Reblog: Amnesty calls for independent monitors as allegations of torture mount — Human Rights in Turkey

In the aftermath of a failed coup attempt, Amnesty has seen mounting evidence of human rights abuses, including a further clamp down on freedom of expression and mass arrests. The detention of human rights lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz and the raid on the satirical magazine LeMan highlight the absurdly broad net authorities have cast. Amnesty’s press release […]

via Amnesty calls for independent monitors as allegations of torture mount — Human Rights in Turkey

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Egyptian Aak 2016-Week 29 (July 18- 24)

Top Headlines 

  • Sectarian violence in Minya in Upper Egypt
  • Egyptian court annuls Ahmed Mortada Mansour’s membership in the parliament
  • Egypt’s central bank governor said that time was not right to float the Egyptian pound
  • More debris from crashed Egypt Air flight washes up on Israeli beach

 Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

 

From Twitter

 

 

 

Plus

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Egyptian Aak 2016- Week 28 (July 11- 17)

Top Headlines

  • Word “fire” is heard on voice recorder of doomed Egypt Air
  • Egypt orders Muslim preachers to deliver identical weekly sermons
  • Sisi will participate in Beijing G20 summit in September
  • Egypt’s Sisi extends state of emergency in parts of North Sinai
  • Foreign Ministry denies Egypt blocked UN Security Council statement on Turkey

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

 Sunday

  • Foreign Ministry denies Egypt blocked UN Security Council statement on Turkey
  • As relations warm, a new Israeli ambassador arrives in Cairo
  • Doctors Syndicate refers 4 doctors to disciplinary committee for propagating device to cure AIDS, Hep C
  • Senior policeman shot dead in Fayoum
  • A Cairo criminal court extends journalist and researcher Ismail Alexandrani’s pretrial detention for another 45 days

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Book Review

Picture of the week

 Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Suheir Atassi’s swimsuit and our moral bankruptcy

Suheir Atassi Image

Syria’s Suheir Atassi

Millions of women around the world do this daily without attracting much attention, but recently, Suhair Atassi, a prominent, secular Syrian opposition figure was spotted wearing a swimsuit at a Turkish resort. When photos of her appeared in social media, a vicious campaign, mainly in Arabic, was unleashed.

It was shocking and painful to read the comments on Twitter by many, both men and women, pro and anti-Syrian regime, pro and anti Islamic State, openly insulting Atassi and describing her with disgusting descriptions. It was as if Atassi’s body became a unifying figure for most Syrians, regardless of political stances. They indulged in demonizing and demeaning her, with varying arrays of excuses.

In a brutal civil war, as in Syria, it is perhaps expected that Atassi’s opponents, the Assad regime’s supporters, would brutally attack her politically as part of their campaign to discredit their opponents. What is stunningly sick, however, is to see anti-Assad supporters join in the dirty campaign against Atassi, under the context that she was wearing a revealing swimsuit.

The hemorrhagic fever that infects people against women in swimsuits is an insidious disease in the Arab world, not just in Syria. I personally experience it in many Arab countries, when men stare at women wearing swim attire in an ugly rude invasive way. The same patriarchal mindsets that justify sexual harassment detest women who dare to wear swimsuits. For that mentally ill bunch, which is unfortunately not a minority, women are the ones to blame for bringing such behavior by wearing revealing clothes.

The Atassi’s story also has another disturbing side____ the infringement of privacy. In Islamic teaching, it is not permissible to infringe on a woman’s privacy, and this must certainly include taking photos of her without her consent. Islam respects the privacy of women to a degree that Sharia places an impossible condition regarding the need to have four witnesses to press charges of adultery. This tenet is conveniently ignored by conservative Islamists who are now blatantly infringing upon Atassi’s privacy. That is alone is shocking.

Some have tried to justify the photos because they were taken in a public place (a hotel), as if that is a valid excuse. The fact that Atassi was at a hotel does not entitle any one to take a photo of her without her permission. More disturbingly, the photo was taking in Turkey, the patron of Syrian opposition. This indicates the high probability that whoever took the photo was possibly an opposition supporter. More recently, some opposition figures have expressed support for Atassi, albeit late.

It is worth noting that the Islamic factions within the Syrian opposition have very conservative agendas. The first thing that opposition groups have done in their controlled areas was to enforce conservative dress codes on women, an act that only highlights their shallow definition of freedom and democracy. Atassi has also been criticized for her performance, and she was forced to resign as head of the Syrian National Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit in 2013.

Nonetheless, in wartime, people tend to unite against their enemies and leave their differences aside, at least until they prevail and win the war. This hurtful attack, using the flesh of one of their woman as weapon reflects some deep necrosis. A divided opposition cannot prevail against its enemy.

A third opposition group attacks Attasi under the premise of her living a life of luxury in comparison to the suffering of the Syrian people. Yet this bunch ignores the many male wealthy Syrians enjoying their lives in Lebanon and other countries while ignoring their fellow Syrians. Needless to say, for a politician who spends most of her time in meetings, usually in hotels, using the facilities is hardly a luxury.

Meanwhile, most liberal and intellectual Arabs and Muslims have opted to remain silent on the Atassi case, while yelling and criticizing Western countries like Switzerland for banning face veils. Their passionate defense of freedom to cover-up was only matched by their deafening silence for the right of Atassi to dress as she pleases.

The story of Atassi and her swimming attire highlights how our societies have reached an alarming level of moral bankruptcy. Atassi may not be Syria’s best politician, but she should not be judged for wearing a swimsuit. We Muslims have betrayed our basic values as humans and practitioners of this faith. We are now willing to join in a frenzied scrum via the very non-Islamic act of infringing upon a woman’s privacy, solely for political reasons. We have by every definition, reached a new low.

 

Post script

I will not publish Atassi’s swimsuit photos in this blog because they were taken without her permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Islam, Short Comments, Syria, women rights | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2016 -Week 27 -2016 (July 4-10)

FM in Israel

Egyptian foreign minister visits Israel

Top Headlines

  • Egyptian foreign minister to talk Middle East peace in rare visit to Israel
  • Egypt to receive alleged Egypt Air MS804 wreckage washed ashore in Israel
  • Traders are betting Egypt will weaken the pound as soon as Tuesday
  • Egypt considers retaliations for Italy’s decision to cut military supplies

 Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday 

 Sunday 

  • Egyptian foreign minister to talk Middle East peace in rare visit to Israel
  • Traders are betting Egypt will weaken the pound as soon as Tuesday
  • Inflation rises to 14.8% in June 2016
  • Armed Forces kill 14 militants and arrest 12 others in Sinai
  • Rights lawyer Malek Adly’s health reportedly worsening in solitary confinement
  • Egypt navy forces foil two attempts at illegal immigration to Europe
  • ‪Cairo‪ court sentences Magdy Hussein, editor-in-chief of al-Shaab newspaper, to three years in prison

Good Reports

From Twitter

 

Interview

 Photo gallery

 Plus

 

 

 

 

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, Israel | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Banning the Niqab is a ban of disguised identity, not Islamic dress code

 

Niqab photo

Two women wearing niqab face veils (file pic) Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The canton of Ticino, an Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, has banned the Niqab, the face veil worn by some Muslims. The decision came after a referendum in 2013, in which 65% of the population of the region voted in favor of the ban. Niqabs have been a subject of controversy since France outlawed them in 2010. The journey of the Niqab’s evolution began in the Middle East. As those who wear them have travelled to other parts of the world, they have stirred up a controversy—an unnecessary controversy—that is still brewing. Niqab is not a dress code, but a tool to disguise identity. Attempts to frame Niqabs under the freedom of choice is not just wrong, but also disingenuous.

 My experience with the Niqab began while I was attending medical school in Cairo when one of my secondary school acquaintances decided to start wearing the face veil. She changed not only her dress, but also her behavior. The funny, witty, cheerful girl I knew had transformed into a rejectionist of her society, labeling others as infidels and bad Muslims, advocating the banishment of female identity as the right path to what she describes as “true Islam.” We had many intense debates in which she did not concede any of her views; only reluctantly accepting showing one’s face as permissible, but not the “best practice,” as she put it. Her justification was a Quranic verse containing advice to the Prophet’s wives to “hide their identity to avoid being attacked by enemy of Islam.”

Such a literalistic interpretation of Islam’s holy book was shocking and alarming. It simply ignored the order during war time and clearly elaborated that the purpose of the Niqab as disguise of identity, and not a way of life. My Niqabi acquaintance was my first ___ and rather rude___ introduction to various Salafi groups that mushroomed in Egypt in the 80s, under the eyes of Mubarak’s authorities who turned a blind eye to their brainwashing activities. What was even more frustrating was the lack of counter-narrative or challenge of the Salafi’s interpretation. Such intellectual cowardice was wide among both Egypt’s rulers and elite. Both opted for the easy path of ignoring Salafism and pretended it did not exist. They then acted surprised when Salafi groups earned about 20% of parliament seats in the 2012 election. Recently, however, the head of Egypt’s top institutions of higher learning, Cairo University, Gaber Nassar, bans female academic and hospital staff from wearing the Niqab. Furthermore, a court order has upheld the ban. Nassar, is the first brave intellectual to point out the core problem of the Niqab, which is the concealment of identity.

Many Muslims and advocates of women’s freedom of choice claimed that the ban is against freedom of women to choose their dress, ignoring the identity question that lies at the core of pro-Niqab advocates. A Niqab is used for the concealment of identity regardless of color or garment of the woman’s dress. The problem, however, lies within the selfishness of Niqabi women who want to hide their identity but still enjoy the freedom granted to other women who are willing to face the scrutiny of identity checking.

The question then becomes, can Niqabi women have it all? Can they hide and enjoy freedom? The answer is simply no. Not in our current era of terrorism and security checks. It may be okay to be Niqabi in Yemen or Saudi Arabia where the control of women is a pillar of the culture. It will be up to Saudi, Yemeni, or any other woman from a native Muslim country to accept or rebel against the practice. But once any woman decides to immigrate to any other country that requires identity checks, the Niqab should be removed. Why should a country be required to hire an army of female police officers to be placed in all its public building, shopping centers, trains and airports to confirm the identity of Niqabi women so that their sensitivities are not hurt? It is not just asking too much, it is frankly outrageous.

Moreover, it is unsettling to see other Muslims rush to defend the Niqab. Standing with the Niqab plays into the hands of Islamophobes. Defending a practice used by the most oppressive Muslim regimes as well as radical groups such as ISIS empowers the argument that all Muslims are zealous, rigid, and unwilling to integrate into Western societies. Defending the Niqab is as absurd as defending nudity in the Muslim world. Can you imagine Westerners demanding their right to march topless in Muslim cities? Why do we want the West to accept our cultural sensitivities in their societies? I cannot even describe the Niqab as a cultural sensitivity, as it can only be seen as cultural backwardness.

Banning the Niqab is not a move against women’s freedom, but respects Niqabi women choice to conceal their identity. The formula is simple: if a woman opts to conceal her identity, then she has made a conscious choice to hide from the society. That is perfectly acceptable; what is not acceptable, however, is to expect others, particularly in non-Muslim societies, to go out of their way and offer her a freedom that she rejected in the first place.

 

Posted in Best Read, Egypt, Islam, Saudi Arabia, women rights | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2016 – Week 26 ( June 26-July 3)

Apology for the late posting of my weekly Egypt’s compilation, as I was in a short trip abroad. 

Top Headlines

  • Egypt Air MS804 cockpit recorder contents are not damaged
  • TV host Liliane Daoud is arrested and deported from Egypt
  • Coptic Christian priest killed in North Sinai
  • Egypt bans use of debit cards abroad/Central Bank governor denies
  • Egypt condemns terrorist attack in Turkey
  • Egypt welcomes lifting Sinai from no-fly zones

 Main Headlines 

 Monday 

 Tuesday

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

 Sunday 

 Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

 

Plus

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

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Egyptian Aak 2016- Week25 (June20-26)

Top Headlines 

  • Administrative court has quashed a government decision to hand control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia
  • Egypt government has lodged an appeal against a court decision to block Red Sea islands transfer to Saudi Arabia
  • Egypt Air flight MS804 black boxes to be sent to France to repair damages
  • British Airways has decided to abandon its route to abandon its route to Sharm El-Sheikh
  • Egypt parliament gives go-ahead to Saudi King’s Sinai development program

 Main Headlines

Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

 Friday

Saturday

 Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

  • Support for Egypt’s Press Syndicate Khaled Dawoud
  • Hamas and Egypt makes amends? Oren Kessler and Grant Ramley
  • What does Brexit mean for Egypt? Nancy Allam
  • Disgraced Homeland Security adviser Mohamed Elibiary scapegoats Egypt’s Christians____ Patrick Poole

From Twitter

Plus

FACTBOX

 Photo of the Week

  • Sarcophagi lids displayed in ‪Egypt after repatriation from Israel

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brexit and the Stubborn Liberals of the Western World

Brexit ____ the unthinkable has happened. Britain has voted to leave the European Union, triggering both local and global astonishment. This result baffled even the closest followers of British politics, and the surprising responses are, in a way, understandable. What is not understandable, however, is the frenzy of rage or even mockery of the results. Such disdain about democracy, when it fails to provide a “desired outcome,” is a manifestation of the bankruptcy of progressive liberalism in the Western world and a good explanation of why many in Britain decided to “quietly” vote to leave the EU.

Following the announcement of the results, the main media outlets have opted to spin the outcome. The Independent posted a report of handpicked Leave voters regretting their decision because they did not think the UK “would actually leave.” The Guardian published a video highlighting how young voters supported the Remain Campaign. A piece in The Washington Post has opted for more sensationalism, painting an image of “ignorant Brits” by stating that the British were frantically Googling what the E.U. is just hours after voting to leave it. The New York Times has decided to vent its frustration by blaming British newspapers that “have thrown themselves shamelessly behind Brexit.” The commentary is all done as if the American newspapers, including the New York Times, are neutral and biased-free.

In fact, some Leave supporters did not think the UK would “actually leave,” but only because they believed the mainstream media and the political establishment that consistently told them that the Remain-Camp would win. This does not mean they made a misguided decision to Vote to leave, but it also indicates they felt like underdogs fighting to make their voices heard.

While it was true that most young Brits voted to remain in Europe, their turnout was low in areas with more young people. Thus, they have themselves to blame and no one else. Although this has been emphasized, it is also the case that a significant number of young people were openly pro-Leave.

Brexit age

At the moment, supporters of the Remain campaign have failed to accept and respect the will of the British public. Instead, they are bitterly criticizing the Brexit camp as the “undereducated, misinformed, xenophobic, stupid, old arseholes,” as one person wrote on Facebook. Many have even signed a petition, with signatories mainly from London, which was pro-remain, demanding a second referendum. The idea that Londoners and other Remain supporters think the rest of the country will change its mind in a second referendum shows some breathtaking lack of understanding of their fellow citizens.

A few days before the referendum, I wrote about how the Leave camp needs our empathy and not our disdain. The results of the referendum and the reactions after, however, have proven my worst fears. We live in an era of zero empathy. Such deficiency is the true reason behind the referendum results. Many native Brits fear backlash from the affluent, outspoken dominating minority that consistently labels opponents as backward and xenophobic. Such fear prohibited many from expressing their true views. Instead, Brexit Britain, as Radhika Sanghani put it, has opted to translate its beliefs to leave the EU quietly through ballot papers.

This fear, moreover, is also coupled with silent defiance and even respect of those who dared to articulate their rejection, even if their views are considered racist and xenophobic. Leaders of the Brexit camp, like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, are admired because of their daring defiance rather than their radical opinions.

Standing against the allegedly liberal progressive establishment has a growing appeal in the Western world. The more that so-called liberals act in an illiberal manner and denigrate those who dare to oppose them, the more the other camp will show defiance and rejection of globalization and other supposedly liberal Western values.

My friend Samuel Tadros reminded me of Edmond Burke’s reflections on the French revolution, when he wrote, “You will smile here at the consistency of those democratists who, when they are not on their guard, treat the humbler part of the community with the greatest contempt, whilst, at the same time, they pretend to make them the depositories of all power.” The rejection of the Brexit results indicates that Bruke’s reflection is still relevant and frankly alarming.

Toby Young is right, the Remain campaign has lost, and their supporters should stop “whining.” Although I voted to remain in the EU, the Remain campaign failed to engage and convince many British. Exposing “the lies” of the Brexit camp should have been done smartly before the referendum.

The more that the Remain side rejects the results of the referendum; the more they will alienate those on the central right. Many Brexit supporters are neither racists nor ignorant. Manufacturing a different reality will not work. It is time to start working towards healing the rift. A second referendum will only create more bitterness and divisions. Britain needs unity more than anytime before in its history.

 

 

 

Posted in Best Read, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

On Britain and Brexit

 

“The universe would turn to a mighty stranger.” This quote from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, albeit in a different context, has always been in my mind every time I went fell walking in the Lake District. This area is an intriguing part of Britain, in which silence is the dominant theme, occasionally interrupted by shy noise from a lone sheep or footsteps from another walker.

Leaving the touristic towns and villages and heading up to the hills, one can find a different Britain, authentic, intriguing, and completely detached from multi-cultural trendy London. Those who are baffled by the desire of some British to leave the EU should head north to listen to communities quietly struggling to maintain their way of life and authenticity.

Fell walking has always been challenging. It pushed me out of my comfort zone. Coming from an urban suburb in Cairo had never prepared me to deal with rocks, tricky paths, and steep hills. The outcome, however, after hours of physical struggle has always been rewarding. The effect on a person is simply a blessing that I could not have imagined.

My favorite trail is to the Great Gable, or the Pyramid, as I like to call it. The mountain lying at the very heart of the English Lake District does indeed appear as a pyramid from the valley of Wasdale. The best day to visit Great Gable is on Remembrance Sunday in November, when the Fell and Rock Climbing Club holds a service to its members and others who have perished in conflicts around the world.

I never felt as spiritual as at that moment on top of Great Gable. A sense of being close to heaven, purified from the materialism of our world. There was no Costa Café, McDonald’s or Itsu, just a group of walkers gathering to watch a defiant sun appearing defiantly behind the cloud with golden rays that turned the entire valley into a magical place.

Living in the north Of England has helped me to better understanding the Brexit camp. It is easy to describe those who are anti-Europe as racist or ignorant. That is how things may appear to many Londoners enjoying their fine Italian cheese or French delicacies. For them, divorcing Europe might sound like a crazy idea or at least baffling.

Meanwhile, for others who have tried to dig deeper and look for rational reasons, there have been some sound arguments. Owen Jones rightly explained the grievances of working class Britain and how the referendum has opened up a chasm that reflects the inequality in the UK and the monsters of a deeply divided and unfair society. The class aspect of the dispute about the EU referendum, however, does not explain the whole matter.

Amidst a heated debate about staying or leaving Europe, an important aspect is completely ignored. The leave campaign is for many, not a debate about immigration or EU laws, but a fight for authenticity___ a word that has slipped away from the vocabulary of many in Britain. Post-colonial Britain has actually developed a subconscious mind dismissive of its local culture, but deep in the hills of Britain, locals beg to differ. They are proud of their traditions, way of life, and feel utterly uneasy about the creeping changes affecting their societies. Staying out of Europe is their desperate way to maintain their way of life, which has been hijacked by the London elite.

The drift between London and the hells of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Cumbria has become wide and dangerous. The social fabric of British society is torn apart. For many, London has become an alien city, an unfriendly expensive place. Its red buses and old buildings are only the remaining reminders of its Britishness. Many of its elite has seemingly divorced the rest of Britain, and then looked surprised that Britain is growing rebellious at them.

It is true that anti-immigration, hatred and ugly nationalism has dominated the Brexit camp. The vile, brutal murder of Jo Cox is one glaring example. “The well of hatred,” as Labour party leader’s Jeremy Corbyn has described it won’t be defeated. However, by denigrating the Brexit camp and collectively labeling its supporters as racist fascists doesn’t reflect the whole story on the ground.

Without listening to the legitimate grievances of the Brexit camp, Britain will not recover from the aftermath of the EU referendum, even if the outcome turns out to be in favor of staying in Europe. I support staying in Europe, however I understand how Britain has become a mighty stranger to many of its subjects. The Brexit camp deserves our empathy, not our disdain.

 

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments