legal, markets of weapons is as common as the weapons themselves, the market continues to fly under the radar of both the police and the media.

That being said, here is one of the few reports about illegal weapons. It’s an interview with a smuggler and a weapons dealer, who is preparing for his Masters in International Law, and sometimes buys weapons by entering the name of the gun he wants into Google to look for someone who has it. Once found, he would add that person on Facebook to discuss the details of their transactions (those who send late replies or ask for too money are mercilessly poked to deactivation, I imagine). He likes to have a three-year-old kid fire the guns.

– Nour Youssef

Published in The Arabist.


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